Presidents Day weekend in Berkeley

A bit of personal and intellectual history, having to do with the fact that there was a period of years when on the Friday before Presidents Day my husband-equivalent Jacques Transue and I would drive from Palo Alto to Berkeley for the annual meeting of the BLS, the Berkeley Linguistics Society, then held in Dwinelle Hall at UCB over the three-day weekend. (It has since moved its dates to less crowded times during winter quarter.)

Dwinelle Hall. A remarkable building. From Wikipedia:


Dwinelle Hall is the second largest building on the University of California, Berkeley campus. It was completed in 1952, and is named after John W. Dwinelle, who was the State Assemblyman responsible for the “Organic Act” that established the University of California in 1868. He was a member of the first Board of Regents. Dwinelle houses the departments of classics, rhetoric, linguistics, history, comparative literature, South and Southeast Asian studies, film studies, French, German, Italian studies, Scandinavian, Slavic languages, Spanish and Portuguese, and gender and women’s studies.

Although many myths surround the odd construction of the building, Dwinelle Hall was designed by Ernest E. Weihe, Edward L. Frick, and Lawrence A. Kruse, with Eckbo Royston & Williams, landscape artists. Construction was completed in 1953, with expansion completed in 1998. The southern block of Dwinelle Hall contains three levels of classrooms as well as four lecture halls, and the northern block houses seven stories of faculty and department offices.

… Dwinelle is frequently referred to as the “Freshman Maze” because of its confusing architecture. Soon after the building’s construction, according to author William Rodarmor, students would “enter Dwinelle in their freshman year and emerge, blinking in the sunshine, just in time for graduation.” As it was constructed on a slope, there are separate entrances to the building that connect directly to the first, second, third, and fourth floors. Classrooms require higher ceilings than offices, so the two wings’ floors do not match up. On every floor, there is a hallway or staircase to connect the classroom wing to the office wing, and it is possible, positioned in certain areas of the building, to view five staircases, two elevators, and four hallways.

Dwinelle is not far past the landmark Sather Gate, on the south side of campus. From Wikipedia:


Sather Gate is a prominent landmark separating Sproul Plaza from the bridge over Strawberry Creek, leading to the center of the University of California, Berkeley campus. The gate was donated by Jane K. Sather, a benefactor of the university, in memory of her late husband Peder Sather, a trustee of the College of California, which later became the University of California.

… Designed by John Galen Howard and built by Giovanni “John” Meneghetti in the Classical Revival Beaux-Arts style, Sather Gate was completed in 1910. Atop the gate are eight panels of bas-relief figures: four nude men representing the disciplines of law, letters, medicine, and mining, and four nude women representing the disciplines of agriculture, architecture, art, and electricity. They were sculpted by Professor Earl Cummins.

Originally, the gate served as the terminus of Telegraph Avenue, and marked the University’s south entrance. (The circle in front of the gate served as a turning point for the trolleys coming from Oakland.) The University later expanded further south of Strawberry Creek, and the gate is now well separated from Berkeley’s city streets by Sproul Plaza.

The Hotel Durant. Over the years, Jacques and I stayed at a variety of hotels and motels in the campus area — for a while, at the Shattuck Hotel, 2086 Allston Way, on the west side of the campus (now entirely renovated as the Hotel Shattuck Plaza), but eventually every year at at Hotel Durant, 2600 Durant Ave. (then engagingly tatty, now entirely renovated as the Graduate Berkeley), on the south side of the campus. From Wikipedia:


The Graduate Berkeley (Originally called the Hotel Durant or the Durant Hotel) is a historic boutique hotel located in Berkeley, California in the United States. It is located in downtown Berkeley, just off campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The hotel is listed on the Berkeley register of historic places.

… The hotel was built, in Spanish Colonial style, in 1928. It was designed by W. H. Weeks. It had 140 rooms and was both fire and earthquake resistant. It also had one of the first basement garages in the area.

It was named for Henry Durant [1802-75, the founding president of the University of California]. The bar, Henry’s Publick House, is also a tribute to him. When the hotel opened it was described as a “modern luxury hotel”.

A map, locating the hotel:

(#4) Sproul Plaza is at Telegraph Ave. (the north-going street in the center of the map) and Bancroft Way; Sather Gate isn’t marked, but you can see the blue of Strawberry Creek on the map; and Dwinelle Hall (marked on the map) is just northwest of the gate

AMZ at Berkeley. What I believe to be a complete list of the occasions I talked at Berkeley, divided into three periods:

UCB 1982*
BLS 1985**
BLS 1986
BLS 1987 (with G.K. Pullum)
UCB 1987
BLS 1989
UCB 1990
BLS 1991
BLS 1994
UCB 1995
BLS 2000
ICCG 2001***
BLS 2005

Notes. UCB indicates a talk for the linguistics department at Berkeley, BLS a talk at an annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (a student-run conference, first held in 1975).

