Crew Letters

Staff Letter: Becca Morris

Dear LINGUIST List readers,

Here I am showing off a new haircut.

My name is Becca Morris and I am the Managing Editor here at LINGUIST List (LL) and I am also responsible for Finances, posting jobs, and creating social media boosts. We may have met via email, or you may remember my staff letter from last year.

It has been almost a year since I started at LINGUIST List and it has truly been a wonderful experience and opportunity. I am now a second year PhD student in Computational Linguistics at Indiana University and I would not have been able to continue if I hadn’t gotten my graduate assistantship job at LL – I came to IU as an out-of-state unfunded MA student. By employing graduate students The LINGUIST List is providing us the means to contribute to our field in an impactful way, while at the same time they are helping us tremendously.

Since my staff letter last year, I have become a second year PhD student and I am now working on Universal Dependencies and Dependency Parsing for Hakha Chin (as mentioned in my blog post) at IU. I am also minoring in Informatics. I expect to finish my qualifying exams by the end of Fall 2019 and then become a candidate. In my spare time, which there is not a lot of as a graduate student, I am teaching myself Swedish and would like to work with this language in the future.

I also like to go to concerts in the small amount of spare time that I have. Coheed and Cambria is my favorite band and this was my ninth time seeing them live.

LINGUIST List has not only allowed me to excel academically but also personally. This past year has been a rather transformative year for me and I don’t think I would have been able to do it had it not been for LL supporting me. I was able to find myself, personally and academically, this year and I will forever be grateful to The LINGUIST List for helping me along this journey.

Working at LL has taught me many things, for example, how to make valuable connections with notable people in our field and how to become better at time management and these are valuable skills that I will use throughout my career. This job also allows the editors and programmers to see what is going on in our field and provides us the opportunity to contribute to academia in a meaningful way.

LINGUIST List provides our field with vital resources and we couldn’t do it without your support. When you support The LINGUIST List you are not just supporting the editors and the programmers but also the linguistics community as a whole. Next year LL will turn 30 and we couldn’t have done it without your support.

 

Thank you again for all of your support, everyone here at LINGUIST List is forever grateful to all of you. If would like to help us to continue providing resources to the linguistic community please visit our fund drive page and donate.

Tack så mycket!

Sincerely,
Becca Morris
Managing Editor
Jobs Editor
Finances

The Importance of Tech in Language Revitalization

Hello all,

For our second fund drive blog post I wanted to continue talking about the impact and importance of technology in language revitalization. In our previous post, Becca talked about a specific project with Hakha Chin (Laiholh). Here, I want to generalize a little bit and talk about why I think projects like that are so important.

The most obvious place technology can help in language revitalization is teaching and data collection applications, such as Duolingo. If nothing else, apps like these open the door to multilingualism, especially in America where learning even a second language is not nearly as common as I think it should be. Common Voice is at the other side of that with data collection, and you can read about that more in Becca’s post if you’d like. But these aren’t really the kind of applications I’m talking about here, I want to go deeper and look at language technology.

One big example of what I’m thinking of, and a very important one, are speech to text and text to speech systems.

Amazon’s Alexa, a voice activated tool

This is the technology behind Siri, Google, Alexa, and Cortana. As a native English speaker, I am incredibly privileged to have some of the best language tech at my fingertips because so much work has been done on English already. And while there may still be a long ways to go before we have anything resembling a true Artificial Intelligence, it’s easy to gloss over how big a difference there still is between English and less resourced languages.

This also illustrates a theoretical situation which may contribute directly to the extinction of languages. Any time someone wants to use their phone or other voice activated device and it is not in their native language, they must switch to a language that is available. Any multilingual speaker can tell you that switching languages takes a lot of cognitive effort, as I will personally attest to. Our brains just don’t want to. How often do you use your phone? If you’re like me, or pretty much anyone else in my generation, the answer is a LOT. Too much, really. And incorporating language technology is only getting more and more prevalent. So if you’re a speaker of a language that isn’t available on your tech, at what point do you just stop speaking your native language and just switch to the more common one you’re pretty proficient at?

In the tech industry we make a big deal about “User Experience” and “Accessibility”, which are definitely a good thing, but carry a cost if any aspect is ignored. My point is this: it’s not enough to just teach a language and make language learning resources available. In order to truly revitalize a language, it needs to be available in all aspects of life, and the growing amount of technology used on a day to day basis is a critical point. The good news is that people are working on it. Under Resourced Languages are gaining popularity and even companies are recognizing this, see again Mozilla’s Common Voice. Machine learning methods are being worked on which aim to reduce the amount of data needed to make them effective, opening them up to these smaller languages.

