#LSA2016 wrap-up

For the first time in years, I attended the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America.

Also for the first time, I spent more time during a conference in meetings and networking than I did in talks.

So here is a quick wrap-up of some of the things I was involved in and some highlights for me:

How to LSA introduction with Eric Potsdam

I helped kick off the LSA this year with an orientation session that I co-hosted with Eric Potsdam. Because of our difference in interests and fields, I probably never would have had a chance to talk to Eric, and for this alone I’m happy to have done this session. We tag-teamed to introduce newcomers to the LSA meeting to the important parts of the handbook and give advice about things to do and things to not do. A practical upshot of this was that suddenly all of the new people at the LSA became my instant friend, and they were able to recognize me throughout the conference. I was approached with questions, with smiles, with ideas, and this was quite wonderful. I felt like I had a couple hundred new best friends.

Advocacy Day

Much like my experience at OpenCon in 2014, I participated in Advocacy Day for the LSA. I met with staff of my two senators, Bob Casey and Patrick Toomey, and staff of my representative, Mike Doyle. I’d been to Congressman Doyle’s office with OpenCon in 2014, so this was familiar. Senator Toomey had mini smiley cookies from Eat ‘n Park in his office, and all of them had relics from their homes in Pennsylvania. I had good meetings with everyone, talking about linguistics research going on in Pennsylvania. Today, I followed up with e-mails thanking them for their time and sharing more information about our discussions. I hope this is the beginning of in-roads with politicians for the sharing of important social science work. If you’re in PA, particularly if you’re in the Pittsburgh area, and you do social science work, please feel free to send me any press releases about interesting research developments you’re involved with. I’d be happy to pass them along to my contacts in the offices there.

Committee on Scholarly Communications in Linguistics

This is a new committee and I’d only talked to these folks via the Internet previously. It was great to meet in person and talk about things like DOIs, data citation, and standards for sharing data. There are so many new avenues to pursue out there that I’m very glad to be involved in this committee for the LSA. It’s also a nice connection to my day job.

Linguists Beyond Academia Special Interest Group

This SIG was formed last year and I am thrilled to be part of it. I’m still technically in academia, but doing something a bit different from the traditional tenure track faculty job. We held a salon, which was a semi-structured event designed to get people introduced to each other and talking about common interests, and a mixer, which was a more traditional networking event. I got the chance to talk to so many people who were interested in libraries and relate my story of how I’m qualified to work in the library and how my linguistics training helps. Lots of ideas were shared and in our official SIG meeting, we developed a plan to address some of these great ideas. I’m looking forward to great things from this group.

Word of the Year 2015

If you haven’t heard yet, the American Dialect Society named singular they as the 2015 Word of the Year. I was there for the nominations as well as the voting, which are always some of the most exciting times at this conference. These events certainly generate the most press! I can say that I’m very happy with the WOTY for 2015, and I’m personally a they-user on Facebook. I have supported singular they for a long time in writing, as many of my students will attest, and so I am delighted by this. I’m still not sure that it really represents something about 2015, but I’m glad it’s getting some attention. Here is an article on the topic for those interested: Time Magazine: “This Pronoun Is the Word of the Year for 2015”

Open Linguistics Textbook 

This was relegated to some chatter on the side at a Starbucks, but I’m perhaps more excited about this than many other things! Stay tuned!

The Association for Linguistic Evidence 

I participated in a couple of sessions for TALE, one of which was a panel on outreach to stakeholders of linguistic evidence. I discussed scholarly publishing, and how locking the work of ours behind a paywall is really counter to the mission of outreach. Everyone in the room was very receptive, although when I described how the monetary aspect of scholarly publishing works, I saw a few eyes go wide. Yes, people, the publishers profit off of our freely given labor and then charge our employers to access the results of our work. Amazing, right? The talk was very successful and I had a good time interacting with the other panelists and hearing questions and thoughts from the audience. It was also nice to connect with colleagues.

John Rickford’s Presidential Address

The fact that John Rickford decided to talk about applications of linguistics in the courtroom was a gamechanger for this LSA. Outreach is so important, and his illustrations from the Trayvon Martin case were horrible; I hope they opened the eyes and the minds of everyone present. Rickford urging us to “get off our linguistic asses” and do public engagement resonated through the crowd. I really hope this year sees a sea change for this in the field, and I could say that I was there when it began.


Did you attend the LSA? What were your impressions? What did you enjoy the most?