Voting was opened for the election of the LSA Officers as well as At-large Members of the Executive Committee, and Student Representatives to the Executive Committee from September 1 through to November 3, 2023.

Candidates

The LSA Nominating Committee and Committee on Student Issues and Concerns (COSIAC) have selected a slate of candidates for our upcoming elections. The nominees are:

Should LSA members want to place additional names on the ballot, the LSA Constitution provides a way to do that. If by July 3, 2023 – six months before the Annual meeting – five percent or more of the members have separately and in writing nominated any additional individual member for Vice President or the Executive Committee, and that member agrees to be presented as a candidate for the position in question, then that name shall be added to the ballot. To place additional names on the ballot for student representative to the Executive Committee the requirements are essentially the same except that five percent or more of student members must send in any additional student member’s name.

Additional nominations should be sent to [email protected] with the subject line “Nominations Vice-President,” “Nominations Executive Committee” or “Nominations Student Representative.” The deadline for submitting additional nominations is 11:59 pm (EDT) on July 3, 2023.

Biographies and statements

Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)

Biography

Heidi Harley is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, and is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program, the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching program, the American Indian Studies program, and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her primary research interests are in morphology, syntax and lexical semantics, which she has mostly studied using elicited and introspective grammaticality judgments. She has published models of causatives in Italian, Japanese and Hiaki, ditransitive constructions in English, honorific agreement in Korean, the structure of person and number in pronouns cross-linguistically, the role of forces in the stative/eventive distinction in verbal event structure, the nature of 'roots' in morphology and syntax, the typological variation in 'manner-of-directed-motion' constructions, and the morphosyntactic status of VoiceP, among other things. She has directed over 25 PhD theses at the University of Arizona, and received a Graduate and Professional Education Teaching and Mentoring award in 2011. She is a Magellan Circle Fellow in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. You can review her CV here.

She received her BA in Linguistics from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1991, and then her PhD in 1995 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught at the Université de Lille III (Charles de Gaulle) before taking up a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science. She joined the University of Arizona faculty in 1999. As a member of the LSA, she has served as chair of the Program Committee, as a member-at-large of the Executive Committee, as an Associate Editor of Language, a member of the Public Relations committee and in various ad hoc committees and other capacities. She is a Fellow of the LSA, and has taught at two LSA Summer Institutes. She has served on the editorial boards of Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, Word, Syntax and the Canadian Journal of Linguistics.

Her research has been published in Language ("A feature-geometric analysis of person and gender" with Elizabeth Ritter), Studia Linguistica ("Existential impersonals", with Andrew Carnie), Linguistic Inquiry ("Causation, obligation and argument structure: On the nature of little v", with Raffaella Folli), the International Journal of American Linguistics ("Form and meaning in Hiaki (Yaqui) verbal reduplication", with Maria Leyva), Theoretical Linguistics ("On the identity of roots"), Linguistics and Philosophy ("A force-theoretic framework for event structure", with Bridget Copley), Natural Language and Linguistic Theory ("Locality domains and morphological rules: Phases, heads, node-sprouting and suppletion in Korean honorification", with Jaehoon Choi), and Snippets ("Some PP modifiers of NP block relative readings in superlatives", with Jeffrey Punske). She has also published papers in numerous edited volumes and handbooks, as well as (co-)editing several volumes on various themes, and she is the author of a textbook on English words.

Other relevant experience includes directing Master's theses in the University of Arizona's Native American Linguistics MA program, coauthoring an introductory pedagogical grammar of the Hiaki language (Yaqui, Uto-Aztecan), documentary linguistics work with Hiaki, and outreach lectures on the linguistics of Hiaki for the Pascua Yaqui Language and Culture department.

Statement

I am very honored and happy to be nominated for this role, serving the LSA as Vice-President, and I hope the membership will support my nomination. I am deeply sensible of the responsibilities the position entails, and if confirmed, will serve the society to the best of my ability.

I have been a member of the LSA since 1995, and became a life member as a little present to myself shortly after getting a tenure-track job. Being a member of the LSA has been important to my identity as a linguist throughout my career, and I have benefitted tremendously from the professional opportunities for networking, presenting research and exchanging ideas it has afforded. It is my hope that the society can continue to serve its members in this way for another century to come, adapting appropriately to changing landscapes of intellectual community-building.

