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 https://old.linguistlist.org/confservices/EasyAbs/index.cfm.

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 https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/, 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]

 

The Day without the Linguist List

The Day without the Linguist List is over! Thank you to everyone who showed your support for us today.

Together, you donated $2,700 to the Fund Drive today, bringing us almost 7% closer to our goal.

The people have spoken: we don’t want to see a world without the Linguist List!

If you have anything to submit to us now, please do so at https://linguistlist.org/submit/.

And if you haven’t already, please donate to our fund drive at https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/!

Thank you,

The LINGUIST List

Staff Letter: Nils Hjortnæs

Hello all,

My name is Nils. My main role here at the LINGUIST List is to work on the new website (https://new.linguistlist.org/). This has been a long but worthwhile project, and it has given us an opportunity to upgrade our whole process along with the visuals. This, by extension, allows us to serve you, our readers even better. I also help maintain our various servers and other projects, such as geoling and multitree.

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 low-resource languages and language documentation. Most of the work I’ve done in that sense is with speech recognition specifically, and I’m currently working on branching out into Computer Aided Language Learning as well. I’ve still got a lot of work before I get to dissertating, but it wouldn’t be possible at all without my job at the LINGUIST List.

In terms of my life outside academia, my primary hobbies are rock climbing, fencing, and video games, though current circumstances have forced me to narrow that down to pretty much just video games, unfortunately. They do a good job of keeping me sane while I work on projects and classes. I’ve also been playing violin for 20 years, and I’m fluent in German thanks to attending an immersion elementary school. When I’m visiting my parents, I also enjoy driving and working on our 1924 Ford Model T, which I sadly cannot bring to school with me.

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, allowing us to contribute to the community directly while learning to contribute to the field academically. We are committed to keeping LL free to our readers, especially since a not insignificant portion of our readers are (we’re pretty sure) 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 the new, modern website and continue bringing 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 (https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/).

Fund Drive Lottery Week 6

All LINGUIST Listers,

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.

The rules are simple:
One donation = one entry into the drawing. To donate, click this link: https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/

Donors who donate between now and Friday, October 29 will be entered in this week’s drawing.
And here is the prizes that could be yours!!!

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From Cambridge:

Gramling — The Invention of Multilingualism (https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/languages-linguistics/applied-linguistics-and-second-language-acquisition/invention-multilingualism?format=PB)

Grosjean — Life as a Bilingual (https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/languages-linguistics/multilingualism/life-bilingual-knowing-and-using-two-or-more-languages?format=PB)

Trudgill — European Language Matters (https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/languages-linguistics/history-english-language/european-language-matters-english-its-european-context?format=PB)

Freidin — Adventures in English Syntax (https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/languages-linguistics/applied-linguistics-and-second-language-acquisition/adventures-english-syntax?format=PB)

From Wiley:

Pragmatics and its Applications to TESOL and SLA
By Salvatore Attardo and Lucy Pickering
https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Pragmatics+and+its+Applications+to+TESOL+and+SLA-p-9781119554288

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What an exciting opportunity to win excellent publications for yourself! These giveaways are just a small way for us to say thank you to all of our donors and supporters. Without donations from our users, LINGUIST List will simply be unable to continue to unite our discipline by facilitating the compilation and dissemination of linguistically-relevant books, journals, reviews, job postings, and conference postings, just to name of few of our numerous services you rely upon. Every little bit helps!

Thanks and good luck!

With gratitude,
– Your LINGUIST List team

Challenge Update: Week 6

Dear all,

We are approaching the end of the Fund Drive, and we need your help to reach our goal. This week we have moved close to 5% towards our goal and as of today, we have received $13,699.88. This is still far away from our fund-raising goal which would guarantee smooth operation of the LINGUIST List and support for our student editors in 2022.

I want to thank all the reliable supporters who donated in the past years and have not let us down this year either. Thousands of linguists around the globe read the Linguist List, yet fewer than 200 have decided to support us monetarily since the beginning of this calendar year. Of course, not everybody can donate and our site is free and open for all readers. But even a small donation would help us immensely. I would like to invite all our readers to a small thought experiment. What would happen if LINGUIST List would not be there tomorrow? What would this mean for you and your colleagues, for your students? What would this mean for the linguists in smaller institutions without big funding? What would this mean for linguists in other countries?

