Featured Linguist: Michael Gamon

A job ad on LINGUIST List.

Featured Linguist: Michael Gamon

Featured Linguist: Michael Gamon

Language? Or Science?

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

Language and Science!

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

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

A Degree and a Job.

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

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

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

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

And Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Week, Another Fund Drive Prize Lottery: Donate to Win!

Dear Fellow Linguists, Colleagues and Subscribers,

There are still a couple hours left to donate if you want to enter in this week’s Fund Drive publisher prize lottery (read the list of prizes here: https://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1660.html), so if you would like to qualify for any of those prizes, donate before 5 PM EST tonight to enter your name into the drawing.

We are also introducing our next publisher prize bundle for Week 4 of our Fund Drive, again generously donated by our Supporting Publishers:

Bloomsbury Publishing is donating the book Corpus Applications in Applied Linguistics edited by Ken Hyland, Chau Meng Huat, and Michael Handford (http://goo.gl/SQEuOM). This is the ideal book for those of you interested in how to incorporate corpus data into your research!

Brill is donating TWO one-year subscriptions to the journal International Review of Pragmatics (http://goo.gl/dVf90r). This is not only interesting and peer-reviewed articles about pragmatics, but also on discourse, semiotics and many more topics!

Cambridge University Press is donating TWO prizes this week. Firstly, they are giving away FOUR copies of Chomsky by Neil Smith and Nicholas Allott (http://goo.gl/er8K1Y), a biographic exploration of Chomsky’s influence on the fields of linguistics and philosophy, as well as his political activism; if you are interested in the history of our field, this is the perfect book for you!

Secondly, they are also donating The Cambridge Handbook of Bilingual Processing (http://goo.gl/pckZCS) edited by John W. Schwieter, which explores the current topics in the fields of language acquisition, psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics.

De Gruyter is one one-year online-subscription for Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics (http://goo.gl/J3KerD), another new journal of theirs. It’s just what it says on the cover: if you would like access to peer-reviewed research on the interaction of language and society over history, donate to get access for a year!

From Elsevier, just as last week, we are giving away another ONE personal one-year electronic subscription to an Elsevier linguistics journal of the winner’s choice (complete list of their linguistic journals here: https://goo.gl/NaswSa). That’s right, we are giving away another subscription to you, so if you missed this one last week, you have another chance to win one!

John Benjamins is donating another 1 journal subscription of the winner’s choice from any of their 70+ journals. You can see the full listing of their journals here: http://goo.gl/lvCacl. Whatever your chosen discipline, John Benjamins has a journal for you.

***

To win any of these fantastic prizes from this coming week’s prize bundle, you can donate to enter your name into the drawing, until Friday April 22th, at 5 PM EST. For every $10 you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery to win. So if you donate $50, your name goes into the drawing three times. Donate by the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

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

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

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

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

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Artemis Alexiadou

Featured Linguist: Artemis Alexiadou

Featured Linguist: Artemis Alexiadou

I was born in Volos, a medium sized city in Greece, by the sea, more or less half way between Athens and Thessaloniki.

My parents thought it would be good for me to learn foreign languages very young, (sometimes I wonder whether they had heard about the critical period hypothesis), so next to normal school I had French and English classes. That was fun but did not trigger any interest in linguistics. I loved to read books, the longer the better.  Maybe I secretly wanted to become a writer.

What I did want to become, however, was an archaeologist, and go on expeditions.

During my final year of high school, we were told about the Indo-European language family and how e.g. French, English, German, and Greek all belong to the same family but to different sub-branches. I entered university to learn more about these issues, but soon changed my mind. It all happened during our first session of introduction to linguistics in Athens; our Professor, Dimitra Theophanopoulou-Kontou, mentioned Noam Chomsky, and the idea of Universal Grammar.  I felt that this all makes perfect sense. It has to be right. I then wanted to read everything that Chomsky had written; of course, I could hardly understand most of the things I was reading.

After graduating from Athens, I went to Reading, UK to do an MA in Linguistics. I wanted to go to England, because of the English league and Charles Dickens. I also wanted to learn more about syntax. It turned out that the English I had learned back home had nothing to do with the English spoken there. I realized then what it means to speak a standard as opposed to a dialect.

My year in England was very exciting. Towards its end I started thinking about pursuing a PhD, but I was not quite sure about that yet.

