Teaming, Researching, Publishing, Building Community

Shelome Gooden had a busy 2022, and she is already looking forward to new challenges. A professor in the Department of Linguistics in the Dietrich School, she also works within Pitt Research as assistant vice chancellor for research in the humanities, arts, social sciences and related fields. In January, Gooden  became co-editor of Language, the flagship journal of the Linguistic Society of America, which publishes peer-reviewed articles exploring linguistic theory and a wide range of subfields of linguistics.

“It feels like a homecoming to have the journal at Pitt,” Gooden says. Former Language editor Sarah Thomason was a linguistics professor at Pitt from 1972 to 1999 and served as editor from 1988 to 1994. In addition to being the second woman from Pitt, Gooden is the first woman of color to serve as editor.

At the same time as the Language announcement, Gooden was a guest editor of a special issue of the journal Language and Speech, as well as co-author of the lead article “Sociolectal and Dialectal Variation in Prosody,” and co-author of another paper in the issue with a former Pitt linguistics graduate.

Gooden belies the myth that tenured faculty with administrative responsibilities become less productive researchers. The key, she says, is teaming.

“I remain an active part of a team of scholars,” she says. “That is how humanities research is often produced and knowledge created, and we communicate that knowledge by publication. I’m always a scholar and I must maintain a balance between being an administrator and being a scholar.”

Her most ambitious 2022 team project was the publication of the book, Social and Structural Aspects of Language Contact and Change, edited along with Bettina Migge of University College Dublin. A native speaker of Jamaican Creole, Gooden describes herself as a “Creolist and sociolinguist by trade,” with language contact and change at the heart of her scholarly work.

The book features contributions from scholars from United States, Canada and Europe, as well as the University of the West Indies, a point of pride for Gooden, who earned her BA in Linguistics at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. An expert on language contact and the intersections that have created pidgin and Creole languages, her many conference presentations include the Society for Caribbean Linguistics.

The book was published by the open-source Language Science Press, which meant that Gooden was responsible for much of the typesetting. She trained herself on the LaTeX software system using Overleaf, and also worked with Pitt undergraduate students to prepare the document.

“Shelome embodies Pitt’s ambitions for humanities research,” says Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research. “Her work to create and communicate knowledge is valuable in a unique way that would be unlikely in science and engineering. She helps develop and further the kind of insight and respect for a human phenomenon, like a person’s accent, and the stories those phenomena tell.”

What’s next? The roadmap Gooden described for Language sums up her ongoing mission.

“Linguistic scholarship truly lives and thrives in a community that includes a wider representation of languages and voices,” Gooden says. “I’m working to advance scientific study while broadly engaging a demographically diverse community, supporting and advancing fields of knowledge from a broader perspective and including a more diverse range of scholars and language varieties.”