LL Main

Challenges Update!

Hello all, welcome to another Challenges Update!

It looks like Syntax is still in the lead with $2050! They are followed pretty closely by Semantics with $1894, and in third we still have Sociolinguistics with $1365.

These three subfields seem to have solidified their places in this Fund Drive’s Challenges, will there be some changes before it’s over?

The top three for universities are as follows: Stanford is still in the lead with $1230.00 (12 donors), followed by University of South Carolina with $885.00 (13 donors), and Southern Illinois University Carbondale with $500.00 (1 donor).

It looks like Stanford would like to win this year over University of Washington!

North America is first place for regions with 118 donors. Europe takes second place with 90 donors, and is followed by Asia with 14 donors.

With 109 donors, USA takes first place for the countries challenge. Germany comes in second with 22 donors, and Spain takes third with 12 donors!

Thank you all again for your continuous support! Please check the Fund Drive page for more updates and to donate!

The LL Team

Staff Letter: Everett Green

Hello Linguist Listers,

I hope my message finds all of you well. This is Everett Green checking in. I’m the calls and conferences editor for the LINGUIST List. If you have sent a conference call, program or announcement through our website, it was almost certainly posted by me. I’m also responsible for editing submissions to FYI’s, Media, Software, Discussions, Queries and Summaries. This may seem like a disproportionate amount of work but these areas don’t receive quite as many submissions as Calls & Conferences, hence my being responsible for all of them at once. I have had very pleasant interactions with many of you in emails and I always enjoy helping top-notch researchers like yourselves in getting the word out about your conferences, calls for papers and other important pieces of information.

At the office.

Working on conferences gives me a very interesting snapshot of the kinds of work that people are doing within linguistic sub-fields and in interdisciplinary spaces. I must say that the sheer breadth and scope of the work being done is quite vast. So vast in fact, that a person could easily dedicate their life to studying the topics and questions addressed at a single, very specialized conference, not to mention any of the more broadly focused conferences which can cover countless numbers of topics. This bird’s eye view of the field of linguistics is an unofficial perk of the job since it has very much assisted me in deciding which area of research I would like to contribute to. Though I have not fully committed to a particular subject of study (there are so many interesting fields!), I have been able to narrow my preferences down in very meaningful ways thanks to my job here at the LINGUIST List.

Outside of the LINGUIST List, I am a dual PhD student in Computational Linguistics and Cognitive Science. I have currently been studying how artificial neural networks can be used for better natural language processing and how we can apply that language processing to give our computers a superior understanding of natural languages. Ideally, in the future, we would be able to interact optimally with our computers(or robots) through natural language alone. This wouldn’t just make things more convenient for the average computer user but it would also increase accessibility for those who cannot currently use computers due to disabilities.

Hopefully I’ll have more time for these one day…

In terms of recreation, I have many interests though most have been shelved in the pursuit of higher goals. The interests that have managed to survive the culling are music and video games which fit together quite well since music is integral to video game development. The latter subject actually has minor applications for my research as well. Before attending graduate school, I had done some recreational video game design with my friends and gained some useful programming skills in the process. As duolingo has shown, gamification of language acquisition is quite popular among the general public and I believe that it is another tool that can be leveraged to help researchers collect data and publish more robust studies when utilized carefully.

I will have worked at the LINGUIST List for two years come May and I can easily say that it is one of the best jobs that I have ever worked in. None of it would be possible without the donations that all of you provide us with and I sincerely thank all of you for your continued support of our work. I only hope that I can repay the favor by contributing research that makes all of your lives healthier and happier. If you haven’t donated and you would like to, you can find our donation page here. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to read about me and I hope to keep assisting all of you in whatever way that I can here at the LINGUIST List.

Everett Green

Old Musical, Old Language, New Experience

Hello LINGUIST Listers,

On the topic of language maintenance and revitalization efforts that we have been discussing during our 2019 LINGUIST List Fund Drive, let’s look at an exciting development in the world of musical theater.