I moved to Berlin at the end of 1991, mainly for personal reasons, but hoping to seriously pursue a PhD there. I thought it could be on the syntax of adverbs, as my MA thesis was on case and adverbial nouns. Berlin was a whole new world for me. I spoke no word of German, I knew nobody, and nobody knew me. I spent my first months going to German school. It was hard, and ask Tibor Kiss and Gereon Müller, they will tell you that my nominal inflections are still all over the place, and we should better not mention my use or rather non/mis-use of the German verbal particle system.

In 1992, I applied for a PhD position at the center that is now called ZAS (Center for General Linguistics). I was ecstatic when Ewald Lang asked to meet me, and when I was invited for an interview. I believe it all had to do with the topic I wanted to write my dissertation on, namely adverbs, a topic several people at this institute have been thinking about. I got the position and started working there in the summer of 1992; soon after other PhDs joined and we had a fun group, for instance my office mate André Meinunger and my dear friend Ursula Kleinhenz.

The two years of my scholarship were very important for my development. I am thankful for numerous things: the intellectual environment at the institute, the cooperation with Manfred Bierwisch’s group Structural Grammar, the possibility to travel to conferences and summer/winter schools, where I met both peers as well as more senior linguists and was taught by many renowned linguists. This is how I met Elena Anagnostopoulou in Holland; we kept supporting each other during final stages of our dissertations and later started working together. Several workshops were organized in Berlin and many people came to visit, so there was always something happening and there were so many people to talk to.

During the 1994 GLOW in Vienna, I met Gisbert Fanselow, who had recently been appointed as Professor in Potsdam, and asked him if he would be interested in supervising my thesis. He was, so I became the first person to get a linguistics PhD from Potsdam. Some years later, in 1999, I had my Habilitationskolloquium in Potsdam; my Habilitation (or second book as they say here) was on nominalization and ergativity, and owes a lot to discussions with Alec Marantz and Melita Stavrou. I have been trying to understand nominal structure ever since. In 1999 I spent a semester teaching in Tübingen, and am thankful to Arnim von Stechow and Wolfgang Sternefeld for this opportunity. That year I also joined the GLOW Board, and profited enormously from interactions with Henk van Riemsdijk, Ian Roberts and later Anders Holmberg.

Between 2000 and 2002 I spent some time abroad, visiting MIT, Princeton and UPenn and then returned to Potsdam, all on a Heisenberg fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG). In 2002 I was offered a Professorship in English Linguistics in Stuttgart, so I moved from Berlin to the south of Germany, looking forward to working together with Greg Dogil, Hans Kamp and Christian Rohrer. Many collaborative initiatives took place between linguistics and computational linguistics in Stuttgart, a graduate school, and later a collaborative research center (SFB), whose director I had the privilege to be till September 2015. Interdisciplinary work is really exciting, and I am very happy that I was part of this enterprise.

Perhaps the greatest moment of my linguistic career was when I received a call from the DFG that I was awarded the Leibniz-Prize 2014. People call this the German Nobel Prize, and all the money goes to research, which is fantastic! First I was speechless, then I was screaming. It was, and still feels, simply amazing.

While I am clearly a syntactician, interested in the interfaces between syntax and morphology and syntax and the lexicon, more recently, I got interested in multilingualism for a very simple reason. I noticed that I started transferring all sorts of features from English to German to Greek and back, ending up often thinking that I really do not have a native language anymore. Understanding this mixing will help us understand how the human brain deals with the multi-tasking of handling multiple languages. I also got interested in the properties of grammars of heritage speakers, as these have been argued to deviate from native grammars, so I would like to find out more about thess issues. Some of this work is in collaboration with Terje Lonhdal and his group in Trondheim. In this and other recent research we are applying psycholinguistic methods and I am very happy I can use my award money to do research in these areas.

In October 2015 I moved back to Berlin (Humboldt University), and, thanks to Manfred Krifka, back to ZAS. Quite a journey!

I consider myself very fortunate for all the support I have received in my career. I am grateful that I have made great friends in linguistics, collaborating with them is inspiring and entertaining. Most of all, I am extremely proud to have had and still have great students. I am thankful to each and every one of them.

