Linguists who work on AAL

On this page, we highlight Black linguists who have contributed to the study of African American Language in the United States. Some have worked on AAL in the variationist sociolinguistic paradigm, while others focus on educational or psycholinguistic questions. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. At the bottom of the page, we include an In Memoriam section.

If you have a suggestion for an addition, or if you are on this list and want to be removed, please contact us at

H. Samy Alim

David O. Sears Presidential Endowed Chair and Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

April Baker-Bell

Associate Professor of Language, Literacy, and English Education, Department of English, Michigan State University

Arnetha Ball

Charles E. Ducommun Endowed Professor (Emerita), Graduate School of Education, Stanford University

John Baugh

Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis

Renée Blake

Associate Professor of Linguistics and Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University

Jennifer Bloomquist

Associate Provost for Faculty Development, Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs, Professor, Gettysburg College

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Dominique Branson

Soros Justice Fellow with The Open Society Foundations, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Point Park University

Erica Britt

Associate Teaching Professor, Emory University

Kendra Calhoun

Assistant Professor of Linguistic Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Dominique Canning

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Linguistics, University of Michigan

Anne Charity Hudley

Professor of Education, Stanford University

Tracy Conner

Assistant Professor, School of Communication, Northwestern University

Charles DeBose

Professor Emeritus, Department of English, Cal State East Bay

Michel DeGraff

Professor of Linguistics, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Walter F. Edwards

Professor of Linguistics, Director of Humanities Center, Wayne State University

Sabriya Fisher

Diana Chapman Walsh Assistant Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Wellesley College

Shivonne Gates

Akiemi Glenn

Executive Director, The Pōpolo Project

Shelome Gooden

Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Pittsburgh

Lisa Green

Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Jessi Grieser

Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Michigan

Shenika Hankerson

Assistant Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, University of Maryland

Joseph Hill

Associate Professor, Department of ASL and Interpreting Education, Rochester Institute of Technology

Nicole Holliday

Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, Pomona College

Yolanda Holt

Associate Professor, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, East Carolina University

Tiffany M. Jones

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, William Rainey Harper College

Sharese King

Neubauer Family Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, The University of Chicago

Sonja Lanehart

Professor of Linguistics, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Arizona

Qiuana Lopez

Assistant Project Specialist, University of California, Santa Barbara

Zion Mengesha

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

John H. McWhorter

Associate Professor, Slavic Department, Columbia University

Carolyn McCaskill

Professor, Department of ASL and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University

deandre a. miles-hercules

Ph.D. Student, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara

David Mitchell

Assistant Professor, Department of English, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Claudia Mitchell-Kernan

Professor Emerita, Department of African American Studies, Princeton University

Simanique Moody

Marcyliena Morgan

Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Professor of African and African American Studies, Executive Director of the HipHop Archive and Research Institute, Harvard University

Salikoko Mufwene

Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago

Jamaal Muwwakkil

Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles

Monica Nesbitt

Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, Indiana University

Brandi Newkirk-Turner

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Communicative Disorders, Jacksonville State University

Django Paris

James A. & Cherry A. Banks Professor of Multicultural Education, College of Education, University of Washington

Staci Perryman-Clark

Associate Professor of English, Department of English, Western Michigan University

Sarah Phillips

Postdoctoral Scholar, Georgetown University Medical Center

Jaylen Pittman

Ph.D. Student, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University

Mackenzie Price

Director, Anti-Bias Initiatives, Dotdash Meredith

Minnie Quartey

Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington DC

Jacquelyn Rahman

Elaine Richardson

Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, The Ohio State University

Angela E. Rickford

Professor, Special Education, San Jose State University

John Rickford

J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Emeritus, Stanford University

Harry Seymour

Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Massachusetts

Nandi Sims

Assistant Professor, Stanford University

Walter Sistrunk

Assistant Professor, Education and Language Acquisition Department, LaGuardia Community College

Hiram Smith

Associate Professor of Spanish, Bucknell University

Geneva Smitherman

University Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of English, Michigan State University

Arthur K. Spears

Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology, The City University of New York

Ida Stockman

Emeritus Faculty, Department of Communicative Sciences & Disorders, Michigan State University

J. Michael Terry

Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nicole Patton Terry

Olive & Manuel Bordas Professor of Education, School of Teacher Education, Florida State University

Jamie A. Thomas

Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Santa Monica College

Denise Troutman

Associate Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, Department of Linguistics and Languages, Michigan State University

Julie A. Washington

Professor, School of Education, University of California, Irvine

Alicia Beckford Wassink

Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Washington

Rachel Elizabeth Weissler

Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon

Tracey Weldon

Vice President of Executive Search, Greenwood Asher & Associates

Bonnie J. Williams-Farrier

Associate Professor, Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics, California State University, Fullerton

