Linguistic Society of America

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The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) is a learned society premised on the notion that the theory and practice of linguistics is based in scientific methodology. The argument detailing this proposition was laid out in an article by Leonard Bloomfield entitled "Why a linguistics society?"[1] in the inaugural issue of the Society's journal Language. Bloomfield describes the scientific practice of linguistics as cohering around the notion that all languages are structurally built on similar phonological and grammatical principles and that they serve a common set of psychological, social, and cultural purposes. As such, practicing linguists need to come together, in the same manner as practitioners in other scientific areas, in order to build a "professional consciousness".[2]

In addition to providing a venue for reporting research, the Society also contributes to policy debates on issues such as bilingual education; stigmatizing of dialects, as in the controversy surrounding "Ebonics;" the English-only movement; and justifications for preserving endangered languages. The LSA has some 4,000 individual members including students still in training; persons currently employed as linguists in academia, business, and government; and retirees. The membership encompasses individuals across the spectrum of the many sub-disciplines of linguistics.


The LSA was founded in 1924 in order to advance the scientific study of human language[3] as well as communicate linguistic research to a wider audience through its website, annual meetings, biennial summer institutes, and its peer-reviewed, scholarly journals, including Language.[4] From the start it focused on establishing the science of linguistics rather than on exploring literary studies.[5] Foundation Members of the Society included 31 women; throughout the first decade women made up ten to fifteen percent of the membership.[6]

Hermann Collitz, the first president of the LSA, was elected in 1925. Since the end of his term, many prominent linguists have served in this position; among them are Franz Boas (1928), Edward Sapir (1933), Zellig Harris (1955), Leonard Bloomfield (1935), Roman Jakobson (1956), Mary Haas (1963), Morris Halle (1974), Peter Ladefoged (1978), William Labov (1979), Walt Wolfram (2001), and Joan Bybee (2004). The current president of the LSA (2015) is John Rickford.


The primary mission of the LSA is to advance the scientific study of language. The LSA aspires to a world in which the essential nature of language and its central role in human life is well understood. To fulfill its mission, the LSA has established the following goals:[7]

  1. To promote the scientific study of language via the publication, presentation, and discussion of linguistic scholarship.
  2. To foster interaction and communication among scholars interested in the scientific study of language.
  3. To support scholars interested in the scientific study of language in the pursuit of their professional goals.
  4. To educate and inform the public and the broader scientific community about the scientific study of language.

In order to achieve these goals, the LSA has adopted and continues to follow its Long-Range Strategic Plan.[8]


The LSA publishes a number of journals including Language [9] and Semantics and Pragmatics.[10] Language features major articles as well as shorter reports of original research which cover all areas of the field from all theoretical frameworks. It also contains reviews of recently published articles and books of particular interest to the linguistics community, some of which the LSA awards the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award.[11] Between 2007 and 2013, the LSA also sponsored eLanguage,[12] a platform for online, open-access journals. The LSA publishes conference proceedings for the Annual Meeting of Phonology, the Annual Meeting of Semantics and Linguistics Theory (SALT), the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society (BLS), and extended conference abstracts from its own Annual Meetings.[13]


The LSA's four-day Annual Meeting is held every January. Its program consists of plenary speakers, symposia, and poster sessions for researchers to share their work with the help of visual aid. The American Dialect Society, the American Name Society, the North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences, the Society for Pidgin and Creole Languages, the Association for Linguistic Evidence and the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas meet concurrently with the LSA.

The 2014 Annual Meeting featured a celebratory session commemorating the 90th anniversary of the LSA's foundation.[14]

The meeting site alternates between the east coast, west coast and Midwest:

Linguistic Institutes[edit]

The LSA hosts a biennial Summer Institute; a four to six-week summer school in which field experts conduct linguistic courses, talks, and workshops for about 400 students, faculty, and others interested in linguistics. Each Institute honors the contributions of particular linguists with the appointment of titled chairs: the Sapir chair in general linguistics,[21][22] the Collitz Chair in historical linguistics,[23] and since 2005, the Ken Hale chair in linguistic fieldwork and the preservation of endangered languages.[24] Beginning in 2015, the Charles Fillmore Professorship was established, awarded to a linguist whose research reflects an exceptional understanding of language and the promise of a lasting contribution to its study, as well as a synthesis of linguistic theory with other interdependent disciplines.

