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


I hold degrees in linguistics from the University of British Columbia and the University of Arizona, and have held faculty appointments at Yale University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and (since 1999) the University of Texas at Austin. My research has focusedMegan Crowhurst primarily on prosodic themes, in particular prosodic morphology, phonological stress, and more recently the perception of rhythm. I have conducted traditional field work with Tupi-Guarani languages of Bolivia and, in a more experimental mode, with Zapotec (Oaxaca).

Q: When did you first join the LSA?

The first year I joined the LSA was probably 1988 as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. Student memberships at that time were $25.

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

I was a member of the Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL) in the early 1990’s, and chaired the Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP) in the early 2000’s. With Monica Macaulay (the primary mover) and Mary Bucholtz, I was involved in getting WILMA (Women in Linguistics Mentoring Alliance) off the ground. More recently, I have served as an Associate Editor of Language and have just been appointed to serve as the Senior Associate Editor of Language in 2016.

Q: What are you currently researching?

I was trained primarily as a theoretical phonologist and now work more in a laboratory phonology setting. My work currently focuses on how variations in acoustic features influence listeners’ segmenting rhythmically organized speech sequences into foot-sized untis.

Q: What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?

One would be Michael Kenstowicz’s (1997) paper on quality-sensitive stress in Rivista di Linguistica. This was the first detailed demonstration of the importance of multi-level stress scales linked to the sonority hierarchy and how they are independent of and interact with syllable quantity. In my opinion, this paper deserves a place on the shelf alongside the better-known classics of the stress literature over the past few decades. A more recent favourite is a cross-species comparative study by Marina Nespor and colleagues showing that Long-Evans rats can not only discriminate randomly organized pitch sequences from regularly alternating pitch sequences, they also seem to process alternating pitch sequences trochaically as high-low groupings; in this, they performed similarly to a sample of Spanish-speaking adults. (The rats were also able to discriminate randomly organized from alternating duration-varied sequences, but didn’t seem to process the alternating sequences iambically, as adult speakers of  various human languages do.) Findings such as these probably have something to teach us about the evolutionary origins of rhythmic grouping preferences, an area of research in music and speech cognition that has been heating up in recent years.

  • Kenstowicz, Michael (1997). Quality-sensitive stress. Rivista di Linguistica 9.1. 157-188. 
  • Mora, Daniela, Nespor, M., & Toro, J. M. (2013). Do humans and nonhuman animals share the grouping principles of the iambic–trochaic law? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 75(1), 92-100.

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

As a field, attention to collecting, verifying, respecting, and properly citing sources for high quality data. If we can’t do this, then we aren’t making useful contributions but are muddying the waters. 

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

When I started out, “sounds” research was organized into camps of formal phonologists and phoneticians who for the most part didn’t have much to say to one another. There wasn’t much appreciation in either camp for the work of those in the other. Among younger scholars, these lines have blurred, there is lot more dialogue back and forth, and this is a good thing.

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

It’s hard to say what would be the most important service the LSA provides, given that there are so many. Clearly, a sense of community among professionals in our many and varied subfields is essential. I came to know colleagues who have become lifelong friends through LSA committee work. The supports the LSA offers to graduate students are crucial, most obviously the employment listings and job centre at the annual meeting. I interviewed for every academic position I’ve been hired to at the LSA. I’ve been particularly interested and pleased to see growth in the LSA's mentoring resources and activities aimed at graduate students over the years, in the form of workshops at the annual meeting and WILMA, which is an online mentor/mentee matching resource. I’d point out that Language is much more than the field's flagship journal and the most prominent publication we can consult to get a reasonable sense of the breadth of current linguistic research: the journal debuted in 1925 and may be the field’s single most important witness to the history of ongoing linguistic scholarship.