Stanford Linguistics
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Department News

  • A warm department welcome to all new students, staff and department visitors. If you're new to Stanford, you might find it convenient to use or adapt the unofficial web portal located here. To find your way to events, you might also find this CSLI webpage to be useful...
  • Sesquicongratulations to John Rickford, who was just awarded the 2009-10 UC Santa Cruz Alumni Achievement Award. This award, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduate of UCSC, is given to some alumnus/a who has rendered a special and outstanding service to UCSC; or who, by personal achievement, has brought distinction to the university. John now stands with such recipients as Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, whose exposé of degrading conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center led to congressional hearings and the resignation of the Secretary of the Army; virus detective Joseph DeRisi, who identified the virus responsible for the SARS epidemic; social commentator Victor Davis Hanson, author, military historian and pundit; world-renowned opera conductor Kent Nagano and a number of other distinguished recipients. Way to go, John!
  • Congratulations are also in order for Stanley Peters, who has just been appointed Director of the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), an interdisciplinary computational and cognitive science research lab down the road that all you firstyears should learn about...
  • What's more... Nola Stephens and Olga Dmitrieva have been awarded Ric Weiland Fellowships from the School of Humanities and Sciences. Nice going, you two!
  • And on a more personal note..., Sesquifelicitations to Kyu Won Moon and to Yuan Zhao, both of whom got married this summer!

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    Welcome First-Years!

    The department is delighted to welcome a new class of graduate students. Here's what they look like and what they have to say about themselves:

    David Clausen

    David Clausen

    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.

    Roey Gafter

    Roey Gafter

    I come from Tel-Aviv, Israel, where I finished my MA in linguistics. Before that, I got a 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

    Katherine Geenberg

    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

    Chigusa Kurumada

    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 creating a bilingual picture-book in Japanese and Ikema, an endangered language spoken on one of the remote islands of Okinawa.

    Gayle McElvain

    Gayle McElvain

    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

    Marisa Pineda

    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 back to the Bay Area. I was a 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

    Jessica Spencer

    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 earned 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 attended the Caribbean Language and Linguistics Institute in Kingston, Jamaica, where I took a class in Saramaccan.


    Look Who's Talking

    Lots went on this month:

  • Eve Clark was in Poitiers, France, where she gave a course in the Ecole Europeenne on les processus d'acquisition du langage et les interactions verbales.
  • AMLAP:
    At the 14th Annual Conference on Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing, held 4-6 September in Cambridge (for you first-years, that's the original, default, unmarked Cambridge in the UK). Among the papers and posters were the following Stanford-related presentations:
    • Kuperman, V., Vitoria, P., & Schreuder, R.
      Bridging locality and anti-locality effects in the processing of long-distance syntactic dependencies
    • Staum Casasanto, L., Futrell, R., & Sag, I.A.
      Extra complementizers increase syntactic predictability
    • Tily, H., Hemforth, B., Arnon, I., Shuval, N., Snider, N. & Wasow, T.
      Eye movements reflect comprehenders' knowledge of syntactic structure probability
  • How Sweet it is!
    At the recent meetings of the Linguistic Association of Great Britain (LAGB), held in Essex, Paul Kiparsky gave the 2008 Henry Sweet lecture entitled 'Synchronic Analogy.' This lecture also gave rise to an LAGB workshop on 'New perspectives on the phonological cycle', where the following presentations took place (both with responses by Paul):
    • Ricardo Bermudez-Otero (Manchester)
      The phonological cycle: an optimality-theoretic perspective
    • Geert Booij (Leiden)
      The phonological cycle: a (construction) morphological perspective
  • The 5th International Conference on Construction Grammar (ICCG-5) is being hosted by the University of Texas at Austin this week.
    The presented papers include:
    • Jong-Bok Kim (Kyung-Hee) and Peter Sells (SOAS): A constructional approach to multiple nominative constructions
    • Ivan A. Sag: English Filler-Gap Constructions
  • And coming right up we have the 13th Sinn und Bedeutung conference, being held at U. Stuttgart, starting on September 30. This small but important conference has a fine Stanford presence:
    • Matthew Berends and Stefan Kaufmann (Northwestern University)
      Only and Monotonicity in Conditionals
    • Yusuke Kubota, Jungmee Lee, Anastasia Smirnova and Judith Tonhauser (Ohio State University)
      The Cross-Linguistic Interpretation of Embedded Tenses
    • Judith Tonhauser (Ohio State University)
      Evidence for Future Tense in Paraguayan Guarani
    • Lauri Karttunen (Palo Alto Research Center/Stanford University)
      Invited Talk: Computing Textual Inferences
  • And there's more:

