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Do you have what it takes?

Dear readers,

As you may know, we here at the LINGUIST List are a competitive bunch, and we’re convinced that our readers are too. During this Fund Drive, we’ve shared mind-bending games and puzzles, as well as the annual Fund Drive challenges. We’ve called you to action in the name of your institution, your subfield, your country and global region. The competition in these challenges has been fierce–what else could we expect from our brilliant and ambitious user base?

Now, we have another challenge for you. Our board of advisors has generously pledged to donate $3600 to the LINGUIST List, on one condition: our readers need to DOUBLE that amount. But we thought that might be a bit too humble a goal for our readers… because we think you could even TRIPLE that. After all, there are 30,000 of you, and only 54 of them!

So now we ask you–do you think you can meet the challenge? We believe in you! If you think you have what it takes, visit our Fund Drive page to join the challenge TODAY.

Gratefully yours,

The LINGUIST List crew

#whyIlovethelinguistlist – Spread the Word!

 

Dear LINGUIST Listers,

Thank you to all those who have donated so far during our Fund Drive! We are happy to say we are almost to $30 000… a dollar for every one of our users!

However, donating isn’t the only way to support us! You can also help us by spreading the word on social media! Use the hashtag #whyIlovetheLINGUISTList to share with us and with your friends! We want to know about the time you found your first job through our Jobs board, the time you organized your conference with EasyAbs, the time you got feedback for your research through a Query post… whatever your success story, we would love to hear about it! We will share these stories on our pages on Facebook (linguistlist), Twitter (@linguistlist) and Google+ (+LINGUISTList)!

Post #whyIlovetheLINGUISTList today and help us get the word out about our Fund Drive! And if you haven’t yet, visit our Fund Drive homepage (http://funddrive.linguistlist.org) to read more about what we do and to donate today!

Gratefully yours,
The LINGUIST crew

Featuring: Yue Chen, LINGUIST List Editor

This week, we’re featuring Yue Chen, one of the five LINGUIST List Editors! Yue Chen comes all the way from China (find out all about her home town here ). By donating to the LINGUIST List (http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/), you are directly impacting her academic career, by providing her with the support she needs to complete her studies. Here follow a few words from her to you:

 

Dear LINGUIST List subscribers,

My name is Yue Chen and I am one of the editors at the LINGUIST List. When you read about summer schools, FYIs, institutions and programs, or reset your password on LL, I am the human machine behind them. 🙂

I am an international student from Chengdu, China, currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Computational Linguistics at Indiana University. (Want to learn more about my hometown? Here it is: http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/pages/YueChen/) As you probably know, higher education in the US is expensive, especially for international students. Thanks to the LINGUIST List, I was offered an assistantship and was able to afford my (upcoming) Ph.D. degree.

This would not have happened without your generous donation. Thank you!

It is with your help that we can make the LINGUIST List a better service and Linguistics a even better discipline. Thank you!

http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/

Yours sincerely,
Yue Chen

Featured Linguist: Nicoletta Calzolari

We are proud to share with our readers the next featured linguist of our 2017 Fund Drive: Nicoletta Calzolari. We hope that you enjoy reading Dr. Calzolari’s thoughts on her long and varied career as a computational linguist.

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It is difficult to write about myself, but it can be an occasion to relive some moments of my life. I am grateful to Damir also for this. Here some notes, with personal memories interspersed with moments of professional life.

The beginning: the role of chance

Immediately after I graduated in philosophy, with a thesis on Logical antinomies, I remember saying to myself: words, words, words, I have enough of words! I did not know, but my destiny was linked to words.

So many things in life happen by chance. I moved to Pisa from Ferrara for family reasons and I saw a notice for a grant at Pisa University in a completely new field: Computational Linguistics. I tried applying, knowing that it would have been impossible. But I won it. This was the beginning.

In Ferrara, studying philosophy

I started studying that new area … and I loved it. It was not just words! I also started, as an autodidact, to write programs by myself, in the language of the time: PL1. The Pisa Summer Schools that Zampolli organised (in the ‘70s and ‘80s) were very influential for me (as for many others): I met the most brilliant researchers and I found them fascinating. I did not know that I would have become friend with many of them. I just followed the first as a student, then I was involved in the organisation, and finally I gave some lectures.

