News & Announcements


The Program in Linguistics condemns the proposed elimination of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics department at West Virginia University announced suddenly by WVU Administration this August. WVU Administration claims this is purportedly due to a "structural deficit," for which the president will not request additional funds from the legislature. But it is well documented by WVU faculty to be the result of fiscal mismanagement, including debt financing of construction development without successfully raising enrollments. The manufactured budget crisis is being used to motivate programmatic, drastic cuts across the Arts & Sciences eliminating 32 programs (9%), 169 faculty member positions (16% of full-time faculty). These cuts deny the land grant university mission to create “a diverse and inclusive culture that advances education, healthcare and prosperity for all by providing access and opportunity”. The department elimination also removes means for students to connect the local and the global through the study and learning of world languages and literatures. Students who study world languages, literatures, and linguistics often do so to add value and possibilities to other degrees. Decisions made by WVU administration with private consultants, and which have proven to be mistakes should not disenfranchise students and faculty who are not being afforded shared governance in the process. Rather than students and faculty, the WVU President and his administrators should bear the consequences of their mismanagement. The legislature and/or federal government needs to step in to continue program support while investigating the University Administration and the Board of Governors before programs that have taken decades to build and staff are even considered for termination. Solidarity with faculty, students, and staff organizing to resist this and building power to assert democratic governance, including West Virginia United and the West Virginia Campus Workers.

petition to Preserve Students' Rights to Study World Languages at WVU to which you may add your signature:

Jonah Katz, Associate Professor of Linguistics, West Virginia University has provided university leadership contact information to take further action: “University leadership directly in charge of this process include President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed. The WVU Board of Governors is a politically appointed body that is supposed to oversee the administration of the university and will eventually need to approve the provost's recommendations. They can be contacted via Special Assistant Valerie Lopez. Governor Jim Justice appointed most of the Board and has strongly supported Gee during his term. His office can be contacted using this form.”

The Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics is honored to have received an anonymous gift of $25,000 in 2023 to aid the program in engaged collaboration with Native Nations for Language Revival, assisting in ongoing collaborations and making possible future research and curricular development.

In May 2022 the Linguistics Program was honored to host the 42nd

Siouan and Caddoan Languages Conference!

Please visit our webpage for information about the event, and visit the official SCLC website to learn more about past year's conferences.

Congratulations to Dr. Lise Dobrin and Dr. Mark Sicoli of Department of Anthropology and Interdepartment Linguistics programs on the acquisition of the Language Documentation and Description (LDD) journal! Adding to Aperio, UVA's open-access press, students near and far are sure to benefit from the availability of this new resource and leadership. Read on for the full and official announcement, plus information about the LDD.


The editors of Language Documentation and Description are delighted to announce that the journal has moved to Aperio, the University of Virginia Library’s open-access press.

LDD publishes research articles on the theory and practice of language documentation, language description, sociocultural aspects of language use and linguistic research, language policy, language revitalization, and related topics. The journal has a focus on small, minority, and endangered languages. LDD articles are published under a Creative Commons license, with articles made freely accessible online once they have gone through production. Support is provided for linked multimedia.

The move coincides with new editorial leadership. Lise Dobrin and Mark Sicoli, both of UVA’s Department of Anthropology and Interdepartmental Linguistics Program, are joining as editors, with Dobrin serving as the new Managing Editor. 

LDD was founded in 2003 as a print journal published at SOAS in London under the editorship of Peter Austin. In 2014 the journal moved online to the EL Publishing platform established by Austin together with colleagues David Nathan and Julia Sallabank. All the current editors are staying on with the journal under the new arrangement.

UVA Library established Aperio in order to provide open-access journals led by UVA faculty with a stable and committed institutional home. It is an ideal host for LDD, which aims to make the results of documentary linguistic research freely accessible by all who might benefit, now and in the future.

Thematic and geographical listings of papers published in LDD will continue to be made available at EL Publishing, especially for LDD’s Language Snapshots and Language Contexts series. EL Publishing will continue publishing books, edited collections, and multimedia.