If you appreciate services provided by the LINGUIST List like book and job announcements, please consider donating to our annual fund drive campaign. We rely on your donations to continue operating and supporting our editors.

If you’ve already donated or just donated, thank you, we appreciate it.

Featured Linguist: Jason Rothman

We are pleased to feature this week’s linguist, Professor Jason Rothman! Read his linguistics journey below!

Like many linguists (certainly like many of us at LL) Rothman was passionate about language long before he knew what “linguistics” really entails

I have always loved language.  I wanted to be a linguist before I really knew what linguistics was. Like many, I originally thought that being a linguist meant a perpetual life of learning language after language.  So dedicated was I to that romantic notion as a teenager that I forged parental consent at the age of 17 to get a tattoo on my inner right ankle. Supposedly it said “linguistics” in Mandarin characters. I have since found out that what is actually there is, well, close enough!  It is a good thing that becoming a linguist has worked out, since tattoos are permanent. In many ways, I was utterly naïve about what a linguist studies. Of course, there are many types of linguists and many complimentary questions related to language worthy of scientific investigation. But, in hindsight, I was not really aware then of even the essential elements that transcend paradigms and, we would agree (I hope) make us linguists.   I suppose the path that brought me in my youth to dedicate myself to linguistics is not terribly different from many: a deep fascination with language coupled with a nerdy desire to understand the dynamic, essential characteristic of this mundane property that defines us as humans, yet is mostly taken for granted.

My real linguistic journey began in earnest in my late teens, when I moved from a suburb of New York City to the remote lands of farm-country New York state.  5 hours from my people-packed home environment, in what appeared to me to be the middle of nowhere, stood a shining and ‘gorges’ beacon of scholarship and architectural beauty (Ithaca is famous for its gorges and, thus, the saying Ithaca is gorges instead of gorgeous).  My first proper linguistics course was, Introduction to Linguistics taught by Professor Wayne Harbert.  He was so passionate and such a good teacher, but it is, nevertheless, fair to say that my romantic notion of what linguistics is was shattered.  It was hard. It was serious. It was a science! I began to think that maybe this tattoo was going to need a cover-up. I am not sure that laser technology to remove tattoos existed in the mid 1990s, so I was even more determined to keep at it.  After the initial shocks of phonetics and phonology—the first part of the course as I recall—my introduction to syntax assured me I was on the right path. I stopped designing the cover-up tattoo somewhere around Halloween of that first semester.  At Cornell, I was able to study linguistics but also Romance languages in all their glory. While I had wonderful professors in cultural studies and literature as well, these courses further hammered home that my love of language would best be served with a linguistic perspective.

In 1999, I moved to Los Angeles to start a MA/PHD at UCLA.  During the MA portion, I studied most closely with the late Professor Claudia Parodi and Prof. Carlos Quicoli. Although we were focused on Romance languages, particularly Spanish and Portuguese, we were taught to use them as tools to understand language in general.  Accurate description of these languages was important, but not enough. Somewhat differently from my undergraduate degree training, sophisticated description was not the end goal. Professors Parodi and Quicoli taught me what I know of formal syntactic theory and in doing so they instilled in me the importance of approaching language in a truly scientific manner.  Today I would describe myself as a formal psycholinguist passionately interested in, if not obsessed with, how the mind represents and processes language(s). But at this time, I had not yet discovered the full joys of language acquisition and processing. The formative years of my MA studies, however, paved the way. I recall thinking: How could these complex systems possibly come to be acquired?  If language was as complex as I was studying, how does the child get (much of) this in her head even before she fully develops domain-general cognition and is able to do other demanding cognitive tasks like math? How do bilingual children do this for multiple languages? How do adults do this and why—at what levels—are they different in acquiring these systems?

Professor Nina Hyams

In 2001, I took my first bona-fide course on general acquisition theory with Professor Nina Hyams. I could not have imagined then how a single course would change the path of my career trajectory and thinking.  I found it. I loved syntactic theory. I was seemingly good at it. However, it was not completely satisfying for me devoid of experimentation probing the development of these complex systems. At the time, experimental syntax as we know it in recent years largely did not exist.  I had been working on null arguments in Spanish and Portuguese at the time. I recall learning in Nina’s class about the well-known Delay in Principle B effect in child language—when children of certain languages until late (age 5 or so) can violate Principle B of the Binding Theory.  At the time, one proposal regarding why this is seen in some languages and not others related to whether the language syntactically licensed null arguments (subjects). It was fascinating.  I was hooked. I wrote my first paper related to how studying Brazilian Portuguese, a language believed to be in a diachronic shift from a null subject to a non-null subject language, children could help adjudicate between theoretical proposals. I found a way to combine my love for language in general and my skills in and penchant for the precision of formal linguistic theory to a domain where theories can be tested directly.  I never looked back.

