Author: Joshua Sims

Thank you from the LINGUIST List

Dear linguists,

The last 72 hours have brought some dramatic changes to our challenges! Sociolinguistics comes first before syntax—but phonology has taken third place for the first time during this year’s fund drive. At the last moment, Indiana University Bloomington took over the lead from the University of South Carolina, and Wayne State and Stanford share the third place! A big round of applause!

Thank you all for your resounding support for our 2021 Linguist List Fund Drive. Nearly 400 linguists from 152 universities in 40 countries on 6 continents donated this year. Thanks to your personal commitment, we have collected over $27,000—this alone will help us fund one student editor in 2022. This is an uplifting message for all of us, and for so many reasons! It will be easier for the whole team to stay abreast of the everchanging media and information landscape. At a more personal level – one more student of linguistics will have secure support and will be able to continue working and learning at the LINGUIST List without going into debt. For the whole community, the positive message is that LINGUIST List will continue its operations. More importantly, your support proves that we are a strong community of committed individuals. We hope that you will continue to support us. There is no LINGUIST List without our readers.

Thank you!

Malgosia, Helen, Steven, Lauren, Billy, Joshua, Jeremy, Sarah, Everett, Nils

LINGUIST List Office Tour

The LINGUIST List is the best place on the web for linguistics news. But where does the magic actually happen?

Join intrepid explorer (and LINGUIST List editor) Billy Dickson on an exciting tour of our offices in Bloomington, Indiana!

We’d like to thank you all for your generous support of our 2021 Fund Drive with this special behind-the-scenes look.

And don’t miss the secret of the Underlying Phonemic Pig!


Challenge Update: Last Chance!

Dear Linguists,

As of this announcement, the counter on our website has reached $24,155.88 and we are starting the countdown to the end of the Fund Drive. If you can donate—if you want help ensure smooth operation of the LINGUIST List in 2022—now is the time. Any donation is appreciated; even $5 makes a difference. Together, we are strong. There are thousands of linguists who read our posts and can contribute. If you donate, your contribution might be the $5 that makes a difference between whether the LINGUIST List can afford 6 or 7 editors next year. As we are wrapping up this year’s Fund Drive, please make it happen and donate before Friday at:

In the subfield challenge, sociolinguistics took a comfortable lead, with $3,608 in donations. Phonology is in second, followed closely by Historical Linguistics and Syntax—which had previously held the first place spot! Check the rankings at and you may just be able to raise your subfield in the rankings.
19 linguists from the University of South Carolina ensured the top rank of their university in our university challenge with a combined donation of $1,300. They are followed closely by Indiana University, Stanford University, Wayne State University and the University of Illinois. Thank you for your continued support! In the country challenge, the leader is the US with 156 donors, followed by Germany, UK, Canada, Italy and Australia.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in our Fund Drive challenges. We appreciate your donations, whether you took your subfield or university to the top of the rankings, or whether you were the only donor from your area of study. We are happy to see the support of such a variety of linguists!

Our warmest thanks to all contributors! There is no LINGUIST List without its readers, thank you linguistics!

Malgosia and the LINGUIST List team

Featured Linguist: Mirjam Fried

I was still in grad school when Linguist List was born, essentially as a discussion forum then. And I remember with fondness what a thrilling leap into the world of virtual communication it was at that time, and how I devoured most of the discussions that quickly started to pop up on all sorts of topics and often among people I was not likely to ever meet in person. Things have of course developed from there and it’s great to see that we still have this indispensable and very professionally run service, richer than ever. Please let’s keep it going!

Especially now that there is some hope of gradually returning to a more normal academic life. Being reduced to zoom meetings for so long has shown us real limits of the online mode of communication: e.g. when we need to brainstorm with colleagues about projects, teach practical hands-on courses, or just enjoy a friendly gab in between conference talks. But to be fair, this unwelcome disruption has brought some pleasant surprises, too: mundane work meetings turned out to be more efficient this way; I saw enrollment almost doubled in my classes, bringing in students who normally wouldn’t touch linguistics with a ten-foot pole (did they have more time on their hands now?, was it easier from the comfort of their homes?, did they feel less ‘on the spot’ than in the classroom?, or…?); not to mention that the whole experience has forced us to be more creative in the ways we do things. Nonetheless, I’m happy at the prospect that this semester could be different, finally, at least at my Alma Mater here in Prague, allowing me to be face-to-face with my students again. I also have a small team of MA and PhD students and a few junior colleagues, all of us eager to continue developing our ideas in multimodal constructional analysis and to start inviting guest speakers from other countries again! Plus I see an added bonus: there will be a treasure trove of material for studying how the virtual communication is pretty fundamentally different from the normal way and what strategies interlocutors develop to cope with it. What more can a linguist ask for…

