Leonard Bloomfield Book Award Holders

2023: Nadine Grimm for A Grammar of Gyeli

LSA congratulates Nadine Grimm for her 2021 book "A Grammar of Gyeli.", a rich documentation of the Ngòló variety of the Bantu language Gyeli.

The work is based on 19 months of research in Cameroon. During that time, the author conducted 170 hours of elicitation, recorded and transcribed natural texts, conducted stimulus-based research and experiments, took acoustic measurements, and used questionnaires to conduct surveys.

At every turn, she has carefully supported her analysis with quantitative data. She includes a lexicon of 1,500 words, along with a list of verb extensions. To ensure accountability, she has made primary video and audio recordings available at The Language Archive and has published the grammar in an open-source format through Lg Science Press. Standards in language documentation have risen over the years; the LSA commends the author for keeping up with and embracing these advances.

2022: Mary Kohn (Kansas State University), Walt Wolfram (North Carolina State University), Charlie Farrington (Virginia Tech), Jennifer Renn (Purdue University), and Janneke Van Hofwegen (Google) for African American Language (Cambridge University Press). 

African American Language, by Kohn, Wolfram, Farrington, Renn, and Van Hofwegen, makes a remarkable and unique contribution to the study of African American language, contributing substantially to our understanding of how children construct identity, negotiate status and relationships, and transition across life stages by means of and as represented by their language. The book’s meticulous longitudinal methodology provides unprecedented insight into the real-time implementation of change and the spread of innovation across the community. In its minute examination of language development from infancy to adulthood of sixty-seven African American children, this study provides a precise description of the effects of caretakers’ influence, peer influence on language development, and the relationship between AAL and early literacy. Perhaps even more importantly, it provides a new model for sociolinguistic and socio-historical analysis of African American and other speech communities: it demonstrates that not only should demographic factors be taken into consideration on a synchronic level, but also trends that exist in the community of practice on a diachronic level, trends which are adopted and expanded to varying degrees by young speakers and which are often detectable only through longitudinal analysis. This work contributes substantially to various fields of linguistic inquiry: African  American linguistics, sociolinguistics, developmental linguistics, historical and socio-historical analysis.  The LSA congratulates the authors for their impressive, groundbreaking achievement.

2021: John H. Esling, Scott R. Moisik, Allison Benner and Lise Crevier-Buchman for Voice Quality: The Laryngeal Articulator Model (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

Esling, Moisik, Benner and Crevier-Buchman’s Voice Quality presents a groundbreaking analysis of the phonetics of the lower vocal tract and traces the extraordinary breadth of its consequences. Their Laryngeal Articulator Model draws on a wide variety of instrumental observations and computational simulations to provide a comprehensive model of voice quality and other laryngeal articulations, supported by a wealth of videos and sound files available online*. The authors provide a sound theoretical basis for not only the phonological realization of laryngeal articulation but also its emergence from infant vocalizations, its exploitation for paralinguistic communication including individual voice quality, accent, speech and vocal song styles in many cultures, the analysis and treatment of clinical disorders of the lower vocal tract, and its role in sound change and phylogeny

2020: Vsevolod Kapatsinski for Changing Minds Changing Tools: From Learning Theory to Language Acquistion to Language Change (MIT Press, 2018)

Vsevolod Kapatsinski’s Changing Minds Changing Tools offers an extraordinary synthesis of contemporary learning theory in a usage-based approach to language. It argues that associationist learning, error-driven predictive learning, and Bayesian learning all play a role in different aspects of language use, acquisition, and change. This integrated model of learning is able to account for an enormous range of experimental results without invoking language-specific learning mechanisms. Focusing on phonetics, phonology, morphology and the lexicon, the book shows how general learning mechanisms can account for distributional learning, learning schematic linguistic structure, and learning paradigmatic structure. Kapatsinski demonstrates how neurocognitive learning theory can ground theories of language structure, language processing, language acquisition, and language change in the fundamental phenomenon of language use.