The next year, also in a course Nina teaches on bilingualism and second language acquisition, I was first introduced to two other amazing role models that would forever change my thinking.  By this time, I had already decided that I would do my PhD work in acquisition but I was still unsure in what populations. Nina is not a specialist in bilingualism. And so, although skype did not exist at the time, she supplemented this course with lectures via video-conferencing and/or live performances. One such lecture was by Professor Bonnie Schwartz who talked to us about her then new model related to child L2 acquisition.  Another was by Professor Maria (Masha) Polinsky on heritage language bilingualism. Both are now dear friends and colleagues. I am not sure they will even recall the questions I asked in those lectures, having given that specific lecture or, if so, that I was even there, but their talks left such an impression on me. By the end of this term, I knew that I would work on bilingualism. That was not necessarily a wise idea or an easy path because UCLA does not have an emphasis on this, at least from a formal linguistic perspective, but I was determined.  And Nina was very inspirational, motivating and supportive. Between her and Carlos Quicoli and very generous people in the field who helped along the way, I was able to put together a decent dissertation project and learn so much.

I was very fortunate to get a job immediately after graduating—this was 2005 when such things were more possible.  My first one was at the University of Iowa where, among many other great friends and colleagues, I was very fortunate to fall under the wing of a proverbial giant who seemed to believe in me more I did myself.  If you know me now, you might not believe it but I was then a (more) quiet person who was not so confident in his abilities. Professor Roumyana Slabakova was the most supportive mentor any new assistant professor could ask for.  She forced me, in ways she knows and for things she did consciously and in ways she does not know because it was simply her presence and her excellence, to believe in myself and that together we could train a proverbial army to ask and answer important questions.  Together we started the journal Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism (this year finishing its 10th year in production), built the first lab I (co)-directed and mentored many wonderful PhD students who are now leading changes in our field.  In 2010, I moved to the University of Florida where I was able to mentor another cohort of truly exceptional students and grow in my research base.  It was there that my bug for psycholinguistic methods first took hold, not the least due to my wonderful colleagues working with online measures. It was also there that my concern for incorporating input quality in formal linguistic theories related to the development and ultimate attainment of bilingualism, especially heritage language bilingualism, was solidified.

Professor Roumyana Slabakova, Rothman’s colleague and mentor at University of Iowa

In 2013, I took a full professorship in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, in the UK.  At the time, the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) was being formed and I was one of the new hires for the center. Reading has been very formative, not the least due to being in a Psychology department.  I made a conscious effort to learn about, expand into and invest in online processing methodologies and the connections between language and cognition (especially in bilingualism) more generally. I was able to found the University of Reading Psycho-and Neurolinguistics lab, co-directing it with Dr. Ian Cunnings. Using behavioral experimentation, eye-tracking, EEG/ERP and even (f)MRI we have been able to inject formal linguistic insights into studying how the mind and brain adapt to bilingualism as well as combine formal linguistic theory questions into modern psycholinguistics where this has been rarely done for heritage language bilingualism and adult additive multilingualism.

As I write this, I am in the process of moving full time to UiT The Arctic University of Norway, where since 2014 I have been in a 20% Adjunct Professor position in the Language Acquisition, Variation and Attrition (LAVA) research group and the NTNU/UiT joint Acquisition, Variation and Attrition (AcqVA) group.  At UiT, we will inaugurate the Pyscholinguistics of Language Representation (PoLaR) lab which will bring EEG/ERP to language research above the Arctic Circle. In September, I will begin a 4-year research project funded by the Tromsø Forskiningsstiftelse (TFS) entitled Heritage Language Proficiency in their Native Grammar (HeLPiNG).  This roughly 3-million-Euro grant will employ several post-doctoral scholars as well as fractional professorships through 2023. While I will miss my Reading family terribly, I am very excited to join full-time what is one of the best epicenters of linguistics anywhere in the world, not only the incredible cluster of linguists in LAVA and AcqVA but across several other world-leading research groups in various domains of linguistics housed at UiT, Center of Advanced Studies in Theoretical Linguistics (CASTL) and Cognitive Linguistics: Empirical Approaches Russian (CLEAR) .

