What’s the good word?

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Diana Boxer

Diana Boxer

Professor of Linguistics
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

When Diana Boxer heard Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff referred to as a schmoozer, she knew she had to set the record straight.

After all, who better than a linguist to salvage the tarnished reputation of a great word?

“Nobody denies that schmoozing is at the heart of lobbying, but the term has acquired a bad rap and this latest ethics debacle is a nail in the coffin for what used to mean something positive,” she said in a Jan. 30 guest commentary on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

Boxer, who recently stepped down as director of the UF Linguistics Program after five years of service, is currently writing a book “The Lost Art of the Good Schmooze: Building Rapport and Defusing Conflict in Everyday Talk.” The project is just one of many for the sociolinguist whose work focuses on face-to-face interaction and gender and language.

Boxer has authored “Applying Sociolinguistics: Domains and Face-to-Face Interaction” and “Complaining and Commiserating: A Speech Act View of Solidarity in Spoken American English,” in addition to co-editing “Studying Speaking to Inform Second Language Learning.” One of her recent projects on surnames and the modern woman found that a growing number of brides are returning to tradition when taking a man’s hand in marriage, adopting their husband’s last name instead of keeping their own. The results were published in the journal Women and Language.

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Boxer said she “grew up in a swirl of languages.” As an undergraduate she majored in Spanish and went on to become a public school teacher before returning to graduate school to study second language acquisition. After receiving her master’s degree at Boston University, she became interested in sociolinguistics and had the opportunity to study with some of the early scholars in the field, including Dell Hymes. She received her doctorate in educational linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and began teaching at UF in 1992

Boxer was a Fulbright Scholar at the Catholic University of Paraguay in 1999 and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy in 2004. She is a member of the Linguistics Society of America, American Association of Applied Linguistics, International Association of Applied Linguistics and International Pragmatics Association.

“UF has nurtured my talents-as a teacher, scholar, and administrator,” Boxer said. “I have had the opportunity to do all three in-depth here, and I feel appreciated for what I’ve had to offer.”

Photo credit: Ray Carson — University Photography

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