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!

Introduction to the LINGUIST List 2016 Fund Drive Publisher Lottery

Dear LINGUIST List Colleagues,

It’s that time of year again, where we come to you, the linguistic community, the backbone of our organization, and ask that you chip in a donation to help support our operation for another year. And as always, we try to make the Fund Drive interesting and fun by offering publisher raffles. If you are unfamiliar with our Fund Drives, you may be wondering what this involves.

Every week we will be offering a lottery of prizes, consisting of books and journal subscriptions that are generously donated by our Supporting Publishers (see here for the full list of our supporters: http://funddrive.linguistlist.org/supporters/).

For every $10 that you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery. So in other words, for every $10 you donate, you increase your chances of winning. We understand if you cannot donate a lot (most of us are poor college students too!). But we didn’t want you to be left out from the fun prizes, so even if you can only donate $10, you still have a chance to win! Many of the prizes offered in the lottery

Every little bit helps, and we appreciate every bit of support we receive from you. If you cannot donate, please support us by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues about our Fund Drive.

You can donate by following this link:

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

Stay tuned for details concerning our first publisher lottery!

Sincerely,
The LINGUIST List Team

Calls: An Appeal from LINGUIST Editor Amanda Foster

Dear Linguists,

My name is Amanda, and I started working here as an editor at the LINGUIST List last Fall. I am also a student at Indiana Univesity, where I am pursuing a M.A. in Linguistics.

I came to Indiana for my first semester in Fall 2015 – I am originally from France – and the first time I came across the LINGUIST List, I was looking for a university program that could match my interest. The LINGUIST List is the only platform that can provide such a valuable ressource to prospective students. At that time, I would have never imagined that I would have the honor to become part of the LINGUIST List team!

I am so grateful that as a student, I can have a glimpse into what it is like to work as a professional linguist. By working here, I am able to gain a closer understanding of the field of Linguistics, both comprehensively and in its details. I am also able to study in a different country than my own, which is an invaluable and eye-opening oportunity.

But my favorite part about working at the LINGUIST List is that it provides a connection between linguists from around the globe, and working here enables me to be part of this community. This is such an incredible opportunity: as we all strive towards the common goal of reaching a better understanding of our world and the people who inhabit it, we are actually able to connect with each other at more than a theorical level. By donating, you enable us to provide the means to support this worldwide community.

Your donation, however small or large, has the potential to affect so many lives: those of researchers around the world who use LINGUIST List, perhaps your own research, and certainly my own life. I doubt that I would be able to live and study here in the United States without it. This job, which is already amazing in itself, also provides me with necessary funds, and gives me the opportunity to reach my life-long dream of becoming a linguist.

Thank you again for your interest in the LINGUIST List! And thank you for your ongoing, vital support.

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

Best,

Amanda Foster
Student Editor
The LINGUIST List

Featured Linguist: Ida Toivonen

Featured Linguist: Ida Toivonen

Featured Linguist: Ida Toivonen

In primary school and high school, my favourite subjects were languages and math. I later came to realize that this is true for many linguists.  I did better in math classes than other classes, but I really loved the languages.  I grew up in a Swedish-speaking area of Finland, and I studied Finnish in school. I also studied English, French, German and Spanish. I loved the classes, but I seemed to like the languages for different reasons than my peers. My friends either did not like studying languages, or else they liked it because it might be useful. You could communicate with people from different places and backgrounds. I never became good at communicating in the languages I studied, I simply enjoyed the patterns and structures. The grammar lectures and exercises were great, but I didn’t really enjoy the conversation exercises.

After high school, I had some idea that languages and math don’t “go together” and I would have to choose.  I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to attend Brandeis University in Waltham outside Boston, and I chose to study French language and literature. I enjoyed those classes very much, but what became my true passion was linguistics.  In my first semester, I took Introduction to Linguistics.  I didn’t quite get all the talk about cognition, but the puzzles in the homework assignments were a lot of fun. I was hooked and decided to double-major in French and Linguistics. Boston was obviously a great place to be for exploring linguistics, and I attended talks and classes around town.  I received valuable support from Joan Maling and Ray Jackendoff at Brandeis, and also Charles Reiss and Mark Hale at Harvard. I got to spend a lot of time with many people who care deeply about how language works.  All the talk of language and cognition slowly started to make sense.  I was intrigued by all aspects of linguistics that I learned about, but I ended up writing my thesis on a topic in Finnish morphosyntax.

