For Eve V. Clark

… two recent cartoons, one a Rhymes With Orange with a notable verbing of a noun, the other a One Big Happy with a child coping with an unfamiliar word:



These on the occasion of Eve’s retirement from Stanford, celebrated at a department party yesterday afternoon.

The cartoons.  On #1: in fairy tales, the princess in the tower tells her suitor knight that he must slay the dragon to gain her hand in marriage. Whoops, slay / sleigh. There’s the archaic or literary item slay ‘kill, murder’, and then there’s the innovative verbing sleigh ‘put into a sleigh, harness to a sleigh’. (The EVC link is to the Clark & Clark article in #4 below.)

On #2: punctuation  / punk situation. Ruthie being schoolmarmish to the rebellious neighbor boy James, who’s unfamiliar with the term punctuation and does his best to find familiar content in it. (The EVC link is to Eve’s work on child language acquisition, as in #5 below.)

As it happens, Eve was unaware of the One Big Happy strip, with its recurrent focus on children dealing, as best they can, with unfamiliar expressions, using their own lexical knowledge and what they can glean from the context in which they hear new expressions.

There’s a Page on this blog listing all my postings about the strip, but of course that includes a great many strips on topics other than children’s lexical knowledge. So I have promised Eve a retirement present: a complete set of my postings on Ruthie, Joe, James, and their lexical adventures.

Eve Vivienne Clark. A portrait of Eve, and then some of the documentary evidence: Clark & Clark 1979 on verbing; Eve on child language acquisition; the 2014 Festschrift for Eve; and Clark & Clark, An Introduction to Psycholinguistics, 1977:



Abstract for Clark & Clark, Lg 55.767-811 (1979)


Eve’s textbook, 3rd ed., 2016 (1st ed. 2003)


Festschrift for Eve (2014); note the multinational, multilingual list of editors


Clark & Clark 1977

The brief biography. From Wikipedia:

Eve V. Clark (born 26 July 1942) is a British-born American linguist. She earned her PhD in Linguistics in 1969, studying with John Lyons at the University of Edinburgh. She worked on the Language Universals Project at Stanford with Joseph Greenberg, and two years later, joined the Linguistics Department at Stanford University. She is currently the Richard Lyman Professor in the Humanities at Stanford.

Clark’s research focuses on first language acquisition, especially the acquisition of meaning. She has done extensive observational and experimental research. She has also worked on the acquisition and use of word-formation, including comparative studies of English and Hebrew in children and adults. Some of her current studies examine what children can learn about conventional ways to say things based on adult responses to child errors during acquisition. She has [also] studied the pragmatics of coining words.

Back when they were at Carnegie-Mellon (before Stanford), Herb and Eve were sagely advised by Herb Simon to pick distinct areas of psycholinguistics to pursue their scholarship and research in. Eve picked children, Herb adults, and they published only two things together: #4 and #7.

But of course each of them read and critiqued almost everything the other wrote, and they talked about their research essentially on a daily basis. As Herb remarked yesterday, this made it incredibly difficult for him to write his contribution to the Festschrift (#6) without tipping Eve off to the project; complex ruses were resorted to.

Though they divided psycholinguistics up into children and adults, their approaches to their research have much in common: both stress the interactional aspects of psycholinguistics, focusing on language as use as much as language as knowledge. The publisher’s blurb for the Festschrift:

Understanding how communicative goals impact and drive the learning process has been a long-standing issue in the field of language acquisition. Recent years have seen renewed interest in the social and pragmatic aspects of language learning: the way interaction shapes what and how children learn. In this volume, we bring together researchers working on interaction in different domains to present a cohesive overview of ongoing interactional research. The studies address the diversity of the environments children learn in; the role of para-linguistic information; the pragmatic forces driving language learning; and the way communicative pressures impact language use and change. Using observational, empirical and computational findings, this volume highlights the effect of interpersonal communication on what children hear and what they learn. This anthology is inspired by and dedicated to Prof. Eve V. Clark – a pioneer in all matters related to language acquisition – and a major force in establishing interaction and communication as crucial aspects of language learning.

Eve is celebrated as a teacher and mentor, and she also deserves recognition for enormous amounts of service to the linguistics profession (organizing Child Language Research Forums, services to the LSA and to granting agencies), Stanford (on university committees of all sorts, plus her work at Stanford’s Bing Nursery School), and our linguistics department (serving as chair and on virtually every department committee we have).

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