2019: Bridget Drinka and Cambridge University Press for The Periphrastic Perfect through History

Bridget Drinka's The Periphrastic Perfect Through History is a masterpiece of linguistic scholarship. Its extraordinary breadth of coverage and detailed analyses make original contributions of several kinds to a number of areas: language contact generally, areal linguistics, the “Charlemagne Sprachbund,” typology, TAM categories cross-linguistically, “perfect,” and the historical sociolinguistics of European languages. The book weaves all of these threads together deftly and cohesively. It tracks the history of the periphrastic perfect construction comprehensively and in meticulous detail through time and across Europe, from Finnish to Bulgarian, thus focusing not just on Indo-European languages. The close examination of the interaction of the sociohistorical and linguistic factors in the development of the periphrastic perfect compellingly demonstrates Drinka’s conclusion that language contact is a more crucial factor in linguistic change than has generally been recognized; it shows how language contact can motivate and instigate change in general.

2018: Charles Yang and MIT Press for The Price of Linguistic Productivity: How Children Learn to Break the Rules of Language [Read more about the special presentation of this award in Philadelphia

Charles Yang's The Price of Linguistic Productivity is a highly original, very readable book of wide interest to linguists of all subfields and theoretical frameworks.  It uses computational efficiency to relate the number of exceptions a rule can tolerate to the number of regular tokens.  The critical threshold decreases as the tokens affected increase, so a striking conclusion is that exceptions are learned best when the total vocabulary is small – an empirical answer to how children easily acquire with minimal input rules that stump adult learners.  The book has potentially profound implications for historical linguistics and language change as well.

2017: Brad Montgomery-Anderson (Northeastern State University) and the University of Oklahoma Press for Cherokee Reference Grammar.

This lucidly presented book is the first major reference work in more than 35 years on Cherokee, the only extant Southern Iroquoian language, one of the largest American indigenous languages in terms of the number of fluent speakers, and one with a rich tradition of literacy. Iroquoian morphophonemics and morphosyntax are famously intricate, yet this reference grammar is carefully structured to be accessible to students and scholars engaged in language revitalization regardless of formal background, with explicit definitions of the terms and concepts used in the description, along with copious illustrative material, with a richly informative multi-line interlinear presentation. At the same time, it is sufficiently thorough and explicit to be an invaluable resource for linguists seeking a reference grammar for comparative study. Cherokee Reference Grammar is a striking example of engaged scholarship in grammatical description, and a splendid model of a grammar that draws a successful balance in meeting the needs of a diverse readership.

2016: William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart

Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Although Old Chinese is a textually attested language (c. 1250-221 BCE), orthographic problems dictate that its phonology has to be reconstructed. In this remarkable volume, the culmination of many years of research, William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart begin by discussing the issues involved in this ambitious work and how it differs from previous reconstructions. They then present their reconstruction of Old Chinese syllable onsets and rhymes, along with an appendix of reconstructed forms.

2015: Laurie Bauer, Rochelle Lieber, and Ingo Plag

The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology (Oxford University Press, 2013)

The depth and the amount of research that has gone into this work are impressive. The care and thoroughness with which the authors present the corpus-based data are exemplary, and their decision to downplay theory while including copious helpful references to a wide number of synchronic approaches is commendable. This work will of value to scholars of all sorts who study English, providing analytical bases for later work, data for classroom problems, and rich material for browsing. It is also a fine example of international collaboration between leading morphologists from three continents.

2014: Jonathan Bobaljik, Universals in Comparative Morphology: Suppletion, Superlatives and the Structure of Words, (MIT Press)

This is a magisterial work of empirical discovery and theoretial analysis. It is an outstanding piece of typological research, reporting on the features of the over three hundred languages, and contains detailed support for seven cross-linguistic generalizations proposed and analyzed. These universals follow from a simple structural proposal about how comparative and superlative words are formed: superlatives contain comparatives. Intricate patterns of morphological syncretism and suppletion follow from this proposal, and the differences between periphrastic and analytic comparatives receive careful documentation and analysis as well. 

2013: Victor Golla

California Indian Languages, (University of California Press) Click here to see the remarks from a special presentation of the Bloomfield award given to Victor Golla.

2012: Jack Martin

A Grammar of Creek (Muskogee)

The Linguistic Society of America is pleased to present the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award to A Grammar of Creek (Muskogee) by Jack B. Martin (University of Nebraska Press, 2011). A meticulous description of enduring value to the Creek and scholarly communities, the work is distinctive in its comprehensive approach, which includes detailed acoustic analyses, sensitivity to dialectal variation, and consideration of theoretical issues that arise in the investigation of Muskogean languages. The grammar serves as an excellent model of how to do language description well.

