Stanford Linguistics
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Department News

  • Congratulations to Alex Jaker, who just received an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Paul Kiparsky as official PI). His dissertation is titled: Morphological Typology and the Athabaskan Verb.
  • And likewise to Philip Hofmeister (UCSD), who just accepted a two-year postdoc at UC San Diego's Center for Research on Language. He'll be working with Marta Kutas and Vic Ferreira.

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    Bruno Begets Baby Boy (Bis)

    Bruno Estigarribia writes:
    Ellen, Nicolás and Bruno are very happy to announce the birth of their second child, a boy (again!), Mateo Nahuel Estigarribia, on Fri October 10th at 1:05 am. After much back and forth, we decided on those two names, Mateo meaning "powerful with phonemes", and Nahuel meaning "he who reneges movement". For a brief spell, baby Mateo was called Joaquín (i.e. "elicits whole paradigms") but... And for someone who denies movement, he appears to have done rather well, being born in the ambulance en route to the hospital!

    All told, best birth ever. (Thanks to Bruno's and Joe the paramedic's midwifery skills.) Everybody is doing great. Right now, we are teaching Mateo the difference between descriptive and prescriptive linguistics, and Ellen has tattooed the full IPA chart on her chest so the kid can study it while he eats. We miss you all.


    Look Who's Talking

  • At the inaugural meeting of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE-1), held at the University of Freiburg, Germany, Oct 8-11, Stanford was represented by the following talks:
    • Elizabeth TRAUGOTT delivered the presidential address, "Paths for English Language Studies."
    • John R. RICKFORD gave a plenary presentation, "Relativizer Omission in Vernacular and Creole Varieties in the US and the Caribbean and its Theoretical Implications"
    • Devyani SHARMA (Queen Mary College, U of London), gave a paper on "Typological Diversity in New Englishes."
  • Tanya Nikitina spoke last week in the Berkeley Syntax and Semantics Circle. Her presentation was about non-local realization of oblique arguments in Mande languages.
  • And Penny Eckert gave two talks last week at the University of Washington:
    • The Walker-Ames Lecture: `Why do adolescents talk the way they do?'
    • Linguistics Dept Colloquium: `Variation and the nature of social meaning'
  • John Rickford delivered the Distinguished Alumni lecture this week at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His topic was: `African American Vernacular English, Linguistics, and the Black/White Achievement Gap in American Schools'.
  • And there's a number of talks by members of the Stanford NLP group or the Linguistics Department at the conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing in Hawaii, which starts today. Check 'em out:
    • Nathanael Chambers (CSD) and Dan Jurafsky
      Jointly Combining Implicit Constraints Improves Temporal Ordering
    • Katrin Erk and Sebastian Pado
      A Structured Vector Space Model for Word Meaning in Context
    • Michel Galley (CSD) and Christopher Manning
      A Simple and Effective Hierarchical Phrase Reordering Model
    • David Hall (SSP), Daniel Jurafsky and Christopher Manning
      Studying the History of Ideas Using Topic Models
    • Bill MacCartney (CSD), Michel Galley (CSD) and Christopher Manning
      A Phrase-Based Alignment Model for Natural Language Inference
    • Ramesh Nallapati (CSD) and Christopher Manning
      Legal Docket Classification: Where Machine Learning stumbles
    • Rion Snow (CSD), Brendan O’Connor, Dan Jurafsky and Andrew Ng (CSD)
      Cheap and Fast — But is it Good? Evaluating Non-Expert Annotations for Natural Language Tasks
    Department alums and previous postdocs also have a good showing at the conference:
    • Roger Levy (UCSD)
      A noisy-channel model of rational human sentence comprehension under uncertain input
    • Hinrich Schuetze (U Stuttgart) and Michael Walsh
      A graph-theoretic model of lexical syntactic acquisition
    • Emily Pitler and Ani Nenkova (U Penn)
      Revisiting Readability: A Unified Framework for Predicting Text Quality
    • Jianfeng Gao and Mark Johnson (Brown U)
      A comparison of Bayesian estimators for unsupervised Hidden Markov Model POS taggers
    • Yassine Benajiba, Mona Diab (Columbia U) and Paolo Rosso
      Arabic Named Entity Recognition using Optimal Feature Sets
  • And finally, Beth Levin has started her Eurasian trek. On Monday she'll present her joint paper with Malka Rappaport Hovav at IATL in Jerusalem. The paper's called: Lexicalized Manner and Result are in Complementary Distribution.

