Kristin Denham is Professor of Linguistics at Western Washington University. She received her BA in Linguistics and French from Swarthmore College, her MA in Linguistics from the University of Arizona, and her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Washington. Her primary research agenda involves the integration of linguistic knowledge into K-12 teaching. She is co-author (with Anne Lobeck) of Linguistics for Everyone (Wadsworth, 2013), Navigating English Grammar (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), and Why Study Linguistics (Routledge, 2018) and co-editor (also with Anne Lobeck) of Language in the Schools: Integrating Linguistic Knowledge into K-12 Teaching (LEA, 2005) and Linguistics at School: Language Awareness in Primary and Secondary Education (Cambridge, 2010). A syntactician, she teaches courses on syntax, language and identity, endangered languages, English grammar, and linguistics in education.

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

When did you first join the LSA? 

It must have been 1990, when I was first a grad student at the University of Arizona. Mike Hammond made all of us grad students get an email account, which no one could understand the point of, and join the LSA, which seemed much more reasonable.

How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined? 

I have attended the majority of the annual meetings since I was in graduate school. After early days of presenting in syntax sessions and at SSILA, I’ve been involved in the Language in the School Curriculum Committee since the early 2000s. I’ve chaired it a couple of times, most recently last year. I’ve also been and am currently on the Linguistics in Higher Education Committee and on the Linguistics and Public Policy committee.

How has the field of linguistics changed since you first started your work?

We are getting better at listening to each other across the various divides and becoming much more open and interdisciplinary. Also, so many more people know about linguistics now than used to. I talk with high school students who have heard of linguistics and know already that they want to study it. And first-year college students too come in knowing they want to major in linguistics. That’s pretty exciting. Thank you, internet. And thank you to all those involved in integrating linguistics into K-12 education and expanding beyond the academy in various ways. I’m seeing the effects of that.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in linguistics?

Well, first they should take a peek at Why Study Linguistics by me and my long-time colleague and collaborator Anne Lobeck (and published by Routledge and LSA). Some of the advice we give students there and that I talk to my own students about frequently is to learn to educate others about what linguistics is and what it can offer to others. Studying linguistics will have applications to nearly anything you do, but many employers may not know that, so you can learn to better advocate for yourself and to educate others about the widespread benefits of linguistics – that studying linguistics has made you a master of critical thinking and analysis, that you have come to understand scientific inquiry and what it means to conduct scientific investigation, that you have become a better scholar of human behavior, that you understand and appreciate and the diversity of languages, peoples, and cultures, and so on. Make your own list, and then learn how to best explain the myriad benefits of studying linguistics and the multitude of applications.

What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field? 

Connections to each other and the collaborations that come from that are so important. Committee work has been an important service for me and has allowed my research, teaching, and service work to come together in ways that I would never have suspected early on. The annual meetings remain an important way for us to collaborate. I know that there are some equity concerns that surround the annual meeting since it can cost a lot to travel and we should be more concerned about fossil fuels, but getting a bunch of us together in one place is still important to the field, and has benefits across all aspects of our professional lives.