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A new year, a new LINGUIST List crew: introducing the 2016-2017 GAs!

Dear Readers,

With the waning of the hot season here in Indiana, and the wrapping up of some of the summer projects at LINGUIST List (you’ll get to read more exciting news about this soon!), and after having said good bye to our deeply missed predecessors, it is time to start a new semester with a new LINGUIST List crew!

You have already encountered most of us, and we’ve actually already been working here for some time, but here is the official introduction of us new GAs at LINGUIST List. Glad to meet you all!

Yue

Yue Chen

Yue is a new graduate assistant at the LINGUIST List. She comes from Chengdu, China. She is currently a second year M.A./Ph.D. student in Computational Linguistics here at Indiana University. Her academic interests are natural language processing, machine learning and recently, parsing. In daily life, she enjoys cooking, baking, hiking, crocheting and reading.

Ken

Kenneth Steimel

Kenneth Steimel is a student editor at LINGUIST List. St. Louis and Columbia Missouri were his home before moving to Bloomington. He works primarily with conferences and calls for papers at LINGUIST List. However, he also edits ask-a-linguist, summaries, FAQ, queries and discussions. His research, outside of LINGUIST List, is concerned with documenting African languages. He is specifically interested in developing computational tools and corpora for the languages he studies. In his free time, he also enjoys roasting coffee, geeking out over cars and backpacking.

mike

Michael Czerniakowsky

Mike is a student editor here at LINGUIST List, where he works primarily on Books and Publications, while pursuing his MS in Computational Linguistics at Indiana University. In his free time he enjoys reading, crossword puzzles, and trivia nights.

Amandacroped

Amanda Foster

Amanda started working at LINGUIST List in October 2015. She is now the Jobs and Supports Editor, as well as the editor for Journal related posts, Software announcements, and Programs and Institutions. She is originally from a small town in Northern France, but has also spent some time in Paris and in Ireland before coming to IU to pursue an MA in General Linguistics. She is passionate about the study and documentation of under-resourced and endangered languages. When she is not entertaining herself with language puzzles, she loves reading, hiking, and discovering the nature and culture around Bloomington!

clare

Clare Harshey

Clare feels lucky to have been a summer intern for the LINGUIST List this year, and even luckier to be able to work here for the school year as well! This summer, she focused on the Yiddish Speech Corpus, part of the GORILLA project. She’s continuing work on the corpus this fall; she’s also in training as an editor for the Reviews, Books, Jobs and Support sections of the LINGUIST List. She is at IU to pursue her MS in Computational Linguistics, and is grateful for the opportunity to do work that builds on her education and her passion for this field. Outside of linguistics, she enjoys music, reading and exploring Bloomington with her dog.

We are excited to have a role to play in connecting the Linguistics community around the world. We’ll be in touch soon (and now, you can even associate a face to these editing emails you receive!)

Linguistically,

The LINGUIST List Editors

Welcome, 2016 Summer Interns and Volunteers!

This summer, we are excited to welcome to the team 9 interns and volunteers! They are working on various projects such as Geoling and LL-Map, and they are also contributing to research on endangered languages by creating corpora for languages of around the world. If you are interested in becoming an intern, our application cycle will open again next spring. In the mean time, there are other ways to get involved here at LINGUIST List. Just contact us for more information.

Meet the 2016 LINGUIST List interns and volunteers:

SoEun

So Eun Ahn

So Eun joined the Linguist List as an intern during the summer of 2016. She is from Seoul, South Korea and currently studies German and Spanish at Vanderbilt University. Her work at the Linguist List includes creating speech corpus for Korean. She intends to pursue a Ph. D in linguistics upon completion of her undergraduate degree. She is particularly interested in studying and documenting endangered languages and hopes to apply her training experience to possibly annotating K’iche’, which she has studied this past year. In her free time, So Eun loves to read, write, and listen to good music.

 

Jacob

Jacob Heredos

Jacob is working at LINGUIST List as an intern for the summer of 2016, contributing to the LL-Map project. In May Jacob completed a B.A. with a triple major in Anthropology, International Studies, and Spanish and a minor in Linguistics at IU Bloomington, and eventually plans to pursue graduate studies in Linguistics. He has always had an interest in languages and linguistics, especially phonetics, historical linguistics, and the indigenous languages of the Americas. In his free time Jacob also enjoys running, reading, and cooking.

 

Clare

Clare Harshey

Clare is a summer intern at Linguist List, where she works on the GORILLA project, specifically developing the Yiddish Speech Corpus. She studied linguistics and computer science as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, and is starting Indiana’s MS in Computational Linguistics this fall. Clare has taken courses in modern and classical Germanic, Celtic, Indic and Romance languages, and is especially interested in the study and preservation of under-resourced languages, endangered languages, and heritage languages.