 

 

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

Reminder: Donate by Friday to Win a Prize from One of Our Supporting Publishers

Dear Fellow Linguists, Colleagues and Subscribers,

In case you missed the announcement last Friday (https://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1660.html), we are running another publisher prize giveaway this week. If you donate before this Friday, April 15, at 5 PM EST, you will get the chance one of these prizes:

From: Bloomsbury Publishing: The Bloomsbury Companion To Second Language Acquisition edited by Ernesto Macaro(http://goo.gl/750tBD)

From Brill: FIVE copies of Eight Decades of General Linguistics, The History of CIPL and Its Role in the History of Linguistics edited by Ferenc Kiefer and Piet van Sterkenburg(http://goo.gl/2j6LBg)

From Cambridge University Press:

1) TWO one-year online subscriptions to their journal Language and Cognition (http://goo.gl/WLLnas)
2) The Cambridge Handbook of Learner Corpus Research (http://goo.gl/9OdA7P) edited by Sylviane Granger, Gaëtanelle Gilquin, and Fanny Meunier

From De Gruyter:

1) Third Person Reference in Late Latin by Bordal Hertzenberg and Mari Johanne(http://goo.gl/Qa1Gks)
2) ONE one-year subscription to their journal Linguistics Vanguard (http://goo.gl/hn4yZn)

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

***

For every $10 you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery to win. Donate at the following link:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

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

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

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

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

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: David Adger

Featured Linguist: David Adger

Featured Linguist: David Adger

A few months ago, I was asked by a TV programme to make up a language for their monsters to speak, and with that, my linguistics life completed a cycle. When I was about 11 or so, I grew fascinated with language, mainly from reading Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, a book I still completely love. Le Guin envisaged a world where the words actually created the reality, and every single piece of existence had its own particular name. Fascinated by this idea, and already developing my inner language geek, I started making up languages to explore whether they could work like that. To do this, I had to learn how real languages actually worked. At school, they just taught French and German (and later some Latin), but my local library (sadly closed this year because of government cuts) was full of teach-yourself books on weird and wonderful languages, as well as some pretty impenetrable linguistics books. I think the librarians were a bit perplexed by a twelve year old taking home tomes on philology and grammar he couldn’t possibly understand. They were right, I didn’t understand them at all, but I was so hooked by that point, that I read them anyway, and I guess some stuff sunk in. I remember winning a competition for local schools at St Andrews University, when I was about 16, and buying, with my £20 prize, second hand copies of Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (which I still have). Again, I wasn’t really able to understand these books in much depth, but the idea that you could use rigorous, mathematical, means to try to get under the skin of language was, and still is, just endlessly fascinating to me.

I went to Edinburgh University to do Linguistics with Artificial Intelligence, a course that, in classical UK university style, didn’t really exist (they were borrowing the final year of the course from a Master’s programme). There Mark Steedman took us, in ten short weeks, on a whirlwind tour of syntax: from Syntactic Structures, through the context-free debates, to the Dutch Infinitival Complement construction, Combinatory Categorial Grammar and Winograd’s Eliza program. It was, intellectually, one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life, and I remember a couple of cases where the security guards had to come throw us out because we were all still pestering Mark with questions an hour after the lecture was meant to have finished.

From then I was really a budding categorial grammarian, and, given that it was Edinburgh, and unification-based frameworks were de rigeur, my undergrad theses (we had to do two) were a Unification Categorial Grammar analysis of purpose clauses and an analysis of fluid-ergativity in Eastern Pomo that suggested unification graphs should be allowed to be cyclic—both of these now lost in the fire that destroyed the old Artificial Intelligence department library in Edinburgh. A natural progression, as I moved to doing a Masters in Cognitive Science, was to HPSG (I was really a bit overly dismissive of the GB research program, thinking it relied too much on filters, and not really realizing that HPSG was really a giant set of filters!) At the same time, though, the power of unification based approaches began to make me feel very unsatisfied as to how good a job they were doing of explaining why languages seemed to be cut from very similar cloths.

My undergrad thesis!

My undergrad thesis!

Just about then, Chomsky’s Minimalist work began to appear, and I thought to myself: hey, this is like categorial grammar with movement, that’s very cool. I’d already begun a PhD in Edinburgh working with Elisabet Engdahl on whether it was possible to graft a Discourse Representation Theory type semantics to a minimalist syntax in order to try to understand the semantic effects (or lack of them) of various object movement operations in Scottish Gaelic as well as other languages. Elisabet suggested I spend some time at UMass Amherst, where I got a taste of what a North American graduate programme was like (way more intensive than the British one!), and there I really learned how to think like a syntactician in Hagit Borer’s syntax course. My thesis ended up arguing that Agr nodes (all the rage then) were associated with a Heimian style semantics (constraining the elements in their specifiers to be discourse familiar). Cross linguistic variation emerged from conditions on which bit of a movement chain was fed to the semantic mechanisms, so in some languages Agr’s semantic effect was masked by other aspects of the syntax. Then Chomsky decreed Agr dead the following year!

