Mary Lahman earns national general semantics teaching award

Mary LahmanMary Lahman, professor of communication studies at Manchester University, has earned the highest teaching honor in the nation from the Institute of General Semantics.

The Sanford I. Berman Award for Excellence in Teaching General Semantics goes annually to an individual for outstanding use of general semantics formulations in educational settings. It is open to teachers and professors at all levels of education.

Lahman regularly incorporates general semantics in her classes at Manchester and co-taught a general semantics massive open online course last year.

Manchester has a standalone general semantics course, Language and Thought, which was developed by Paul Keller and carried on at the University by Jo Young Switzer  and Marcia Benjamin – all graduates of Manchester, as is Lahman. 

“As a tribute to these fine mentors, who were great scholars and friends, I wrote a textbook called Action & Awareness: A General Semantics Approach to Effective Language Behavior,” Lahman said. It is available as a free download on the IGS website.

The textbook takes a case-study approach, so it includes scenarios generated by recent university students.

“Exploring how language affects our interactions in the classroom, shared living spaces and the workplace help students see how general semantics is not just a theory but a practical approach to delay the way we automatically respond: it is something we must do,” Lahman said. 

She first learned about general semantics in a 1982 Language and Thought class taught by Keller at Manchester. He studied general semantics with Irving Lee at Northwestern University.

“Regardless of the contexts in which we find ourselves, we might communicate more effectively if we explore our daily language behavior,” she said. “A general semantics methodology provides the opportunity to do so.”

The Berman honor includes a cash award of $1,000 and was presented in New York.

Lahman is a 1983 graduate of Manchester University and holds advanced degrees from Miami University of Ohio and Indiana University.

Manchester University, with campuses in North Manchester and Fort Wayne, Ind., offers more than 60 areas of academic study to nearly 1,500 students in undergraduate programs, a Master of Athletic Training and a four-year professional Doctor of Pharmacy.  Learn more about the private, northern Indiana school at

January 27, 2015

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