Stanford Linguistics
A Stanford Linguistics 
       department        contribute       

Department News

  • [From Florian Jaeger - one of our agents working underground in a psychology department in San Diego, but only until January, when he enters the Big Chill somewhere in upstate New York:] This week [the week of 19 Nov. -Ed.], two Stanford Linguistics grad students (Philip Hofmeister and Neal Snider) visited UCSD and gave talks at the linguistics experimental syntax group (Philip) and the Center for Research in Language (Neal). Both talks stimulated a lot of interest, with unusually long and engaged Question and Answer sessions. I heard from several people that they really liked the talks and that they are `impressed by the quality of Stanford grad students'. Philip's talk was on memory-encoding effects on the processing and acceptability of island constructions. Neal (and I) talked about implicit surprisal-based learning of syntactic structure and how it accounts for syntactic priming.

    [Editor's Note: Hmmm... Do you think our agent is biased?]

  • Ashwini Deo and Devyani Sharma have a paper in the forthcoming issue of Linguistic Typology: Typological variation in the ergative morphology of Indo-Aryan languages...

  • Alumna Alert: Bond Art and Science Welcomes Hyo (aka Hyoyoung) Yeon as Senior Partner [PR Newswire press release]. Hyo has an M.B.A from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a Post Baccalaureate degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a B.A. in design and linguistics from Stanford University (1985). Check her out here.

    For those of you who weren't around in 1985, let me remind you that that year we also graduated:
    • Marcia Leigh Hunt
    • Thomas James Kearney
    • Jerome Kelly (first sax player in Dead Tongues!)
    • James William Kohn
    • Marc David Moss
    • Atty Thomas Mullins, on the research staff at The Santa Fe Institute.
    • Lisa Nakamoto
    • Jose Fernando Pena
    • Benjamin C. Pierce, Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania.
    • Philip Neil Sanders
    So where are the rest of these folks? Any ideas? The New Sesquipedalian will listen...
  • Stanford Blood Center: Shortage of O-, A, B-, and AB-. For an appointment: or call 650-723-7831. It only takes an hour of your time and you get free cookies.


Caught in the Act

No one was caught in the act doing anything this week... How boring! Please report all newsworthy incidents to the Sesquipeditor!


Letters to the Editor

Dear Sesquip,

It is unfortunate that a publication so reputable and prestigious as the Sesquipedialian should engage in such East-Coast 1980s Chomskyan anti-functionalist propaganda as your `Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax' bit. For your information, Dogrib has at least 50 words for `caribou', which can be provided upon request. Has Mr. Pullum ever been to the Arctic? I am fuming in my igloo.
-Igloo Man

[Dear Igloo Man: Some might say that accusing Mr. Pullum of being `Chomskyian' is like accusing the pope of being `pro-abortion' or accusing Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of being `zionist', or Albert Einstein of being `feminist'. However, the Sesquipeditor demurs, knowing full well that Mr. Pullum, if true to form, will reply of his own accord...]

From the Sesquipedalian Archives

  • The following piece was first published in the December 3, 1992 issue of the Sesquipedalian.


    Part Two of Three

    Original text: Richard Lewis. Swedish translation: Gunnel Stenberg. Translated back from Swedish by Tomas Riad. Post-editing: Kyle Wohlmut. Additional Finnish consulting: Arto Anttila.


    Remember, self-confidence is the key to success. Never hesitate. When you are about to use a noun, always reflect according to the following pattern:
    • which is the corresponding noun in Finnish?
    • singular or plural?
    • what case? Nominative, accusative, genitive, essive, partitive, translative, inessive, elative, illative, adessive, ablative, allative, abessive, comitative or instructive?
    • is it possible to avoid using the noun?
    After you have contemplated this during the proverbial fraction of a second, take a deep breath and pronounce the first half of the noun in a huge, booming voice. Then gradually weaken the voice so that by the time you pronounce the case ending, it is only in a hoarse whisper. This method of demonstrating your mastery of case usage is completely safe since, although you cannot prove that you were right, nobody, Finn or otherwise, can ever prove that you were wrong. Above all, look confident.