Congratulations to Linguistic Anthropology PhD Candidate Grace East for publishing this interview with Professor Mark Sicoli, Linguistics Program Director, on his book Saying and Doing in Zapotec: Multimodality, Resonance, and the Language of Joint Actions.


A multimodal ethnography of language as living process, this book demonstrates methods for the integrated analysis of talk, gesture, and material culture, developing a fresh way to understand human language through a focus on jointly achieved social actions to which it is part. Based on findings from a participatory, multimedia language documentation project in a highland Zapotec community of Oaxaca, Mexico, Mark A. Sicoli brings together goals of documentary linguistics and anthropological concern with the everyday means and ends of human social life with theoretical consequences for the analysis of linguistic and cultural reproduction and change.

This book argues that resonances emergent in the whole of multiparticipant, multimodal interaction, are organizational of human social-cognitive process important for understanding both the shape linguistic utterances take in interaction (dialogic resonance) and the relationships built between distinct sign modes (intermodal resonance). In this way, Saying and Doing in Zapotec develops a new theory, characterizing the logic of resonance in human interaction as semiotic process that connects and juxtaposes interactional moves into assemblages of relations, resonances and collaborations that build an emergent lifeworld for a language.


Published February 28th on CaMP Anthropology. Follow the link to read more!

Save the date March 4, 1:30-3:00 for a hybrid Linguistic Anthropology Seminar hosting visiting scholar Dr. Jeremy Kuhn of the Sign Language Group at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris. This event will be Live Captioned through Zoom. For Zoom invitation link, please contact UVA Linguistics Director, Mark Sicoli.


Linguistics Anthropology Seminar: Friday, March 4th 2022, 1:30-3:30pm. Online, via Zoom.

Presenter: Jeremy Kuhn is part of the Sign Language Group at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris. His PhD is from NYU is on the semantics of sign language. He is currently working on French Sign Language on topics of pronouns, plurality, negation, and tense. The Institut Jean Nicod is affiliated with the EHESS, which has an exchange program with UVA. Dr Jeremy Kuhn will be visiting UVA Feb. 26 - Mar. 27.

Title: Iconic representations of logical meaning

In this talk, I contend that looking at iconic signs and gestures can shed light on the cognitive representation of abstract logical meaning. If pre-linguistic cognitive pressures influence semantic typology (i.e. what is attested and what is not), the same pressures should appear in other, extra-linguistic communicative settings, and, in particular, in the interpretation of iconic signs and gestures. We can thus get insights into these cognitive biases by looking at the semantic and iconic typology of sign languages, as well as by looking at the production and interpretation of gestures by non-signers. I explore this hypothesis in two case studies. First, I look at the case of quantification in sign languages. Sign languages, like spoken languages, show semantic variation, but, surprisingly, this variation populates a specific corner of the full typological landscape: distributive concord is common, but negative concord is rare. I argue that these preferences arise from iconic biases — the sign language typology is explained based on what is easy and hard to represent in space. Second, I look at boundarihood of events and objects. Boundarihood has been shown to be involved in a motivated mapping in sign language: telic verbs are associated with gestural boundaries. In a series of experiments, I show that non-signing subjects, too, show an abstract, iconic bias to associate bounded forms with bounded meanings.

See below for details on the scheduled Linguistic Anthropology Seminar, upcoming on Oct. 29.

COVID notes:  This is an in-person event. Given the time of day, some attendees may need to eat lunch in the room while they listen, therefore removing masks. We will open the big windows in the room, and keep mask-off time to a minimum.

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar: Friday October 29 2021, 12-2pm. Brooks Hall, 2nd floor conference room

Presenter: Eve Danziger, UVa Professor of Anthropology

Title: "Ergative, split ergative and split intransitive: Case-role-marking typology and the Mayan languages"

Abstract: While predicate-argument relations in most Mayan languages have long been known to be fully ergative, well-described case-role marking patterns in certain languages across multiple branches of the family have motivated a conventional characterization among Mayanists of “split ergative” for those languages. This paper offers a critical re-examination of the notion of “split ergative” as it applies to the Mayan family, and proposes an alternative analysis in terms of “split intransitivity”. Detailed consideration of languages in the Yukatekan sub-family demonstrates the usefulness of this alternative analysis.  