The critically-acclaimed Broadway classic “Fiddler on the Roof” premiered off-Broadway entirely in the Yiddish language for the first time earlier this year. This newly re-imagined version of the musical pays greater homage to its roots; the original musical was based on Yiddish novels written by Sholem Aleichem around the turn of the twentieth century. Theater-goers reported an exciting authenticity watching the production in the language that Tevye and his village-mates would have been speaking in the early 1900s.

The Yiddish language has undergone seriously decline in recent decades but the creators of the new version hope that having such an iconic musical entirely in Yiddish will encourage an improved image for the language. Much of the Yiddish-speaking population now resides in the New York City area. With the production of “Fiddler of the Roof” happening nearby, it is hoped that increased exposure will strengthen the language’s vitality in the region and encourage the rising generation to respect their heritage.

Whether this will be the case will have to be seen but overall it is an enthralling project for Yiddish-speakers, “Fiddler” fans, and proponents of minority languages everywhere.

Fund Drive 2019 is among us! To donate please visit this link: https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/

Please be sure to check out our new and revamped site at: https://new.linguistlist.org/ and let us know if you have concerns or recommendations. Please note that it is still a work in progress. Thank you!

Staff Letter: Jeremy Coburn

Dear LINGUIST Listers,

My name is Jeremy Coburn and I am the student moderator and editor for The LINGUIST List working on book announcements and review issues. I have the pleasure of working with some of the most prominent publishers in the world, e.g. Cambridge and Oxford University Presses, etc., to deliver publications on cutting-edge developments within the field of linguistics to you, our readers. My job is to ensure that the books we announce on LINGUIST List are current and relevant to you and your interests as a linguist by vetting the hundreds of publications which are submitted to us each month for announcement. This means that when you receive a book announcement from The LINGUIST List, you know that what is being advertised is hand-selected for our linguistic audience.

On the reviews end of my work, I have the opportunity to work for and with many of you in connecting you with publishers to review their publications, thus further ensuring that the publications which pass through our site are of the highest quality we can offer. This gives LINGUIST List the unique opportunity to connect and unite linguists from across the globe in an open forum of peer review and collaboration to shape the field of linguistics, effectively creating a global community of cooperation which is largely absent from many other fields of scientific inquiry. And in that, the field of linguistics and speakers of language (humankind) benefits immensely. I am honored to assist, in my small way, in facilitating such intradisciplinary coordination.

Beyond my work at LINGUIST List, I am a second-year doctoral student at Indiana University pursuing a PhD in Linguistics with a concentration on African languages and linguistics. Having lived in East Africa for several years, I have developed a love for the linguistic diversity present in Africa and consequently focus my research on the description of underdocumented and/or underresourced languages, particularly in Tanzania. My current research is with the Hadzabe people of north-central Tanzania. I am a serious language enthusiast (my wife would say obsessive) and I particularly enjoy phonology and morphology.

Speaking of my family, my wonderful wife Lynzie and I will celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary this year and have two fantastic children. Our oldest, Ryker, is 3 years old and he recently got a little sister, Maiya, who is now nearing her first birthday. My kids are the best and it is so much fun to get to see Ryker as he is acquiring language. There are many linguistic geek-out moments each day listening to him speak.

I would like to thank you, our readers, for all that you do for me and my family. Many of you regularly donate to the LINGUIST List, which is wholly funded by your contributions, and thus are the reason why I have a Graduate Assistantship. When Lynzie and I began this crazy journey of graduate school, we had little more than the ambition to pursue a dream of studying the beautiful languages of East Africa and trying to help the world in some small way. We moved to Bloomington, Indiana from Utah without any job or source of funding to pay for my studies. We didn’t know how we would pay for anything. But now, because of your support and contributions, I have a GA-ship with the LINGUIST List which covers my tuition costs and gives me enough money to feed my growing family. Please continue to support LINGUIST List as much as you are able because it does make a significant difference in our lives. You can do that by donating to our fund drive.

