Lynnette Arnold



Brown University

sociocultural linguistics (linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics); language, globalization, and mobility; language, identity, and community membership; language and family; dialect and language contact; Salvadoran Spanish; bi/multilingual socialization; language and migration; language and gender; language, materiality, and affect


As a sociocultural linguist, I seek to understand how everyday language use both shapes and is shaped by social structures and ideologies. My research examines linguistic practices that negotiate group membership and belonging, focusing on communities that span social and geographic boundaries. In such cross-border contexts, mundane communication plays a particularly crucial role in managing differences, transcending divides, and sustaining connection. Understanding the role of language in these communities requires a wide array of methodological tools, including ethnographic participant observation, sociolinguistic interviews, and analysis of video and audio recordings. Using these methods, I have explored socialization into a bilingual community bike-shop, demonstrating that participation practices both challenged and reinforced normative divisions along lines of expertise, language, race, and class. I have also studied undocumented migrants' accounts of border-crossing, analyzing how narrative representations of victimization conform to and challenge gendered discourses of agency. My dissertation research investigates communication in transnational families to elucidate how mundane linguistic practices construct familial belonging in ways that mobilize and sometimes destabilize divisions between caregivers and wage earners, parents and children, migrants and non-migrants. With these and future research projects, I endeavor to contribute to a socially-grounded understanding of language as a powerful resource for connecting up our most minute everyday practices with overarching societal structures and norms.


2009 B.A., Women's Studies Mills College
2011 M.A., Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara


Communicative Care in a Transnational Ecology of Interaction: Language, Materiality, and Affect in Cross-border Family Life

Community Engagement

  • School Kids School Kids Investigating Language in Life and Society (SKILLS), University of California, Santa Barbara, Graduate Teaching Fellow and Curriculum Developer, 2011-2013

  • Language and Social Justice Task Group of the Committee for Human Rights, American Anthropological Association, Committee Member, 2010-present

  • Blog on Migration and Family 


Multi-sited Ethnography and Language in the Study of Migration. Routledge Handbook of Migration and Language, with Hilary Parsons Dick. Invited, in preparation.
The Reconceptualization of Agency through Ambiguity and Contradiction: Salvadoran Women Narrating Unauthorized Migration. Under review.
English for New Citizens: Contributions and Expansions of a Vocational ESL Framework. The CATESOL Journal 25(1):129-142. 2014. 

Reproducing Actions, Reproducing Power: Local Ideologies and Everyday Practices of Participation at a California Community Bike Shop. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 22(3): 137-158. 2013.

‘Como que era Mexicano’: Cross-dialectal Passing in Transnational Migration. Texas Linguistics Forum 55:1-9. 2012.

Dialogic Embodied Action: Using Gesture to Organize Sequence and Participation in Instructional Interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction 45(3): 269-296. 2012.