Agr or no Agr, I was very lucky and got a job at the University of York, where I slightly neglected syntax for a short period as I panicked about teaching and found myself dangerously capable at administration. York was strong in syntax, and I had great fun working on all sorts of problems with George Tsoulas and Bernadette Plunkett; but York also had a growing sociolinguistics group, and one of Sali Tagliamonte’s students, Jen Smith, and I ended up sharing a spooky old 15th Century townhouse, with George, in York. I began to get interested in thinking about how to understand the morphosyntax of the sociolinguistic variation Jen was documenting for the Buckie dialect of Scots.

photo 3

15th Century Sociosyntax Laboratory

It was frustrating, but ultimately massively rewarding, to try, with Jen, to bring together two quite distinct parts of linguistics, and, this collaboration was crucial in leading to my next job, at Queen Mary University of London. My partner had been working in London since I moved to York, so, in classic junior academic fashion (he was a post-doc at UCL in environmental science) we were living long-distance lives. Then a job came up at QMUL for a sociolinguist. With my newly found credentials from working with Jen, I went down to QMUL and told them all about the syntax of negative concord in Buckie (I even had some chi-squared test results, in amongst the uninterpretable features and movement chains!). Although QMUL really wanted a sociolinguist, they ended up appointing a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist syntactician. QMUL also appointed Colleen Cotter at the same time, and together with Jenny Cheshire, we began to build the department at Queen Mary.

A lot of the next dozen years involved trying to cram in some syntax in between Chairing the Department, developing new degree programmes, trying to raise funding for PhDs and postdocs, and becoming Head of School (which involved trying to understand what colleagues in Film, Comparative Literature or Mediaeval French wanted). I wrote a textbook I’d never intended to, and Daniel Harbour and I began to work on Kiowa, a language he’d been investigating for his PhD, which led to a slightly impenetrable book, and to me being convinced that our theories of phrase structure were both too complex and too lax (echoes of my earlier worries about unification, I think). I also spent a quiet few months on the Isle of Skye working on Gaelic Noun Phrases (thank you, the Leverhulme Trust!), with further fieldwork trips over the Scottish Hebrides to Barra and Lewis, where I pestered the local populations with what they obviously thought were bizarre questions about their language, and discovered many a fine whiskey.

Linguist with Highland Cows

Linguist with Highland Cows

London is an amazing place to do linguistics. There are hundreds of languages to work on, fantastic colleagues, both at Queen Mary and in the larger linguistics community here, and it’s probably because I’m in London that that TV company called me to ask me to make up a language for them, completing this cycle of my linguistic life.

 

 

 

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

Donate to Win More Prizes from Our Next Fund Drive Giveaway!

Dear Fellow Linguists, Colleagues and Subscribers,

We are wrapping up this week’s publisher prize lottery. In case you missed the announcement for this and you still want a chance to win one of the prizes from this first bundle(read the list of prizes here: https://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1535.html ), donate before 5 PM EST tonight to enter your name into the drawing.

***

We are also introducing our next publisher prize bundle, again generously donated by our Supporting Publishers:

Bloomsbury Publishing has donated The Bloomsbury Companion To Second Language Acquisition edited by Ernesto Macaro(http://goo.gl/750tBD), an excellent resource if your research interests are in applied linguistics or language acquisition.

Brill is donating FIVE copies of Eight Decades of General Linguistics, The History of CIPL and Its Role in the History of Linguistics edited by Ferenc Kiefer and Piet van Sterkenburg(http://goo.gl/2j6LBg), which includes influential articles by linguistic giants in the field who have contributed greatly to the discipline over the years.

Cambridge University Press is donating TWO prizes this week. Firstly, they are giving away TWO one-year online subscriptions to their journal Language and Cognition (http://goo.gl/WLLnas), which is perfect if your interests lie in the cognitive sciences, in addition to linguistics. Secondly, they are also donating The Cambridge Handbook of Learner Corpus Research (http://goo.gl/9OdA7P) edited by Sylviane Granger, Gaëtanelle Gilquin, and Fanny Meunier, for the corpus linguists among you!

