Date of this version: March, 2011
After receiving my Ph.D. in 1968, I taught Slavic linguistics at Yale (1968-1971) and then general linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh (1972-1998). Since 1999 I've been at the University of Michigan, where I am now the William J. Gedney Collegiate Professor of Linguistics and Chair of the Linguistics Department. I have worked with the Salish & Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee in St. Ignatius, Montana, since 1981, compiling a dictionary and other materials for the tribes' Salish-Pend d'Oreille language program. My current research focuses on contact-induced language change and Salishan linguistics, but I also have a continuing interest in debunking linguistic pseudoscience. A few of my publications are `Chinook Jargon in areal and historical context' (Language, 1983), `Genetic relationship and the case of Ma'a (Mbugu)' (Studies in African Linguistics, 1983), `Before the Lingua Franca: Pidgin Arabic in the eleventh century A.D.' (with Alaa Elgibali, Lingua, 1986), Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics (with Terrence Kaufman, 1988, 1991), Language contact: an introduction (2001), `On the unpredictability of contact effects' (2000), `Linguistic areas and language history' (2000), `Truncation in Montana Salish' (with Lucy Thomason, 2004), `Language contact and deliberate change' (Journal of Language Contact, 2007), and `At a loss for words' (Natural History magazine, December 2007/January 2008). I was editor of Language (1988-1994), and I'm currently on the editorial boards of Studies in pidgin and creole languages, Bilingualism: language and cognition, and the Journal of Historical Linguistics. I've served on various Linguistic Society of America committees (as a member of the Executive Committee 2001-2003) and taught at three LSA summer Linguistic Institutes (as the Collitz Professor in 1999); I was President of the LSA in 2009. I was Chair of the Linguistics & Language Sciences section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996 and the section Secretary in 2001-2005; since 2010 I've been a Fellow of the AAAS. I was President of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas in 2000. I'm currently on the international Advisory Board of the Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics (LOT) and was formerly on the advisory board of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (2001-2007). Among my less academic activities are blogging on Language Log (languagelog.org,) expert witnessing in various court cases, and doodling (I'm a member of Alpine Artisans in Condon & Seeley Lake, Montana).