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Language Journalism

I see myself as a language journalist, someone who digs into things linguistic, and who sees events through a language lens. Language at the intersection of science, technology, policy, law, and religion. Here are some of the things I’ve written about (and where they’ve been published):

–the Chinese government’s attempt to promote Mandarin around the world, through supporting education, as a soft projection of their growing power (Wired; Foreign Policy)

–the latest cutting edge researching using speech errors (Science)

–the emergence of a new form of discrimination: language profiling, or discriminating against someone because they “sound” Black, Hispanic, gay, or some other protected class (Legal Affairs)

–a new CIA/FBI project, the National Virtual Translation Center, to use technology to enhance the abilities of foreign language experts in the federal government to do their jobs (Technology Review)

–how governments in Europe and Australia use language analysis to verify the origins of people who are claiming political asylum, many of whom lack documents (Legal Affairs)

–how an argument whether speaking in tongues is Biblical is ripping apart the Southern Baptist Convention (Texas Observer)

–why the US needs a language czar — and how proposed legislation to create such a position doesn’t go far enough (The New Republic)

–a new edition of the survey of the world’s languages, Ethnologue (New York Times)

–a new symbol for the International Phonetic Alphabet (New York Times)

–the bilingual history of Texas (Texas Observer)

–a profile of an “alphabetician to the world,” Michael Everson, who helps minority languages make sure their alphabets can be used in software and on the web (New York Times)

–commentary on language-related topics for Design Observer: Google’s attempts to restrict use of “google” as a verb; the joys of sentence diagramming; languages as information structures

–the work of the “king of closed captions,” Joe Clark (The Atlantic)

In each one of these articles, I set out to advance the story, not tell the usual cliches, and write with a sensitivity to linguistic issues. The goal isn’t to make the reader a linguist; rather, it’s to provide a more mature discourse about language topics — exactly the sort of discourse we desperately need in the US, if we’re going to meet the challenges of a diverse country and a globalized economy.