    Superficially, there are few similarities between the Finnish and English systems. For example:
    yksi `one'
    kaksi `two'
    kolme `three'
    neljae `four'
    viisi `five'
    kuusi `six'
    seitsemaen `seven'
    kahdeksan `eight'
    yhdeksaen `nine'
    kymmenen `ten'
    A closer inspection, however, reveals the following facts that are useful to the beginner:
    • `kolme' and `three' each have five letters;
    • `viisi' and `five' are both formed around the letter `v';
    • `seitsemaen' and `seven' seem to share a common root (apparently a word beginning with `s').
    Other cues for the acquisition of numerals:
    1. Forget the English numerals altogether. This done, you will have to learn the Finnish ones in order to tell the time. If you should run into problems when using English at a later stage you can consult a Finnish-English dictionary, or, when you need numerals up to twenty, make use of fingers and toes.
    2. Do not waste time learning numerals higher than 20,000,000. It is unlikely that you will ever have that much money, even in Finnmarks. Months and Days: Say 'the first day,' 'the third day,' 'the second month,' 'the next-to-last month,' etc. This will save you the two years it takes to learn these names and shifts the burden of labour over to the person you are talking to.

    (NEXT WEEK: The direct object, verbs.)


    • Speech Lunch

      12:00-13:00 in the Phonetics Lab (Bldg. 420 basement).
      (Try to arrive a couple minutes early to avoid the long noon line at the Thai Cafe). Topic to be announced [watch this space].
    • Philosophy Department Colloquium

      15:15 in Building 90, room 92Q
      Peter Hylton (University of Illinois at Chicago)
    • Berkeley Syntax and Semantics Circle

      15:30 in 215 Dwinelle Hall.
      Allegra Giovine, Marilola Perez, and Russell Rhodes will present John Du Bois's 1987 Language paper The Discourse Basis of Ergativity as well as Andrew Garrett's 1990 Language paper The origin of NP split ergativity.
    • Linguistics Department Colloquium

      15:30 in MJH 126
      John Hale (Michigan State and Stanford)
      Design Choices in Computer Models of Human Sentence Comprehension

    • UC Santa Cruz Linguistics Colloquium

      16:00 in Baytree Conference Room D
      Lev Blumenthal (our distinguished alum, now visiting faculty at UCSC)
      Latin hexameter verse: the alignment of accent and ictus
    • Weekly Social

      17:00. In the department lounge. Gourmet delights from the Social Committee.

    • SLSG (Statistical Learning Study Group) Meeting

      17:00. MJH 126
      We will be summarizing what we learned this quarter, reviewing our progress and discussing plans for next quarter.
    • Group in American Indian Languages (GAIL) UC Berkeley

      6:00 pm at the home of Leanne Hinton
      Reiko Kataoka
      Phonetics of three-way contrast in Paviotso medial stops

    • Speech Lunch

      No Meeting today

      3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

    • Friday Cognitive Seminar

      15:15 in Bldg 420, room 050
      Gary Lupyan (Stanford Psychology)
      Does hearing words help us see?
    • Berkeley Syntax and Semantics Circle

      15:30 in 215 Dwinelle Hall.
      Russell Lee-Goldman will practice his LSA talk As -- two constructions, not single preposition, which is co-authored with Michael Ellsworth (ICSI).
    • Weekly Social

      16:00? In the department lounge. Gourmet delights from the Social Committee.



  • For local linguistic events, always consult the Department's event page, available RIGHT HERE

  • Got broader interests? The New Sesquiped recommends reading or even subscribing to the CSLI Calendar, available HERE.

  • What's happening at UC Santa Cruz? Find out HERE.

  • What's going on at UC Berkeley? Check it out HERE.


Want to contribute information? Want to be a reporter? Want to see something appear here regularly? Want to be a regular columnist? Want to take over running the entire operation? Contribute something at the top of this page or write directly to


December 1, 2006
Vol. 3, Issue 10

This Issue's Sesquipedalian Staff

Editor in Chief:
Ivan A. Sag

Design and Production Consultant:
Philip Hofmeister

Senior Reporter:
Andrew Koontz-Garboden

Florian Jaeger

Melanie Levin and Kyle Wohlmut