The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

Anne H. Charity Hudley, William and Mary

Hudley headshot


Anne Harper Charity Hudley is Associate Professor of Education, English, Linguistics, and Africana Studies and the inaugural William and Mary Professor of Community Studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She directs the William and Mary Scholars program. Her research and publications address the relationship between language variation and Pre K-16 educational practices and policies.

Prof. Charity Hudley is a member of the LSA's Committee on Linguistics in Higher Education and is co-editor of the Teaching Linguistics section of the LSA's scholarly journal Language. She has served as a consultant to the National Research Council Committee on Language and Education and to the National Science Foundation's Committee on Broadening Participation in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Sciences.

Q: When did you first join the LSA?

I first joined the LSA in 1999. It was my first year of graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and I was applying for an LSA Institute Fellowship. I had a wonderful summer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as an LSA Fellow. I met many different renowned linguists who were living in dorms and frat houses for the summer at the Institute. That’s when I thought--I can do this!

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

I co-taught a course with William Labov at the Stanford Summer Institute in 2007. I gave an LSA Forum Lecture in 2013 at the University of Michigan Summer Institute and led a workshop at the University of Chicago Summer Institute in the summer of 2015 with Christine Mallinson, John Rickford, and Michel DeGraff.

I’ve been to many LSA Annual Meetings since 1999 and served on the Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics and on the Linguistics in Higher Education Committee. I’m an associate editor of Language with responsibilities for the Teaching Linguistics section.

Q: Why should educators be interested in expanding the role of linguistics in K-12 (and beyond) education?

To improve education and access to education, we need every area of linguistics to be involved. Education requires an approach to linguistics that values both linguistic breadth and depth. Language is central to every aspect of learning: acquisition of reading, processing of information, creativity, behavior, and communication in the interpersonal relationships that learning is built on. Linguists who do educational research widen the applicability of linguistic theory and provide linguists with a broader audience and additional forms of intellectual and financial support.

We need to work with educators of all kinds so that we all can learn more about the role of language in cognition and the learning process. We should help educators be active practitioners of sociolinguistic principles that allow for respect across languages and cultures in learning spaces. We need more information about linguistics in specific educational contexts and for particular grade levels and subject areas. Such work will have an impact in Pre K-12, higher education, and other learning environments.

Q: What can linguists do to help make linguistic knowledge more broadly available in educational contexts?

When you write an academic book or article, write a 500-1,000-word summary that people who aren’t focused on linguistics everyday can understand. Then test it out to see if educators really do understand your message. The National Science Foundation (NSF) now requires such reports (Project Outcome Summaries) and it’d be great if other publications and conferences would as well. We should be translating those summaries into several languages and producing versions for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. We also need specific summaries of linguistic information for caregivers—parents and guardians in particular--so they can advocate for students' linguistic rights in schools and communities.

For example, I’ve found that educators really want specific wording to help them talk about touchy linguistic situations. They say “Now that I have an appreciation for language and that it varies, how do I explain that to a child?” How do I explain that to an administrator who doesn’t really agree with my stance? How do I explain that to a parent who comes into my classroom and says, "What are you talking about, this African American English?" What do I say in that context?

Educators are not having conversations about language and linguistic justice because they don’t have the specific wording to do so and too much is at stake professionally to try to develop it on the fly. We need to support the specifics of the process of linguistic education with greater practicality and professional empathy.

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

Linguistics faces an inclusion challenge. We haven’t fully confronted the issue that when you scan the pages of Language and the LSA Annual Meeting program schedules (as well as the schedules of most other linguistic conferences) the majority of the authors have been White. Yet, people of various races and ethnicities often speak the languages and language varieties we study in linguistics so we’re ripe for intellectual and social inclusion. We should continue to improve racial and social justice in linguistics with action and policies as other professional organizations have. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as working “ in the field” and “doing fieldwork” and figure out how we can get the people we’re learning about language with in communities to be our classmates and colleagues.

In addition, there’s a persistent narrative in linguistics that certain topics “aren’t linguistics or linguistics enough.” Too often these are the topics that people are women and people of color are interested in. Such interests include education, teaching linguistics, speech and hearing sciences, professional translating, and all the things I’ve heard people say, “aren’t actually linguistics.”

So, to address both issues, linguists have to re-imagine the role of linguistics in the academy as a whole. We have to take more comprehensive stances about making articulated pathways to inclusion from elementary school, to undergraduate, to graduate programs. I lead a program designed to help undergraduate students do research and I’m taking a pause from full-on linguistic research right now for to co-author a book designed for first- and second-year undergraduates about how to get started in research so that I can do more to address the issue systemically. Inclusion has to be both demographic and intellectual. We have to find out more about what people who are currently underrepresented in linguistics value intellectually. It won’t happen by chance. It will happen by value.

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

The LSA is critical for inclusion and diversity in linguistics. The Annual Meetings bring together linguists of different research interests, particularly with its relationship with the American Dialect Society, the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, and the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of America. The intellectual cohesion that linguists enjoy because of the structure of the LSA and Language are exceptional.

When I told my undergraduate advisor, Calvert Watkins, that I wanted to be a linguist, he said “Great! Go read Language.” And he meant all of it. So that’s what I spent the summer of my sophomore year doing.

But for me, the Linguistic Institutes are the jewels of the LSA and of linguistics! I can’t wait ‘til Kentucky

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

I’m a linguist because two fantastic linguists and former LSA presidents, Calvert Watkins and Bill Labov, made a commitment to inclusion. I stayed a linguist because I had people including Marlyse Baptista, Bert Vaux, Hollis Scarborough, and John Rickford as professors and mentors who I still could call or visit at any moment if I needed to. Go do the same.

Naomi Nagy, Meredith Tamminga, Sherry Ash, and I started a program for New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) this year that provides travel awards and mentorship for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Reach out to students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in linguistics on your own campuses, at local community colleges, regional colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic Serving Institutions. If you need help with an action plan of how to do so, email me or come find me at the LSA Meeting or at the Institute and we’ll chat.