2011: Hans Boas

The Life and Death of Texas German (Duke University Press, 2009)

The Linguistic Society of America is pleased to present the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award to The Life and Death of Texas German, by Hans Boas (Duke University Press, 2009). This masterful work combines a sociolinguistic analysis of the phonological, morphological, and syntactic developments in the German spoken in New Braunfels, Texas, with a study of the larger socio-historical context that framed these developments. Written lucidly and accessibly, the book contributes significantly to the understanding of the dynamics underlying new-dialect formation, language contact, language change, and language death.

2010: Pamela Munro and Catherine Willmond

Let's Speak Chickasaw, Chikashshanompa' Kilanompoli' 

A collaboration between a linguist and a native speaker, Let's Speak Chickasaw, Chikashshanompa' Kilanompoli' is both the first complete grammar of Chickasaw and its first textbook. It tells us much about Chickasaw grammar that was previously unknown or inaccessible. Its extraordinary depth, analytic sophistication, and lucid explanations of complex topics are a significant contribution to linguistics. It is also a timely model of a new type of pedagogical grammar for endangered languages aimed at community members, language teachers, linguists, and the public.

2009: Virginia Yip and Stephen Matthews

The Bilingual Child: Early Development and Language Contact (Cambridge, 2007)

The Bilingual Child: Early Development and Language Contact presents interesting new data and insightful analyses of bilingual development. Based on the most extensive bilingual corpus yet assembled and drawing on both generative and typological theoretical perspectives, the authors provide an extensive, informed and data-rich treatment of a difficult problem. The book sets a new standard for the study of childhood bilingualism, and shows how this study bears on many different areas of linguistics, including monolingual acquisition, language contact, syntactic theory, typology, and historical linguistics.

2008: William Labov, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg

The Atlas of North American English (Mouton de Gruyter, 2006)

The Atlas of North American English pictures the phonological divisions of North American English and includes a CD-ROM and website database. The result of a decade of interviews in metropolitan areas, ANAE combines boundary-making with careful considerations of sound change.

2006: R. M. W. Dixon

The Jarawara Language of Southern Amazonia (Oxford University Press)

R. M. W. Dixon's The Jarawara Language of Southern Amazonia, written with the assistance of Alan R. Vogel, is an invaluable record of a language in serious danger of extinction. The complexities of the language are unraveled with a clarity and insight that allow the reader to share in what the author describes as 'the intellectual pleasure of working out such a magnificent system'.

2004: Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum et al.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Cambridge University Press)

The Cambridge grammar of the English language is an extensive and readable account of current English usage makes accessible to professional and nonprofessional alike a vast body of linguistic knowledge about the English language drawn from many sources. It also makes available to this general readership many results of modern grammatical research. The authors offer a systematic and perspicuous account of English usage, underlining the importance of attending to the actual language of contemporary speakers. This grammar will help open the door to new approaches to the study and analysis of English as a language.

2002: Marianne Mithun

The Languages of Native North America (Cambridge University Press)

Marianne Mithun's The languages of Native North America is a reference work of permanent value, documenting the results of a century of work on the indigenous languages of North America (a topic which, we note, was an important concern for the scholar after whom this award is named). The permanent presence of Native North American languages in the records of human culture has been assured by the work that Mithun surveys and contributes to. Her synthetic work is done expertly, but in addition she contributes new and original observations on the basis of direct personal study and fieldwork on the complex structures of an array of little-studied languages. Her lucidly written book covers the history of the subfield, a survey of structural properties (including a wealth of examples), a catalogue of the language families including in each a sketch of a representative language, carefully prepared maps, and a massive bibliography. The book sets new standards for scholarship in our field and on every page demonstrates to the reader not only Mithun's deep scholarly concern but also her love and respect for the languages of this continent.

2000: Lyle Campbell

American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America (Oxford University Press)

Campbell’s book will stand as a landmark in American Indian linguistics and in historical linguistics more generally. It combines encyclopedic coverage of comparative and historical scholarship on languages of the Americas with a critical assessment of methods and criteria of establishing language relatedness. These strands are successfully brought together in a rigorous presentation and evaluation of relationships among American Indian languages.

