Dear Friends of the Department,

The 2015-16 academic year smiled favorably upon the Department of Linguistics. Our faculty, graduate students, and staff were active and creative in their pursuits, including in research, teaching, and administration. Our undergraduates brought energy and excitement through their many activities. This year marks the first year we have been able to offer our undergraduates research fellowships to pursue original research of their choosing. Three undergraduates are currently being supported as research fellows – two for original linguistic fieldwork and one for experimental work on speech perception on American English consonants.

The theme for our department this year might best be summed up with the term “infrastructure.”  In order to support some of our grandest aspirations and to fulfill our departmental mission, we spent significant time this year evaluating, and in many cases creating, the infrastructure necessary for our ongoing activities. This year for instance, we created a sustainable path for the Michigan Workshop, which will be a bi-annual event hosted by the department focusing on intellectual frontiers at the intersections of language universals and language variability. Watch for the save the date announcement and call for proposals in Spring 2017!

We also welcomed Colleen Whately to our administrative team as our Lifecycle Liaison. This is a position we proposed to the College to help bring a consistent voice and message to our communications and events in order to create ever-stronger communities among past, present, and future Michigan linguists. You can expect some exciting new developments and initiatives coming over the next year that will provide more ways to be involved in the activities and mission of the department. In the meantime, if you’d like to join our alumni/friends LinkedIn group, send a message to and we’ll send you an invitation.

Faculty achievements this year were numerous so here I highlight just a few. Marlyse Baptista received a university-level Faculty Achievement Award and Jelena Krivokapić has been reappointed to a second three-year term as Assistant Professor of Linguistics. William Baxter and his co-author Laurent Sagart won the Bloomfield Book Award from the Linguistic Society of America for their book, Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction (Oxford University Press), an unprecedented and comprehensive account of Old Chinese that includes over 900 reconstructions. I was elected to the Executive Committee of the Linguistic Society of America, and Andries Coetzee has been recommended to the general membership of the Linguistic Society to become the next editor of the society’s flagship journal, Language. This is a tremendous honor and a testament to Andries’ outstanding scholarly work, his broad theoretical and methodological understanding, and his strong commitment to promoting the discipline. Andries was also named Extraordinary Professor at North-West University in South Africa. Several of our faculty received funding from the University’s MCubed initiative for different projects. Steve Abney, San Duanmu, and Barb Meek received a “classic” cube to support documentation work on Ojibwe (Chippewa) and Jeff Heath and Sarah Thomason were part of a team that received a “mini” cube for combining historical reconstruction with genetics and archeology.

Our students also had many accomplishments. Marjorie Herbert, received one of only seven NSF Graduate Fellowship awards given nationally in Linguistics, and Dominique Bouavichith received one of eighteen Honorable Mentions. Moira Saltzman received a year-long FLAS award to study Korean and Emily Sabo received a summer FLAS to study Quechua. Yan Dong, Sujeewa Hettiarachchi, Candice Scott, and Jae-Young Shim all defended their dissertations and became newly minted PhDs. And on April 29, we celebrated with many of the undergraduate majors and minors in Linguistics who received their B.A. degrees at the spring commencement. We wish all many congratulations!

Several of our PhD alumni began new academic positions this year. Tim Chou (Ph.D 2013) began a position as Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Taipei Medical University. Harim Kwon (Ph.D. 2015) started a post-doctoral position at the University of Paris-Diderot, and Sujeewa Hettiarachchi (Ph.D. 2015) began as Senior Lecturer (advanced Assistant Professor) in Linguistics at University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka. Tridha Chatterjee (Ph.D. 2015), Yan Dong (Ph.D. 2015), and Jae-Young Shim (Ph.D. 2015) each began new lecturer positions. Two alumni also began new industry positions. Terry Szymanski (Ph.D. 2012) became the Chief Technology Officer at Savvy Languages, and Li Yang (Ph.D. 2009) became a senior text analytics scientist for Boeing.

As my second year as chair comes to an end, I’d like to sincerely thank the faculty, staff, students, and alumni for your steadfast support of the department. Many thanks to Talisha Reviere-Winston for expertly managing the operations of the department, to Andries Coetzee for serving as Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies, and to Ezra Keshet for serving as Director of Undergraduate Studies. Your insight and thoughtfulness were immeasurably helpful. It continues to be a privilege and an honor to work with such an outstanding community and I look forward to seeing what we will achieve together in the coming academic year.

Robin Queen