Directors

Dr. Anastasia Nylund, Director

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Anastasia is a sociolinguist, an observer, and an analyst of meaning-making in interaction – whether the interactions are private or public, prestigious or stigmatized, written or spoken, between individuals or institutions.

Anastasia’s research focuses on furthering an integrated, quantitative/qualitative approach to the study of language variation. She has examined phonological variation and stylistic practice among residents of Washington, DC, focusing on features associated with blue-collar, Southern, and African American speech in the production of place and ethnoracial identity in discourse. Other projects focus on the structure and function of metalinguistic and language ideological discourses and narratives, primarily in the urban mid-Atlantic and multicultural Sweden. She is the co-editor, with Deborah Schiffrin and Anna De Fina, of Telling Stories: Language, Narrative, and Social Life, published by Georgetown University Press.

Anastasia is the co-convenor of Linguistics Beyond Academia, a Special Interest Group of the Linguistic Society of America, The SIG is dedicated to enhancing understanding of and visibility for applications of linguistics training beyond the traditional faculty path.

Anastasia is also committed to communicating linguistic insights to non-academic audiences, a commitment she brings to the outreach activities of the MLC. She participates in public outreach efforts with the Language and Communication in DC project, and thinks that creating dialogue between the academy and the public is the ideal way to be a linguist.

On the MLC Program:

One of the wonderful things about the MLC is the flexibility. The program is small enough that each student gets a lot of individualized attention; we can sit down a course of study that’s attuned to their personal goals. In addition, the MLC program offers a lot of academic flexibility in that students can take classes across other departments and even across the Washington consortium of universities. Prospective students should know that all components of the program can be guided by student interest, so there’s enormous opportunity for exploration and growth.

Another unique aspect of the MLC is its focus on making connections. The students and the director are all involved in keeping an eye out for the latest in the world of professional linguistics: where linguists are, what they do, and what they can share about their fields. All these connections culminate in the various events that the MLC hosts: panels, talks, workshops, networking events, and our unique Career Exploration Expo that takes place every spring.

Anastasia’s Role in the MLC:

    • One-on-one academic advising with students
    • Organizing talks, panels, networking sessions, workshops, and other professional development events
    • Outreach. I talk to linguists in a variety of careers and organizations that can, do, or should employ linguists. I foster exchange of ideas and expertise, and let prospective employers know about the benefits of having extensively trained (socio)linguists in their organizations
    • Mentoring students through career development, including the processes of informational interviewing and networking, developing your ‘elevator speech’ (i.e. a 2-minute synopsis of what you’re interested in and what you’re doing), and having readily accessible definitions for key concepts in linguistics
    • Maintaining a network of alumni, current students, and professionals, and starting the conversation between these groups in order to create and maintain long-lasting connections

 

Dr. Deborah Schiffrin, Founding Director

On the MLC Program:

The MLC teaches how language is a window to different facets of our world – our mind, culture, society, social practices, interactions and relationships – by blending form and function and close attention to social practices. This means that students in the MLC are taught how to “unpack” language in order to find the underlying assumptions of our words and the “reality” they represent, and can sometimes change. So a lot of the work for MLC students is learning how to look for what’s beneath what we say: the assumptions, focus, emphasis and goals of language in particular interactions, situations and institutions, including larger social meanings such as power, and ideology. Thus, our informal slogan: Language reflects and changes our relationships, our work and our world. In order to be able to reach these goals, while also keeping in mind our students’ interests, we intentionally keep the program small – bringing in fewer than ten new students per year. This keeps the program small enough for you to know each other and allows us to devote a lot of attention to each individual.

On Georgetown’s Department of Linguistics:

The Linguistics Department at Georgetown is unique because members of our faculty provide so many different approaches to the study of language. Our faculty specialize in Computational Linguistics (modeling of language for the computer), Applied Linguistics (bilingualism and cognitive semantics), Theoretical Linguistics (form, meaning and sound), and Sociolinguistics (language use in social context). The study of Linguistics at other universities is often limited to Theoretical Linguistics, with the perspectives that we provide found in different departments like Sociology, Anthropology or Education. And in terms of Sociolinguistics – the area most crucial for the MLC – we cover both Discourse Analysis (how language is used in text and context) and Variation Analysis (how language is a community practice that is a resource for identity work.

Dr. Schiffrin’s Work History:

Before coming to Georgetown, I taught Sociology at a Community College and then worked at a place that provided an urban semester in Philadelphia for students from small colleges in the Midwest. Along with teaching about language in the city, I helped the students pick internships and develop educational goals outside of the classroom, including a mini-linguistics project bringing together their work experience and their new familiarity with the study of language. I also collaborated informally working with several mediators who were interested in bringing linguistics into the fields of mediation and conflict resolution. And in my early days at Georgetown, besides teaching courses, I also led a workshop for librarians targeting who wanted to know how they could streamline the process of helping the public find the information they were seeking.

Personal Research Interests:

I have always been interested in what can be called semantics and pragmatics in a practical sense. Obviously language can present information, but it can also convey and sometimes create social meanings (status, power, etc.) and expressive stances (e.g. approval, uncertainty, etc.). My first book-length project was on discourse markers (like oh, well, now, then, y’know, I mean and more) and their referential, interactional and expressive meanings. Next was a book that compiled and compared different approaches to discourse: I’m now finishing a new edition of that book which includes Narrative Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis. My ongoing interest in narrative appears in journal articles and my book on repairs, repetition, reference and retelling (In Other Words) also shows how language can do more than represent the world. My work still ranges from very small features of language, such as the word and, to very large (long oral histories).

Dr. Schiffrin’s webpage

 

Dr. Anna Marie Trester, Director 2008-2014

Anna Marie Trester, who implemented the vision for the MLC since 2008, and who created the Proseminar and many other key aspects fo the problem, wears many hats as communicator, researcher, and popularizer of sociolinguistics.

In her ethnographically-informed academic work, she has investigated the ways in which language helps construct personal and group identities among improvisational theater performers and Quakers, through such diverse linguistics acts as discourse marker “oh”, language play on stage, and silence. Anna has published articles in Journal of Sociolinguistics and Language in Society and is the editor (with Deborah Tannen) of Discourse 2.0, published by Georgetown University Press.

At present, Anna is pursuing her passion for applications of research in her new role as Associate with the FrameWorks Institute, a change communication think tank in Washington, D.C. She is also in the process of developing a linguistic approach to storytelling for career, in a book to be published by Multilingual Matters Press.

Check out Anna’s blog, CareerLinguist for her thoughts on academic work, the job search, and other perspectives on being a sociolinguist.