The locations and dates of past and future institutes are listed below:

Resolutions and statements[edit]

The LSA takes a stand on many language-related issues, especially those relating to public policy. For instance, in 1987, the LSA officially took a stand against the English-only movement in the United States. The LSA statement argued that "English-only measures ... are based on misconceptions about the role of a common language in establishing political unity, and ... are inconsistent with basic American traditions of linguistic tolerance." In 1997, an LSA resolution supported the Oakland school-board in its attempt to favor teaching that is sensitive to the distinctive characteristics of African American Vernacular English (the so-called "Ebonics" debate).[30] A 2001 resolution on sign languages "affirm[ed] that sign languages used by deaf communities are full-fledged languages with all the structural characteristics and range of expression of spoken languages" and lent the support of the LSA to a status for sign languages equal to that accorded to other languages in academic and political life.[31] A complete list of resolutions and statements adopted by the LSA may be found on its website.


The following persons have been president of the Linguistic Society of America:[32]


The LSA presents a series of awards during its Annual Meeting. The list of awards, their descriptions, and their current holders are listed below:

  • Best Paper in Language : to the best paper published in the journal in any given year; all published papers written by at least one LSA author are up for review.[33] Current (2014) holders: Judith Tonhauser, David Beaver, Craige Roberts and Mandy Simons “Toward a taxonomy of projective content,” appeared in Language Volume 89, No. 1 (2013)
  • Early Career Award : to one of any current LSA members who has made "outstanding contributions to the field of linguistics" early in their career; also provides travel reimbursement (up to $500) and complimentary registration for the next Annual Meeting.[33] Current (2014) holder: Adrian Brasoveanu (University of California, Santa Cruz)
  • Excellence in Community Linguistics Award : to members of language communities (typically outside the academic sphere of professional linguists) who make "outstanding contributions" for the benefit of their community’s language.[33] Current (2014) holder: Mary Ann Metallic (Listuguj Education Directorate – Listuguj Mi'gmaq Government)
  • Kenneth L. Hale Award : to one of any current LSA members who has done "outstanding work" on the documentation of a particular language or family of languages that is endangered or no longer spoken.[33] Current (2014) holder: Claire Bowern (Yale University)
  • Leonard Bloomfield Book Award : to a volume that has made an "outstanding contribution of enduring value" to our understanding of language and linguistics; nominations must be accompanied by a substantive endorsement letter that addresses the volume's exemplary scholarship, enduring value, novelty, empirical import, conceptual significance, and clarity; chosen by the LSA Bloomfield Book Award Committee and approved by the LSA's Executive Committee.[33] Current (2014) holder: Johnathan Bobaljik’s, Universals in Comparative Morphology: Suppletion, Superlatives and the Structure of Words, (MIT Press)
  • Linguistics Service Award : to one of any LSA members who has performed "distinguished service" for the Society; nominations must be accompanied by an endorsement letter outlining why the individual should be recognized and a brief citation that can be read at the presentation of the award.[33] Current (2014) holder: David Lightfoot (Georgetown University), for his invaluable assistance in charting a course for the LSA’s publishing program
  • Linguistics, Language and the Public Award : to an individual or group of any LSA members for work that "effectively increases public awareness and understanding of linguistics and language" in the four years immediately preceding the nomination deadline; works in any medium are eligible and can be considered for multiple cycles.[33] Current (2014) holder: 2014 Donna Jo Napoli (Swarthmore College)
  • Student Abstract Award : to one of any student who has submitted an abstract to the Annual Meeting; provides $500 for the best abstract and $300 for the authors of the abstracts rated second and third; automatically nominated upon abstract submission; chosen by the Awards Committee.[33] Current (2014) holders: John Sylak (University of California, Berkeley) The Phonetic Properties of Voiced Stops Descended from Nasals in Ditidaht; Marc Garellek (University of California, Los Angeles) for Prominence vs. phrase-initial strengthening of voice quality; Josef Fruehwald (University of Pennsylvania) for Differentiating Phonetically and Phonologically Conditioned Sound Change
  • Victoria A. Fromkin Lifetime Service Award : to one of any LSA members who has performed "extraordinary service to the discipline and to the Society" throughout their career; nominations must be accompanied by an endorsement letter outlining why the individual should be recognized and a brief citation that can be read at the presentation of the award.[33] Current (2014) holder: Stephen R. Anderson (Yale University)
  • LSA Journalism Award : "honors the journalist whose work best represents linguistics during the 12-month consideration period indicated in the call for nominations."[34] Established in 2014. First and current (2015) holder: Ben Zimmer (Wall Street Journal).[35][36]

