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Linguistics Goes Hollywood!

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – While the recent rise of popular fantasy series like Game of Thrones has Hollywood all abuzz about conlanging, linguists of all stripes have long been involved in cinema.

With the recent announcement of production on 4 *#!&’s Sake, It’s Another Look Who’s Talking, the latest installment in the noted documentary series, leading pioneer and noted linguist Professor Schmaltz is once again the darling of Tinsel Town. LINGUIST List reporters caught up with Schmaltz on set for an exclusive.

“I believe it was in the early eighties when I first noticed something strange about my then infant’s speech,” he explained, contemplating the table of cronuts craft services laid out. “I was having a particularly heated argument with my then wife. Our son, [redacted] Jr., looked up at us screaming at each other and said æbəbæbə. I was shocked.”

Schmaltz, shocked, ran to his typewriter and, in a blaze of phonology and flying frying pans, determined the now famous derivation:

The famous derivation (Schmaltz 1981).

The famous derivation (Schmaltz 1981).

Schmaltz knew at once that his discovery had profound consequences for linguistic theory.

“There it was: a bona fide counter-anti-cyclical-unbled-prereordered-feeding relation fabled to occur only in the speech of children acquiring exotic languages like those Tocharian creoles spoken in the Amazon,” he paused to take a bite of cronut. “Or French.”

Schmaltz typed feverishly through the night, submitting his magnum opus to the journal That’s Some Science! Quarterly the next morning.

“I lost half of everything in the divorce, so I could only legally publish it as a squib,” Schmaltz explained. “Squib. What an odd word. Squib…squib…squibby…”

æbəbæbə became a cultural sensation overnight. Not since Chomsky and Halle’s classic blues album The Sound Pattern of Anguish had a theoretical linguist so captured the public imagination. T-shirts were printed, the Swedish rock group Abba was forced to disband after successful copyright litigation, and Schmaltz changed his first name to Professor.

“As [redacted] Jr. – I changed his name as well – started to grow up, I noticed his phonology changing,” Schmaltz recalled, wiping powdered sugar from his puce turtleneck. “When he was an infant, Jr. was satisfied saying things like fləəə, dramatically reducing complicated underlying phrases like irreconcilable differences, but as he matured these strange epenthetic words starting creeping in…What happened to the craft services guy?”

As the theory goes, babies are born with fully formed grammars and are equipped to articulate perfectly, but they choose not to. In an infant’s eyes, adults are all-knowing superbeings who can correctly interpret even the most phonetically reduced speech.

“Some people might call this theory of mind, but what’s that? Babies don’t have theory of mind. If they did, they wouldn’t cry in movie theatres. They’re rude people, babies.”

Schmaltz’s aptly named Conservation of Rudeness model of language acquisition sees babies as inherently trusting but inherently lazy speakers. They maximize their rudeness quotient by reducing otherwise coherent speech to strings of repeated monosyllables, expecting the adult to make up for it.

Fig. 1: A baby rudely using their dinner as a hat.

Rude: A baby using dinner as a hat.

“You can tell they’re doing it on purpose, I mean, look at consonant harmony. That’s not even a real thing. Anyways, as babies get older, they watch adults make mistakes and do stupid things. And, you know, not necessarily their own parents, cause some parents are models of self-control and humani,” Schmaltz paused noticing the now empty cronut platter. “-ity. Hmm…”

As a child’s opinion of adults in general falls, the child no longer assumes their parents will correctly interpret babbling. They slowly trade the rudeness of lazy phonetic reduction with the rudeness of condescendingly using codas and enunciating. This peaks when the child reaches their teenage years and begins incorporating phonemic contrasts not present in their ambient language.

Before our reporters could ask how Schmaltz planned to incorporate his Conservation of Rudeness theory in his latest production, he excused himself from the interview to “check out the spread on the set of ET 2: Brute.”

Featured Linguist: Gary Holton

Featured Linguist: Gary Holton

Featured Linguist: Gary Holton

My interest in linguistics arose during a sea kayak trip through Eastern Indonesia. Paddling slowly along the coast I picked up bits and pieces of languages that I heard along the way and became fascinated with the ways the languages changed from village to village. This was my first real exposure to “small” languages—languages with only a few hundred or few thousand speakers. These small languages evolve to meet the needs of communities, binding speakers to their environment. At the same time these small languages are almost everywhere under threat of being replaced by languages of wider communication.

