Journals: John Benjamins is Giving Away 5 One-Year Subscriptions…Donate Today to Win!

Dear LINGUIST List Readers:

It’s Friday, everyone, and we are wrapping up the week with a prize donated by John Benjamins. John Benjamins is giving away 5 one-year subscriptions. Five of you can be the lucky winners of the linguistic journal of your choice from John Benjamins’ catalogue. For a full listing of John Benjamins current linguistic journals, see here:

http://goo.gl/lvCacl

Valued anywhere between €105 and €424, a one-year journal subscription can be yours for a minimum donation of $50 USD. Donate before midnight tomorrow (March 28, 11:59 EST), and enter to your name into the drawing. You can donate at the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

Can’t afford to donate $50? If you donate any amount before midnight on Sunday, you will entitled to a 20% off promotional code to the ISD Language and Linguistics book catalogue, which has up to 4000 linguistic titles.

We do our best to provide you with a free service that benefits the entire linguistic community, but we cannot do it without your help. If you have already donated or cannot afford to donate at this time, you can help by spreading the word about our publisher prize giveaways and other Fund Drive activities (like and share on social media, or just plain old-fashioned word-of-mouth). We appreciate all of your support!

Have a wonderful weekend and good luck!

Sincerely,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (March 2015-1)

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell

 

My journey to becoming a linguist was a circuitous one, taking me first through music, into engineering, then back to music, and finally landing in linguistics. I suppose it began when I was nine years old and I got my first (toy) drum kit for Christmas. I really took to playing the drums, and two years later I got my first real drum set. In high school in Dearborn, Michigan (U.S.), I enjoyed most subjects, but math and science were the ones that came most naturally for me. So, not knowing what else to do, I applied to and then enrolled in the nearby College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. In the meantime, a few friends and I had formed a band, and we began writing music and playing live shows in Detroit and Chicago, inspired by the blissed-out shoegazer rock coming out of England at the time.

At the age of twenty, I realized that I didn’t really want to become an engineer. I had caught the travel bug, and after an eye-opening cross-country road trip to California, I bought my first motorcycle and a tent, and I rode out to San Francisco for a fresh start. Some former bandmates followed shortly after, and we formed a new band, Transient Waves. We built a budget recording studio in our basement, and recorded our first album. This obviously didn’t pay the rent, or anything else for that matter, so I supported myself by waiting tables in restaurants and working in coffee shops. I became friends with many coworkers from Mexico and Central America, and to keep our minds stimulated while cooking and serving pasta in North Beach, we began teaching each other our native languages. That was where my interest in language began.

Several years later, and after two more albums in two more cities, Virginia Beach and Philadelphia, I returned to Michigan. I missed the excitement of the university setting, but not knowing what I wanted to study, I opted to sample many topics in the local Washtenaw Community College, from philosophy, to history, to auto mechanics. What grabbed my interest most was Spanish language and literature. I wanted to build upon my restaurant Spanish and learn the nuts and bolts of how the grammar worked and how it differed from Iberia to Mexico to Argentina, and how it differed from English. With this in mind, I re-enrolled at the University of Michigan and declared a Spanish major.

Since I enjoyed exploring Spanish grammar so much, I took some introductory linguistics courses, and I knew pretty quickly that that was my primary field. One of those first classes was Language and History, inspiringly taught by Bill Baxter. In that class I thought for the first time that I wanted to be a professor some day. A short while later, Sally Thomason allowed me to enroll in her graduate class in historical linguistics. In that class I decided I was going to go to graduate school in linguistics. Sally also connected me with some of her graduate students, and I was a research assistant for Nancy Pérez, making lexical databases of Matlatzinca and Ocuilteco, Otomanguean languages of Mexico, from colonial era and modern sources.

I applied to graduate schools, and I was most drawn to the University of Texas, where there is a vibrant community of faculty and students documenting and researching indigenous languages of Latin America, including speakers of such languages. In my application, my numbers were good, but my statements were relatively weak because I only had a vague idea that I wanted to do historical linguistics and perhaps work on Mayan Hieroglyphic writing. Fortunately, Texas took a chance on me, and near the end of my first year in the program, Hilaria and Emiliana Cruz, graduate students and speakers of San Juan Quiahije Chatino, another Otomanguean language of Oaxaca, Mexico, invited me join their Chatino Language Documentation Project, along with Tony Woodbury. Thus, my initial linguistic research was done in collaboration with native speakers and community members, and that will always remain an important part of my work.

