Jeff Good

Jeff Good is Professor of Linguistics at the University at Buffalo. He received his PhD in 2003 from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Linguistics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology before arriving at Buffalo. His research interests focus on morphosyntactic typology, the comparative linguistics of Benue-Congo languages, and language documentation. He is the director of the Key Pluridisciplinary Advances in African Multilingualism–Cameroon (KPAAM-CAM) project, which is an international collaborative effort focused on understanding the dynamics of multilingualism among rural communities of Cameroon. In addition to his service for the LSA, he served as President of the Association for Linguistic Typology from 2016–2020. He also is currently a co-editor of Language Dynamics and Change and a co-editor-in-chief of Linguistics Vanguard.

Q: When did you first join the LSA?

I first joined the LSA in 1999 when I attended the LSA Annual meeting in Los Angeles. As I recall, it was Alan Yu, now at the University of Chicago, who encouraged me to go.

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

I have been involved in the LSA in a number of capacities. I served on the Executive Committee from 2015–2017. I have also served as chair of two standing committees, the Technology Advisory Committee (which has since transitioned to become the Committee on Scholarly Communication in Linguistics) and the Ethics Committee. I was also a member of the Strategic Planning Committee from 2013–2014 and the Task Force on Procedures for Evaluating Professional Conduct in 2020. I am currently serving on the Awards Committee. I have also co-organized a number of sessions at Annual Meetings.

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

The field of linguistics has grown tremendously since the founding of the LSA almost a century ago, and one outcome of this is a continually increasing number of specialized venues for linguists to present their work and exchange research ideas. At the same time, regardless of one’s subfield, there are still many situations where it is important for the entire discipline to be able to work together to advance the study of language. This may involve, for example, setting ethical standards for linguistic research, advocating for specific governmental policies with respect to language, or exchanging ideas about how to design strong undergraduate linguistics programs, among other areas. Within the US, the LSA is the only scholarly association that can help achieve such general goals. Even when looked at from an international perspective, there is no other organization like it. One distinctive characteristic of the LSA that allows it to be successful is the fact that much of its work is managed by professional staff in the Secretariat. This helps it achieve a level of organization that is far greater than what is possible in smaller scholarly societies that are largely run by linguists with other full-time jobs who are volunteering their time.

Q: What are you currently researching/working on

I have a number of ongoing research projects, but something that is occupying a lot of my attention at the moment is work that is focused on endangered language communities based in Cameroon whose members have been displaced due to conflict. As part of an interdisciplinary team, including many excellent Cameroonian scholars, we are looking at how displacement of this kind impacts the linguistic practices of multilingual individuals. This is not a topic I ever expected to focus on. However, I had been working with a number of language communities since 2004 who became impacted by conflict around 2017, and many of their members had to flee from their home villages. They still have not been able to return, and we wanted to continue to work with these communities in a way that did not ignore the very unfortunate circumstances that had caused them to leave their homes. We hope that the results of this work will eventually lead to advances in language policy for communities displaced due to conflict.

Another collaborative project that I am working on that began around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is virALLanguages ( The initial goal of this project was to find ways to spread accurate information about COVID-19 to minority language communities, and it brought together linguists and public health specialists. We are now hoping to extend the approach that we developed to other public health topics.

I also continue to do work on more traditional topics in historical and structural linguistics, with a focus on the comparative linguistics of Benue-Congo languages and morphosyntactic typology.

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

The biggest change by far that I’ve observed is the increased importance of computational and quantitative methods in the field. When I started studying linguistics, most of the major developments were being driven by advances in linguistic theory, including both formalist and functionalist theories. Somewhere after the turn of the millennium, things started to shift, and much of the most exciting work going on now makes use of new methods (or older methods that are now much easier to use due to increased computing power and improved software) to explore “old” questions in new ways. While I find it a bit daunting to try to keep up to date with all of the methods now being used, it’s also really exciting to watch the field move in unpredictable directions as they come to be applied to more and more kinds of linguistic data.

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Explore previous Member Spotlights.