1982* was an invited talk at Berkeley during the year I was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t recall anything at all about it: what its topic was, who was in the audience (it probably included Chuck Fillmore, George Lakoff, Larry Hyman, Paul Kay, Dan Slobin, and Yakov Malkiel, but I don’t know for sure), whether it found its way into print, whatever.

1985** — “How to describe inflection” — was, I think, also an invited talk, but at the BLS; in any case, it came not long after Ann Daingerfied Zwicky’s death, and provided an occasion for me to flee to California to escape a brutal winter and also allay my grief, away from the scene of Ann’s and my life together — leaving Jacques to cope with everything back in Columbus.

In December of that year, J and I began our annual migrations from Columbus (leaving to go west on December 15th) to Palo Alto (leaving to go back east on March 15th) for winter quarter at Stanford. So 1986 was the first year of our new winter life in California, and my February 1986 BLS paper was the first of a 10-year (1986-95) period of regular involvement with Berkeley. I’ll talk briefly below about this paper, “The general case: basic form versus default form” (Berkeley Linguistics Society, 1986), urging a conceptualization of defaults and overrides rather than basic and derived forms; it was one of the first papers, possibly the very first, in which I identified myself as affiliated with “Ohio State University and Stanford University”. (I then followed this paper up in my 1989 BLS paper “What’s become of derivations? Defaults and invocations”.)

By the time I talked at Berkeley in 1995, J was visibly devastated by (radiation-caused) dementia; we had an otherwise pleasant lunch with Chuck Fillmore in Berkeley — J had once been a student of Chuck’s as well as mine at Ohio State — that was marred by Chuck’s deep distress at witnessing J’s state (Chuck was one of the world’s nicest people, in addition to being a crack linguist).

That was the end of the Berkeley Period. In 1998 we moved permanently to California, with J going into a dementia care facility in Menlo Park. Only three more visits to Berkeley, all on my own: two (2000 and 2005) to give papers at the BLS, plus ICCG***, the (First) International Conference on Construction Grammar, held in Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall in 2001; see the handout for my 2001 ICCG talk on “Radical constructionism”.

The 2000 paper revisited my 1985 BLS paper: see the handout for my 2000 BLS talk (in the version presented later at Stanford) on “Describing syncretism: Rules of referral after fifteen years”.

The 2005 paper — see the handout for my presentation “Gonna, Auxiliary Reduction, and two modules of syntactic organization” — posited two modules of constructions in language (labeled neutrally M1 and M2 in that paper), interacting in such a way that M2 overrides M1. This is a revisiting of a conceptual distinction in an earlier paper of mine; see the handout for my 1999 Forum Lecture at the LSA’s Linguistic Institute, on “The grammar [M1] and the user’s manual [M2]”.

BASI vs. DEFO. Two introductory passages from the 1986 paper (apologies for the crude formatting of the time):

(#5) The BASI conceptualization, central in descriptions of syntax, morphology, and phonology in the generative tradition

(#6) The DEFO conceptualization, which I enthusiastically recommended for syntax and morphology in this paper

(Then more in my 1989 paper.)

A significant part of this paper was taken up with what I call shape alternations in phonology (largely in connection with Welsh mutations); I was still wrestling with this concept in 1986, and I’m not done with it yet — I taught a seminar on it in 2007, one of my last courses at Stanford. Here’s a brief post-1986 statement, from my “Some choices in the theory of morphology” (Levine, Formal Grammar, 1992), where it follows a lengthy and intricate discussion of (inflectional) forms of lexemes (lexeme SING, BSE form sing, PRP form singing, PSP form sung, PST form sang, PRS forms sings (3-SG), sing (otherwise)):

(#7) Related to what has been labeled, in other contexts, external sandhi, phrase phonology, postlexical phonology, and precompiled lexical phonology, inter alia

Intellectual acquaintanceships. In an academic life, with any luck you’ll have a number of close intellectual friendships, people you regularly exchange ideas with. Some will be frequent collaborators in publication (in my case, Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, Jerry Sadock, Geoff Pullum), but others will just be partners in thinking and talking (among these for me, Jim McCawley, Barbara Partee, Dwight Bolinger, Ilse Lehiste, Chuck Fillmore, Ivan Sag, Elizabeth Traugott, Tom Wasow).