 

2016-06-24-037

Lewis Dunham

Lewis is working as an intern at Linguist List for the summer of 2016. He is from St. Louis, MO and in the fall will return to Truman State University in northeastern Missouri to begin his third year pursuing a BS in Linguistics with minors in Sociology and Folklore. He hopes to continue his linguistic studies in graduate school as well. So far Lewis has been assisting with developing the GeoLing project. His research interests include French, Arabic, internet linguistics, creative word-formation processes, and constructed languages (of which he has created one and has a second planned). He also enjoys hiking, cooking, and social activism.

 

Noah
Noah Kaufman
This is Noah Kaufman. He graduated with a BA in Linguistics from McGill University and is now at IU for an M.S. in Computational Linguistics. He became interested in language because of how cool he thought it was that people could secretly talk to each other in a foreign language without others understanding them. This got him interested in language learning and later linguistics. Within linguistics, Noah mostly like sociolinguistics and how discourse constructs our biased mental models of the world which contribute to our judgements and power. At Linguist List I will be working on web development for the new website as well as Gorilla and Geoling.

 

haihu

Hai Hu

Hai comes from Chengdu, China and has just finished his first year of the PhD program in Computational Linguistics at Indiana University. His interests are corpus linguistics, syntactic theories (generative and computational) and documenting Chinese dialects. He is working on the LFG project at Linguist List this summer.

 

SimonPierreSimon Pierre Munyaneza

Simon Pierre Munyaneza is a summer intern for Linguist List. He is now working on Kinyarwanda speech corpus. He is currently a Doctoral student in Literacy Culture and Language Education – Indiana University Bloomington with a Minor in African Studies. His area of interest is mostly social linguistics and literacy. He speaks two European languages (French and English) and four African Languages Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, Lingala and Orunyankole­Rukiga and has been a languages teacher in Rwanda since 1999. He thinks that working at Linguist List, through Information Technology, will help him to save and revive numerous endangered African languages.

 

Julian

Julian Dietrich

Julian will be interning at the Linguist list during the summer of 2016 until August, when he will start studying computational linguistics at Indiana University. Born in Germany, he moved to the United States at the age of 7, and was raised bilingual. His father is a professor for German linguistics, from whom his interest in the field developed. Julian’s hobbies include reading, traveling, and hiking.

 

Will

 

William Shankman
Will is a summer intern for the Linguist List. He is a senior at IU planning to graduate with a major in Linguistics and a minor in Folklore/Ethnomusicology. He has studied Spanish, Chinese and Italian. He plans to get a graduate degree in Linguistics and one day perform ethnographic and linguistic research on cultures with endangered languages.

 

 

 

Qiaochu “Chloe” ChenIMG_9534
Chloe is a rising Junior at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She majors in Linguistics and Computer Science, and minors in Art History and Psychology. As a summer intern here, she’s currently working on the MultiTree project. She is a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese and the Wu dialect spoken in the Yangtze River Delta. She has studied French and is about to start learning Arabic. She hopes to get a graduate degree in Computational Linguistics, and go on to use creative technology to solve problems in language documentation and conservation. Her interests in linguistics include bilingualism, dialectology, and linguistic relativity. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and visiting museums.

 

Fund Drive 2016: Donate by Friday to Win a Prize!

Dear LINGUIST List Colleagues,

Today we are rolling out another bundle of books and journal subscription prizes for this weekend, one of which you can win if you donate to the LINGUIST List Fund Drive before Friday, May 13, before 5 pm.

***

From Bloomsbury Publishing: THREE copies of The Bloomsbury Companion To Historical Linguistics edited by Silvia Luraghi and Vit Bubenik (http://goo.gl/ObUXv2)

From Cambridge University Press: TWO one-year online-only subscriptions to Journal of Linguistics (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=LIN)

From De Gruyter Mouton: 30% discount code on all of the linguistics books on their website (https://www.degruyter.com/browse?t1=LS)

From Elsevier: ONE personal one-year electronic subscription to an Elsevier linguistics journal of the winner’s choice (see the complete list of their linguistic journals here: https://goo.gl/NaswSa)
***

Again, to win any of these fantastic prizes from this coming week’s prize bundle, you can donate to enter your name into the drawing, until Friday May 13th, at 5 PM EST. For every $10 you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery to win. Donate by the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

In addition to the one-time donations to our Fund Drive, you can also become a recurring donor and support LINGUIST List on a long-term basis. Find out how by following this link:

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

And as always, if you cannot donate monetarily, you can help us out in other ways, such as liking, sharing, and retweeting our Fund Drive posts on social media. If you like the LINGUIST List and have benefited from our free service, tell your friends about the LINGUIST List and our Fund Drive. Every little bit of support is appreciated!