CL was a young field, with many possible research paths. It was probably easier at that time: you could have a new idea and experiment it even working alone, without the need of a big group. It is different today.

Since then we made great advances, but the more we understand about language the more we see how many problems are still in front of us. And this is what makes this field so interesting and challenging: language is a very complex phenomenon.

The first steps: the most creative and innovative, from a research perspective

More and more science is driven by data and our field is not different. Natural Language Processing is a data intensive field. Major achievements come from the use of large Language Resources (LRs). But it was not always like that. At the beginning, in the ‘80s, we had to fight to recognise the value of working with data.

Probably I was one of the pioneers in the revolution of the ‘80s when LRs (i.e. linguistic data) started to be understood as critical to make steps forward, while before data were even despised. I started research at the time quite new: acquiring information from Machine Readable Dictionaries, instead of relying on linguist’s intuition. This became soon a trend, followed by many others in all the continents. Relying on data was a change in the research paradigm, in the sense of Kuhn.

With Nancy in Hong Kong

The great thing was that we succeeded in getting our first European project around this topic. Also this happened somehow by chance: I was discussing my work with Bran Boguraev sitting in the sun in Stanford and we had the idea of proposing a European project. We did it, and we got it: it was ACQUILEX, an ESPRIT Basic Research project that lasted 6 years and laid the foundation not only for stronger research but also for working relations with many interesting colleagues in Europe. Immediately after we had another research project, SPARKLE, probably the first European project aiming at extracting linguistic information from texts.

I understood, working on the first funded project, that I had to create the conditions for new research trends, that could possibly be funded afterwards. It was this way, through a virtuous circle, that we won so many EC projects, one after the other. I was involved – either coordinating the Pisa unit, or manging the whole European project – in more than 50 EC projects, in collaboration with hundreds of institutions all over the world.

There is more than research in science … or coming to adulthood

It was Antonio Zampolli who, in 1991, introduced the term “language resources” for our data: the term “resources” was meant to highlight their infrastructural nature (like electricity, railroads etc. for a country development). Some consequences derive from their infrastructural nature, among which the need to consider, in addition to research and technological aspects, also methodological and policy dimensions.

Working with data – expensive to create and annotate – made me realise that we needed to create the conditions to build on each other results. In 1991, I coined the term “reusability” to express the need not to start reinventing the wheel every time, but to re-use available data and join forces. It was the first step towards thinking at standards and interoperability. This term is reused today in the MetaNet Strategic Research Agenda: “2018: Ease re-use of linguistic resources in all parts of the data value chain across languages and sectors”.

The ideas and initiatives that led to the first European project on standards – EAGLES – were discussed at a breakfast table in Grosseto, during the Workshop “On Automating the Lexicon” (organised in 1986 by Walker, Zampolli and me). That Workshop was very influential: a Manifesto was drawn at the end, where the essential role of language data was emphasised and a number of actions were recommended: it laid the foundations for a large number of initiatives that took place later in Europe.

ELRA board meeting in Paris

In the ‘90s with Zampolli we also started to define a global vision of the field and its main components, identified in: creation of LRs, standards, distribution, and automatic acquisition of LRs. These were considered the main components of an infrastructure of LRs for Language Technology (LT). ELRA (European Language Resources Association) was founded in 1995 to take care of one of these components, distribution of LRs.

After those pioneering years, the importance of LRs for LT was recognised more and more, and the flow of data began. Today we have a LR community culture, also thanks to the many initiatives around LRs that we started, like ELRA, LREC, LRE Journal, CLARIN, FLaReNet, MetaShare. In the FLaReNet project we identified the major dimensions around which to structure our community recommendations for the future of the field: documentation, interoperability, availability, coverage/quality, sustainability, recognition, development, international cooperation. These dimensions – constituting the infrastructure around LRs – are at the basis of the current paradigm of LRs.

