Sarah Thomason

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Sally Thomason

Bernard Bloch Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics

Office Location(s): 413 Lorch Hall
Phone: 734.615.2018

  • Fields of Study
    • Historical linguistics
    • Language contact
    • Pidgins and creoles
    • Native American languages
  • About

    Sarah (Sally) Thomason is the Bernard Bloch Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics. Her research specialties include historical linguistics and language contact, with a focus on principles of contact-induced language change and contact language genesis (pidgins, creoles, and bilingual mixed languages).  She also specializes in Salish-Pend d'Oreille (Montana Salish) linguistics; she has spent every summer since 1981 working with elders to prepare a dictionary and text collection of the language.  In her (rare) spare time she has fun debunking linguistic pseudoscience.

    Professor Thomason teaches Historical Linguistics once a year and other courses less regularly, e.g. Language and History, Field Methods, a seminar on Salish-Pend d'Oreille Linguistics, Language Contact, a seminar on Endangered Languages, and Language in a Multicultural World. She has chaired or co-chaired six Ph.D. dissertation committees in the past seven years: four on specific indigenous languages of North America (1), MesoAmerica (2), and South America (1); one on Cantonese-English code-mixing in Hong Kong; and one on computational historical linguistics. In the same period she has directed eight undergraduate honors theses, on such topics as Salish-Pend d'Oreille structure and history (3 theses), multilingual discourse used by staff in a Japanese restaurant, and loanwords in Wolof.  In 2009 she was President of the Linguistic Society of America; in 2000 she was President of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. She has taught at five LSA Linguistic Institutes; she was the Collitz Professor at the University of Illinois Institute in 1999, and most recently she taught a course on Language Contact at the 2013 Institute in Ann Arbor. She was editor of the LSA's journal Language, 1988-1994, and chair of the Linguistics & Language Sciences section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996.

  • Education
    • Ph.D., Yale University, 1968
  • Selected Publications:
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Book Chapters