Thank you again from Jeremy, Lynzie, Ryker and Maiya!

Rising Stars: Meet Sarah Lapacz!

Dear Readers,

This year we will be continuing our Rising Stars Series where we feature up and coming linguists ranging from impactful undergraduates to prolific PhD candidates. These rising stars have been nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

For today’s post we proudly present the thoughtful work of Sarah Lapacz. She is currently an MA student at the University of Bonn in Germany. Her research interests range from forensic linguistics to teaching English as a foreign language and she is very active in the community. Sarah has already co-authored a published article, written blogs on various linguistic topics and presented papers and posters at several conferences and workshops. As a member of the LETS (Linguistics of English and Translation Studies) team, she is also currently assisting with research on sociocultural impact on recent language change in the UK, US and Germany. As is always the case with our Rising Stars, Sarah’s list of accomplishments is much longer than we have room for in this post so let’s move on and hear what she has to say!


I have always been fascinated by languages other than my mother tongue, German. Whenever we went on vacation, I was puzzled by the local languages and the people who spoke them. All these strange sounds and melodies intrigued me. Even though no one in my family spoke the local language, my mother was able to converse with people in English to order food, buy medicine, or ask for directions. Only later, during my BA studies, did I realize that I was indeed not fascinated by languages, but rather by language itself and how it works, or sometimes simply just does not work.

I was fortunate enough to have been accepted into the MA Applied Linguistics program at the University of Bonn where I found myself in the position to answer my questions while receiving the best support and guidance. It did not take long for me to identify my research interest in taboo language and forensic linguistics. While one field is hopefully finally able to overcome its own taboo status, the other one is a rather young field, that is increasingly gaining importance though.

Taboo language makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. Yet it can be found in every culture and language and is part of daily life, as it is, e.g., a means of venting our emotions. Taboo terms and their effect intrigue me. Most of my research projects so far have focused on these terms and their use and perception, which took me from looking into responses to insults from a cross-cultural viewpoint, to the use, perception, and code-switching of taboo terms by English as Lingua Franca speakers, or the translation of taboo terms by language learners. Previous research by Jean-Marc Dewaele, Jonathan Culpeper, and Benjamin Bergen has greatly inspired me along the way. I was able to present my research at various conferences, nationally and internationally, something for which I am most grateful. All this made me realize that there are so many more questions to be answered.

As I mentioned, I am also interested in the area of forensic linguistics. At the start of my MA studies, I was introduced to the Germanic Society for Forensic Linguistics (GSFL) which led me to become more actively interested in the field. The GSFL has also enabled me to participate in the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course in Forensic Speech and Audio Analysis at the University of York on a scholarship. This experience has sparked an additional interest in forensic phonetics in me. I will investigate taboo language in a legal context for my PhD project where I will have a closer look at hate speech at the intersection of forensic linguistics and forensic phonetics.

My current MA thesis under the supervision of Gaby Axer and Prof. Svenja Kranich, however, focuses on another matter close to my heart. As we linguists are aware, language shapes our world. With this in mind, it becomes clear that this could pose a problem when an extralinguistic context depends on the language we use to describe an action or situation. This is the case in legal settings. For my MA thesis, I try to gain some more insight into the linguistic side of the phenomenon of victim blaming in rape cases and the effect it might have, especially when it appears in witness statements.

I think that with current movements such as #metoo and the overall political climate, research in the areas outlined above will increasingly gain relevance and importance. The goal with all my research projects is to raise more awareness towards the complexities of taboo language (especially its perception), the influence of specific linguistic behavior which discriminates others and puts them at a disadvantage, and the need for a more reliable and effective framework when it comes to hate crimes. I hope that I will have plenty of opportunity to get immersed in the necessary research and I am excited about the amazing insights the future may bring.

After another cup of tea.


If you have not yet– please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue its support of linguists around the world.

