Teaching at Bennington College
At Bennington College, I teach two courses per semester, one introductory-level course and one upper-level course. These course are highly focused yet tailored to students who have all levels of experience in linguistics.
LIN4110: Language Typology: Universals and Patterns in Language
Linguistic typology refers to the classification of languages based on their features. In this course, we’ll conduct a cross-linguistic examination of various concepts pertaining to the sounds, grammar, and meanings of words and phrases. We’ll further consider possible language universals—features that may belong to all languages. Through this focus on linguistic code, we’ll discuss hypotheses—rooted in physiology, cognition, environment, culture, and various other facets of the human experience—that have been proposed to explain why such patterns exist. As we explore these concepts, students will learn methodologies in typological study, and they will apply these to examine a language or group of languages of their choice. We’ll discuss the benefits and downsides of typological approaches so that students emerge from this course with a nuanced understanding of how to interpret the theories and patterns discussed.
LIN2108: Languages and Cultures of the Pacific
There are approximately 2,000 languages spoken on the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and they tell us a story of impressive migrations, millennia of contact, and island resilience. We will explore this story by discussing the two primary language groups in the Pacific: the Austronesian language family and the non-Austronesian languages of New Guinea. Tracing two major migrations—one that occurred over 50,000 years ago and one that occurred approximately 7,000 years ago—we’ll consider how geography, time, and contact resulted in the Pacific’s linguistic diversity. Students will learn how we can use linguistic data to understand historical events and explore the cultural facets that shaped the languages of today. As the semester progresses and we march towards the present, we’ll explore the challenges of more recent times, such as the impacts of colonialism, globalization, and climate change on Pacific languages. While we focus on the Pacific region, students will be encouraged to consider how concepts introduced in the course can be applicable to languages and linguistic study around the world.
LIN4109: Language Documentation and Description
In this course, we learn about the current language endangerment crisis and methods that can be implemented to mitigate it. The course is both theoretical and practical, starting with a discussion of the reasons for the loss of linguistic diversity around the world and what linguists are doing as a response. Students concurrently learn language documentation methods such as ethics in documentation, video and audio recording, and data management. Working with a native speaker of a language, students learn to elicit phonological and grammatical information while also collecting domains of traditional knowledge and natural speech. We close the course by discussing conservation methods and how to determine which methods are most effective for specific languages. Students are expected to analyze the data that they collect throughout the course to produce a linguistic description of the language’s phonology and an aspect of its grammar.
LIN4108: Language, Thought and Culture
Throughout this course, we explore the ways in which language, as a human construct, cannot exist separately from society, culture, and the ways of thinking of the people who have shaped the language. We discuss the various theories that posit a relationship between language and patterns of thinking. We then apply these to various domains of language. We talk about grammatical structures and how they might reflect and represent attention to different features in the world. Then transition to discussing some of the more classic areas where language, culture, and thought have been studied: color terms,sy space, time, and magnitude, among others.
As we explore these theoretical ideas, we engage with the material by analyzing and discussing language data. We discuss the methodologies and techniques for collecting this kind of data, and practice analysis by observing data from languages around the world and discussing how they relate to the course material while also exploring how our own native languages might shape our perception of the world.
LIN2107: Language Contact and Shift
Languages shift and change over time, and while much of this is due to new innovations by speakers, languages can also change due to contact with other languages. Throughout the course, we examine various situations of contact and how they are shaped by sociocultural factors. We discuss what aspects of language change in contact situations with a strong focus on data analysis. In order to exemplify the results of contact, we examine English’s own history of contact, particularly with the French language, and we study how new languages, called creoles, arise as a result of contact between many different peoples. We close the course with a broader discussion of what contact in a globalized world means for the future of the world’s languages.
LIN2106: Gesture: Utterances as Multimodal acts
This course is oriented on the foundational idea that utterances are composed of both speech and gesture. We begin the course by discussing the status of gestures as related to language, answering fundamental questions such as ‘What is a language?’, ‘What is a gesture?’ and ‘Can gesture itself be considered language?’ This course incorporates both theoretical discussion and practical analysis strategies with the expectation that, at the end of the course, students will have conducted their own mini gesture study. Gestures, like languages, have their own grammar, and students learn how to describe the component parts of gestures by collecting primary gestural data, annotating this data in specialized software, and analyzing it. We also maintain a critical eye on the gestures produced within the classroom and the role these might play in our ongoing discussions. We discuss more broadly how these grammatical features of gestures can have meaning across language groups while also observing how gestures can vary widely from one language group to another. In addition to learning the fundamentals of gesture categorization and analysis, we also explore how gestures relate to language from various perspectives including ethnography, psycholinguistics, and language acquisition.
Teaching at the University of Hawai'i
At the University of Hawai'i, I have taught five semesters of LING 102: Introduction to the Study of Language, an introductory linguistics course. This is a writing intensive course in which writing training is a large part of the curriculum. Through this medium I aim to encourage students to appreciate linguistic and cultural diversity while challenging them to think critically about connections between their academic knowledge and the world around them.
I have also served as a teaching assistant for LING 102: Introduction to the Study of Language, LING 105: Language Endangerment, and LING 150: The Languages of the Pacific. These are self-paced courses in which teaching assistants help students one-on-one with course materials, grade assignments, and administer tests.
Language Documentation Training
Training at the University of Hawai'i
I have directed much of my teaching energy towards language documentation training. Through such training, I aim to raise awareness about language endangerment among native speakers of endangered languages and teach them techniques for documenting their own language. Much of this work has been completed in conjunction with the Language Documentation Training Center (LDTC). As co-director of LDTC for two years, I organized a workshop series each semester which consisted of 8 weekly workshops on topics ranging from general theoretical information, equipment use, and linguistic analysis. I have taught workshops on video documentation techniques, audio documentation, language endangerment and ethics, phonology and orthography, and archiving and metadata.
Training in Indonesia
In 2018, I helped lead a workshop in Kupang, Indonesia in conjunction with Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana and Universiteit Leiden. This was a week-long workshop that taught language documentation ethics, techniques, and data processing to participants that spoke over a dozen regional languages. In addition to classroom training, we also led groups on 3-day field practicums to gain hands-on experience documenting endangered languages in the East Nusa Tenggara region.
As co-director of LDTC, I created a Facebook Live Workshop series for language documentation training in collaboration with the Endangered Languages Project (ELP) in 2019. We have successfully conducted two workshop series with a total of 16 workshops, and the resulting Facebook group is now a language documentation resource for about 2,000 people from all over the world. This is the first time a language documentation training has been conducted in this medium, and we believe it will be a valuable platform to build on for future training.