Welcome to the Department of Linguistics

Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations.

                 ― Edward Sapir, Language: an Introduction to the Study of Speech

Happy American Indian Heritage month



The UNM Department of Linguistics is the only degree-granting linguistics program in one of the most multilingual and multicultural states in the U.S. As such, it bears particular responsibilities both to the field of linguistics and to the residents of the region it serves. The department thus has two concerns: (1) teaching and research on language structure and use, and (2) service to society on language-related issues. The department's approach to linguistic theory takes a primarily cognitive-functional perspective that focuses on language structure as interacting with language use. Data-driven and fieldwork methods are emphasized to support usage-based analyses of dynamic language phenomena.  This orientation emphasizes the study of language typology, change, discourse, interaction, variation, interpreting, processing, and acquisition. The department is particularly concerned with the study of regional languages (especially Navajo, varieties of Spanish, and indigenous languages of the Americas) and signed languages (American Sign Language, in particular). This theoretical approach provides the foundation for effectively addressing our commitment to the application of linguistics to social concerns, including minority language maintenance and empowerment of minority communities. Thus, the department not only studies and teaches about the structure and use of language, but also encourages faculty and student involvement as advocates and participants in outreach to the linguistic communities in which we carry out research. 

Land Acknowledgement Statement

Founded in 1889, the University of New Mexico sits on the traditional homelands of the Pueblo of Sandia. The original peoples of New Mexico – Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache – since time immemorial, have deep connections to the land and make significant contributions to the broader community statewide. We honor the land itself and those who are stewards of this land throughout the generations and also acknowledge our committed relationship to Indigenous peoples. We recognize their linguistic histories and affirm the value their languages and cultures carry within their communities, our state, and the world.

