Kristine Hildebrandt is a Professor of Linguistics in the Department of English Language and Literature, and is also a co-director of the Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics Scholarship (IRIS) Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2003. She is a documentary linguist of Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Nepal. In addition to Linguistics publications, she has published collaboratively on the place of minority languages in primary school environments in Nepal, and on multi-media mapping and geospatial applications of language documentation. Hildebrandt is also the editor of the online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal Himalayan Linguistics.

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 believe I joined when I was in graduate school, after taking my Professionalism course at UC Santa Barbara. My first LSA presentation was the Spring before I graduated, January 2003.

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

Initially, I just attended conferences and an institute here or there, and soaked up the atmosphere, and participated in basic networking. Later, I became a CELP member, and then took on a leadership role in CELP in 2014.

What are you currently researching/working on?

I have been working on a reference grammar of Gurung, a Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal. I have also been wrapping up two NSF-funded documentation projects, one of which is to record/transcribe survivor stories and build a corpus of survivor experiences of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. This corpus represents 11 under-documented Tibeto-Burman languages, and also Nepali. I am now working with colleagues (including students) to write up and publish some of the findings to come out of this corpus, including our archiving process, the pattern and function of evidentiality and reported speech, and also  the linguistic encoding of culturally specific understandings of the causes and consequences of natural disasters in Himalayan highland Buddhist communities.

What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?

I find so many new publications fascinating, but when I want to get my undergraduate students excited about linguistics, I often turn to some of the "classics," including Paul Hopper and Sandra Thompson's 1980 Language paper on transitivity, and also Peter Ladefoged Ian Maddieson's book Sounds of the World's Languages (my own copy is very dog-eared and all marked up).

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

Because I am a documentation linguist by training, one who works in smaller and often marginalized communities in Nepal, I still see a persistent disconnect between the value of documentation research in areas of linguistic analysis and theoretical modeling. I'm a discourse functional linguist by training, so, I continously look for the place of naturally/spontaneously occurring speech in analyses, and also, from a sociolinguistic perspective, the consideration of new sociolinguistic variables beyond the traditional "Labovian" ones considered in studies of English structural variation.

Is there anything else you'd like to say to the LSA membership as a whole?

I have been pleased in recent years to see the LSA make greater efforts to involve members of the population beyond "the academy" in their events. An example is the community linguist award, and also the events surrounding IYIL 2019.  I'd really like to see that continue to happen, and to grow in the future.

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

In my area of focus, there have been ups and downs. I think that an increase in documentation research, with innovative methods, and robust archiving resources and standars, is providing us with a great increase in excellent reference grammars better representing the world's diversity. Academic institutions and some publication venues have been somewhat slower to recognize this value, but I do think that is also slowly changing.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in linguistics?

I work in a university without a stand-alone Linguistics department. But we do offer a minor, and I encourage my students to sample a wide range of courses, to dip their toes, so to speak, into all of the applied opportunities that the field offers.

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

The annual meeting is the premiere professional networking event in linguistics. It offers all kinds of services, from the sharing of ideas and scholarly activities through the scheduled sessions, to professional connections and early interview opportunities, to exposure to new ideas, to friendly socialization. I love the Word of the Year event! I also enjoy browsing the poster sessions. The institute is a fantastic environment in which we can learn about dimensions of language that we may have missed out on in our own formative training, or to hear about new methods, approaches, lines of inquiry, and debates in our field. It has also increasingly been a venue for cross-disciplinary connections. It is also a great opportunity for socializing and sightseeing! I have made some wonderful, lifelong friends at LSA meetings and institutes.