So, why have I become a linguist? Well, because I always wanted to! Which is not to say it was always a smooth and easy ride; my life story may seem like an exercise in searching for silver linings…. I was born and grew up in a now non-existent country (Czechoslovakia) at the time when one couldn’t plan much of anything, least of all one’s professional future. Success depended on ideological prostitution and that was not how I was brought up. But that didn’t stop me from forming a life-long plan at the age of thirteen. When – in seventh grade – we were introduced to the basics of dependency grammar and learned to diagram sentences, I discovered my calling. On the way from school that day I informed my mother that when I grow up I want to be a syntactician. Structure absolutely fascinated me and the idea of dissecting complex sentences into different parts that can be classified (neatly, they had me believe then, haha) by function got me hooked. All my career-related decisions from that point on were driven by this goal – to become a syntactician. Little did I know… Accordingly, I chose the so-called humanities track in high school because there was more emphasis on language(s), including obligatory Latin, in spite of being chastised for it (apparently, kids with good grades were supposed to take the math-oriented track). I was lucky, though, to have a teacher who supported my interest and helped me find books by Czech linguists which broadened my horizons in various disciplines, from syntax to sociolinguistics. 

After graduation, the first hurdle emerged. As politically suspect and unreliable, I wasn’t allowed to enroll in the university double-major program I chose (Czech Linguistics and Classics). On the way from learning this unsurprising piece of news, I bumped into my middle-school French teacher who was at that time running a popular educational program for kids, and she was sufficiently appalled by this turn of events to give me a job in her program and then work through her connections to make sure that the next year I do get in. Which I did. Since my primary interest was actually in diachrony, I found my way into an RA-ship in the Old Czech department in the Academy of Sciences. This job introduced me to morphosyntactic variation, opened up a whole new world of research questions and especially of data (a humongous database, all in the form of excerpts on index cards – imagine that!, a roomful of drawers upon drawers), and this experience eventually led not only to my MA thesis, but many years later also to a series of articles, when grammaticalization research provided me with a tangible theoretical perspective. 

At the same time, my search for ‘real linguistics’ landed me in the Math Faculty of Charles University, where I for the first time got a taste of transformational grammar and formal semantics, but subsequently also the work of Charles Fillmore, which I could relate to the easiest. This particular RA-ship was practically a clandestine operation, the group led by Petr Sgall and Eva Hajičová was politically out of favor to such a degree that they all had been chased out of the Faculty of Arts, where I was regularly enrolled, and basically in hiding among the mathematicians. It was sheer luck that I managed to sniff them out and learn about their seminars. As their RA, I was helping in preparing material for what eventually became the valence dictionary, to this day a crucial part of the Prague TreeBank. By the way, while working on this, I came to the firm conclusion that I would never get into semantics because it’s too messy, too intractable, simply too difficult and not for me. Granted, Czech aspect is all those things, but still. Little did I know again…

And another hurdle, this time really serious. Even before graduating from college, it was made very plain to me that if I didn’t join the communist party, there’d be no hope for an academic career. In fact, for the likes of me, not even school teaching was “in the interest of the state”, as the all-purpose phrase went. I was getting myself mentally ready for a career of dish washing or window cleaning… But through one of the great ironies of life, I met my future husband (an American, then a grad student of Slavic linguistics at Yale) during a summer school in Slovenia, where my greatest political tormentor had sent me, I guess in the hopes that I would eventually relent in a show of gratitude for this trip (not normally allowed in those days). Instead, after four years of correspondence, I married this American students and emigrated to the US, on Christmas Eve of 1982. It was like landing on Mars and I couldn’t even dream of simply continuing with my academic pursuits. Not right away, anyway. But hey, learning to live in New York, soaking up the environment, enjoying the unimaginable freedom, and later working as a computer programmer (for the Fed, of all places) was not a waste by any stretch. Three years later, after having taught myself the most arcane programming languages, the innards of the PC hardware (then a freshly emerging miracle in computers), and in my free time reading linguistic literature, I felt ready to go back to grad school and the biggest decision of my professional life was before me: I liked the East Coast (not knowing anything else, of course) and imagined I’d like to go to MIT, while my husband saw himself in the Silicon Valley, which was just taking off then. We each did a detailed ‘feasibility study’ along the same (long) set of criteria, he won by about 3 points out of more than 70, and I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