  • Joan Bresnan is giving a colloquium at NYU's Linguistics Department on Oct 3 on her recent work with Marilyn Ford on "Predicting Syntax:Processing dative constructions in American and Australian varieties of English". On October 6-7 she is representing the `Dynamics of Probabilistic Grammar' Project at the NSF HSD (Human and Social Dynamics) Grantees conference in Arlington, Virginia. This project, now completing its second year, involves Tom Wasow, Dan Jurafsky, Michael Ramscar (Psychology) and Susanne Gahl (UC Berkeley), as well as a number of Stanford students. On October 7 she is also presenting a talk in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Language and Speech Processing Seminar Series.
  • Beth Levin is giving an invited talk on 'Ingredients of verb meanings' at the Verb Concepts conference, upcoming on October 3-4 at Concordia University in Montreal.
  • And Ivan Sag is presenting a colloquium at UC Berkeley on October 6. His title is 'Processing Factors in the Study of Island Effects', which will summarize some recent findings of Stanford's WH-Project.

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    Linguistic Levity

  • Humor from the Far North
  • Hot Potato

    Well, A Girl Potato and Boy Potato had eyes for each other, and finally they got married, and had a little sweet potato, which they called 'Yam.' Of course, they wanted the best for Yam.

    When it was time, they told her about the facts of life. They warned her about going out and getting half-baked, so she wouldn't get accidentally mashed, and get a bad name for herself like 'Hot Potato' and end up with a bunch of Tater Tots. Yam said not to worry, no Spud would get her into the sack and make a rotten potato out of her! But on the other hand she wouldn't stay home and become a Couch Potato either. She would get plenty of exercise so as not to be skinny like her Shoestring cousins.

    When she went off to Europe, Mr. and Mrs. Potato told Yam to watch out for the hard-boiled guys from Ireland. And the greasy guys from France called the French Fries. And when she went out west, to watch out for the Indians so she wouldn't get scalloped. Yam said she would stay on the straight and narrow and wouldn't associate with those high class Yukon Golds, or the ones from the other side of the tracks who advertise their trade on all the trucks that say 'Frito Lay.'

    Mr. and Mrs. Potato sent Yam to Idaho P.U. (that's Potato University) so that when she graduated she'd really be in the Chips. But in spite of all they did for her, one day Yam came home and announced she was going to marry Tom Brokaw. Tom Brokaw! Mr. and Mrs. Potato were very upset.

    They told Yam she couldn't possibly marry Tom Brokaw because he's just...

    (Are you ready for this?)

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

    • Empirical Syntax Research Seminar

      Organizational Meeting

      2:15pm, Margaret Jacks Hall 126
    • Semantics and Pragmatics Workshop

      Uli Sauerland (Stanford/ZAS)
      "Sentence Embedding and Linguistic Relativity: Two Counterarguments"
      3:30pm, Margaret Jacks Hall 126
    • Department Social

      Gourmet delights by the Social Committee

      5:00pm, in the Department Kitchen
    • Philosophy Talk

      Live shows being taped for radio
      John Perry and Ken Taylor (Philosophy)
      The Terror of Death at 2:30
      Digital Selves: Avatars, Second Life, and Virtual Reality at 6:30

      Marsh Theater
      1062 Valencia Street (near 22nd Street), San Francisco

      Advance Tickets available through the Marsh Theater online or by phone: 800-838-3006.
    • Formal Pragmatics Reading Group

      Discussion of:

      Benz, A. and van Rooij, R. (2007) Optimal assertions, and what they implicate. A uniform game theoretic approach. Topoi 26, pp. 63-78.

      9:30 - 11:00, in Bldg. 460, Room 127b (the `Chair's office')
    • Developmental Brownbag Series (Psychology)

      Chia-wa Yeh and Jennifer Winters (Bing Nusery School)
      Introduction to Research at Bing Nursery School, followed by a discussion of ethical concerns in research with children

      12:15 - 1:15, in Jordan Hall, Room 102
    • Department Social

      Gourmet delights by the Social Committee

      4:00pm, in the Department Kitchen
    • UCSC Linguistics Colloquium

      Donka Farkas (UCSC)
      "Assertions, Polar Questions and Polarity Particles"

      4:00pm, Humanities One Building, Room 210, UCSC

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  • 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?

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    Blood needed!

    The Stanford Blood Center is reporting a shortage of types O, A, B, and AB+. 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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    24 September 2008
    Vol. 5, Issue 1
    Beginning of the Year Issue

    Sesquipedalian Staff

    Editor in Chief:
    Ivan A. Sag

    Alyssa Ferree

    Beth Levin
    Andrew Koontz-Garboden
    Hal Tily

    Humor Consultant:
    Susan D. Fischer

    Assistant Editor:
    Richard Futrell

    Melanie Levin
    Kyle Wohlmut

    Read Shih Comics Here
    Previous Linguistics Department Newsletters: