News & Announcements

"Along with Norton’s interest in dwindling and little-known languages came an interest in understanding why it’s important to preserve them."

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Linguistic interaction includes more than just words; the gestures, gaze, and bodily orientations that accompany speech all help us to understand one another. And just like speech, these ‘multimodal’ aspects of communication differ across cultures. Danziger joins a series of international conversations among specialists in the Indigenous languages of Mesoamerica, to investigate what spontaneous speech-accompanying gestures can tell us about cultural commonalities and differences in unconscious mental models of spatial cognition. The project is housed at Mexico’s Center for Multidisciplinary Investigations on Chiapas and the Southern Border (CIMSUR), and funded by both UC-Mexus (University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States) and CONACYT (Mexican National Counsel for Science and Technology).

On May 16, 2020, the Linguistics Program hosted a virtual ceremony for graduating Linguistics MA students and undergraduate Linguistics majors. The recording can be viewed below, or by visiting this link.


In contrast to computer algorithms, humans are able to comprehend speech in challenging acoustical conditions like cocktail parties. To understand this remarkable ability, Meliza's research examines a perceptual illusion called auditory restoration, in which the brain fills in words and other sounds that have been interrupted by brief, loud noises. The project combines methods of measuring behavior and brain activity to probe the neural circuits underlying auditory restoration in finches. By identifying these circuits and how they are wired, this research will give insight into fundamental perceptual processes that allow humans to communicate through speech, and more broadly, that enable the brain to construct coherent experiences from sensory information that is often incomplete and unreliable.

For more reading on this topic, please visit:

The students in UVa’s Spring 2019 "Literacy and Orality” seminar, led by linguistics program director Lise Dobrin, documented the graffiti in the Alderman Library study carrels that will be lost in the Library renovation. The project culminated in a photo essay that discusses everything from Greek life at UVa to students’ motives for writing graffiti. Of particular note for linguists, the essay discusses the graffiti’s conversational structure such as turn-taking mechanism and indicators of agreement.

The complete photo essay is available at: The class also compiled an extensive graffiti gallery that can be found at:

Go on a fun graffiti scavenger hunt and see the graffiti yourself! Look for the “Alderman Graffiti Hunt” bookmarks at the circulation desk in Alderman’s Memorial Hall.

In fall 2019, the Linguistics Program welcomes two postdoctoral researchers, Sam Beer (Ph.D. University of Colorado, Boulder, 2017) and Joseph Brooks (Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara, 2018).

Beer will be digitizing, annotating, and analyzing legacy recordings that document two endangered languages of northeastern Uganda, Nyang'i and Soo; he will also conduct new fieldwork with current speakers.

Joseph Brooks will be conducting documentary linguistic research in the western part of the Papua New Guinea Sepik where Yawuno Teneyo ('uphill people's talk') is spoken. His project will incorporate ethnographic, linguistic, and documentary methods to understand Yawuno grammar and ways of speaking.

In March 2019, together with Erin Griffin, Director of Dakota Studies at Sisseton-Wahpeton College in South Dakota, Lise Dobrin and Mark Sicoli attended the International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation in Honolulu, HI. Dobrin and Griffin also attended a field study of the Hawaiian language revitalization program in Hilo, HI. Their attendance was part of the UVa Linguistics Program's collaboration with the tribal college to support their work researching and revitalizing the Dakota language.


Erin Griffin, Lise Dobrin, and Mark Sicoli attended the International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation in Honolulu, HI, in March 2019.


Where’s Waldo? Lise Dobrin and Erin Griffn were among the 200+ linguists and Native activists who attended the Language Revitalization Field Study in Hilo, HI, in March 2019.

Mark Sicoli, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics published a paper “Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where it is demonstrated that, contrary to longstanding assumptions of western science, languages do not universally encode a hierarchy of the senses with sight and hearing privileged over touch, taste, and smell. Working with 20 world languages including 3 sign languages the research found that languages differ widely in what senses are lexically elaborated with differences best explained through cultural preoccupations rather than appeal to biological universals. The article is available here:

Vikram Jaswal, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Nameera Akhtar, Professor of Psychology at UC-Santa Cruz, published a paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, challenging social motivation explanations and interventions in autism. In making their argument, they rely extensively on the testimony of autistic people who describe themselves as very interested in other people and frustrated that their behavior is so often misinterpreted. The target article is available at, and several commentaries and a reply will be published later this year or next. A UVa Today story about the work is available at

With deep sadness we announce the death of our colleague John Bonvillian. John was a developmental psycholinguist who retired from the UVa Psychology Department in 2016. He was influential in founding UVa's ASL program, and he served for several years as director of the Linguistics Program.

John will be remembered for teaching many generations of college students, collaborating enthusiastically with grad students, and delighting everyone who knew him with the colorful stories (about everything!) that he so loved to share. 

At the time of his passing John was still actively at work on a three-volume dictionary of simplified signs, which he had been developing toward the end of his career. His research showed that speech-accompanying manual signs, especially iconic signs, could be immensely helpful for those acquiring language. He was dedicated to this project because he was convinced it could enhance the quality of life for those who have a limited ability to speak, such as children with autism, Down Syndrome, or cerebral palsy. He hoped to extend the use of simplified signs to learning foreign-language vocabulary items as well. You can read more about John's work in the obituary that ran in the Charlottesville Daily Progress on May 13, 2018.

A memorial service is planned for early fall.

On Wednesday, April 25, Dr. Sinfree Makoni, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University, will give talk on "Socio-Applied Linguistics From the Global South: Issues and Challenges":

Looking at applied linguistics from the perspective of the Global South opens up a range of issues and ways of thinking about what languages are, how they are used, and what can be accomplished with their use. Southern epistemologies reveal how terms such as "vernacular", "local language", "indigenous language", and "mother tongue" are part of the colonial order. Though seeing socio-applied linguistics through Southern epistemologies brings certain challenges, it can help denaturalize and decolonize some of these terms.

The talk is co-sponsored by the African Urbanism Humanities Lab, the African Studies Colloquium, the Carter G. Wodoson Institute for African-American and African Studies, and the Linguistics Program.

On Friday, March 16, Dr. Anna Marie Trester will run a workshop on bringing linguistics skills to the workplace. Bringing Linguistics to Work is designed to get students of Linguistics thinking about the transferable skills they are currently acquiring and how these apply outside the academy. The world of work needs critical thinkers who deal in abstractions and ambiguity. It needs cross-cultural competency and lack of prescriptivism, flexibility and adaptability, and readiness to embrace change and complexity. Perhaps more than anything, the world of work needs people who are trained to think in systems – people who see puzzles and can find the underlying patterns and processes that structure visible and apparently chaotic surface representations in any domain. We can take our skills and training anywhere, but only to the extent that we recognize them ourselves and make them understood.

Participants in this workshop will be given the tools to bring a linguistic perspective to the texts and interactions that structure their job search. They will hear about people who are bringing linguistics to work in non-academic settings. They will be given the opportunity to practice attending to the language they use in their professional self-presentation in resumes, cover letters, job interviews, and networking interactions. They will leave with a clearer sense of the many ways in which the skills they are cultivating in school may be applied to settings both known and not yet imagined.

Dr. Anna Marie Trester is an interactional sociolinguist who has worked as a trainer at the FrameWorks Institute, a social change communications firm, and served as director of the Language and Communication MA program at Georgetown University. She has published in venues such as Text and TalkLanguage and Society, and The Journal of Sociolinguistics. She is co-editor (with Deborah Tannen) of Discourse 2.0: Language and New Media (2013) and author of Bringing Linguistics to Work (2017). She received her MA in linguistics from NYU in 2002 and her PhD from Georgetown in 2008.

The workshop will be held on Friday, March 16, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm in Brooks Hall Commons, with a reception to follow.

The Curry School of Education has announced a new Ph.D. concentration, Language Education in Multilingual Contexts, to provide training to researchers and teachers on a variety of aspects of K-12 language education, including teaching of English as a second language, teaching foreign languages to native English speakers, and teaching bilingual and multilingual learners. The program will begin enrolling students in fall 2018.

Lise Dobrin, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics Program Director, and Mark Sicoli, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Linguistics, have been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to partner with tribal colleges serving Dakota communities in South Dakota and Nebraska on language preservation. The multi-year grant will allow the University of Virginia and Sisseton Wahpeton Tribal College (SWC) and other institutions in South Dakota and Nebraska to collaborate on language preservation and revitalization, focused on Dakota, an endangered Siouan language, as well as capacity-building at tribal colleges and universities.

The Linguistic Society of America has appointed UVA Linguistics graduate Lauren Squires (MA, 2006) as the new Book Review Editor for its journal Language.

Mark Sicoli, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Linguistics, presented his research on linguistic evidence for the Beringia "standstill hypothesis" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston over the past weekend. Mark and his work with Anna Berge (University of Alaska) and Gary Holton (University of Hawaii) are featured in this UVA Today article. Coverage of Mark's work is also featured in The Economist, New Historian, Laboratory Equipment, and

Lise Dobrin, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Linguistics Program, was featured in the Linguistic Society of America's February Member Spotlight.

VISAS (Volunteers with International Students, Staff, and Scholars) is calling for both native English speaking students to looking to volunteer as English teachers and conversation partners, and for international students looking to practice their English. This program, run through the Center for American English Language and Culture (CAELC), offers many rewarding opportunities for cross-cultural communication and learning.

CAELC/ VISAS: Volunteers with International Students, Staff, and Scholars
Enjoy flexible opportunities ON GROUNDS: as little as 1 hour per week, 4 times throughout the semester, or as much as you want! With VISAS, you can make new friends from all over the world and gain valuable experience in cross-cultural communication and teaching ESL. No experience necessary- just enthusiasm! Applications will be accepted until 11:59, Tuesday, September 15, 2015. 
For more information visit our WordPress 
You can also contact us at
(UVa’s Center for American English Language and Culture)
CAELC/VISAS Language Consultant Program
Are you an international undergraduate, graduate student, researcher, faculty, family member or staff member at UVA?
Would you like to practice your English with a UVA student for one hour every week?
Together you can have lunch, walk around grounds, meet for coffee, or explore Charlottesville! Language Consultants are free and open to English language learners affiliated with UVa.
by Tuesday, September 15, 11:59 PM.
(UVa’s Center for American English Language and Culture)


Peter Baker (English Department) has translated Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland into Old English. The translation, published by Evertype, will be released later this year. Congratulations to Prof. Baker! 

Here's an article in UVA Today that includes an audio clip of Prof. Baker reciting Alice/Æðelgýðe in Old English.

Full citation: Hlóðwíg Carroll [Lewis Carroll], Æðelgýðe Ellendaéda on Wundorlande. Translated into Old English by Peter S. Baker. Illustrated by Byron W. Sewell. Forthcoming, Portlaoise: Evertype, 2015.


Jacob Sonin, a speaker of Cemaun Arapesh, an endangered language in Papua New Guinea, has joined UVa for the Spring 2015 semester to serve as a consultant for the Field Methods course as well as the Arapesh Grammar and Digital Language Archive (AGDLA), curated by Prof. Lise Dobrin. See the article IATH has written here.

UVA students have the exciting opportunity to learn about Maya K'iche' (KICH 5010) this Fall 2015 through the Duke-UVa-Vanderbilt Consortium for Less Commonly Taught Languages. Students will learn the scripts, syntax, material cultures and literary forms of Maya K'iche'. Maya K'iche' is the language of more than 1 million people in Guatemala, the language used by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú in her critique against the Guatemalan state, and the language of the Mesoamerican cosmology, the Popol Vuh. Contact Allison Bigelow in Spanish, Italian, & Portuguese for more information.

UVA Linguistics graduate, Lauren Squires (MA, 2006), is featured in the LSA's January Member Spotlight