The Linguist List has had a formative influence on my career. When I entered graduate school in the mid 1990’s the field was in a state of upheaval. After a couple decades spent developing theoretical models of language competence, many in the field had only recently (re-)awoken to the problem of language endangerment. However, just as the field began to re-engage with language documentation we were faced with an unprecedented transformation in digital technologies. During this Digital Dark Age technologies evolved so quickly that I was using a different recording device with every field trip. As each of these devices became obsolete the data they recorded risked becoming more endangered than the languages on those recordings. What was the point of doing all this documentation of endangered languages if we weren’t able to preserve that documentation? When I started my first job at the University of Alaska in 1999 I arrived with boxes filled with cassette tapes, DAT tapes, MiniDiscs, CDs, DVDs and other proprietary digital recording technologies. As I continued to do field work this mess only got worse. Clearly I needed to find a better way to deal with digital data. You might say that documentary linguistics as a field needed to get its house in order.

Over the past two decades the Linguist List has been at the forefront of efforts to develop standards and best practices for dealing with linguistic data. For example, many of the field work and archiving practices that we take for granted today trace their origins to the Electronics Meta-structures for Endangered Languages Data (E-MELD) project, a five-year effort led by the Linguist List which brought together leading scholars from across the world to tackle some of the difficult problems in data preservation, curation, and access. These problems are often thought to lie outside the mainstream of linguistics. Indeed, they are by nature interdisciplinary, existing at the intersection of linguistics, computer science, and archiving. Yet solutions to these problems are critical to linguistics, providing the digital infrastructure which serves as the foundation for much of our work.

Over the years I have had many opportunities to interact with Linguist List in various capacities, but perhaps the most rewarding of these was a joint project which I undertook in collaboration with the Linguist List in 2003 to develop a community language portal for Dena’ina, a language spoken in Southcentral Alaska. The project integrated training for both linguistic graduate students and community members and in the process helped to engage students with language communities. Many of those community members have gone on to become leading activists in Alaska Native language conservation efforts. And many of the students who worked with the Dena’ina project have gone on to make significant contributions to documentary linguistics more generally, continuing to push the field forward with an enhanced awareness of and respect for technical standards and documentary best practices. This is one of the truly great contributions of the Linguist List over the years. The students who have worked with Linguist List come away with a respect for the technical underpinnings of linguistics. For these students digital best practices are the norm, not the exception. Use of non-proprietary formats and depositing data in archives are routine. This generation of scholars is slowly changing our field, helping us to better preserve and provide access to endangered language documentation, while at the same time moving us ever closer to a truly data-driven science of language.

Next time you turn off your digital recorder and save a file, or key in an ELAN transcription, or specify a digital language archive in a grant proposal—that is, next time you do just about any task having to do with language documentation—think about Linguist List. Chances are that Linguist List had some role in helping to make that technology work, helping scholars to agree on standards, making it possible for you to do linguistics. Infrastructure is not the sexiest part of science, but it is arguably the most critical. We owe a lot to Linguist List for helping to develop the technical infrastructure of our field.

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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!

Start: Fund Drive 2016

Dear Colleagues,

It is this time of the year, the fifth season in the LINGUIST List: the Fund Drive. If you appreciate the daily portion of linguistic news on the screen of your computer, please support the LINGUIST List! Why do we need your support? Because, unlike other organizations, we do not collect membership fees, we are not state or government funded, and only a part of our budget is guaranteed by our host institution, Indiana University. Unlike other information services and in particular other mailing lists, we actually do edit your posts and make sure that you do get validated and relevant information, and not spam of any kind. Your donations support this special service and – directly – the linguistics students who provide it.

This year we have decided to keep the Fund Drive low key: while we are in the process of optimizing workflows, at the moment all our editors are busy editing. We still hope that you will have lots of fun with lotteries, prizes and premiums and with school and country challenges in the next couple of weeks. However, we welcome initiatives and appropriate contents from our supporters around the globe to make the Fund Drive a Fun Drive. This campaign is really for you to keep your favorite Linguist List afloat.

