News and Events
MA student Emmanuel Rodriguez has won the CATESOL College/University Level English Language Research Award, which he will receive at
the 2022 CATESOL conference in Pasadena at the end of September. CATESOL is a professional
organization serving teachers of English to speakers of other languages in California.
Outstanding Graduating Seniors
Congratulations to our Outstanding Graduating Seniors and their Most Influential Faculty.
Language, Culture, and Society
Most Influential Faculty: Naseh Shahri
Most Influential Faculty: Rebecca Egipto
Most Influential Faculty: Yoshiko Higurashi
2022 Department Graduation Celebration
We look forward to celebrating the 2022 graduates with degrees in Linguistics, Japanese, and Language, Culture, and Society!
Please join us with your friends and family:
Friday, May 13, 2022
11:00 AM (PST)
50th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, April 29, 2022 | 1 :00 - 5:00 PM | Storm Hall West (SHW) 011
You are cordially invited to join the department as we celebrate and recognize students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Opening remarks by Provost Hector Ochoa and CAL Dean Monica J. Casper
Plenary talks by Joan Bybee and Naoko Taguchi
Reception to immediately follow.
How and why languages change: Implications for evolution
Joan Bybee, University of New Mexico
Recent research into two major types of language change—grammaticalization and sound
change affecting consonants—shows that within each type, the set of changes that occur
are very similar across time and across languages, and that in general each type of
change moves in one direction only. Working backwards from known directional changes
leads us to earlier stages in the evolution of language. Research on grammaticalization
shows that the only necessary pre-conditions for grammar are the existence of words
and their common use in a social context. For consonants, a small set gives rise to
all other consonants by sound change, while this same set has no source in sound change,
and thus constitutes a starting point for the evolution of sound systems.
Learning pragmatics: A perspective from Japanese speech style
Naoko Taguchi, Northern Arizona University
Pragmatics is the study of linguistic forms, how they are used, and what meanings they create in social contexts. Crystal (1997) defines pragmatics as “the study of language from the point of view of users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interaction and the effects their use of language has on other participants in the act of communication” (p. 301). This definition underscores the relations between linguistic forms and speakers, while highlighting agency in linguistic choice-making and the consequences of such choices in social interaction. In this lecture, I will discuss these multiple dimensions of pragmatics in the context of second language acquisition. Using the acquisition of Japanese speech style as an example, I will present three main dimensions of pragmatic competence: (1) knowledge of form-meaning-context mappings, (2) interaction abilities, and (3) agentic choice-making capacity. I will conclude my lecture with implications for teaching Japanese speech style.
Check out this video to see testimonials of students from the 1970s to 2022.
The Politics of Arabic in the United States: Reflections of the 20-Year Anniversary of 9/11
Keynote: Professor Emerita Ghada Osman
Friday, November 19, 2021
Join us as we celebrate our history of excellence in language learning and teaching at SDSU, featuring a keynote address from the founder of SDSU's Arabic language program, Professor Emerita Ghada Osman.
50 Years of Excellence in Language Learning and Teaching - Part of the Anniversary Celebration
Check out the latest edition of our newsletter, Distinctive Features. Inside, you will find a variety of news, including information on our exciting new
hires, retirements of long-term faculty, changes and expansions in our curricula,
and a variety of events we continue to host.
Linguistics Student Association Colloquium
Corpus Study: Evolution of Twitter Vax/Antivax Discourse, 2006-2022
Monday, May 2, 2022 | 12:00 pm
Featuring Robin Melnick (Pomona College)
In this study, we explore how topic, stance, tone, and form of expression have all
evolved within the public discourse around vaccination, in a conversation that long
predates the Covid pandemic. As a demonstration of applied corpus linguistics, the
study employs a variety of methods, including initial programmatic development of
a 20M+ Tweet corpus of vaccination discussion, then keyword and collocational analyses,
machine-learning sentiment and topic modeling explorations, and development of a high-accuracy,
deep-learning classifier for assessing a Tweet’s continuous-scale expression of stance
towards vaccination, from strongly pro to strongly anti. As a bonus discussion, we’ll
explore the presence of bots (automated software agents) within our corpus.