Kelly Elizabeth Wright

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of English, Virginia Tech University

Mary Zeigler

Associate Professor of English Language and Linguistics, English Department, Georgia State University


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William Edward Farrison (1902 - 1985)

Dr. Farrison completed his Ph.D. in linguistics at the Ohio State Univerity in 1936, with his dissertation, The phonology of the illiterate Negro dialect of Guilford County, North Carolina, available here. He taught at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (1926-1928), West Virginia State (1928-1931), Bennett College (1932-1939), and North Carolina Central University (1939-1970), where he retired. He published numerous articles on the English language, speech, and literature of African Americans, including the definitive biography of William Wells Brown.

Jerrie C. Scott (1944 - 2017)

Dr. Scott completed her Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Michigan. She authored numerous books and articles, and founded the National African American Read-In. See Sawubona (“I see you”), Jerrie: Continuing the Legacy of the African American Read-In on the National Council of Teachers of English blog, written by Dr. Stephanie Power-Carter and Dr. David E. Kirkland.

Gary Simpkins (1943 - 2009)

Dr. Simpkins completed his Ed.D. at the University of Massachusetts in 1976. He was one of the creators of the BRIDGE program, and published about language, reading and education among African American children. See Word: The Online Journal on African American English's page dedicated to Dr. Simpkins.

Orlando Taylor (1936 - 2024)

Dr. Taylor completed his Ph.D. in education at the University of Michigan. Most recently, Dr. Taylor was appointed Distinguished Senior Advisor to the President of Fielding Graduate University. In 2004, he was interviewed by The History Makers, the Nation's Largest African American Video Oral History Collection. Dr. Taylor made important contributions to several lines of research including language acquisition, communication disorders, Black English, and children's educational performance and testing bias. Please visit Fielding Graduate University's announcement here.

Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890 - 1972)

Dr. Turner completed his Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Chicago. Check out the Linguistic Society of America's Tribute to Lorenzo Dow Turner. Also check out Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis's (2007) biography, Lorenzo Dow Turner, Father of Gullah Studies. Recentlty, the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans digitized some of Dr. Turner's Field Recordings with help from the Council on Library and Information Resources. More information is available here, and you can stream the audio via Soundcloud.

Fay Vaughn-Cooke (1947 - 2010)

Professor, University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Dr. Vaughn-Cooke received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1976, with her dissertation, The Implementation of a Phonological Change: The Case of Resyllabification in Black English. She went on to work on speech language pathology and language acquisition in the speech of African American children in Washington DC.

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Margaret Wade-Lewis (1945 - 2009)

Dr. Wade-Lewis was a historian of African American linguists, and served as the Department Chair and Associate Professor of Linguistics and Literature in the Department of Black Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She was the first African American woman to receive her Ph.D. in linguistics from NYU (1988).

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Mark Hanna Watkins (1903 - 1976)

Dr. Watkins was a University of Chicago trained linguist whose dissertation was a descriptive grammar of Chichewa (a Bantu language). In 2018, Dr. Arthur K. Spears  wrote about Dr. Watkins for the Linguistics Society of America for Black History Month. You can find that article here. While Dr. Watkins did not work on the speech of African Americans, we want to celebrate his contributions to linguistics as the first African American to receive his PhD in linguistics in the United States.

Darnell Williams (1944 - 2021)

Dr. Williams was the former Dean of Social Sciences and Education at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. His 1973 dissertation, An investigation of possible Gullah survivals in the speech and cultural patterns of Black Mississippians, focused on the social and linguistic lives of Black Mississippians. He was also active in assisting smaller African American colleges in preparing for accreditation

Robert Lee Williams II (1930 - 2020)

Dr. Williams was Professor Emeritus of Psychology and African and Afro-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. A prolific psychologist, Dr. Williams is perhaps best known in linguistic circles for coining the term Ebonics to refer to the speech of African Americans in 1973. In 2018, Patricia Griffin interviewed Dr. Williams for the Arkansas Association of Black Psychologists Oral History Project, the audio is available on the Central Arkansas Library System.

Juanita Williamson (1917 - 1993)

Dr. Williamson was a Professor of English and Chair of the Humanities at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee. She was well known in the fields of linguistics, education, and reading, but readers here might be most familiar with her dissertation and subsequent 1968 monograph for the Publication of the American Dialect Society, A Phonological and Morphological Study of the Speech of the Negro of Memphis, Tennessee. For more information about Dr. Williamson, see her Women of Achievement write up.

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Charlie Farrington, February 2024