Acting on Policy issues for a (finally) mature field

Working with data one recognises the critical role of what is around data, i.e. of notions such as standardisation, sharing, openness, evaluation, interoperability, metadata, collaborative annotation, crowdsourcing, integration, replicability, integrity, citation. And the role of how to organise research work: we should create frameworks that enable effective cooperation of many groups on common tasks, adopting the paradigm of cooperative collection of knowledge so successful in more mature disciplines, such as biology, astronomy or physics. The relevance of these issues must not be underestimated.

Technical and scientific issues are obviously important, but organisational, coordination, political issues play a major role. Technologies exist and develop fast, but at the same time the infrastructure that sustains them must be created. The challenges ahead depend on a coherent strategy involving not only the best methods and research but also policy dimensions. The concept behind the relevance of policy issues and best practices around LRs can be synthesised considering “data as public good”.

I think that a coherent LR ecosystem also requires an effort towards a culture of “service to the community”, where everyone has to contribute. Adopting policies that go in the direction of Open Science must become common practice. This “cultural change” is not a minor issue. It was in this spirit that I introduced at LREC initiatives such as the LRE Map and Share your LRs as steps towards shaping an open scientific information space.

General chair at COLING 2016 in Osaka

Recently I started to advocate the need for reproducibility and replicability of research results – at the basis of scientific practice –  in our field. We discussed this issue at an ELRA workshop, where I pushed Antonio Branco to organise a workshop on these topics at LREC2016. The importance of the topic led me to think that we had to give a sign of its importance also in the LRE Journal: Nancy Ide agreed, and we recently decided to have in the journal a special type of papers devoted to these aspects.

I am proud to have the possibility – through ELRA, LREC and LREJ – to contribute to shaping an open scientific information space for the future of our field. I have always felt it is our duty to use the means that we have in our hands to try to shape the future. In this case to play a role in how to change scientific practice and have an impact on our overall scientific enterprise.

The importance of the people around you: few anecdotes

In my long path through LRs, I became friend with so many colleagues all over the world (almost all the leading figures of a generation) and felt their closeness in many occasions. Over the years I realised how this was influential to me: they somehow shaped me and sometimes it is difficult to disentangle the professional and personal life.

Just few sparse memories:

After my presentation at COLING 1982 in Prague, Don Walker invited me at a small workshop in Stanford. I was young and was sitting together with the most important people in the field, from Martin Kay to Sture Allen. Back in Pisa I thought I would never have again such a wonderful year! I was wrong. Since then I had so many wonderful opportunities, recognitions, much more than I deserved. Lesson: so many unexpected things may happen in life.

Preparing for LREC 2016 in Portoroz

From Zampolli I learned many things. I mention a simple one: you must both look at the details and be able to see the whole picture, projecting it into the future. I like both: precision and creativity. He had many visions for the future of the field, I hope I had some good ones too.

Ralph Grisham once saying at a workshop in Pisa: “You go to dinner with Nicoletta and standards come up”.

I like Facebook also because through it I exchanged memories with Chuck Fillmore in his last years, when he wanted to remember the past with his friends.

I was not a feminist when it was trendy. I did not react when an old important Italian university professor told me, very young, after a talk, “you are of a virile conciseness” thinking it was a great compliment. But after so many meetings with so many more men than women, I am more feminist now than when I was younger. I remember a meeting in Rome with the President of CNR, 36 people around a table, and me the only woman. I do not know why but I felt ashamed for them.

I was for a long time among the youngest in so many meetings, and then, all of a sudden, it changed. I realised it when Adam Kilgariff said: “Let’s listen to what Nicoletta thinks, she is always wise”. I saw it, wise and age: I was on the other side, among those with experience.

Recently a Japanese colleague told me: “You are really tough in negotiations”, but he said this with a smile so I hope it was a sort of compliment.

John Sinclair, many years ago: “You are very determined and really good in making many people work”. My parents always told me: if you want something you are so determined that you usually get it.

And I must mention my friendship with Nancy Ide, started when we were very young and consolidated over the years. We had many projects and have been to many places together, and now we exchange mails almost every day because of the LRE journal we are co-editors of.

Some recognitions

Once at a meeting at the European Commission, one of the EC officers introduced myself to the others as Mrs. Language Resources. Not bad. This explains the title I have given to these notes.