Staff Letter: Nils Hjortnaes

Hello all,

This is my face

My name is Nils. You may recognize it from some of the fun facts or the Antarctica post, and while I enjoyed the latter in particular, my main role here at the LINGUIST List is to work on the new website. Because we are all grad students, it’s been a slower process than I’d like, but it’s coming along, and worth checking out! Go see for yourself and let us know what you think.

Besides working at the LINGUIST List, I am a PhD student at Indiana University, our host institution. My primary interest, in a very broad sense, is computational methods for under-resourced languages and language documentation. I’ve still got a lot of work and a long ways to go before I even think of defending, but it wouldn’t be possible at all without my job at the LINGUIST List.

Me pretending to be good at climbing

In terms of my life outside academia, my primary hobbies are rock climbing, fencing, and video games. They do a good job of keeping me sane while I work on projects and classes. I’ve also been playing violin for 18 years, though I don’t play as much as I’d like anymore, and I’m fluent in German thanks to attending an immersion elementary school. I took a class on Danish in college because that’s where my ancestors came from, but I admittedly don’t speak it very well.

As I mentioned, all of us here at LL are graduate students in Linguistics at Indiana University. By working here, we get our tuition paid as well as a small stipend, allowing us to contribute to the community directly while learning to contribute to the field academically. We are committed to keeping LL free, especially since a not insignificant portion of our readers are (we’re pretty sure) graduate students or recent graduates seeking jobs.

So when you support the LINGUIST List, you’re not just supporting a valuable resource for the Linguistics community, but several linguists in training. We’re still a long ways away from our funddrive goal for this year. To those of you who have already donated, we cannot thank you enough. We’ve survived for nearly 30 years thanks to the support of our large community. With your support, we can finish building a new, modern website and continue the bring you the valuable information and news of what’s new in the world of Linguistics.

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

Music and Language Revitalization

Music can takes us to exotic locales, different time periods, and acquaint us with foreign cultures. Art by Aeon Lux.


Hello Linguist Listers,

Previously my fellow colleagues wrote about Language Revitalization in the context of modern-day technologies and cinema. These are both powerful methodologies for galvanizing interest in foreign languages and subsequently assisting with language revitalization efforts. Today I would like to talk about language revitalization in the context of one more medium and that is music. As we all know music is one of the most powerful tools for evoking emotion in our fellow humans. From rousing classical symphonies like Beethoven’s 5th to more ambient, future-oriented electronic pieces, music can evoke, not only a wide range of emotions, but also specific times and places in the minds of listeners. These qualities make music a perfect vehicle for expressing oneself and also a great way of expressing one’s language and culture. As a matter of fact, music is so good at this that it has already shown results in sparking interest in foreign languages. “A desire to learn the lyrics of K-Pop hits like Gangnam Style has boosted the Korean language’s popularity in countries like the US, Canada, Thailand and Malaysia” reads the opening line of an article from the BBC. This article details the increase in interest in the Korean language as it has grown in recent years. It is true that Korean is not an endangered language but this is an example of the kinds of media that help to get people interested in languages and the cultures that they are tied to.

One more example of this is the current most-played song in the history of YouTube which is Despacito by Luis Fonsi. Its lyrics are written completely in Spanish and it is not just the most-played song on YouTube but it is also currently the most viewed YouTube video of all time. Period. I did not find articles detailing the impact of this song on Spanish language learning in my quick search but I suspect that it has a similar effect to what we see with Korean and K-pop music. To speak momentarily from personal experience, I have always had a latent interest in the Japanese language. This interest was almost undoubtedly sparked by my early exposure to anime which is a form of Japanese animation that has gained a large following in the West. When I was a child, my Father would watch the shows with my younger brother and I and we always thoroughly enjoyed the opening and ending themes to the shows. These musical pieces were frequently sung in Japanese and over time I began to enjoy the songs in their own right. The tools to learn Japanese were not quite as easily available at the time but, as my colleague mentioned, the technology of today is central to language learning and it has allowed me to indulge my interest in the language (when I have free time, which is a rare occurrence lol).

