David Bowie


I’m an associate professor in the English Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. I’ve been here since 2009, and before that I was on the faculty at the University of Central Florida and Brigham Young University. Both my doctorate and my bachelor’s are in linguistics, which actually makes me somewhat of a rarity in my field—there are few enough undergraduate programs in linguistics around that most academic linguists didn’t actually start there.

I’m a sociolinguist, and so my research focuses on the way that people don’t always say the same thing the same way, and I use mostly quantitative methods to try to explain what it is about the contexts in which people speak that leads to these differences in behavior. Or, to make it a bit more concrete, an example I use with my students: Imagine that you wanted to complain about a class I was teaching. (I know, I know, it’s completely unrealistic—but just imagine.) Now imagine you were complaining about my class to a bunch of friends over pizza and beer at half past midnight on a Friday night. You’d use certain words, certain sentence structures, even certain pronunciations as you were doing this.

But now imagine that you were making the exact same complaints, but talking to me in my office during office hours. Well, the words would certainly be different, but so would the sentence structures and even the pronunciations.

That’s what I work with—trying to figure out what the connection is between context and linguistic form.

I am also a font snob who goes against the grain by deploring the use of sans serif fonts for body text (and who considers them at best marginal for headings, too, except maybe for interesting ones like Optima), and so I’m actively trying to figure out a hack for making this page show up with something better. (Book Antiqua, at the very least!)

(And the avatar? It’s a spiny-backed orb-weaver—sometimes called a spiny crab spider, though that’s an imprecise name—that lived on my porch in Florida one summer.)


Very simply: To develop online versions of History of the English Language (ENGL A476) and Introduction to Language (LING A101). The first stage is done, in that I’ve taught each of them that way now, but they still need to be polished quite a bit.



Time time time time time time time time!

Well, that and the way that Blackboard’s gradebook “functions” in ways that are almost, but not quite, useful.


At this point, I think I actually have a pretty good presence in my online courses (especially History of English). Even better, I’ve accomplished this with a minimum of bells and whistles and glitzy videos for the sake of keeping students “entertained”.

Reflection (year 2)

As year two winds down: My online courses are better now, though still not perfect. Things I still want to do that I know how to do face-to-face but haven’t yet figured out online are things like getting grading done more efficiently,* bringing my research into the class, and connecting students’ experiences in my classes with their experiences in other classes.

* Seriously—could grading in Blackboard be any less pleasant? I mean, I’m sure they could figure out a way, but now I understand why so many online courses use multiple choice tests and discussion board posts and nothing else as assessments. Grading the same problem set for one of my online classes takes—and I’ve checked this, this is real—two and a half times longer than grading problem sets turned in on paper for a face-to-face class. You’d think grading would be considered a core part of the whole teaching process and therefore be made as simple as possible, but no, Blackboard, Inc. is more interested in providing us exciting things like “mashups” that don’t really do anything other than provide glitzy distractions. </rant>

The original text!

The original placeholder text on this site must be preserved, at least partially, so:

Biscuit lemon drops icing soufflé sweet. I love fruitcake cookie tiramisu bear claw donut muffin jelly-o. Cupcake chupa chups powder bonbon tart. Jelly beans pastry pudding gummi bears I love. Oat cake icing jelly beans I love toffee apple pie marshmallow gummies. Liquorice donut applicake brownie. Carrot cake sesame snaps fruitcake ice cream. I love dragée powder powder pie I love I love I love carrot cake.

Actually, carrot cake icing is wonderful, but having to eat carrot cake in order to get it is pretty good proof that Satan is real, and lives among the bakers.




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