Stanford Linguistics
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Department News

  • Neo-whorfianism in this week's New York Times. In case you missed the piece, with quotes from some of your favorite linguists, check it out here
  • Congratulations to Ellen Bernard, who was awarded one of this year's J. E. Wallace Sterling Award for Scholastic Achievement. This award is presented only to each year's top 25 graduating seniors in the School of Humanities and Sciences. Previous recipients from our department include Andrea Burbank and Francesca Smith, both in 2006.
  • Next Year's First-Years
  • The list you've long been waiting for is now revealed. Check 'em out:
    • David Clausen (Pomona College)
      I was born and raised in Seattle. I attended Pomona College for my undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. My main areas of interest are Semantics, Pragmatics, and Natural Language Processing. Outside of the lab I enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee and spending time outdoors.
    • Alex Djalali (Northwestern University)
      I am a linguistics major at Northwestern University. I have lived all over the world including Guam and Vietnam. I am primarily interested in formal semantics and formal language theory. I spend a lot of my free time with music: I play guitar and am an avid record collector.
    • Roey Gafter (Tel-Aviv University)
      I come from Tel-Aviv, Israel, where I am currently finishing my MA in linguistics. Before that, I got my B.Sc in Computer Science in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. My main linguistic interest is examining variation, from both a sociolinguistic and a syntactic perspective - hopefully in language varieties that have received little attention, and particularly minority languages. Other interests include computational linguistics, field work and syntactic theory.
    • Katherine Geenberg (Cornell University)
      I was born and raised in Dorchestah, MA but went to high school in Union County, NJ before attending college in western NY; this progression has made me, among other things, a fun speaker of the English language. I am primarily a socio-phonetician interested in intonation and meaning, particularly as is manifested in registers spoken within hierarchical power structures such as the university. Similarly, I am compelled by the interface between social theory and linguistics and therefore plan on pursuing studies concerning language and gender, language and sexuality, and language and race. When all of that becomes overwhelming, you will probably find me scribbling poems on napkins and performing them at City Lights, hoping to rouse Ferlinghetti from the framework.
    • Chigusa Kurumada (University of Tokyo)
      I am originally from Kyoto, Japan, and have been in Tokyo for four years as a graduate student. I work in the field of first-language acquisition with a special interest in the interaction between children's communicative and linguistic development. Outside of my main research topic, I have a project of creating a bilingual picture-book in Japanese and Ikema, an endangered language spoken on one of the remote islands of Okinawa.
    • Gayle McElvain (Brandeis University)
      Originally from Michigan, I moved out to Boston for school. Before coming to Stanford, I completed an undergraduate degree in Classics and a master's in Computer Science (both at Brandeis), during which time I also worked for BAE Systems as a research analyst in NLP. Areas I'm currently interested in include psycholinguistic theories of processing and gradience, statistical methods in NLP, and evolutionary computing strategies for dynamic language models.
    • Marisa Pineda (UCLA)
      My name's Marisa, but you are all welcome to call me Middy, if you like. I grew up in Walnut Creek, CA and I'm overjoyed to be moving back to the Bay Area. I'll be coming to Stanford this Fall after finishing up my Linguistics and Psychology major at UCLA. My main linguistic interests revolve around language acquisition - primarily in finding which parts of the acquisition process are domain-specific and which are domain-general. I'm interested in investigating this topic with both experimentation and computational modeling. Beyond my linguistic interests, I love spending time outdoors, eating at restaurants, watching movies, drinking tea, and checking my e-mail.
    • Jessica Spencer (Northwestern University)
      I was born in Chicago, IL and lived in a few different places before returning to the Chicagoland area to attend Northwestern University, where I will earn my BA in Linguistics in June. Currently, my interests in language variation and change, especially in the realm of syntax and semantics, have developed through my introduction to the creole languages of Suriname. This summer I will be attending the Caribbean Language and Linguistics Institute in Kingston, Jamaica, where I will take a class in Saramaccan.


    Look Who's Talking

  • We forgot to report that Eve V. Clark gave a talk on 'Conventionality in language use and language acquisition' at the meeting on Conventionality across Domains in Cognitive Development, a Pre-conference that took place the day before the ICIS meeting (International Conference on Infant Studies) in Vancouver during Spring Break.
  • Today is Stanford Day at the First Annual Complex Systems & Language Workshop in Tucson. Check it out HERE.
  • Stanford PhD student Ivan Garcia Alvarez (also lecturer in linguistics at the University of Salford) will is giving a colloq a the Department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Manchester on 29 April entitled "Adjectival associates of Exception Phrases".
  • And next week at Ohio State, there are a few Stanford folks participating in the Symposium on Linguistic Variation Across the Lifespan, coorganized by Mary Rose (The Ohio State University):
    • Penelope Eckert ("Coming into their own: Variation in the passage from childhood to adolescence")
    • Bruno Estigarribia (UNC, Chapel Hill: "Variation and facilitation paths in language acquisition")
    • Mary Rose (OSU: Discussion of "Change within an Individual")


    Blast from the Past

    We have a left-leaning department, by which I mean that we got a dozen entries from all you folks out there in alumniland correctly identifying the linguist on the left as our own Joe Greenberg. Neal Snider's was the first correct guess and he wins a prize. Oh yes, we also had one guess incorrectly identifying that linguist as Al Franken....