Being a linguist has been a great privilege and joy for me. Unfortunately, it's not an opportunity that is available to everyone, and the field still has some way to go to become a welcoming and accessible space for all comers. Everyone is interested in language, so it behooves us to repeatedly ask why everyone is not equally represented in linguistics. I will do my best to support and expand the ongoing initiatives to foster inclusion in the field, inclusion across subfields, across generations, and across racial and ethnic and linguistic and religious and national and gender divisions.

We all know that linguistics has a lot to offer society at large. A widespread understanding of how writing systems relate to sound systems, or of how linguistic features are used as primary markers of identity, or of how a child grows a linguistic system in response to the surrounding language ecology, or of what a pronoun is, or of how prejudice is built on arbitrary linguistic ideologies with no basis in scientific fact, could really change the world. These and other core topics need to be part of common scientific literacy.  

One way we can increase the accessibility of primary linguistic results, especially across international borders, is by supporting open-access initiatives in linguistics publishing. I hope to promote the high-quality open-access publication venues produced by the LSA and others, and to support further change in the incentive structure of higher education to encourage scholars to choose open-access venues wherever possible.

The last issue I'd like to touch on in this statement has to do with something that my Indigenous students here at the University of Arizona have taught me: Those of us who work with endangered languages have to drop the framing of that work as scientific 'salvage'—such languages and communities need linguists' support and attention, but not because their languages are reservoirs of typologically unusual features that could be lost to science. To truly implement the idea that linguistic rights are human rights, we must focus on the needs of speakers and communities of speakers of endangered languages, rather than on potentially missed opportunities for scientific study. We have to find better approaches to this very important work, and I'd like to create even more opportunities for conversations about this challenge in our field, especially attending to the work and voices of the Natives4Linguistics SIG.

Hadas Kotek (Apple & Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Biography

Dr. Hadas Kotek is senior data scientist with Apple*, Siri Natural Language Understanding, and a Research Affiliate with the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. She held a Mellon fellowship at McGill University and teaching positions at Yale University and New York University before taking a job in the tech industry. Dr. Kotek’s research utilizes theoretical, experimental, and computational approaches to study the structure and meaning of natural language. Her earlier work focused on the syntax/semantics interface, studying questions, association with focus, and other A-bar phenomena. Her more recent work focuses broadly on the sociology of the field, studying gender stereotypes and biases in linguistics research. Dr. Kotek maintains an active research program in NLP, most recently studying the capabilities and limitations of Large Language Models.

Dr. Kotek is a dedicated teacher and mentor. She has continued her teaching and advising activities even after leaving her full-time academic positions. She is particularly passionate about illuminating diverse career paths for linguists, creating a set of freely available materials on her blog, as well as appearing on numerous panels and giving talks on the topic around the globe. She has engaged in science outreach in and beyond the linguistic community, including a featured post in a People of Science campaign, an interview with Superlinguo jobs series, an LSA member spotlight, and several podcast interviews. She has offered a free semester-long “careers workshop” open to anyone in the Boston area for three semesters in a row, and will offer a class based on these materials at this year’s LSA Summer Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Dr. Kotek has been an active member of the LSA since 2009. She has been a ‘special projects contributor’ for the Linguistics Beyond Academia Special Interest Group (LBA) and a member of the Committee on Institutes and Fellowships (CLIF). The bulk of her service to the field has been through the Committee on Gender Equity in Linguistics (COGEL, formerly COSWL). She is the outgoing chair of COGEL, having served as chair in 2021–2023. She was a contributor to the revised LSA Guidelines for Inclusive Language and a co-author of the Resources on Equity and Inclusivity in Linguistics (REIL) guidebook. She additionally co-founded the Pop-Up Mentoring Program (PUMP), which was recognized with the Linguistic Service Award in 2019, and is currently the chair of the PUMP subcommittee for COGEL.

* Dr. Kotek is applying in a personal capacity and not in her capacity as an employee of Apple.

Statement

I am honored to be nominated to serve on the LSA Executive Committee. The Society’s mission to advance the scientific study of language and its applications is one I care deeply about. I believe that the Society can play an important role both in disseminating a better understanding of language and linguistics to non-linguist audiences and in serving the linguistic community itself––most importantly its younger members, the future of our field. 