Beyond these are colleagues l think of as  intellectual acquaintances, people I occasionally, maybe glancingly, engage with in an atmosphere of mutual respect and interest. I had several of these acquaintanceships at Berkeley, two of which I’ll talk about here — one because it still strikes me as remarkable, the other because it has only recently ended in my acquaintance’s death.

The first is with Yakov Malkiel, a fabulously meticulous scholar of Romance philology, also celebrated for his intricate and convoluted prose style. From Wikipedia:

Yakov Malkiel (July 22, 1914 – April 24, 1998) was a U.S. (Russian-born) Romance etymologist and philologist. His specialty was the development of Latin words, roots, prefixes, and suffixes in modern Romance languages, particularly Spanish. He was the founder of the journal Romance Philology.

Malkiel was born in Kiev to a Russian-Jewish family, and was brought up and educated in Berlin, after the Russian Civil War. Despite an early interest in literature, he ended up studying linguistics at the Humboldt University of Berlin, then known as the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität. Being a Jew in 1930s Germany was an obstacle to his education, but one he was able to overcome; his family finally emigrated to the United States in 1940.

After two years unemployed in New York, Malkiel accepted a one-term appointment at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. In 1943, he was offered an initially temporary position at the University of California, Berkeley, which later was converted to a permanent professorship; Malkiel remained there until his retirement in 1983, teaching in the departments of Spanish and (later) Linguistics. He married María Rosa Lida de Malkiel [1910–62], a philologist and literary critic from Argentina, in 1948.

In early visits to Berkeley, when J and I stayed at the Hotel Shattuck, we would come across Yakov at a nearby breakfast spot, eating alone but always engaged with some academic task. J wondered whether we should ask him to join us, but the age difference (Yakov was just a few months younger than my father) and the sense of solitary self-containment that enveloped Yakov (though I knew that even after all those years, he still mourned for Rosa Lida) kept us from approaching him.

He was probably at my 1982 paper and was certainly at my 1986 one, where he added some Romance data in a public comment and then some more in conversation afterwards (he had relevant Romance data at his fingertips for almost every purpose). He then turned up at virtually every paper I gave at Berkeley, eventually confiding to me that he hardly ever went to BLS meetings but he tried to get to every paper of mine. I was incredibly flattered, and still am. The man was a model of European charm and mind-boggling erudition, mostly on topics far from mine, though he occasionally ventured into things like irreversible binomials (hot and heavy / ??heavy and hot). Mostly, he was attracted to intriguing linguistic data, of all kinds, and that we shared.

Then, Sue Ervin-Tripp. First, the summary Wikipedia version:

Susan Moore Ervin-Tripp (born Susan Moore Ervin; June 29, 1927 in Minneapolis, MN [died Nov. 13, 2018 in Oakland, CA]) is an American psycholinguist and is currently a professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. She has conducted research on child language acquisition and bilingualism among children and has made contributions to the fields of linguistics, psychology, child development, sociology, anthropology, rhetoric, and women’s studies.

Then from the Berkeley News story of 11/28/18 by Yasmin Anwar, “Susan Ervin-Tripp, pioneering psycholinguist and feminist, dies at 91”:

(#8) Smiling, but a more characteristic expression would have been an open-mouthed guffaw

Susan Ervin-Tripp, a psycholinguist acclaimed for her pioneering studies of bilingualism and language development in children, native Americans and immigrants, died earlier this month in Oakland from complications of an infected cut. She was 91.

A widely cherished UC Berkeley professor emerita of psychology and an early advocate for gender equity in academia, Ervin-Tripp remained intellectually, socially and politically active after she retired in 1999, and right up until her death on Nov. 13.

… Ervin-Tripp’s husband of 54 years, Robert Tripp, is a professor emeritus of physics at UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Her passions included family, food, art and music, said her younger son, Nico Tripcevich, a laboratory manager at UC Berkeley’s Archaeological Research Facility. [She raised three children.]

Tough, resourceful, outspoken, and very funny. My last BLS exchange with Sue was a laughing lament for the two of us on the financially ruinous attractions of Berkeley’s bookstores just up the street from the meetings. (The time before that was about the world of Committees on the Status of Women in X, for various values of X.)

On death notices. My death notices on this blog are now rarely about people from a generation (20-25 years) older than mine; those people are mostly gone. Increasingly, they’re about people in my cohort, within a few years of me. Or, like Sue, from the academic generation (10-15 years) older than mine.

One Response to “Presidents Day weekend in Berkeley”

  1. [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky looks back, on President’s Day at Berkeley, at his experiences and those of others around him at […]

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