There will be many more great prizes from our supporting publishers in the coming month, so stay tuned to our social media pages to hear about more prizes that you can win. Thanks and good luck!

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Milan Mihaljević

Featured Linguist: Milan Mihaljević

Featured Linguist: Milan Mihaljević

My decision to become a linguist owes much to happenstance. At eighteen I was, like many teenagers, in the metaphysical phase, searching for the meaning of life. Although I was offered a very good scholarship for business studies, I decided to study philosophy. At the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science of the University of Zagreb we had to combine two programs. The major subject (A) lasted four, and the minor (B) lasted three years. Naturally, I chose Philosophy as my A subject. My first choice for the B program was English, but the problem was that I had learned English only for a short period of time and my command of the language was not good enough to pass the entrance test. Therefore, I had to choose something else. I can’t explain why I chose General Linguistics, since until then I didn’t know that such a program existed. However, after few months I discovered that Philosophy was not as interesting as I had expected and that Linguistics was far more exciting. I decided, and with the support of Radoslav Katičić, who was the chair of linguistic department at the time and later the supervisor of my PhD thesis, succeeded to change Linguistics into my major subject. As a third-year student I discovered Generative Grammar. The topic of my MA thesis was the relations between syntax and semantics in Chomsky’s theory.

After graduation 1978, I got a job in the Old Church Slavonic Institute in Zagreb in which I have stayed until now. It is interesting that, even two weeks before I started working there, I didn’t know that such an institute existed. This is a philological institute devoted to the research of medieval Croatian texts written in the Glagolitic script. As I started working there, I had to find a “common denominator” between my general linguistic education and the needs of my new job. I started to apply generative theory to the old texts written in Croatian Church Slavonic, a language which was used only as a literary language (mostly in liturgy) and never had native speakers. The topic of my PhD thesis was generative phonology of Croatian Church Slavonic. In order to work successfully in such an institution, I had to acquire different philological skills. For example, when a new Glagolitic text is found, I have to determine when and where it was written, and whether it was translated from the Greek or Latin protograph. In order to do that, it is not enough to describe its language. You also need some knowledge of codicology, palaeography, history, etc. In this way, I soon became an unusual combination of a modern, generative linguist and a traditional philologist. They have lived peacefully side by side in my head for many years, and I like both of them equally.

Very important for my professional carrier was a postdoc year (1985-1986) which, thanks to the Herder scholarship provided by the FSV foundation from Hamburg, I spent in the Institut für Slawistik at the University of Vienna. Working with professors František Václav Mareš and Radoslav Katičić, as well as with colleagues Johannes Michael Reinhart and Georg Holzer, I have learned a lot about Slavistics, especially about Old Church Slavonic and Slavic comparative grammar.

In addition to the engagement in the Old Church Slavonic Institute, I have also taught different subjects (Old Church Slavonic language, Slavic comparative grammar, Generative syntax and phonology) at most Croatian universities (Zagreb, Split, Pula, Rijeka, Osijek, Zadar) to undergraduate and graduate students of Croatian language and General Linguistics. Although I studied Linguistics by chance, I was fortunate in my irrational decision, and after more than forty years I wouldn’t change it for anything else.

 

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2016 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!

Fund Drive 2016: Want to Win a Publisher Prize? Donate to Win!

Dear LINGUIST List Colleagues,

Today we are rolling out another bundle of books and journal subscription prizes for this weekend, one of which you can win if you donate to the LINGUIST List Fund Drive before Monday, May 9, before 5 pm.

***

From Bloomsbury Publishing: TWO copies of Contrastive Linguistics by Pan Wenguo and Tham Wai Mun (http://goo.gl/ft0t0I)

From Brill: TWO one-year subscriptions to their journal Language Dynamics and Change (http://goo.gl/kUwKXo)

From Cambridge University Press: TWO one-year online-only subscriptions to the journal of English Language and Linguistics (http://goo.gl/GNHMwk)

From De Gruyter Mouton: One one-year online-subscription for the journal Global Chinese (http://goo.gl/RoNmiP)

From Springer: Reading, Writing, Mathematics and the Developing Brain: Listening to Many Voices edited by Z. Breznitz, O. Rubinsten, V.J Molfese and D.L. Molfese (http://goo.gl/VR0U2Q)

***

Again, to win any of these fantastic prizes from this coming week’s prize bundle, you can donate to enter your name into the drawing, until Monday May 9th, at 5 PM EST. For every $10 you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery to win. Donate by the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

In addition to the one-time donations to our Fund Drive, you can also become a recurring donor and support LINGUIST List on a long-term basis. Find out how by following this link:

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

And as always, if you cannot donate monetarily, you can help us out in other ways, such as liking, sharing, and retweeting our Fund Drive posts on social media. If you like the LINGUIST List and have benefited from our free service, tell your friends about the LINGUIST List and our Fund Drive. Every little bit of support is appreciated!

