Justin Spence

Justin Spence

Position Title
Associate Professor

2423 Hart Hall

Assistant Professor
2423 Hart Hall
jspence at ucdavis.edu

Download Justin Spence's c.v.

Research Interests:

My research focuses on three main areas of interest: Native American languages (especially Hupa and the other Pacific Coast Athabaskan languages), language documentation, and historical linguistics. Some of my work invokes both traditional and more recent computational historical-comparative methods to investigate the historical relationships obtaining between the Pacific Coast Athabaskan languages and the rest of the Athabaskan language family. I also explore more recent diachronic developments due to language contact over the past century and a half: contact involving Pacific Coast Athabaskan languages and English that ultimately led to their current precarious status as well as the mutual influence of Athabaskan languages and dialects on one another as populations were resettled in mixed communities in the wake of the colonial encounter. To the extent that it is recoverable from various kinds of historical and ethnographic documentation, my research also seeks to shed light on the social dynamics underpinning contact-induced changes in this period, addressing broader questions in the study of linguistic change in small, non-industrial societies, where social categories such as "race" and "class," and demographic factors such as asymmetries in population size and density, are inadequate to explain the diffusion of linguistic features across populations.

This research is based on careful examination of the entire documentary record of Pacific Coast Athabaskan, including new data collected in collaboration with one of the remaining fluent first-language speakers of Hupa. Over the past several years, I've become increasingly interested in the role that archival data can play in linguistic research and language revitalization. What are the strengths and limitations of even the best archival sources of linguistic material? How can aggregations of such information be made maximally accessible and useful to academic and heritage language communities alike? These questions seem especially germane given the current attention given in the field of linguistics to language documentation and the creation of large corpora of audiovisual recordings (like this online dictionary and text corpus of Hupa that I maintain). I am excited to be affiliated with the Native American Language Center here at UC Davis, where I will have the opportunity to contribute to the J.P. Harrington Database Project that for many years has been leading the way in addressing these difficult questions.

I am also firmly committed to the idea that linguistics, the field where I received my training, must be responsive to heritage language communities' efforts towards language reclamation and revitalization. I cannot pretend to have found any foolproof ways of doing this and consider it an open question what academic linguistic research has to contribute to such goals. Nonetheless, I look forward to continuing to find creative ways to bridge the gap between academic research and revitalization programs by focusing on projects that meet the needs of all stakeholder groups.

Selected Publications:

Spence, Justin. 2013. Dialect Contact, Convergence, and Maintenance in Oregon Athabaskan. In Sylak-Glassman and Spence (2013), 279-310.

Spence, Justin. 2013. Review of "California Indian Languages" by Victor GollaInternational Journal of American Linguistics 79(3):439-441.

Spence, Justin. 2013. Language Change, Contact, and Koineization in Pacific Coast Athabaskan. Ph.D. dissertation, UC Berkeley.

Spence, Justin. 2014. Code Switching and Mixed Language Genesis in Tiwi. In Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, edited by Kayla Carpenter, Oana David, Florian Lionnet, Christine Sheil, Tammy Stark, and Vivian Wauters, 448-464. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Spence, Justin. 2016. The Phylogenetic Status of Pacific Coast Athabaskan: A Computational Assessment. In Proceedings of the Thirty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, edited by Matthew Faytak et al., 259-272. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Spence, Justin. 2016. Lexical Innovation and Variation in Hupa (Athabaskan)International Journal of American Linguistics 82(1): 72-93.

Spence, Justin. In press. Rehabilitating Goddard: Amerindian Philology in Hupa Text Corpus Development. In Proceedings of the 2016 Dene Languages Conference.

Spence, Justin. In press. Review of "Yuki Grammar, with Sketches of Huchnom and Coast Yuki" by Uldis Balodis. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology.

Spence, Justin. In press. Learning Languages through Archives. In The Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization, edited by Leanne Hinton, Leena Huss, and Gerald Roche.

Sylak-Glassman, John and Justin Spence, eds. 2013. Language Structure and Language Contact in North and South America. Reports of the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, vol. 15. Berkeley, CA: Survey of California and Other Indian Languages.


Courses in 2017-2018:

NAS 010, Native American Experience (Fall 2017)
NAS 107, Special Topics in Native American Languages (Winter 2018)
NAS 202, Advanced Topics in Native American Studies, "Advanced Language Study" (Spring 2018)

Other Undergraduate Courses:

LIN 150, Languages of the World (Fall 2014)
Freshman Seminar, "Spread the Word: Digital Resources for Indigenous Languages" (with Lewis Lawyer, Fall 2014)
NAS 191, Special Topics in Native American Studies, "Indigenous and Minority Languages" (Fall 2015)
NAS 007, Indigenous and Minority Languages (Fall 2016)
NAS 108, Indigenous Languages of California (Fall 2016)

Other Graduate Courses:

NAS 202, Advanced Topics in Native American Studies, "Language Contact in Native North America" (Winter 2014)
NAS 207, Leadership Skills and Strategies in California Language Documentation and Revitalization (Spring 2015)
NAS 202, Advanced Topics in Native American Studies, "Athabaskan Languages" (Spring 2016)

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