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The Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute, held in odd-numbered years, is a unique opportunity for linguistic anthropologists to further their background in general linguistics, the study the structure of specific languages, or to learn new research methods. The LSA Institute offers a wide range of possibilities for discovering new ways to incorporate issues related to language and discourse into their research. If one is looking for background in historical-comparative linguistics, tools for linguistic analysis, methods in discourse analysis, or experience with fieldwork on language, the Institute is the place to go.

The Summer Institute began in 1928 when linguistics departments were few and far between. The Institute provided an opportunity for students to study areas of linguistics that were not available at their home institutions. This tradition continues today with the Summer Institute offering courses across all linguistic subfields taught by many of the top scholars in the field. Courses meet for two hours a day twice a week and last for four weeks. Participants usually enroll in four different courses. The Field Methods course meets four times a week, so students enrolled in that course usually only take two other courses. Many participants sit in on additional classes as well. In addition to courses, the Institutes include public lectures by prominent linguists, short professional development workshops, poster sessions to receive feedback on one’s research, mixers and happy hours to meet others interested in particular subfields, and a variety of weekend conferences on special topics. The Institute usually has around 500 participants, most of whom stay on campus. This is a unique event that is often described as “summer camp for linguists.”

The 2017 Summer Institute was held at the University of Kentucky and included a number of courses of interest to linguistic anthropologists, including Discourse Analysis (Barbara Johnstone), Sociolinguistics (Penelope Eckert), Language and Education (Anne Charity Hudley), Language and Race (Elaine Chun), Language in Culture (Michael Silverstein), Language, Gender, and Sexuality (Lal Zimman), Perceptual Dialectology (Dennis Preston), Dialectology (Joe Salmons), African American English (Lisa Green), English in Appalachia (Kirk Hazen), Field Methods (Lenore Grenoble), Genetic Creolistics and Genetic Linguistics (Salikoko Mufwene), Sociolinguistics of the Arab World (Keith Walters), Speech Play and Verbal Art (Anthony Webster), Visual-linguistic Ethnography (Norma Mendoza-Denton and Ashley Stinnett), and Intonation and Social Identity (Nicole Holliday and Paul Reed). In addition, there were courses on the structure of particular languages and language families including Chatino (Hilaria Cruz and Ryan Sullivant) Hawaiian (David Medeiros), Hmong-Mien languages (Martha Ratliff), Khoesan Languages (Menaan de Plessis), Muskogean Languages (Jack Martin), and North Atlantic Languages (Harold Torrence). There were also conferences of relevance to linguistic anthropologists, Culture, Identity, Cognition: Insights from Conceptualization of Diasporic Place organized by Amelia Tseng and Changing Perceptions of Southernness organized by Dennis Preston and Jennifer Cramer.

The next LSA Summer Institute will be held from June 24 to July 19, 2019, at the University of California, Davis. The theme will be “Linguistics in the Digital Era,” with special events related to the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages. As usual, the 2019 Institute will include 68 different courses in general and theoretical linguistics. A number of these courses are of particular interest to linguistic anthropologists, including Field Methods (Pam Munro), Discourse Analysis (Barbara Johnstone), Introduction to Sociolinguistics (Robert Bayley), Historical Sociolinguistics (Mark Lauersdorf), Language, Gender, and Sexuality (Lal Zimman), African American English (John Baugh), Digital Methods in Language Documentation (Andrea Berez-Kroeker and Colleen Fitzgerald), Language and Racialization (Mary Bucholtz and Anne Charity Hudley), Voice Quality and Social Meaning (Rob Podesva), Pidgins and Creoles (Marlyse Baptista), The Indigenous California Linguistic Landscape (Marianne Mithun), Gesture and Sign Language Analysis (Corrine Occhino and Ryan Lepic), Folk Linguistics and Language Regard (Dennis Preston), and Topics in Sociolinguistics and Computer-Mediated Communication (Marisa Brook and Emily Blamire). There will also be courses on the phonology and grammar of Southern Pomo Narratives (Neil Walker), the structure of Tashlhiyt Berber (Mohamed Lahrouchi), and Amazonian Languages: Diversity, Typology, Historical Change and Language Contact (Martin Kohlberger and Katherine Bolaños).

The 2019 Summer Institute will also have workshops of potential interest to linguistic anthropologists, including The Local in Language and Public Policy; Advancing LGBTQ+ Issues in Linguistics and Beyond: Outreach and Advocacy; Turn Your Research into Public Engagement Activities; and Building Language Technology across the World’s Languages. The Institute will also host conferences including the Dene Languages Conference (Justin Spence, Kayla Begay, and Kayla Palakurthy), Documenting Language in Diaspora (George Aaron Broadwell and Lauren Clemens), Advancing African American Linguist(ic)s (Mary Bucholtz, Anne Charity Hudley, and Nicole Holliday), and Linguistics Research, Collaboration & Careers in the Americas (Emiliana Cruz and Simeon Floyd).

The Institute is also a wonderful place to get to know scholars working on a variety of languages and topics in linguistics. The LSA awards a limited number of fellowships to cover the cost of Institute tuition. Fellowship applications are due February 21, 2019. Details on fellowships and application materials may be found at For details about the 2019 Institute at the University of California, Davis, including the full list of courses, conferences, and events, visit

Rusty Barrett is an associate professor in the Linguistics Department at the University of Kentucky. His research focuses on Mayan languages; language revitalization; and language, gender, and sexuality. He is the author of From drag queens to leathermen: Language, gender, and gay male subcultures (Oxford 2017) and with Kira Hall is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality (forthcoming).

Cite as: Barrett, Rusty. 2019. “Linguistic Anthropology at the LSA Summer Institute.” Anthropology News website, January 28, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1069

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