Sociolinguistics position at UC Santa Barbara

The Linguistics Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara seeks to hire a specialist in sociocultural linguistics. The appointment will be tenure-track at the Assistant Professor level, effective July 1, 2015. We are especially interested in candidates whose research has theoretical implications bridging linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, and related areas. We prefer candidates whose research engages with the departmental focus on discourse-functional approaches to language and who can interact with colleagues and students across disciplinary boundaries at UCSB. Language area is open, although experience in conducting research on a language other than English is desirable. Candidates must have demonstrated excellence in teaching, and will be expected to teach a range of graduate and undergraduate courses in sociocultural linguistics and to contribute to the department’s majors in Linguistics and in Language, Culture, and Society. For more information on the department’s program and initiatives, see

PhD in linguistics or a related field is required. PhD is expected by the time of appointment. To ensure full consideration, all application materials, including letters of reference, should be received by Friday, November 7, 2014. The position will remain open until filled. Applicants must complete the online forms at and must submit the following in PDF format: letter of application, statement of research interests, curriculum vitae, and 2 writing samples. Applicants should request at least 3 academic letters of reference to be sent directly to UC Recruit by the November 7, 2014 deadline. Materials submitted via fax or hard copy will not be accepted. Inquiries may be addressed to the Search Committee at

Applicants selected for an interview will have the option of either a Skype video interview with the search committee or an in-person interview at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington, DC (December 3-7, 2014); interviews in either format will be considered equivalent. Our department has a genuine commitment to diversity and is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through research, teaching and service. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by law, including protected Veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Indigenous Languages and School Performance

Below is a post written by André Cramblit to the Indigenous Languages & Technology listserv (which you can sign up for here), about the connection between learning an indigenous language and school performance that I thought was interesting.

SpokenFirst (language)

Until recently, I was unaware that the drop-out rate among American Indian and Alaska Native students is twice the national average. A number of factors make AI/AN youth less likely to graduate from high-school or college than students of any other ethnic or racial group in the US. According to a 2010 report by The Civil Rights Project, reasons “include feeling ‘pushed out’ of schools, poor quality of student-teacher relationships, lack of parental support, peer pressure, distance from school, difficulty with classes, poor attendance, legal problems and language barriers, among other factors.” 

This past week, I read a couple of different articles suggesting that one way to address several of these factors is to teach indigenous languages in schools. With many AI/AN students feeling as if they are actively being pushed out of school, offering indigenous language classes or language immersion programs can help pull students back in.  As many of us have experienced first-hand, having just one class that we really enjoy can make the school day bearable, even enjoyable. It makes sense that students who feel welcomed and are engaged by their classes have higher attendance rates than those who don’t. It also stands to reason that when students are offered classes that are tailored to their needs they are more likely to complete assignments, get better grades, and feel more invested in the educational system overall.

However, with funding in many school systems stretched thin, it’s often difficult to convince those holding the purse strings that language instruction is necessary. Parents, including AI/AN parents, are often divided over whether or not language instruction should be a priority when there are so many other needs to be met.

While I personally can see both sides of the argument, stories like the one of California State University student Michael Murphy make me believe that schools must make language classes, culturally-appropriate curriculum, and culturally sensitive teaching methods a priority. Murphy, a member of the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, says he would have dropped out his first semester had it not been for his involvement in the American Indian Student Alliance. Now a sophomore, Murphy is involved in a project blogged about, creating interactive Luiseño language lessons to be loaded onto Nintendo-compatible game cartridges. It’s sad to think that other students like Murphy are disappearing from our high-schools and universities because they are not given the support they need.

Music helps to revitalize the Louisiana language of Mobilian

The Mobilian language was once used over wide swaths of the U.S. southeast as a trade language or lingua franca, and contained words and grammatical constructions from many of the other languages in the region. It was primarily spoken as a second (or third, or fourth) language by people in the region. This is a neat article about a project to use music to help preserve this fascinating language.

NOTE: The article states that 7,000 languages are on the verge of extinction, but this is actually linguists’ best estimate as to the total number of languages in the world. While the number of languages likely to stop being spoken in the next 2-3 generations is still quite high, the number is more like 3,000 – 6,000, depending on which linguist you ask.

Linguistic Light on a Continent’s Peopling


Using a new method for exploring ancient relationships among languages, linguists have found evidence further illuminating the peopling of North America about 14,000 years ago. Their findings follow a recent proposal that the ancestors of Native Americans were marooned for some 15,000 years on a now sunken plain before they reached North America.

This idea, known as the Beringian standstill hypothesis, has been developed by geneticists and archaeologists over the last seven years. It holds that the ancestors of Native Americans did not trek directly across the land bridge that joined Siberia to Alaska until the end of the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. Rather, geneticists say, these ancestors must have lived in isolation for some 15,000 years to accumulate the amount of DNA mutations now seen specifically in Native Americans.

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