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Hilaria Cruz at LINGUIST List

We at the LINGUIST List are always happy to collaborate with fellow scholars on our projects. We were lucky to host Dr. Hilaria Cruz, a researcher and speaker of Chatino, for a week while she worked on creating a spoken corpus of the language for an ongoing project. If you’re interested in collaborating on spoken corpora with us, please contact us!

Dr. Cruz at LINGUIST List

Hilaria Cruz is a linguist and a native speaker of San Juan Quiahije (SJQ) Chatino, an endangered Zapotecan language, spoken in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. She has been documenting and revitalizing the Chatino languages since 2003. Hilaria founded the Chatino Language Documentation Project (CLDP) together with her sister Emiliana Cruz (now an assistant professor at UMass Amherst), and their advisor Tony Woodbury of The University of Texas at Austin.

The CLDP aims to carry out linguistic documentation projects and research integrating the advancement of linguistic science with the wishes of the Chatino people to promote and honor their language. During the course of Hilaria’s fieldwork on Chatino, she has personally collected and archived more than one hundred hours of audio recordings of naturalistic speech in formal and informal settings.

Hilaria earned her Ph.D. in linguistics in 2014 at the University of Texas at Austin. The dissertation entitled “Linguistic Poetics and Rhetoric of Eastern Chatino of San Juan Quiahije,” analyzes the poetic patterns of SJQ discourse.

Hilaria is currently working on a project with LINGUIST List to create tools for speech recognition in SJQ Chatino. Beginning in the fall of 2015 Hilaria will be a Lyman T. Johnson Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky. There Hilaria will investigate, the Chatino concepts of death in four Eastern Chatino communities. They are Santa Maria Yolotepec (YOL), Santa Maria Amialtepec (AMIA) and San Juan Quiahije (SJQ) and San Marcos Zacatepec (ZAC).  Hilaria’s research interests include Chatino poetics and verbal art, language revitalization, and automatic speech recognition in Chatino.

A Visitor to LINGUIST List

In the normal course of running The LINGUIST List, we are occasionally lucky enough to receive visitors. Last week, Dr. Francis M. Tyers, a post doc in computational linguistics at The University of Tromsø stopped by the office to discuss various computational projects. Dr. Tyers is in town collaborating with local linguists as well enjoying the abundant sunlight – surely a treat coming from the Arctic Circle!

Dr. Tyers (center) with Andrew Lamont (left) and Jonathan Washington (right)

Dr. Tyers has been involved in the field of machine translation for nine years, he completed his PhD at the Universitat d’Alacant, and now works as a postdoctoral researcher at UiT Norgga árktalaš universitehta. He has published over 30 articles related to machine translation and computational linguistics. He is secretary of both the ISCA SIG on Speech and Language Technology for Minority Languages (SaLTMiL) and the Apertium project. His research interests include finite-state morphological analysis, rule-based disambiguation and machine translation for marginalised and lesser-resourced languages. He is currently in Bloomington working on dependency parsing for Kazakh.

Should you be on the IU campus in Bloomington, we would love to meet you. Please come and see us!

2015 Summer Interns and Volunteers

We at LINGUIST List are delighted this summer to open our doors to the 2015 Summer Interns! If you are interested in becoming an intern, be on the look-out for our application cycle to 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.

Take a look below to meet the newest members of the LINGUIST List:

Seyed Asghari

Seyed Amir Hossein Asghari is a doctoral candidate in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. He has been the project manager for the first Persian-Albanian Dictionary (2010) and co-author of Persian-Albania and English conversation (2008).

He is currently working at Baharli South Azeri Turkish of Iran at Linguistic List.

Zac Branson

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Zac recently completed his second year in the PhD program in the Department of Linguistics at Indiana University. He is pursuing coursework for an M.A. in Linguistics and an M.S. in Computational Linguistics. Zac’s research interests include the documentation of understudied and endangered languages, and the development of computational tools to aid such documentation.

