History of the Program in Linguistics

From the late 1980s a group of faculty worked with the College administration to establish a new program in Linguistics; those faculty included Alan Cienki, Benjamin Hary, Carol Herron, Mark Risjord, Bradd Shore, Debra (Spitulnik) Vidali, and Michael Tomasello.

That goal was finally achieved in 1995-1996, when Hary was named the first director (1995-1998), an undergraduate Minor in Linguistics was set up, and the first courses offered (e.g., Linguistics 201 Foundations of Linguistics). The inauguration of the program was also celebrated with a speaker series (including W. Hanks, G. Sankoff, R. Lakoff, M. Johnson, whose research reflected four different areas of linguistics) and a "Linguistics Film Series".

In the following year (1996-1997), a Joint Major in Russian and Linguistics was created (although this was later eliminated in 2003). At that time, a group of faculty (Hary, Cienki, Risjord) agreed to design and co-teach an innovative course called Language, Mind & Society, which remains a key element of the curriculum, and Hary first developed the new course Linguistics 101 History of the American Languages, which was designed in part to attract entering students to the study of linguistics.

Alan Cienki was named director for the period 1999-2002. During his time as director, the program secured its first part-time administrative assistant, temporary office space and office equipment was assigned, and the Joint Major in Psychology and Linguistics was created (2000-2001, coordinated by Laura Namy). During his last year as Director (2001-2002), Cienki received the first faculty appointment in Linguistics.

Debra (Spitulnik) Vidali served as the third program director, from 2002-2005. During this time, Susan Tamasi was first hired as visiting faculty in Linguistics, and the program received approval to offer or cross-list linguistics courses at the graduate level. In 2004-2005 the first full-time administrative assistant was hired, and the first permanent office facilities were received (Trimble Hall), with space for staff, a workroom and an office for visiting instructors. In 2005, full-time Program Administrative Assistant Darnishia Bolden was hired.

Donald Tuten served as program director from 2005-2011. In 2006, former director Alan Cienki left Emory for a position in Amsterdam; however, in the same year the College approved the hire of Susan Tamasi as regular (not visiting) Lecturer in Linguistics, the first full regular faculty appointment in Linguistics. In the fall of 2008, she was joined by Marjorie Pak, also Lecturer in Linguistics (and Director of the Program in Structured Independent Language Study, housed in the Emory College Language Center). The Major in Linguistics was established in 2007-2008. In 2009, the Linguistics office moved ot its current location in the Modern Languages building.

Benjamin Hary was named director from 2011-2014. The program hosted its first international conference (AIMA IV) at the Emory Conference Center as well as a mini-conference in Spring 2013 and Fall 2013.

Phillip Wolff served as interim program director in 2014-2015. In 2015, Dr. Hary left Emory for a position at New York University Tel Aviv. Also in 2015, Yun Kim was hired as Lecturer of Linguistics.

Susan Tamasi is the current director of the program. A new Joint Major in Spanish and Linguistics was approved in 2016.