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Linguistics in Action: From the Classroom to the Field

If you've taken a course in the linguistics department in the past year there's a good chance that your professor may have been visiting professor  Linda Lanz. Originally from Alaska, Professor Lanz has lived in many places before coming to teach here at William and Mary. In her two semesters here so far she has taught Study of Language, Language Patterns, Descriptive Linguistics, and a topics course called Languages of the Americas. Professor Lanz says that she really enjoys the students here because they are smart, motivated, and have a variety of different interests and reasons for taking linguistics courses.

Students who took the Languages of the Americas course last semester were able to experience a special treat; the class was able to help the Patawomeck tribe in its effort to revitalize  their language, Virginian Algonquian, a language which hasn't been spoken daily since the late 18th century. The language of Pocahontas, it remains largely in a few historical records, including word lists written by John Smith. A few cool things about Virginian Algonquian include the fact that (1) it has nasal vowels, (2) it uses the Cree alphabet, and (3) nouns must be marked as either animate or inanimate. Today, Virginian Algonquian has no native speakers, but revitalization efforts are being spearheaded by the Patawomeck tribe. Thanks to the connections of one student in the class, who is a member of the tribe, the class was invited to assist with the revitalization in a small way. For the class, the main focus was on making lesson plans and language activity games.

Professor Lanz hopes that William & Mary Linguistics will maintain connections with the tribe in the future. Look out for her classes in the future -  they're bound to be an interesting experience!