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (March 2015-2)

Chatino Language Documentation Project members in Oaxaca City, April 2008 Left to right: Alma Delia Cruz Candelario, Eric Campbell, Emiliana Cruz, Gabriel Cruz Peralta, Tranquilino Cavero Ramírez, Tony Woodbury, Hilaria Cruz, Margarita González Hernández

 

The Chatino group proposed that I work on the divergent, outlying, and little-studied Chatino variety of Zenzontepec. What a great opportunity this was, so I accepted the invitation and made preliminary plans to travel with them to Mexico in the summer of 2007. I learned that Terry Kaufman and John Justeson had included the language in their lexicographic Project for the Documentation of the Languages of Mesoamerica (PDLMA), so I contacted Terry to see what further plans he had, if any, regarding the language. I was surprised and thrilled when that communication turned into an invitation to join the PDLMA and take over the work on the Zenzontepec Chatino lexical database that Troi Carleton had begun, pending an interview with Kaufman and Justeson over tacos during the next Maya Meetings in Austin, and assisted by recommendations from Nora England, Tony Woodbury, and Sally Thomason.

Making a dictionary isn’t typically the way one starts working on a new language, but it suited me well for several reasons. First of all, I’m interested in all levels of linguistic structure and how all of the pieces fit together. To create and check entries in the database I had to first figure out the basics of the segmental phonology, some morphology, basic syntax to identify grammatical classes, how the lexicon is organized into semantic domains, and ethnographic and cultural information associated with the forms. Second, I learned a lot about the language, and about Mesoamerica in general, during that first summer, and I had plenty of data for my M.A. thesis, an analysis of the morphology and phonology of verbal aspect/mood inflection. I didn’t break through the tone system until the second summer. Finally, and importantly, I formed a bond that will last forever with Tranquilino Cavero Ramírez, the Chatino speaker hired by the PDLMA to work with me.

In my third year of graduate school, I was awarded a documentation grant from the ELDP, and began assembling a small team of native speakers to record a corpus of varied genres of language-in-use in the community. With this support, Tranquilino Cavero Ramírez, Flor Cruz Ortiz and I transcribed, translated, and archived the texts, and from these and supplementary data, I am writing a grammar of Zenzontepec Chatino.

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (March 2015-3)

Esteban Ruíz Ramírez speaking to Eric Campbell and Tranquilino Cavero Ramírez about traditional plant medicine in El Jicaral, Zenzontepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, Feb. 2010

 

Since 2012, during the summers I have been involved in workshops for speakers of Otomanguean languages, in coordination with a team of linguists from Mexico and the U.S. It is an exciting time in Oaxaca because there is a growing support for this kind of work and a growing interest in learning linguistics on the part of community members. Unfortunately, many of the languages are endangered, but many still have young speakers. These speakers have some skills in digital technologies now, and because of this there is great opportunity to enhance the maintenance and understanding of these languages.

Now, I’m (very pleased to be!) back in California. I’m in my first year as a faculty member in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s an invigorating intellectual environment where people approach language from various perspectives that all share a focus on understanding language in use, in almost every corner of the globe. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where in this story I became a linguist, but at some point these experiences all shaped me into a person who seeks to understand how languages work, how people use them, how they got to be the way they are, how they are similar to one another, and how they differ. Finally, a crucial factor to my becoming a linguist has been the enduring support of my parents and my wife, without whom I never would have made it through graduate school or gotten here.

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2015 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List really needs your support!

 

Books: Win a Copy of Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages from De Gruyter Mouton

Dear LINGUIST List Readers:

Today, our publisher prize giveaway has been donated by De Gruyter Mouton. If you donate today, you get the chance to win one copy of Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages (your choice of a hardcover or ePUB version), edited by Patrick Heinrich, Shinsho Miyara, and Michinori Shimoji.

If you are interested in historical linguistics and genetic classification, endangered languages and language revitalization, language documentation, or Japonic and Ryukyuan linguistics, this is the book for you. You can read the full description of the book here:

http://goo.gl/VrKyTc

Valued at $419 USD (or 299 €), it can be yours for a minimum donation of $50! If you donate $50 before midnight tomorrow (26 March 2015, 11:59 EST), your name will be entered to win this invaluable linguistic handbook. You can donate to LINGUIST List at this link:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

Also, don’t forget that if you donate this week, you will be eligible for a 20% off promotional code for ISD!

Thanks and good luck!

