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.
Alan Cienki (left photo) and Benny Hary (right photo), two of our founding faculty members.

1995 - 1998

  • The Minor in Linguistics was set up in 1995. Benjamin Hary was named the first director (1995-1998), and the first courses were offered, e.g. LING-201 Foundations of Linguistics). 
  • The inauguration of the program was celebrated with a speaker series including W. Hanks, G. Sankoff, R. Lakoff, M. Johnson, as well as a linguistics film series.
  • The Joint Major in Russian and Linguistics was created in 1996 (this was eliminated in 2003).
  • A group of faculty (Hary, Cienki, Risjord) designed and co-taught an innovative course called Language, Mind & Society (now LING-401). Hary also developed the course History of the American Languages (LING-101). Both courses remain key elements of our curriculum: LING-101 is designed to attract students to the study of linguistics, and LING-401 is now our capstone senior seminar.

1999 - 2005

  • Alan Cienki served as program director from 1999-2002. In 2001, he received the first faculty appointment in Linguistics. The program secured its first part-time administrative assistant, temporary office space and office equipment.
  • The Joint Major in Psychology and Linguistics was created in 2001-2002, coordinated by Laura Namy.
  • Debra Spitulnik Vidali served as the third program director from 2002-2005. During this time, Susan Tamasi was hired as visiting faculty in Linguistics, and the program received approval to offer or cross-list linguistics courses at the graduate level.

2005 - 2011

  • Donald Tuten served as program director from 2005-2011.
  • In 2005, full-time Program Administrative Assistant Darnishia Bolden was hired. Permanent office facilities were assigned in Trimble Hall (near what is now Eagle Hall), with space for staff, a workroom and an office for visiting instructors.
  • In Spring 2006 the program had its first Student Research Symposium, with posters presented in White Hall Lobby.
  • In 2006, former director Alan Cienki left Emory for a position in Amsterdam. In the same year Susan Tamasi was hired as a Lecturer in Linguistics, the first full regular faculty appointment in Linguistics. She served as Director of Undergraduate Studies until 2015.
  • In 2008, Marjorie Pak was hired as Lecturer in Linguistics (and Director of the Structured Independent Language Study program, housed in the Emory College Language Center). She developed and regularly teaches the core formal linguistic courses LING-212 Morphology and Syntax and LING-214 Semantics and Pragmatics.
  • The Major in Linguistics was established in 2007-2008.
  • In October 2008 the Linguistics Program, in coordination with The President of Emory University and The DVS Senior Society, hosted The 2008 Goodrich C. White public lecture by Jared Diamond, best-selling author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, on "How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed."
  • In 2009 the Linguistics program moved to its current location in the Modern Languages Building.

2011 - 2015

  • Benjamin Hary served as program director from 2011-2014. Dr. Hary left Emory for a position at New York University Tel Aviv. Phillip Wolff served as interim program director in 2014-2015.
  • The number of Linguistics majors and minors steadily increased to our current levels (~25-30 graduates a year; ~80 majors at any given time). The Linguistics Circle, our student club, was created.
End-of-year awards banquet (2012)
  • Jack Hardy served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Linguistics in 2012-2015.
  • The college approved the hire of Yun Kim, Lecturer of Linguistics, in 2015. She created or revised and regularly teaches core cognitive courses in Psycholinguistics (LING-317) and Language Acquisition (LING-316).
  • The program hosted its first international conference, the Association Internationale du Moyen–Arabe (AIMA IV), at the Emory Conference Center. The program also hosted a mini-conference on ‘What Can We Do With Words’ in Spring 2013 and a mini-conference on ‘Language Variation and Change’ in Fall 2013. Together with the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science, we hosted the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NALCO), a contest in which high-school students solved linguistic puzzle

2015 - Present

  • Susan Tamasi was named the director of the program in 2015 and continues in that role now. Marjorie Pak serves as interim director in Fall 2021.Some of our faculty in 2013: Phil Wolff, Susan Tamasi, Don Tuten, Hiram Maxim
  • Marjorie Pak became Director of Undergraduate Studies in 2015 and continues in that role now.
  • Yun Kim became our first Director of Undergraduate Research in 2020 and also serves as our Honors Coordinator.
  • Darnishia Bolden was promoted to Senior Academic Degree Program Coordinator in 2020.
  • Several new lecturers and assistant professors in other departments joined the Linguistics core faculty: Hsu-Te Cheng (REALC), Jinho Choi (Mathematics & Computer Science), Seth Goss (REALC), Xochitl Marsilli-Vargas (Spanish & Portuguese), Alexander Mendes (French & Italian).
  • Four other faculty now have official 25% lines in Linguistics: Don Tuten, José Luis Boigues López, Robyn Clarke and Hiram Maxim.
  • Jason McLarty was hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor in sociolinguistics in 2018. 
  • The Joint Major in Spanish and Linguistics was approved in 2016.
Student research poster sessions (2018, 2019)
  • Linguistics at Oxford College has grown significantly under the leadership of Jack Hardy and Daniel Walter, with core courses LING-101 and LING-201 and several electives now being taught regularly.
  • Events hosted: Lecture Series on Bilingualism (Fall 2015), Mini Conferences on What Do Rhetoricians Do? (2015) and New Research from the Linguistics Atlas Projects (2016), the Diversity and Variation in Language (DiVar 1) Conference (2017), and the virtual Linguistics Student Research Symposium (2020 and 2021).
  • A series of events is planned for 2022 in celebration of our 25th anniversary, including a student conference in April. Stay tuned!
  • Erica Britt was hired as Associate Teaching Professor in 2023. She teaches LING-201 Foundations of Linguistics, LING-333 Language, Gender and Sexuality, and LING-340 African American Language.