Language News: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review covers the ADS WOTY

Today the Pittsburgh Tribune Review spotlighted one of the largest conventions of linguistics, the annual meeting of the Linguistics Society of America, which is being held this weekend in Pittsburgh.  LSA’s meeting is held in conjunction with several other societies each year, including the American Dialect Society.  In addition to the sociolinguistic research that will be presented this week at ADS, this article highlights the  annual Word of the Year (WOTY).

Linguists to have words with each other – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.


The WOTY has been around for almost three decades, and it’s always a lot of fun.  The nomination meeting for this years WOTY will take place tomorrow night, and several lists of contenders have already been circulated.  

I’m a big fan of “hactivism,” an old concept among computer hackers (many of whom are anarchists at heart), but a word which has gained more currency during this years Wiki-leaks controversy.

Other topical words include “vuvuzela,” “hit the slide,”  and “run and tell that.”  Notice that the “word” of the year may be more than one word.  This might seem strange, but you should keep in mind two things.  First, linguists know that the concept of a “word” is a loose one.  What English does in one word, Chinese might take several words to do.  What English does in several words, Kswahili does in one.  Second, sociolinguists are a lot of fun at parties.  We’d rather have fun at this vote than squabble about the details.

That being said, the most fun I’ve ever had at a WOTY vote is the year that we voted in “truthiness.”  Comedian Stephen Colbert had a field day with our attempts to define “his” word, and I now get show clips of his show to my linguistics classes.  I’m planning to lobby for some combination of “fear” and “sanity” with the hopes of a repeat performance.


About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s