Julie Sedivy is a hybrid academic and writer who is obsessed with language in all its facets.
On her way to a conventional writing career she was sidelined by taking a linguistics course, which introduced her to the scientific study of language. This proved too much to resist. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Rochester, where she was involved in pioneering research using eye movements to study spoken language comprehension. She subsequently joined the faculty at Brown University for twelve years, and has published more than thirty scientific articles on language and the mind.
But on her way to a conventional academic career a funny thing happened: she indulged in some non-academic writing, and this, too, proved too much to resist. She now spends much of her time writing for general audiences, often on themes relating to language. Her most recent book is Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self, in which she blends memoir and science writing to explore themes of language loss, multilingualism, migration, and personal identity. She is also the lead author of the popular science book Sold on Language: How Advertisers Talk to You and What This Says About You, and has written for publications such as Nautilus, Scientific American, Discover, and the popular blog Language Log.
She is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Calgary, where she is affiliated with the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures, and Cultures. She is the author of the popular undergraduate textbook Language in Mind: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics in which she links psycholinguistic research to beatboxing, legal investigations, scenes from Mad Men, and other ordinary and extraordinary uses of language. The second edition of this textbook was released in January, 2020 and in a few short years, she will be chained to her desk once more to turn out a third edition.
In addition to writing for general audiences, she works with scientist authors to help make their work accessible and riveting to non-scientist readers, offering workshops and editing services.
Veering off into purely literary terrain, Julie is the co-editor (with Rona Altrows) of the recent book Waiting: An Anthology of Essays, in which writers explore how we are revealed and shaped by what happens in those inevitable periods of suspended time. She is currently working on a book of lyrical essays to be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In her spare time, she conducts language experiments with poetry.
Julie is an active member of the literary scene in Calgary, Alberta, and can often be found at local readings, sometimes on stage. She has served as a board member and president of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and is a fervent advocate of artistic and intellectual pursuits at large. Still a believer in civic engagement and civil discourse, she founded and leads a public book club called How Can You Think That?!? in which liberals and conservatives come together to read about discuss each other’s values and perspectives.
Julie has made numerous appearances as a media commentator on CBC and NPR. She occasionally rents out her brain and expertise as a consultant to commercial and non-profit entities. If she really likes you, she might dispense bursts of knowledge or advice for free.