Linguistics and Documentary filmmaking

Natalie Schilling, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and Member-at-Large of the LSA Executive Committee, was profiled on the Linguistic Society of America website for her participation in a Documentary Filmmakers’ Retreat hosted by the National Academy of Sciences as part of their Science and Entertainment Exchange program.

Natalie was the only linguist in the group of scientists in fields ranging from geology, chemistry, physics, molecular biology, parasitology, neuroscience, bioethics, space systems engineering, virtual reality, communication, marine conservation, rhinoceros preservation, and traffic engineering. Projects of the attending documentarians included films on issues in gender and ethnicity, the interrelation of humans and wild animals, wrongful convictions, nature conservation, and the controversies surrounding GMOs.

Natalie’s presentation was titled ‘The case of the mystery dialect: Applying linguistic science to criminal investigation’. The presentation was positively received, and scientists and documentary filmmakers alike left with new knowledge about linguistics and dialectology, and how the regular patterning of dialect variation can enhance our understandings and make positive real-world differences. In turn, Natalie returned home with renewed inspiration for continuing efforts to bring linguistics to general audiences in engaging and meaningful ways.

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