Example of the Anime Art Style

All-in-all, I believe that music and other art forms offer a powerful method for exposing people to foreign cultures and languages and that we should leverage these as much as we can in order to prop up, protect, and revitalize as many endangered languages as possible. These languages are disappearing at an alarming rate and this is just one of the many ways in which we can promote linguistic and cultural diversity in a world that definitely needs it.

Thanks so much for reading our blog and keep doing great work!


Everett G.

Rising Stars: Meet Elizabeth Pankratz!

Dear Readers,

This year we will be continuing our Rising Stars Series where we feature up and coming linguists ranging from impactful undergraduates to prolific PhD candidates. These rising stars have been nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

Today we happily present to you the perspective of Elizabeth Pankratz. She is currently an MA student at Humboldt University, Berlin. She has published a paper on digital lexicography for endangered languages in Canada, she has work published in the Journal “Morphology” and she is currently working on a thesis on the diachronic development of morphological productivity. That’s a lot of achievement! Her excellent track record even allowed her to work at Freie Universität, Berlin and the Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) simultaneously as a student assistant. Furthermore, her work with the good people at ZAS lead to another high profile publication in the Journal of Memory and Language. She has received the highest of praise from her mentors and probably has a long list of accolades about which we could continue writing but that might take all day! Without further delay here is her Rising Star piece…


I see the field of linguistics becoming increasingly relevant, largely because of its applicability in modern technology. Our society is constantly encountering more and more opportunities to converse with machines, and these machines have to be able to recognise what we’re saying and respond in kind. My current interests lie in how our research into language is applicable in tech, both in deep learning systems and in language revitalisation work, and I’ll talk about these two points here.

First, for instance, many linguists (myself among them) believe that cognitive language processing happens probabilistically, and most machine learning techniques are also based on probabilistic assumptions. But how comparable are the two sorts of processing? I think that we will be asking ourselves this more as work on deep learning with language progresses. Can we create machines that actually have the same intuitions about language that we do? Should we? If we make machines that can generate language that, to us, sounds just like language produced by another human, can the way these machines conceptualise and use language tell us anything about the way that we do?

Making machines that use language in a way that reflects human intuition means that we need to understand human intuition in the first place, which is where our work as linguists enters the bigger picture. Discovering and understanding systematic behaviour of phenomena that look arbitrary or unpredictable at first glance is naturally valuable for the science of linguistics as a whole, but I find it so exciting that there are also applications outside of our immediate field. Some of my research aims to discover this kind of underlying systematicity. For example, together with Roland Schäfer at the Freie Universität Berlin, I showed that conceptual plurality in a German compound word makes the appearance of a linking element with the same form as the plural suffix of the first noun more likely (e.g. Bild ‘picture’ in Bildersammlung ‘picture collection’ is conceptually plural – you can’t have a collection with only one picture – while Bild in Bildrahmen ‘picture frame’ is not, and the pluralic linking element -er- is more probable in the first type of compound than the second). This finding indicates that German linking elements do contribute something to the semantics of compounds, which has been a point of disagreement among morphologists of German. This work has been published in Morphology as Schäfer & Pankratz (2018), a paper I’m incredibly proud of. We combined the automatic processing of large amounts of data with linguistic theory-building supporting a probabilistic approach, moving linguistic methodology forward. Another current project of mine investigates the conditions under which anaphoric reference to non-head constituents of compound words in English and German can succeed (like in the sentence “It’s deodorant season, wear it!”).

These are tricky and very specific phenomena, like much of what linguists deal with. However, machine models will only be able to generate, say, fully natural-sounding compounds in German or correctly resolve non-standard anaphoric reference if they can deal with these borderline cases. This is why our research into the fine details of language is incredibly important, not just for our field but for all fields that build on the study of language. The modern tech world doesn’t just need software developers and engineers, it also needs linguists.