    The linguist on the right proved more inscrutable. Not even Penny Eckert, who took a class from him in grad school, was able to correctly identify Uriel Weinreich...

    Alas, we have no linguist picture to identify this week.


    Caught in the Act

    Last Week's Social was not to be missed. Not since the Hofmeister era has the department seen such splendorous gourmet offerings (and all Vegan!). Congratulations to Stephanie Shih, last week's Chef Extraordinaire...


    Linguistic Levity

  • Joke Cline

    • Bad Joke:

      What Do Eskimos Get From Sitting On The Ice too Long? Polaroids
    • Better Joke:

      The President is rehearsing his speech for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

      He begins with "Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! Ooo!"

      Immediately his speech writer rushes over to the lectern and whispers in the President's ear:

      "Mr. President, those are the Olympic rings. Your speech is underneath.
    • Best Joke:

      Jesus and Satan were having an on-going argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.

      Finally fed up, God said, "THAT'S IT! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the better job."

      So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.

      They moused.

      They faxed.

      They e-mailed.

      They e-mailed with attachments.

      They downloaded.

      They did spreadsheets!

      They wrote reports.

      They created labels and cards.

      They created charts and graphs.

      They did som e geneal

      They did every job known to man.

      Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell.

      Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured, and, of course, the power went off.

      Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld.

      Jesus just sighed.

      Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming:

      "It's gone! It's all GONE! "I lost everything when the power went out!"

      Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work.

      Satan observed this and became irate.

      "Wait!" he screamed. "That's not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?"

      God just shrugged and said,

  • My Resume

    • 1. My first job was working in an Orange Juice factory, but I got canned. I guess I couldn't concentrate.
    • 2. Then I worked in the woods as a Lumberjack, but I just couldn't hack it, so they gave me the ax.
    • 3. After that, I tried to be a Tailor, but I just wasn't suited for it - mainly because it was a sew-sew job.
    • 4. Next, I tried working in a Muffler Factory, but that was too exhausting.
    • 5. Then, I tried to be a Chef. I figured it would add a little spice to my life, but I just didn't have the thyme.
    • 6. Next, I attempted to be a Deli Worker, but any way I sliced it, I couldn't cut the mustard.
    • 7. My best job was a Musician, but eventually I found I wasn't noteworthy.
    • 8. I studied a long time to become a Doctor, but I didn't have any patience.
    • 9. Next, was a job in a Shoe Factory. I tried but I just didn't fit in.
    • 10. I became a Professional Fisherman, but discovered that I couldn't live on my net income.
    • 11. I managed to get a good job working for a Pool Maintenance Company, but the work was just too draining.
    • 12. So then I got a job in a Workout Center, but they said I wasn't fit for the job.
    • 13. After many years of trying to find steady work, I finally got a job as a Historian - until I realized there was no future in it.
    • 14. So, I tried working in Starbucks, but I had to quit because it was always the same old grind.
    • 15. My last job was working for a Hearing & Speech Agency, but they said I gave too much lip-service instead of sound results.



    For events farther in the future consult the Upcoming Events Page.

    • Philosophy Department Colloquium

      Anil Gupta (University of Pittsburgh)
      "The Rationality of Perceptual Judgments"
      3:15pm, 90-92Q
    • UCSC Linguistics Colloquium

      Richard A. Wright (University of Washington)
      Title TBA
      4:00pm, Humanities One, Room 202, UCSC
    • Semantics Workshop

      Anna Papafragou (University of Delaware)
      Acquiring meaning: From lexical content to pragmatic inference
      3:30pm, MJH 126
    • Weekly Social!

      5:00, department lounge
    • CSLI CogLunch

      Ken Taylor
      Title TBA
      12:00pm, Cordura Hall 100
    • Stanford Psychology of Language Tea (SPLaT!)

      Florian Jaeger (Rochester)
      "Probability sensitive production at many levels of linguistics representation "
      5:15pm cheese and crackers, 5:30 talk; MJH 126

  • 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?

  • divider

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    The Stanford Blood Center is reporting a shortage of types O, A and B-. For an appointment, visit 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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    25 April 2008
    Vol. 4, Issue 24

    Sesquipedalian Staff

    Editor in Chief:
    Ivan A. Sag

    Beth Levin, Andrew Koontz-Garboden

    Humor Consultant:
    Susan D. Fischer

    Assistant Editor:
    Richard Futrell

    Melanie Levin
    Kyle Wohlmut

    Other Linguistics Newsletters

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Berkeley


    UMass Amherst

    U Chicago


    U Manchester