In recent years, I have seen the Society go through several internal struggles, leading to a deep crisis of faith especially among younger linguists. I have witnessed colleagues continually feel that the Society doesn’t represent them, doesn’t contribute to their lives or careers, and even that it actively reflects values that they do not agree with.

As a relatively recent PhD alum who has spent half of the last decade as a precariously employed academic and the other half working outside academe, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to feel a sense of belonging to the field. I believe that the LSA is uniquely positioned to fill this critical need of students, precariously employed academics, and linguists employed in other industries––to continue to maintain the community that they spent years cultivating. By doing this, not only will we better serve our existing membership, but we will be able to expand our reach and our impact.  

If elected to the Executive Committee, my most important goal will be to repair the broken bridges. To achieve this goal, I would: 

  1. aim to increase the transparency of the workings of the Society and its decision-making processes, which I believe are at the core of many of these frustrations, as well as to bring in those passionate linguists who do not currently feel heard. 
  2. advocate for a more inclusive LSA, adopting a “Big Tent” approach to linguistics where all subfields, questions of study, and approaches are equally welcome and valued. Every linguist should feel that they belong and that they are represented and empowered by our Society.
  3. expand the materials produced by the Society to support and advocate for diverse career paths for linguists, on the one hand, and the content that specifically caters to Career Linguists, on the other, so that career linguists are better included and the benefits of an LSA membership are clear to them. 
  4. increase the mentorship opportunities afforded to the members of the linguistics community throughout their career. The Pop-Up Mentoring Program has already served close to 1,600 participants in the 5 years it has existed, but the Society’s mentoring offerings can be broadened by involving more senior members in mentoring events, by fostering peer mentoring relationships, and by including career linguists in our events.

It would be an honor to serve on the Executive Committee of the LSA. If elected, I am confident that I would be a strong advocate for all linguists. I strongly believe that my service work thus far has afforded me an understanding of the current workings of the Society and the needs of its membership, the personal relationships to begin to build those bridges we are in dire need of, and the trust of the community who I will work fervently to represent. 

Savithry Namboodiripad (University of Michigan)

Biography

Savithry Namboodiripad is an Assistant Professor in Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she leads the Contact, Cognition, & Change Lab. She earned her PhD in Linguistics from UC San Diego and her BA and MA in Linguistics from the University of Chicago. Her research uses experimental methods to study syntactic typology and language contact, alongside asking how methodological and theoretical approaches might need to shift in order to do such work (e.g., Levshina, Namboodiripad et al. 2023). In addition, her personal and professional experiences and commitments have led her to study the field of linguistics itself, working with collaborators on topics such as harassment and bias (Namboodiripad, Occhino, & Hou 2019), as well as notions of decoloniality in various subfields (e.g., Gibson et al. forthcoming). Relatedly, she has a range of collaborations interrogating the utility of essentialist constructs such as "native speaker" in linguistic theory and practice (e.g., Cheng et al. 2021Namboodiripad & Henner 2022). 

Dr. Namboodiripad has been involved in the Linguistic Society of America’s Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics, most recently as co-Chair, has co-organized a workshop and working group on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Language Evolution, and is currently co-leading, with Dr. Ethan Kutlu, the ROLE collective, which works against essentialist notions of language in policy and practice, within academia and beyond. She has also presented on inclusion in teaching linguistics, particularly in fields where variation and/or linguistic oppression are not typically centered as topics of study, such as language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and typology (e.g., https://www.linguisticsociety.org/resource/webinar-centering-linguistic-diversity-and-justice-course-design).

Statement

I'm honored to have been nominated to run for election to the LSA EC. As our central professional organization, the LSA serves several crucial mentoring, advocacy, and resource-sharing functions, all of which fall under the general umbrella of community-building. Often, linguists can be the "only one" -- if not the only linguist in their department, perhaps the only phonetician, or linguist of color, or linguist teaching about social justice. Continuing to strengthen community, in a way that works for the linguists who would benefit from it the most, is something I would like the opportunity to work on if elected to the EC.

Likely due in part to the work I've done with Dr. Corrine Occhino and Dr. Lina Hou on harassment in linguistics, I tend to hear a lot, from a range of scholars, about what isn't working in our field. This has motivated me to do as much as I can to enact changes in the spaces where I have influence. I have also been grappling with the question of whether and how institutions can indeed be a source of support to scholars who experience harm or are otherwise minoritized in academic or academic-adjacent spaces. Though the answers are still not clear to me, I want to believe it is possible. Policies and structures can help carry the burden when we cannot rely on individuals alone -- this is something that institutions can do well. If elected to the EC, I am committed to working creatively, and in a way that is informed by scholarship, to advocate for concrete and practical changes in this direction.

