Jack Martin with Linda Wood (Muscogee)
Jack Martin with Linda Wood (Muscogee)

Jack B. Martin is Chancellor Professor of English and Linguistics at William & Mary. He received his PhD from UCLA in 1991. He specializes in community-based and community-driven language documentation, especially in the Muskogean language family (Muskogee, Miccosukee, Koasati, Choctaw). He has authored, co-authored, or edited four books: A Dictionary of Creek/Muskogee (University of Nebraska Press, 2000), Totkv Mocvse/New Fire: Creek Folktales (University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), A Grammar of Creek (Muskogee) (University of Nebraska Press, 2011), and Creek (Muskogee) Texts (University of California Press, 2015). He is currently Vice President of SSILA.

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Explore previous Member Spotlights.

Q: When did you first join the LSA?

I joined the LSA as an undergraduate at UCLA around 1981. Bill Bright was my professor and then the editor of Language: he told us about the student discount and encouraged us to apply. I was excited (and a little intimidated) to get my first issue of Language!

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

I was drawn to the Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP) and eventually chaired it in 2013. What I value most about CELP is its long record of developing panels at the LSA that allow linguists to consider ethics and best practices in language documentation. In 2006, I served on the LSA’s first ad hoc Committee on Ethics, which developed our first ethics statement and which evolved into a standing committee. Currently I’m chairing the Bloomfield Book Award Committee. Whatever committee I’m on, I enjoy meeting others and learning from them!

Q: What are you currently researching/working on?

This summer we’re finishing up a seven-year oral history project with the Seminole Nation funded by NEH. We recorded 32 video interviews and then focused on transcription. The initial transcriptions and translations were done by community members who were paired up with native speakers. We’re also in the second year of a similar project with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians: in this case we’re using the transcribed interviews to add to an online dictionary.

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

There is much greater recognition now of the importance of language documentation and language reclamation and revitalization, both among linguists and the general public. I see a real passion now in the Native South for young people to learn their heritage languages. And increasingly, tribes have the will and resources to do the work themselves.

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

I proudly support the LSA’s work in publishing, its long-standing commitment to academic conferences, job searches, and the LSA Institute and CoLang. For those of us at smaller universities, the LSA is a life-line to a larger field where we can connect to others with similar interests. I value collaboration between sister societies like the LSA and SSILA. Linguists do inherently interesting work: the LSA helps us all see that.