What is the 5ML?

The Five-Minute Linguist (5ML) is an annual, high-profile event during which selected speakers (junior and senior researchers alike) demonstrate their ability to present novel, original research in a brief, yet informative, lively and engaging way. 5ML presentations are geared toward a non-specialist audience. This is your chance to make real, innovative linguistics research accessible both to the field as a whole and to the public more generally. We may work in a technical field but that doesn’t mean we can’t describe what we do in a way that is both accurate and engaging to non-experts! With the 5ML, you’re not trying to convince fellow experts of your deep training—you’re trying to convince the public that what you did is novel and exciting, and that language and linguistics matter!

What are my 5ML options? 

This year, we will accept 5-Minute Linguist abstracts for one of TWO categories!

  • Option 1 (Make the crowd go wild!): In-person presentation – this is the traditional, in-person presentation. If your abstract is accepted, you will present in person at the 5ML event in NYC at the LSA Annual Meeting.
  • Option 2 (Go viral!): TikTok-style video - this is a new submission type! If your abstract is accepted, you will be invited to create a short “tiktok”-style video (use whatever video tools you want, just make a cool 3-5 minute video!). The video will be played at the 5ML event and posted to social media sites. Let’s make Linguistics go viral!!!

What can I expect after abstract submission?

As in past years, abstracts will be peer-reviewed by members of the Public Relations Committee. Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified of their acceptance, and the choice of format will be confirmed, around the same time as notification for Annual Meeting abstracts. Selected members of the PRC will then work with authors to polish and refine their abstracts to make them layperson friendly and ready for wide distribution to promote the 5ML event. 

All accepted authors will receive coaching feedback before going “live”:

Those who opted for an in-person presentation when they submitted their abstract will meet with coaches the evening before the 5ML Event at the Annual Meeting in January to practice their talk and get feedback. 

Those who opted to make a video will be in contact with a coach early in the fall to get feedback on the making and production of their 5ML video before the 5ML launch. Videos will be submitted by a designated date in December.

5ML top tips and frequently asked questions

***Think you’d like to submit a 5ML abstract? Read these tips to prepare yourself and your abstract!

What is a 5-Minute Linguist Abstract?

A 5ML abstract IS 

  • 300 words or less
  • clear, engaging, compelling!
  • a concise, public-facing abstract that pitches exciting, original research to a community of linguists and language enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds.
  • your chance to communicate the novelty, attraction, and relevance of your research to a broad audience (inform and inspire!).
  • an opportunity to promote research by junior researchers and students, alongside more seasoned linguists.
  • a pitch that exemplifies for reviewers how you will present the talk itself.
  • the basis for an abstract that, if accepted, we will later work with you to revise for the purpose of circulation beyond the Linguistics community and promote public awareness of new language research.

A 5ML abstract is NOT 

  • an abbreviated annual meeting abstract with a smaller word count!
  • a "dumbed-down" version of an abstract intended for academics.
  • boring, jargony, insular.
  • necessarily a theoretically tight and polished work of art. It can be work in progress with a promising outcome.
  • a pitch just towards phonologists, semanticists, sociolinguists...or even just towards linguists.

How do I write a good 5ML abstract?


  • start from a blank page.
  • focus on what drew you to your research in the first place.
  • think of how to convey your research to your family, friends, a Dean from another field, a social media audience—people beyond linguists.
  • choose a title that’s clear, simple, and eye catching.
  • situate your work in a broader context, and make it clear why it matters and why others should care!
  • include at least one example of your phenomenon of interest, and introduce it early on (people will remember these, and it will help anchor what they’re reading)>
  • introduce a concept and then define it or share the term for it, helping the reader to follow along
  • view previous 5ML events on the LSA's YouTube channel to get a sense of the "voice" for these presentations.
  • have someone who knows very little, or nothing, about linguistics read your abstract and tell you what they find compelling and what they don't understand...and accept that feedback!

You should NOT

  • start with the abstract you wrote for the annual meeting and edit down the words.
  • use terms linguists are used to and expect the general public to understand them, or even share the same meaning.
  • try to impress the reader with your knowledge of technical terms.
  • stick with the status quo; Instead, shake things up and invite people to think about things differently.
  • submit without vetting it with others first—linguists outside of your area and non-linguists!

In case you missed it:

  • The 5ML abstract is NOT the same as an Annual Meeting abstract!
  • Do NOT submit an edited-down Annual Meeting abstract.

Are multi-authored abstracts allowed?

Yes, but in the event the abstract is selected as a finalist for the event, only one author may present on stage.

How will the participants be selected?

The Selection Committee is composed of members of the LSA's Public Relations Committee, a member of the Outreach Committee, a member of the Program Committee, and the most recent recipient of the LSA Journalism Award. The Committee will select eight presentations for inclusion in The Five-Minute Linguist event. Ideally, half the presenters will be students and half nonstudents.

How will the event unfold?

On the evening before the presentations, a “coaching-feedback” practice session will be held for the selected presenters by members of the Selection Committee and attending journalists. The actual presentations will be made in a plenary session emceed by a member of the Selection Committee or an LSA member selected by them. Each participant will be given five minutes for a presentation that will receive constructive, friendly feedback from a panel of three journalists, including the two most recent recipients of the LSA Journalism Award and a local journalist. The final judging will be done by the audience.

What is the prize?

The winner will receive a commemorative plaque and a one-year complimentary LSA membership. All participants will be provided with a certificate and an invitation to prepare their presentation for further consideration for the LSA’s Press Release program. 

Is this event related to the book or radio program of the same name?

The LSA is the beneficiary of a generous donation of author royalties from the sale of the 5-Minute Linguist. Many LSA leaders and members contributed content to both the book and the radio feature. The LSA obtained permission from both the authors and the publisher to use this name for our event.