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The 21st Century

Over the past decade and a half, Michigan Linguistics has experienced a resurgence and has regained its proper place as one the most prestigious linguistics departments in the United States. In line with developments in the field, the intellectual affiliations of the department have shifted from the language departments to cognitive and social science departments (including Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology and Computer Science). This shift is also reflected in the research profile of the current department, which has exceptional strengths in all of the core theoretical areas of linguistics (phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics), but also in the areas of linguistics that interact social sciences (sociolinguistics, language contact, historical linguistics, pidgins and creoles) and with the cognitive sciences (psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics). Having strengths in such a broad base makes Michigan Linguistics unique – other linguistics departments typically focus on one or perhaps two of these broad areas. This also means that Michigan Linguistics is leading the field in terms of the integration between different approaches to language study, and it enables us to give our students a more rounded educational experience than what just about any other linguistics department can achieve. The undergraduate program of the Linguistics Department has seen significant growth and progress over the past decade. The number of students majoring in linguistics has grown from around 40 in 2002 to well over 120 in 2011. During a recent external review of our Department, our undergraduate program was described as “among the best in the United States” by the panel of external reviewers.

The graduate program has experienced comparable progress. Since 2000, we have been able offer all of our PhD students a full five year funding package, which enables us to attract the best students in the field, and which enables our students to focus on their studies. We have one of the highest selectivity rates in the University, and accept only about 10% of all the applications that we receive for our PhD program. The quality of our program and of our students is also reflected in the success that our students experience upon graduation. In recent years, our graduates have secured tenure-track positions at prominent universities in the United States and abroad (among them Georgetown University, the Ohio State University, the University of Wishington, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Manchester, the University of Missouri, and the University of Alaska).

Our faculty continue to be leaders in the field and in the University of Michigan. In recent years, Professor Sally Thomason has been president of the Linguistic Society of America (2009). Marlyse Baptista has been president of the Society of Pigdin and Creole Linguistics (2011-2013.) Many of our faculty serve, or have served, on the editorial boards or as editors of major linguistics journals (Language, Journal of Phonetics, Syntax, Phonology, Linguistic Inquiry, Language and Society, etc.). Several of our faculty members have been awarded Collegiate Professorships, the highest honor that the College of Literature, Science and the Arts can bestow upon a member of the faculty: Lesley Milroy, the Hans Kurath Collegiate Professor (awarded 2000); Sarah Thomason, the William J. Gedney Collegiate Professor (awarded 2001); and Patrice Beddor, the John C. Catford Collegiate Professor of Linguistics (awarded 2011).

 In 2013, the Linguistic Institute returned to Michigan after an absence of several decades. Co-directed by Professors Robin Queen and Andries Coetzee, the 2013 Institute highlighted the strengths of our department and the general collegiality and respect for which our department is known. Linguistics at Michigan continues to draw on its strengths and is well poised to take a leadership role in the field into the 21st century.