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Department News

  • A warm and friendly `thank you' to all of the many readers (including Lev himself) who pointed out that last week's rag misidentified our dear alum Lev Blumenfeld, UCSC Colloquist extraordinaire, as Lev Blumenthal. Humility runs rampant in the Sesquipeditor's office, as it never has before. He grovels with mortification...

    But there's an apparent explanation for this mistake, since, according to Google:

    Results 1 - 10 of about 6,010,000 for blumenthal
    Results 1 - 10 of about 1,590,000 for blumenfeld

    Where's Dan or Joan when you need them?...

  • Proofreaders Wanted. Interested parties, whose social life must not involve Thursday night soirees, should respond to

  • The latest issue of English Language & Linguistics (10.2, November 2006) includes (pp. 345-70) "The lady was al demonyak: historical aspects of Adverb all", by Isabelle Buchstaller and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. Another product of the Stanford ALL Project.

  • Stanford PhD alumna Martina Faller was an invited speaker at University of Michigan 2006 Fall Workshop on Linguistics and Philosophy, which included a lineup of heavy-hitters in formal semantics.

  • A Note from the Sesuipeditor: This week, our Senior Reporter suggested that we include this cartoon in our Caught in the Act section. Needless to say, the Sesquipedalian is outraged and the appropriate disciplinary action has been taken. The employee in question has been demoted to the rank of `Reporter', as dictated by elementary standards of decency and appropriateness.

  • 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

Newsletter committee

Newsletter Committee Meeting at Last Friday's Social

After hours of debate, the newly formed Newsletter Committee finally resolved its ideological differences and agreed not to discontinue the weekly rag, or to protest at the Student-Faculty meeting, or to submit plagiarized abstracts to CLS, or to burn down the department office, or to phone in bomb scares to the Anaheim LSA Meeting, etc. A resolution was also adopted not to promote Baal worship in department publications, the latter passing by a slim majority (1-0, with 3 abstentions).


Letters to the Editor

Dear Sesquipeditor:

Labels aside, the more general issue is the relevance of the cultural context to linguistic research. There is of course a danger of creating exaggerated stereotypes of one's informants. Equally dangerous, however, is imposing one's own linguistic and cultural categories on the data. What is troubling about the "Eskimo Hoax" bit is that it seems to ridicule the idea that language can be, at least to some degree, adapted to meet speakers' needs, according to their lifestyle and cultural attitudes--an idea which is also called "functionalism". A caricature of bad functionalism is created through a combination of trivializing the cultural context (Arabs own camels; the Inuit live where it snows a lot), and at the same time exaggerating it to the point of absurdity (*6000* words for camels, was it?), with the implication that these are causally related, i.e. "these questions are so trivial that those misguided functionalists were forced to grossly inflate their claims to make them interesting''.

This is a far cry from what dedicated fieldworkers actually look at. As Mithun notes, "The vocabulary of Yup'ik, like that of most languages, bears clear witness to the natural and social contexts in which the language has evolved, as can be seen in such verbs as payu- 'to have one's legs so cramped by cold that one cannot move', pukug- 'to eat bits of meat clinging to a bone after most of the meat has been removed, to pick berries carefully from scattered sites because they are few in number', and tunrir- 'to feel embarrassed because one is imposing on someone; to feel beholden because of an inability to reciprocate for things someone has done for one; to feel embarrassed by the actions of someone (such as a child) for whom one feels responsible'..." (2001: 37). Such issues are irrelevant in a Chomskyan framework because the categories which make up competence are universal, and performance is not interesting. On the other hand, a Bloomfieldian framework comes without prior commitments to what categories should be, thus in principle (though this is an ideal, seldom lived up to) we can let the language tell its own story.

Perhaps the intent was not to ridicule any interest in cultural awareness, but merely particular linguists who were sloppy. But if so, I'd like to see some bad syntax intuitions... :-)

-Igloo Man

[Dear Igloo Man: The Sesquipeditor continues to demur... ]

From the Sesquipedalian Archives

  • The following piece was first published in the December 10, 1992 issue of the Sesquipedalian.


    Part Three 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.
    The Direct Object
    Most Finnish grammars are particularly easy to understand on this point. The basic idea is: In Finnish the direct object (commonly called the accusative object) may occur in the nominative, the genitive, or the partitive case. In order to make things easier to understand, nominative and genitive are called accusative. There is also a real accusative which is not called anything at all. Utmost care must be applied when interpreting the grammatical terminology. If you encounter the word `accusative,' it can mean nominative or genitive, but never the real accusative. The term `nominative' can mean accusative or, possibly, nominative. `Genitive' can mean accusative or simply genitive, while partitive is always called partitive, although it may be accusative.
    The best piece of advice is do not use verbs at all. Sometimes you may find it a little difficult to pursue a meaningful conversation without one, but with dilligent practice you will become adept at this. We reduced the number of conversational errors by 20% after discovering the method of omitting verbs. Another 15% can be eliminated by omitting all adjectives, adverbs and pronouns, although at this point conversation tends to sink to an extremely superficial level, unless you are very good with your hands.
    Some difficult sounds:
    • aeae (a-umlaut a-umlaut): like 'e' in 'expatiatory,' but longer and more intense. Mouth as open as possible, ears backward and plastered to head.
    • aey (a-umlaut y): half palatal, half alveolar, half dental. Look disgusted.
    • yoe (y o-umlaut): be very, very careful with this one.
    • uu: as in Arabic
    • r: a forceful trill. Loose dentures will be an advantage here.

    Conclusion: We hope that this article will be of great help to all those who wrestle with the question of whether to study Finnish. For those already studying the language, this method can provide helpful and easy applications for using conversational Finnish. As to the question of the prospect of Finnish as a global language, I think I do not misspeak myself by saying that the work of this article should settle the matter clearly and finally.


    • 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).


    It's Exam Week, which will be followed by Christmas Break. Go away! Enjoy yourself!. Do something special! Get out of Palo Alto! No excuses!

    Happy Holidays from the Sesquipedalian

    • Deptflix Night

      7pm. MJH 126
      Thank You For Smoking
      The term is over. Come relax with a great movie and a great fellow audience!



  • 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.


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December 8, 2006
Vol. 3, Issue 11

This Issue's Sesquipedalian Staff

Editor in Chief:
Ivan A. Sag

Design and Production Consultant:
Philip Hofmeister

Andrew Koontz-Garboden, Ani Nenkova, Lauren Hall-Lew, Arnold Zwicky

Melanie Levin and Kyle Wohlmut