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Naomi Baron

Executive Director, Center for Teaching, Research and Learning
World Languages and Cultures

  • Professor Baron is interested in electronically-mediated communication, writing and technology, the history of English, and higher education. A former Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Fellow, she has published seven books. Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World won the English-Speaking Union’s Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Award for 2008. Her new book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, will be out in early 2015.

    Professor Baron taught at Brown University, Emory University, and Southwestern University before coming to AU, where she has served in CAS as associate dean for undergraduate affairs, associate dean for curriculum and faculty development, chair of the Department of Language and Foreign Studies, and Director of the TESOL Program. She was named University Honors Program Professor of the Year and received an AU Presidential Research Fellowship.

    Professor Baron has appeared extensively in the media, including interviews on Good Morning America, ABC News 20/20, CNN, The Diane Rehm Show, All Things Considered, the BBC, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, New Yorker, Fortune, and Time.
  • Degrees

    Ph.D Linguistics, Stanford University
    B.A. English and American Literature, Brandeis University

  • Centr Teach Research Learning
  • Hurst - 212

  • (202) 885-2455 (Office)
  • (202) 885-3586 (Fax)
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Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

    Editorial Board

  • Language@Internet

    Editorial Board

  • Language Sciences

    Editorial Board

  • Mobile Communication Research Annual

    Editorial Board

  • Visible Language

    Editorial Board

  • Writing Systems Research

    Editorial Board

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

  • linguistics analysis of electronically-mediated communication
  • reading onscreen versus hard copy
  • effects of internet connectivity on social communication, thinking, and personla well-being
  • history and structure of English
  • writing systems
  • higher education

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Visiting Scholar, Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavorial Sciences (2012-2013)
  • Betty T. Benett Faculty Scholar-Administrator award, American University (2013)
  • honored by the University of Maine at Augusta as they launched their 2010-2011 academic theme of "Communications in the 21st Century" (campus-wide address; book Always On used as common text for course, events) (2010)
  • English-Speaking Union's Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Award (Winter 2008) for Always On
  • Fulbright Fellow, Sweden (Fall 2007)
  • American University Presidential Research Fellow (AY 2007-2008)
  • "Professor of the Year," AU University Honors Program (2006)
  • English-Speaking Union's Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Award competition (2000), Alphabet to Email "Highly Commended"
  • President, Zeta of Washington Chapter (American University), Phi Beta Kappa (1998-2000)   
  • President, Semiotic Society of America (1987)
  • Guggenheim Fellow (1984-1985)

Media Appearances

Selected Television & Radio Interviews
  • BBC Radio 4, Digital Human series "Voice and Text in the Digital World" (2014)
  • "Radio Times" (WHYY Philadelphia-NPR), on reading onscreen versus in print (2014)
  • C-SPAN Book TV, interviewd on Always On (2013)
  • NPR "On Point," on surge in text mssaging in the US (October 2010) 
  • Voice of America, on effects of new media on social isolation (September 2010)
  • Chronicle of Higher Education, "Tech Therapy," on how technology is affecting university campuses (September 2010)
  • Internet Evolution, on new media and language (July 2010)
  • Fox5, on text messaging while walking or driving (November 2009) 
  • PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, on the social networking phenomenon Twitter (July 2009)
  • “Diane Rehm Show”, WAMU, on Always On (July 2008)
  • CBC Radio (“Definitely Not the Opera”), on use of code words and shorthand in language (February 2007) 
  • Fox 5, on effect of instant messaging and text messaging on school writing (March 2007)
  • CBC Radio One (“The Current”), on the 25th anniversary of emoticons (September 2007) 
  • BBC World Service News Hour, on mobile phone etiquette (October 2007)
  • ABC News 20/20, on instant messaging use by teenagers and young adults (November 2004)  
  • “Kojo Nnamdi Show”, WAMU, on the future of English as a world language (July 2003)  
  • “Voice of America”, on language and the internet (March 2002)  
  • “Good Morning America”, ABC, on Growing Up with Language (July 1992)
Selected Print and Online Interviews

Professor Baron has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Canadian Globe and Mail, the Economist, the Congressional Quarterly Researcher, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Time magazine, Newsweek, Slate, The Atlantic, Fortune Magazine, and Wired.

Work In Progress

  • Cross-cultural study of reading habits of university students
  • Analysis of communication woth social robots

