Archive for the ‘Academic life’ Category

Academic purity

January 18, 2014

This xkcd:

Academic rankings. Famously dismissive. Linguistics is presumably over there with sociology.

Question period

June 17, 2013

A Steve Macone cartoon from the New Yorker, in “The Questions Academics Ask: Conference Edition” on Allan Johnson’s blog The Art of Academic Practice:

Johnson: “Macone’s cartoon perfectly captures one of the several strange things that can happen during a conference Q&A.”

(Hat tip to Lauren Hall-Lew.)


Briefly noted: endorsements for skills or expertise

May 20, 2013

LinkedIn tells me every so often about endorsements I’ve received for skills or expertise, from friends, colleagues, former students, and readers of my blogs (about 30 of them so far). For:

Teaching, Linguistics, Academic Writing, Research, Computational Linguistics, Higher Education, Natural Language Processing, Courses, Text Mining, Theory, University Teaching

Teaching figures prominently. I must say that’s gratifying.

I’m not at all sure what these endorsements mean, but it’s always nice to be recognized for your abilities and accomplishments.


What do Linguists do?

March 12, 2013

Passed on to me by Peter Lasersohn on Facebook, this entry (“What do Linguists do?”) from the InsideJobs site (on this site, all job titles are capitalized), which is headed:


Also known as Army Linguist, Cryptologic Linguist, Scientific Linguist

(Notice that the site manages to put together linguist in all of its senses.)


Emily Flake

February 7, 2013

Having posted one Emily Flake cartoon (on decimate, here), I thought to check out some of her other work. (That’s her real name, by the way.) Mostly focused on situations rather than language, but here are three varied examples of interest to me.



February 1, 2013

After seeing myself cited repeatedly as the source of

Zwicky’s Law, which states categorically that
 “The more irrelevant garbage you put into a sentence, the better it sounds.”

I pondered. This is from this source, but all the cites go back to John Lawler. The sentiment is one I’ve expressed several times (in connection with grammaticality judgments on specific sentences), though not in fact categorically, and usually light-heartedly, but I didn’t recognize this wording, and couldn’t find the source. So I wrote John to pin the thing down. Turns out it’s Linguists’ Lore.


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.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 851 other followers