Stanford Linguistics
A Stanford Linguistics 
       department        contribute        archives

Department News

  • The (Everett, WA) Herald writes about Todd Morrow (Linguistics BA, 1984). A lawyer now, Morrow was written up for his 20 years of service with Housing Hope, an `affordable housing and services agency that helps low-income and homeless families.' The Herald says: `Morrow studied linguistics at Stanford, where his adviser helped further Morrow's belief that every human has value. Morrow studied language in Barbados, which helped build his view of the world as a community, he said.' All this is true. John Rickford was his adviser, and Todd actually spent a quarter in Barbados and wrote a senior essay/honors thesis on Bajan, the vernacular there. Kudos all around!
  • Joel Wallenberg (BA Stanford Linguistics 2003, now a grad student at Penn) writes of his dissertation proposal defense on Tuesday, November 27th: `I passed!'. Mazel Tov. We'll all look forward to reading his magnum opus on `Generalizing Holmberg's Generalization: scrambling and phrase structure in synchronic and diachronic perspective'.
  • Thanksgiving brought a special thank you gift to the Rickford family in the form of a new grandson, Lance Jackson (Rickford) Clunie, born to John and Angie's eldest daughter Shiyama and her husband Neale on Sat Nov 24, 7:52 pm, by c-section. Mother and baby (6 lbs 7 ounces, 20") are both doing well.

  • divider

    Look Who's Talking

  • Recent grad Itamar Francez (Yale U.) is presenting a paper on `Quantification in existential codas' at the upcoming (Dec. 17-19) Amsterdam Colloquium, where former faculty member David Beaver (U. Texas) is also an invited speaker.
  • First year grad student Stephanie Shih is off to the International Conference on Music Communication Science in Sydney next week to present a paper on `Rethinking linguistic models of rhythm through evidence from jazz bop swing'. She would be a candidate for the `Longest-trip-to-present-a-conference-paper' prize, if we had one...
  • Asya Pereltsvaig, one of our two visiting lecturers this year, is giving a guest talk on Dec. 10 at the University of Goettingen (Germany) entitled `Who's who of Russian indefinites'. On the same trip she will also talk in the Tense and Aspect seminar in Goettingen about `How to use aspect to do tense and aktionsart: Introduction to Russian (tense and) aspect'.

  • divider

    Letters to the Editor

  • Kevin Ryan writes on Nov 16:

    Dear Editor:

    I take exception to your Anglocentric characterization of "TBA" as being an "unpronouncable [sic] syllable" (vol. 4.8). It is an entirely common and felicitous word in Georgian, meaning "lake." I can only hope that future issues will do a better job of eschewing such thinly veiled discrimination against Caucasians.

    [W wr of cours skptical of such a claim, obviously mad for the sol purpos of stting up a tastlss ju d mots. Howvr, aftr closr inspction, which rquird a brif ntr into the subtltis of the Mkhdruli alphabt, it sms that this objction is not ntirly without mrit. -Th Ssquipditor]
  • divider

    Fact, not Fiction!

  • From the Reagan Diaries

    "A moment I've been dreading. George [Bush] brought his ne're-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."--

    [Ronald Reagan in his recently published diaries, May 17, 1986.]

  • divider

    Linguistic Levity

  • And now a story about dogs:

    Three friends from grad school -- a syntactician, a phonologist, and a lawyer -- meet one day for a reunion. Since they are all big dog-lovers, each has their dog with them.

    They are catching up on old times and eventually their dogs come up in the conversation. The syntactician mentions, "You know, my dog is really smart. Here, let me show you." The syntactician turns to his dog and says, "Here, Subjacency...Come here, Subjacency...Good boy. Now go get me the same number of cookies as non-branching nodes in 3 binary-branching subtrees." The dog then trots off to the other room and comes back with 4 cookies.

    The phonologist scoffs, "That's nothing. My dog is way smarter than that. Let me show you guys." The phonologist then turns to her dog and says, "Here, Tableau...yeah, that's a good boy...Now go get me the same number of cookies as languages predicted by the factorial typology of ONSET, *CODA, and faithfulness." So the dog prances off, wagging its tail, and comes back with 4 cookies.

    The lawyer was not impressed. "You guys think your dogs are smart?! Mine is way smarter. Just watch." The lawyer turns to her dog and says, "Come here, Loophole....good doggie. All right, Loophole, do your thing!" So the lawyer's dog screws the other dogs and takes their cookies.

    [Submitted by Doug Ball]

  • divider

  • Today's Lexophilia:

    The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a real number on it.

    The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

    The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

    If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

    A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.

    A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

    A will is a dead giveaway.

    Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

    A backward poet writes inverse.

    In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

    A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

    If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

    With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

    Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.

    When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

    The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

    You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

    Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.

    He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.

    A calendar's days are numbered.

    A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.

    A boiled egg is hard to beat.

  • divider


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


    Blood needed!

    The Stanford Blood Center is reporting 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.


    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


    30 November 2007
    Vol. 4, Issue 9

    Sesquipedalian Staff

    Editor in Chief:
    Ivan A. Sag
    Beth Levin
    John Rickford

    Humor Consultants:
    Susan D. Fischer, Tom Wasow

    Assistant Editor:
    Richard Futrell

    Melanie Levin and Kyle Wohlmut