For example prospective graduate students and junior scholars on the job market have shared with me the confusion and, at times, disrespect that they have experienced in the process of applying to graduate school and faculty positions. The application and interview process is not inherently pleasant, but it could be more transparent and respectful. Rather than requiring the junior members of our discipline to find a subreddit or wiki, or to have access to mentors who individually have to remember to provide context to guide each applicant through the process, the LSA could bring together departments to put together some successful practices for making the process more humane. It shouldn't be on the one over-burdened admissions chair or search chair to individually do this work; shifting such responsibilities from individuals to structures can help. It should go without saying that this is an issue for the health and future of our field, as we are losing potentially transformative scholars and community members, and the negative impacts are borne disproportionately on those coming from historically excluded communities.

A related concrete suggestion came from a 2023 LSA workshop (organized by Dr. Jamaal Muwakkil, Dr. Kendra Calhoun, Dr. Joyhanna Garza, Dr. Rachel Weissler, and myself), in response to the question of how the LSA can help linguists whose work engages with anti-racism and social justice in other ways, particularly in non-linguistics departments. It was suggested that the LSA could put together a statement on what it can look like to get tenure as a linguist. Such a document could help those junior scholars who do not have support at their own institutions to advocate for themselves, and, again, this would help to sustain those scholars who are doing the transformative work which is the future of our field.  

LSA members and nonmember linguists expect a lot from our professional organization, and there is potentially a lot that we can give. However, there are real limits to what an institution that is stretched thin financially and that is powered by passionate but overworked volunteers can do. The LSA accomplishes much within those limits because of that very passion, but, as many others have said, increasing transparency when it comes to EC decisions and the inner workings of the LSA would be a crucial practice to build and sustain in order to not just rebuild trust, but also set more specific expectations for everyone about what is possible.

In the workshops I have organized, research projects I have led, and in my teaching, I have worked to bring together scholars situated in theoretical and methodological approaches which are typically not in conversation; as might be evident from the number of times "co-" prefixed words appear in my bio, this is something I have intentionally integrated into my academic practice. If elected to the EC, I'd be committed to bringing in as many perspectives as possible, in as systematic a way as possible. I would appreciate this opportunity to learn more about the LSA as an institution and to contribute my energy to strengthen our community.

Jennifer Nycz (Georgetown University)

Biography

Jennifer Nycz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University. She earned her PhD in Linguistics from New York University and her BA in Linguistics from Dartmouth College. She is also a sociophonetician whose research interests include accent change in mobile speakers of English, quantitative methods in sociolinguistics, and how place identity influences the way people use language. Her most recent empirical focus is sociophonetic and stylistic variation in the speech of Torontonians living in New York City and New Yorkers living in Toronto.

At Georgetown she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in sociolinguistics, phonetics, and phonology. Advising and mentoring is her favorite part of the job, and she aims to give her students the support and perspective they need to produce interesting and rigorous academic work, to maintain work/life balance, and to cultivate the skills to succeed in whatever career path they choose. Professor Nycz also serves her department as the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Head of the Sociolinguistics Concentration, and the Director of the Linguistics Lab. Dr. Nycz has been a member of the LSA since 2006 and a life member since 2019. She is currently a member of the LSA First-Gen Access and Equity Committee.

Statement

I am honored to be nominated for a position on the Executive Committee. If elected to serve, I will look forward to working with the current EC and with the Executive Director to increase the accessibility and usefulness of the LSA for current and future members. Meeting the needs of current members, and attracting new ones, requires attention to several interconnected elements; here, for me, are some of the most salient.

First, we must (continue to) recognize that the vast majority of people who pursue degrees in Linguistics (at any level, even PhD!) will not ultimately land in academic careers. Great progress has been made on this front in recent years, thanks to the Linguistics Beyond Academic Special Interest Research Group and the programming it has created; I would, however, challenge LSA leadership to reconsider just how “special interest” this area of focus really is, and to think about how the Society can better serve the professional needs of all linguists.