Obsolescence or diachronic change? Embracing variation in linguistic analysis
Friday, May 6, 2022 | 1:00 pm
Featuring Daniel Hieber (University of Alberta)
Variation and inconsistency within endangered languages are often attributed to language obsolescence, explained either by influence due to contact or by imperfect / incomplete acquisition. Much of this variation, however, can also be understood as the result of natural processes of diachronic change. Language obsolescence is often a convenient scapegoat in cases where variation confounds our analyses and no clear patterns emerge from the data. Moreover, documentary linguists often downplay or avoid describing phenomena for which they have no clear explanation or for which they cannot establish a pattern. This results in descriptions that are not only incomplete but fail to provide sufficient detail for future researchers to work out the problem. How then can we improve our linguistic descriptions to better capture variation? And in doing so, what do we gain?
In this paper I provide practical advice for how linguists can improve their treatment
of linguistic variation, and how they can use diachronic theory to better understand
the variation we see. I base the discussion primarily on examples from Chitimacha
(Glottocode: chit1248; ISO 639-3: ctm), an isolate language once spoken in Louisiana
in the U.S. Southeast, and today being revitalized by the Chitimacha Tribe. I present
linguistic analyses and descriptions from archival materials on the language produced
by earlier linguists (most especially Morris Swadesh) to show a) how good documentation
of linguistic variation in these documents enables better analyses today, and b) how
that variation has informed contemporary grammatical analysis of the language. I conclude
that understanding the processes by which languages change helps us be more tolerant
of linguistic variation in our descriptions and provide a more complete grammatical
picture of the language.
Re-examining Uto-Aztecan origins through the lens of linguistic and cultural evolution
Monday, May 9, 2022 | 12:00 pm
Featuring Hannah Haynie (University of Colorado Boulder)
Linguistic history provides us not only with insights about how languages change, but also with information that we can use to understand human history more broadly. One prominent theory that links language, culture, and ecology to explain how historical events have shaped human cultural diversity is the Farming-Language Dispersal Hypothesis (Diamond and Bellwood 2003), which associates the expansion of large language families to the spread of agriculture. In this talk I discuss the history of the Uto-Aztecan language family of western North America and how agriculture may have shaped its history. While traditional linguistic research has characterized proto-Uto-Aztecan as a non-agricultural group of the southwestern USA (e.g. Fowler 1983), Hill (2001) argued instead that Uto-Aztecan languages expanded from an agricultural homeland in Mexico, enabled in this demographic expansion by maize farming. Recent collaborative work involving Bayesian phylogenetic methods applied to cognate and cultural data has resulted in new inferences about Uto-Aztecan prehistory that can be used to evaluate competing theories about this family’s spread. Our results show support for a proto-Uto-Aztecan homeland in or near Southern California, consistent with prior linguistic research (e.g. Fowler 1983). By reconstructing subsistence traits on our Uto-Aztecan phylogeny, we are also able to infer that proto-Uto-Aztecan communities are likely to have relied primarily on non-agricultural subsistence methods such as foraging. This study demonstrates the value of combining linguistic, cultural, and phylogenetic analysis to help refine our understanding of the events and mechanisms that have shaped linguistic and cultural diversity.
Sponsored by the SDSU Linguistics Student Association and is supported by the College
of Arts & Letters Instructionally Related Activities Fund.
In Memoriam: Catherine Yi-yu Cho Woo
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Emeritus Professor Catherine Yi-yu Cho Woo on August 11, 2021.
Dr. Woo was the founding director of the Chinese language program at San Diego State University and served in this capacity from 1970 until she retired in 1997.
Aside from her university work, Dr. Woo was an accomplished painter who was known nationally and internationally. Her paintings have been shown in galleries and museums in Asia and the United States, including at the United Nations, the Sackler Museum at Harvard University, and the National Gallery in Taipei, Taiwan, among others. In her capacity as an Ambassador for the Arts and intercultural understanding, Dr. Woo was invited to give numerous lectures at universities across the United States and at the United Nations and the National Endowment for the Arts. She also served as the Commissioner for Arts and Culture for the City of San Diego for six years and on the National Council on the Arts from 1991-1996.
