Charles B. Chang is Associate Professor of Linguistics at Boston University (BU), where he directs the Phonetics, Acquisition & Multilingualism Lab (PAMLab: sites.bu.edu/pamlab) and holds affiliations with the Center for Innovation in Social Science, the Center for the Study of Asia, and the Hearing Research Center. Funded in part by a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship, the BU Center for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, his research examines phonetic and phonological aspects of language learning, bilingualism/multilingualism, and language attrition. Links to publications can be found on his website at cbchang.com.

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?  

I first joined the LSA in 2005 and became a Life Member in 2016.

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

Since I joined the LSA, I've been a regular attendee of the Annual Meetings and have served as an abstract reviewer several times. I've been able to attend a couple of Linguistic Institutes (2007, 2009) as well. Currently, I am also a mentor with the LSA's Linguistics Mentoring Alliance.

What are you currently researching/working on

I'm currently working on four main projects. The first project concerns multilingual phonetics and phonology—specifically, the factors involved in cross-language phonological interactions in the development of a third language (L3). The second project is looking at phonetic drift in perception of the native/first language (L1) following from elementary exposure to an additional language. The third project focuses on speech perception by heritage speaker bilinguals; more specifically, we (my collaborator Yao Yao and I) are interested in the socio-indexical value that heritage speakers attach to certain phonetic features in their heritage language and the degree to which this is influenced by the socio-indexical value of those features in their dominant majority language. The fourth project concerns Asian American linguistic variation and is examining the broad questions of how Asian Americans from different cultural groups (Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans) share, or do not share, linguistic features in their English speech production, and how reliably listeners from various backgrounds can perceive Asian American identity in the speech signal at different levels of granularity (e.g., "Asian American" vs. "Korean American").

What is your favorite linguistic article or study? 

One of my favorite linguistic studies is Sancier and Fowler (1997), published in the Journal of Phonetics. Even as a small case study, it's an elegant demonstration of phonetic plasticity and of the sensitivity of the linguistic system to environmental factors.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the field of linguistics today?  

The biggest challenge facing the field of linguistics today is not a new one: being accessible and relevant, which is crucial to making the field an inclusive place that is truly representative of our collective knowledge of language. One part of addressing this challenge involves getting linguistics into the education system earlier than the post-secondary level in the US (I can't count the number of linguistics lovers I've met who didn't discover the field until the end of their college career, too late to major or even minor in it!). Another part involves capitalizing on all the interesting connections between language and other aspects of human experience to draw more people into the field. One thing I've taken away from serving as a language expert in court is that we really need more people with linguistics training in law, medicine, government, and so on, not just in traditional academia, and that starts with getting those pre-law, pre-med, etc. folks to see the value in getting a linguistics education even when their end goal may not be to go into linguistic research.

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

Since I first started studying linguistics, I think the field has begun to devote more attention to issues of equity and become more willing to center work on historically marginalized groups. For example, twenty years ago I don't remember seeing any articles on topics such as gender bias in published example sentences, and (to my knowledge) LSA committees such as COGEL, CEDL, and COZIL did not exist. There is still a ways to go, but these developments make me excited to see how the field will move forward into the future.

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

Broadly, I think the most important service the LSA provides to its members is connection: connection to other researchers (via annual meetings, institutes, and the membership directory, for example), connection to mentors, and connection to like-minded individuals interested in the same goal (via the various committees). Specifically, I think the LSA's annual report on the state of linguistics in higher education is one of its most important services; I read this report every year, and the data, which surely take a lot of work to put together, are a valuable benchmark for seeing where the field is now and how the field is changing. The most important service the LSA provides to the field is its scholar-led publications, including the flagship journal Language