UT linguistics professor elected president of Linguistic Society of America

Kevin Vu, News reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the December 2 broadsheet. 

The Linguistic Society of America elected a UT professor as its president for the first time since 1973, for a one-year term starting in 2023.

Linguistics professor Anthony Woodbury will serve a one-year term as vice president in 2022 and a one-year term as president in 2023.

“I feel very honored and I also feel that I have a responsibility to feel that I’m really taking the temperature of what is going on with the membership of (the society) and try to represent and enable to the best of my ability all these things,” Woodbury said. “There’s quite a lot of things going on in the discipline. There’s many, many new horizons.”

The Linguistic Society of America has advanced the study of language and its structure since 1924 by sponsoring different peer-reviewed journals, conferences and programs, said Alyson Reed, executive director of the organization. 

“We’re delighted that Tony agreed to stand for election and we’re looking forward to working with him in the coming years,” Reed said.

Reed said the nominating committee selected Woodbury for these positions based on his outstanding scholarship and leadership abilities. Reed said the committee also considered potential candidates’ time commitments and their ability to lead a nonprofit organization.

Woodbury said he has worked at UT since 1980 and has focused on researching and documenting Indigenous languages of the Americas. He said he has trained linguistics for native speakers of the Indigenous languages of Latin America and Alaska. 

Woodbury said he was shocked when he received an email in May about his selection as vice president and president-elect.

“My jaw dropped,” Woodbury said. “I couldn’t believe it. I just thought, ‘Wow.’ I was just really surprised. It was just out of the blue. I always tried to be a good citizen, and do things for (society) when I had a chance. I had no idea that anybody was thinking of me to do this.”

As president, Woodbury will preside at the meetings of the society, help with fundraising, be a spokesperson for the organization and deliver the presidential address, which is considered the highest honor in the linguistics field, Reed said.

“I hope he can help us bounce back from the pandemic effects that we’ve been experiencing that (have) had a negative impact on the organization’s finances, the viability of our annual conference and how we can face the future challenges that our members are confronting at their home institutions,” Reed said.

Linguistics department chair Richard Meier said it is an honor for Woodbury to achieve such a position since he is a person who is so passionate about his work understanding human language and teaching students his area of linguistic research.

“It speaks … not only to the quality of Dr. Woodbury’s research and contributions to the field of linguistics, but I think it’s also consistent with the high quality of our department,” Meier said.