She is survived by two children, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Her full bio can be found at https://www.cathywoo.com/main/artist.html
Image credit: "Peace and Tranquility" - Copyright © Catherine Yi-yu Cho Woo, 2003 – 2021.
Dinkin Appears on BBC Podcast
Professor Aaron J. Dinkin was interviewed for an episode of the BBC podcast "Deeply Human" about accents and dialects.
Persian New Year Celebration
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
5:00 - 9:00 pm
SDSU International Student Center, 1261 Canyon Crest Dr. (down the street from Huaxyacac)
Free event with traditional Persian dinner from Aria restaurant, performances, and special guest DJ Davood.
Presented by the SDSU Persian Student Association.
Translingualism in the L2 Writing Classroom Workshop
with Brooke Schreiber, Assistant Professor
Department of English Baruch College, CUNY
Friday, November 12, 2021
The wide variety of language backgrounds students bring to our writing classrooms creates tremendous opportunities for instructors, once we know how to recognize and take advantage of multilinguals’ unique abilities in moving across and weaving together languages and cultures. As an approach to writing pedagogy, translingualism offers ways to bring these abilities into the classroom, to expose and critique harmful stereotypes about multilingual students and traditional beliefs about standard English, and ultimately to make our classrooms and our campus more inclusive and socially just. The session will open with a discussion of what a translingual approach to writing pedagogy is, why it’s necessary, and common misperceptions and critiques of translingual approaches. We will then review concrete examples of readings, assignments, and grading practices that incorporate a translingual approach. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to discuss how to adapt these activities for their own classrooms.
About the Speaker
Brooke R. Schreiber is Assistant Professor of English Department at Baruch College,
CUNY, where she teaches courses in second language writing and linguistics. Her research
focuses on second language writing pedagogy and teacher training, as well as global
Englishes and translingualism. Her work has appeared in TESOL Quarterly, ELT Journal, the Journal of Second Language Writing, Composition Studies, Composition Forum, and Language Learning and Technology. She is co-editor of a forthcoming collection on linguistic justice and multilingual
Master's Research Scholarship Award
Congratulations to M.A. student Gabriele Cocco on receiving an SDSU Master's Research Scholarship award! Gabriele is interested in all areas of linguistics. His research focuses on
analyzing death row inmates' last words to gain a deeper understanding of the link
between the structure of a text and its communicative purpose.
Professor Zheng-sheng Zhang received a Fulbright research award for fall 2021. He will research the language of the Dungan Muslims who left China
150 years ago to settle in Central Asia at the International University of Central
Asia in Kyrgyzstan.
2021 Virtual Graduation Celebration
We look forward to celebrating the 2021 graduates with degrees in Linguistics, Japanese, and Language, Culture, and Society!
Please join us with your friends and family:
Friday, May 14, 2021
10:00 AM (PST)
Congratulations to Linguistics Outstanding Graduating Senior, Thena Livingston, and her Most Influential Faculty, Eniko Csomay.
Congratulations to Japanese Outstanding Graduating Senior, Martin R. Martinez, and his Most Influential Faculty, Ryu Kitajima.
44th Annual Linguistics Student Association Spring Colloquium: Towards Equitable Language
Friday, May 7, 2021
Su Lin Blodgett, Microsoft Research Montréal
Dr. Blodgett is a postdoctoral researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics (FATE) group at Microsoft Research Montréal. Her work is focused on examining the social implications of natural language processing technologies and in using NLP approaches to examine language variation and change. In 2018 she received a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst working in the Statistical Social Language Analysis Lab.
This event is supported by the College of Arts & Letters Instructionally Related Activities
Bridging the Academic-Professional Spheres in the TESOL Profession: A Professional Development Workshop
Friday, April 9, 2021
This workshop is intended for all TESOL and General Linguistics MA students, as well as current lecturers of ESL Composition and Foreign Language courses at SDSU. It has been specifically organized around issues that address the acculturation of graduate students into the profession of TESOL. The workshop leaders are successful alumni and prominent ESL professionals from California Community Colleges.