We have TWO prizes from De Gruyter as well. First, De Gruyter is donating Third Person Reference in Late Latin by Bordal Hertzenberg and Mari Johanne(http://goo.gl/Qa1Gks), a great resource for the historical linguists studying the Romance languages. Second, they are also giving away ONE one-year subscription to their journal Linguistics Vanguard (http://goo.gl/hn4yZn), their new multidiscipinary journal that covers many subfields of linguistics and integrates interactive content.

From Elsevier, just as last week, we are giving away ONE personal one-year electronic subscription to an Elsevier linguistics journal of the winner’s choice (complete list of their linguistic journals here: https://goo.gl/NaswSa). That’s right, we are giving away another subscription to you, so if you missed this one last week, you have another chance to win one!

***

To win any of these fantastic prizes from this coming week’s prize bundle, you can donate to win, until Friday April 15th, at 5 PM EST. For every $10 you donate, your name will be entered into the lottery to win. So if you donate $30, your name goes into the drawing three times. Donate by the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

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

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

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

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

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Daniel Everett

Featured Linguist: Daniel Everett

Featured Linguist: Daniel Everett

I suppose that there are some linguists familiar with the fact that I began my fieldwork as a missionary. When I decided to become a Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible Translators/The Summer Institute of Linguistics (legally distinct entities with the same membership and doctrinal allegiance required to be a member of the former), I had no idea what linguistics in fact was. I quickly got an idea, though, as my path took me to the University of Oklahoma SIL summer courses, where I took my first-ever linguistics course with Kenneth L. Pike.

Pike was a huge influence on me at the time. I watched him do monolingual demonstrations in front of large audiences and make the case through personal example that linguistics was a holistic enterprise, engaging the full mind, personality and body of the linguist. I learned from him at the time what I have only recently begun to think of as the most important insight of 20th century linguistics, the etic-emic distinction.

But I was not thinking about linguistics any more than I had to at the time. I realized that my courses in Koiné Greek and my experience with Spanish, growing up on the California-Mexico border had first revealed to me my love for languages and had prepared me to also enjoy linguistics. But my primary objective was to build a church among an indigenous community somewhere in the world.

I did not even have a bachelor’s degree. I had a Diploma in Foreign Missions from the Moody Bible Institute. Though I had done more than would have been necessary for a bachelor’s degree, supplementing my Moody education with general education courses at Grossmont Community College in La Mesa, California, I had never thought about graduate school, aside from seminary. But SIL required graduate-level courses in linguistics to become a Bible translator so I took them, becoming more and more interested in linguistics as a discipline, though giving no thought to linguistics as a career.

As my family and I finished our linguistics training, we went with SIL to Chiapas, Mexico, for “jungle camp” – training in survival skills, first-aid, butchering meat, canning and other forms of food preservation, and “survival hike,” the final examination. In survival hike I was required to spend a week alone in the jungle, after a fifty mile hike, called out at random from among the “jungle campers” with SIL, and allowed to carry no food, no weapons, and only what I had on my person at the time (I walked around with fifty feet of rope, matches, two canteens, and a nylon poncho) all hanging from a military surplus gun belt.

After this, my three children, my wife, and I were assigned to a Tzeltal village, where we were expected to participate in village life, help in daily tasks, learn the language as well as we could in six weeks, write up a “phonemic analysis,” a morphological analysis, and a syntactic analysis of the language, as well as compiling as much of a dictionary as we could manage. We were also given a conversation exam, to test our ability in the language. I worked with men in the fields. But my work was cut short by my first field illness – typhoid fever, gotten honestly by drinking a fermented corn drink with the men. After a night of unpleasantness in the outhouse in our village, my blood pressure had dropped to 60/40 and the local SIL nurses had me carried out by mule to catch a flight to a hospital in the small town of Alta Mira.

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After a few days, when I returned to my family in the village, a letter was waiting for me from Steve Sheldon, the new director of SIL in Brazil. He said that because he was now director he could no longer continue his work among a particular tribal group, the Mura-Pirahã, confessing to me that though he spoke the language, he had not been able to “crack its grammar.” Because my grades in linguistics had been high, he wondered if my wife and I might be interested in being assigned by SIL to translate the Bible for these people, whom I had never heard of. He said that three other teams had turned him down before he got to me. I received with this letter an assessment by an SIL anthropologist of the living situation among the Pirahãs. He said it was the most psychologically difficult he had ever seen and that the people had no colorful culture, spoke no Portuguese, and were speakers of a language unrelated to any other living language. I said yes immediately.

