Jeff Heath, University of Michigan
The other thing was that my old man was a high school English teacher. When you are the child of an English teacher, you are going to have your grammar corrected on a daily basis from about the age of six. ("Bill and me are going downtown." "Bill and WHO?") Now I correct HIS grammar. Maybe that was the real reason I became a linguist--a Hamletesque mix of filial emulation and revenge.
I have studied and done fieldwork on many languages. At first the choices were accidental: taking Arabic instead of Chinese in college because I had nocturnal roommates and couldn't get up at 9 AM; encountering a Choctaw in New Hampshire and being invited to visit his community; getting a phone call out of the blue with a 3-year post-doc fellowship opportunity in Australia). After finishing up my Australian publications, I worked on several overlapping projects in Maghrebi Arabic, and since 1990 my fieldwork has been in northern Mali, working systematically from north (=Sahara desert) to south (Sahel), one language at a time. I prefer working on languages, and in regions, that other linguists haven't touched. My old man was also a baseball coach, and (as a spray hitter with no power) I learned early on to "hit 'em where they ain't."