Why Public-facing Language Science?
Public awareness and understanding of language science is limited. Language-related policy decisions are rarely influenced by good science. And very few young people know about the opportunities for contributing to language science, because it is not part of the school curriculum. Most professional linguists only stumbled across the field late in their studies. I didn’t know about it until graduate school.
The UMD language science community is trying to change this. Many students and faculty contribute to this effort.
We run outreach programs with local schools: school visits, campus visits, internships, talks. We found that it helps us as much as it helps the schools – it makes us better communicators, better collaborators, and more. A paper by Jeff Lidz & Yakov Kronrod explains why.
Maryland Day is the university’s annual open house, attracting 70,000+ people to the campus. It’s a great way to meet hundreds of families and to tell them about language.
Science fairs are a great way to reach the public. People do not expect to encounter language science, and they are surprised by what they learn.
LSA & Linguistics for Everyone
I am a member of the Executive Committee for the Linguistic Society of America (2013-2016). I also am a co-leader of the Linguistics for Everyone initiative that aims to highlight opportunities for public-facing language science.
I am a member of the Steering Committee for Section Z (Linguistics and Language Science) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest organization dedicated to the promotion of science (and the publisher of Science magazine). Our goal is to raise the profile of language within science more broadly.
I enjoy talking about my research to non-specialist audiences. Topics like linguistic illusions can lead to fun discussions.