Preparing for LREC 2018 in Miyazaki

The motivation for being in the founding group of ACL Fellows says: “for significant contributions to computational lexicography, and for the creation and dissemination of language resources”. I took it also as a sign that LRs were recognised in the CL community. Something not given for granted few years before. And a sign that what we did had an impact outside the LR community.

When I received a mail from Bente Maegaard saying that I was proposed for an Honorary Doctorate in Copenhagen I was so astonished that I asked Sara if she thought it was a joke. It was not, and I was very proud to receive the Honorary PhD directly from the Queen of Denmark.

I was moved recently when the ELRA Board decided to make me Honorary President of ELRA. I was there when it started in 1995 and I served it for so many years in so many roles that I feel it is part of my life. The same I obviously feel with LREC.

Conclusion … with enthusiasm

I conclude with the final words I wrote for my invited talk at the 1st LREC in Granada in 1998: “At the end everything is tied together, which makes our overall task so interesting – and difficult. What we must have is the ability to combine the overall view with its decomposition into manageable pieces. No one perspective – the global and the sectorial – is really fruitful if taken in isolation. A strategic and visionary policy has to be debated, designed and adopted for the next few years, if we hope to be successful. To this end, the contribution of the main actors in the field is of extreme importance. Some of the events in this conference are hopefully moving in this direction.”

Despite my age, I still have the enthusiasm I had when I started, even more when I see that I am able to influence new strategic directions of research. I hope I was able to pass my enthusiasm to younger colleagues.

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Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2017 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!

Featuring LL Programmer: Lwin Moe!

This week, we’re putting in the spot light a key person at LINGUIST List, the  glue that holds us all together: our programmer Lwin Moe! Of course, we editors review all your submissions and make sure the wheels of LINGUIST List are in motion, but without Lwin, those wheels would be pretty rusty – we couldn’t do a thing!

Did you know that the LINGUIST List website was coded from scratch over the years since the 90’s by some Linguistics students? (some of our history can be found here: http://linguistlist.org/about.cfm#history) That just tells you how much hard work Lwin puts into maintaining and updating our website and listserv – and all kinds of other projects hosted here at the LINGUIST List!

Visit Lwin’s home town in Burma and read a few words from him to you:

Dear LINGUIST List subscribers,

I would humbly ask for your support to help run LINGUIST List. Please donate at https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate

The LINGUIST team works hard all year round to send you edited and timely information on conferences, jobs and all things linguistic. Right before the Fund Drive 2017 started back in March, I was up until 2 AM because of a problem in automatically sending out LINGLITE (our daily summary) when we switched the LINGUIST server from the old machine to a new and faster one. LINGLITE was sent out twice, and the content was all messed up. It happened for two days in a row even though the content was fine when we manually triggered to send it out. We later found out that it was due to a known issue in the server software we used. Incidents like this remind us that there are humans behind the smooth and professional operation for LL.

Our student editors work diligently to make sure that subscribers receive high quality content every day. Please help us so we can continue to provide this valuable service to the linguistic community worldwide. Your donations, no matter how small, matter for us to survive. Please help us run this operation! Remember, this donation will benefit you also by allowing us to continue serving you.

Here is the link to donate if you would like to do so:
https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate

Thank you,
Lwin Moe

Incredible Parrot Speech Decoded As 300 Years Old English Dialect -April fool’s :)

We’re sure you’ve caught our April Fool’s day spoof 🙂 If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to take the time for this entertaining read! (and don’t forget that our Fund Drive is still running for two more weeks: http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/)

 

Puerto Lempira, Honduras —- Shrouded in mystery and dense rain forest, the region known as La Mosquitia In south-eastern Honduras is one of the largest and least explored wilderness areas in Central America. It adjoins the Caribbean Sea to the east; its Caribbean shore constitutes part of the Mosquito Coast, which was something of a pirate haven during the Golden Age of Caribbean Piracy in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Recently, aerial surveys have revealed for the first time untouched ruins left by a mysterious and yet unnamed civilization. The latest archeological team to venture into La Mosquitia is a joint Honduran-American expedition led by Dr. Rebecca Webb of Penrose University. Dr. Webb’s team is now excavating a site that appears to have been a significant pre-Columbian urban center.