There will be many more great prizes from our supporting publishers in the coming month, so stay tuned to our social media pages to hear about more prizes that you can win. Thanks and good luck!

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Joanna Błaszczak

Featured Linguist: Joanna Błaszczak

Featured Linguist: Joanna Błaszczak

How did I become a linguist?

Well, my parents wanted me to become a doctor one day, a woman in a white coat examining patients, using diverse medical instruments, conducting studies. I myself would have rather preferred to work with animals (I love animals, dogs are my favorite ). I imagined myself travelling around the world, living in a jungle with wild animals, observing and studying the behavior of chimpanzees and the like. What has become of it? Depending on how you view it, the answer to this question could be: NOTHING, as I became neither a doctor nor an animal researcher or world traveller, or BOTH in some sense. Do you wonder how this latter answer may be sensical at all? I am indeed a world traveller, maybe not (always) in a physical sense, but as a linguist you have the opportunity of travelling around the world through different languages. Originally, I wanted to study the behavior of animals, but studying the structure of languages, trying to understand the principles behind such structures, can be equally fascinating. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. Well, I do not cure sick people but still I have something to do with ‟patients” and medical equipment while conducting psycholinguistic experiments.

But let me go first a few (actually much more than ‟a few” ) years back and tell you how all this started.

I think my interest in linguistics originated as early as primary school. While all other pupils hated grammar lessons, I loved them. It was a great fun for me to analyze structures of sentences, determine the grammatical properties of words and their grammatical functions in the sentence. Later I started learning foreign languages (Russian and German), and – while I am absolutely not a talented foreign language learner – I have been fascinated by the clarity of grammar rules governing linguistic structures ever since. Being the finalist of a German language competition (olympiad), I had an opportunity to study abroad, concretely at the Humboldt University of Berlin. There, my interest in linguistics gradually grew even more. (To be honest, I also studied economics, I also did some law at the Free University of Berlin, but these subjects, while surely being interesting and useful, could not diminish my bigger interests in language and scientific work.) My first teachers at the Humboldt University (Prof. Manfred Bierwisch, Prof. Ewald Lang, Prof. Norbert Fries, Prof. Karin Donhauser) showed me how diverse the study of language can be: from lexical and compositional semantics, through syntactic structures to language change. During various linguistic summer schools I’ve got more of that. The young teachers there (Daniel Büring, Christopher Wilder, Christopher Piñón, Lea Nash, Marcel den Dikken, Maaike Schoorlemmer, Tracy A. Hall, David Adger, to mention a few) fascinated me with their cool ideas and their vast knowledge, but what fascinated me even more was generative grammar, a framework with clear predictions which can be corroborated or falsified. I think around that time I started to think or even to wish to become one day one of these scholars. And indeed my wish came true. Of course not immediately , but a Master’s thesis, a Ph.D. thesis and a Habilitation thesis later, here I am: a linguist. As Prof. Gisbert Fanselow, my boss at the University of Potsdam, once said about me, I have always started my research (be it for the MA thesis, the PhD or the Habilitation theses) with a small set of empirical data, questioned the assumptions made for them, by providing evidence or counterevidence from all possible angles (also including language acquisition, diachrony, typology etc.), then formulating a new view and integrating new findings into a consistent theoretical picture. This is what I love most: deriving far-reaching theoretical insights about the structure of grammar from the analysis of a well-defined, small empirical domain. By doing this, I feel like a detective and nobody would say that detective work is not interesting.

My primary linguistic interest was and still is syntax, minimalist theory, semantics, and syntax-semantics interface. By and by this interest has broadened to include typology, psycholinguistics, language teaching, and sociolinguistics as well. My work in various projects at the University of Potsdam and also at the Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS) in Berlin has certainly contributed to that. The projects I was involved in were diverse and ranged from, for example, developing the annotation scheme for the morphological and syntactic aspects of the corpora of the Collaborative Research Centre 632 in Potsdam through working on a book about different languages spoken in Germany’s schools as a help for teachers who have pupils in their classrooms with native languages other than German (a ZAS project under the leadership of Prof. Manfred Krifka) to studying the relationship between national identity and bilingualism (a joint project with Dr Marzena Żygis from ZAS).