Graduate school turned out to be a great experience as well. I studied in the Linguistics Department at Stanford University and my supervisors were Paul Kiparsky and Joan Bresnan. I learned a lot from them and the other professors at Stanford, as well as from my fellow graduate students. My path through graduate school was a bit unusual (or perhaps there is no typical path through graduate school). I took several odd semesters off to teach and study at Brandeis (again) and at Concordia in Montreal. I also started working on the endangered language Inari Saami, spoken in Inari, Northern Finland. The community in Inari was welcoming and supportive, which made the project possible.  Doing fieldwork is probably the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Inari Saami has a very rich morphology; the verbal, nominal and adjectival paradigms are daunting. It has now been 20 years since my first trip to Inari, and I’m still far from a complete understanding of the system.  Part of the challenge comes from the complex morphophonology — the paradigms involve complex vowel alternations and consonant gradation.  The Inari Saami paradigms sparked a curiosity for the phonetics and phonology of quantity, and I am still exploring quantity today.

During my time in graduate school, I had the opportunity to explore many different areas of linguistics.  I never truly developed one main area of interest. My fieldwork on Inari Saami was very broad, as I was trying to learn about all aspects of the language. I signed up for as many classes as I could fit into my schedule.  I continued exploring Finnish morphosyntax. I conducted a study on child language acquisition under the supervision of Eve Clark. I explored topics in historical linguistics. In the end, I wrote my PhD thesis  on the syntax and semantics of verbal particles in Germanic, mostly Swedish.

After graduate school, I got to spend time at the University of Rochester, NY, and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, both great places with lots of good linguistics. I finally ended up at Carleton University in Ottawa, where I am cross-appointed in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. I still haven’t quite decided what my main area of interest is, I guess I am some kind of old-fashioned general linguist? Current projects concern the phonetics and phonology of quantity, the semantics of distributivity, grammaticalized animacy, the effects of singing on pronunciation, and the nature of the argument-adjunct distinction. Much of the data I work with come from Inari Saami and a dialect Swedish spoken on the Åland Islands.

Writing this little text about my path to and through linguistics helps me see how fun and rewarding it has all been. Language truly is beautiful, even with all the efforts we make to tame it and describe and explain it in as simple and boring terms as possible.

 

 

 

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

Announcing: Graduate Assistantships at The LINGUIST List

The LINGUIST List is announcing openings for graduate assistantships to Indiana University Bloomington graduate students! We are looking for GAs who would be editing and posting submissions to the LINGUIST List, and corresponding with submitters (preferably native or native speaker-like English). GAs would also be participating in research activities at the LINGUIST List, and performing one or a combination of other tasks, including organizing our fund drive and other LINGUIST List events and activities, maintaining the infrastructure, including website, software and other technology development, and maintenance of projects and data at LINGUIST List, among others, GeoLing, GORILLA, MultiTree, etc.

We offer long-term GA-ships with a possibility to work hourly over the summer, experience of working on projects at The LINGUIST List, and more. The GA-ship comes with full coverage of your tuition (up to 12 credit hours), it covers health insurance, and it provides a stipend.

Prerequisites include intrinsic motivation, sense of commitment, and enthusiasm for linguistics. GAs must committed to 20 hours a week in the office, and to spend hours with us this semester and/or over the summer for training.

We are looking for potential GA-ship candidates who would be willing to start working hourly this semester (Spring 2016) and during the summer so that we can guarantee their training.

See for more details about how you can get involved at LINGUIST List:

The LINGUIST List Get Involved Page

 

Please contact Malgorzata Cavar and/or Damir Cavar at linguist@linguistlist.org with: 

– details about your studies, i.e. major, program, recommending advisor who we can contact

– where you stand in terms of your degree

– an explanation about your motivation and why you would want to work at LINGUIST List

 

See also the: The LINGUIST List contact details

 

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

 

LINGUIST List at the LSA 2016

Please join us for the LINGUIST List office hours at the LSA 2016 Annual Meeting:

date: Friday, 8th of January 2016

time: 6-7 PM

location: George Washington University room

We will talk about the launch of:

  • GeoLing, a GIS-based linguistic information system (linguistic information on a global map).
  • GORILLA, a service that links language documentation, linguistic research with corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, and natural language processing, corpus development, speech and language technology engineering.

and many other LINGUIST List related things.

Please join us!

This year LINGUIST List will not host a booth in the exhibition area, but we are happy to meet with you during the LSA 2016 annual meeting. Please email us or call us to make meeting arrangements.

See you at the LSA 2016 annual meeting!

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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