Michael Erard Wins LSA Award.

Frequent commenter bulbul has alerted me to this LSA announcement:

Today, the LSA recognizes five linguists for their work to support endangered languages, promote linguistics to the public, and advance and serve the field of linguistics as a whole. Congratulations to the winners of the following LSA Awards:

● Linguistics, Language and the Public Award: Michael Erard. Michael Erard, editor of the online linguistics publication Schwa Fire, has over 15 years of experience writing on linguistic topics for the general public. Erard is the author of the popular book Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners and has contributed to media including the New York Times, Science, and NPR. The LL&P Award “honors an individual or group for work that effectively increases public awareness and understanding of linguistics and language.”
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The other winners (Terry Langendoen, Nora C. England, Judith Tonhauser, and Barbara Partee) are all worthy, and my congratulations go to them as well, but Erard is a longtime friend of LH (I’ve been quoting him at least since 2003), and I’m especially pleased for his award.


  1. It’s nice to see Barbara Partee recognized. She belongs in the “advance and serve the field of linguistics as a whole” category. I remember her as “the great explainer”. There are other linguists I hope someday will be officially recognized by the profession; one is Bernard Comrie. He went all over the world with nothing but a shaving kit and a change of clothes; he overnighted once at my house. As for the “promote linguistics to the public” category, it is hard to beat the greats of the past. My brother-in-law, a lawyer, once asked me for some books about linguistics. I thought and thought, and finally gave him Sapir and Jespersen, telling him yes, they were out of date, but “conveying the spirit”.

  2. I don’t know Tonhauser’s work at all, but all the rest are clearly “Well, what were you waiting for? Hurry up!” awards, long deserved and too long deferred. It would be nice to know who received these awards in the past: they seem to date to 2007. My father used to read the books I owned on the Wonders of (Physical Science, and think about writing a popular book on the Wonders of the Law, but he never did. Who are the Wonderful People of Linguistics?

  3. michael erard says

    Thanks, Steve! Winning this is a huge delight. Goes to show that if you write about one thing long enough, someone will notice. I’ve done all this freelance, which has meant knocking on a lot of editorial doors. But I’m proud of the autonomy and the ability to work on stuff that really interests me (even if it’s meant that I had to have other jobs, which have been interesting as well). I’m also proud of the way I work with sources, my attention to accuracy, and the hard work of steering the editorial machine away from the usual linguistic cliches. I appreciate that you seem to have noticed all this over the years as well.

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