Please donate: https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/
Please help us continue our mission, to connect linguists from different universities, different countries and different frameworks. We want to tell everybody about the conferences you organize, the books you have written, the vacancies you want to fill, the funding opportunities for students, the grants you should apply for, the ideas you want to share.

To follow the progress of the fund drive and see the up-to-date results of numerous challenges, visit our website: https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/ . In the subfield challenge, syntax is first in our ranking, with general linguistics in second place and sociolinguistics in third. Cheers to all syntacticians, general linguists and sociolinguists! The University of South Carolina still leads in the university challenge. 16 donors from USC have donated $995, just shy of a thousand! They are followed closely by Stanford, with $920. Places three and four in the university challenge belong to the Societas Linguistica Europaea and the Temple University at Japan. Sincere thanks!

We are looking forward to the final race as we are approaching the end of the fund drive. Please don’t forget to put your institution or program on the linguistic map by supporting our service to the community:
https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/donate/

With gratitude,
Malgosia
On behalf of the LINGUIST List team

Fun Fact: Amazon Alexa

Hi everyone!

Billy here with another fun fact!

Did you know that Alexa from Amazon is an avid LINGUIST List reader?

The LINGUIST List was the very first email list to develop a skill on the Amazon Alexa platform! If you would like to listen along with Alexa to your daily LINGUIST List announcements, be sure to check this out! Instructions for how to set up this service can be found at: https://linguistlist.org/ai/

We want to hear from you! What other technologies would you like to see integrate LINGUIST List?

Featured Linguist: Scott Moisik

Linguistics through art and music: My story on how I came to do what I do

I have always been an artsy individual, so it seemed only natural that I should pick fine arts as my undergraduate major. Frankly, high school did not leave me feeling very confident that I would be able to study much of anything else. Pursuing fine arts allowed me to develop an appreciation for how the visual arts use modeling as a lens through which we can better understand nature in all of its beautiful (and horrendous) complexity. But while fine arts was a comfortable choice, I was not fulfilled and started exploring other areas of study, and I eventually discovered linguistics.

Initially I decided to take a linguistics course under the misguided belief that it might somehow help me with my communication skills. However, I soon developed a fascination with the bits and pieces of language, the wonderful strangeness of phenomena like implicature, and the machinations underlying speech production – the “meat” of our vocal tract. My interest in the study of the process of speaking became intertwined with my interest in music that features various “abuses” of the human voice (Skinny Puppy, Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten… that sort of stuff). I was ultimately drawn into an academic descent into the lower vocal tract.

My descent began innocently enough. Towards the end of my undergraduate studies in linguistics, my phonetics professor, the late (but very great) Michael Dobrovolsky handed me a dusty VHS tape entitled “Pharyngeal Articulations”. On the video was a laryngoscopic view of John Esling’s throat as he performed a series of laryngeal manipulations, including lowered and raised larynx voice qualities and, most importantly, growling. These vocalizations absolutely resonated with my musical interests and I was utterly captivated. I sought out John Esling and pursued graduate studies under his supervision. This would ultimately lead to many laryngeal adventures with John, including the production of a book which gave me a chance to express my love of the larynx artistically – by drawing the states of the larynx (see Figure 1). However, it was during my graduate studies that I discovered an entirely new means to tap into my artistic need to create models: I had the opportunity to create a 3D computer model of the larynx.

Figure 1: My hand-drawn illustrations of the laryngeal constriction continuum from fully unconstricted (left), as in ‘deep inspiration’, to fully constricted (right), as in epiglottal stop [ʡ]. These illustrations appear in Voice Quality: The Laryngeal Articulator Model, a book I co-authored with John Esling, Allison Benner, and Lise Crevier-Buchman. It also happened to win the LSA’s 2021 Leonard Bloomfield Book Award.

Given my background in art, the opportunity to develop an interactive articulatory model of the larynx seemed like the ultimate chance to marry my interests together. The only problem was my general lack of any formal training in the necessary technical fields. However, I was not deterred, and I soon learned what was needed to build my model (with no small amount of help from the online courses offered by Stanford University and MIT and some very patient engineering friends of mine). While topics like math, physics, and computer programming had previously seemed out of reach for me, having a clear purpose suddenly made them fresh and exciting. They started to reveal their secrets and surprising interconnections. I began to view them as a new sort of paint brush through which new dynamic forms of representation and understanding became possible.