The Linguistics department is pleased to be a part of the Majors Fair this fall! Come to the Newcomb Ballroom and the Commonwealth Room on October 18th, from 1:00-4:00pm, to learn more about getting a major or minor in Linguistics. Students will be given a map to the many majors' tables after they arrive and check in.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Welcome to the 2021-22 school year and the UVA Linguistic Anthropology seminar! We will be holding an in-person discussion of an article by Susan Phillips recently published in American Anthropologist, “Gang Graffiti as Totemism”. We will meet outside, if possible. All are invited to read and join! While the article deals with a form of inscription, the analysis is not specifically linguistic.

We look forward to holding future events, some in-person, some on zoom. If you have work in progress you’d like to present or reading group ideas, please get in touch with the linguistics program director, Mark Sicoli.

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar: Friday September 24 2021, 3pm

Author: Susan Phillips, University of Arizona

Title: "Gang Graffiti as Totemism”

Abstract: In Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States, gangs demonstrate a profound interrelationship between street life, mass incarceration, gang cartographies, and the development of meaning, which together act as a form of totemism. Long used in anthropology, the concept of totemism remains powerful analytically because of its ability to describe how intentional oppositions are hinged to surrounding environments. Gang writing allows members to infuse themselves into neighborhoods by spatializing the tie of sympathy between signature, person, and landscape. Gang totemic practices originate from similarity in form as well as shared history, and from the contradiction of knowing a system is constructed while continuing to treat it as if it were primordial. Showing how social meaning is tied to the built environment contributes to decolonizing discourses by further eroding the binary between nature and culture. When combined with critical frameworks that look at power and inequality, the concept of totemism may be revitalized in a manner that respects local understandings, is distilled to its essential component parts, and gains relevance across wide swaths of ethnographic cases. The framework of totemism enables understanding of how urban environments become a locus of gang sentiment, moving away from simplistic ideas of gang territoriality.

Keywords: gangs, totemism, prison, graffiti, critical structuralism

If you would like to receive a copy of the PDF, please contact the linguistics program assistant, Abbi Traaseth.

On September 11th, 2021, Mint Springs Park in Crozet was the site of a welcome social for linguistics and anthropology students and faculty to mingle outdoors, eat tamales, and hike in the surrounding foothills.

This meeting was among the first program-organized social gatherings for many students who joined the linguistics and anthropology programs during the pandemic of 2020, when all classes were held online and many new students had not yet met their cohort or instructors in person.

It was a pleasure to enjoy each other's company outside of the realm of Zoom and the academic walls of the University, and we can thank the Linguistics Program Director, Dr. Mark Sicoli, for organizing the event.

We look forward to seeing you at our next linguistics program social event!

See below for details on the scheduled Linguistic Anthropology Seminar, upcoming on Friday, May 14. The seminar will be a virtual event, with access link to be circulated separately.

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar: Friday May 14 2021, 2pm

Presenter: Nathan Wendte, UVa Linguistics Lecturer

Title: “Vini moun Tèksas: Becoming Texan”

Abstract: In the Gulf South region of the United States, Creoles have historically been defined by distinct cultural and linguistic practices (Istre 2018). As an ethnolinguistic identity label, “Creole” encompasses and presumes certain linguistic behaviors and competencies. Although most often associated with the state of Louisiana, a steady stream of Creole migrants for more than a century has resulted in a large diaspora living across the border in Texas. This diaspora, however, does not uniformly retain their Creole identity. Like all identity categories, “Creole” is an ideologically informed, discursively constructed, and contextually dependent phenomenon (Bucholtz and Hall 2005). Despite the relatively short migration distance between them, Texas and Louisiana represent markedly different cultural contexts. Drawing from qualitative interviews conducted with Texas-resident (n=32) and Louisiana-resident Creoles (n=28), this paper explores the variable role that language practices—and the discourses surrounding them—play in Creoles becoming Texan. These interviews were collected over a period of four years in association with the author’s dissertation fieldwork. I extracted those interview segments which concern language practices and discovered that language loss in and of itself was not sufficient to explain why Texas-resident Creoles may choose to stop identifying as Creoles. Instead, it is the choice to dissociate ideologically with aspects of Louisiana (notably past rural origins) that drives people to abandon Creole identity. Such choices are perceived by both Texas-resident and Louisiana-resident Creoles to be reflected in individual language practices.

