Linguistics Department Hosts Prestigious Summer Institute

Illustration of gears inside a head, letters around head and names of institute faculty
A Linguistic Society of America Institute, held June 24 to July 19 at UC Davis, features monthlong courses taught by about 80 noted linguists from around the world.

Close to 400 noted and emerging linguists from around the world will converge at UC Davis on June 24 for a month of intensive instruction, professional development and informal networking that will help shape the future of their field.

The 2019 LSA (Linguistic Society of America) Institute: Linguistics in the Digital Era offers registered participants a wide array of four-week courses, weekly workshops, weekend symposiums and other sessions exploring the ways that technology is changing human interactions as well as providing new methods for the scientific study of languages.

This summer marks the first time the world-renowned Linguistic Institute has been held at UC Davis, and its first return to California in a decade. Seven keynote lectures will be free and open to the public. [See box, right.]

‘Linguistics summer camp’

The LSA Institute, held every other summer on a major university campus since 1928, has played a historic role in advancing linguistics, organizers said.

“The institute has a special place in the heart of anybody who has attended one,” Raul Aranovich, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Linguistics and an institute co-director, said in a video interview for an institute blog.

When Aranovich started his academic career in the late 1990s at The University of Texas at San Antonio, his appointment was in the Spanish department. He said the institute sessions — both formal and informal — provided a place to build community with fellow linguists and inspired new avenues for research and collaborations.

“It puts you in a different zone. You start to think ideas you never thought before just because you’re around all these people” who are advancing the field.

Georgia Zellou, an assistant professor of linguistics who is co-directing the institute, said many participants fondly refer to the intensive event as “linguistics summer camp.” A number of them will live in campus residence halls for four weeks with others staying off campus with their families.

A growing field

Today, college linguistics programs are growing — with new career opportunities for graduates in the technology industry and government in addition to academia, Zellou said. At UC Davis, 400 to 600 undergraduates take “Introduction to Linguistics” each quarter.

Workshops on Google language technology

Participants in the June 24 – July 19 Linguistic Institute include more than 300 students, 80 faculty and about 50 non-university linguistic enthusiasts.

The LSA Institute remains important for the career development of both established and emerging linguists, Zellou said.

Courses offer graduate and undergraduate students the chance to learn side by side with leading scholars and connect with industry leaders — a Google languages technology team will lead one workshop. Students can also get tips on state-of-the-art research methods, best practices, writing and communicating finds to the general public, and other professional development offerings.

Diversity and indigenous language themes

In addition to the Linguistics in the Digital Era theme, two other threads run through the institute sessions:

  • Documenting and preserving indigenous and endangered languages, in keeping with the United Nations-proclaimed 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.
  • Diversity of languages, people and society.

Robert Bayley, a UC Davis professor of linguistics and one of the institute instructors, said some of the biggest developments in contemporary linguistics were born at LSA institutes. “You just have people talking and somebody will come up with an idea and you take it and run with it,” he said. “You get that kind of energy at this type of event.”

Co-sponsors of the LSA Institute include the UC Davis Office of the Provost and the UC Davis College of Letters and Science. 

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science


 

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