As is likely true of most, many accidents, a lot of luck, passion and endurance has brought me to where I am today.  I have been fortunate to work with the most talented group of young scholars over the past 14 years. My students and postdocs have inspired and challenged me more than anyone else and remind me that while I am a professor, I am also a student at the same time.  This year marks 20 years since I began graduate school and while there have been many ups and downs, I feel privileged to have done so much more than I ever thought possible when I first moved to Los Angeles from Ithaca. So many people have supported me along the way, whatever I have accomplished is a testament to all that you have contributed.  You know who you are, so thank you. A quarter century has passed since I got that linguistics tattoo. While it’s a little faded on the surface its longevity and symbolism are real, inspiring and enduring.

Staff Letter: Sarah Robinson

Dear LINGUIST List readers,

My name is Sarah, and I’m on the Pubs Team–I manage journals, journal calls for papers, TOCs, summer schools, academic papers, and dissertations. We may have met through email, or you may have read some of my blog posts about nerd stuff on the LL blog. You may even recognize that introduction from my letter last year (sorry, I still have the same job.) I’m also cross-trained in jobs and conferences and can jump on those editorial areas if other editors are out for the day.

This is my (joyless as usual) face. Guest-starring: Lir the cat!

I’ve worked at the LINGUIST List (henceforth: LL) for a couple years now, and it’s been an awesome opportunity. LL has been instrumental to my academic career in the form of funding–I came to my graduate program unfunded and tripled my student debt in less than a year. I got a graduate assistantship from LL in my second year and it basically saved me from having to drop out because of sheer financial pressure. What I mean to say is that LL is providing opportunities to graduate students like me who might otherwise have no way to participate in academia, and has been doing so for years.

I earned my MA last year in General Linguistics from Indiana University, Bloomington, LL’s host institution, and am now a member of the PhD program in the Linguistics Department at IU, as well as doubling in the Germanic Studies Department. Since starting my graduate program, I’ve been able to study Old Norse, Icelandic, Old High German, Old English, German, Gothic, ancient Germanic literature and philology, (can you tell I have a bit of a thing for historical linguistics and dead Germanic languages?), as well as branching out into Cognitive Science, in particular the intersections between cognitive linguistics, discourse analysis, and sociolinguistics. It’s a pretty broad range of topics, but the overlaps in subjects have made it possible for me to specialize in a really particular niche as well as building a strong background in a range of linguistic studies.

It is pronounced /li:ɹ/. He enjoys sleeping in unusual places.

LL provides a specific and indispensable opportunity to its editors–since we interact with scholars all over the world in a huge range of specializations, and since our job involves functionally acting as a middle man for the fire-hose of academic literature and publications, we get a birds-eye-view of the trends in current linguistics in a wide range of specializations and subfields.

LL handles thousands of submissions and a gigantic amount of data day-to-day, and there’s only a handful of graduate students working diligently to keep our 30,000 subscribers up-to-date on linguistic publications, job opportunities, conferences where they can submit their research, and much more, as well as doing the hairy work of filtering predatory publishers and conferences that are likely to hurt academic careers more than help them. And it’s not just editors who work so hard to support the global linguistics community around here–keep an eye out for our WebDev team’s “fun facts” series on Tuesdays to learn more about all the services LL provides.

You might be wondering: “is she trying to solicit support for an awesome non-profit? Or just looking for an opportunity to show us her cat?” but he is a very good cat, okay? Please donate.

When you support the LINGUIST List, you support the mission the LINGUIST List stands for–the cause of creating a global linguistics community, a place to share knowledge and find resources–but you also support students like me, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to be part of it.

Thanks for donating!
Best regards,
Sarah

Fund Drive 2019

Dear Linguists,

A year has passed since the beginning of the last year fund drive and we ask you again: support the LINGUIST List. If we want to stay a relevant source of information, we need to keep re-inventing ourselves and invest in the re-development and update of the elements of the site and services that have served us for years. We strive to remain a source of relevant information for all of you and make your interaction with LINGUIST easy and pleasant. This year we have re-designed the submission forms and while we are still testing, we listen to your feedback and hope to have soon a simple and pretty interface. Apart from the back-end renovations, we have a new LINGUIST List web site – which contains all the same information but is easier to navigate and visually more pleasing. In the spirit of renovations and renewals, the theme of this year’s fund drive will be language documentation and revitalization. Please visit our site – to find out how to donate, to check how your university,
country or discipline ranks in the fund drive challenges, or to read thrilling stories about revitalization projects. Or go directly to the donation site (https://iufoundation.fundly.com/the-linguist-list-2019). Don’t forget to leave the name of your university and your discipline in the note field to participate in the fund drive challenges!