At UC Berkeley, Chuck Fillmore opened up a completely new world to me. Semantics suddenly didn’t feel so daunting and intractable, syntax became even more interesting and infinitely richer, and most importantly – it was also the beginning of introducing the cognitive perspective into linguistic analysis. I remember joint workshops with folks from UC San Diego, which were a lot of fun and eye-opening experiences. Through all this, I saw construction grammar as the way of thinking about language that made by far the most sense to me and it has become my chosen field. Additional hurdles – some open, some more under the surface – were of course presented by the job market; it wasn’t easy to be a cognitive linguist, a woman, and a foreigner to boot. After a pretty satisfying one-year visiting job at U of Oregon, which brought me in contact with the world of typological research, I landed a job in the Slavic department at Princeton University. PU wasn’t exactly known for pursuits in cognitive linguistics and I felt a bit isolated, but it helped that I found a way to hang out with people in the psychology department. It was again useful new food for thought. 

At PU, I was also required to teach Czech, which I took almost as a necessary evil. But this less than perfect match again turned out to be a useful turn in the long run, as I sort of stumbled into research area I’ve been pursuing ever since – the grammar of spontaneously produced language. Once a student in my Czech class asked about the meaning of a word that in dictionaries is defined as a subordinating conjunction, but in spoken language it has evolved into a polyfunctional discourse marker that had not yet been analyzed and described. In trying to answer the student’s question, I realized I’d have to write a whole book to capture its full nature, including the phenomenon that a few years later became known as insubordination, in Nick Evans’s work. So, I’ve been writing articles on this and other similar markers, and since they are a feature of spontaneous interaction, they necessarily pose questions about the interplay between lexico-syntactic, phonic, and even gestural patterns, which, by definition, is something construction grammar was designed to handle by providing the conceptual and analytic tools to capture language in its multilayered complexity. My latest adventure thus involves the search for prosodic and segmental correlates of specific linguistic patterns, with the indispensable contribution from my phonetician colleague.

And so here I am. Still dealing with syntax, but in a much more interesting and theoretically satisfying way, which takes seriously both the cognitive perspective (brought to me through my Berkeley years) and the interactional grounding (my Prague School background). Needless to say, it is extremely rewarding and encouraging to see how the constructional approach, including its link to lexical semantics (through Frame Semantics) and discourse has become part of the ‘mainstream’ and informs linguistic research not just in synchronic syntax, but also in diachrony, in morphology, and in a growing a number of specific domains: acquisition, computational modeling, language teaching, psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics, etc. And most recently extending also into questions about multimodal patterning and, hence, also the scope of grammar, the scope and nature of speakers’ linguistic knowledge… It’ll keep us busy.

Featured Linguist: Stefan Müller

I am delighted to support this year’s fund drive for the LINGUIST List.

While preparing this text, I had a look at the pieces from previously featured linguists and noticed that I share some characteristics with Adele Goldberg and Colin Phillips: we all had a passion for mathematics. I was a member of the Mathematische Schülergesellschaft (MSG) run by researchers from the Humboldt University from the fifth grade onwards. When I was 13, I applied to the Heinrich Hertz Oberschule, which is a school with a specialization in mathematics (nine hours of math each week). Back then two to four pupils out of 30 could go to the Extended Secondary School and getting a place on this special school was even more competitive. There were two tests: a math examination, which I finished with 100%, and a political talk, which I failed. They asked me whether I would want to serve in the army for an extended period of time (three years instead of one and a half), and I told them that I never thought about this question but that I thought it was a bad idea. Since the GDR expected loyalty of those who were allowed to these extended schools and those who were allowed to study, I was rejected. I am very grateful to my parents who left no stone unturned in order to get me into this school. They got certificates from my math teacher and from the MSG, and I had a second chance interview on political issues with the principal of my school. I told them that it was my deepest wish to serve in the army for three years (sarcasm).

