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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!

Sincerely,

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…

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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!

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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!

Sincerely,
The LINGUIST List Team

Staff Letter: Peace Han

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,

peace_car_mirror

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.

guitar_shot

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!

Best,

Peace Han

Systems Administrator | Programmer

The LINGUIST List

Fun Facts: Career Search Page

Dear all,

It’s Tuesday again, and we are excited to present more fun facts about our new website.

We designed a brand-new, all-in-one career search page which gives you access to the most recent posts of jobs, internships, and support. Posts are presented in cards which demonstrate the highlights of each post. A handy set of filters are provided if you are looking for something more specific. Also, there is a search box for our readers to search for certain keywords.

You can check out the career search page (beta version) via the following link:

https://new.linguistlist.org/career/search

All of our web developers at Linguist List are graduate students in Linguistics and we are trying our best to revitalize the new website to improve the experience of our readers. Please stay tuned for more fun facts about our new site coming soon!

Yiwen

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.

Thank you to the University of Antarctica

Hello all,

Several of the consultants assisting researchers

We here at the LINGUIST List would like to give a shout out to the University of Antarctica for their extremely generous donation of $20,000. As the #6 top university in Linguistics in the world, with the #4 best graduate Linguistics program, their work is invaluable to the community, especially their latest project documenting the indigenous languages of Antarctica.

With such a large area and the difficulty of travel across the continent, it is no surprise that there are diverse dialects throughout Antarctica. The goal of the U of A’s most recent project is to document the features of these various dialects and, eventually, to create a dialectal map of the entire continent. It is a bold undertaking, but certainly a valuable one for any future researchers interested in the indigenous Antarctic populations.

For example, on the northern side of the continent, it is common to include only one squawk between trills. In contrast, on the northern side of the continent, they tend to reduplicate the squawks between trills. These are both totally different than the northern side of the continent where they lengthen the vowel on the squawk, a very unique feature.

So thank you once again to the University of Antarctica, both for your valuable work and your generous donation to our Fund Drive.

A graduate student of Linguistics at U of A involved in the project

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.

Syntax takes the lead in the Subfields Challenge!

 

Hello Linguists and Subscribers! Looks like its time for a challenges update!

Subfields:

Syntax shoots to the top with $1375.00

By Aaron Rotenberg – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3657944

Language Acquisition takes second with $795.00
Pragmatics, former leader, comes in third with $700.00

Universities:
University of South Carolina climbs to the top with an awesome group effort and $600.00 (6 donors)
Southern Illinois University Carbondale falls to second but maintains a good lead–for now!– with $500.00 (1 donor)
Arizona State University arrives in third with $300.00 (1 donor)

Regions:
North America expands its lead with 45 donors
Europe comes second with 30 donors and no memes
Asia follows up in third with 4 donors

United States of America (USA) 42 donors
Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom make a three-way tie for second with 5 donors each!
Belgium takes third with 3 donors

As always, we appreciate all the support of our readers and donors. Thanks for three decades of being awesome and helping us serve the global linguistics community!
-The LL Team

Fun Facts: FAQ Page

Hello all,

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for more fun facts! One of the jobs of our editors is to answer questions regarding your posts or our policies. I’ll be honest, we aren’t fans of reading through our policies either. They’re long and pretty dry, as policies often are. We also noticed that many of the questions you, our readers and submitters, have are very similar. In the spirit of our funddrive, and the theme of revitalization, we’ve created a new FAQ to make it much easier for you to find the information you’re looking for!

https://new.linguistlist.org/faq/

It’s one of the many features we’re working on adding to our new website. Speaking of which, watch for next week for more information and fun facts on our new, revitalized website!

Nils

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.

Rising Stars: Meet Hanna Bruns!

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 are proud to present the work of Hanna Bruns. She is a currently an MA student at the University of Bonn in Germany. Hanna is known by her Professors for being highly proficient at just about anything she does. These activities range from conducting her own research studies, presenting at conferences nationally and internationally, writing term papers/blog articles to even helping coordinate her University’s Empirical Research Centre. Did we mention that she is a big fan of the color pink? Well, the list goes on but we won’t keep you waiting…

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I think my journey into the world of linguistics is a very typical one: I started studying my B.A. in English without ever having heard the term ‘linguistics’ but quickly realised that the field is able to answer questions which I had already been thinking about for years. In Bonn, where I am currently doing my M.A. in Applied Linguistics, I have been very lucky to find people who support me and my ideas and who are just as excited about researching language as I am. Because of this, I have been able to travel to several conferences, present my work, and network with great scholars. Moreover, I have been encouraged to develop my skills and find out which topics interest me.

If there is one main conclusion which I have drawn from my studies this far, it is the following: While language is all around us and one of the most important features that define each person’s life, most people do not pay attention to it and the way they use it! So they are oblivious to the power that lies within language, even just single words.

Language has the power to (re)produce stereotypes, and therefore discrimination, against certain identities, for instance women and people whose identity falls outside the normative ideals of binary gender and heterosexuality. This is why I am interested in language production at the interface of identity and ideology, particularly concerning gender and sexuality. While engaging in research on these issues, I have increasingly come to realise that, while we live in a very advanced world, people are still discriminated against based on their gender and/or sexuality. And language is a big part of that.

Which other reason could there be for the fact that women still suffer from sexist verbal abuse every day, that (mostly) men are called ‘girl’ or ‘gay’ as an insult, that gender-neutral language is still judged as exaggerated and unnecessary, or that the US-American administration was reported wanting to redefine the word ‘gender’, basically rendering transgender people non-existent (per definition) and stripping them of their rights, only a few months ago!

These are only a few of the reasons why I believe that research into these areas is of immense importance. Currently, I am in the process of writing my master’s thesis, which is supervised by Dr Stefanie Pohle and Dr Lal Zimman. It deals with the topic of normative ideals within the transgender community and how they can be challenged, looking at YouTube vlogs from the perspective of positive discourse analysis. My research is largely informed by queer linguistics, an up and coming field of which I am convinced that it will gain more and more importance over the next decades as recognition of these social issues rises. Research in this area can guide us towards being more conscious of what kind of language we use in everyday life. Bringing awareness to the language surrounding these social issues is bringing awareness to the issues themselves. Furthermore, I am fascinated by language use on social media, since there is an interesting interplay of different cultures to be found, which are mixing in a new virtual space, forging new communities, and creating new (language) practices.

I plan on continuing my education by doing a PhD at my university, and I am hoping to be able to do more research into the areas of queer linguistics and computer-mediated communication in the future, since these fields combine both my academic and my personal interests. This makes the study of language not only my chosen career path, but also my passion.

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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.