Jacob Henry

Jacob is currently an intern at the LINGUIST List for summer 2015. His main projects include the relaunch of the LL-Map website as well as assisting with the launch of the GORILLA site. He’s originally from Muncie, Indiana and in 2011 he became a student at the University of Oklahoma where he’s currently pursuing a BA in French and General Linguistics. His particular academic interests lie in sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, and typology. He has also done research in various periods of French literature, as well as interning in a microbiology lab.

Umida Khikmatillaeva

Umida started volunteering for the Linguist List in the Spring of 2015. During 2012-2014 she worked at IU for the Turkish Flagship Program; her task was creating Turkish to Uzbek Bridge project materials. Prior to this program, she worked at the Center for Turkic and Iranian Lexicography and Dialectology (CTILD). Together with her colleagues, they created an Uzbek-English online dictionary. She has been working for IU since 1996 and taught Intermediate level Uzbek at Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages (SWEESL) till 2003, then she coordinated Advanced Uzbek Program (Summer Overseas Program) in Samarkand in 2004.

 

Levi King

Levi joined LINGUIST List as a volunteer for the summer of 2015, where he’s contributing to the GORILLA project and related speech recognition work. He’s currently a Ph.D. student in Computational Linguistics (CL) at Indiana University, where he previously got a dual M.A. in CL (Department of Linguistics) and Applied Linguistics & TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; Department of Second Language Studies). While his CL interests run the gamut, he’s particularly interested in applying natural language processing to the automatic content analysis of non-native speaker language, and more broadly, the analysis of “noisy” language data in general. In his free time, he enjoys live music, board and video games, trivia, pottery and comic books.

Alec Wolyniec

Photo on 6-22-15 at 7.20 PM #2

Alec is an intern at the LINGUIST List for the summer of 2015. His work includes assisting with the development of the LL-Map website, updating databases to be used in the development of Automatic Speech Recognition technologies, and creating algorithms to scrape language data from Wiktionary and other websites. Originally from the suburbs of New York City, he is currently a student at Emory University in Atlanta, where he is pursuing a BS in Computer Science and a secondary major in Linguistics. In his spare time, Alec enjoys jazz music, reading, basketball, and board games.

Fund Drive 2015 is Over! Thank You to All of Our Supporters!

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers, Supporters and Friends,

Fund Drive 2015 has come to a close, and we would like to thank everyone who made a donation—big or small—for their generosity! This Fund Drive was no small effort, and we appreciate all of the support that we received from
nearly 700 donors!

To wrap up Fund Drive 2015, we would like to conclude with the results of our challenges:

– The Subfield Challenge

While phonology and syntax held the lead for the first half of the drive, it was computational linguistics that came out on top! Check out how the top five subfields ranked:

1. Computational Linguistics ($7,790)
2. Syntax ($6,121)
3. Sociolinguistics ($3,998)
4. Phonology ($3,129)
5. Semantics ($2,845)

– The University Challenge

Indiana University Bloomington and The University of Washington were in a stiff battle throughout the drive, but who ended up on top? Check out the results:

1. Indiana University Bloomington ($2,730)
2. University of Washington ($2,590)
3. Stanford University ($1,365)
4. North-West University, Potchefstroom and Vaal Triangle Campuses, South Africa ($820)
5. University of Arizona ($750)

– The Business Challenge

We also received some donations from a few very generous businesses:

1. Google Inc. ($4,000)
2. Microsoft Natural Language Group ($300)
3. IBM Watson ($150) and IBM Context Computing ($150)

We would also like to make a special mention of our Advisory Panel, whose efforts during our Advisors’ Challenge and all throughout the drive were invaluable. Not only were their donations vital to Fund Drive, but their willingness to spread the word and raise awareness brought great life to our efforts. We send them our sincerest thanks!

