Barbara Gordon Memorial Lecture Series: Dr. Lisa Green

By: Dayana Soler

The Department of English hosted its annual Barbara Gordon Memorial Lecture Series, bringing in students, faculty and staff for a keynote address on current research in linguistics.

Former Florida State Senator Jack Gordon established the Lecture Series in honor of his wife, Dr. Barbara Gordon, in 1984. Dr. Gordon specialized in several linguistic fields including psycholinguistics, applied linguistics and educational linguistics. Previous speakers have included Lise Menn’s analysis of cross-linguistic aphasia and Fred Genessee’s research concerning the benefits of bilingualism.

The Department of English was proud to host Dr. Lisa Green, one of the leading authorities on the linguistic structure of African American English and founding director of The Center for the Study of African American Language at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. Green discussed in her lecture the abstract and rule-governed nature of African American English. For example, in AAE, the sentence, “The eggs be soft” does not correspond to the mainstream American English sentence, “The eggs are soft,” but instead expresses a particular meaning of a habitual state. In mainstream American English, this would be expressed as, “The eggs are usually soft.” The usage of “be” in AAE is not “incorrect” or “lacking” – it expresses a particular meaning that is not conveyed by its counterpart in mainstream English.

As part of the lecture, the linguistics program’s graduate teaching assistants hosted a table talk, where students had an opportunity to ask Dr. Green about her work experience and gain valuable advice about the field.

Each year, exceptional students are awarded with the Henry Truby Prize for Graduate Studies, established by the family of Dr. Truby, a Miami linguist who published over 250 articles in linguistics. This year’s winners were Gabriel Seiglie and Kimone Hyman.

Gabriel Seiglie and Dr. Ellen Thompson contributed to this article.