Topics to be addressed include:
- Strategies for succeeding in interviews for tenure track positions in community colleges
- Understanding the demands of a community college teaching position
- Developing a professional self in graduate school and beyond
- Vickie Mellos -- Assistant Professor, Palomar College
- Jessica Pardoe – Professor, Santa Rosa College
- Jessica Whitsett -- Professor, Southwestern College
Language in The Middle: Class and Sexual Discourse in Delhi
Dr. Kira Hall
Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder
February 19, 2021
This talk draws from ethnographic research among youth in Delhi’s expanding middle classes to call for more sociolinguistic attention to the role played by sexuality discourse in the reproduction of class relations. The discussion highlights the centrality of the middle classes to sustaining as well as shifting sexual normativity, suggesting that sexual norms are in part constituted through everyday discourses that situate middle class subjectivity between two class extremes. Specifically, the talk tracks how Hinglish, as a “sexy” mixed-language alternative to a class system polarized by English and Hindi, came to replace English as the preferred language of sexuality, challenging an enduring colonialist legacy of vernacular censorship. Two case studies are presented: the first involving a bisexual woman who confronts elitist discourse by cursing in Hindi; the second involving a transgender man struggling to convince the medical establishment of his worthiness for sexual reassignment surgery. While the protagonists in both narratives loosely belong to Delhi’s expanding middle classes and are speakers of what may be characterized as Hinglish, they are not equally able to master the sexuality discourse that has become indexical of upward mobility
Dr. Kira Hall’s work is situated at the intersection of linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, two closely related fields focused on the relationship between language and society. Dr. Hall’s research examines issues of language and social identity in India and United States, particularly as they materialize within hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic class and shift under processes of globalization.
This lecture is hosted by the Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages
and co-sponsored by the Department of Women’s Studies with support from IRA funds.
How Trump Talks About Latinxs and Mexico
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Dr. Norma Mendoza-Denton
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Mendoza-Denton is an anthropologist whose research focuses on youth, language, migration, politics, and identity. She has conducted research among Latina girls involved in gangs, politicians in Town Hall meetings, children in school settings, and young adults playing videogames. Her latest book is Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies, McIntosh and Mendoza-Denton (eds.), Cambridge University Press. Using many detailed examples, this fascinating and highly topical book reveals how Trump's rallying cries, boasts, accusations, and mockery enlist many of his supporters into his alternate reality. From Trump's relationship to the truth to his use of gesture to the anti-immigrant tenor of his language, it illuminates the less obvious mechanisms by which language in the Trump era has widened divisions along lines of class, gender, race, international relations, and even the sense of truth itself.
This lecture is hosted by the Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages
in collaboration with the Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies, with support from
Congratulations to Dr. Deborah Poole, recipient of the CAL Excellence in Service award in the Humanities and the Social Sciences for 2019-2020!
Congratulations to Linguistics Outstanding Graduating Senior, Gabriele Cocco and his Most Influential Faculty, Robert Malouf.
Congratulations to Japanese Outstanding Graduating Senior, Garrett Mestemacher and his Most Influential Faculty, Ryu Kitajima.
2020 Virtual Graduation Celebration
Linguistics Student Association's 42nd Annual Colloquium
Friday, April 12, 2019
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Tyler Peterson (Arizona State University)
Evidentials and Extended Interrogatives
We know relatively little of the cross linguistic diversity in the kinds of meanings questions can express - especially in endangered and under documented languages. How do we go about uncovering these? The aim of this project is to extend the current empirical base and typological scope of questions, through investigating how different semantic and pragmatic elements affect the kinds of meanings questions express, and how they are interpreted. One of the goals of this talk is to demonstrate the importance of semantic and pragmatic fieldwork, as many of these meanings resist direct elicitation in a field situation. As such, I show how we can ‘scaffold’ our investigation of one kind of meaning into exploring other kinds of `extended’ meanings of questions. This is often aided by following the predictions a theoretical analysis makes.
Dr. Peterson’s personal and professional roots are in the Pacific northwest of Canada.
