Linguistics Journalism Award Holders 

2023 Andrew Leland (The New Yorker)

Andrew Leland

The Committee notes that all nominees this year highlighted the beauty of language and language change, showcased the ways in which those nominated have engaged in careful writing that attends to the nuances of language and linguistics, and how each has been influenced by and consulted linguists in these areas. The award recipient for 2023 is Andrew Leland for his work “DeafBlind Communities May Be Creating a New Language of Touch” published in The New Yorker.

The committee saw this as “an extremely well-crafted longform article that doesn't skimp on the linguistic nuance” that “went into depth” and “avoids ableist tropes by writing from the perspective of the DeafBlind community.” The coverage of “ASL, language emergence, creoles” and the “clear articulation of issues with accessibility [and] in-group challenges” was compelling. The article even mentions an emergency NSF grant being awarded to a set of linguists during the pandemic for teaching Protactile to DeafBlind children isolated in their homes. Emergency federal grant funding to support instruction of a new language! As one member said, “This article blew my freaking mind. A new modality! A new speech community! Talking through touching! … How could this be any better?”

2022: Allyson Waller (The New York Times)

Allyson Waller

Allyson Waller is a very talented young journalist who has gone to great lengths to fully and accurately report on the findings of linguistic research and their implications for minority language communities. As shown in her January 23, 2021 NY Times article, “Black, Deaf, and Extremely Online,” she practiced cultural humility by making exceptional efforts to respect the usage preferences of the language community about which she writes. Her article, and the attention it has received, has contributed to bringing recognition and respect to African American Deaf signers and to Black ASL, the language variety developed in the segregated schools of the American South in the pre-Civil Rights era. Ms. Waller exemplifies the very highest standards of journalistic integrity and accuracy.

2020: Thomas Curwen (Los Angeles Times)

In his May 2019 Column One feature for the Los Angeles Times, Thomas Curwen brings readers into the world of Tongva language reclamation, emphasizing the voices of indigenous people involved in the project. Through interviews with UCLA linguist Pam Munro, Curwen is able to provide a taste of the linguistic technicalities involved. Rich, multimedia supplementary materials allow readers to learn more about Tongva language, geography, and history, and a teachers’ guide makes this feature an outstanding resource for K-12 education. The LSA applauds Curwen for journalism that showcases linguistics and the importance of language in culture and identity

2019: Patrick Cox (The World in Words Podcast - Public Radio International)

Patrick Cox understands the significance of words in an era where we all need to learn again how to speak to each other. His outstanding work in The World in Words has allowed citizens of the world to be acknowledged and educated on all matters relevant to language. Cox´s NPR documentaries offer clear, in-depth, and thought-provoking perspectives on linguistic diversity, historical linguistics, anthropological linguistics, and language as an art. Members of the Linguistic Society of America are thankful to Patrick Cox for his life´s work dedicated to enhancing the fabric of life by reminding us to listen to each other´s words

2018: Lane Greene (The Economist)

In 2016, Lane Greene took up the task of bringing the "Johnson" column back to the print edition of The Economist. Appearing every two weeks, his column has consistently publicized themes and ideas from within linguistics, and written about them accurately as well as interestingly. His approach consistently champions the scientific approach to language over dilettantism, and defends evidence-based linguistics against prescriptivist myth-making.

2016: Arika Okrent (Mental Floss)

Dr. Okrent's work at Mental Floss is acclaimed for taking often-complex linguistic topics and making them easily accessible. Her use of innovative media forms such as listicles and whiteboard videos has helped bring linguistic knowledge to a wide audience. In addition to her work at Mental Floss, Dr. Okrent is editor-at-large at and has written for publications including Smithsonian Magazine, Lapham's Quarterly, and Schwa Fire in 2015 alone. 

2015: Ben Zimmer (

In addition to serving as the Wall Street Journal's language columnist, Ben Zimmer has written articles on linguistic topics for The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Slate's Lexicon Valley blog, and many other popular publications. His work bringing linguistic knowledge to the public is prolific, entertaining, and well-researched, informed by his own linguistic background. Ben Zimmer is an ideal choice for the first LSA Linguistics Journalism Award

About the Linguistics Journalism Award

Established by the LSA in 2014, this award honors the journalist whose work best represents linguistics during the 12-month consideration period indicated in the call for nominations. The award is based on a single news story or body of work that reflects accuracy and timeliness as regards the material but is also appealing to non-specialist audiences.

Selection of the award recipient will be made by a committee consisting of 2-3 members of the LSA Public Relations Committee (PRC) and the Executive Committee liaison to the PRC. 

Frequency: As nominations warrant

Eligibility: Nominations may be submitted by any individual or entity that wishes to do so, including members of the award selection committee. The news story must have been presented/published during the time period specified in the call for nominations. Nominations are particularly encouraged from LSA members, news organizations, journalists, and public relations professionals.

The letter of nomination should include the following, as appropriate:

  • Significance of the story or body of work which is the basis of the nomination
  • Accessibility of the work to non-specialist audiences