La Mosquitia provides an ideal habitat for many species, including an astonishing number of bird species and subsubspecies. One of these is the Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot, which is renowned for its ability to mimic human speech.

During the excavation’s third week, Dr. Webb noticed an intricately carved chunk of stone protruding from the rain-forest floor. She thought it might be a were-jaguar head and crouched down for a closer look it. Just then, completely out of the blue, she heard a parrot’s squawky voice say, “Thee bist a zon of a biscuit eater.” Or at least that’s how she transcribed it.
“The voice certainly gave me a start,” she said. “I looked up and saw a beautiful Yellow-Naped parrot perched on a branch not more than five meters away. I immediately scratched down a quasi-phonetic transcription of the vocalization, but I confess I didn’t understand what it meant. It did strike as sounding like human speech, however, and I was pretty confident that it ended with the words “of a biscuit eater”.

Soon other members of Dr. Webb’s team reported encounters with parrots whose vocalizations sounded incredibly like human speech. Some sounded almost like a strange form of English, but others were largely unintelligible, such as the following, as transcribed by members of the team: “Avast ye zee dogs” and “Veed the vizhez”.

Jessica Pollard, a student of Dr. Webb’s, had studied German and thus was able to recognize the word “bist” in Webb’s initial transcription as the 2nd-person singular form of the German verb “sein” (“to be”). It then occurred to her that the preceding word “thee” might be the archaic English 2nd-person pronoun, mostly because it would agree the verb in the grammatical category “person” if in little else.

Mystified, Dr. Webb decided to contact her friend Dr. Montague Hyde, a dialectologist at Kingsbridge College in the UK. When Webb told him about the parrots, Hyde was astounded and more than a little skeptical, but he nevertheless agreed to board a flight for Honduras the following day. Even as he took his seat on the plane, Hyde was beginning to form a hypothesis about the parrots’ vocalizations, but it seemed utterly ludicrous. He simply had to observe the phenomena with his own eyes and ears.

Once Prof. Hyde arrived at the site and heard the parrots for himself, his wild hypothesis was confirmed in short order. To his astonishment, the parrots’ vocalizations turned out to be very close to the English spoken in the county of Somerset, England around 300 years ago. That is, the parrots seemed to be exhibiting fossilized fragments of a centuries-old form of English.
Prof. Hyde notes certain key properties of the parrots’ vocalizations that led him to this amazing conclusion. According to Hyde, the clearest piece of evidence lies in the sounds z (and zh) and v. For example, when Hyde heard the parrots say, “Veed the vizhez,” he at once recognized it as the Somerset way of saying, “Feed the fishes,” since in Somerset English, the fricatives s and f become z and v, except when adjacent to another consonant.

Thus, “zee dogs” in “avast ye zee dogs” corresponds to “seadogs,” and “zon” in “Thee bist a zon of a biscuit eater“ corresponds to the modern Received Pronunciation “son”. According to Hyde, this voicing of fricatives in Somerset and surrounding counties is a very old phenomenon.

“One can find it Shakespeare, in fact,” Hyde observes. “For example, in King Lear, Act IV, Scene 6, the character Edgar affects a Somerset accent to disguise himself:

“Chill not let go, zir, without vurther ‘cagion.”

“The words ‘zir’ and ‘vurther,’” Hyde explains, “are supposed to be the Somerset forms of ‘sir’ and ‘further,’ respectively. ’Chill’ is in fact a contraction of a very Germanic 1st-person person ‘Ich’ and ‘will’. And ’’cagion’…I have no idea what ”cagion’ is.”

The occurrence of ‘Ich’ in King Lear reminds Hyde of the phrase “thee bist” in the initial vocalization: “Thee best a son of a biscuit eater.” Hyde says that “bist” is indeed is a relic of an earlier Germanic form of the verb ‘to be’. He adds that the form “thee” has long been used as a nominative pronoun in Somerset, even though “ye be” is today more common than “thee bist” for saying “you (sg) are.”