My application having been successful, I went to the Heinrich Hertz school, and it was great. Lots of math and even computer science. We could learn to program using programmable pocket calculators from Texas Instruments (note that GDR money could not buy you those, so the school must have had some special connections), and later using the first home computers produced in the GDR (KC85-1). The school organized a partnership for individual pupils with the Humboldt University. I could work in the main computing facility of the HU. I was very privileged: while university students had to use punch cards at the time (1985), I could type in my programs at the terminal of the HU’s main computer. This mainframe had 128k of memory and an electronic typewriter typing out important messages. Clack, clack, clack. (/dev/console)

After this happy childhood with mathematics and mainframes, I had to serve in the army. I hated every minute of it; it was the darkest period of my life. I went to the library in the town where I was stationed and got a book by Kurt Schwitters: “Anna Blume und andere”. Kurt Schwitters is one of the proponents of Dada (an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century) and this was the right kind of craziness for me. I knew immediately: either I write crazy stuff like this or I will really go crazy. So I went for Dada. I published my stuff together with a friend who did illustrations in a Samizdat, an underground self-publication, using army computers and printers. I wrote the publishing and layout software myself, a precursor to what I would do later in life.

Finally released from the army, I began to study at the Humboldt University. I studied Mathematical Computer Science, a brand-new subject, which was a full-scale math curriculum with computer science on top. I started in September 1989, when GDR still existed. The elections on March 7th of that year were fake, and people left the country in masses via Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The situation culminated on October the 7th, which was the 40th anniversary of the foundation of GDR but also one of the days on which the opposition kept reminding the government of the fake elections which had taken place on another 7th day of a month. Protesters and celebrators mixed, and riot police with helmets and water guns were in the streets: something that had never happened before. Secret service members mixed with the crowd and tried to stop discussions, arresting many of the protesters. The outcome of all this is known. There was a huge demonstration in November and things began to change slowly. A world collapsed and something new began. I was deeply disappointed by the faculty members: they just continued to talk about algebra, analysis, and logic as if nothing was happening. They completely ignored the outside world. Their math was dead. It worked as it always did, it was correct, but it was boring. I could not connect to them any longer. I wanted something different, something dirty, something that is not perfect: language. One thing the Dadaists did in the 1920s was anagrams. They made anagrams with pencil, paper, and scissors. Being a nerd, I went for more systematic and efficient methods: I used a computer. We learned Prolog in the computer science lectures, and so I used Prolog to permute the letters, and a dictionary to then test the permutations against word sequences. Of course arbitrary word sequences were not good enough; I wanted to filter out all those sequences that are naturally occurring phrases. So I wrote my first grammar of German.

Udo Kruschwitz, a friend of mine, had the idea to go to Great Britain for a year. We checked Glasgow, Edinburgh, and some other places, and decided to apply for Edinburgh since they did not require a language test. My English was terrible at the time, but as far as computer science lectures were concerned, I did not have any problems. As so often in my life, I was lucky: Edinburgh was a hot spot of computational linguistics. Chris Mellish, the pope of parsing and Prolog, was there. Alan Black did computational semantics. Henry Thomson did formal linguistic stuff. It was just great. It was an international mix of students, including David Adger, and it was really inspiring with a lot of fruitful interaction. The year abroad ended with a Large Practical in which we used Prolog for syntactic and semantic analysis of English. I did a PATR-like grammar with a Discourse Representation Semantics component.

When I came back, the courses I did in Edinburgh were accepted so that I could finish my study in four years including the year abroad. The original plan for my diploma was to develop a grammar and a processing system that incorporated the ideas about verb fields by Jürgen Kunze (Professor for Computational Linguistics at the Humboldt University back then). This theory is a very cool theory since it uses semantic primitives like ’cause’, ‘become’, and ‘have’ to model the verbs of exchange of possession (‘give’, ‘take’, ‘steal’, ‘lend’, ‘borrow’). Kunze modeled the field in German: 91 verbs. A 92nd verb would have been expected, so he discovered a lexical gap in German.

But, back in Edinburgh, I had visited one of my supervisors. There was a copy of the first volume of Pollard & Sag about Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) on his desk. I asked him what this was about, and he said: “Oh, this is too difficult for you.” I knew how to work with Definite Clause Grammars, but I also felt that a bit more than this would be required for my diploma thesis. So I had a look into Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar (GPSG) and developed a parser for a fragment of German. I compiled out all phrase structure rules, and the result got so messy and dealing with the grammar got so complicated that I decided that HPSG could hardly be more complicated than what I was already doing. So I turned to the forbidden book, and I loved it. I also got an ESSLLI booklet from 1992 with a draft version of the ’94 HPSG book. I read the books several times. I developed an HPSG grammar of German and a parser for it. Sometime in December 1993, Kunze said that there was a position I could take. He asked what I had done so far for my diploma and decided that this was enough. So I never got to his cool semantics but was deeply involved with HPSG.