The times have changed since the beginning of the LINGUIST List; linguists have Facebook, Twitter, Google, blogs, and hundreds of other mailing list, but LINGUIST List remains probably the only truly
international platform that serves linguists from virtually all areas of the world and also all areas of linguistics. We try to keep the pace with the technological challenges and we work on the better integration of the global linguistic community via the LINGUIST List services. You probably did not even notice the changes that happened backstage in the last two years since we moved from Michigan to Indiana. We need to keep developing and adjusting the existing services and we need to revamp our
vintage website. Though the site has its charm and style, we have to keep up with new technological standards and devices. This cannot happen without your encouragement and support.

LINGUIST List has served the discipline for 25 years now. We were with you in good and bad times – when you searched for your grad program, for your first job, for your first conference. We stand by you. Stand by us. Be a part of the world-wide linguistic community. Donate now.

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

Malgosia and Damir – on behalf of the whole team

LINGUIST List Internships 2016

Dear linguists, colleagues, students,

LINGUIST List will host another internship program during summer 2016. See for details the announcement on LINGUIST List.

Please keep in mind that the dates of the core internship program are flexible and can be adapted to suite the summer break period of different systems, countries, and continents. Please contact us to discuss particular arrangements that you might need.

We would be happy to assist you with applications for supplemental funding and stipends. Various countries and educational or research organizations offer support opportunities to students. Please consider contacting your advisor and local University administration about funding opportunities and let us know how we could help you with the application.

Sincerely

Your LINGUIST List Team

 

Happy Birthday to The LINGUIST List!

Dear linguists, colleagues, friends,

The LINGUIST List is celebrating its 25th birthday!

As an academic service run by linguistics students and faculty, it survived 25 years mainly because of a wonderful and supportive community of linguists and language enthusiasts from all around the world. Thank you all for making LINGUIST possible, for keeping it alive for 25 years!

On the 13th of December 1990, Anthony Aristar posted from the University of Western Australia the first email to LINGUIST, announcing together with Helen Aristar Dry the launch of the new list. Helen and Anthony were ending their message with this comment:

”Let us say in ending that making a list of this kind a success depends crucially on initiating an ongoing dialogue between participants. Once this dialogue has been properly begun, the list acquires a life of its own, and little further effort is required to maintain its existence. To this end, we earnestly ask you all to begin contributing, and aid therefore in the continuance of LINGUIST.”

They were more than right. The list acquired a life of its own. It has been serving the linguistic community for 25 years now. It has grown from a mailing list to a major web portal and a social media site and it keeps evolving to remain relevant and to address the needs of the discipline.
Helen and Anthony were wrong about the ”little further effort” to maintain its existence. They are surely very aware of that now.

The operation requires a lot of effort by the team of editing and supporting students and programmers. It is very much unique in providing a moderated mailing list infrastructure with human editing services and post-publishing support for corrections, changes, and updates to posted information. This human touch makes it unique, efficient, important, and interesting. It offers an interactive service with a team of dedicated linguistics students, learning about the academic scene and life of linguistics, learning about running the list service and a complex website, about posting on social media platforms, organizing fund drives, and also doing linguistic research. It has been a pleasure to have the LINGUIST List crew around, to be part of them.

We are glad that LINGUIST List is reaching silver status now. We hope to lay the ground for it reaching gold in the next 25 years. The fund drive is necessary to keep LINGUIST List running. Please help the LINGUIST List Team to achieve this goal. Please help us with this effort!

The LINGUIST List is now located at Indiana University in the Department of Linguistics for more than a year. We are grateful for the help and support that LINGUIST received from Indiana University and all linguists, linguistics and language related programs, colleagues, and students on campus! We are thankful for all the support and help that we received from all around the world.

LINGUIST List relies on your donations to financially support the editing students and keep the operation working. Our readers’ support goes directly to fund the students who edit the mailing list and website; without that support, we’d have nobody to send out the information you rely on. LINGUIST is a charitable non-profit service that will issue tax-deductible (in the US) receipts for donations. Please consider donating to LINGUIST List and supporting the student editors. Please follow the instructions on the LINGUIST List donation page!

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

Thank you all for your support!

Sincerely

The LINGUIST List Team

 

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Meet Amanda Foster!

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,

Please join us in welcoming out newest LINGUIST editor, Amanda Foster!