Sincerely,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Introducing a Special All-Week Giveaway from ISD, Distributor of Scholarly Books

Dear LINGUIST List Readers:

Happy Monday, everyone! Today, we are introducing an all-week giveaway donated by ISD, Distributor of Scholarly Books. Anyone who donates this week will receive a 20%-off promotional code for all titles with subject category “Language and Linguistics” on the ISD website. You can view their catalogue here:

https://goo.gl/Dg1hsL

This promotional code will last for one month after the end of this week.

Also, do not forget that if you donate, until April 16th, you are eligible to win a 20%-off promotional code to any Routledge book, and one donor will be entered to win an additional $100 off Routledge books.

Please spread the word about these great prizes and don’t forget to donate! You can donate here:

https://goo.gl/e656LG

Thank you all for your support!

Best wishes,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson (The University of British Columbia)

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson (Mar 2015-2)

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson

 

Tēnā koutou katoa – K’alhwá7al’ap – Simgigyat, sigidim haanaḵ’, ͟ganhl k’uba wilxsihlxw – Greetings to all of you! The first of these greetings is in Māori, reflecting my New Zealand heritage. It literally means something like ‘You all plural.’ The second is in St’át’imcets, the Salish language I have been working on since 1992, and literally says something like ‘You plural are apparently there.’ The third is in Gitksan, the Tsimshianic language I have been working on since 2010. However, Gitksan doesn’t really do greetings. To a friend, informally, one could just say ‘Nit! – literally the third person independent series 3 pronoun. But the words above are a traditional way to begin a speech, and translate as ‘Male chiefs, female chiefs, princes and princesses.’

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson

Rather than telling my story in chronological order, I’d like to start with what happened to me just last Friday. I am currently researching discourse particles in Gitksan, and I was trying to test my hypothesis that the particle ist is used whenever the speaker is fully answering the current Question Under Discussion. In order to test this – following up on a suggestion by Norvin Richards – I was asking my consultant whether Gitksan versions of discourses like the following sound good, with ist in the second utterance:

A: I don’t want to know whether Bob came to the feast.
B: He came.

My consultant decided to teach me about his language that day by using the metaphor of how the passed-away Gitksan people would react. The really bad discourses had them spinning in their graves. Not-so-bad ones had them turning halfway; for some, they would just twitch their toes, and for the ones that were actually good, they rested peacefully. This may sound gruesome (and I felt bad that I was torturing them so much!), but he assured me it was just a metaphor and all in fun.

That, right there, is why I’m a fieldworker. I actually get paid to have this much fun.

As for how I got to be this lucky and have this amazing job, it began, I think, with my high school German teacher, Wilma McMillan. She was maybe not viewed as ‘cool’ by teenagers, but I loved her. She played with the language unrelentingly, and German class was never boring. I will never, ever forget that Nacht ‘night’ is a feminine noun, because Frau McMillan told us it was obvious: What do men think about at night? Women! (With my adult brain, I know that this is not only sexist but heterosexist. But still, I’ll never forget the gender of Nacht.) Similarly her explanation of the hard-to-translate word gespannt (anxious/excited, but not quite either of those) involved much enthusiastic body language and emotion. Impossible to forget.

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson - Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson – Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada

But there was, in fact, a single defining moment that made me a linguist. I’ve told this story many times to friends and acquaintances. It was in my first linguistics lecture in my first year of university. Our professor, Ray Harlow, explained and proved that the ‘p’s in the words pit and spit are pronounced differently. What?! Seriously?! But they’re both p’s! How does my brain know that? How do I know to pronounce them differently, yet I hear them as the same? From that moment on, I never wanted to do anything else in my career but find out how language works.

Other defining moments stand out like snapshots along the way: a talk by Donna Starks during my undergraduate studies in New Zealand, about her fieldwork on Algonquian (‘Hmm, intriguing idea: one can go places and find out about interesting languages?’) … a talk by Max Cresswell around the same time (‘Why is he so obsessed with donkeys? I am confused, but yes, those are interesting sentences!’) … my MA supervisor, Laurie Bauer, telling me if I didn’t get a PhD and become a linguist he would eat his hat …

Then, my first meeting with a real Salish speaker, Mrs. Dorothy Ursaki, in a Field Methods class at UBC. I was terrified, but she was the sweetest, kindest lady, even if my first attempt at transcribing a pharyngeal had me hearing it as a nasalized back vowel. And of course, my first trip to St’át’imc territory. I was petrified again, because I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the language yet (it contains ejective lateral affricates), so how could I dare to work on it? I was so scared that I couldn’t even concentrate on the spectacular British Columbia scenery and resorted to my fall-back position, reading a book while we drove. Henry Davis laughed at me for that. But from my first day in St’át’imc territory, I was welcomed and I was hooked. We worked in the beginning with three remarkable women: Beverley Frank, Gertrude Ned, and Rose Whitley. They have all sadly passed away, but they were all passionate about their language, and they were all dear friends.