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    Meghan's Mystery Name Game

  • And here's this week's MMNG installment - another department member's first name. The winner last week was Seung Kyung Kim, who correctly identified the name `Starr'. Seung Kyung got a box of dark chocolate. You'll win something similar if you're the first to guess this week's MMNG name (communicating your guess to Meghan, not us). This week's gram is:

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    Look Who's Talking (about Sarah Palin)

  • Ask Sarah Palin any question HERE.
  • And here's what people are SINGING about Sarah Palin:
  • And this photo just in from our Russian correspondent:

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    Linguistic Levity

    Frank Feldman...

    A man walks out to the street and manages to get a taxi just going by. He gets into the taxi, and the cabbie says, 'Perfect timing. You're just like Frank.'

    Passenger: 'Who?'

    Cabbie: 'Frank Feldman. He's a guy who did everything right all the time. Like my coming along when you needed a cab, things happened like that to Frank Feldman every single time.'

    Passenger: 'There are always a few clouds over everybody.'

    Cabbie: 'Not Frank Feldman. He was a terrific athlete. He could have won the Grand-Slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang like an opera baritone and danced like a Broadway star and you should have heard him play the piano. He was an amazing guy.'

    Passenger: 'Sounds like he was something really special.

    Cabbie: 'There's more... He had a memory like a computer. Could remember everybody's birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything. Not like me. I change a fuse, and the whole street blacks out. But Frank Feldman, he could do everything right.'

    Passenger: 'Wow, some guy then.'

    Cabbie: 'He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid traffic jams. Not like me, I always seem to get stuck in them. But Frank, he never made a mistake, and he really knew how to treat a woman and make her feel good. He would never answer her back even if she was in the wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes highly polished too - He was the perfect man! He never made a mistake. No one could ever measure up to Frank Feldman'

    Passenger: 'An amazing fellow. How did you meet him?'

    Cabbie: 'Well, I never actually met Frank, he died. I married his widow.'



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

    • Socio-Tea

      Discussion of the latest issue of Journal of Sociolinguistics.

      10:00am, MJH 126
    • Speech Lunch

      Kate Geenberg
      12pm, Linguistics Lab
    • Semantics and Pragmatics Workshop/
      Department Colloquium

      Dag Westerståhl (University of Göteborg)
      Decomposition and Compositionality

      3:30pm, MJH 126
    • Department Social

      Gourmet delights by the Social Committee

      5:00pm, in the Department Kitchen
    • UC Jazz @ Yoshi's

      Stephanie Shih is playing in the 8pm show [Students - $10]
      (The 10pm show will be the UC Jazz Big Band.)

      8:00pm, Yoshi's, at Jack London Square, Oakland
    • SocioRap

      Lauren Hall-Lew
      "Ethnicity and Phonetic Variation in a San Francisco Neighborhood"
      (Dissertation Proposal Talk)

      5:30pm, MJH 126
    • Tanner Lecture Discussion I

      Michael Tomasello (Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
      Carol Dweck (Stanford Psychology)
      Elizabeth Spelke (Harvard Psychology)

      10:00am, Landau Economics Bldg, SIEPR A
    • Tanner Lecture II

      Michael Tomasello (Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
      "Phylogenetic Origins of Human Collaboration"

      5:30pm, Levinthal Hall, Humanities Center
    • Socio-Tea


      10:00am, MJH 126
    • Tanner Lecture Discussion II

      Michael Tomasello (Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
      Joan Silk (UCLA Anthropology)
      Brian Skyrms (Stanford Philosophy)

      10:00am, Landau Economics Bldg, SIEPR A
    • Speech Lunch

      12pm, Linguistics Lab
    • UCSC Linguistics Colloquium

      Luis Vicente (University of Amsterdam)
      Verb fronting in Mandarin Chinese (joint work with Lisa Cheng)

      3:30-5:00pm, Humanities 1, Rm. 210, UCSC
    • Department Social

      Gourmet delights by the Social Committee

      4:00pm, in the Department Kitchen


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

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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 October 2008
    Vol. 5, Issue 5

    Sesquipedalian Staff

    Editor in Chief:
    Ivan A. Sag

    Alyssa Ferree

    Andrew Koontz-Garboden
    Dan Jurafsky

    Humor Consultant:
    Susan D. Fischer

    Assistant Editor:
    Richard Futrell

    Melanie Levin
    Kyle Wohlmut

    Read Shih Comics Here