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Faculty in Focus - Shannon Bischoff

Shannon Bischoff, who joined COAS’s Department of English and Linguistics in 2010, specializes in endangered languages and prioritizes working closely with students. His current research projects reflect both of these interests. At present, Bischoff is 1) working student researchers to design and implement a computer program that will allow researchers to study multilingual speakers and 2) developing resources to revitalize endangered languages.

Each year, Bischoff takes a group of IPFW students to CeIBA (Centro para la investigación del bilingüismo y aprendizaje / Center for the study of bilingualism and education) at the University of Puerto Rico to study bilingual Spanish/English speakers. Usually he takes linguistics students, but this year, he will be taking two engineering majors—Max Fowler and David Bohan—and one general studies major—Rachel Abraham—to the research lab. These students worked with Bischoff over the last year developing the Digital Director-Matcher Toolkit, a computer program that will allow researchers to conduct online linguistic and cognitive experiments with multilingual speakers. This “digital toolkit” tests the user’s mental abilities when they are forced to switch between languages. Bischoff and these student researchers modified an unwieldy program, originally created at another university, to create a more user friendly and easily adaptable system. In fall 2014, they will travel to Puerto Rico to install the software and run training sessions on its use. (For more about the digital toolkit development, see the students’ poster presentation from the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium.)

Another project of Bischoff’s is a collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Language Programs office, for which he develops tools for revitalizing endangered languages, focusing primarily on Navajo and Coeur d’Alene. As he explains, “When you lose a language, you lose a culture, and you lose a great deal of knowledge about the world we live in. And so, I’m working with a number of students and colleagues to develop resources. We’ve developed online searchable dictionaries, pedagogical tools, and audio recordings of the languages.” With this research, Bischoff and recent graduate Kayla Mayers (English and linguistics) are writing a paper on developing digital archives for endangered language communities, which they plan to submit for publication. 

Like many professors at IPFW, Bischoff frequently collaborates with students and stresses their importance to his own research. “Students have forced me to evaluate my thinking constantly and have forced me to arrive at conclusions that I would not have arrived at on my own. I see students as collaborators of my own growth.” For information on working with Bischoff, his research, or the linguistics program, contact Bischoff or the department of English and Linguistics.