Kunze was coming from the Academy of Science of the GDR, which was closed down after the end of the GDR. A lot of scientists from GDR universities or other research institutions became unemployed (half of the 218,000 researchers in GDR, two thirds of the professors). But there was also a program called Wissenschaftlerintegrationsprogramm (researcher integration program). The idea was to give three-year contracts to East Germans so that they could find their place in the West German academic system (or rather in the German academic system). There was money in the pool for Kunze’s position, but since he got a professorship, this money was not needed. He used it, together with other money, to create a position, which I was lucky to get. This was a huge privilege, since it was a personal position with a personal travel budget of 10,000 Deutschmarks, and I was freshly graduated, not taken over from an existing GDR institution. I used the time well to extend the HPSG Grammar and improve the parser. By the end of the three-year period, I had the largest grammar of German available and the fastest system for processing it. As Wolfgang Wahlster, one reviewer of my PhD thesis, remarked: It was better than what IBM came up with, with a research group working on grammar and parser and a 1 Mio DM budget. But when I presented my work to the computer scientists of the Humboldt University, they did not really like it. I guess I made a mistake in presenting the stuff; they were not interested in the grammar part at all. So, rather than trying to convince them that computational linguistics is interesting and that I had something that is worth a PhD, I looked for different options, and so Hans Uszkoreit and Wolfgang Wahlster became my PhD reviewers. I defended the PhD at the computer science department in Saarbrücken. I also got a job there at the DFKI (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) in the Computational Linguistics (CL) lab of Hans Uszkoreit, working in the VerbMobil project. The goal of VerbMobil was speaker-independent machine translation of spoken language. Nowadays every phone can do this, but CL was far away from this goal in 1992, when VerbMobil started. The project was way too big, as far as the number of involved people was concerned. Wolfgang Whalster counted 911 people (including student assistants). Many complained that communication was difficult, but for me the VerbMobil time was just great. Again, I was lucky: everybody who was directly before or after me in the processing pipeline was in my lab. There were Uli Krieger and Bernd Kiefer, responsible for parsing, and Walter Kasper, with whom I interacted closely since he did the semantics for my grammar. If something was wrong with the output format or the semantic representation, they got the message from other groups and we dealt with the problems internally.

After defending my PhD, I wanted to give a conference talk based on the chapter about particle verbs in my thesis. The reviewers did not like it. I felt hurt and misunderstood. I decided to write something bigger, maybe a journal article. Particle verbs are complex predicates. They form a predicate complex similar to verbal complexes and resultative constructions with adjectives. In order to write this up properly, I had to talk about secondary predication (depictives and resultatives), about copula constructions, and about verbal complexes. All these phenomena interact with fronting, passivization and so on. I realized quickly that I had to write a book. This became my habilitation. Another lucky coincidence in my life.

VerbMobil ended in 2000, but this was the time of internet startups and the DFKI was involved with several of them. One was Interprice (now Semantic Edge), a platform for price comparison with a natural language interface. The domain was later changed to travel. I continued to develop the German grammar for these domains and was responsible for other languages too. In 2001 I got the offer to replace the chair for computational linguistics in Jena for two years.

When this time was over, I was lucky again and got an assistant professorship for Theoretical Linguistics/Computational Linguistics in Bremen. After a year in Potsdam, filling in a position in CL, I got my first permanent position at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2007. This position was in German and General Linguistics, and while my focus had been on German in previous years, I now started projects on Danish, Persian and Mandarin Chinese. I developed computer-processable HPSG grammars for German, Danish, Persian, Mandarin, English, Yiddish, Spanish, French, Maltese and Hindi. All grammars come with syntax and semantics, and some with an information structure component which was developed in the Collaborative Research Center 632. The grammars share a common core grammar, that is, constraints that hold for all (examined) languages or for subgroups of them. In 2016, I moved to the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where I have had a chair in German Syntax since then. We started another Collaborative Research Center there (CRC 1412). It deals with register phenomena. My lab contributes a project dealing with the empirical side (corpus linguistics) and with questions on how to pair HPSG with probabilistic aspects.