We are incredibly grateful for each and every donation that we received totaling $41,091.85, but we still did not come close to our goal of $79,000. Although Fund Drive 2015 is over, you can continue supporting us with one-time or recurrent donations by selecting The Linguist List Discretionary Fund (see the Instructions page):

https://www.myiu.org/one-time-gift

Please consider making a donation to keep The LINGUIST List running the way you like it! LINGUIST List is dedicated to freely providing information and services to the linguistic community, and it’s through your support that we’re able to do it.

We thank you all for your support during Fund Drive 2015!

Best wishes,
The LINGUIST List Team

Featured Linguist: Monica Macaulay

Featured Linguist: Monica Macaulay

Featured Linguist: Monica Macaulay

So, you know how most kids want to be firefighters, or doctors, or scientists when they grow up?  When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian.  Yes, I was the biggest nerd in the world.  It was just that I loved to read and I loved to organize things, so organizing books sounded really good.  I also played Scrabble with my mom, and we would look words up in her immense “Shorter Oxford English Dictionary,” which we regarded as the authority on all matters language-related.

When I was 15 we moved to Santiago, Chile.  My mother was thrilled because her children were going to learn to speak a second language.  So, being 15, I decided I wasn’t going to learn it.  Unfortunately, I did, despite my best efforts.  So I spent about six months hiding it from my parents until it just got too hard to pretend.  We were there for a year and a half.  By the end of our time there my Spanish was so good I could fool people into thinking I was Chilean.  It’s been downhill ever since.

I graduated in Chile from Santiago College – that was my high school – a girl’s school with the motto “for finer womanhood.”  I was 16 and it made perfect sense to me that since I had graduated from high school I was an adult.  So I took off overland with my boyfriend and spent three months traveling through South America.  My parents, of course, were absolutely horrified.  It was quite an adventure and I did live to tell about it.  Then the boyfriend and I moved to Prescott, AZ, where we attended a hippy college for a while.  Next up, San Francisco, where I went to art school.  (Of course.)  We lived on a houseboat in Sausalito.  I finally dumped art school (no talent, just a love of art supplies) and the BF, and moved to Berkeley.

Eventually I realized I might want to go to college (a real one), and that there was one in the town I lived in. So I applied and got into UC-Berkeley.  It took me 7 years to finish.  I kept dropping out to do things like hitch-hike through Mexico, but that’s another story.  Everyone in Mexico laughed at my Chilean accent so I quickly modified it.

I took random classes in college, just not sure what I wanted to do.  But then one day I saw a course listing for a class in the English department that I thought would help me with my crossword puzzles, an obsession at the time.  It turned out to be 1965-era Standard Theory, taught as gospel truth.  (This was the mid/late-70s.)  I was hooked.  And OH MY GOD at the end of the semester I discovered there was a whole department of this stuff.  That was it, I never looked back.  I had finally found the place where I could combine my love of words and my love of organizing things into systems.

Cut to grad school (still at Berkeley – who would want to leave that beautiful place?).  I was there in a phase where the only required course in the linguistics graduate program was a 2-semester sequence in field methods.  (This is how I managed to get a PhD and never take an actual phonology course!)  They were offering two sections the year I took it.  I knew one was going to use Vietnamese, and I said, no way, that’s a tone language, I’m not doing tone.  The other one turned out to be Mixtec.  Nuff said.

Despite the tone, I discovered I loved eliciting and analyzing data.  Eventually I did fieldwork in Mexico (and I’ve written about that elsewhere), and wrote my dissertation on the language.  After a year’s stint at George Mason University I wound up in the English department at Purdue University.  Indiana was a bit of a shock after 14 years in the Bay Area.  But I met my husband, Joe Salmons, there, and made a lot of good friends.

The year after I got tenure, though, we moved to Madison to take jobs at the University of Wisconsin.  I grew up in Madison, so it was quite strange to return home after all those years.  When we moved there I was just finishing up my grammar of Chalcatongo Mixtec, and it seemed like a good time to make a change.  Ever since hearing Amy Dahlstrom talk about Algonquian languages in graduate school I had had a bad case of Algonquian envy.  Wisconsin has five native languages which are still spoken, three of which are Algonquian.  I satisfied my Algonquian envy by starting to work on Menominee, and have continued that ever since.  There’s a steep learning curve for Algonquian linguistics, but it’s totally worth it.