Keywords: ethnolinguistic identity, Louisiana Creoles, internal migration, borderlands


Bucholtz, M., and Kira Hall. 2005. “Identity and Interaction: A Sociocultural Linguistic Approach.” Discourse Studies 7 (4–5): 585–614.

Istre, Elista. 2018. Creoles of South Louisiana: Three Centuries Strong. Lafayette, LA: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

UVA Today's installment of "On Words" features Corin Fox, an assistant professor of philosohy. Discussing his new January and Spring term course PHIL 2400 Slurs, Bad Words, and Unruly Language, "‘Bad’ Words and Why We Should Study Them" explores how Fox came to be interested in 'improper' words early in his undergraduate experience at VCU. Relating his eye-opening experience about the power of words, he says "That class meeting was the first time that someone genuinely invited me to talk about language and power. I will never forget this invitation, because I learned the value of studying those words that are sanctioned, those that do harm, those that feel gross. Years later, as a philosopher studying language and logic, I remain in awe of what we can use language to do. I now study and teach students about bad words myself."

Read more here:

See below for details on the scheduled Linguistic Anthropology Seminar, upcoming on Friday, April 16. The seminar will be a virtual event, with access link to be circulated separately.

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar: Friday April 16 2021, 2 pm

Presenter: Joseph Brooks, UVA postdoctoral researcher*

Title: Inclusive-exclusive excluding the exceptions: First person plural pronouns in Tok Pisin

Abstract: In the wild world of linguistics, Tok Pisin, an English-based creole and national lingua franca of Papua New Guinea, is readily cited as a language with a prototypical inclusive-exclusive distinction in its first person plural pronouns. That is, this language has multiple forms where English has only 'we', and here I argue there is more going on with these forms than previously assumed. The first person plural pronoun yumi appears transparently as the inclusive form (i.e., "you + me"), It is thought to include the addressee(s) and possible others. The other form, mipela, is understood to exclude the addressee(s), referring only to the speaker and however many other (third) persons. The language also has a dual inclusive, yumitupela, and a dual exclusive, mitupela.

In this talk, I look at examples from unrecorded spontaneous interactions collected over a three month period in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, primarily in a village called Iteri. These examples reveal that more than clusivity of addressees is at work. Speakers' usage of these pronouns reveal functions which, though they often overlap with reference in the expected ways, are more squarely based on social-pragmatic principles. To that effect I am hoping for audience help in zeroing in on those functions and accounting for them in the examples I discuss.

Lastly I address what I believe to be a larger theoretical and empirical bias linguists have toward mechanistic explanations of language. To further support that claim I briefly mention the trial and quadral (and beyond) exclusive pronuns (mitripelamifoapela, etc.) which, while famously cited for Tok Pisin, are at best elusive if they exist in practice at all. In contrast, the social functions I discuss for the pronouns are far from elusive, and are in fact encountered yet  largely unnoticed. This is rather surprising for the main lingua franca in a country that has welcomed so many linguistic fieldworkers. In an age of increasing focus on digital archiving in linguistics and the rise of reproducibility standards, I conclude by redirecting attention to the incomparable value of irreproducible (unreproducible? aya! yumi no save) examples in furthering our understanding of some areas of language.

*Funding for this research was generously provided by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP)

See below for details on the scheduled Linguistic Anthropology Seminar, upcoming on Nov 13. The seminar will be a virtual event, with access link to be circulated separately.