According to Hyde, to call someone a son of biscuit eater was a fairly common insult in the 17th and 18th centuries. He further expounds, “Though it may not sound particularly bad to our ears, it’s doesn’t sound particularly good either, does it? I mean, I think we can agree that it’s certainly not a compliment to call someone the progeny of a compulsive eater of biscuits.” Even so, Dr. Webb, didn’t seem to be especially offended upon learning what that first parrot had actually called her. “I’ve been called worse,” she said.

But where and from whom did these parrots acquire these words and expressions? According to Hyde, the source can be none other than the West-Country pirates who terrorized the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1650 to 1730). “The parrots’ vocabulary, phonetics, and idioms match this context perfectly,” Hyde says. “The southwestern counties at that time produced a lot of sailors—-a lot of sailors, including pirates.”

Sarah Bradford, a parrot specialist at the Honduran Zoological Society speculates that some 300 years ago, a pirate—-let us call him Edward—-adopted a certain Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot named Polly. Edward, having hailed from Somerset in England, spoke in the Somerset dialect. According to Bradford, yellow-naped parrots happen to be excellent “talkers”, second only to the African Grey parrot in their ability to mimic human speech. Edward’s pet parrot no doubt learned to replicate many colorful expressions.

Now, while parrots are famously long-lived, pirates aren’t, so Polly probably outlived Edward. After Edward died, perhaps on or just off the Mosquito Coast, Polly would have probably flown off into the jungle of La Mosquitia and found a mate. He would have taught his young and perhaps also his mate the words and phrases he learned during his life as a piratical pet.

Bradford further speculates that the descendants of Polly could have continued to transmit these vocalization from generation to generation. She explains that to parrots, the precise mimicking of a vocalization is more important than the vocalization’s semantic content, so perhaps parrots are better able to replicate a vocalization from generation to generation than humans. Remember also that the lifespan of a Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot is 60-80 years. Such long lives would help bridge the gap between 300 years ago and the present.

Author: Tony Meyer

A Generous Letter from the Great Trey Jones! (SpecGram)

In Generous Support of
the LINGUIST List

The brilliant Trey Jones
Editor-in-Chief of the hilarious Speculative Grammarian

Almost a quarter of a century ago back in the stone age I alone created the brilliant new revolutionary field of subliminal linguistics. And while that brilliant idea may not appear to the ignorant masses to have gone anywhere, I have thanks to subliminal manipulation been quite successful nonetheless.

I originally subscribed to the LINGUIST List around that time, too—the ’90s were rad!. I used to read maybe skim LL messages the titles for sure on a machine the linguistics department falsely claimed was a computer hooked up to a 300 baud i.e., half my reading speed acoustic coupler! What a horrible time—we were surviving but not really living in some dystopian version of the future!

Here in the glorious present day, as the brilliant Editor-in-Chief i.e., the glorious leader, of the brilliantly hilarious Speculative Grammarian—the premier brilliant scholarly journal featuring research in the unfairly neglected but hilarious field of bitingly clever satirical linguistics—I appreciate how hard it is for my minions to wrangle interns (flog ’em!) and keep the lights on and the presses running. Oh, wait, the uppity interns inform me that they think they can correct me and that we don’t have presses anymore. How many ways and with what kind of sharp things can I flog them!

So, I have an inkling of all the hard work (so much flogging!) and dedication to building up your flogging arm that goes into running the brilliant LINGUIST List day in, day out, year after year—yeah, you should feel guilty. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of flogging the interns, pretending to care about the whiny editors, placating the diva programmers, and so much else the long-suffering moderators have to put up with. Or so I assume—if their staff is half as lazy as ours.

The brilliant LINGUIST List does so freakin’ much and provides so freakin’ much to the soon-to-be generous linguistics community—’cause them servers ain’t free. Give (give more!) generously (give more!) to show (give more!) your (give more!) support (give more!) for the LINGUIST List (give more!)!

http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/

 

Featured Linguist: Robert A. Coté

Featured Linguist: Robert A. Coté

I am not your typical linguist. In fact, my first degree is in meteorology with a minor in math! Despite this, I have always been fascinated with languages – most likely because I grew up in a multilingual environment: my father and his parents spoke Quebecois, my maternal grandmother spoke Pugliese, and my maternal grandfather spoke Neapolitan. Clearly, hearing people around me speak something other than English was normal for me from a very young age, but I never gave much thought to the rich sociolinguistic world in which I lived. I always enjoyed reading and writing as well, so it only seems natural to me that I became an applied linguist.