A couple of interesting things have happened along the way, to me and to the profession.  I didn’t start out feeling like an Americanist – that is, I didn’t feel like I was one of those people who would characterize themselves as working on American Indian languages; I just happened to work on Mixtec (and also a California language called Karuk).  But that identity snuck up on me, and I definitely define myself as an Americanist now.  The other thing that has happened is that the field has undergone a radical transformation, and me along with it.  This is the recognition that the vast majority of the languages we work on are severely endangered, that our work with communities has as much value as our scholarly work, and that we need to take responsibility for helping communities out with language revitalization when and how they want us to.

2014XmasMM2

Documentary and theoretical approaches coexist and enrich each other, and American Indian languages are in the thick of it.  When I was in graduate school it was pretty much unthinkable that people from the theory-dominant departments would do fieldwork – now it seems like most everybody does some.  And I find myself working with community members on dictionaries of Menominee and Potawatomi, something I never could have imagined myself doing when I was in grad school.  The benefits of these changes to the field are enormous, and I think we’re in a much healthier place as a discipline now.

From 2009 to 2014, Joe Salmons, Anja Wanner, Rajiv Rao, and I were the review editors for Linguist List.   It was a lot of work but we were proud of the quality (and quantity!) of the reviews we posted.  After stepping down from that, I became a co-editor of the Papers of the Algonquian Conference, and last January I became president of the Endangered Language Fund (http://www.endangeredlanguagefund.org/).  We give grants for small projects on endangered languages all over the world.

Just a footnote:  linguistics ruined Scrabble for me.  It’s just that pesky question of what counts as a word!  I mean, can you use “ish”?

Please support the Linguist List with a donation today.

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

Featured Linguist: Ljuba Veselinova

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Ljuba Veselinova (Stockholm University)

Featured Linguist Ljuba Veselinova

Featured Linguist: Ljuba Veselinova

I came to LINGUIST List in 1994 as the first recipient of its graduate student fellowship funded by subscribers. Compared to its current size, the list was small back then (around 4000 subscribers). However, the work was exciting and there was this whole new universe to explore–I am talking, of course, about the internet. I was soon engulfed by UNIX, its shells, its mail and text utilities, especially emacs. It was scary to have to tell some of the people who figured as authors of my textbooks that they will need to edit parts of their messages. The mailing list function was a primary one at that time and the list was split between Eastern Michigan University and the University of Texas A & M. Those of us based in Michigan were connecting to a computer in Texas via a phone modem! I stayed with LINGUIST List thanks to the subscriber’s support until I finished my MA in 1997. By the time I was leaving, the subscriber numbers had soared to 10000 and counting; the mailing list had become just one of the functions LINGUIST performed, and a well organized website was in place. The first NSF funded infrastructure project was going on and there were several grant proposals in the making. Working for LINGUIST List had never been more promising.

In a way, it is actually wrong to ask me what I am doing after LINGUIST List because I never truly quit for real. While greater part of my time has been devoted to typology through my dissertation on suppletion in verb paradigms and my participation in the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS), my interest in technology and LINGUIST is as alive as ever. After 1997, I kept coming back to Michigan for periods of time of varying length. Thanks to grants from the Swedish Institute I was able to come back in summer 1998 as well as in fall 1999; in summer 2000 I was partially funded by LINGUIST List NSF grant. My latest stay was on a Visiting Scientist position during the academic year 2005-6. I was planning on looking for other academic jobs in the US when the Swedish Research Council awarded me a four year long research funding. It is worth noting that one of the motivations for this reward as well as other grants I received was my international experience while working for the LINGUIST List.