Since I have the floor right now, I’ll say a bit about my beliefs about linguistics. I believe that there are important and deep similarities across languages, and we should search for them in order to uncover what might be innate. There are also many important differences across languages – more than many believe, especially in the semantics. These differences should also urgently be worked on. Not all languages are like English. English does not equal ‘natural language’, and we shouldn’t assume that it does. (We can temporarily assume it does for the purpose of a null hypothesis, which we then attempt to falsify by scientific testing.) Endangered languages need to be researched by as many people as possible, and we also need to give our full support and help to revitalization and retention efforts.

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson

Featured Linguist: Lisa Matthewson

This isn’t supposed to be an acknowledgments piece, but I want to mention that dozens of people have helped me have this job I am so lucky to have. Family, friends, teachers, mentors, consultants, colleagues, co-authors, students, postdocs, and funding sources – far too numerous to name. Oh, and of course, The Linguist List! (How else would I have found the relevant job postings?)

Kia ora – Kukwstum’ckál’ap – Ha’miiyaa – Thank you!

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2015 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List really needs your support!

Donate Today and Win a Subscription of ”Language Dynamics and Change” from Brill!

Dear LINGUIST List Readers:

For our final prize this week, we’re excited to announce our latest Fund Drive Drawing, generously donated to us by Brill: if you donate before 11:59 p.m. (EST) tomorrow (March 21st), three of you could be the lucky winners of a year’s subscription to the journal Language Dynamics and Change!

http://goo.gl/RqkEfA

This exciting publication, which is normally $95, could be yours for as little as a $50 donation! But remember, you have to donate today to be eligible! You can do so by following the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

Stay tuned for many more Fund Drive raffles to come. Thanks and good luck!

Sincerely,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger (University of Melbourne)

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger with Theodora Narndu, Wadeye NT, 2010.

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger with Theodora Narndu, Wadeye NT, 2010.

At high school my favourite subject was French. So, when I finished high school I decided I would do Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Melbourne, and major in French. I didn’t really know what I would do after that, but probably I’d “join the diplomatic corps” — whatever that meant. It sounded exciting, and if it meant I could keep doing French then that would be fine. In my second year of Uni, I needed to pick up another subject and found a subject called ‘Linguistics’ in the handbook. I could pick it up in second year, it had no exam, and it even sounded like it would be useful for learning French, so I enrolled.

That decision changed my life. This was 1988 (I was only 5!), and two young newcomers had just taken over the linguistics program at Melbourne University — Mark Durie and Nick Evans. The classes were small, the teaching was inspiring, the other students were enthusiastic, and the whole program had a buzz of excitement around it. I had never come across anything as fascinating, and I quickly realized that with linguistics I could explore everything that I’d loved about learning French… but with respect to hundreds of languages, not just one! Before long I had dropped all my other subjects and was filling my degree up with as many linguistics subjects as I could.

One of those subjects was ‘Language in Aboriginal Australia’, a subject taught by Nick Evans (and, funnily enough, one that I now teach myself having inherited it when Nick moved to ANU a few years ago, although at the time I couldn’t have imagined that this is how it would pan out). In this subject we spent a few weeks learning about Bininj Gun-wok, a Gunwinyguan language from Arnhem land, based on Nick’s field notes and recordings. I was fascinated by the language structure, but even more by the process of discovery: the fun of being presented with completely unfamiliar language data and having to analyse it bit by bit in order to reveal the intricacies of the underlying system. Not to mention the excitement of cracking the code!

When the opportunity came at the beginning of my fourth year to do some fieldwork on the Australian language Bilinarra, I nervously took it.