Selected Publications

  • Words Onscreeen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. New York: Oxford University Press. (in Press)
  • Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. New York: Oxford University Press. (2008) William Safire (New York Times, May 25) called the book “My choice for the most influential and seminal language book of the year”.
  • Alphabet to Email: How Written Language Evolved and Where It’s Heading. London: Routledge. (2000)
  • Growing Up with Language: How Children Learn to Talk. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. (1992)
  • Pigeon-Birds and Rhyming Words: The Role of Parents in Language Learning. Center for Applied Linguistics/Prentice Hall Regents. (1990)
  • Computer Languages: A Guide for the Perplexed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. (1986)
  • Speech, Writing, and Sign. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. (1981)
  • Language Acquisition and Historical Change. Amsterdam: North-Hollan. (1977)
Edited Journal Issues
  • Mobile Phones in Cross-Cultural Context: Sweden, Estonia, the USA, and Japan (editor), themed section of New Media & Society 12 (1). (2010)
  • Theory and Methodology in Semiotics (editor, with Nikhil Bhattacharya), special issue of Semiotica 26 3/4. (1979)
Selected Articles and Book Chapters
  • "How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities". Point of View, Chronicle of Higher Education. (in Press) [PDF]
  • "Shall We Talk? Conversing with Humans and Robots", The Information Society. (In Press) [PDF]
  • “Does Mobile Matter: The Case of One-Off Reading”, in Gerard Goggin and Larissa Hjorth, eds., The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media. New York: Routledge, pp. 225-235. (2014) [PDF]
  • “Reading in Print versus Onscreen: Better, Worse, or About the Same”, in Deborah Tannen and Ann Marie Trester, eds., Discourse 2.0: Language and New Media. Georgetown University Press, pp. 201-224. (2014 ) [PDF]
  • “Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media”, PMLA 128 (1): 193-200. (2013) [PDF]
  • “Do Mobile Technologies Reshape Speaking, Writing, and Reading?”, Mobile Media and Communication 1(1): 134-140. (2013)
  • “Gender and Mobile Phones in Cross-National Context” (with Elise Campbell), Language Sciences 34(1): 13-27. (2012) [PDF]
  • “Lessons from Venice: Authenticity, Emotions, and ICTs”, in Satomi Sugiyama and Jane Vincent, eds., Social Robots and Emotion: Transcending the Boundary between Humans and ICTSs, Intervalle 1. (2013) Available at http://www.fc.edu/intervalla/
  • "The Impact of Electronically-Mediated Communication on Language Standards and Style”, in Terttu Nevalainen and Elizabeth Closs Traugott, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the History of English. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 329-340. (2012) [PDF]
  • “Concerns about Mobile Phones: A Cross-National Study”, First Monday, Vol. 16, no. 8, August 1. (2011). Available at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3335/3032
  • “Necessary Smileys and Useless Periods: Redefining Punctuation in Electronically-Mediated Communication” (with Rich Ling), Visible Language 45:45-67. (2011) [PDF]
  • “Control Freaks: How Online and Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Contact”, Language at Work 7. (2010) [PDF]
  • “Cross-Cultural Patterns in Mobile Phone Use: Public Space and Reachability in Sweden, the USA, and Japan” (with Ylva Hård af Segerstad), New Media & Society 12(1):13-34. (2010) [PDF]
  • "Discourse Structures in Instant Messaging: The Case of Utterance Breaks," Language@Internet 7 (2010). [Read more]
  • "Three Words about Mobile Phones: Cross-Cultural Findings from Sweden, the US, Italy, Japan, and Korea," Proceedings of the COST Action 298 Conference, "The Good, the Bad, and the Challenging: The User and the Future of Information and Communication Technologies," Copenhagen, May 13-15, 2009. [PDF]
  • “The Myth of Impoverished Signal: Dispelling the Spoken Language Fallacy for Emoticons in Online Communication,” in Jane Vincent and Leopoldina Fortunati, eds., Emotion and ICTs. London: Peter Lang (2009) [PDF]
  • "Adjusting the Volume: Technology and Multitasking in Discourse Control," in James E. Katz, ed., Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 177-193. (2008) [PDF]
  • "Emerging Patterns of American Mobile Phone Use: Electronically-Mediated Communication in Transition" (with Rich Ling), in Gerard Goggin and Larisa Hjorth, eds., Mobile Media 2007. Proceedings of an International Conference, University of Sydney, July 2-4, Chapter 23. (2007) [PDF]
  • "Text Messaging and IM: Linguistic Comparisons of American College Data" (with Rich Ling), Journal of Language and Social Psychology 26: 291-298. (2007) [PDF]
  • "Killing the Word by Snippets," LA Times, Op-Ed, November 28. (2005) [PDF]
  • "Tethered or Mobile? Use of Away Messages in Instant Messaging by American College Students" (with Lauren Squires, Sara Tench, and Marshall Thompson), in R. Ling and P. Pederson, eds. Mobile Communications: Re-Negotiation of the Social Sphere. Springer-Verlag, pp. 293-311. (2005) [PDF]
  • "The Future of Written Culture," Ibérica, Journal of the European Association of Languages for Specific Purposes. (Special Issue, Santiago Posteguillo, ed.) 9:7-31. (2005) [PDF]
  • "The Written Turn," English Language and Linguistics 9:359-376. (2005) [PDF]
  • "Who Wants to be a Discipline?" The Information Society 21(4):1-3 (2005) [PDF].
  • "See You Online: Gender Issues in College Student Use of Instant Messaging," Journal of Language and Social Psychology 23:397-423. (2004) [PDF]
  • “Language of the Internet,” in Ali    Farghali, ed. The Stanford Handbook for Language Engineers. Stanford: CSLI Publications, pp. 59-127. (2003) [PDF]
  •  “Why Email Looks Like Speech: Proofreading, Pedagogy, and Public Face,” in Jean Aitchison and Diana Lewis, eds., New Media Language. London: Routledge, pp. 102-113. (2003) [PDF]
  • “Who Sets Email Style: Prescriptivism, Coping Strategies, and Democratizing Communication Access,” The Information Society 18:403-413. (2002) [PDF]
  • "Letters by Phone or Speech by Other Means: The Linguistics of Email," Language and Communication 18:133-170. (1998) [PDF file 1] [PDF file 2] [PDF file 3]
  • "Computer Mediated Communication as a Force in Language Change"; Vol 18:118-141. (1984) [PDF]

