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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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  • To request an interview for a
    news story, call AU Communications
    at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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

Baron spent the 2007-2008 academic year gathering data on university student use of (and attitudes towards) mobile phones in Sweden, the US, Italy, Japan, and Korea. Findings from the study appear in the themed section Baron edited of an issue of New Media & Society (2010), in the Danish journal Language at Work, and in the forthcoming book Cultures of Participation.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Honored by the University of Maine at Augusta as keynote speaker launching their 2010-2011 academic theme of "Communications in the 21st Century." Baron's book Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World serves as the common text for many courses and campus events during the fall year (Fall 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
  • 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, Fortune Magazine, and Wired.

Work In Progress

  • A comparison of reading onscreen and in hard copy.

Selected Publications

  • 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-Holland, 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
  • "Control Freaks: How Online and Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Contact," Issue 7.  [Read More]
  • “Cross-Cultural Patterns in Mobile Phone Use: Public Space and Reachability in Sweden, the USA, and Japan” (with Ylva Hård af Segerstad), to appear in New Media & Society, 2010. [PDF file]
  • "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 file]
  • “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 file]
  • "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 file]
  • "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 file]
  • "Text Messaging and IM: Linguistic Comparisons of American College Data" (with Rich Ling), Journal of Language and Social Psychology 26: 291-298, 2007. [PDF file]
  • "Killing the Word by Snippets," LA Times, Op-Ed, November 28, 2005. [PDF file]
  • "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 file]
  • "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 file]
  • "The Written Turn," English Language and Linguistics 9:359-376, 2005. [PDF file]
  • "Who Wants to be a Discipline?" The Information Society 21(4):1-3, 2005. [PDF file].
  • "See You Online: Gender Issues in College Student Use of Instant Messaging," Journal of Language and Social Psychology 23:397-423, 2004. [PDF file]
  • “Language of the Internet,” in Ali    Farghali, ed. The Stanford Handbook for Language Engineers. Stanford: CSLI Publications, pp. 59-127, 2003. [PDF file]
  •  “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 file]
  • “Who Sets Email Style: Prescriptivism, Coping Strategies, and Democratizing Communication Access,” The Information Society 18:403-413, 2002. [PDF file]
  • "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]
Manuscripts in Progress
  • "The Dark Side of Mobile Phones" [PDF file]
  • "Talking Takes Too Long: Gender and Cultural Patterns in Mobile Telephony" (with Elise Campbell) [PDF file]

Professional Presentations

Selected Invited Presentations
  • Keynote Address, Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (Washington, DC) (March 2011)
  • Invited Lecture, Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ) (April 2010)
  • Invited Lecture, Oxford Internet Institute (Oxford, UK) (November 2009)
  • Plenary Address, University of Washington, Language in the (New) Media Conference (September 2009)
  • Invited Lecture, NASA (Greenbelt, MD), Goddard’s Exploring Leadership Colloquium Series (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 (Albany, NY), President’s Day Opening Convocation (August 2007)
  • Keynote Address, Loft Literary Center (Minneapolis, MN), Conference on "Reading and Writing the Future” (April 2007)
  • Plenary Address, Universitat Jaume I (Castellon, Spain), First International Conference on Internet and Language (September 2003)
Selected Lectures with PowerPoint/PDF
  • "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 file]
  • "Control Freaks: How Online and Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Contact,” Language in New Media: Technologies & Ideologies, September 3-6 (2009). [PDF slides]
  • “Talk about Texting: Attitudes towards Mobile Phones”, London Workshop on Writing, University of London, November 28 (2009). [PDF file]
  • "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 file]
  • 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 file]
  • "'Whatever': Is the Internet Destroying Language?," Oslo, Norway October 5 (2007). [PDF file]
  • "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 file]
  • "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
To request an interview please call AU Media Relations at 202-885-5950 or submit an interview request form.

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