During our Fund Drive, we have been traveling to different areas of the world and introducing you to featured linguists in those regions. So today our new Featured Linguist is Barbara Citko from the University of Washington. If you are eager to learn how Barbara became a linguist, please read her story below.
How I Became a Linguist
by Barbara Citko
How did I become a linguist? I think I took a road many linguists take, which is via a study of a foreign language. In my case it was good old English, which I started studying when I was seven. And, as they say, the rest is history. This is how I got interested in crosslinguistic variation, and the idea that there are well-defined limits to this variation. Well, maybe this came a bit later, although I have always liked to think of myself as a precocious linguist.
I grew up in Gdynia, Poland during what I consider to be one of the most interesting periods in Poland’s history. Gdynia, like Gdańsk, perhaps its better known neighbor, also had a big shipyard, and these shipyards were places where the Solidarity movement started. Both of my parents were members of Solidarity; my father worked in the Gdynia shipyard. This meant that strikes, martial law, curfews were very close to home, not something you heard about on the news or learnt about from history books. Maybe this experience didn’t help me become a linguist, but it certainly shaped me as a person.
I went to an English high school and majored in English philology as an undergraduate in college (first at the University of Poznań and then University of Gdańsk, both in Poland). It was in Poznań where I first got exposed to Chomskyan linguistics. I still remember my first syntax course, pouring through Radford’s textbook and being utterly fascinated by the beauty and simplicity of Subjacency Principle. I know, I am dating myself here.
I came to the States in 1994 and got a PhD in linguistics from Stony Brook University in 2000. My dissertation was on free relatives, and I have been interested in what we might call non-canonical wh-constructions: across-the-board wh-questions (What did Peter write and Bill review?), questions with coordinated wh-pronouns (What and where did John sing?), multiple wh-questions (Where did John sing what?) and various types of relative clauses ever since. In my research, I tend to focus on Polish, my native language, hoping to contribute to our understanding of the syntax of Slavic languages and, more generally, to our understanding of which aspects of language are universal and which ones are not and why this might be the case.
Over the years I have been influenced and inspired by so many great linguists, all of whom would be impossible to name here. But I do want to acknowledge my first syntax teachers, Przemysław Tajsner and Jacek Witkoś from the University of Poznań, and my undergraduate advisor from the University of Gdańsk, Piotr Ruszkewicz, and thank all the faculty from Stony Brook University, in particular, Richard Larson, my dissertation advisor, for making graduate school such a wonderful and memorable experience!
After graduating from Stony Brook I spent one year as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Utah, one year at the University of Connecticut and two years at Brandeis University, before joining the Linguistics Department at the University of Washington in 2005, which is where I have been since. It goes without saying that I would not even have known about these positions without the Linguist List, let alone have applied for them, let alone have gotten any of them. I also wouldn’t have known about countless conferences, books, journals; all the things that help us keep up with the field. In other words, without the Linguist List I wouldn’t be the linguist that I am today. Thank you, guys, for everything you’re doing!!!