Edward Finegan

Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Law
Email Finegan@USC.edu Office GFS 302A Office Phone (213) 740-3876


Ed Finegan began his career teaching mathematics on Long Island. He then taught English and English linguistics at Ohio University and those and humanities at Case Western Reserve University while completing his Ph.D. He joined the USC faculty in 1968 and later served as founding chair of USC’s Linguistics Department. In 1975 and 1976, he directed a USC English-language teaching project for National Iranian Radio and Television in Tehran. Besides a focus on discourse analysis and the discourses of law, his research addresses language variation and English usage, including their treatment in dictionaries. He has contributed chapters on usage and grammar to the Cambridge History of the English Language and on North American English to A History of the English Language (Cambridge). He is author of Attitudes toward English Usage: The History of a War of Words (Teachers College Press, Columbia University) and co-editor of Language in the USA (Cambridge University Press) and of Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register (Oxford University Press). His introductory textbook Language: Its Structure and Use, 7th edition (Wadsworth/Cengage) will be published in 2014. He served as founding general editor of “Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics” and on the editorial boards of the journals American Speech, Discourse Processes, English Language and Linguistics, and Corpora. He is a member of the advisory board of USC’s Kortschak Center and the Dictionary Society of North America’s delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies. He is president of the International Association of Forensic Linguists. Principally concerning linguistic aspects of contract interpretation, defamation, and trademark, he has consulted for scores of law firms in more than a dozen states, as well as for the offices of the Federal Public Defender and the California Attorney General. He served three times as president of the USC chapter of Phi Kappa Phi and for two years as co-president of USC’s Lambda Alumni Association. He is the recipient of USC’s Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching and has been twice honored by Dornsife College with the Albert S. Raubenheimer Distinguished Faculty Award. Since 2011 he has served as director of USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and, starting in 2014, serves as editor of Dictionaries: The Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America.


  • Ph.D. , Ohio University, 1968
  • M.A. , Ohio University, 1964
  • B.S. , Iona College, 1962
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor of Linguistics and Law, University of Southern California, 09/1996 –

    Visiting and Temporary Appointments

    • American Dialect Society Professor of Linguistics, Stanford University, 06/2007-07/2007
    • Visiting Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara, 06/2001-08/2001
    • Visiting Professor of English, University of Zurich,
    • Language Learning Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence, Universidad de las Americas-Puebla, 10/1995
    • Fellow in Law and Linguistics, Harvard University Law School, 1988-1989
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Finegan researches language variation and change, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and corpus linguistics. With long-standing interests in language attitudes and language in the public domain, his current research projects include investigation of the relationship between register variation and social dialect variation and of the history of attitudes toward language correctness.

    Also a professor at USC’s Law School, Professor Finegan specializes in legal writing and serves as a consultant to many publishing houses and law firms.

  • Book

    • Finegan, E. (2014). Language: Its Structure and Use, 7th edition. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage.
    • Edward Finegan and John R. Rickford (Ed.). (2004). Language in the USA: Themes for the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    • Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., Finegan, E. (1999). Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow, Essex: Longman.
    • Douglas Biber and Edward Finegan (Ed.). (1994). Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book Chapters

    • Finegan, E. (2009). “English” In: The World’s Major Languages, 2nd ed. pp. 59-85. London/New York: Routledge.
    • Finegan, E. (2006). “English in North America”. pp. 384-419. Cambridge, UK: A History of the English Language/Cambridge University Press.
    • Finegan, E. (2005). “The Possibilities and Limits of Corpus Linguistic Description/Möglichkeiten und Grenzen korpuslinguistischer Beschreibung” In: Sociolinguistics/Soziolinguistik: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society/Ein Internationales Handbuch Zur Wissenschaft Von Sprache Und Gesellschaft. 2nd. pp. 1095-1103. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
    • Finegan, E. (2001). “Usage” In: English in North America, The Cambridge History of the English Language 6. (Vol. 6) pp. 358-421. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Finegan, E., Biber, D. (2001). “Register Variation and Social Dialect Variation: The Register Axiom,” In: Style and Sociolinguistic Variation, Penelope Eckert and John R. Rickford, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2001. pp. 235-67. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Finegan, E. (1998). “English Grammar and Usage” In: Cambridge History of the English Language 4. (Vol. 4) pp. 536-588. Cambridge.

    Book Review

    • Finegan, E. (2012). Review of “Cunning Passages, Contrived Corridors”: Unexpected Essays in the History of Lexicography, ed. Michael Adams. Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. pp. 259-265.
    • Finegan, E. (2009). Practical Lexicography: A Reader, ed. by Thierry Fontenelle. Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. pp. 136-139.

    Encyclopedia Article

    • Finegan, E. (2003). “English” In: Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. (William Frawley, Ed.).2nd.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Journal Article

    • Finegan, E. (2009). Expert linguists and the whole truth. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law. Vol. XVI
    • Phi Kappa Phi Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009-2010
    • USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, , 2003-2004
    • USC or School/Dept Award for Teaching, General Education Teaching Award, 2000-2001
    • Phi Kappa Phi Diploma of Honor, 1997-1998
    • USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, , 1980-1981
    • USC Associates Award For Excellence In Teaching, , 1979-1980
  • Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Editor, Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America”, 2014 –
    • Editorial Board Member, Corpora”, 2004 – 2010
    • Member, Editorial Board, Journal of English Language and Linguistics”, 1996 – 2006
    • General Editor, Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics”, 1988 – 2002
    • Member, Editorial Board, Discourse Processes”, 1983 – 2002
    • Member, Editorial Board, American Speech”, 1985 – 1988

    Professional Memberships

    • Dictionary Society of North America, 01/1998 –
    • International Association of Forensic Linguists, 01/1998 –
    • American Dialect Society, 01/1964 –
    • International Linguistics Association, 01/1964 –
    • Linguistic Society of America, 01/1964 –

    Professional Offices

    • President, International Association of Forensic Linguists”, 2012-2015
    • Delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies, Dictionary Society of North America”, 2010-2015
    • Vice-president, International Association of Forensic Linguists”, 2010-2013
    • Member, Executive Board, Dictionary Society of North America”, 2006-2011

    Media, Alumni, and Community Relations

    • Co-President, USC Lambda Alumni Association,