UNM linguistics professor wins national award


Melissa Axelrod recognized with Linguistic Society of America’s Kenneth Hale Award

UNM Linguistics Professor Melissa Axelrod has received a national award from the Linguistic Society of America for her work studying endangered and extinct languages.

“I was more than a little surprised to receive this award,” Axelrod said.  I am extremely grateful to my supportive colleagues, my brilliant students, and the inspiring and dedicated community language activists and teachers that I have been honored to work with,” she said.

Axelrod’s research focuses on documentation and revitalization of languages in Native American language communities, as well as morphosyntax and semantics in polysynthetic languages. She has worked on community language projects since 1981, beginning with a dictionary and dissertation on Koyukon, an Athabaskan language of central Alaska, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993. She has worked in the Southwest since joining the faculty of UNM in 1995 where she has collaborated with community efforts to provide documentary and pedagogical materials for the Jicarilla Apache, including editing the Dictionary of Jicarilla Apache, which was published by UNM Press in 2007.

Additionally, Axelrod has worked with Plains Apache, Sandia Tiwa, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque Tewa Pueblos.

Since 2001, she also collaborated with the Grupo de Mujeres y Hombres por la Paz on the Ixhil Maya language. Her work has been supported by UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute, the Feminist Research Institute, and the Research Allocations Committee, in addition to the National Science Foundation and its Documenting Endangered Languages program. She received a doctoral degree in linguistics at the University of Colorado – Boulder in 1990.

The award, named for the late linguist Kenneth L. Hale, is presented by the Linguistic Society of America for “documentation of a particular language or family of languages that is endangered or no longer spoken,” according to the society’s website.

Axelrod will receive the award at a ceremony Jan. 7, 2017.