Coming from the other direction: it is clear that many people who do not have academic exposure to or training in linguistics nonetheless take a professional or even extracurricular interest in languages and linguistic topics. As a professional society we ought to think about how such individuals might be better served by our organization; minimally, by improving the website to make non-specialist-directed information more accessible and consumable, but more creative ways of engaging the public in our research and other activities are surely possible. Broad public knowledge and support of Linguistics mean it is easier to maintain and grow educational programs and opportunities for funding; if more “lay” linguists and language lovers can be enticed to join the Society as dues-paying members, so much better.

Finally (but related to these two other points): we must continue to find ways to draw young people into linguistics at the college and even high school level. Our field is strengthened if we can convince students to see Linguistics as a viable area to pursue as a major and/or as a career, academic or otherwise. The internet has helped us quite a bit in this regard; Linguistics was 100% a discovery major when I was in college, but now as a wizened DUS I regularly field emails from high schoolers wanting to know how they can learn more about the field. Here too, the LSA has made some strides (via the Linguistics in the Schools Curriculum Committee) but there is still progress to be made, in reaching both students who are still unfamiliar with the field, and those who are as-yet reluctant to commit to a major, unsure about its marketability.

Georgia Zellou (University of California, Davis)

Biography

Georgia Zellou is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at UC Davis. She received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and was a Postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Zellou served as co-Director of the 2019 LSA Linguistic Institute at UC Davis and was inducted as a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America in 2020 for this role. She has served on several LSA committees, including the Public Relations Committee, the Awards Committee, the Committee on Institutes and Fellowships, and the Committee for Editors of Linguistics Journals. She is also currently co-Editor-in-Chief for Linguistics Vanguard

Since starting at UC Davis in 2014, Professor Zellou has (co-)directed the Phonetics Lab at UC Davis and led research in speech production, speech perception, sound change, and linguistic communication of human-computer interaction. She works on these issues in a variety of languages (such as Lakota, Tashlhiyt Berber, Tigrinya, Arabic, French, and German). In 2022, Professor Zellou was a Fulbright research scholar at Université Paris Cité investigating the role of language-specific phonological patterns and communicative factors on phonetic variation in French. She was also named a UC Davis Dean’s Fellow in 2020 for her pioneering work asking how people’s speech production, perception, and learning is distinct for voice-AI vs. human talkers and exploring the impact of voice-AI on human development and society. Her lab regularly hosts public outreach events and activities, including for UC Davis Picnic Day and Take Your Child to Work day. Professor Zellou’s work is funded by several grants, including from the National Science Foundation, Amazon Science, and the Hellman Foundation.

Professor Zellou also mentors dozens of undergrad and grad students in her lab – most of these students are women and/or underrepresented minorities in science, including several MURALS scholars (a program designed to enrich the research experience of students situationally disadvantaged in their access to graduate school). Professor Zellou received the 2019 UC Davis Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research and the 2022 UC Davis Award for Graduate Student Mentorship for outstanding training and mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students, respectively.

Statement

I would be honored to serve as an elected representative on the Executive Committee of the LSA. My leadership philosophy is to bring intellectual openness, accountability, transparency and compassion to every role I take on. If elected, I would focus on two aims, drawing on my leadership experiences and close knowledge of the LSA as co-Director of the 2019 Linguistic Institute at UC Davis and current chair of the LSA Public Relations Committee:

1. Amplifying and empowering diverse voices, particularly of students and academics from underrepresented groups.

I have a deep commitment to making the LSA a more diverse place where the current and future generations of leaders, scientists, teachers, and professionals can communicate and collaborate. Part of what the LSA can do for its members is to provide spaces for students and junior scholars with specific interests to receive mentoring tailored to their identities and interests. I have experience with this; for instance, at the 2019 Summer Institute, we worked with members of COSWL and LSA staff to arrange Pop-up mentoring events. We also organized social hours specifically to address specific themes and subfields so that students could collaborate and discuss particularly relevant issues (e.g., LGBTTQQIAAP+, Ethical Considerations in Working with Communities) or Professional development/mentoring (e.g., Linguists of Color, Linguists Beyond Academia, Abstract Writing). 

If elected to the Executive Committee of the LSA, I would continue to support and expand these types of mentoring and community-building events that can broaden the LSA membership and make the LSA a place where diverse scholars have a voice. By making linguistics accessible to a larger number of people, we can bring a more diverse group of people into the LSA, which is something I would use my time on the Executive Committee to continue to work on. For example, I would work to create shared initiatives between the Public Relations Committee and various committees and groups working on bringing diverse scholars into Linguistics (Linguistics in the School Curriculum, COSIAC, CEDL).