He did his dissertation with Lisa Matthewson on the Gitksan language (Tsimshianic)
at the University of British Columbia. Although his professional home is in an English
department, his work focuses on the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance
of endangered Indigenous languages, primarily in the Americas and Oceania. He has
a special interest in exploring how everyday technology and contemporary media can
be used as a tool for language documentation and engaging the language learner, as
well as developing teaching resources in these areas. His research as a linguist involves
the theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of meaning (semantics and pragmatics).
Previous to his position at ASU, he was visiting lecturer at the University of Auckland,
New Zealand. In this part of the world, he has a number of currently active language
documentation and research projects that brings his interests together. One of these
projects is on the Cook Islands Māori, which includes a component dedicated to language
revitalization, maintenance and literacy.
Figure and Ground in Language and Cognition: Evidence from German and Korean
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Join us for this special event featuring Dr. Soonja Choi (Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Director of Korean Program, SDSU; Research Professor, Universität Wien, Austria)
Regardless of culture and language, we routinely talk about the events we experience and make efforts to be clear and efficient in our communication (Grice 1975). This is true of one of the most frequent event types, motion events (Talmy 1978) having to do with movement of objects, such as putting cup on table. In these events, the moving object (e.g., cup) is the Figure and the reference object (e.g., table) is the Ground. The two entities have distinct perceptual properties and assume conceptually asymmetric roles: Figure(F) is the entity moving along a trajectory (e.g., onto, into) whereas Ground(G) serves to be the non-moving reference frame.
Comparing between German and Korean speakers, I present variation in linguistic description and cognitive behaviors for motion events. In particular, I examine (i) the degrees to which German and Korean speakers differentiate between F and G semantically (spatial terms) and syntactically (grammatical roles: subject, object) and (ii) their eye-gaze and memory patterns of F and G. In the linguistic study, participants described dynamic video events involving two objects that systematically switched their F-G roles (e.g., put cup(F) on table(G) and put table(F) under cup(G)). German speakers used distinct spatial terms (e.g., auf ‘on’, unter ‘under’) for opposing F-G relations, thus encoding the F-G asymmetry. In contrast, Korean speakers frequently used the same terms (e.g., kkita ‘fit.tightly’) and the same syntactic constructions regardless of the switches in F-G roles. These crosslinguistic differences were more evident for Non-typical events (put table under cup) than for Typical events (put cup on table), showing that linguistic encoding interacts with degree of familiarity of these events in the real world. The differences also reflect language-specific spatial semantics and differences in the way the two languages perspectivize/contextualize the Figure-Ground relation.
German and Korean speakers also differed in perceptual/cognitive behaviors: German speakers looked longer at the Figure particularly in Non-typical events (compared to Typical events), but Korean speakers showed no such difference. In the memory test, German speakers were better than Korean speakers in remembering which object moved, i.e., the Figure. I relate these behavioral differences between German and Korean speakers to their differences in linguistic representation of Figure and Ground
This event is co-sponsored by the Dept of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages
and the SDSU Linguistics Student Association, and is supported by the College of Arts
& Letters Instructionally Related Activities Fund.
Machine Learning as a Tool in Speech Research
Friday, March 8, 2019
Join us for this special event featuring Dr. Will Styler (Department of Linguistics, UCSD).
Machine learning, the use of nuanced computer models to analyze and predict data, has a long history in speech recognition and natural language processing, but have often been limited to more applied, engineering tasks. This talk will describe two more research-focused applications of machine learning in the study of speech perception and production.
Sponsored by the SDSU Linguistics Student Association
Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan
Friday, February 15, 2019
Join us for an interactive talk where speakers from varying backgrounds talk about recent positive developments and attractions in Japan and shed light on aspects of the future in U.S. - Japan relations. The program will include a demonstration of Japanese swordsmanship.
Prime Minister Abe’s Delegation:
- Amb. Ken Shimanouchi -Former Ambassador to Spain and Brazil
- Dr. Fumio Ota -Retired Vice Admiral, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
- Ms. Megumi Inoue-Businesswoman
- Ms. Yui Ozaki-University Student