Here in Stockholm, I have been focusing on the typology of negation in non-verbal and existential sentences. I also pursue studies on geographical information systems (GIS) on my own. Much of my research is geared towards uncovering patterns of variation but also patterns of unity in the languages of the world. For instance one striking example of a pervasive feature is the fact that most languages make a difference between the way they negate actions e.g. I don’t run and the way they negate existence/availability e.g. There is no beer (in the fridge). There are also languages such as Turkish where negation of states e.g. I am not sick differs from both the negation of actions and the negation of availability. As shown on the map below, special expressions in for the negation of existence are dominant in languages of the world; in fact there are a few, well delimited areas where the distinction between negation of actions and negation of availability is obliterated, Western Europe is one of them.

Negative Existentials (by Ljuba Veselinova)

Negative Existentials (by Ljuba Veselinova)

Seeing grammatical patterns in a spatial contexts is something that I will never get tired of. A live version of the map above, still in the making can be seen here: http://arcg.is/1C2X3Bm

The education I received at LINGUIST List came via many different channels: through direct instruction thanks to its founders, Prof. Helen Aristar-Dry and Prof. Anthony Aristar, who with their incredible resourcefullness and endless patience have been my mentors and friends for many years; then, just having to sit down and actually do the work was a great learning experience. What I learned from LINGUIST is reflected daily in my correspondence and professional contacts, in my organizing skills, in my knowledge and interest in technology and databases. LINGUIST List has grown from a mailing list with a linguistic profile to an organization and a school of its own kind. Finally, working at LINGUIST List gives you this incredible energy and actual belief that anything is possible and anything is within reach. You are in touch with the best of an incredibly diverse discipline. At the same time, you learn that you can do anything that you really believe in and really dream of: ballet dancing, playing the guitar, doing photographing or knitting — it’s all there, and it’s all yours. So maybe I will see you at the next conference, or maybe at Burning Man?

Flight-picture by Ljuba Veselinova

These days I am happy to send my students there as the LINGUIST List experience is immensely beneficial to anyone who is going to pursue a career in linguistics and/or language technology. It is also my turn to chip in the supporting pot and once again thank the subscribers for all the contributions that made my stay with LINGUIST possible. At the same time, I would like to extend a plea for a continued support for the LINGUIST List and its current moderators, Malgorzata E. Cavar and Damir Cavar, who carried out its move to a new site and continue to work tirelessly to maintain it as an extremely vigorous and creative environment where many students have found expression for their talents and actually become linguists.

Featured Linguist: Ljuba Veselinova

Featured Linguist: Ljuba Veselinova

 

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

Featured Linguist: Joseph C. Salmons

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Joe Salmons (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

Featured Linguist: Joe Salmons

Featured Linguist: Joe Salmons

 

‘Featured linguist’ blurbs used to directly address the question ‘how did I become a linguist?’. Every single day I think about that, how lucky I am to be a linguist and one doing what I’m doing.

Growing up mostly just outside Kings Mountain, North Carolina, from first grade into college I was a really weak student and came close to dropping out of high school. But I graduated and stumbled into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and into Philosophy and Foreign Languages, departments with amazing profs who worked hard to help me along. About halfway through, things clicked, especially in the philosophy and history of science, and I just worked on learning languages, especially German. Philosophy courses didn’t yield big answers but I learned something about how to approach problems. The German program made it possible for me to go to Germany one summer, my first trip ever outside the southeastern U.S. Both things were life changers.

To understand the historical underpinnings of some of the exciting stuff in philosophy, I went to get an MA in German at the University of Texas at Austin. Here again, things clicked because of a professor and a subject. Learning languages was fun, but there were weird things going on, say, where German word forms did and didn’t have umlaut or which nouns took which gender. I took the required course in the history of the German language with Edgar C. Polomé; every session answered those kinds of questions and things I hadn’t known enough to wonder about. I could never quite figure out the rules for how to think and argue in literature classes, but this was familiar turf: Figuring out generalizations about data. And even if Karl Verner and Hermann Paul weren’t always presented in terms of hypothesis testing and theory building, it was easy to see a science developing and advancing.

