Stanford Linguistics
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Department News

  • A fond farewell to Philip Hofmeister, who filed his dissertation and moved on to UC San Diego, where he's been busy postdocing away in Marta Kutas' lab, where he has already had several electrifying experiences, we understand. Don't be shocked if he comes back for frequent visits...
  • It's a new term and we have three new visitors. Welcome to all three:
  • Katie Drager

    Katie Drager:

    Katie is a PhD student at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her research interests include sociophonetics, speech perception, acoustic phonetics, and the socially constructed meanings behind linguistic variation. She is also interested in examining variation as a means of shedding light on broader theoretical questions, such as how sounds and phrases are stored in the mind.

    Oiwi Parker Jones

    Oiwi Parker Jones:

    Oiwi (pronounced [ʔo'wi:vi:]) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, studying under the tutelage of Dr John Coleman. His research interests include: constraint-based phonology and morphology; statistical NLP; neurolinguistics; LabPhon; Polynesian languages, especially Hawaiian; and Hawai'i Creole English. As a lifelong participant in the Hawaiian language revitalization movement, he is also active in endangered language conservation.

    Victor Kuperman

    Victor Kuperman:

    Victor's main interest is the production and comprehension of multi-morphemic words: derivations with multiple affixes (un-employ-able), compounds with interfixes (sport-s-man), and compounds with complex constituents (Dutch voet-bal+feld "football field") He explores the functional role of morphological constituents, as well as the time-course of their involvement in the recognition and production processes. He also address the issue in the visual and the auditory domains, with the help of eye-tracking and reaction-time experiments, as well as by analyzing natural speech corpora. Another major point of interest is the effect of information load (as carried by an n-phone, n-gram, morpheme, word, or sentential context) on the speed of visual word comprehension and the quality of acoustic realization.

    His other interests include:
    • gender differences in the processing of lexical and morphological information;
    • methodological issues, such as the long-term and local effects of the experimental task and list on performance of subjects;
    • statistical issues, such as the use of mixed-effects models with subjects and items as crossed random effects in analyzing linguistic data.


    Look Who's Talking

  • More LSA News: Not listed, but not forgotten... Yet another Stanford paper at the LSA that was Sesquipedomitted:
    • William Croft (University of New Mexico), Gareth Baxter (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ), Richard Blythe (Edinburgh University, UK) and Alan McKane (University of Manchester, UK):
      Modeling language change: an evaluation of Trudgill's theory of the emergence of New Zealand English.
  • The Program is now up for BLS, which will happen on February 8-10. Stanford folks giving papers include:
    • Elizabeth Coppock:
      Syntax Learnability, productivity, ditransitivity, and feet.
    • Laura Staum Casasanto:
      Using social information in language processing.
    • Seung Kyung Kim:
      Perceptual similarity in English-to-Korean loanwords.
    • Meghan Armstrong and Scott Schwenter (The Ohio State University):
      Prosodic correlates of information structure in Brazilian Portuguese negation.
    • Gabriel Doyle and Roger Levy (University of California, San Diego):
      Environment prototypicality effects on syntactic alternation.
    • Inbal Arnon:
      Passives are not always harder - on the interaction of syntactic structure and thematic fit.
    • Lev Blumenfeld (Carleton University):
      On shallow and deep minimality.
    • Inbal Arnon and Eve Clark:
      Learning English irregulars - why irregulars are like regulars.
  • This just in:
    • Mike Speriosu will be giving a paper at the 2008 LSA Summer Meeting in Columbus, OH on:
      A Phonological Analysis of the Dative Alternation in Spoken English.
    [And rumor has it that others of you actually give papers at places and are just too humble to let the poor Sesquipedalian know... Well the time for this sort of misplaced humility is over! Talk to us; send emails; We're lonely....- The Sesquipedistaff]

  • divider

    Linguistic Levity

  • [This appeared during National Mental Health Care week - The Sesquipeditor]

    Hello and thank you for calling The State Mental Hospital. Please select from the following options:

    If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.

    If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want, stay on the line so we can trace your call.

    If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be forwarded to the Mother Ship.

    If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.

    If you are manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press, nothing will make you happy anyway.

    If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969696.

    If you are bipolar, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep or after the beep. Please wait for the beep.

    If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.

    If you have low self-esteem, please hang up, our operators are too busy to talk with you.

    If you are menopausal, put the gun down, hang up, turn on the fan, lie down and cry. You won't be crazy forever.


  • LIFE IN THE 1500s
  • [Caveat Lector]

    The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

    • Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
    • Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
    • Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, It's raining cats and dogs.
    • There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.
    • The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a thresh hold.
    • (Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

    • In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.
    • Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.
    • Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
    • Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.
    • Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.
    • England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.
    And that's the truth... Now, whoever said History was boring?



    For events farther in the future consult the Upcoming Events Page.
      • Speech Lunch

        Inbal Arnon
        "The storing of multi-word chunks: Frequency effects on latency and duration"
        12:00 PM, Phonetics Lab
      • Representation Roundtable

        1:15-2:15 PM, Phonetics Lab
        • Representation Roundtable will meet weekly (hopefully at this time) to discuss articles about the nature of linguistic representation, across subfields and at all levels (phonetic, phonological, syntactic, etc.). The focus of the group will be a critical evaluation of current models (mostly exemplar models).
      • Stanford Semantics and Pragmatics Workshop

        Danny Bobrow, Cleo Condoravdi, Lauri Karttunen, Tracy Holloway King, Valeria de Paiva, and Annie Zaenen (PARC Natural Language Group)
        "Computing Linguistically-based Textual Inferences"
        3:30 PM, Greenberg Room 460-126
      • Weekly Social!

        5:00 PM in the Department Lounge.
      • Syntax Workshop

        Joanna Nykiel
        "Sluicing and Prepositions: A connectivity effect that doesn't work"
        5:15 PM, MJH 126
      • Speech Lunch

        Hua Ai (University of Pittsburgh)
        "User Simulation for Spoken Dialogue Systems"
        12:00 PM, Phonetics Lab
      • Representation Roundtable

        1:15-2:15 PM, Phonetics Lab
      • Weekly Social!

        5:00 PM in the Department Lounge.

    • divider

    • UPCOMING EVENTS (always under construction)
    • Got broader interests? The New Sesquipedalian recommends reading or even subscribing to the CSLI Calendar, available HERE.
    • HOW ABOUT MIT? UMass Amherst? U Chicago? Rutgers?


    Blood needed!

    The Stanford Blood Center is reporting a shortage of as well as a shortage of O-, O+, A-, 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. The Blood Center is also raising money for a new bloodmobile.


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    18 January 2008
    Vol. 4, Issue 12

    Sesquipedalian Staff

    Editor in Chief:
    Ivan A. Sag
    Beth Levin

    Humor Consultants:
    Susan D. Fischer, Tom Wasow

    Assistant Editor:
    Richard Futrell

    Melanie Levin and Kyle Wohlmut

    Other Linguistics Newsletters

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Berkeley


    UMass Amherst

    U Chicago