Western Talks

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) in Linguistics at Western Washington University

In our courses here at Western, we are interested in the ways in which the study of language can provide the tools, the analytical skills, and the historical and cultural context to better understand the ways in which language is used to separate, segregate, and discriminate.  

One way of bringing that work to the attention of the larger community is through Western Talks, a multi-faceted project to raise awareness of linguistic diversity at Western. 

Western Talks Timeline

2018-2019

Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck were awarded the Thaddeus Spratlen and Lois Price-Spratlen Diversity and Inclusion Grant in 2018-19. With this grant, undergraduate students Aron FinholtGrace deMeurisse, and Laura Munger were able to interview WWU students about their language backgrounds and experiences. Finholt and deMeurisse presented their findings at Scholars Week, 2019.

2019-2020

Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck received a Social Justice and Equity Committee Grant in 2019-20. As part of this, students in several linguistics classes examined myths and stereotypes about language, going on to develop public service announcements communicating their findings to a wider audience. Many of the Linguistics PSA Posters displayed around campus spurred backlash, which we responded to by creating even more interactive posters.

2018-Current

Western Talks continues to collect data about the languages of Western students. We hope this work will eventually find its way onto Western’s website on Accessibility, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, which currently makes no reference to language.   

The greater linguistics community is in conversation about ways in which linguistics as a field can become more equitable and just. See the Linguistic Society of America’s Statement on Race and Western's Department of Linguistics Racial Justice Statement

Our department is also engaged in ongoing discussion about equitable and accessible pedagogy and acknowledges the ways in which scholarly teaching can and should be used to promote social justice. The Linguistics Society of America’s Scholarly Teaching in Linguistics continues to inform our practices, as does their webinar series on Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Linguistics Curriculum, as well as readings stemming from that. 

We are also engaged with the University of Michigan’s “Actions People Can Take,” a living document with ideas on how linguists can mitigate harassment and make positive changes within their spheres of influence. 

Our work on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in linguistics is ongoing and dynamic. We are aware that there is still work to be done and that we all have much to learn. Please contact us at linguistics@wwu.edu with any comments or feedback.  

Grace deMeurisse and Aron Finholt pose with academic poster at Scholars Week 2019.

Grace deMeurisse, left, and Aron Finholt presented their paper "Linguistics Diversity at WWU" at Scholars Week, 2019.

A poster with the definition of the word "dialect"

"Dialect" poster created by WWU student Emily Hillman as a part of Western Talks.