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When we arrived in Brazil, October 24, 1977, I went as soon as I could for an initial visit with the Pirahãs. While there, I received a radio message that all SIL teams had been ordered out of their villages and that Brazil was trying to label all SIL members as “persona non grata” in Brazil.

As SIL thought of responses to this, I was asked if I would be interested in applying to the graduate program at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) as a potential way of being authorized, as a graduate student at a Brazilian institution, to continue work among the Pirahãs. I said yes immediately again, even though I still did not speak a word of Portuguese. My family and I boarded a bus in Belém, Brazil and took the 60+ hour trip to Campinas, where I went straight to the home of the linguist SIL had told me to contact, Prof. Dr. Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues. Aryon, who was to become one of the closest friends and most admired mentors of my life, presented my GRE scores and grades from SIL-affiliated schools (UT Arlington, U of Oklahoma) to the faculty of UNICAMP’s Institute for the Study of Language, and they accepted me into their Mestrado em Linguística program.

Then a transmogrification began to occur, one that I have recounted in various places, especially in my book, Don’t sleep there are snakes: life and language in the Amazonian jungle. Because of my admiration for and friendship with Brazilian linguists and other intellectuals and because of my growing understanding and admiration of the Pirahãs, I began to question my belief in God, my commitment to converting others to Christianity, and just about every value that had led me from Southern California to the Amazon, from the time I was 17.

There was one big catch to my loss of faith, though. An unbelieving missionary is an unemployed missionary. So I began to think that perhaps I might be able to become a professional linguist.

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I did my ScD at UNICAMP, the first doctorate in linguistics the university ever awarded. I began to try to publish. Although almost 100% of my first submissions were rejected, I was successful at winning an award from the American Council of Learned Societies for Recent Recipients of the PhD and a grant from the National Science Foundation. And with the backing of Professor Kenneth L. Hale, I was accepted as a Visiting Scholar in linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I met to discuss my ideas with Chomsky, Thomas Kuhn (just down the hall then from Chomsky), Morris Halle, Jay Keyser, Luigi Rizzi, and others, including my office mates Pino Longobardi, Adriana Belletti, and Shigeru Miyagawa. I began to get work accepted in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, IJAL, Linguistic Inquiry, and numerous conferences. But still, my educational background was weird – a diploma from a Bible school and graduate work at a then obscure, third-world university (far from that now!). I applied for jobs and made a couple of short lists, at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and UCSD.

At Berkeley I was met at the airport by Chuck Fillmore and taken to his house to stay with him and his wife Lily. It was a surreal experience to be so well treated by one of the most famous linguists in the world. I was walking on air. Interviewed by the graduate students they asked me “We specialize in Californian languages here. Why would we want to hire an Amazonianist? No one works on Amazonian languages in the US.” And as I entered the packed room to give my job talk, the professor walking me in commented “I hope you aren’t going to talk about any of that generative s*&t. We don’t do that here.” My talk was on a generative analysis of Inflectional Phrases and clitics in Pirahã. I didn’t get the job.

Then I received an offer from the University of Pittsburgh and began my ten-year working relationship with Sally Thomason and Terry Kaufman, still two of my best friends and most admired linguists. Chomsky helped me all along, by writing letters of recommendation for my job applications and my tenure application. Rich Thomason told me after I received tenure that “There probably aren’t that many people who get letters from both Chomsky and Geoff Pullum.” Perhaps not.

From this unlikely path, I have worked at UNICAMP, at Pitt, at the University of Manchester, at Illinois State University, and now at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where I serve as Dean of Arts and Sciences. Along the way my students have included Iris Berent, Ted Gibson, Rick Kazman, Eric Nyberg, and many others. I have seen how hard it is to get a job. And I have lamented the lack of good tenure-track positions for the brilliant new linguists, smarter than I, who have gone into this field.

My son, Caleb Everett, quit his job as a stockbroker and commodities dealer with Morgan-Stanley, just after they had assigned him to the World Trade Center, about a month before 9/11. He said he was going to become a professor of linguistics. I asked him to reconsider. “The job market sucks,” I put it eloquently. He responded “Dad, if you can get a job, I can get a job.” And so I learned that pessimism is not all that useful as career advice. One should simply say “If it doesn’t work out, you have at least followed your passion. If it does, the life of a professional thinker, the career of an academic is the best I know of.” Caleb applied to four jobs and received four offers, eclipsing me pretty handily.

