Archive for the ‘Academic life’ Category

Fear of Twitter

January 28, 2013

Back at the beginning of this month, an invitation (with the header “3Q Twinterview”) in e-mail:

I’m sorry to bother you at a busy time of the year, but I wondered if you’d be interested in taking part in a really very short Twitter interview? I run the language/linguistics Twitter/Facebook pages for UCLan ( and and for 2013, I’m starting a monthly Mini Bios feature where I ask a famous linguist three questions and tweet the answers. If you are interested, there is one catch: due to the limitations of Twitter, each answer would need to be around fifty words, maximum.

Something of a nightmare prospect for me. Not just an interview, but one with extraordinarily tight space limitations. I do have a Twitter account, but have never used it, so that’s a graceful way out of this exercise.


On-line resources

January 15, 2013

For some years, I have been getting scans made of articles of mine, starting with often-requested pieces that appeared in out-of-the-way places. Typically, I would have a set of things scanned in and put on my website, and then almost immediately I’d get inquiries (usually from people in places with little access to good libraries) about further items. Ultimately, I put over a hundred things on my website, but leaving out some that I felt to be inconsequential or only of historical interest. And then in the past few days I’ve gotten requests for *two* of these items, from long ago:

Phonological constraints in syntactic descriptions. Papers in Linguistics 1.3.411-63 (1969)

On reported speech. Studies in Linguistic Semantics, ed. by D. Terence Langendoen & C. J. Fillmore. Holt, Rinehart and Winston (1971) 73-77.

It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone could have a pressing need for either of these, but I’ll do what I can. Some parts of the academic life are odd indeed.


The freshman seminar proposal

December 17, 2012

… by Elizabeth Traugott and Arnold Zwicky, for Winter Quarter 2014. (Freshman and Sophomore Seminars have to be on topics not already covered by regular courses, and the classes are deliberately small — typically, around 15 students tops.) This has to be approved by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, in brisk competition with other proposals from faculty members from all over the university, and then by the linguistics department, where it has to fit in with the year’s course offerings. No guarantee that it will happen.


Course preparation

September 28, 2012

At 3:30 this afternoon begins the first departmental colloquium of the year at Stanford, presentations of their work by five summer interns for 2012, including Melissa Carvell, on the Linguistics in the Comics project directed by Elizabeth Traugott and me. Melissa’s slides are available here; the link takes you to a file that needs to be downloaded to view.


Your future in academia

September 26, 2012

Passed on by Kathryn Campbell-Kibler on Facebook, this PHD Comics of the 19th:

Jorge Cham’s strips are usually wry but sweet-natured, as here. Beleagured grad students are the protagonists.

In this case, you’re invited to imagine other possible Secret Plans.



August 14, 2012

A SMBC cartoon, passed on by Lynne Murphy on Facebook, in three bites:

The set-up: revolution denialism.

Elaboration of the belief world.  And then:

The pay-off, in evolution denialism.

Chuck Fillmore

July 12, 2012

My old friend, and sometime colleague, Chuck Fillmore has gotten the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Computational Linguistics. From the International Computer Science Institute (in Berkeley CA) site:

[7/11/12] Professor Charles Fillmore, director of the FrameNet Project [at ICSI], was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association for Computational Linguistics at its annual meeting yesterday in Jeju, South Korea. The award is given each year for widely recognized, sustained, and enduring contributions to the field of computational linguistics. (link)

For health reasons, Chuck wasn’t able to travel to Korea, but he made a 41-minute video of his acceptance speech: a characteristically clear and charming account of his life’s work in linguistics, well worth viewing by anyone interested in the field. (Chuck wrote to friends a little while back about how hard it was to fashion this talk.)



June 16, 2012

In my life, 2012 is a 50th year for lots of things. Today is my 50th wedding anniversary, for example. And I joined the Linguistic Society America 50 years ago — also (so they informed me yesterday) the AAUP.



June 9, 2012

The latest (6/6/12) issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly reports (on p. 22) on the retirement of 11 faculty members, including two with a notable public presence (Cornel West in the Center for African American Studies and dark-matter proponent Jeremiah Ostriker in Astrophysical sciences) and two with whom I have a personal academic connection: Philip Johnson-Laird in Psychology (who was my colleague in Experimental Psychology at Sussex when I visited there in 1976 and 1977) and Seiichi Makino in East Asian studies (who was a student of mine at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, back in the 60s).

Pleasant memories.

What motivates academics?

May 28, 2012

Back on March 21st, a NYT story (in the Arts section) — “TV Digs Will Harm Patrimony, Scholars Say” by Bill Carter — on the tv show “American Digger”. Along the way, a common belief about academics and what motivates them.



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