Professional Presentations

Selected Invited Presentations
  • Keynote Address, International Conference on Internet language: Communication in a Global World, Braga, Portugual, June 17 (2014)
  • Keynote Address, Workshop on Social Robotics and its Sustainability, EU COST Workshop, Brussels, June10-13 (2013)
  • Invited lecture, International Conference on Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden, October 22-23 (2013)
  • Keynote Address, Workshop on Combining Print wiht Digitial Media, EU COST Action FP1104, Ljubljana, Slovenia, November 4-5 (2013)
  • Keynote Address, International Mobile Communication Research Workshop, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, March 29 (2012)
  • Keynote Address, VII Jornada de Estudos de Linguagem da UERJ, Universidad do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 7 (2012)
  • Keynote Address, Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics, Washington, DC, March (2011)
  • Invited Lecture, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford, November (2009)
  • Plenary Address, Language in the (New) Media Conference, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, September (2009)
  • Invited Lecture, NASA, Goddard’s Exploring Leadership Colloquium Series, Greenbelt, MD, April (2009)
  • Invited Lecture,
  • Plenary Address, Swiss Association of University Teachers of English, Biannual Conference, Zurich, Switzerland, May (2007)
  • Keynote Address, College of Saint Rose, President’s Day Opening Convocation, Albany, NY, August (2007)
  • Keynote Address, Loft Literary Center, Conference on "Reading and Writing the Future”, Minneapolis, MN, April (2007)
  • Plenary Address, Universitat Jaume I, First International Conference on Internet and Language, Castellon, Spain, September (2003)
Selected Lectures with PowerPoint/PDF
  • "Who Likes eBooks?" COST FP1104, Ljubljana, Slovenia, November 4-5 (2013) [PDF slides]
  • "How Green is Your Course: The Battle of Teaching versus Trees," Eleventh International Conference, Association of Internet Researchers, Gothenburg, Sweden, October 21-23 (2010). [PDF]
  • “Talk about Texting: Attitudes towards Mobile Phones”, London Workshop on Writing, University of London, UK, November 28 (2009). [PDF]
  • "Text, Talk, or View: The Role of Control, Culture, and Cost in Using  ICTs”, International Conference on The Role of New Technologies in Global Societies: Theoretical Reflections, Practical Concerns, and Its Implications for China, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, July 30-31 (2008) [PDF]
  • "Gresham's Ghost: The Future of Written Culture", Plenary Address, Swiss Association of University Teachers of English, Biannual Conference, Zurich, Switzerland, May 4 (2007). [PDF]
  • "'Whatever': Is the Internet Destroying Language?," Oslo, Norway, October 5 (2007). [PDF]
  • "My Best Day: Presentation of Self and Social Manipulation in Facebook and Instant Messaging", Eighth International Conference, Association of Internet Researchers, Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18-20 (2007). [PDF]
  • "Language Under the Radar: Redefining Spoken and Written Discourse", Sixth International Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, Chicago, IL, October 6-9 (2005). [PDF slides]
  • "You Are What They Post: Identity Construction on the Internet”, Fifth International Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, University of Sussex, UK, September 19-22 (2004). [PDF slides]


  • Children Learning Language: How Adults Can Help (with Louise Schrank), co-scripted and appeared in 24 minute video (The Learning Seed)
  • Oral Traditions: The Printed Word and Democracy, scripted and appeared in 10 minute segment on the history of writing for one-hour documentary (Library of Congress Global Literacy Project)

AU Expert

Area of Expertise: Mobile phones; reading print versus onscreen; e-mail, instant messaging, and text messaging; relationship between spoken and written language; history of English; general linguistics; higher education

Additional Information: Naomi Baron is a professor of linguistics in the Department of Language and Foreign Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is the author of seven books, including Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World; Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolved and Where It's Heading; Growing Up with Language: How Children Learn to Talk; and Computer Languages: A Guide for the Perplexed. Always On was winner of the 2008 English-Speaking Union's Duke of Edinburgh English Language Award Competition. The late William Safire described Always On as his choice for "most influential and seminal language book of the year.”

Among Baron’s areas of research are the role of technology in shaping language and the structure of English. During fall 2007, Baron was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. She has recently completed a cross-cultural study of mobile phone use in Sweden, the United States, Italy, Japan, and Korea. Her current research is on differences between reading print and reading onscreen. Among her media appearances, Baron has been on ABC's Good Morning America and 20/20, CNN, PBS's News Hour, National Public Radio, BBC Radio, CBC Radio, and Voice of America. She has also been interviewed by such newspapers as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Economist, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe.

Media Relations
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