As it would turn out, the computational skills and appreciation for math and science that I developed during my years as a graduate student have allowed me to pursue a career as a linguist. I have had the humbling opportunity to explore many issues within phonetics and phonology by applying computational modeling (for example, see, Figure 2), and I know that this will continue to be the way forward to help us tackle questions that would be difficult or impossible to address otherwise.

Figure 2: Video of the pressure distribution from 0 to 10 kHz for the vocal tract airway in the shape of an [u] computed using the Boundary Element – Rayleigh Integral Method (BERIM). As a fine arts student, I could not possibly have imagined that one day I would be tinkering with Fortran code to simulate 3D vocal tract acoustics.

I now also find myself honored to be in the position to teach phonetics to new generations of students, and modeling is a key part of my teaching. Physical models are helpful for teaching about anatomy and physiology of speech and hearing. In my own course, I take it to the next level by transforming my lessons into hands-on artistic experiences with anatomy. Each lesson, students build models of speech structures in class using modeling clay (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Hands busy at work getting to know the structures of the vocal tract through sculpture in my course on anatomy and physiology of speech called “The Meat of Speech” that I teach at NTU in Singapore.

We have a lot of fun, but it also never ceases to amaze me how such a simple act of using modeling clay to “unproject” 2D representations of body structures into physical 3D structures reveals insights about form and function and produces that ‘a ha!’ moment in my students. I apply a similar hands-on approach in my other more technical courses, where we “digitally sculpt” the sound of the human voice. I know what it’s like to feel as though these more technical topics are “out of reach”, but I have the egalitarian belief that everyone can be empowered by becoming acquainted with them. In this way my occasionally STEM-shy humanities students begin to see the beauty in math, physics, and computer programming and how the marriage of disciplines provides powerful models that can help us gain new insight into speech and language.

Scott Moisik

Staff Letter: Everett Green

Hello Linguist Listers,

My name is Everett Green, and after a bit of shuffling around of our roles here at the LINGUIST List, I am once again the calls and conferences editor. I also handle all of the smaller submission areas (i.e. FYI’s, Software, Media, Discussions, etc.)

I’m a dual PhD in computational linguistics and cognitive science at our host institution Indiana University and between the two majors I have been able to research everything from evolutionary algorithms and animal population dynamics to abusive language detection in online spaces. Specifying my interests has not been easy but over time I think I have settled into the idea that I would like to help improve (or create) tools that assist other researchers in doing their jobs more efficiently. There are many ways to do this so I still have my work cut out for me but none of what I have done so far would have been possible without the immense support that the LINGUIST List has given me.

Having worked here for 4 years as of this past May, I have seen a lot of discourse in the linguistics community and I’m happy to have facilitated so many researchers in meeting one another and exchanging great ideas. As has been mentioned before, this exchange of ideas also benefits us as editors working here at the LINGUIST List since we are exposed to some of these exchanges and thus learn a lot through osmosis. Also, as we progress through our education with the help of the LINGUIST List, we are eventually able to contribute to the community as researchers ourselves (some of us already are). As a result, your donations not only enable us as students to continue our own education but they also enhance the LINGUIST List’s ability to connect researchers like yourselves with one another across international boundaries.

Covid has been hard on many of us mentally and financially so thank you for helping keep our community alive through your contributions.

Best wishes,
Everett Green

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If you have not yet– please visit our Fund Drive page (https://funddrive.linguistlist.org) 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.

Our sincere thanks,
— The LL Team

A message from the LINGUIST List staff

A message from the LINGUIST List staff:

We wanted to take a moment to give our sincerest thanks to all of you who have donated to the LINGUIST List. These funds quite literally keep the lights on, and without such support, we wouldn’t be able to continue to foster such a thriving community.

In addition to our duties at LINGUIST List, many of us also balance full time graduate coursework. You, donors, have played a key part in providing funding for our degrees and we can’t thank you enough.

Working here is challenging, unique, and deeply rewarding for all of us. We are each incredibly fortunate to have found such a special place.

So again, thank you. We look forward to sharing the next generation of LINGUIST List with you!