So my advice to linguists today is similar to what one of my dearest friends, Peter Ladefoged, told me more than 35 years ago – “There may be 300 PhDs chasing 15 jobs and everyone will think that they are the ones who will get the jobs. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But perhaps the best linguistics of the future will come from plumbers, carpenters, and others.” I publish, teach, and spend my life in linguistics because I am passionate about knowing more about this strange species of primate to which I belong. I love people and their languages. And there are few better ways I can imagine to spend one’s life.

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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!

Reminder: Donate by Friday to Enter Our Publisher Prize Lottery

Dear Fellow Linguists, Colleagues and Subscribers,

In case you missed it over the week, this is a friendly reminder about our current publisher prize giveaway, which we announced on Friday (https://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1535.html). Remember: for every $10 that you donate, your name is entered to win one of these very cool prizes donated by our Supporting Publishers:

From Brill: 2 one-year journal subscriptions to the journal Cognitive Semantics (http://goo.gl/FLaZqC)

From Cambridge University Press: The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages edited by Peter K. Austin and Julia Sallabank (http://goo.gl/GrqenL)

From De Gruyter Mouton: an e-book of Vowel-Shifting in the English Language by Kamil Kazmierski (http://goo.gl/DvXsGh)

From Edinburgh University Press: The Semantics of Word Formation and Lexicalization, by Pius ten Hacken and Claire Thomas (http://goo.gl/DtJQqf)

From Elsevier: 1 personal one-year electronic subscription to an Elsevier linguistics journal of the winner’s choice (see the complete list of their linguistic journals here: https://goo.gl/NaswSa)

From John Benjamins: 1 journal subscription of the winner’s choice from any of their 70+ journals. (see the full listing of their journals here: http://goo.gl/lvCacl)

From the University of Nebraska Press: 2 one-year subscriptions to the online version of Anthropological Linguistics (http://goo.gl/shD9Z7)

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You still have until Friday April 8 at 5 pm to donate and get your chance to win one of the prizes listed above. You can donate by following the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

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

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

Also, if you cannot donate monetarily, you can donate your time by helping spread the word about our Fund Drive. You can do so by liking, sharing, and retweeting on social media. You can also put your supralaryngeal vocal tract into action by telling your friends about the Fund Drive!

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

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew

Featured Linguist: Jaklin Kornfilt

Featured Linguist: Jaklin Kornfilt

Featured Linguist: Jaklin Kornfilt

The Istanbul of my childhood was so multilingual that not to become a linguist would have been impossible for anyone with an ear for language and an interest in figuring out puzzles posed by all those languages and dialects. In my own case, it was German, French, Russian and Yiddish that I was exposed to at home, in addition to the Greek of my nanny and of many neighbors. My cousins had an Armenian nanny. Many acquaintances spoke Ladino at home. It was wonderful to be taken along to my mother’s shopping expeditions, because, depending on the merchant, she would speak a different language: Turkish, Greek, Ladino—and with some, even Russian. It was fun to listen to the two rather different-sounding Yiddish dialects of my grandmothers, one of whom lived with us and the other used to come for a day-long visit once a week. They didn’t like each other very much and so they used to sit and have very polite but very poisonous conversations for hours. Once I learned to write, I devised an alphabet for transcribing those conversations, and when I ran out of topics for my letters to my father, who used to be away a lot on business, I would include some of those transcriptions; they amused him very much, or so he claimed.

That transcribing languages and dialects can actually be part of a real profession is something I discovered in Germany, where I studied German and English literature on an academic exchange scholarship. I had to take an introductory linguistics course where we were told about a new approach to study and understand languages, called Generative Grammar. We read parts of Syntactic Structures and of Aspects, and I now feel inclined to say “… and the rest is history”, only that it still took me some time to find my way to formal linguistics. In Germany, our lecturers in linguistics were sympathetic towards Generative Grammar, but they didn’t understand it very well and thus couldn’t really teach it. I was attracted to it, but there was nobody to explain it all to me in clear terms. It was about then that I visited my aunt in Israel and met, by a chain of coincidences, Bob Lees, who had founded a Department of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University and invited me to stay and study formal linguistics, although it was the middle of the semester. This involved driving to the university at least twice a week through heavy morning traffic, to catch Lees’ introductory linguistics course which met at 8 a.m.—a real sacrifice, but one worth making, because the course was an absolutely wonderful introduction to linguistics and got me totally hooked. I took the exams of the course and did well on them, upon which Lees suggested that I should continue towards a PhD in linguistics, and that I should do so in the US. This is how I ended up at Harvard, as a doctoral student in theoretical linguistics. (By a funny coincidence, there, too, I had to go to class to attend an introductory course which met twice a week at 8 a.m.—Jay Jasanoff’s introduction to historical linguistics, and likewise a course well worth getting up early for. At least this time around, campus was in easy walking distance!)

