About the LSA Member Spotlight

Originally created in 2011 and now making its debut on the new LSA website, the LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month.  If you would like to be featured in a Member Spotlight, or would like to recommend someone else to be featured, please contact David Robinson, the LSA's Director of Membership and Meetings.

Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

Colleen Fitzgerald (University of Texas at Arlington)

Colleen Fitzgerald is a professor in the Department of Linguistics and TESOL at The University of Texas at Arlington.  She earned her doctorate at the University of Arizona in 1997 and has held academic positions at various universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, SUNY Buffalo and Texas Tech University.  Colleen’s research has focused on phonological theory (especially prosody and reduplication) and language documentation and revitalization of Native American languages, especially Tohono O’odham, Chickasaw, and the languages of the Southwest and Oklahoma. She directs UT Arlington’s Native American Languages Lab and co-directs the Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshops.  In addition, she is director of the 2014 Institute on Collaborative Language Research: CoLang 2014.

Q:  When did you first join the LSA?

I’d guess it was 1991, when I started the graduate program at the University of Arizona.  Arizona linguistics did a great job of encouraging the professional development of their grad students, and joining the LSA and submitting to the conference was a part of that.   I attended my first LSA meeting in my second year, when it was held in Los Angeles.  I gave a talk at one of the sister societies (Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics) and that was my start at seeing the LSA in action for these big annual meetings every January.

Q:  Can you briefly describe your involvement with the LSA during the time you’ve been a member?

I’ve been very involved in the LSA, especially through my participation in the Committee on Endangered Languages and Their Preservation (CELP). I was part of the CELP team that drafted a resolution on the Resolution Recognizing the Scholarly Merit of Language Documentation. That resolution has been helpful for a number of junior scholars in terms of recognizing and validating their research and work in fieldwork and language documentation and revitalization. I also co-organized an LSA panel in honor of the 1991 LSA panel on endangered languages that played a critical role in raising our discipline’s awareness in this arena; the panel led to seminal articles on this topic in Language in 1992 by Ken Hale, Michael Krauss, Ofelia Zepeda, Akira Yamamoto and others. I was also a speaker on the joint 2012 CELP-LSA panel with the Society of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas on “Beyond Documentation to Revitalization,” which brought Jessie Little Doe Baird, Daryl Baldwin, a Tohono O’odham collaborator of mine, Phillip Miguel and other indigenous scholars to the Portland LSA. More recently, I’m serving on the Awards Committee and on the CoLang Fellowship Review Committee.

Q:  What motivated you to join the Society and to continue or expand your involvement with it?

The Arizona linguistics program did a great job of letting its students know about the LSA and getting us to submit abstracts to the annual meeting, so that was behind my initial motivation to join. As I progressed in graduate school and got closer to finishing, the LSA was a must for job interviews, so I continued my involvement during the end of graduate school and my early career.  More recently, I’ve been very involved in the LSA’s efforts to support and promote endangered languages and research into endangered languages, as well as language documentation and revitalization more generally.  CELP is a terrific way for young linguists interested in this area to become involved. It’s an open committee and everyone is welcome.  CELP has been very consistent in organizing panels that speak both to those interested in endangered language research and to a more general audience of linguists.  For me, attending the LSA annual meetings is a great way to maintain my connections in our discipline and to stay abreast of developments in linguistics.  I’m also enjoying my committee work on Awards and CoLang Fellowships, where people can receive recognition and acknowledgement of their accomplishments, or receive funding to enable their participation in important opportunities like CoLang.

Q:  Tell us more about CoLang.

CoLang started off as an idea proposed by Carol Genetti of the University of California, Santa Barbara at a conference at the 2005 LSA Harvard/MIT Summer Linguistic Institute. She proposed a summer field institute (occurring in alternating years from the LSA Summer Institute) to address two major gaps in the discipline: 1) the lack of field training opportunities for students at institutions without such courses and for faculty new to the sub-discipline but seeking to start fieldwork, and 2) the need for training in updated methods and new technologies and techniques for already practicing field linguists.  As it developed over the past few years, CoLang has also served indigenous community members seeking to document and revitalize their own languages. The first one, which was called InField then, was in 2008 at  UCSB, with the University of Oregon hosting in 2010 and the University of Kansas hosting in 2012, when the name was changed to CoLang.  UT Arlington will be hosting this year and we’re delighted for the chance to showcase our school and department, and most especially, all of our programs in Native American language documentation and revitalization and our collaborations with indigenous communities, as well as other partnerships in Oklahoma, Arizona and beyond.

CoLang offers training in field methods, contemporary methods in language documentation and language revitalization, and methods of collaboration.  It is both local and international – hosting institutes have drawn on the indigenous languages and resources and scholars of North America and of those worldwide, bringing instructors and participants from Australia, China, Japan, Kenya, and so many more countries.  The bulk of the activities occur in the first two weeks, and some participants stay on for an additional month to take the field methods classes.  We are very excited for The University of Texas at Arlington to be hosting in 2014.  The two-week sessions are June 16-27, 2014 and the field methods courses are June 30-July 25.  Languages in the field methods cover the Americas: Alabama from our own state of Texas; Innu (Cree) from Canada; and Apoala Mixtec from Mexico.  The latter offering will be a Spanish-medium field methods course, the first ever at CoLang.  We are especially excited that this year’s CoLang marks the beginning of a more formal relationship and sponsorship with the LSA.  There will be LSA scholarships for students, in addition to other scholarship sources. The LSA has also been a tremendous help in publicity, sharing organizational timelines, and more. And Robin Queen, one of the Michigan Summer Institute co-directors, has been generous in sharing ideas from their own experiences.  I hope people will give CoLang a look – our website is http://tinyurl.com/colang2014 .

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

In my opinion, the LSA’s most important services come in everything they do for students and junior scholars.  CoLang is one of these opportunities, but there is also the LSA Summer Institutes, networking events at LSA meetings, and the job interview service.  The LSA has also started doing Resource sessions at the annual meetings, for interested students. I did one this year on fieldwork, and I hope it was helpful for the students hoping to start their own projects.  The LSA also offers specials on membership for new graduates, scholarships for students to CoLang and Summer Institutes, and opportunities to participate in open committees like CELP.  The LSA serves as a great introduction to the discipline by facilitating so many networking and mentoring and other opportunities for those just starting out.

More generally, to the field, I’d have to say that the LSA has played an important role in advocacy for the humanities and social sciences, in speaking out on public policy issues, and in its leadership on responding to the global crisis facing endangered languages and indigenous communities.