Stanford Linguistics
A Stanford Linguistics 
       department        archives

Department News

  • Congratulations to Fabio del Prete, who received a postdoctoral fellowship for next year from the Institut Jean-Nicod in Paris, where he'll get many opportunities to use the high-school French he'll be brushing up this summer...:-)
  • Welcome Chris and Kathryn!
  • The department is delighted to welcome Chris Potts and Kathryn Flack Potts, both of whom will be joining the department in the fall. Here's what they have to say about themselves:

    Chris Potts
    Chris: I received my BA from NYU in 1999, under the skeptical eye of Paul Postal,* and my PhD from UCSC in 2003, under the critical eye of Geoff Pullum.** In 2003, I left for the the sleepy west of the woody east, joining the Linguistics Department at UMass Amherst. Lately, I have been working on expressive content (e.g., swears, honorifics, exclamatives), dialogue systems, and perspective in language, and I've been moonlighting as a computational phonologist. When all these things start to seem too hard, I like to head for the hills on my bicycle. In graduate school, I climbed as far north as the Skyline/Rt. 9 intersection, and I am looking forward to exploring the terra incognita beyond.

    * My favorite skeptical Postal story: one of my recent Language Log posts mentioned "my wife", and Paul wrote to say, "I see you now have a wife or are at least claiming such".

    ** My favorite critical Pullum story: In response to this early work of mine, Geoff wrote, "I don't think you should be bragging about the fact that less than twenty years ago you were still taken in by that dependency-grammar sentence-diagram stuff".

    Kathryn Flack Potts
    Kathryn: I'm one of many linguists from Ohio (birthplace of presidents and linguists!), one of just a few to receive BAs from Carleton College, and the second to move from Hampshire College to Stanford. I wrote my dissertation on the phonetics-phonology interface at UMass, and in the last two years at Hampshire I've learned about everything from Nepali to distressed sheep to student retention while teaching, advising, and working in institutional research. I'm looking forward to a similar mix of teaching and IR at Stanford. I also feel a professional obligation to read as many mysteries as possible, as they are an excellent source of data.


    Look Who's Talking

  • Last Week Meghan Sumner was in Portland for the meetings of the Acoustical Society of America, where she gave a paper at the ASA Workshop on Cross-Language Speech Perception: "The benefit of variation in cross-language speech perception."
  • Last weekend, UCLA hosted the first meeting of CUSP (California Universities Semantics and Pragmatics). The schedule included:
    • Scott Grimm: Inverse number marking in Dagaare
    • Sven Lauer: Free choice of the irgend kind
  • This week, Lancaster University hosted the 30th Annual Conference of the International Computer Archive for Modern and Medieval English, whose program included: Tine Breban, speaking on "Making the most of historical data: micro- processes and multi-item comparison."
  • This week in Madrid, there was a conference on Events across Categories: Theoretical and Experimental Approaches to Event Structure. There you'll find the following alumni presentations:
  • This weekend at Harvard there's a workshop on New Directions in Text Analysis, where Chris Manning is giving a talk on "Probabalistic Explanation in Linguistics" and Dan Jurafsky on "Tracking Methodological Adoption in Science".
  • And this weekend in Boulder, there's the annual meeting of NAACL (the North American Assoc. for Computational Linguistics), where the program includes:
    • Improving Unsupervised Dependency Parsing with Richer Contexts and Smoothing
      William P Headden III, Mark Johnson (Brown University) and David McClosky
    • Structured Generative Models for Unsupervised Named-Entity Clustering
      Micha Elsner, Eugene Charniak and Mark Johnson
    • Improving nonparameteric Bayesian inference experiments on unsupervised word segmentation with adaptor grammars
      Mark Johnson and Sharon Goldwater
    • Solving the "Who's Mark Johnson" Puzzle: Information Extraction Based Cross Document Coreference
      Jian Huang, Sarah M. Taylor, Jonathan L. SMith, Konstantinos A. Fotiadis and C. Lee Giles
    • Joint Parsing and Named Entity Recognition
      Jenny Rose Finkel and Christopher D Manning
    • Minimal-length linearizations for mildly context-sensitive dependency trees
      Y Albert Park and Roger Levy (UC San Diego)
    • Ketchup, espresso, and chocolate chip cookies: Travels in the language of food
      Dan Jurafsky
    • Hierarchical Bayesian Domain Adaptation
      Jenny Rose Finkel and Christopher D Manning
    • A model of local coherence effects in human sentence processing as consequences of updates from bottom-up prior to posterior beliefs
      Klinton Bicknell and Roger Levy


    Meghan's Mystery Name Game

    Nobody won last week's name game. The department has therefore decided to double the number of required phonetics courses! Or, you can simply try to guess this week's name before someone from Haskins or UCLA tries to beat you to it! This is your last chance this quarter!


