Carmen Jany is a Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at California State University in San Bernardino. She earned her PhD in Linguistics from UC Santa Barbara in 2007. In 2001, she received a Doctorate in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. She is Swiss-born of Croatian descent and grew up bilingual (German and Croatian). Her main research interests include Native American and other endangered languages, language documentation, linguistic typology, and language contact. Over the past decade, Carmen has been working on the documentation of Chuxnabán Mixe, a Mexican indigenous language. Her dissertation was a typologically-framed grammar of Chimariko, a dormant Northern California language, and she continues to work on that language. At present, Carmen oversees the California Indian Languages Program at CSUSB, acts as an Associate Editor for the International Journal of American Linguistics, serves on the Program Committee for SSILA, and chairs the LSA Committee on Endangered Languages and Their Preservation (CELP).
The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.
When did you first join the LSA?
I joined the LSA in 2004. It must have been my second or third year as a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara.
How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined?
Initially I attended the annual meetings (I haven’t missed one since 2005, I believe!) and presented papers at the sister society SSILA (Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas). Later, I helped put together organized sessions for annual meetings as part of my involvement with CELP (Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation). I’ve been an active CELP member for over a decade now, and in 2019 I took on more responsibilities as the junior co‑chair, and now as the senior co-chair.
What are you currently researching/working on?
I’m currently working on a handbook of indigenous languages of North America for De Gruyter’s The World of Linguistics Series. As one of the co-editors I’m helping put the massive volume together and shepherd the over sixty chapters through the different stages of the publishing process. My other research projects center on Chuxnabán Mixe. I’ve just completed a book chapter on negation and am currently working on language contact phenomena, such as code‑switching and borrowing. Next, I plan to continue my work on Chimariko and publish a corpus of glossed narratives based on archival data collected by J. P. Harrington a century ago.
What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?
My favorite two books are Marianne Mithun’s The Languages of Native North America and Victor Golla’s California Indian languages. I always like to look at these invaluable and comprehensive resources because they highlight the extraordinary diversity of linguistic structures and expression, and they just bring out the beauty of language. In fact, Marianne’s book inspired me to pursue a PhD in Linguistics and steered me into the direction of Native American languages. I also really like to read about language contact, especially Shana Poplack’s work on code‑switching as it reminds of my own linguistic practices having grown up bilingual.
How has the field of linguistics changed since you first started your work?
I believe that over the past decade or so there has been an increase in language documentation work with high standards for descriptive grammars, data collection, and archiving practices, as well as a shift in focus toward collaborative initiatives. We now also have increased technology resources available leading to innovative methods in language documentation, and there is at least some recognition of the value of documentation work to capture linguistic diversity. Unfortunately, some scholars still consider language documentation work to be of lesser value to the discipline.
What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in linguistics?
Take different courses to experience and learn about all the possibilities the field has to offer.
What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field?
I don’t know if there is a most important service, but I think that the LSA is an invaluable resource, especially for graduate students and early career professionals. It creates many opportunities for networking. In particular, the LSA provides venues to meet in-person (at the conference and institutes), facilitates exposure to current research, and extends resources to build partnerships, to work across subdisciplines, and to exchange ideas and grow within the field. Over the years, I made many friends by attending the annual meeting and was able to expand my network and collaborate on several inspiring projects. I’m always excited to go to the meeting and to catch up with friends and colleagues. I also believe that a central role of the LSA is to promote initiatives related to the discipline through its various committees and to monitor and facilitate discussions of issues and policy questions as they arise.