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


A hanging sign with a blue border and interior tiled decoration with flowers and a rectanagle reading 'Department of Linguistics'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
  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.


  • Congratulations to Devin Tankersley, PhD candidate, who was awarded a Fulbright Open Research Award! This award will support his research in Tawain of lexical variation in Taiwan Sign Lanugage.
  • Congratulations to Jens Van Gysel for successfully defending his dissertation: "A usage-based account of ongoing structural changes in Sanapaná: Grammar sketch and case studies" and passing with distinction!
  • Congratulations to Aaron Marks for succesfully defending his dissertation, "Topics in Wappo Phonology" and passing with distinction!
  • Congratulations to Cormac League for defending his thesis, "Negation in Dene Languages" and passing with distinction!
  • Congratulations to Eliza Forrest for defending their thesis, "‘People with Disabilities,’ ‘Disabled People,’ or ‘The Disabled’: A Corpus Analysis of Disability Labeling Constructions." They passed with distinction following an amazing presentation!
  • Congratulations to David Páez, who successfully defended his dissertation titled "Conceptual Meaning in Phonology: Multimodal Iconic Expressions in Discourse Focus" and was awarded distinction
  • Congrats to Linguistics MA student Rikki Farrell on being a finalist for UNM's 2023 LoboBITES competition which are short presentations of research. Rikki presented "Hand Talk: Re-centering Indigenous Signing on Turtle Island
  • Congratulations to Lukas Denk, who successfully defended his dissertation titled "Verbal inflection in prominent and frequent environments" and was awarded distinction
  • Dr. Sara Siyavoshi has been awarded a one-year postdoctoral position, with an option to renew for up to three years, at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She will be working on a project to document South African Sign Language, starting with video data collection, transcription, and glossing with ELAN. The position starts July 1, 2023.  Congratulations Sara!
  • Congratulations to Jens Van Gysel for being awarded a @unmlaii Fellowship for 2023-2024! Jens is writing a grammar of Sanapaná, with a focus on linguistic variation.
  • Congratulations to Daven Hobbs who was awarded a @unmlaii Fellowship for 2023-2024! Daven investigates grammatical complexity and language change in Nheengatu.
  • Congratulations to Jill Morford and Erin Wilkinson for receiving one of seven Writing Subvention awards for their book, Understanding Signed Languages!
  • Congratulations to Josh Birchall for his publication-The first comprehensive description of Aikanã, an isolate language of Brazil, together with Hein van der Voort (Museu Goeldi)!  https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110419405-001