Throughout my life I spent a lot of time comparing various theoretical frameworks. Most energy went into the lexical vs. phrasal constructions discussion (basically phrasal Construction Grammar vs. HPSG/SBCG/Categorial Grammar/Minimalism) and I really enjoyed working together with Steve Wechsler on a target article, but there are also other comparisons like the ones of HPSG and Minimalism as well as HPSG and Dependency Grammar. In general, I think that linguistic frameworks share a lot of ideas, and we should talk more to each other to be able to understand the commonalities and work together across framework boundaries.

The Linguist List has been important to me throughout my scientific life. It played a role in scientific exchange (I remember the challenge to the Minimalist community to build a parser showing that Minimalist ideas can be made consistent and working.

The resulting discussion was very interesting…), the job postings were very important, and one early post by Martin Haspelmath (in 2004!!!) to the list about open access turned out to be one cornerstone in the foundation of Language Science Press.

During a dinner in 2012 with Adele Goldberg, Thomas Herbst and Anatol Stefanowitsch, we realized that the tools for running a scholarly-owned open access publishing house were now available. I started writing to scholars asking for signing at a website for support. I remembered the post from Martin and asked him if he wanted to join the enterprise. We met at the Freie Universität Berlin, talked things through, wrote a DFG proposal, founded Language Science Press, and the rest is history. (Part of this history, and an important one, is Sebastian Nordhoff, who worked for Martin and later joined Language Science Press. Without him and his social and technical skills, the great success of this initiative would not have been possible.)

The organizers of this year’s fund drive of the Linguist List gave us a motto for our piece: silver lining. We all need one, after over a year of Covid, which has been exhausting and terrible for everybody in academia (and beyond). And this is not the only crisis we are in. The climate crisis is something that is not waiting for us at the end of the pandemic. It is something that is happening simultaneously and on top of everything we already have. I have been active with Scientists 4 Future for several years now. Martina Schäfer, Gisbert Fanselow and I started an initiative for flying less, and we collected signatures of people who pledge to refrain from business flights to destinations less than 1000km away. 25% of the scientific staff of the Humboldt University signed. Given the fact that 50% of the carbon emissions of universities is due to travel, and 93% of this is due to air travel, this was a good result. However, we are far from zero carbon emissions, and we have to go down to zero. There is not much time left (as the most recent report of the IPCC made clear again).

So, where is the silver lining? Well, maybe it is not easy to see it in all the smoke coming from the fires in Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. But once the smoke clears, we may be able to see that Covid brought us one thing: we learned to live without traveling. Search committees, job talks, conferences are possible without intercontinental flights. The tools we are using are not perfect, and I experienced disasters in communication which I was very unhappy about, but we can improve on this and learn how the online world works. Since we must go down to zero emissions rather quickly, it was good that we’ve now learned, at least in principle, how to do it.


Advisory Board Challenge

Dear Linguist List-ers,

Our Fund Drive is now coming to an end, so it is time to acknowledge out Advisory Board: Jeff Allen, Anthony Aristar, Helen Aristar Dry, Emily Bender, Andrea Berez, Kelly Harper Berkson, Arendse Bernth, Hans Christian Boas, Vladimir Borschev, Andrew Carnie, Stuart Davis, Manuel Díaz-Campos, Sebastian Drude, Stan Dubinsky, Arienne M Dwyer, Paul D. Fallon, Hana Filip, Lenore A. Grenoble, Pius Ten Hacken, John Hale, S.J. Hannahs, Susan C. Herring, Dick Hudson, Martin M. Jacobsen, D. Terence Langendoen, John Lawler, Elizabeth D. Liddy, Ahmad R. Lotfi, Monica Macaulay, Brian MacWhinney, Ernest N McCarus, Joyce Milambiling, Steven Moran, Geoffrey S. Nathan, Alexis Palmer, Barbara Partee, Paul Peranteau, Joseph Salmons, Vladimir Selegey, Farzad Sharifian, Chilin Shih, Richard Sproat, Bethany Townsend, Elly van Gelderen, Ljuba Veselinova, Andrew Winnard, Margaret E. Winters, Arnold Zwicky and Wilhelm Meya. We would like to thank the members of our board for all sorts of support – financial, moral, logistical, lobbying and advising. Your contributions will not go unnoticed!

Our Board is specially involved in this Fund Drive and wants to challenge you: if we manage to collect more than $1,500 in donations till midnight (EST) on Friday, our donors will match it up to the amount of $2,000! Please help us, even $5 help us to achieve our goal. Support our student editors and enable the operation of the Linguist List in 2022! Donate at:

Malgosia Cavar

On behalf of the LINGUIST List Team

Staff Letter: Joshua Sims

Hello, Linguist List Readers!