How I discovered the wonderful world of LINGUIST List is even more interesting. I had completed my PhD coursework, comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, and data collection, and I was working full-time as an administrator at an English-medium college in the United Arab Emirates. Like many doctoral students, I had really grown tired of my research and had fallen out of interest with academia. One of my professors suggested I look into writing a book review, not only to read some current literature related to my area of research, but more importantly, to practice the type of writing required for a dissertation. This was probably the best advice I received in my entire 10-year doctoral process.

I was really excited the day my textbook arrived and immediately began to read and highlight. It was about a month before I started writing my review. After submitting it, I waited anxiously for feedback. When it arrived, most of it was positive, but it took three edits to get it published. I knew I could do better, so I requested another text. This time, the reading and writing went faster, and the feedback I received was more positive and required only two edits. Reading what the editor had to say about my review not only gave more me confidence, but it also pointed out where I needed to improve, which in turn allowed me to focus on specific aspects of my writing. By the time I completed my third book review, I didn’t require any edits! The entire process took me nearly two years. But now, I was ready to complete my dissertation. And believe me, it was no surprise when all three of my committee members gave me the same feedback: “Your dissertation was organized, enjoyable, and easy to read. You really have a great sense of audience.” I am absolutely certain that writing book reviews for LINGUIST List was the most important factor leading to this success.

Why am I telling you all this? Because now, I am returning the favor to LINGUIST List. I have reviewed and edited dozens of book reviews pro bono over the past few years. I want to give other reviewers, many of them non-native speakers of English and/or graduate students like I was, the same publishing and writing improvement opportunities that I was given several years ago. I believe anyone can become a good writer, and everyone can become a better writer. LINGUIST List allows people this chance. I am fortunate that I am in a position to donate my time to help others, and I hope that some of you reading this are in a position to donate your money to help LINGUIST List. This may sound a little forward of me, but I sincerely believe the few paid staff at LINGUIST List made me the writer I am today, and I am doing my best to help others with their writing. You just never know the impact that your donation, no matter how big or small, can have on someone, who in turn can help someone else.

Robert Cote, PhD
Director, Writing Skills Improvement Program
College of Humanities
University of Arizona, Tucson

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Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2017 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!

Meet Clare, Featured LL Staff of the week!

Clare started as an intern last summer at the LINGUIST List, and now also works as a LINGUIST List Editor! She is also the manager of this year’s Fund Drive. Clare comes from Speedway, Indianapolis (read her cool post about her home town here: http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/pages/ClareHarshey/). Here is a letter from her to you:

Dear LINGUIST Listers,

My name is Clare, and you may know me from the occasional list posting… or somewhat more-than-occasional email correspondence! I’m an editor for the LINGUIST List, and am now almost halfway through my MS in Computational Linguistics at Indiana University. I’m writing this letter today to tell you more about myself, in order to express how grateful I am, and how so many of us should be, that an organization like the LINGUIST List exists.

I started working at the LINGUIST List as a summer intern in May of 2016. Hearing back about the summer internship was incredibly exciting for me, and arriving here in person didn’t disappoint! As an intern, I spent my summer working on a Yiddish speech corpus, with the eventual goal of developing new speech and language technologies. Before long, I was able to take on some additional duties, like editing some Jobs, Supports and Reviews postings for the List. I was even able to attend the LSA annual meeting this year with some of my colleagues here, to represent our organization, learn, and meet other linguists.

I’m lucky to have experienced the many different facets of the LINGUIST List, and to have directly benefited from it. The work I do not only allows me to support my graduate studies, but it enriches me professionally and personally every single day. The only thing that makes this possible is the generosity of our readers. Your past donations have completely changed the course of my growth as a linguist, and your donations this year and in future years will do the same for many more students.

It may seem an exaggeration to say that you, personally, can make such a difference, especially if you can only make a small donation. But it’s completely true: you and the other 24,999 subscribers to our list now have the chance now to come together and continue to support new linguists, just like you have already supported me. You aren’t just donating to the LINGUIST List–you’re investing in the future of the field of linguistics.