The LinguistList did not exist yet while I was a student. But I envy my own students who make heavy and constant use of it. I was a relatively new Assistant Professor when the LinguistList came into existence, and it was wonderful to find all this great news about conferences, summer schools, books and jobs in one’s mailbox every day. It made me feel connected to the world outside, and I relied on it a lot for news which I used constantly, in various ways; I still do and can’t imagine doing without it.

By the way—the picture that you see was taken recently, a couple of months ago, at a conference in Beijing, on the syntax of information structure in the minority languages of China; when the picture was taken, I was speaking about post-verbal structures in Turkish. This was one of the very few conferences I had not learned about via the LinguistList!

 

 

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

Donate to Enter and Win Our Publisher Prize Giveaway!

Dear Fellow Linguists,

Today we are rolling out our first Publisher Prize lottery! In our lottery for this coming week, we are showcasing some pretty cool bundle of prizes from our Supporting Publishers. This is how the lottery is going to work: for every $10 that you donate, your name is entered to win one of these very linguistic-y prizes. So, if you donate $50, your name will be entered 5 times, and that increases your chances of winning that much more. Even if you can only donate $20 or $30, you still have a good chance of winning!

Here is the list of the prizes we’re giving away in our first prize bundle:

From Brill: 2 one-year journal subscriptions to the journal Cognitive Semantics (you can read more about the journal here: http://goo.gl/FLaZqC). This one is for the cognitive linguists and the semanticists among you.

From Cambridge University Press: The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages (http://goo.gl/GrqenL),edited by Peter K. Austin and Julia Sallabank. If you are interested in documenting endangered languages and the underlying causes of language endangerment, this will be the book for you.

From De Gruyter Mouton: an e-book of Vowel-Shifting in the English Language by Kamil Kazmierski. This book would be ideal for those among you interested in Optimality Theory and evolutionary phonology. Read more about the book here: http://goo.gl/DvXsGh

From Edinburgh University Press: For the morphologists and semanticists out there! The Semantics of Word Formation and Lexicalization, by Pius ten Hacken and Claire Thomas, is ideal if you are interested at looking at word formation from various theoretical frameworks. Read the book’s full abstract here: http://goo.gl/DtJQqf

From Elsevier: 1 personal one-year electronic subscription to an Elsevier linguistics journal of the winner’s choice. You can see the complete list of their linguistic journals here: https://goo.gl/NaswSa. They have a diverse range of journals, from general linguistics, language education, neurolinguistics, pragmatics and much more!

From John Benjamins: 1 journal subscription of the winner’s choice from any of their 70+ journals. See the full listing of their journals here: http://goo.gl/lvCacl. Interested in Syntax? Sociolinguistics? Historical Linguistics? Whatever your chosen discipline, John Benjamins has a journal for you.

From the University of Nebraska Press: 2 one-year subscriptions to the online version of Anthropological Linguistics. Read more about the journal here: http://goo.gl/shD9Z7 This is a great resource not only for the anthropological linguists among us, but also if your research interests lie in the fields of historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, discourse, or many other fields!

***

If you donate between now until next Friday April 8 at 5 pm, your name will be entered to win one of these fantastic prizes. You can donate by following the link below:

http://goo.gl/e656LG

Keep an eye out for more competitions and publisher raffles as our Fund Drive progresses. If you miss this week’s lottery, there will be many more great prizes from our supporting publishers in the coming month, so stay tuned to our social media pages to hear about more prizes that you can win.

Also, if you cannot donate monetarily, you can donate your time by helping spread the word about our Fund Drive. You can do so by liking, sharing, and retweeting on social media, as well as telling others in your department and your local linguistic community the old-fashioned way by word of mouth!

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

http://goo.gl/Q27jls

Thanks and good luck!

Linguistically yours,
The LINGUIST List Crew