Dennis Baron

Professor of English and Linguistics

Specialty

Medieval, Philology/Linguistics/Grammar, Teacher Training, Writing Studies

Biography

Dennis Baron teaches and writes about the English language and the technologies of communication. In addition to his scholarly publications, he writes frequently on language and technology issues in the news, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and many other papers; he is regularly consulted by journalists and has appeared on CNN, NPR, the BBC, the Voice of America, and the CBC -- he's even discussed the changing English language on Joan Rivers' radio show. He's interested in language and the law, has consulted in a number of legal cases, and was asked by the Washington, DC, attorney general to write "the Linguists' Brief," presenting a grammatical and semantic analysis of the Second Amendment in the Supreme Court case Heller v. District of Columbia. That amicus brief was cited in oral argument and in both the majority and minority opinions.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • English language history and structure; language legislation and minority language rights; technologies of communication; language and law

Research Description

  • My latest work explores the various links between language and law:

    * how the law makes use of linguistic expertise as well as how judges make meaning as they interpret text; 

    * how laws address language: which aspects of language use are protected and which are not (free speech, use of official or minority languages or varieties) 

    * how laws control language: official language legislation; laws designating the language of the schools, of signage; how laws deal with bi- and multilingualism, problems of official translation, the publication of the laws; censorship and government monitoring of email, social media, mobile phones, and public spaces (red-light cameras, GPS tracking, warrantless surveillance).

    * language as property: trademark and copyright and their alternatives (creative commons licensing), particular in an internet context.

    * regulation of language in the workplace: employer and employee language rights and protections; prescribing and monitoring employee communication

    * forensic linguistics: testimony and interrogation; language analysis to verify source, authorship, and meaning.  

Education

  • Ph.D., Univ. of Michigan (1971); M.A., Columbia Univ. (1968); B.A. Brandeis Univ. (1965)

Distinctions / Awards

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow; Fulbright Fellow (France)

Office Hours

  • Mon, Weds 1-2 pm

Works in Progress

Publications

Books

  • Baron, Dennis. A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. . New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009.
  • Baron, Dennis. Guide to Home Language Repair. . Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1994.
  • Baron, Dennis. Declining Grammar and other essays on the English vocabulary. . Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1992.
  • Baron, Dennis. The English-Only Question: An Official Language for Americans?. . New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1990.
  • Baron, Dennis. Grammar and Gender. . New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1986.
  • Baron, Dennis. Grammar and Good Taste: Reforming the American Language. . New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1982.
  • Baron, Dennis. Going Native: The Regeneration of Saxon English. . Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1982.

Publication Photo

Websites

  • The Web of Language: the go-to site for language in the news. 1 Aug. 2007. <http://bit.ly/weblan>.

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