Where I am now? Since 2008 I have been an Associate Professor at the University of Wrocław in Poland, a place with a good generative grammar tradition (initiated among others by Prof. Bożena Rozwadowska). There I am Head of the Center for Experimental Research on Natural Language, supervising and coordinating various psycholinguistics projects. With the support of the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) and the National Science Centre, Poland (NCN) it was possible to obtain additional grants for setting up a neurolinguistic laboratory with the EEG equipment and an eyetracking laboratory. In addition, I managed to establish a publishing house The Center for General and Comparative Linguistics, officially accepted by the National Library of Poland, which publishes a linguistic (book) series Generative Linguistics in Wrocław (GLiW) and, in cooperation with De Gruyter Open, an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal Questions and Answers in Linguistics (QAL). These publications offer a forum for linguistic discussions on various topics, and more importantly, they give especially young researchers the opportunity to present their work. And thanks to the Linguist List, more and more people know about us. Also thanks to the Linguist List, more and more interested students contact us as they want to apply for our new Master Programme in Linguistics (ETHEL – Empirical and Theoretical Linguistics), a programme, as the name suggests, which combines theoretical linguistics with empirical issues, giving the students the opportunity to study, next to theoretical syntax, semantics, etc. also statistics, corpus linguistics, psycho- and neurolinguistics, and to conduct their own experiments. Needless to say, our laboratories and the publishing house offer another possibility of practical training.

My colleagues, dr Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, dr Barbara Tomaszewicz, dr Anna Czypionka and Piotr Gulgowski (PhD student) and I currently work on decomposition of linguistic categories in the brain, nominalizations, eventualities (FNP project), number and quantification in natural language (NCN project). We cooperate with researchers from Germany (Konstanz University, Heidelberg University and the Humboldt University of Berlin), and invite scholars from various places of the world: from neighboring countries (Germany and the Czech Republic), through other European countries (the Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy, UK, etc.) to Northern America (Canada and USA). Here once again it becomes apparent that also as a linguist you are a world traveller: you are travelling to the world (by going to conferences or workshops) but the world is also coming to you (as participants in conferences organized by you, as guest researchers working with you on joint projects, etc.). And – needless to say – nothing of this would be possible without the help of the Linguist List. A big ‘Thank you’ to all the people engaged in the Linguist List, for your great and extremely helpful work!

 

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2016 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!

Fund Drive 2016: Another Publisher Prize Bundle, Donate to Win!

Dear LINGUIST List Colleagues,

Today we have another bundle of books and journal subscription prizes, one of which you can win if you donate to the LINGUIST List Fund Drive before this Friday, May 6, before 5 pm.

***

From Cambridge University Press: The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology edited by N. J. Enfield, Paul Kockelman, and Jack Sidnell (http://goo.gl/9sYBoh)

From De Gruyter Mouton: Greek Interjections by Lars Nordgren (e-book) (http://goo.gl/WyLc7L)

From Bloomsbury Publishing: Discourse of Twitter and Social Media (http://goo.gl/qJrP2o)

From Edinburgh University Press: The Handbook of Business Discourse Edited by Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini (http://goo.gl/jR8btP)

From John Benjamins: 1 (of 3) journal subscription of your choice from any of their 70+ journals (http://goo.gl/lvCacl)

***

Again, to win any of these fantastic prizes from this coming week’s prize bundle, you can donate to enter your name into the drawing, until Friday May 6th, at 5 PM EST. For every $10 you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery to win. Donate by the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

In addition to the one-time donations to our Fund Drive, you can also become a recurring donor and support LINGUIST List on a long-term basis. Find out how by following this link:

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

And as always, if you cannot donate monetarily, you can help us out in other ways, such as liking, sharing, and retweeting our Fund Drive posts on social media. If you like the LINGUIST List and have benefited from our free service, tell your friends about the LINGUIST List and our Fund Drive. Every little bit of support is appreciated!

There will be many more great prizes from our supporting publishers in the coming month, so stay tuned to our social media pages to hear about more prizes that you can win. Thanks and good luck!

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Christian Di Canio

Featured Linguist: Christian DiCanio

Featured Linguist: Christian DiCanio

I was brought to linguistics partly by accident, though it has ended up being the perfect match to my strengths and interests. As a child growing up in Buffalo, NY, I was mainly interested in the natural sciences and did not have much of any experience with foreign languages. Yet, when I had the chance to study Spanish in primary school and high school, I discovered that I excelled at it and had a knack for quickly memorizing new words and the idiosyncrasies of grammar. Moreover, in high school, I do recall coming up with a new alphabetic system for English which had different symbols for syllabic consonants (you know, just for fun).