Thank you for reading, and thank you again for your ongoing generosity. And if you haven’t already, please visit us at http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/ and consider showing your support today.

Sincerely,
Clare Harshey

Featured Linguist: Osamu Sawada

Featured Linguist: Osamu Sawada

I grew up in the family of linguists (my father is a linguist, my mother used to be a school teacher), so it is not a coincidence that I became a linguist. (My younger brother also became a linguist.) However, looking back, I see that there were several important turning points and experiences that lead me to the field of linguistics.

I was born and grew up in Japan, but when I was 10, I had the chance to spend a year in Boston with my family. There, we had many positive experiences interacting with people/students from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. My brother and I went to a public school, and the atmosphere was one of respect for diversity. Thinking back now, this positive experience affects my stance as a scholar/teacher.

When I returned to Japan, however, the center of my daily life gradually shifted to tennis (soft tennis). In high school, I participated in national athletic meetings, and/but I neglected my school studies. I did, however, learn the importance of continuation and preparation through tennis.

It was in a rounin period, ‘a preparation period between schools’ that I studied in a responsible way with a true spirit of inquiry. I became interested in the grammars of English and Old Japanese. After being accepted into Waseda University, I continued playing tennis, but at the same time, I took various linguistics courses, including syntax, pragmatics, and functional linguistics. Although I also earned a teacher’s license, I felt that I wanted to study linguistics further, and I decided to enter graduate school.

One important turning point for me as a researcher was encountering scalar phenomenon. When I was a MA student, I had a chance to read Fillmore et al.’s (1988) paper on let alone (e.g., He couldn’t even eat Tempura, let alone Sushi). I found it very interesting that this small expression is relevant to many interesting linguistic phenomena, such as scalarity, comparison, polarity sensitivity, focus, information structure, ellipsis, etc. Looking at various related scalar phenomenon, I also gradually felt that very interesting things were happening in the field of formal semantics in the abroad, although it was still an unknown world to me.

It was miracle and very fortunate for me that I was able to study at the Ph.D. program of the University of Chicago (2005‒2010). The atmosphere of the department of linguistics was great; faculty members, students, and researchers were enthusiastic, energetic, and warm-hearted. Although I focused on formal semantics and pragmatics, I was also exposed to many other fields of linguistics, including morphology, syntax, phonetics, phonology, socio-historical linguistics, etc. There were many workshops, colloquiums, and discussion groups, and I was able to interact with various renowned scholars and colleagues/friends in a collaborative way.

In my dissertation, I focused on the pragmatic aspects of scalar modifiers and considered the similarities and differences between semantic scalar meaning and pragmatic scalar meaning in terms of the semantics/pragmatics interface. For example, in Japanese the minimizer chotto ‘a bit’ can not only measure an object or event at the semantic level, but it can also weaken the degree of imposition of the speech act at the pragmatic level (not-at-issue level). The committee members were Chris Kennedy (chair), Anastasia Giannakidou, Karlos Arregi, and Chris Potts, and I had extremely thought-provoking and valuable discussions with them. The experiences I had at the Ph.D. program have been my backbone as a researcher/teacher.

After earning a Ph.D., I was fortunate to conduct research at Kyoto University as a JSPS postdoc, and since the fall of 2010, I have been teaching and conducting research at Mie University. It took some time to get used to the Japanese university systems, but thanks to the support of my colleagues, I feel that I am creating a basis as a scholar and a teacher. At Mie, I co-organized various linguistics workshops/conferences with my colleagues, and I have also had opportunities to co-organize various international/domestic workshops outside the university, including local workshops such as the modality workshop and the semantics workshop in Tokai. These venues have been important for activating research.

Looking back at my past, I realize I have received much help and support from many people— my parents, family, teachers, colleagues, friends. Although I am still a developing scholar, I would like to try my best to become a full-fledged linguist. Society is changing rapidly (both globally and locally), and I feel that the study of linguistics (and the humanities in general) is becoming more and more important. Although I have focused on theoretical linguistics, I would also like to think about how linguistics in general and my research in particular can contribute to society.

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