 

Amanda Foster

Amanda just started working at LINGUIST list as an editor in October 2015. Born and raised in France, where she completed a B.A. in Linguistics and a B.A. in Philosophy in 2013 at the Sorbonne Universities, Paris, she moved in August 2015 to Bloomington, IN, to pursue a M.A. in General Linguistics at IU. What first called her to the study of Linguistics is her strong interest in under-resourced and endangered languages, and the interaction between languages and the world views that they carry. Apart from her  enthusiasm for learning about different cultures and languages, she spends her free time reading or playing board games, walking or hiking, and trying to learn the accordion!

Michael Abramov at LINGUIST List

This summer was a great one for collaborating with fellow scholars on our projects here at The LINGUIST List! Over the past few months, Michael Abramov accompanied Hilaria Cruz at our office to help with the transcription and time alignment for a Chatino corpus–an Otomanguean language found in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. For the past 15 years, he has worked as a librarian at the Austin Public Library in Texas. Though not a trained linguist, on occasion Michael assists Hilaria on her research in Chatino. Michael has studied Romance languages in the past and can speak Spanish and a little Italian.

Michael at LINGUIST List

Thank you, Michael, for all of your help this summer!

Summer 2015 Projects at The LINGUIST List

It has been a busy summer here at The LINGUIST List! Please take a moment to check out the projects that our 2015 summer interns and volunteers have been working on!

  Alec      Clara

Edvard Bikbaev

Edvard Bikbaev works on the GORILLA project at the LINGUIST List. To that end, he is creating and annotating the speech corpus for Russian, his native language. The speech corpus Edvard is involved with includes multiple annotated tiers and will be further used to train a forced aligner.  In addition, Edvard translates contents of the GORILLA website, and updates MultiTree with linguistic publications in Russian. Edvard plans to apply for a PhD program in Computations Linguistics and use the Russian speech corpus he has created at Linguist List for his
dissertation.

Alec Wolyniec

Alec spends most of his time at the LINGUIST List creating the official LINGUIST List Google Chrome App, which will soon provide easy access to the upcoming GeoLing map and other LINGUIST List resources. He is also in the process of writing a script that automatically collects language data from Wiktionary and other open-source databases, and has so far used the program to extend the LINGUIST List’s Yiddish lexicon.

Clara García Gómez

Clara is mainly involved in the GORILLA Project creating a speech corpus for Castilian Spanish, of which she is a native speaker. She is creating materials necessary for automatic alignment and transcription. She also works on the translation of parts of the website into Spanish and in some editing tasks for LINGUIST List. She is interested in the study of undocumented languages so she is happy to participate in GORILLA and hope to contribute to this project further after creating the corpus for Castilian Spanish.

Jacob Henry

Jacob has spent most of his time working on the LL-MAP project, a large collection of maps containing linguistic  and geographic information to be used by linguists, anthropologists, and other researchers.The LINGUIST List relocation Indiana University became an opportunity to relaunch and redesign the technologies. This has involved porting all of the data accumulated to new servers and testing various file formats to find the easiest to work with for our purposes. We’ve made some progress and ideally, we would be able to relaunch LL-MAP by the end of the summer.

Seyed Asghari

Seyed started working on Baharlu dialect of south Azeri Turkic language. It is a language that is being spoken in west Iran with the neighboring area of Persian, Kurdish, and Lori languages. He studied different writing styles used to produce the most suitable transcriptions. Moreover, he needed to study the standards of romanization of Baharlu Turkic. He worked on sample recordings, creating transcription, romanization, and translation.

During this work he has also started preparing a Baharlu-English dictionary that including original word, romanization, English translation and will be completed with other elements such as lemma, PoS and pronunciation information.

Petar Garžina

For the last two weeks, Petar has been mainly working on the Automatic Speech Recognition Project. Currently, he is working on the Croatian speech corpus and ASR. The first part of the project consists of making recordings and transcribing them. Along with building the corpus, he has been going through the documentation about Chrome Apps, and from the beginning of this week, he will start working alongside Alec on the LINGUIST List Chrome app. At the end of his internship, he would like to have a working Croatian Speech Recognizer, and an application that will ease the use of various LINGUIST List features.

Zac Branson

Zac has been working primarily on the front and back end of Geoling which can be found at geoling.linguistlist.org. Zac has additionally contributed to the Gorilla project (gorilla.linguistlist.org) including the development of resources to be provided by Gorilla.

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!