That first fieldtrip was at once terrifying and exhilarating; it was without doubt the most challenging and the most mind-blowing experience I had ever had. I was a white middle class city girl spending 6 weeks on a remote cattle station (Victoria River Downs) in the middle of the Northern Territory of Australia. The Bilinarra people lived on an excision next to one of the station’s outposts (called Pigeon Hole). Pigeon Hole outstation was a collection of about 15 houses/buildings with a big fence down the middle separating the Aboriginal community from the station workers. I quickly worked out that I felt far more at home on the ‘Aboriginal’ side of the fence, where the Bilinarra community welcomed me with warmth, affection and humour. I also discovered how hard linguistic analysis in the field is!! The two senior Bilinarra men – Hector and Anzac, with their cheeky grins and cattle station Kriol, took it upon themselves to introduce this young city slicker to the Bilinarra language and culture, while I sat in a stunned silence not understanding a single word of it. After a few frantic phone calls to Nick Evans from the outback radio in the station house (“(sobbing) I can’t even understand their translations, let alone their Bilinarra. Over and out.”) I realised that I just had to keep the tape recorder running, and let it happen organically, in its own time.

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger with Heather Wilson and kids, Elliott NT, 1991.

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger with Heather Wilson and kids, Elliott NT, 1991.

I ended up learning a lot more on that first field trip than just Bilinarra and Kriol. I developed a deep love for the indigenous people of Australia, and their languages and cultures. I loved their open, warm acceptance of me and my naivety, their pride in their language and their country, and their willingness to share it all with a complete stranger. I loved the way they laughed affectionately at me when my tongue couldn’t handle the shape of the Bilinarra sounds, and their cheers of delight when I spontaneously uttered a grammatical sentence. I loved the nights in the bush, and the dancing, and the beautiful scenery. And I loved the intellectual challenge of taking a language from an uninterpretable sequence of sounds and slowly unearthing its intricacies and logic. I knew then I was hooked.

After working with the Wambaya community while completing my Masters degree, I decided to go to Stanford University to do a PhD. I wanted to take all my descriptive experience and Australian language data, and use it to learn about morphosyntactic theory. At Stanford, I was like a kid in a candy store — so many amazing linguists and so much to learn! I loved it. My time at Stanford expanded my horizons in so many directions, but it also reinforced for me how interesting Australian languages are. In 2004 I took up a position at the University of Melbourne, back where I’d started. I’m now Director of the Research Unit for Indigenous Language, and one of the Chief Investigators in our newly established ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger

Featured Linguist: Rachel Nordlinger

My research continues to follow these two strands: the documentation and description of Australian languages, and their analysis within formal morphosyntactic theory. I still find fieldwork to be the hardest and most fascinating part of my job, and value its crucial role in reminding me that the language is grounded in a community of speakers, for whom language is inextricably connected with family, culture and making cups of tea.

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2015 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List really needs your support!

Donate Today and Enter to Win ”Psycholinguistic Approaches to Meaning and Understanding” from Springer!

Dear LINGUIST List Readers,

We’re excited to announce today’s prize, this time generously donated by Springer, a copy of Psycholinguistic Approaches to Meaning and Understanding, edited by Barbara Hemworth, Barbara Mertins, and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen.

http://goo.gl/Sr9M3I

This title, perfect for anyone interested in psycholinguistics, is valued at $129 USD, but can be yours for as little as a $50 donation! Enter to win by donating before 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 19th. For our donation page, follow the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

Stay tuned for future Fund Drive raffles!

Thanks and good luck!

Sincerely,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Fund Drive: Donate Now and Win a Prize From Routledge!

Dear LINGUIST List Readers:

Today, we are introducing a very special giveaway, generously donated by Routledge (Taylor and Francis). Starting today, everyone who donates to the LINGUIST List Fund Drive will be eligible to receive a discount code of 20% off any Routledge books. This giveaway will last for one month.

At the end of the one-month period, Routledge is offering ANOTHER prize of $100 worth of books to one winner selected at random from our pool of donors. So you can win $100 in addition to the discount code.

If you have already donated, you can donate again and receive your 20% off code.

Please spread the word and donate!

http://goo.gl/e656LG

Don’t miss your opportunity to get 20% off of books from Routledge, which has a lot of excellent language resources.

Thank you all for your support of LINGUIST and good luck!

Best wishes,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka

Featured Linguist Itziar Laka (Lekeitio)

Itziar Laka (Lekeitio, Biscay, Basque Country)

As a child, I always thought I would grow up to be the kind of biologist that goes to Africa to film wild animals. Either that, or a novelist. Becoming a linguist was not part of the landscape, since I had no notion then of what a linguist did. However, I grew up in a place and a time where language was a constant and relentless issue: the dictator Francisco Franco was alive, his regime in full force.

There were many stories that had language at their heart when I grew up, too many to tell here. There was for instance the story of how grandmother Damiana, my fathers mum, had spent a night in jail because she had been caught speaking Basque in the streets of Bilbao to an acquaintance who came from her village and could not speak Spanish. That night in jail left a mark that never went away. On my mother’s side, there were books hidden first, then burnt, forbidden books whose crime was the language they were written in.