I learned from Edgar for the rest of his life. Most of my History of German: What the past reveals about today’s language was directly shaped or inspired by Edgar, but it’s his insistence on trying to see the big picture, language structure integrated into history and society, that drove the writing of that book.

Edgar C. Polomé, cher maître

Edgar C. Polomé, cher maître

After grad school, I got a job at Purdue University, where I soon met Monica Macaulay, another featured linguist in this fund drive. She changed my life completely, not just because we came to spend all our time together, but because she knew mountains of stuff about linguistics. Before long we’d co-authored our first article, the classic “Offensive Rock Band Names: A Linguistic Taxonomy” (Maledicta 10.81–99, 1989). From her and others, I saw that understanding language change demanded understanding linguistic theories and thinking about problems beyond just sound change. I’m still trying to do that.

And Monica and I got married. I played bass and guitar in a lot of bands in those years, including with the Nailbiters, Mobile Home and Carnival Desires but mostly with Rusty Cow recording artists, Phrogs, who rocked the wedding.

Not our greatest hits, but some songs some people liked.

Not our greatest hits, but some songs some people liked.

When the chance came to move to Wisconsin, where Monica had grown up, we jumped. That the great Germanist Rob Howell was (and still is) here was key and the history of Wisconsin linguistics is irresistible —people like Frederic Cassidy, Einar Haugen, Eduard Prokosch, Morris Swadesh, W. Freeman Twaddell and others taught here and W.P. Lehmann, Robert D. King, Dennis Preston and others studied here. Lester W.J. Seifert — universally called ‘Smoky’ — has come to exemplify Wisconsin linguistics for me. He taught an amazing range of courses in and far beyond Germanic linguistics but also taught German language on Wisconsin Public Television and travelled the state to talk to community groups about language, in addition to making early recordings of heritage German across eastern Wisconsin. He didn’t just teach and research, he engaged the state in what he was doing and why it mattered.

A 1949 article from a Milwaukee newspaper about Smoky Seifert’s work. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. In Wisconsin, Smoky is central to understanding immigrant bilingualism.

A 1949 article from a Milwaukee newspaper about Smoky Seifert’s work. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. In Wisconsin, Smoky is central to understanding immigrant bilingualism.

With time, it became possible to follow in Smoky’s (and others’) footsteps. Tom Purnell and then Eric Raimy joined the faculty and we started the Wisconsin Englishes Project (http://csumc.wisc.edu/wep/), doing research, teaching and doing outreach using regional language and dialect as a hook.

The Wisconsin Englishes Project team (Tom, me, Eric), Wisconsin Public Television studios.

The Wisconsin Englishes Project team (Tom, me, Eric), Wisconsin Public Television studios.

We’re still trying to understand language in its full context, from the social setting to cognition. That work has offered incredible opportunities, like editing Diachronica and working with the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, both rich collaborations with new chances to learn.

To be able to do these things with the students and colleagues I collaborate with is humbling but it’s also a pure joy and easy pleasure.

Getting off the bike after riding last summer from Whitefish, Montana to Madison with Phil Macaulay.

Getting off the bike after riding last summer from Whitefish, Montana to Madison with Phil Macaulay.

What a trip, and it’s not over.

For more than five years, Monica and Anja Wanner, Rajiv Rao and I had the privilege of editing book reviews for LINGUIST. We saw up close how hard the LINGUIST staff and especially students work to provide us all with so many resources. Those resources wouldn’t have replaced all the support I got from so many generous people along the way, but they sure do supplement that kind of support. Step up and support LINGUIST.

Onward!
Joe

 

 

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

 

Startling Allegations Rock Historical Linguistics Community

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – It has been an exciting week for the Indo-Europeanist community. While Monday saw the announcement of Bob’s Law, which derives the modern English Pez dispenser from the Proto-Indo-European *pesd-, today’s news marks a more controversial chapter.

Recently uncovered documents suggest Jacob Grimm may have forged evidence to support some of his theories.