2. Engaging the public, as well as colleagues in other disciplines, in learning about the broader value of Linguistics to society.

I would work to advance linguistics by providing venues and events for LSA members to explain their research in simple terms for the public and present their theoretical frameworks to their colleagues as useful tools for understanding language. Critically, if we want Linguistics accurately represented in the news and to the public, we need to be using media requests and public-facing events, like the 5 Minute Linguist (5ML), strategically to communicate what we do in simple and engaging ways. I would continue my work in this area to expand the LSA Public Relations Committee (PRC), which is an intermediary between the LSA and news media. I am currently organizing the 5ML event for the upcoming LSA annual meeting, a marquis event where scholars present their work for the public. I am using my time as PRC chair to innovate and expand this event. I am extending presentations to “TikTok” style video submissions which can be shared via social media and to the press. This is an example of how I would use my time and energy on the Executive Committee to continue to help the LSA develop ways and outlets for better science communication and outreach. 

Related to this aim, I see that with the rapid development of speech and language technology, there is an opportunity for linguists, and members of the LSA in particular, to make our knowledge and skills relevant to this avenue of innovation and society in general. For example, the theme of the Institute when I was co-Director was Linguistics in the Digital Era. We were intentional in structuring the Institute to create courses, activities, workshops, and social events geared towards bridging linguistics and technological innovations. The theme is influential, as it affects the nature of the material and content taught at the institute and synergies made between content at the Institute and at other national events, such as at the annual LSA meeting. I believe the LSA can serve a pivotal role in creating these bridges and I see many ways in which I can contribute to this as an Executive Committee representative.

Satchel Petty (Georgetown University)

Biography

Satchel Petty is an incoming graduate student at Georgetown University, and recently earned his BA from Reed College. His research interests are in sociolinguistics, particularly race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, speech production, and speech perception. He is currently working alongside colleagues from Reed College on a project about the indexical field of uptalk. Their paper uses perceptual data, and will argue that the uptalk’s social meanings are negotiated by the contexts it is found in.

He also recently completed his undergraduate thesis, a project that investigates the vowel production of individuals with one Japanese parent and one white parent. At Georgetown University, he plans to expand on work centered around Asian and Asian American voices, taking particular attention to the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

Statement

I am honored to be nominated to stand in election for the student position on the Executive Committee. If elected, I would be most interested in collecting and addressing student feedback, as well as expanding the presence of younger linguists in the LSA.

I would aim to survey current student members as a means to better understand which issues are most pressing. Such an endeavor would call for taking the voices of those historically underrepresented in the academy seriously, including undergraduate and high school students. I am also interested in expanding our outreach to younger scholars, through which I hope to ensure that the LSA’s future is composed of individuals that see the Society as a community that they are taken seriously in.

Through previous experiences in the leadership of identity group organizations at Reed College, Asian Pacific Islander Student Union and Japanese Heritage Student Union, I feel confident in my ability to effectively elicit and implement student feedback.

I feel energized to work towards a Linguistics that takes young scholars more seriously, and I see the LSA, and the Student Representative position in the Executive Committee in particular, as the avenue to do so.

John R. Starr (Cornell University)

Biography

Hello! My name is John R. Starr. I am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics at Cornell University (expected graduation: Spring/ Summer 2025), where I am advised by Dr. Marten van Schijndel. Broadly, my research engages with both formal and empirical approaches to phonology, computational linguistics, and psycholinguistics. More specifically, I investigate the interactions between low-level prosodic structure (syllables, segments) and syntactic structure during language processing, using both experimental methods and computational modeling. My work has been presented at the 30th Manchester Phonology Meeting, as well as the 35th & 36th Annual Conferences on Human Sentence Processing; I am currently preparing the work that was presented at these conferences into two manuscripts for journal publication. More information about me and my work can be found on my website: https://johnstarr-ling.github.io/

At Cornell, I have volunteered for a number of Cornell-internal service positions, including: Senior Editor of the SALT 32 proceedings, Junior Editor of the SALT 31 proceedings, LaTeX & Website Workshop Coordinator, Social Committee Chair (where I helped organize two virtual Open Houses for prospective students), and Colloquium Caterer. The graduate students in our department also chose me to be the student representative for Phonology during an external review in 2021. Furthermore, the Department of Linguistics selected me as the student representative for the most recent faculty search committee in phonology. In this position, I participated in all search committee meetings, organized my peers to attend special sessions with each candidate, and coordinated & composed a comprehensive report for the faculty that detailed graduate student perspectives on all of the candidates.