Even my school was clandestine and forbidden, it did not have a fixed location. We left in the morning with a book and a folding chair, to the home of whoever’s turn it was. Then, for a week or so, the folding chairs would unfold in your living room and that would be school. I cannot thank enough the brave  unassuming women who taught us. They were truly risking it all in their quiet, humble, daily work. It is hard to explain what it is like to have your language forbidden. It definitely makes you very aware of it.

Time went on, and while I kept dreaming of the documentaries I’d film in the Savanna, or the fantastic novels I would write, Franco’s regime weakened: the clandestine nomadic school became a building, I was in high school now. A Latin teacher who constantly screwed up sentence analysis is my first memory of syntax, but not a good one. Language seemed just plain uninteresting. Then a new teacher came to school and brought a book that described parts of Basque grammar using phrase-structure rules and transformations. This was it for me. That was the coolest thing I had ever set eyes on: it worked! It predicted! It was like clockwork! I became fascinated, argued with the teacher, worked at home to find the best answer to the unsolved parts of the puzzle. The author of that book, Patxi Goenaga, would later be a professor and then a colleague. That was it for me, I would study language.

As an undergraduate, I was very lucky. The University of the Basque Country had just opened, and highly motivated people came to teach, full of ideals. Among them there was Koldo Mitxelena, a historical linguist and true scholar who attracted young enthusiastic professors. I was very lucky because instead of “being taught”, I was shown how one should “find out”. These were times of change and excitement. But I was living a double life: officially I was a philologist, studying the effects of purism in Basque literature; secretly, I kept reading (better say trying to read) books by Noam Chomsky, the man who made the amazing claim that language was in our heads. Finally, my secret early passion for generative grammar bloomed, and this happened by sheer luck again: a new professor named Pello Salaburu came to teach during the last semester of my last year. All the piled up questions could finally be asked. Salaburu asked me would I like to go to MIT? That was more than I had ever dared to dream.

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka with Irene de la Cruz-Pavía at her PhD graduation (UPV/EHU)

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka with Irene de la Cruz-Pavía at her PhD graduation (UPV/EHU)

Boston, the linguistics department and MIT itself was like living in another, very distant planet from what I had known. It opened my mind in ways that would not haven been possible otherwise. The first year was so hard that I would come home and sit in front of the TV exhausted: they would talk so I could continue learning English, but no one expected me to reply. Mastering the language was hard, I could not for the life of me understand what all these people were saying. I learned to follow body movements so I could nod if someone spoke with a nodding attitude, and shake my head when I perceived a head shaking. I was hilarious to my classmates, of course, confusing words and playing a kind natural Pictionary all day long. But in the end I learned a little, I worked harder than I thought it was possible and finished a dissertation on negation. Graduate time at MIT is full of stories and memories, impossible to tell them here and now: friendship, love, conversations, personal transformation, discoveries, awakenings…

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka (TV Interview)

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka (TV Interview)

Once I graduated, I still felt I knew too little to go back home. I joined the linguistics department at the University of Rochester, where I could extend my omnivorous curiosity to psycholinguistics and other areas of cognitive science. I had wonderful colleagues like Tom Bever, Elissa Newport, Greg Carlson, and graduate students who were bright and motivated friends from whom I learned a lot. I spent five wonderful years at the University of Rochester; then I decided it was time to go back and give back. Either I went back then, after nine years in the US, or I would never do it.

Featured Linguist Itziar Laka

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka

I went back to the University of the Basque Country in 1996, after a visiting period in Holland (NIAS and Utrecht) for which I will always be grateful. Going back home, the first years were tough: small daughter to raise, heaviest teaching load with the subjects no one wanted to teach… hard work, time and patience slowly changed things bit by bit and today I am a full professor and I direct a research group where we combine theoretical linguistics with the experimental methods of psycholinguistics, to study language and bilingualism. You can find out more about us here:

http://www.ehu.eus/HEB/

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka's Research Group

Featured Linguist: Itziar Laka’s Research Group

The linguistic landscape I grew up in has totally changed: Basque and Spanish are both official languages, and Basque is present in the media, schools, university, government… I teach in English, Spanish and Basque, a big distance away from the imposed monolingualism of my childhood times. I strongly believe linguists are important people. Our research can help us know more about how languages can coexist in peace, both in mind and in society, increasing justice and human well being across the globe.

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2015 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List really needs your support!