Josh Dees is a PhD student in Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has an M.A. in Linguistics and TESOL from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a B.A. in Biology and Psychology from Greenville University. His areas of interest include syntax, morphology, and semantics. More specifically, his research focuses on cross-linguistic variation and universals in the nominal and clausal domains. Josh also enjoys the community and organizing aspects of academia. He is currently involved as the Graduate Assistant Organizer of the Slavic Linguistics Society’s 16th Annual Meeting and as the Co-chair of the 14th Annual Meeting of the Illinois Language and Linguistics Society Organizing Committee. For more information about Josh, you can visit his personal website.

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 the Spring of 2016, while I was working on my M.A.

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

I became more actively involved with the LSA once I started my PhD program. I had the opportunity to work with the LSA as the Summer 2020 student intern. My tenure as the Summer intern was right around the time everything went remote. However, working remotely for the LSA did not prevent me from making some wonderful connections and getting involved with some exciting projects. I especially enjoyed working with the LSA Director, Alyson Reed and the Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP) on several public policy issues. Outside of my internship, I attended and presented at my first LSA Annual Meeting this past January. It was a great experience, and I truly enjoyed the many meaningful interactions I had throughout the entire conference. I have also recently joined the Committee on LGBTQ+ [Z] Issues in Linguistics (COZIL), and I am very excited to get more involved with the fantastic work they are doing.

What are you currently researching/working on?

I am currently working on several projects. I recently wrote and defended my first qualifying paper. This project is a syntactic and semantic analysis of the Dholuo (a Nilo-Saharan language) nominal domain, in which I argue that DP is present in the seemingly bare nominal structure. Right now, I am editing this paper for publication. I am also currently researching vowel harmony in Kazakh, examining and hoping to provide possible explanations for asymmetries in the palatal vowel harmony of the language. Both projects stem from collaborations with native speakers in the context of field methods courses offered at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Outside of my more formalist research interests, I am also interested in and working on research dealing with the socio-cultural aspects of language policy planning.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students interested in pursuing an advanced degree in linguistics?

Talk to your profs! I am a first-generation college student, and a lot of the academic world was/is new to me. With that being said, I have, time and time again, found support and a sense of belonging through relationships with many of my professors. I know it was super intimidating the first time I made a connection with a professor, but it really made all the difference. In doing so, I found someone with whom I could discuss my academic interests and aspirations as well as someone who could serve as a mentor and guide me through territories I had never explored. I will add to that by saying, if your department has a graduate program, connect with/befriend graduate students! I always enjoy getting to know the undergraduate students in my own department.

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

Based on my response to the previous question, I would say the LSA’s Mentoring Initiative is one of its most important services. This service provides multiple different opportunities to meet and learn from linguists all around the world. If you want to build connections and learn from others’ experiences, this is an incredible chance to do so. The LSA offers distance mentoring, pop-up mentoring (at conferences like WCCFL, SALT, etc.), mentoring at LSA meetings and institutes, as well as webinars and web-based mentoring resources. I highly recommend to any novice linguist (or really any linguist seeking some form of mentorship) to check out these LSA resources.