For more information visit the LSA's "Honors and Awards" page.[33]


The LSA has numerous standing committees and special interest groups on various issues in linguistics, including:[37]

  • Committee of Editors of Linguistics Journals (CELxJ)
  • Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP)
  • Ethics Committee
  • Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics (CEDL)
  • Language in the School Curriculum (LiSC)
  • Linguistics in Higher Education Committee (LiHEC)
  • Public Policy
  • Public Relations
  • Student Issues and Concerns (COSIAC)
  • Committee On the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bloomfield, Leonard. (1925). Why a Linguistic Society?. Language, 1(1), 1–5.
  2. ^ Bloomfield, Leonard (1925), p. 5.
  3. ^ "Linguistic Society of America". American Council of Learned Societies. Retrieved July 13, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Linguistic Society of America: Publications". 
  5. ^ Murray, Stephen O. (1991). "The first quarter century of the Linguistic Society of America, 1924-1949“". Historiographia Linguistica 18(1): 1-48. 
  6. ^ Falk, Julia S. (1994). "The Women Foundation Members of the Linguistic Society of America". Language 70(3), pp. 455-490. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ "What We Do". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Long-Range Strategic Plan". Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "LSA: Publications". Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  10. ^ "Semantics and Pragmatics". 
  11. ^ "LSA: Honors and Awards". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  12. ^ "eLanguage". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  13. ^ "LSA Conference Proceedings". 
  14. ^ "90th Anniversary Activities at the Annual Meeting". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "Linguists to gather in Pittsburgh for national conference". EurekAlert The Global Source for Science News. December 16, 2010. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 
  16. ^ "2013 Annual Meeting". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "Past Annual Meetings". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "2014 Annual Meeting". 
  19. ^ "2015 Annual Meeting". 
  20. ^ "Linguistic Society of America: 2016 Meeting". 
  21. ^ "Edward Sapir Professorship". 
  22. ^ "LSA to Endow Sapir Professorship". Anthropology News 24(9). October 1983. 
  23. ^ "Collitz Professorship". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  24. ^ "Ken Hale Professorship". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  25. ^ "Linguistics Society of America Summer Institute". Stanford University. 
  26. ^ "LSA 2009". University of California, Berkeley. 
  27. ^ "LSA 2011". University of Colorado, Boulder. 
  28. ^ "LSA 2013". University of Michigan. 
  29. ^ "LSA 2015". University of Chicago. 
  30. ^ Rickford, John. "LSA Resolution on the Oakland "Ebonics" Issue". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  31. ^ Perlmutter, David. "Resolution: Sign Languages". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  32. ^ "LSA: About LSA". Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "LSA Honors and Awards". 
  34. ^ "LSA Honors and Awards: Journalism Award". Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  35. ^ "WSJ's Ben Zimmer Receives First LSA Linguistics Journalism Award". Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Ben Zimmer Wins LSA's Linguistics Journalism Award". Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus. October 29, 2014. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Committees and Special Interest Groups". Linguistics Society of America. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Linguistic Institutes