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

The Linguistics Department, the Signed Language Interpreting Program and the Navajo Language Program are open remotely. Please contact each program by email or each Staff and Faculty person by their email.


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.

Linguistics Dept


  • If you are interested in applying to our PhD program, please read about our Greenberg Fellowship award
  • 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 who has 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!
  • Congratulations Graduates!!!
  • The Department of Linguistics is pleased to welcome Visiting Assistant Professor Joshua Birchall and Visiting Lecturer II Paul Twitchell to UNM for the Fall 2020 semester. Professor Birchall will be relocating from Belém, Brazil where he is conducting fieldwork on indigenous languages of Amazonia, and will teach courses on language typology. Lecturer Paul Twitchell studies how negation is acquired in first and second language learners of ASL, and will be teaching ASL in the Signed Language Interpreting Program.
  • In light of recent reprehensible acts of cowardice and hate against faculty and students, the Department of Linguistics invites all members of the UNM Community to join us in condemning racism, hate and all forms of dehumanization. We are fortunate to live in one of the most multilingual and multicultural states in the U.S.! We affirm the intellectual and social contributions of every UNM Lobo and celebrate our diversity and differences.
  • Congratulations to Lecturer III Dawn Nordquist for being selected for this year's A&S Teaching Excellence Award!
  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Naomi Shin for being selected for this year's A&S Teaching Excellence Award!
  • Congratulations to Hunter Brown who was awarded an LAII Field Research Grant to study the linguistic expression of motion and dynamic path in Amazonia. He is interesting in exploring the ways in which conceptualizing and talking about space reflect how communities adapt to and interact with their local ecologies.
  • Congratulations to Joseline Segovia who was awarded an LAII Field Research Grant to examine the discourse conditions under which default gender marking systems can be manipulated. She is also interested in exploring potential correlations between grammatical gender systems with local sociocultural practices in the Amazon.
  • The Navajo Language Program invites students and community members to attend their virtual Diné Culture Nights and learn some Navajo. The first online meeting had about 50 participants and was covered by KOB news.
  • LSA Presses for ASL Interpretation of White House Press Briefings. In collaboration with the National Association of the Deaf, the LSA sent a letter in late March requesting that all White House press briefings include an ASL interpreter who is visible to any viewer. A PDF copy of the letter may be downloaded here and the full text is also provided below. We encourage LSA members to also contact the White House to support this request. A similar letter was also sent to the National Association of Broadcasters.
  • PhD students Josefina Bittar and David Páez were both awarded Fellowships for 2020-21 from the LAII to pursue their doctoral research. Josefina's dissertation investigates the influence of Spanish on Paraguayan Guarani verbs, and David's dissertation will provide the first description of multimodal imitative expressions in Colombian Spanish. ¡Felicitaciones a Josefina y David!
  • Congratulations to Dr. Dawn Nordquist and Associate Professor Chris Koops, who were both awarded RAC grants! Best of luck to both of them with their research.
  • Drop by the UNM Spring 2020 Conference on Teaching Excellence in SUB Ballrooms A&S on March 9th to see doctoral student Chris Peverada presenting a poster on "Teaching Linguistics through Conlanging" from 9am - 9:30am, and for a Lightning Talk on "Undergraduate Research in the Core" being given by Lecturer III Dawn Nordquist between 9:30am and 10:30am.
  • Congratulations to former and current students who have landed tenure-track jobs recently: Alumna Ahrim Kim will be an Assistant Professor in the English Linguistics and Literature department at Myongji University in Seoul, and current student Joan Wilson will start as Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders at NMSU in the Fall!





How do field linguists make progress during a pandemic? Associate Professor Rosa Vallejos leads her class in discussing their discoveries about iKalanga with language consultants and linguists from Botswana via Zoom. Many thanks to Annah Macha and Andy Chebanne for sharing their insights and love of iKalanga with UNM students!