Nevertheless, at that age, it certainly seemed more practical for me to devote my attention to the sciences, which I also loved. So, as an undergraduate, I went away to Brandeis University where I planned to pursue a degree in Chemistry with a minor in Spanish. As a freshman needing guidance in which courses to take, I was assigned a random faculty advisor. That person just so happened to be a linguist named Joan Maling. She nudgingly mentioned to me “Many students who are interested in the sciences and in languages like linguistics.” So, I enrolled in my first linguistics class with Ray Jackendoff. Ray’s enthusiasm for the topic and interest in engaging with students’ ideas proved contagious. Rather simultaneously, Chemistry became rather dull to me. Yet, could one actually study language with scientific rigor and make a career out of it? I didn’t really know if this was true at the time, but I took the plunge and switched majors.

Due to financial circumstances, I transferred to the University at Buffalo where I continued my studies in Linguistics and Spanish. I excelled there and gradually became convinced that linguistics was a useful discipline that might make me employable some day. During my penultimate year, I decided that I wanted to study abroad for a semester in a Spanish-speaking country. Yet, studying abroad in Spain seemed boring to me. As luck would have it, there was a very affordable (and interesting) program for studying abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. I inquired about this program, but was disheartened to find out that they did not offer many advanced courses in Spanish. My undergraduate advisor, Jeri Jaeger, suggested that perhaps I could study Zapotec there instead. I had never even considered this a possibility. As luck would have it, when I asked if this was possible, the program seemed keen on finding a speaker to teach me Zapotec. My time in Oaxaca was magical and I fell in love with how different Zapotec was from everything else I had learned beforehand. As my semester project abroad, I wrote a paper about Zapotec syllable structure and sent it along with my applications for graduate school.

I started graduate school at UC Berkeley in 2002. When I got to Berkeley, I knew I wanted to study phonetics, but felt a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities that I could pursue. I dabbled a bit in syntax and morphology (which remains a “secret” interest of mine), but was finally convinced to focus on phonetics and phonology through a combination of Keith Johnson’s move to the department and Larry Hyman’s addictive energy for all things phonological. During my second year, I was contacted by Seth Holmes, an anthropologist working with a Triqui [ˈtɾiki] community in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was interested in finding a linguist who wanted to help the community develop a dictionary. I wanted to return to Oaxaca and this was a good chance to do so.

I dove into fieldwork with the Triquis and, in doing so, I learned a gigantic amount about linguistic analysis, phonology, and phonetics. Like many other Otomanguean languages, Triqui has a complex tonal system (9 contrastive tones on a single syllable) and a complex morphophonological system involving tonal mutation and spreading. I have been endlessly interested in figuring out the details of the language over the years and investigating different aspects of tone production and perception. Though, as a graduate student, I was certainly concerned that I couldn’t both focus on big picture issues in phonetics (what I imagined to be marketable) and do phonetic fieldwork (what I was most passionate about). Two of my dissertation committee members, Larry Hyman and Ian Maddieson, convinced me that I could do both. I also learned an incredible amount about phonetic theory and methods from my advisor, Keith Johnson, who supported my endeavors even when they didn’t seem to jibe so much with his own research interests. So, I wrote my thesis on the phonetics and phonology of Itunyoso Triqui.

After graduation, I accepted a postdoctoral position in Lyon, France at Le Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage, where I stayed for 2.5 years. I spent my time in France exploring the perception the suprasegmental contrasts in Triqui and gastronomie lyonnaise. I benefitted greatly from meetings with François Pellegrino, who helped me with issues related to experimental design and data processing. It was during this time that I also began to expand my interests in the phonetics of endangered languages. I was recruited to do fieldwork on Ixcatec, a moribund Otomanguean language in Oaxaca, Mexico and, then, to start work on Yoloxóchitl Mixtec (also Otomanguean). I embraced both of these new opportunities and, in doing so, really began to see myself as a Mesoamericanist in addition to being a phonetician.

After France, I took another postdoctoral position at Haskins Laboratories working with Doug Whalen on extracting phonetic data from endangered language documentation corpora. As luck would have it, one of the languages on the project was Yoloxóchitl Mixtec. As someone working on this language, I was well-qualified for the position. At Haskins, I began to focus on the efficacy of computational methods for extracting phonetic data and from endangered language corpora. In the process of exploring these new methods and examining vowel production data, I gained much greater confidence in my abilities as a phonetician. At Haskins, Doug Whalen instilled in me the outspoken belief that phonetic research on endangered languages is, a priori, of no lesser scientific value than phonetic research on non-endangered languages. His special knack for putting phonetic research from endangered languages on the same playing field as research on more commonly-spoken languages was a strong influence on how I began to think of the larger ramifications of my work. With Doug’s encouragement, I applied for my own grant to apply computational methods to the corpus analysis of tone in Triqui and Mixtec and to examine the prosody-tone interface in these languages. I was thrilled to receive a National Science Foundation grant to do this work and pursue my research on tone.

