Geoffrey Nunberg

This is my new website; my old Berkeley home page is here.

I’m  a linguist and an adjunct full professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Information.  

My linguistics research includes work in semantics and pragmatics, text classification, normative grammar, and written-language structure.  I also work and write on the social and cultural implications of new technologies. For more on my academic activities, visit my home page at the iSchool.

I do a regular feature on language on NPR’s Fresh Air, and I’ve written on language, technology, culture, and politics for publications including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the American Prospect, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Atlantic. I’m the emeritus chair of the American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel. I sometimes blog at LanguageLog.


My new book Ascent of the A-Word was released in August by PublicAffairs.

Here’s an excerpt at Salon.

A slide show at Huffington Post—excuse the witless headings.

Do Jerks Make Better Leaders,” at the Washington Post “On Leadership” pages

Exhibit A-Word,” the Los Angeles Times, Sept. 22.

And here are  pieces of some early notices:

We are taught that there is no such thing as a Theory of Everything, and that we should beware of anyone nutty enough to claim that you can reduce reality to its gist with one handy explanation-philosophy-catchphrase. But now comes Geoffrey Nunberg with Ascent of the A-Word, a marvelous book that explains so much so well that it’s tempting, really really tempting, to claim that Nunberg has explained everything….a ceaselessly entertaining book. —“The Beauty of the Indispensable Vulgarity,” Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast 

A delightfully and devilishly trenchant and provocative book…  Nunberg dissects his subject with style and surgical precision. —Glenn C. Altschuler, San Francisco Chronicle

An engaging blend of linguistics, analysis, and social commentary that breaks down the important place the word “asshole” occupies in our language and culture… Nunberg makes an entertaining and thought-provoking case for the importance and power of a “dirty” word. —Publishers Weekly

[An] often raucously funny account of what seems to be America’s most popular insult…. The nearly universally understood qualities of an asshole—self-delusion, arrogance, thoughtlessness, pretentiousness, egotism and an exaggerated sense of entitlement—become a kind of catalyst for the author to enact a broad critique of contemporary public discourse and behavior. A witty and politically charged analysis of a potent obscenity in its modern and contemporary context. —Kirkus Reviews

The author … undertakes a serious examination of not just the word, but also the concept surrounding it (known as assholism, a type of behavior with, it seems, pretty clear markers)…. An intelligent and wide-ranging study of linguistics, ideas, and social trends. —Booklist

The book is a satisfying blend of great scholarship, wit, and splendid logic.  It is a joy from start to finish, and the reviewers agree…. I get piles of books every year about bullies, jerks, toxic workplaces, and on and on. Although this isn’t a workplace book, it is the best book I have ever read that is vaguely related to the topic. —Work Matters blog of Bob Sutton of the Stanford Business School, author of The No Asshole Rule

Some more reviews here.