    Linguistic Levity

  • Sign-Based Hilarity
    • Sign over a Gynecologist's Office:
      'Dr. Jones, at your cervix.'
    • In a Podiatrist's office:
      'Time wounds all heels.'
    • On a Septic Tank Truck:
      Yesterday's Meals on Wheels
    • At a Proctologist's door:
      'To expedite your visit, please back in.'
    • On a Plumber's truck:
      'We repair what your husband fixed.'
    • On another Plumber's truck:
      'Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.'
    • On a Church's Bill board:
      '7 days without God makes one weak.'
    • At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee:
      'Invite us to your next blowout.'
    • At a Towing company:
      'We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows.'
    • On an Electrician's truck:
      'Let us remove your shorts.'
    • In a Nonsmoking Area:
      'If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.'
    • On a Maternity Room door:
      'Push. Push. Push.'
    • At an Optometrist's Office:
      'If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place.'
    • On a Taxidermist's window:
      'We really know our stuff.'
    • On a Fence:
      'Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive!'
    • At a Car Dealership:
      'The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment.'
    • Outside a Muffler Shop:
      'No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.'
    • In a Veterinarian's waiting room:
      'Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!!'
    • At the Electric Company
      'We would be delighted if you send in your payment.
      However, if you don't, you will be.'
    • In a Restaurant window:
      'Don't stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up.'
    • In the front yard of a Funeral Home:
      'Drive carefully. We'll wait.'
    • At a Propane Filling Station:
      'Thank heaven for little grills.'
    • And don't forget the sign at a CHICAGO RADIATOR SHOP:
      'Best place in town to take a leak.'
    • Sign on the back of another Septic Tank Truck: 'Caution - This Truck is full of Political Promises!


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

  • FRIDAY, 22 MAY
  • MONDAY, 1 JUNE (!)
    • Social Theory Reading Group

      MJH Chair's Office, 12:00-1:00pm
    • Department Professional Development Lecture
      for Grad Students

      Ivan Sag
      "CVs for all Occasions"
      12 noon, MJH 126
      A modest lunch is provided.
    • Psychology Developmental Brownbag

      Daniel Schwartz (School of Education)
      "Why most instruction earns a C- in transfer"
      12:15pm, 420-102
    • SocioRap

      Nate Dumas (Berkeley)
      "Is There Variational Reduplication?: Landar's Hypothesis and Stuttering as Sociolinguistic Practice"
      5:15pm snacks, 5:30pm talk, MJH 126
    • SLOrk (Stanford Laptop Orchestra) Spring Concert

      Free admission
      8pm, Dinkelspiel Auditorium
    • UCSC Linguistics Undergraduate Research Conference

      Summer Kniveton, Stephanie Kramer, Heather Mahan, Brendan O'Donnell, and Marine Riou. The distinguished alum speaker is Nick LaCara.
      1:55pm, Room 210, Humanities One, UCSC
    • Department Social

      4:00pm sharp

  • divider

  • UPCOMING EVENTS (always under construction)
  • Got broader interests? The New Sesquipedalian recommends reading, or even subscribing, to the CSLI Calendar, available HERE.

  • divider

    Blood needed!

    The Stanford Blood Center is reporting a shortage of type A- and O. For an appointment, visit or call 650-723-7831. It only takes an hour of your time and you get free cookies.


    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? Write directly to


    29 May 2009
    Vol. 5, Issue 27

    Sesquipedalian Staff

    Editor in Chief:
    Ivan A. Sag

    Richard Futrell

    Beth Levin

    Alyssa Ferree

    Humor Consultant:
    Susan D. Fischer

    Melanie Levin
    Kyle Wohlmut