“We now suspect that the entire Tocharian branch may have been invented by Grimm to further his career and possibly to impress women,” Professor Schmaltz, a noted figurehead in such matters, explained. “After all, we’ve had tremendous difficulty deriving the word yakup in Tocharian A that is claimed to correspond to PIE *deiwos.”

At a press conference held earlier this morning Schmaltz also cited accounts of Grimm’s character by some of his contemporaries:

Karl Verner wrote of Grimm, “Jacob was there at the onset establishing sound change rules. He worked tirelessly, never stopping and never shifting his opinion.” More damning is a letter written by Hermann Grassmann after Grimm’s death stating, “When I first met him, he had two aspirations: academic rigor and a drive to become famous. As he got older it seems the first gave way to the second.”

Scholars point to sloppy forgeries like this tablet as proof of Grimm's misconduct (via Wikimedia).

Scholars point to sloppy forgeries like this tablet as proof of Grimm’s misconduct (via Wikimedia).

This new theory, unveiled at the ongoing Construction of Reconstructed Languages conference, may be supported by work of folklorist Professor Jones of the Totally Legit School of Language Studies.

Jones notes that a hidden confession may be found in the classic fairy tale The Two Beans, or Zwei Bohnen, die verbrüdert sind, diskutieren die moralischen Implikationen des Fälschens historischer Dokumente, um die Karriere einer der Bohnen zu fördern, one of many collected by Jacob Grimm and his brother Wilhelm.

The text may have gone unnoticed by researchers this long for two main reasons. First, the bean that likely represents Jacob Grimm, has consistently been mistranslated into English as Jacob Melancholy the Bean, instead of Jacob Grimm the Bean. Second, as Jones points out, the relative dearth of violence in The Two Beans has diminished its popularity.

“Of course, as with any Grimms’ Fairy Tale, there is a fair amount of unnecessary violence, but in The Two Beans, the focus is Jacob the Bean’s monologue in which he takes responsibility for gross academic misconduct.”

In response to these allegations, Thomas Grimm, a descendant of Jacob Grimm, announced he had recently discovered a box full of his ancestor’s documents indicating both his innocence and access to a modern-day word processor and printer.

Featured Linguist: Thomas Ede Zimmermann

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

Featured Linguist: Thomas Ede Zimmermann (Goethe Universität Frankfurt a.M.)

Featured Linguist Thomas Ede Zimmermann

Featured Linguist: Thomas Ede Zimmermann

I was born and raised in the industrial city of Hannover, (then West) Germany. I was 15 when I decided to become a linguist. Here is how. Having entered the Oberstufe – the final phase in the traditional German grammar school – in the summer of 1970, I began developing a mild form of future angst: only 3 years to go until the Abitur (= German high school diploma) and no long-term plans! My parents, both non-academics, were not very helpful in this respect, trying to push me in the direction of German studies. Since I wasn’t sure whether this is what I would want to spend my life with, I decided to find out by browsing the local bookstores and came up with a pile of publishers’ catalogues of books for first-year students of Germanistik. I made my selection of the hottest titles, 4 volumes of a History of the European Novel among them, and returned to the bookstore to find that the only available book of my choice was the one with he catchy title Language, Thought, and Reality (or rather, Sprache, Denken, Wirklichkeit), by famous hobby linguist B. L. Whorf (as I know now). I bought it, read it, and … wanted to become a linguist! This was not so much for the (apparently mis-analysed) wonders of the Hopi language. Rather, what impressed me most was something Whorf used to illustrate his more than debatable claims on the subtle influence of grammar on our thinking: the structure of possible monosyllabic words of English, which he presented in one neat formula! I immediately forgot about the literature part of German studies and went to the local library to get hold of any linguistics textbooks I could find – not many, and all of them with a strong structuralist flavour (which was of course, not for me to discern).