Regarding my academic life at Cornell, I have TAed for a number of courses, such as: Computational Linguistics I, Natural Language Processing, Introduction to Syntax and Semantics, and Introduction to Cognitive Science. Furthermore, this fall, I will be the sole instructor of a first-year writing seminar that is titled “How We’re Laughter Crafters”, where my students and I will explore the relationship between language, humor, and society; this course will be entirely designed by me.

Prior to Cornell, I earned my BAs in Linguistics and English Writing (Poetry) from the University of Pittsburgh. At the University of Pittsburgh, I was heavily involved with the Pitt English Language Institute (ELI), an English-teaching institution for international students that was affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh. During my time at the ELI, I volunteered as a talk-time leader (group discussion of ESL students), discussion partner (one-on-one interactions with ESL students), and student researcher (as part of the Pitt English Language Data Mining Group, organized by Dr. Alan Juffs & Dr. Na-Rae Han). Furthermore, I served in a number of leadership roles for other organizations, such as an editorial position for Collision Literary Magazine and the Music Director for the award-winning a cappella group The Songburghs.

Statement

Language matters in every interaction, institution, political act, and social movement, and linguistics offers us the tools to understand language and how it is used. As the foremost linguistics and language sciences organization in the United States, the LSA has significant influence on the narrative of how linguistics interfaces with day-to-day life. I am interested in serving as the student representative on the Executive Committee because I want to help shape public perception surrounding linguistics and language broadly. Some questions I’m interested in addressing include: how can linguistics and its study improve our classrooms – in college, high school, and below – for both students and teachers? How can we use linguistics to establish and support communities of all different backgrounds? Or, even more fundamentally, what is the relevance of linguistics to our lives, and how can it help/hamper us? Serving on the Executive Committee would help me and others continue working on such questions.

Additionally, I’m very driven to improve linguistic outreach and public awareness of high-quality & accessible linguistic resources. The LSA has already released a number of high-quality statements on race, gender, and other socioeconomic factors as they pertain to our field. As an experimental & computational linguist, I hope to use the power of big data to foster understanding and awareness of these social factors amongst the general public beyond the aforementioned statements. A natural extension of the current approaches to outreach would be to establish a social media presence which develops interesting content for non-linguists – infographics are the first thing that come to mind, with other options (such as short-form video and longer content) also worth pursuing. For proof of concept, videos by both linguists and non-linguists that discuss language on these social media platforms have shown demonstrable engagement from the public, and I believe it important for linguistics as a field to work to contribute to these spaces. In short, accessible linguistics and language engagement should come in a variety of forms to improve outreach.

Furthermore, my work with English Second Language (ESL) students at the University of Pittsburgh has magnified my dedication to linguistic education, as I have – like many others – observed how directly linguistics can affect community and self. Understanding one’s language(s) from a more analytical perspective, as is often the case in linguistics, frequently strengthens a speaker’s feeling of community, self-worth, and identity. However, it is evident that linguistic background can also negatively affect one’s life. For example, in his plenary talk at the LSA Annual Meeting 2022, Michel DeGraff describes how speaking Haitian Creole as a child was frequently used against him as a form of repression and enforcement of social class. As such, I would like to work with the Executive Committee and the other relevant committees (such as the Committee on Linguistics in the School Curriculum) to continue moving linguistic education in a positive direction.

Finally, I’d like to further the LSA’s engagement with its many concerns within the field itself regarding decolonialization, anti-racism, and other important movements related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together with Dr. Abby Cohn, I’ve stayed active in discussions surrounding these topics via virtual meetings, in-person events, and other opportunities: I joined the LSA Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon held in May to promote female linguists, and I’ve attended a number of courses and workshops at Cornell that focus on how to establish diverse, equitable, and inclusive rhetoric both within the classroom and within the field. I hope that we can continue to reassess & refine our standards, practices, and statements to pursue genuine support for previously- and currently-harmed communities within linguistics.