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Linn, Mary S.

Curator of Language and Cultural Vitality

Mary S. Linn is a linguist. Her primary research is in effective grassroots strategies in language reclamation and cultural sustainability, especially in small and minoritized language communities.  Her work focused with people in Native North America, especially Oklahoma, in Europe, and in Tibetan areas of China. She is director of the Language Vitality Initiative that focuses on collaborative language research, training communities in language and cultural documentation, and evaluating impact of grassroots language revitalization efforts. 


Geographic Focus

Background And Education

Education And Training

International Audience Summary Of Expertise

  • Mary S. Linn is Curator of Language and Cultural Vitality at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH). Mary specializes in work with Indigenous communities in North America to sustain and revitalize languages and cultural heritage.

    Mary joined the Smithsonian in 2014. She works in revitalization strategies with Indigenous and minoritized community members, including language and cultural documentation, culturally-based language curriculum, language in the home, survey methods, impact evaluation, and language policy.

    In Mary’s words, “working at Smithsonian on these exciting new language and cultural initiatives will help me affect positive changes that create a more diverse and sustainable world for everyone.” Since coming to the Smithsonian, she co-founded the Sino-Tibetan Language and Linguistics Research Workshop at Nankai University, led the research program Sustaining Minoritised Languages of Europe (SMiLE), and co-curated the 2016 Basque Folklife Festival program. She helps curate the annual Smithsonian Mother Tongue Film Festival. Mary directs the Language Vitality Initiative, part of the Cultural Sustainability Initiative at CFCH.

    Prior to joining the Smithsonian, Mary was the founding curator of Native American Languages at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and associate professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. At the Sam Noble, she co-founded and directed the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair (2003-2014) and the Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop (2010-2014). She was an active member of the Oklahoma Native Language Association from 1996-2006. Mary received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Kansas in 2001.

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Research And Grants


Selected Publications

  • Article

  • Book

    • Jackson, Jason Baird and Linn, Mary S. 2013. Yuchi Folklore: Customary and Expressive Life in a Southeastern Native American Community. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. 2013
  • Chapter

    • Etheridge, Robbie, Blanchard, Jessica, and Linn, Mary S. 2022. "Southeast." In Handbook of North American Indians Volume 1: Introduction. Krupnik, Igor I., editor. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press. In Handbook of North American Indians, 1. 2022
    • Linn, Mary S. 2021. "Conclusion: The Power of Words, Relationships, and Archives." In Indigenous Languages and the Promise of Archives. 489–500. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. 2021
    • Tracy, Hirata-Edds, Linn, Mary S., Berardo, Marcellino, Peter, Lizette, and Sly, Gloria. 2019. "How are Endangered and Sleeping Languages Being Revitalized?" In The Five-Minute Linguist Bite-sized Essays on Language and Languages. 3rd ed. 321–326. Sheffield, United Kingdom: Equinox. 2019
    • Linn, Mary S. 2018. "Reflections on Public Awareness." In Reflections on Language Documentation 20 Years after Himmelmann 1998. McDonnell, Bradley, Berez-Kroeker, Andrea L., and Holton, Gary, editors. 66–74. Honolulu, Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i Press. In Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication, 15. 2018
    • Linn, Mary S. and Oberly, Stacey I. 2016. "Local and Global Dimensions of Language Revitalization in the USA and Canada." In Indigenous Language Revitalization in the Americas. Coronel-Molina, Serafín M. and McCarty, Teresa L., editors. 139–157. New York: Routledge. 2016
    • Linn, Mary S. 2016. "Stories, Yuchi." In A Listening Wind: Native Literature from the Southeast. Haag, Marcia, editor. 139–164. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. In Native Literatures of the Americas and Indigenous World Literature. 2016
  • Dataset

Editor Of

  • Book

    • Linn, Mary S. and Dayán-Fernández, Alejandro, editors. 2014. Agency in the Peripheries of Language Revitalisation:. London, England: Multilingual Matters. 2014
    • Linn, Mary S. and Dayán-Fernández, Alejandro, editors. 2014. Agency in the Peripheries of Language Revitalisation: Examining European Practices on the Ground. London, England: Multilingual Matters. 2014


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