Having spent the following year with langue vs. parole, double articulation, different kinds of oppositions, etc., I was beginning to become disappointed at the overdose of theoretical grandeur and the lack of neat formulae I had hoped for. This was about to change when, in the summer of 1971, I spent a couple of weeks in London with my brother’s friend Wolfgang Zucht, an anarchist who didn’t know anything about linguistics except that there was this guy Chomsky, who also happened to be an anarchist and had written all these linguistics books full of neat formulae. Wolfgang told me about John Lyons’s Fontana Modern Masters volume on Chomsky which had just appeared in German – and opened up a new world to me. I remember spending my last two Gymnasium years reading anything vaguely generative I could find in the local bookstores, from Lyons’s Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics to Lakoff’s Generative Semantics. It was the latter (which I had read in a German translation) that made me aware of the logical approach to meaning, but I did not get seriously into this before entering university.

Hannover did not have anything to offer but a German studies department, and so I decided to leave my hometown and register for the MA programme in theoretical linguistics at Konstanz University. This was in 1973, the beginning of my formation as a semanticist, under the gentle direction of Arnim von Stechow, who in my first year introduced me (and himself) to Montague’s Universal Grammar. At the end of that term I hadn’t grasped 10 per cent of that stuff, but my determination to master it all had been borne. This was to take me another few years of studying linguistic semantics as well as some philosophy and mathematical logic in Konstanz and London (with Hans Kamp), together with an amazing crowd of teachers, friends, and fellow semanticists I met on the way – too many to mention here. In the summer of 1978 I finished my MA thesis (on Montague Grammar – what else?), with the clear feeling that I knew and understood everything. I was young.

Becoming a semanticist back in the 1970s was quite different from what it is in the days of Heim & Kratzer (incidentally, two of my old Konstanz friends). The field had not been established as a sub-discipline of linguistics, and despite some serious integrative attempts (thanks to Barbara Partee), it was still perceived as an esoteric pastime of a small community of logicians, philosophers of language, and (few) linguists. In Germany, this community was particularly strong, with enough funding to have spectacular conferences bringing together some of the best researchers in the field. I attended quite a few of them, though rarely presenting anything, during the time I worked on my dissertation, which was supposed to be about the interface between logical and lexical semantics. I never finished that dissertation, for at least two reasons. The first was that I kept changing my mind over the very subject area: my original strategy had been to formulate model-theoretic constraints on meaning postulates to keep them from overgenerating (a serious issue at the time, and still), but the more I worked on it, the less confident I became that model theory is the right framework for natural language semantics. The other reason was that I was easily distracted, working on a lot of other problems at the same time, and with more success (in terms of publications). One of my favourite topics was Groenendijk’s and Stokhof’s fascinating partition semantics of interrogatives. When investigating its logical underpinnings, I found that one of Montague’s implicit hypotheses about semantic analysis – that his intensional type logic provides a restrictive framework of compositional semantics – was not quite right. I wrote a short article about this and showed it to my would-be supervisor Arnim von Stechow, who saw to it that I would submit it as my dissertation. In the event it was accepted by him (and the co-promoters) and also got published in a logic journal. Rather than being proud of these 13 pages in print, I have always felt a bit ashamed for never having written a proper dissertation; but in the meantime I got used to being introduced as the guy who must have written the shortest linguistics dissertation ever.

From (too many) search committee meetings I know that German professors expect their colleagues to have written at least two books. I managed to do without this, having passed my Habilitation in Stuttgart (in the 90s) with the ‘lazy’ option of submitting, instead of a monolithic book, a bunch of published articles on a number of quite different topics in logic and semantics. Eventually I still managed to find a permanent position as a professor of semantics (at Frankfurt) – and wrote two books since then, both textbooks, but still. And they are full of neat little formulae accounting for the complexities of compositional meaning.

 

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Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell

LINGUIST List Fund Drive 2015

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

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (March 2015-1)

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell

 

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (March 2015-2)

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

 

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

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

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

Featured Linguist: Eric Campbell (March 2015-3)

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

 

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

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

 

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