I’m Joshua Sims, the systems administrator at the Linguist List. I do the behind-the-scenes work to keep our website running smoothly, both for our editors and for our readers.

I also maintain the Easy Abstracts service at the Linguist List. If you are organizing a conference and need a free, easy to use service to handle abstract submissions and reviews, use EasyAbs! Give it a try at

Like all my colleagues at the Linguist List, I am a student at Indiana University. I’m working on a dual PhD in Linguistics and Central Eurasian Studies. My primary focus is Mongolian phonology, especially with regards to ATR vowel harmony and palatalization. I’m also part of a field methods course working on Lutuv, a member of the Maraic sub-branch of the Tibeto-Burman family.

On my own time, I enjoy studying languages (most recently, Mandarin and Esperanto), practicing Mongolian Calligraphy, reading Science Fiction & Fantasy, and capitalizing words that don’t need to be capitalized.

I have greatly enjoyed working at the Linguist List during my studies here. In my work as systems administrator, I get to see submissions and postings from all the topics we handle at the Linguist List. It makes me so happy to see announcements for books, conferences, journals and jobs, for all subfields of linguistics and all for fascinating languages. I still remember, as a sophomore studying linguistics, being told about the Linguist List, as a great place to find linguistics resources and jobs in the future. And now I work here—it’s kind of like being famous!

Your support for the Linguist List makes it possible for me to study here. I wouldn’t be able to pursue my degree without my position at the Linguist List. When you donate to the Linguist List, you’re supporting a free and open forum for linguistic ideas and opportunities. At the same time, you’re also supporting a team of hard-working student linguists, so we can continue with our studies until we get to apply to these jobs ourselves someday.

Thank you for your donations and continued readership, and for keeping us together, editors and readers, year after year, at the Linguist List. If you haven’t donated yet, please do so at, and if you have—thanks!

