Linguistics Society Creates Space for Language Study Outside the Classroom

by Riley Steiner, CAS communications intern

LinguisticsThe Miami University Linguistics Society provides opportunities for students come together to talk about languages outside of the classroom. 

The Linguistics Society, a student-run organization, meets weekly to discuss linguistics-related topics, watch movies in foreign languages and play linguistics-related games or activities. While many of the students who come to the Society’s meetings are linguistics majors or minors, the organization also attracts students from other areas of study.

“We’re open to people who are interested in linguistics and language in general,” said senior Wrik Chatterjee, Linguistics Society president.  “It’s oftentimes people who are majoring or minoring in a language like German or Spanish.  And of course, sometimes we get people who are just interested in the stuff, who are not majoring or minoring in anything language-related.”

According to Chatterjee, the Society has anywhere from three to 15 members at its meetings each week.

Senior Elizabeth Brown, a linguistics major with minors in anthropology and Italian, joined the Society last fall.

“I’ve always really liked grammar and languages and learning how languages work,” she said. “I wanted the opportunity to connect with other linguistics majors and talk about linguistics outside of class.”

The study of language—oral, spoken and written—impacts everyday life at a fundamental level.

“We all use language,” said Dr. Vincent Palozzi, director of Miami’s linguistics program and Linguistics Society advisor.  “Language is basically at the heart of all of humanity, all of society.  We have no other way of communicating our ideas to each other except for the use of language. Looking at language itself and understanding how it works is vitally important.”

Linguistics is interdisciplinary, as well—both in the subjects that Miami students study and in their future careers.  Linguistics majors pursue careers in a wide variety of areas, including language education, translation, law, journalism, anthropology and others.  In fact, said Palozzi, the most rapidly growing field of linguistics centers around computer science, in the development of software and artificial intelligence.

Outside of its meetings, the Linguistics Society has been a part of events on and off campus.  In the past, interested members have traveled to Columbus for the Ohio State University’s annual TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference. 

This fall at Miami, the Society teamed up with the linguistics program to host a square dance on Nov. 12.  Held at the Shriver Center, it featured a live band, refreshments and prizes.

In recent years, the Linguistic Society’s biggest event has been its linguistics conference at the end of the spring semester, where students from all over campus present language-related research.  In the past three years, the Society has partnered with Miami’s linguistics program to hold two conferences, and hopes to hold another in the spring of 2017.

“Those were the first linguistics conferences that anyone knows of in Miami’s history, where students from all over campus were welcome to come and submit their papers and do presentations on their work that focused on some aspect of language,” Palozzi said. 

For Chatterjee, the Linguistics Society is a place to share a subject that he’s passionate about. 

“I enjoy getting to present stuff that I find to be interesting about language to a wider audience of people,” he said.  “I think it’s just so interesting that I can use this club as a sort of platform to inform people about stuff that I find interesting.”

Brown says the Society offers opportunities that she might not find in the classroom. 

“I like that the people in it have so many different backgrounds and I get to learn about so many different languages, things I may not learn about in class,” she said. 

The Linguistics Society meets in room 337 of Bachelor Hall on Fridays at 6:00pm. Interested students may contact Wrik Chatterjee (chattewg@miamioh.edu) for more information.