1998: Alice C. Harris and Lyle Campbell

Historical Syntax in Cross-Linguistic Perspective (Cambridge University Press)

Engaging a large body of earlier literature and drawing extensively upon their own research, Professors Harris and Campbell present a set of important, attractive, and testable hypotheses on the universals and the limits of syntactic change. Despite the complexity of the topic, the writing is clear and accessible, and the proposals are superbly documented with material from a wide variety of languages. Historical syntax in cross-linguistic perspective is a benchmark work in syntax and historical linguistics.

1996: William Labov

Principles of Linguistic Change: Internal Factors (Blackwell Publishers)

The committee felt this book is a landmark in the study of language change. It not only presents a coherent and compelling account of the internal mechanics of phonological change, but it successfully integrates this account with theoretical advances in grammatical theory, sociolinguistics, and dialectology, as well as historical linguistics. Labov’s scholarship in this work is unsurpassed and ranges from a proposed solution to the Neogrammarian controversy, to an account of the changing dialect situation in the United States, to proposals for applying the theory of lexical phonology to the explanation of a set of historical paradoxes, and to exploring the limits of functional explanation.

1994: Johanna Nichols

Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time (University of Chicago Press)

Professor Nichols’ book, Linguistic diversity in space and time is a major contribution to linguistics, providing a novel framework for studying language history at great time-depth and over vast distances. The book pioneers an empiricist framework for the study of linguistic prehistory which searches for correlations over a large sampling of language and which examines structural, genetic, geographic, and population-related factors.

Nichols identifies phenomena that are stable in various senses—universally, genetically, and areally--and demonstrates how long range historical inferences of various types can be drawn from such material. The book is richly original, defining such new concepts as spread zones vs residual zones, homeland vs colonized areas, hotbed and outlier distributions, and global clines, and formulating a variety of important new morphosyntactic dimensions.

Linguistic diversity in space and time is significant within linguistics in that it places an old field, comparative linguistics, in a comprehensive context, offering a multidimensional, rather than solely genetic, approach to language prehistory. It is also significant well beyond linguistics in that it makes it possible to consider the independent contribution of language to cross-disciplinary scientific attempts to reconstruct the peopling of the globe.

By example, the book reminds us of the interrelatedness of aspects of linguistic work we often take to be highly separate, including the pursuit of universal grammar, historical linguistics, and the sociolinguistics of language change and of language contact. It demonstrates that the work in each of these areas has implications for others, while offering a framework in which this interrelatedness can fruitfully be pursued.

1992: Keren Rice

A Grammar of Slave (Mouton de Gruyter)

In bestowing the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award for 1989-91 on Keren Rice’s A grammar of Slave, published by Mouton de Gruyter, the Linguistic Society of America recognizes a work of exemplary scholarship that presents in its depth and analytic detail not only an exhausting account of the complex structure of Slave but one of the most complete descriptions of an Athabascan language ever written. In its encyclopedic scope and its organizational precision, A grammar of Slave is a work of enduring value to the community of linguists.

About the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award

First presented in 1992, this award recognizes a volume that makes an outstanding contribution of enduring value to our understanding of language and linguistics. Nominations must address the volume's exemplary scholarship, enduring value, novelty, empirical import, conceptual significance, and clarity, and include a brief citation that can be read at the presentation of the award.

This award is chosen by the LSA's Bloomfield Book Award Committee, which evaluates all books submitted and recommends one title to the Executive Committee, which must formally approve the recommendation.

Frequency: Annually

Nominations must be accompanied by five copies of the book prior to the deadline. Publishers as well as LSA members may nominate a book for the Bloomfield Award. 

Eligibility: All authors of nominated books should be current members of the LSA. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the selection committee for books whose authors are not all LSA members, such as books with co-authors who are native speaker language consultants who collaborated in the preparation of the book, but who are not otherwise part of the Linguistics community. In all cases, at least one author must be a member of the LSA. Book must be published between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022.


  • Novelty (says something that is not part of the published literature)
  • Empirical Import (claims made are empirically falsifiable)
  • Conceptual Significance (enriches overall understanding of the nature of human language)
  • Clarity (points are clearly formulated; text is reader-friendly)