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Naomi S. Baron Nondegree Graduate-CAS

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

Naomi Baron’s research interests include language and technology, reading, first language acquisition, the relationship between speech and writing, the history and structure of English, and higher education. A former Guggenheim Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, Fulbright Specialist, and Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, she has published eight 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. Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World appeared in 2015. Her newest book, How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen, and Audio, will be published in early 2021.

Baron taught at Brown University, Emory University, and Southwestern University before coming to American University, where she served in the College of Arts and Sciences 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. For six years, she was executive director of the university’s Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning. She has taught or been a visiting scholar at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), the University of Stavanger (Norway), the University of Zurich (Switzerland), and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy).

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, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New Yorker, Fortune, and Time.

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
    Editorial Board

  • Language@Internet
    Editorial Board

  • Language Sciences
    Editorial Board

  • Visible Language
    Editorial Board

  • Writing Systems Research
    Editorial Board

  • Mobile Media & Communication
    Editorial Board

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Baron’s current research examines the impact of technology on what it means to read. She recently surveyed more than 400 university students in the US, Japan, Germany, Slovakia, and India on their practices and attitudes regarding reading in print versus on digital screens. Her next research project will be analyzing changing patterns in the amount and type of reading assigned in university courses, along with investigating how much students are “doing the reading.”

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Betty T. Bennett Faculty Scholar-Administrator Award, CAS, American University (2013)
  • Visiting Scholar, Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, (2012-2013)
  • 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 served as the common text for many courses and campus events during the full 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)


  • 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)

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).
  • "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).
  • "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)
  • Gresham's Ghost: The Future of Written Culture," Plenary Address, Swiss Association of University Teachers of English, Biannual Conference, Zurich, Switzerland, May 4 (2007).
  • "'Whatever': Is the Internet Destroying Language?," Oslo, Norway October 5 (2007).
  • "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).
  • "Language Under the Radar: Redefining Spoken and Written Discourse", Sixth International Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, Chicago, IL, October 6-9 (2005).
  • 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).

Selected Publications


  • Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Nicholas Carr called the book "essential for educators, parents, and everyone who loves to read."
  • 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, 2010.
  • “Cross-Cultural Patterns in Mobile Phone Use: Public Space and Reachability in Sweden, the USA, and Japan.” New Media & Society 12(1): 13-34, 2010 (co-authored with Ylva Hård af Segerstad).
  • "Discourse Structures in Instant Messaging: The Case of Utterance Breaks," Language@Internet 7, 2010.
  • "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.
  • “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.
  • "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.
  • "Emerging Patterns of American Mobile Phone Use: Electronically-Mediated Communication in Transition" in Gerard Goggin and Larisa Hjorth, eds., Mobile Media 2007. Proceedings of an International Conference, University of Sydney, July 2-4, Chapter 23, 2007 (co-authored with Rich Ling).
  • "Text Messaging and IM: Linguistic Comparisons of American College Data" Journal of Language and Social Psychology 26: 291-298, 2007 (co-authored with Rich Ling).
  • "Killing the Word by Snippets," LA Times, Op-Ed, November 28, 2005.
  • "Tethered or Mobile? Use of Away Messages in Instant Messaging by American College Students," in R. Ling and P. Pederson, eds. Mobile Communications: Re-Negotiation of the Social Sphere. Springer-Verlag, pp. 293-311, 2005 (co-authored with Lauren Squires, Sara Tench, and Marshall Thompson).
  • "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.
  • "The Written Turn," English Language and Linguistics 9:359-376, 2005.
  • "Who Wants to be a Discipline?" The Information Society 21(4):1-3, 2005.
  • "See You Online: Gender Issues in College Student Use of Instant Messaging," Journal of Language and Social Psychology 23:397-423, 2004.
  • “Language of the Internet,” in Ali Farghali, ed. The Stanford Handbook for Language Engineers. Stanford: CSLI Publications, pp. 59-127, 2003.
  •  “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.
  • “Who Sets Email Style: Prescriptivism, Coping Strategies, and Democratizing Communication Access,” The Information Society 18:403-413, 2002.
  • "Letters by Phone or Speech by Other Means: The Linguistics of Email," Language and Communication 18:133-170, 1998.

Manuscripts in Progress

  • "The Dark Side of Mobile Phones"
  • "Talking Takes Too Long: Gender and Cultural Patterns in Mobile Telephony" (with Elise Campbell)


Media Appearances

Selected Television & Radio Interviews

  • CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) "Sunday Edition," discussion of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World (December 2015)
  • BBC Radio 4 "Word of Mouth," discussion of Words Onscreen (September 2015)
  • NBC Today Show, on addiction to mobile phones (May 2015)
  • This Way Up (Radio New Zealand), discussion of Words Onscreen (April 2015)
  • BBC Radio 4, Digital Human Series, "Voice and Text in the Digital World" (April 2014)
  • C-SPAN Book TV, interviewed on Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World (aired March 2013)
  • Radio West (Australia), on the effects of new technologies on language (May 2012)
  • NPR "On Point," on surge in text messaging 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)
  • WAMU “Diane Rehm Show”, on Always On (July 2008)
  • BBC World Service News Hour, on mobile phone etiquette (October 2007)
  • CBC Radio One "The Current", on the 25th anniversary of emoticons (September 2007)
  • 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)  
  • WAMU “Kojo Nnamdi Show”, on the future of English as a world language (July 2003)  
  • Voice of America, on language and the internet (March 2002)  
  • ABC “Good Morning America”, 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, The Atlantic, the New Republic, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Canadian Globe and Mail, BBC/PRI The World, the Economist, the Congressional Quarterly Researcher, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Time magazine, Newsweek, Fortune, Slate, Huffington Post, Mashable, Gizmodo, and Wired.

Work In Progress

  • A comparison of reading onscreen and in hard copy.