Featured Linguist: Chris Green

I always thought my journey to linguistics was a bit odd and haphazard, but as I’ve met more linguists over the years, I’ve come to realize that many of us took some time to find our way to the field. Like many others, after graduating high school, I had never heard of linguistics. I had always been interested in languages and learning them – first Spanish and French in high school, and even Swahili, which I tried to learn on my own – so that I could travel to new and exciting places. Growing up in central New York, and particularly, enduring its long grey winters, had me longing to see what else was out there in the world…preferably some place warm and sunny! Back in those days, when we would go to the mall, I would spend my time in Borders or Barnes & Noble, eagerly flipping through the pages of whatever language books I could get my hands on.
Despite this interest in language, I went to college (yes, someplace warm!) to study biochemistry and classical saxophone performance. For fun, I took Ancient Greek for three semesters, and was simultaneously puzzled and fascinated by new-to-me ideas like grammatical case, aspect, and mood that I had never heard of before (Aorist?! What’s an aorist?). Upon finishing my two degrees, I began working in a virology lab as an electron microscopy specialist, but I got burned out quickly working in a reverse-pressure Level 3 facility, communicating with my colleagues through double-paned glass windows all day. A former French professor told me about the linguistics class that she was taking, and as she described her assignments, the perfect combination of scientific inquiry and language unfolded right in front of me. She offered to introduce me to her professor, the late J. Kathryn Josserand, an expert in Mayan discourse analysis at Florida State University. Kathryn and her husband, Nick Hopkins, a phonetician, happened to be working with a PhD student from Côte d’Ivoire, Sidiky Diarrasouba, to analyze the discourse structure of his mother tongue, Nafaanra, and they invited to me to join them. As is often said, the rest is history.
I became fascinated by linguistics, and by all things related to African languages. I spent the next year continuing to work in my lab, taking graduate classes in linguistics as a non-matriculated student, and working with Kathryn, Nick, and Sidiky on the weekends. When it came time to apply to graduate school, Indiana University took a chance on me and also offered me the chance to begin studying Bambara. My karamɔkɔ, Boubacar Diakite, was also a graduate student in linguistics at the time, and along with classmate Abbie Hantgan (CNRS), the three of us spent a lot of time thinking of ways to apply to Bambara what we were learning in our other coursework. Bambara became the focus of my dissertation work, and my love of phonology, and of prosody and tone in particular, blossomed while taking classes with Sam Obeng and Stuart Davis, and also while working in Dan Dinnsen’s lab at the Learnability Project.
Just before heading to Bamako to do my dissertation fieldwork, I was offered a job at the former Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) at the University of Maryland. I went to Mali, collected my data, and returned home to finish and defend my thesis. I then spent the next five years as Co-PI of several federally funded projects whose goal was ultimately to help adults (e.g., diplomats, soldiers, translators) learn African languages quickly and effectively. Being on “soft money” projects was an incredible challenge for a new PhD specializing in phonology, as funders had no interest in theory and little in typology, and even our language foci often changed annually in response to world events. What this period of time provided me, however, was exposure to new languages, and particularly, to the Cushitic languages Somali, Maay Maay, and Marka. I also was awarded a Collaborative Research Grant from the NSF with Co-PIs Michael Marlo (Missouri) and Michael Diercks (Pomona) to study Wanga (a Bantu language of Kenya), expanding upon work I began in a field methods course in graduate school. Added to my work on Bambara and Susu (another Mande language), I found myself awash in data from three different language families and needing to somehow build a research program. In the interest of making the most of my situation, I began to think big picture about prominence. How do languages with vastly different prosodic systems encode prominence? What structures and factors affect its realization? What counts as prominence anyway? In this realm, I’ve published on issues related to tone, wordhood, headedness, syllable structure, and vowel harmony. As I heard Laura Downing (Gothenburg) once say in a workshop discussion (and I’m paraphrasing slightly), “As a phonologist, I’m attracted to interesting data.” For me, nothing could be closer to the truth, and I remind myself of this when I reflect on the various languages and phenomena that have occupied my thoughts over the past 12 years or so.
Since 2016, I’ve been a member of the Linguistic Studies Program faculty at Syracuse University, back in my hometown, and (despite enduring the long winters once again) enjoying the opportunity to finish up old projects while beginning new ones, including documentation and description of the Jarawan languages of Nigeria, which began in 2018 with MA student Milkatu Garba. Milka is a mother tongue speaker of the Jarawan language Mbat (iso:bau), and has become a collaborator and, in many ways, my project manager, since finishing her MA in 2020. In hopes that the pandemic would be winding down, I applied for and was awarded an NEH fellowship to continue this project. I had truly hoped that this might include some travel and data collection, whether for me, Milka, or both of us. Of course, these plans were met head on with the realities of the ongoing state of global public health. But, in the spirit of the theme for this year’s Fund Drive, “Silver Linings,” Milka and I found a way to harness the power of social media to find several Jarawan-speaking consultants in Nigeria who were eagerly willing to work with us. Through a combination of sharing questionnaires on GoogleDrive, conducting meetings over Google Voice, receiving recordings through WhatsApp, and making payments via international cash apps, we’ve managed to find a way to work effectively with two speakers each of two new-to-us Jarawan languages, Duguri and Galamkya. We’ve spent this Summer making strides learning about their unique properties and, thereby, beginning to understand more about the internal dynamics of this language cluster whose status as Bantu vs. non-Bantu has been widely debated. So, like many others, we have tried to find a way to make the best of the continued pandemic state of affairs, and to find a way to look on the bright side and to seize upon what is within the realm of possibility to do safely, to somehow push ahead in our research.
Despite all the chaos in the world, and the extra hoops that we encounter daily in our remote fieldwork, though, I can’t help but nod my head and smile. Whether its participating in informal weekly Zoom working groups, learning how to handle remote workshops and conferences, participating in midnight colloquium talks on the other side of the world, or figuring out how to interface with consultants remotely through social media and smart phones, it is abundantly clear that we linguists comprise a resilient and creative community, and that bodes well for the future of our discipline.

Christopher R. Green
Syracuse University, Department of Languages, Literatures, & Linguistics
HBC 307, Syracuse NY 13244
[email protected]


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Fund Drive Lottery Week 6

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As our 2021 Fund Drive starts to wind to a close, we have an EXCITING giveaway! This week, we will have a smorgasbord of books that we are raffling off. All those who donate this week will have a chance to win wonderful prizes which were graciously provided by our supporting publishers. Donations need not be large; a donation of just $2 (less than a cup of Hot Cocoa) from all of our users would easily launch us past our fund drive goal.

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From Cambridge:

Gramling — The Invention of Multilingualism (

Grosjean — Life as a Bilingual (

Trudgill — European Language Matters (

Freidin — Adventures in English Syntax (

From Wiley:

Pragmatics and its Applications to TESOL and SLA
By Salvatore Attardo and Lucy Pickering


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