I’ll just briefly touch on the second point about tech in language revitalisation, since it was also recently discussed on this blog by Nils Hjortnaes. Developing an understanding of these tricky phenomena in large, well-researched languages opens methodological doors to pursuing them in smaller, lower-resource languages, where the importance of high-quality language resources for teaching and learning is even greater, especially if the language in question is endangered. Again, we can extend our gaze outside of the doors of our field and use our knowledge about language to fulfill social responsibilities, too.

I look forward to being part of this really exciting field for hopefully many years to come, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my thoughts here with you!


If you have not yet– please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue its support of linguists around the world.

Challenges Update!

Week Four Challenges Update!

Hello all! First of all, thank you to all of those who have donated this year, and in previous years, we couldn’t do it without you! Below you see how the challenges are going thus far.

For the subfields it looks like Syntax is still in the lead with $1460! In a new turn of events, Sociolinguistics is now in second place with $960 and they are followed by Language Acquisition who has $905!

University of South Carolina is still in the lead and now with $815. Southern Illinois University Carbondale maintains their second place spot with $500. We have a new university in third place — Stanford University with $455!

North America is still in the lead for regions with 77 donors, which is 32 more donors since last week! Europe is still in second place with 36 donors and they are followed by Asia who is in third place with 6 donors.

The United States still takes the lead for countries with 73 total donors. Germany is no longer tied for second place and they have 6 donors. Spain and the United Kingdom are tied for third with 5 donors!

Again, we appreciate all of your support and thank you for donating!

The LINGUIST List Team

Staff Letter: Peace Han

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,


Looking forward to spring!

This is Peace Han, the systems administrator and one of the student programmers here at the LINGUIST List. I hope this message finds all of you well and ready to greet the spring! It’s still a little chilly here in Bloomington, Indiana, but the flower buds have finally begun to bloom and all of us at the LINGUIST List are eagerly awaiting warmer weather.


In case you couldn’t tell by the barrage of fund drive messages being sent your way, we are currently running our annual LINGUIST List Fund Drive! As my colleagues and fellow graduate assistants have mentioned before me, all of us are indebted to you, our readers, for this opportunity to participate in and serve the global linguistic community. The LINGUIST List has been for all of us a place for personal and academic growth, as it has been for numerous linguistics students before us over the past 29 years and counting.

Working as the system administrator and programmer for the LINGUIST List has given me some interesting insight into the development of code and coding styles over the years. Because much of the code running the current site was first written many years ago at the dawn of the internet era, and because the LINGUIST List has changed and adapted so much to incorporate new technologies, idiosyncrasies and outdated conventions sometimes still persist in the code. It is always an adventure trying to track down exactly why certain features were written in one way rather than another, and I am often reminded of linguistic fieldwork as I read, write and interpret the legacy of code inherited from student programmers  who worked on this website and its various features before me. Still, the natural language comments left in the code by my predecessors are much more helpful to me than code language, reminding me that we have a long way to go before computers and AI can catch up to natural human language. This is why I believe the work we linguists do is so valuable, and why I am honored to be able to contribute to this field through the LINGUIST List and through my studies.


Programming, studying linguistics, and playing guitar as a side gig.

Outside of my job at the LINGUIST List, I am a student at Indiana University in the Computational Linguistics, joint BS/MS program, with a dual degree in Psychology. The Linguistics department at IU and the LINGUIST List both have been wonderful in supporting me throughout my academic career at IU, and I would not be able to complete the 5-year program without your support. I and all of my fellow student graduate assistants working at the LINGUIST List are grateful for the chance to support and give back to the linguistics community while also completing our studies.

So once again, thank you for your continued support of the LINGUIST List! If you think the LINGUIST List and the various services it offers are valuable, as all of us at LL do, or if you are a believer of free and open communication within the field of linguistics (or if you simply want to stop having to exit out of the fund drive page to reach our site), please donate here. We are all grateful for your support!


Peace Han

Systems Administrator | Programmer