Linguistics Dept


  • If you are interested in applying to our PhD program, please read about our Greenberg Fellowship award
  • Check out this recent open access publication by Visiting Assistant Professor Joshua Birchall: Birchall, Joshua & Cabixi, Olivia Oro Win. 2021. Passos na retomada da língua do povo Oro Win [Steps in the reclaiming of the language of the Oro Win people]. In Tondineli, Patricia G. (ed.) (Re)vitalizar línguas minorizadas e/ou ameaçadas: teorias, metodologias, pesquisas e experiências [(Re)vitalizing Minoritized and/or Endangered Languages: Theories, Methodologies, Research and Experiences], p. 69-82. Porto Velho: EDUFRO.
  • UNM's Homecoming football game against rival NMSU was broadcast in Navajo. Learn more about the broadcasters, Cuyler Frank & Glen King, who made it possible.
  • Three undergraduates were awarded 2021 ASSURE Fellowships to work with Linguistics Department faculty on their research: Alicia Broun (mentor Visiting Assistant Professor Joshua Birchall), Keda Kanye (mentor Associate Professor Naomi Shin), and Jordan Minke (mentor Visiting Assistant Professor Joshua Birchall). Congratulations Alicia, Keda & Jordan!
  • Congratulations to Joseline Segovia who was selected by Women in Voice to participate in a Career Accelerator in the field of Voice Technology.
  • STEM Shoutout to Professor Rosa Vallejos! Read more here: https://advance.unm.edu/2021/08/16/stem-shoutout-dr-rosa-vallejos/
  • Tune in next Tuesday, Sep 7 at 11am Mountain Time to Professor Emeritus William Croft's lecture entitled What's Typology Got To Do With Analyzing Your Language? in the Abralin ao Vivo series online!
  • STEM Shoutout to Professor Caroline Smith! Read more here: https://advance.unm.edu/2021/08/14/stem-shoutout-dr-caroline-smith/
  • Lukas Denk is creating a Navajo Corpus for Historical Narratives using “Navajo historical selections” by Robert W. Young and William Morgan (1954). The volume contains 29 selected, edited and translated texts and is public domain in the US. His goal is to annotate at least two full texts in Fall 2021 (about 3000 Navajo words) and three texts in Spring 2022 (about 4000 words). The corpus has several annotation tiers, such as the morphemes, words and a free translation. This corpus will help empirical research on the Navajo language.
  • The Department of Linguistics is pleased to announce that Professor Caroline Smith has been promoted to the rank of Full Professor. We wish her success on her sabbatical research investigating the perception and production of prosody by first and second language learners of French.
  • The Department of Linguistics is pleased to announce that Dr. Dawn Nordquist has been promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer III. We also congratulate her on her contract from Cambridge University Press to write an introductory Linguistics textbook that emphasizes the essential skills that students learn while studying linguistics and replicating research studies in the discipline.
  • Congratulations to Assistant Professor Melvatha Chee and everyone else who helped to make the Summer Diné Language Immersion Camp a success! Families, teachers and children attended the event at UNM's SUB Ballroom.
  • Graduate students David Paez and Jens Van Gysel were both awarded Fellowships for 2021-22 from the LAII to pursue their doctoral research. David's dissertation will provide the first description of multimodal imitative expressions in Colombian Spanish and Jens' dissertation is a reference grammar of Sanapaná, an endangered indigenous language spoken by about 1000 community members living in the Paraguayan Chaco region. ¡Felicitaciones a David y Jens!
  • Don't miss the 22nd Diné Studies Conference!
  • Pav Kalm of Linguistics and Mark Cisneros of Spanish & Portuguese have both been named 2021-22 Bilinski Fellows. Congratulations Pav & Mark!
  • Congratulations to Frances Jones who was awarded a Center for Regional Studies Fellowship!
  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Rosa Vallejos, who has been named the 2021-2023 Presidential Teaching Fellow! This is the highest honor at UNM in recognition of excellence in teaching.
  • Check out the virtual 2021 Mother Tongue Film Festival hosted by the Smithsonian Institution!
  • Read about doctoral student Jens Van Gysel in this Graduate Studies Student Spotlight! Jens chose to study at UNM due to "its commitment to collaborative work with Indigenous communities and other often-overlooked linguistic minorities, such as the Deaf community."
  • Don't miss the Linguistics Department Colloquium this Friday, Feb 12 at noon. Dr. Wesley Leonard of UC, Riverside will present, Aspects of the Theory of Native American Linguistics. Contact linguist@unm.edu for the link & password.
  • Meet the authors of Toward Racial Justice in Linguistics: Interdisciplinary Insights into Theorizing Race in the Discipline and Diversifying the Profession (Language, 96 (4) e200 - e235) at an LSA Webinar on Friday, Feb 12 at 2pm Mountain Time
  • Why do we need Black Deaf Studies? Tune into UNM MA student David Player's presentation on Friday, Feb 12 at 5pm to find out. Registration & details here.
  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Rosa Vallejos who was selected for the 13th Annual People of Color Awards by the Project for NM Graduates of Color!
  • Congratulations to Adam Vandegriff who was awarded a Passport to Success Scholarship to support his research on Soqotri! Safe travels, Adam!
  • Congratulations to Lukas Denk who was selected as a Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Remote Teaching Fellow for Spring semester 2020!
  • Associate Professor Erin Wilkinson is giving the Keynote at the upcoming International Symposium on Deaf Studies and Sign Language and The Seminar on the Interiorization of Sign Language at the Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil. The title of her talk is: “Benefits of sign-print bilingualism: Impact on socio-cognitive development in deaf children and adults.”
  • UNM alumna and Jicarilla tribal member Dr. Veronica Tiller has partnered with Professor Emerita Melissa Axelrod of the Department of Linguistics to record and preserve the Jicarilla Apache language for linguistic scholars and future generations of the tribe. Congratulations to both scholars on landing an NSF grant to support this important work!