In 2015, I was also thrilled to join the Linguistics Department at the University at Buffalo where I continue my research on the phonetics of endangered languages and speech production. Though I’m now an assistant professor and professional linguist, much of what drew me into linguistics many years ago lingers still – an interest in applying a scientific approach to examining the atoms of speech and discovering how this most human of all systems works. At Buffalo, I hope to instill in budding linguists a sense of how much of the world is still wide open to be explored and give them the skills to grasp the endless possibilities in linguistics.

 

 

Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2016 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!

Fund Drive 2016: Introducing GeoLing

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,

GeoLing is a map service that will include all linguistics information around the world—from jobs, to conferences, to internships—and now, for the first time on LINGUIST List—local events. GeoLing will show all events in a map that is also aware of the users geo-location. It runs in all major browsers including on mobile devices.

Information that contains geo-coordinates or addresses and that is posted on LINGUIST List (using the structured submission interface on its website: http://linguistlist.org/LL/posttolinguist.cfm) will be mapped in this interface. Currently, all announcements that were submitted to LINGUIST List up till January are displayed on GeoLing. We are working on regularly exporting all of the announcements to the map.

We have implemented an interface to submit local events which are not part of the regular LINGUIST List announcements. Now, you can add and find events such as local talks, gatherings, etc.

Again, the emphasis for GeoLing is on linguistics, which includes theoretical, descriptive, documentary, cognitive, psycho-linguistics, etc., and in particular corpus and computational linguistics.

To learn how to submit a local event, please visit: http://geoling.linguistlist.org/howto/

To add a local event, please visit: http://geoling.linguistlist.org/add/

We hope to continue to put our full efforts into GeoLing and expand its capabilities and features. We ask that you please make a donation to Fund Drive 2016. To keep our services, such as the brand new and FREE GeoLing, and all of our other features up and running, we need your help. Please consider supporting The LINGUIST List in our 2016 Fund Drive by making a donation at

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

Support like yours is vital to our ongoing efforts to upgrade and develop services like GeoLing. We hope you will continue to support us so we can better support you!

Enjoy!
The LINGUIST List Team

Featured Linguist: Michael Gamon

A job ad on LINGUIST List.

Featured Linguist: Michael Gamon

Featured Linguist: Michael Gamon

Language? Or Science?

I grew up in Bad Soden, a small town on the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany. My parents always encouraged any interest of mine. Whether it was science (the chemistry lab in the basement, even the rockets and explosive experiments in the yard) or language and literature. My dad had a fairly extensive collection of world literature. He was in his 20s when WWII ended and could not get enough of the books and the modern art that became available after the barbarism of the Third Reich. The interest in reading rubbed off on me, allegedly I could read fluently by the time I entered first grade, having taught myself reading by asking adults (sometimes total strangers) to spell out letters and labels aloud, starting with the signs in the elevator of our apartment building. Once I had outgrown children’s books, I was allowed to pick any book I wanted from my dad’s shelves, as long as I would put it back after reading it – and I took full advantage of that. There was no notion of “age-appropriate” books in our house: if I could read it and enjoy it, it was considered appropriate. From those beginnings, language, literature and science never lost their appeal for me. In high school I focused on physics, math and English, and when the time came to decide on what to study, I narrowed down the choice to geophysics or German studies and it was my choice to make. My rationale at the time was: Go for the big and risky dream first (study literature to become a writer), and if that does not work out, science and engineering are still another interesting option.

Language and Science!

I did not know about Linguistics until I signed up for German studies at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt. It was one of the academic minors “Nebenfächer” offered in German studies –an interesting application of formal methods to the subject of language. All it took was an introductory generative syntax course (taught by the unforgettable Wolfgang Sternefeld) to get hooked; I studied under Helen Leuninger and Günther Grewendorf. Language and the mind/brain, the mathematics of language, and the distant prospect of computers analyzing language – this was incredibly exciting! A few years into the program, I applied for a Fulbright scholarship to study generative linguistics in the US. To my surprise I made it through round after round of the selection process until I was placed in the University of Washington’s linguistics program. When I received the happy news, I tried to find the university on a map – poring unsuccessfully over a DC area map — the only “Washington” I recognized.

