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

Michal Temkin Martinez is Associate Professor of English and Founding Director of the Mary Ellen Ryder Linguistics Lab at Boise State University. She completed her PhD at the University of Southern California in 2010. She directs the Boise Language Project, a collaborative language documentation initiative for linguistics students and faculty working with community members who arrive in Boise as refugees. Her research looks at the intersection of experimental, documentary and theoretical approaches in phonology.Michal Temkin Martinez

Q: When did you first join the LSA?

Official LSA records indicate it was 2003, my second year in the PhD program at USC, but I attended the 2001 Linguistic Institute at UC Santa Barbara when I was an MA student at California State University Northridge, so I must have been a member then as well…

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

As a student, I joined the Language in the School Curriculum Committee - My first linguistics teaching experience was in a graduate program in Education and my students were always interested in finding ways to incorporate the information they learned in class about linguistics into their teaching. LiSC is a really special committee because it consists of linguists and K-12 teachers who are interested in just that! I’m still a member of LiSC, but I’m also active in the Linguistics in Higher Education Committee (LiHEC), having served as its chair in 2014. Through LiHEC, I collaborated with other members to teach two mini-courses during the Annual Meeting on Thriving as an Early Career Faculty Member. I’ve also helped organize symposia on topics related to LiSC and LiHEC (and most recently, in collaboration with CELP). This summer, I’ll be teaching a course and presenting one of the plenary MODELS talks in CoLang 2016, the Institute on Collaborative Language Research, which is sponsored by the LSA.

Q: What are you currently researching?

My training is in experimental and theoretical phonology, but my current research looks at ways of integrating experimental, documentary, and theoretical methodologies in phonology. Specifically, I have been collaborating with community members who arrived in Boise as refugees, along with colleagues and students at Boise State University, on documenting Somali Chizigula (also Mushungulu). There is a dictionary in the works, and we have been running aerodynamic studies to document the current state of prenasalization. Working with refugees and resettlement agencies in Boise, my students and I are also developing a web app that will help bridge some of the cultural and communication gaps between service providers and recently arrived refugees. Collaborating with the community on this project has been exceptionally fruitful and rewarding for us, and we can’t wait to launch it late fall.

Q: What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?

Given my recent interests in experimental, documentary, and formal approaches to phonology, I’ve been reading a lot of Amanda Miller’s (OSU) work. I don’t necessary have a favorite study among these, but I am very impressed by the range of the contributions that she has made — her development of CHAUSA (Corrected High Frame Rate Anchored Ultrasound with Software Alignment), her work on clicks in African languages, and her contributions to phonological theory.

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

Over the past decade, the number of undergraduate students majoring in linguistics at the national level has quadrupled. This is a wonderful growth trend, and is a testament to raised awareness about our field in the general public. It’s also a testament to the perceived applicability of our field outside of academia, especially as it is linked to developments in language-related technology. I think that one of the challenges that we face, as we educate a wider scope of undergraduate students, has to do with our approach to undergraduate education. With the formation of the Linguistics in Higher Education Committee (LiHEC) and the addition of the new Teaching Linguistics section of eLanguage, we have recently started moving toward a focus on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and on innovative pedagogies at both the undergraduate level. However, we are still quite a few steps behind other STEM disciplines — we need to have a discipline-wide conversation about teaching, and to broaden acceptance of SoTL research that can enrich teaching in our field. The 2016 Annual Meeting was the first meeting where members could submit abstracts in the category of “Teaching Linguistics.” I hope that more members begin submitting and presenting their research about teaching as a way to start that conversation sooner rather than later.


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

Working with undergraduate students, I find that the reasons they start studying linguistics are as varied as their personalities. A lot of students want to dive straight into their subfield of interest and specialize in it (i.e. TESOL, computational linguistics, psycholinguistics). Luckily, most undergraduate programs focus on creating generalists who can later hone their interests and skills as they continue their education. My advice would be to take as many courses outside of their "comfort zone" as possible — it’ll give them a better understanding of our entire discipline and of the common threads between the different subfields.

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

Because it is the flagship organization for linguists, I think the most important role the LSA plays has to do with connections: connecting linguists from all areas, connecting students and linguists--linguists within and outside of academia, and connecting us all with the general, non-specialist population--a critical connection.