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar: Friday Nov 13 2020, 2 pm

Presenter: Joseph Brooks, Post-doctoral research associate, Anthropology Department, U. of Virginia*

Title: The Fruits of the Intellectual Low Ground: Immersion, Relationality, and Linguistic Analysis in a Chini Village (Papua New Guinea)

Abstract: Our understanding of how languages work has benefited increasingly from methods and technological innovation in documentary linguistics (Himmelmann 1998; Woodbury 2011, inter alia). One development that has occurred along the way is an intensive valorization of scientific principles, where documenting languages is seen as "part of a much broader concern for putting linguistics on a proper empirical footing" (Himmelmann 2012). However, attention has also been drawn to problems arising from basing knowledge production on what Dobrin & Schwartz (ms) argue are tacit but fundamentally asocial principles of objectivity in linguistics. In this talk I seek to add to the epistemological position in linguistic fieldwork practice that values learning the local language(s) and building close relationships through locally desired means. Doing so is not only important from an ethical standpoint, but also results in deeper knowledge about some areas of grammar than our so-called best practices and efforts toward scientific rigor are assumed to be capable of accomplishing. I focus my discussion on a frequent clause chaining construction in Chini, a language of Papua New Guinea. The realis chain linker ndaka codes temporal succession ('and then') and on occasion occurs in a distinct but nearly identical form, ndakɨ, together with a prosodic difference. Hundreds of recorded examples in the documentation originally left me convinced of a straightforward (and in my view, uninteresting) analysis.  It was only after about 10 months of fieldwork that my experiential knowledge of this construction, as gained in unrecorded social interactions, revealed a subtle but crucial difference in the possible pragmatic implicatures of using ndaka versus ndakɨ. The pragmatic difference relates to Melanesian ways of speaking that avoid direct coercion in efforts to influence the behavior of one's listener(s). I explain how my realization about the pragmatic and cultural dimensions of this area of Chini grammar was embedded in my relationships with two people in Andamang, Frank Manna and Paul Guku.

*Funding for this research was generously provided by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP)

UVA Today's article "'Hidden in Plain Sight': Exploring Linguistic Diversity at UVA" shares how Filip Loncke, Education professor, is leading a new interdisciplinary project called "So Many Ways to Say ‘I Belong at UVA’: Documenting Linguistic Diversity Among the UVA Student Body."

Read more here:

See below for details on the scheduled Linguistic Anthropology Seminar, upcoming on Oct 23. The seminar will be a virtual event, with access link to be circulated separately.

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar: Oct 23 2020, 2 pm

Presenter: Grace East, PhD candidate, Linguistic Anthropology, U. of Virginia

Title: Language in the Elephant’s Stomach: Emerging Codes and Language Ecologies in Nima, Accra

Abstract: This chapter focuses on language ideologies and linguistic practices of community members in Nima, one of Accra, Ghana’s largest and most diverse immigrant communities. Residents often affectionately call Nima tombin giwa (the elephant’s stomach) in the local Hausa variety in reference to the fact that anything you could possibly need or want can be found inside. While this is often in reference to material items, such as spices, provisions, housewares, and more, Nima is also host to a pluralistic population that encompasses various languages, cultural backgrounds, and points of geographic origin. My broader project focuses on mutually reinforcing themes of language maintenance/emergence and place-making as well as how immigrants from across West Africa who used Hausa language have shaped and been shaped by the linguistic ecology of present-day Accra. In Nima, the community-wide use of a local Hausa variety and practice of Islam promote values of hospitality and unity that allow for a diversity of immigrants to feel a sense of belonging. In this chapter, I examine the ways in which multilingual users of Hausa engage with code-switching, language mixing, and creation of emergent codes in a linguistically pluralistic setting. Based on intensive participant observation, semi-structured interview, and engagements with local social media content, I compare knowledge from Newman’s (2000) Hausa grammar as well as Sadat’s (2016) overview of Ghanaian Hausa to argue that this emerging Hausa mixed language draws from Ghanaian Englishes, Akan Twi varieties, and more. This results in patterns of linguistic blending that manifest lexically, morphologically, and phonologically as well as pragmatically in conventional discourse patterns. Additionally, I examine the ways in which language ideologies manifest in language choice and contexts of use for residents who live in and contribute to these complex and multilayered language ecologies. My research engages with Makoni and Pennycook’s (2005) notion of language “disinvention,” which urges critical reexamination and deconstruction of the colonial presupposition that languages are distinct, bounded, and isomorphically tied to one people and one territory. In Nima, the local Hausa variety is one of fluidity and adaptability, which changes in response to the linguistically complex people who use it as well as the language ecologies in which it thrives.

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

Read More:

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