I arrived in Seattle in the autumn of 1990 and fell in love with the beauty of the city, the lakes, the sea, the mountains, and the campus. Resources at the school were a world apart from what I had known in Frankfurt. There, the university library still had card catalogues. In order to get your materials you had to fill out a request form, return after two days to stand in line and find out if the book was available and hope the librarian had processed the request form properly. At the UW, you would go to a library computer terminal, find the library code, and pick up what you needed from the open shelves within minutes. UW faculty were accessible for questions or discussions at all times, the student body was very international, the place was vibrant.

A Degree and a Job.

I finished my MA at the UW by adding one more academic quarter to the three-quarter scholarship. By then I knew I wanted to continue as a linguist, inspired by wonderful teachers (Karen Zagona, Heles Contreras, Fritz Newmeyer, Ellen Kaisse, Sharon Hargus) and fellow grad students. I returned to Germany, only to find that the dusty educational bureaucracy there made it near impossible to have my brand new MA recognized. Fortunately, I got two nearly simultaneous offers to join a PhD program — one from the UW, the other from Nijmegen. I decided to return to the UW, for the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty and for the UW’s academic program.

I was about to finish my PhD in 1996 when a job ad in the Linguist List caught my eye: Microsoft Research (MSR) was looking for a German grammarian (the archives still have the posting https://linguistlist.org/issues/7/7-33.html). At the time, the UW did not have a computational linguistics program; and while I had done a little bit of Prolog programming back in Germany, I could not possibly consider myself a computational linguist. But I figured that applying would help me practice resumé writing and cost me only a few hours and a stamp, so I sent off the application, with little hope of success. That application led to an internship in the Natural Language Processing group at MSR, and then to a job offer. In September 1996 I had both a PhD and a great job. And I could stay in the place I loved.

My early years at Microsoft Research were focused on writing a computational grammar for German in a grammar-authoring environment that was far ahead of its time. The grammar was written in a declarative language (called “G”, loosely based on LISP) and processed by a very efficient parsing engine. Authoring tools made it possible to test a grammar change over thousands of sentences within minutes and to highlight and aggregate each change in the analyses. At the time, other parsers would brood over moderately complex sentences for seconds, sometimes minutes, at a time.), For someone passionate about understanding the structure of language and tinkering with grammatical details this was the best playground one could imagine!

By the time the German computational grammar became part of Microsoft’s German grammar checker (every sentence that is grammar-checked in a German word document is parsed into a full syntactic tree!), the field moved in a new direction, away from grammar engineering and into the world of probabilities. It was time to discover the potential of machine learning. With some colleagues we found some interesting problems in natural language generation where we could combine knowledge engineering (no need to learn from data what we can code in a few hours) with machine-learned models for data-driven decisions. Soon, however, even the idea of a partially knowledge-engineered system fell out of favor, and the search was on for some new research areas. For me, the “fringe” areas (some of which have become mainstream now) held the most fascination: sentiment detection, the notion of “style”, using machine learning to detect and correct non-native writing, and language in social media. More recently, I made another little leap into a new branch of Microsoft Research where we work closer with product teams to bring language technology to market.

And Now?

So here I am, a few months shy of 20 years at MSR after having applied for that job on Linguist List in 1996. Along the way there have been some 60 papers, 30 patent applications, and many collaborations with wonderful colleagues, friends, and incredibly fun and talented research summer interns.

After high school, I had wanted to become a writer or a geophysicist. Instead, I became a linguist. I studied generative linguistics and landed a job as a computational linguist. I have never taken a computer science or programming class, but now work in a computer science research lab.

Along the way I have also became something of a contrarian, to the bemusement of enthusiastic up-and-coming researchers. So, by way of example, I feel I should conclude with at least a few potentially career-limiting remarks.

I believe that, over its long history, the term “Artificial Intelligence” has become intellectually useless –a term that has utility only as a grant-magnet or as a topic for the media circus and their insatiable appetite for the shiny and meaningless. There is “Apparent Intelligence,” which is a real and remarkable achievement: software that is so cleverly designed that a machine can appear intelligent within a well-defined and limited domain. But the notion that machines “understand” language in any meaningful sense of the word, for example, is preposterous at the current stage of our knowledge. Although the mantra “in five years, computers will be able to do xyz,” has been repeated for at least 60 years now, it has not come any closer to the truth. And while deep learning is truly a qualitative breakthrough, all of those “brain” metaphors we see bandied about, well they’re just metaphors, and pretty bad ones at that.

So, what’s next? Your guess is as good as mine!

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Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2016 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!