Archive for the ‘Linguists’ Category

Stanford news: the Sunday NYT

January 22, 2015

Two Stanford linguistics stories in the Sunday (January 18th) New York Times: Tyler Schnoebelen at the American Dialect Society meetings, Will Leben on product naming.


Emmon Bach

December 6, 2014

On Language Log yesterday, an obituary for Emmon Bach (6/12/29 – 11/29/14) by Barbara Partee. Briefly: Emmon was born in Japan, gew up in Fresno CA and Boulder CO, finished a Ph.D. in Germanic Studies at Chicago, went on to German and then Linguistics at UTexas-Austin and ultimately to a long career at UMass-Amherst, and retired to an appointment at SOAS (University of London) and then at Oxford.

From Barbara:

As the Oxford linguists write, “Emmon was one of the brightest and most influential figures in formal semantics, and was also well known for his work on morphology and North American languages [notably those of British Columbia].  He also continued to do innovative research on morphology and semantics”

Now a few more personal notes.


Lives well lived

November 21, 2014

I am currently dithering over writing a death notice for my Stanford colleague Patrick Suppes (philosopher and more), who died recently after a long and immensely satisfying career. Mostly I’m hoping that Margalit Fox will produce one of her elegant and thoughtful obits for the New York Times, so that I can piggy-back on that. [Added a few hours later: Drat! Fox tells me she’s on leave from the paper, working on her next book, so no Foxobits for a while.]

While I dither, a few notes on recently-ended lives well lived (Mike Nichols, Milton Rubin, and San Francisco’s Brown twins), and on Fox, who is, yes, a card-carrying linguist.


Family, language, and food in the New Yorker

November 4, 2014

The November 3rd New Yorker (“The Food Issue”) has two pieces connected, by family relationships, to “linguistics and the language sciences” (as we say in the AAAS): Adam Gopnik’s Our Local Correspondents piece “Bakeoff: What is happening to our pastry?” and Dana Goodyear’s Letter from California piece “Élite Meat: A food entrepreneur offers a delicious — but pricey — solution for guilty pleasures”, about meat entrepreneur Anya Fernald. The former leads us to McGill linguist Myrna Gopnik (mother of Adam) and Berkeley psychologist, specializing in cognitive and language development, Alison Gopnik (sister of Adam); and the latter to Stanford psychologist, specializing in infant-directed speech, Anne Fernald (mother of Anya).


Geoff Leech

August 30, 2014

Died on August 19th, linguist Geoffrey Leech of Lancaster University (in the UK). The quick overview from Wikipedia:

Geoffrey Neil Leech (16 January 1936 – 19 August 2014) was a specialist in English language and linguistics. He was the author, co-author or editor of over 30 books and over 120 published papers. His main academic interests were English grammar, corpus linguistics, stylistics, pragmatics and semantics.

A nice notice on Language Log by Ben Zimmer on the 20th, emphasizing the importance of Geoff’s work in corpus linguistics.


Linguist in the media

May 13, 2014

In the SundayReview section of the NYT on the 11th (in print), an interview by Kate Murphy with my friend and colleague Dan Jurafsky. The lead-in:

Daniel Jurafsky is a professor of linguistics and computer science at Stanford. He teaches a popular freshman seminar course called “The Language of Food,” which is also the title of his forthcoming book.

These Sunday interviews are all a single column (on p. 2), with some fixed topics and some designed for the interviewee’s experiences, opinions, and enthusiasms.


Bibliographic query

April 15, 2014

Recently, mail from my friend and occasional co-author Philip Miller (Univ.of Paris Diderot – Paris 7), about my former student Nancy S. Levin, whose 1979 Ohio State dissertation (Main-Verb Ellipsis in Spoken English) was published by Garland Press in 1986). Philip admired the work, and I’m very proud of it.

Unfortunately, Nancy left the academic world some years ago, and I’ve lost track of her. If anyone can help me (and Philip) get in touch with her, we’d appreciate that.

Meanwhile, Philip is hoping to get a copy of Nancy’s 1978 Chicago Linguistics Society paper “Some identity of sense deletions puzzle me. Do they you?”. I have a copy of the volume, but in a place where at the moment I’m not able to get to it. If anyone could supply him with one, that would be wonderful. Mail him at to discuss arrangements.

I’ll post this query to the Linguist List as well as here.

[Added 4/16/14: The wonders of the net. First, from one reader I got a possible line on Nancy Sue Levin, which I need to check out; it could be someone else with this name. Second, another reader had the volume with the article Philip was looking for, copied it, and sent the copy on to Philip. All this before I got to posting to the Linguist List.

Many thanks to these two readers.]


April 12, 2014

Congratulations to Mark Aronoff of Stony Brook NY (professor of linguistics at Stony Brook University) and Arienne Dwyer of Lawrence KS (professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Kansas), 2014 fellows of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (announced in the NYT of the 10th).

Faint damns, faint praises

March 6, 2014

On Facebook on the 4th, this charming story from Sally Thomason:

Back in about 1964, when I was in graduate school at Yale, I was moaning and groaning during one of our regular tea-time gatherings about a test I thought I’d blown in Warren Cowgill’s Indo-European class. Warren listened fairly patiently for a bit and then starting saying almost inaudibly, “damn damn damn damn damn damn.” I stopped complaining and asked him what on earth he was doing. “I’m praising you with faint damns,” he said. — Fast forward to today: Rich [Thomason, Sally’s husband] just showed me p. 206 of a fantasy novel he’s reading, Point of Hopes, by Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett: “That Rathe seemed to think well of him, or at least to praise him with faint damns, was something of a reassurance…”. Probably the authors weren’t plagiarizing from Warren, because I know they weren’t in the Linguistics tea room on the third floor of the Hall of Graduate Studies in 1964. (Probably Warren wasn’t the first person to have said this either, of course. But this is only the second time I’ve heard it.)

I noted this an inversion of damning with faint praise and suggested that it was older that Warren Cowgill’s use. (I also missed Warren, who died in 1985.) Now some details. (more…)

Chuck Fillmore

February 14, 2014

From Amy Dahlstrom on Facebook today:

Charles Fillmore died yesterday at age 84 after a long battle with cancer. A brilliant linguist, especially in the field of lexical semantics, who influenced so many of us Berkeley students and colleagues elsewhere. He was sweet and funny and loving, and deeply devoted to [his wife, Berkeley linguist] Lily Wong Fillmore. The loss of my Doktorvater feels like the loss of a parent.

Knowing that this was in the cards, I posted a while back about my beloved friend and colleague Chuck, along with a link to a wonderful video he made about his career in 2012.

A photo:


Sorely missed.


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