  • Read about Assistant Professor Melvatha Chee's research on how children acquire Navajo verbs!
  • The Department of Linguistics mourns the loss of Dr. Paul Platero who served as Director of the Navajo Language Program from 2007 - 2014. Dr. Platero, Edge of the Water Clan, died on Monday, November 16 in an automobile collision. He completed his PhD in Linguistics in 1978 at MIT under the direction of Ken Hale with whom he developed a fruitful collaboration. In 2000, Platero published a volume titled The Athabaskan languages: Perspectives on a Native American language family with co-author Ted Fernald. He impacted many students and colleagues during his long teaching and research career.
  • Kudos to the Organizing Committee of HDLS14 - Sharifa Bahri, Daven Hobbs, Frances Jones, Ryan Smith, Joonyeop Baek, Paul Twitchell, and Len Beke - for pulling off a great conference and maintaining the strong tradition of creating a stimulating and welcoming environment for linguists to share their work!
  • Congratulations to the recipients of the first award from the Steven Menefee Graduate Fund for Indigenous Language Documentation and Revitalization: to Keiko Beers for the creation of an accessible version of Tohono O’odham narratives from the early 1900s for use by the community, to Jens Van Gysel for his work with the local language maintenance committee and dictionary team for colloquial Sanapaná, an endangered language of Paraguay, and to Ivette Gonzalez, who aims to produce learning-oriented audiovisual recordings in Paipai, a Yuman language spoken in Baja California!
  • Associate Professor Rosa Vallejos will be giving a talk, “A typological approach to gender indexicality in Kukama-Kukamiria", this Thursday 11/19 (9 am, NM). This is part of the series Permanent Seminar on Native Languages, organized by the Caro & Cuervo Institute, Ministry of Culture of Colombia.
  • UNM Department of Linguistics faculty launch the Lobo Language Acquisition Lab to study how children learn minority languages.
  • The UNM Department of Linguistics invites you to our first Colloquium of the 2020-21 year on November 9 at 10am via Zoom. Professor Lisa Green of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst will present, Over Fifty Years of Research on African American English: What Happened to the Children?
  • Tune in to hear Esther Yazzie-Lewis, instructor in the Navajo Language Program, as she participates as a guest speaker in a webinar entitled Confronting the Climate Crisis: the central role of Indigenous Peoples as frontline defenders against climate change on Monday, October 12, US Indigenous People's Day.
  • What are the big questions in Romance Linguistics? Read this interview of featured linguist Associate Professor Naomi Shin in Isogloss to find out!
  • Linguistics major Lanae Lundt was selected as one of two UNM student leaders for the #WeBelongInCollege campaign, a project aimed at increasing social belonging for our student body.
  • Welcome to Fall Semester 2020. The Linguistics Department will be functioning remotely until further notice. Please contact each program by email or each Staff and Faculty person by their email.
  • Congratulations to Joselyn Segovia who was selected to participate in Summa Academia this year. We wish you the best of luck on your research project!
  • Check out this virtual lecture by Associate Professor Rosa Vallejos for the Linguistics Summer School Bolivia on The Use of Visual Stimuli in Field Linguistics on August 13 at 3pm MST.
  • Congratulations to UNM Alumna Dr. Shelece Easterday who is starting a job as tenure-track Assistant Professor at University of Hawai'i at Mānoa!
  • STEM Shoutout to Associate Professor Naomi Shin! Read more here: https://advance.unm.edu/2020/08/03/stem-shoutout-dr-naomi-shin/
  • Tune into this year's virtual Laboratory Phonology conference! The conference is kicked off with a satellite session on Usage-based Approaches to Phonological Change organized by UNM alumni Volya Kapatsinski and Corrine Occhino, also including presentations by Joan Bybee and Esther Brown. Ricardo Napoleão de Souza has a presentation entitled “Domain-initial strengthening beyond phrase-initial segments in Spanish and Portuguese”, and André Xavier (former visiting scholar) and Corrine Occhino are presenting “Movement repetition in Libras signs”. Prof. Caroline Smith is presenting in the satellite session on Pedagogical Approaches to Laboratory Phonology. Abstracts can be read here: https://labphon.org/labphon17/detailed-programme
  • Congratulations to Professor Sherman Wilcox who has been promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor, the highest rank attainable at UNM!
  • See the UNM News Article on Jacqueline Hirsh Greene who just published a paper on Yiddish loanwords in Lifespans & Styles
  • Wondering what you can do to effect systemic change in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd? Read the Linguistic Society of America's Statement on Racial Justice, listen to Justice in America, a new podcast by Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith III, or learn more about the construction of race and racism in John Biewen's podcast Seeing White.
  • Congratulations to Educational Linguistics PhD student Martin Watkins and recent Linguistics BA graduate Jacqueline Hirsh Greene, who were both selected for prestigious Fulbright Awards! Martin is headed to Sienna, Italy to study Italian Sign Language interpreters in a dual language primary school setting. Jacqueline is off to Germany where she will enjoy an English Teaching Assistantship. Buon Viaggio & Gute Reise!
  • Hats off to Josefina Bittar and Motomi Kajitani who have been selected to receive the 2019-2020 Susan Deese-Roberts Outstanding Teaching Assistant of the Year Award!
  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Chris Koops for receiving two grants from the Jacobs Research Funds and the Phillips Fund to pursue documentation research on Oklahoma Cherokee with his collaborator Hiroto Uchihara of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México!