To stay on top of the game we need your feedback but also moral and financial support. Only part of our income comes from other sources – from the support of our hosting institution, Indiana University, and income from advertisements. Please, if you read LINGUIST List, donate. Even the smallest donations matter. We cannot continue without the support of our readers.

This year’s fund drive will be run via Indiana University Foundation. It is connected with the celebration of IUDay and will last till late April. In the 6 years since we have moved to Bloomington, we have become a part of Indiana University but our main goal is to contribute to a global community. We hope the community is there for us. Let’s make it a short fund drive. Please feel free to share broadly the link to our campaign. Support the LINGUIST List.

The LINGUIST List Team:
Malgosia, Helen, Jeremy, Becca, Everett, Nils, Peace, Sarah, Yiwen

Amazon Smile: 10x Donation Rate!

Hello Linguist Listers!

We just wanted to let you know that Amazon Smile is currently running a limited time promotion by offering 10x the usual donation rate. If you haven’t signed up for Amazon Smile already, just know that it doesn’t cost you a thing and helps us out any time you make purchases on Amazon.com. So if you had any online shopping that you were planning to do, then you can help us out by doing it on Amazon before November 2 since the promotion only lasts through then. Thanks again for all of your contributions to the linguistics community.

Sincerely,

The LINGUIST List Team

Check it out

Adieu

Dear LINGUIST List readers,

We are currently at less than a day until the end of the 2018 Fund Drive! These past few months have been interesting, to say the least, for all of us at the LINGUIST List. Brainstorming, researching, and writing all of our content for the Fund Drive has pushed us to re-examine the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the larger pop culture movements to which we all belong to one extent or another. We also enjoyed all the comments we received from you, our readers, in response to these pop culture pieces. While the topic of this year’s Fund Drive was certainly a lot of fun for us to explore, we are unfortunately out of time.

As we have mentioned before, the 2018 LINGUIST List Fund Drive will be closing on October 1st, 2018 at 11:59 PM. This is your last chance to show your support for the LINGUIST List! You can currently donate as little as one (1) US dollar to help us come just a little bit closer to our goal before we end the Fund Drive for the year. Thanks again for all of the support.

Linguistically yours,

The LINGUIST List Team

A Penultimate Fund Drive Message

Dear colleagues,

with your help within the last 6 days we moved from 84% to 90% of our goal. We have also heard from many of you. Thank you!

While we are wrapping up please consider this – don’t take LINGUIST List for granted. We exist and take care of your daily dose of linguistic news because of you and only as long as you support us. We do not want to exclude anybody, we do not want to leave anybody behind the pay-wall but we can continue only if we can pay our bills. Help us, be a part of the community. As little as $1 makes a difference – since there are so many of us.

– Malgosia

Fund Drive Closing Tomorrow – 1 Day Left!

Hello Linguist Listers,

We are down to one full day (and some change) left in our fund drive and we need your help more than ever to continue offering our services to you and everyone who is a part of the linguistics community. As mentioned in our earlier post, this is our longest running and least successful fund drive so your support has never been more critical for our operations.

More people have been donating as we approach the end of the fund drive. If you’re still planning to donate, now is your last chance to be a contributor to the community! If you have already donated to us, then we thank you again from the bottom of our hearts. We hope that your weekend is going well!

Sincerely,

The LINGUIST List Team

A Message from One of our Hard-working Interns – 3 Days Left!

Hello again LINGUIST List subscribers,

We’ve only got 3 days left and we’re almost to the 90% mark. We are currently sitting at 88.73% so we’re very close. If you’ve been considering making a donation but you’ve been putting it off, now is a great time to help us push through to another milestone in the Fund Drive. You will be helping the Linguistics community and, if you’re a subscriber, you’ll be helping yourself as well. In the meantime, here is a quick message from our hard-working intern, Julian Dietrich:

As September is coming to a close, so is LINGUIST List’s fund drive. With only 3 days remaining, we need your help now more than ever. With a one-time donation of as little as $1, you can help the LINGUIST List continue its day-to-day operations. A lot of work goes into maintaining our website and bringing you content to enjoy, and we rely on our yearly fund drives to make that happen. Please make a donation today!

Sincerely,

Julian and the LINGUIST List Team