The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. If you would like to recommend an LSA member (including yourself) for a future Member Spotlight, please contact LSA Executive Director Alyson Reed.

Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

Adrienne Isaac, Georgetown University

Adrienne Isaac photo

Adrienne Isaac is the LSA intern for Summer 2015 and a PhD student concentrating in sociolinguistics in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University. She received her BA degree in Psychology from UCLA. For her undergraduate research, she incorporated conversation and discourse analytic methods to study classroom interactions involving English-Spanish bilingual students. Subsequent to graduating from UCLA, Adrienne taught for several years in Los Angeles County juvenile detention facilities and conducted research with female substance users as well as individuals diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Adrienne then returned to UCLA to receive her MA degree in Applied Linguistics where she examined disorganized speech and social cognition in conversations with individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In her work at Georgetown, Adrienne focuses on the resources – both verbal and nonverbal – that participants in interaction utilize for sense-making purposes. She is particularly interested in the role of theory of mind, joint attention and social cognition in conversation.

Q: What led you to join the LSA as our summer intern?

The LSA serves linguists across sub-disciplines and both in and outside of academia. As a student who largely focuses on issues within the sub-discipline of sociolinguistics, I viewed the summer intern position at the LSA as one that could provide me with a bird’s eye view of the field. As the summer intern, I could take on the perspective of the general-interest linguistic researcher and focus on the commonalities across the sub-disciplines of the field, rather than on their differences.

Q: What are you currently researching?

I use the methods of conversation and discourse analysis to examine the role of social cognition in everyday conversation. I am specifically interested in investigating how interlocutors display an understanding of one another’s talk, and of the intention underlying this talk. I have researched problematic understandings in conversations with individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia to gain insight into sources of miscommunication. Through this work, I hope to identify the variables that make mutual understanding in everyday conversation possible.

Q: What are you most looking forward to working on in your time at the LSA?

I am most passionate about supporting student linguists across sub-disciplines by assessing their needs and building on their interests. Many student issues transcend sub-disciplinary boundaries and relate to access to resources and support. I’m hoping that this summer I can assist with building the organizational infrastructure for students to support one another and be active in discussing issues relevant to the field of linguistics and to their professional growth. 

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

I’d like to see more unity across linguistics subfields. I believe that the field can benefit from a focus on commonalities regardless of the theoretical and methodological differences.

Another challenge that I see relates to the somewhat amorphous public image of linguistics. It can be difficult for academics to communicate with and take on the perspective of the public, but I do believe that as linguistics continues to broaden its applications, the field will become more accessible to the public.

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

I believe that being part of a community is important and that communication with colleagues helps to build on existing ideas as well as generate new ones. To that end, I feel that the Annual Meetings and Summer Institutes provide a great resource for members and make it very compelling for prospective members join.