Archive for the ‘Linguistic theory’ Category

Very briefly: Guide to Life in Linguistics

February 21, 2022

On the Language Typology mailing list this morning, a note from Grev Corbett:

A sobering question is “In ten years time, how many people in this linguistics class are going to care about the definition of phoneme, clitic or right node raising?” If the proportion is small, then a linguistics class can be invaluable in getting over messages which will matter in ten years time, such as:

– beware of arguments from authority
– respect the data
– don’t guess when you can measure
– beyond what we think we know there’s a seething mass of uncertainly and ignorance out there
– when we hit the ‘in-between’ cases, we don’t throw our toys out of the pram, but we try to understand the apparently clear cases better
– “…  the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not.” (Peter Medawar: Advice to a Young Scientist 1979 p. 39)

(You will note that these pieces of advice have a wider applicability than to linguistics.)


Presidents Day weekend in Berkeley

February 16, 2019

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.)


What’s become of derivations? Defaults and invocations

February 16, 2019

My paper from Berkeley Linguistics Society 15.303-20 (1989), which somehow escaped scanning for my Stanford website. So here it is…


What have you done with your life?

May 10, 2018

An innocent-sounding request a few days back, from a Daily Beast reporter on its lgbt beat: [I’m] “working on a series of interviews with unsung (or, at least undersung) LGBT heroes. … I’m wondering if you’d be interested in being interviewed about your contributions to linguistics?”

Two claims here: I’m a person of significance in a professional field, linguistics; I’m a person of significance in the lgbt world. I am now asked to defend these claims, to demonstrate that I have done important things in both these areas of my life.

Difficult fieldwork moments in the linguistics-lgbt interface

This is where I curl into a ball of misery, in two ways at once. What have I done with my life, that people should read about me? I’m very proud of what I’ve done, in the academic world and the lgbt world, but I’m not even remotely a magisterial figure, a Great Person, in either. Sigh.

Reflections on my academic work to come. There will be lists. Long lists. I can’t promise quality, but quantity I can deliver.


Syntax Wars: The Saga Continues

May 5, 2018

On the blog of (“the free and open forums on linguistics, language, and languages and the study thereof … operated by and for people interested in linguistics”), for Star Wars Day, 5/4 (May the Force), the playful “Syntax Wars: The Saga Continues”:


Interactions of phonological rules

April 13, 2017

Tomorrow’s colloquium in the Stanford Linguistics Department (3:30 in Margaret Jacks Hall, if you’re local and interested):

A set-theoretic typology of phonological map interaction, by Eric Baković, UC San Diego (with Lev Blumenfeld, Carleton University). Beginning of the abstract:

Theories of generative phonology assume that, in general, morphemes have unitary underlying representations and that systematic variations in the surface pronunciation of morphemes in different morphological contexts result from the application of a complex, context-sensitive transformation – a phonological grammar – to those underlying representations. A phonological grammar is thus a complex map from underlying representations to surface representations. Theories differ on the details of what the phonological grammar is comprised of, but it is commonly assumed that it can be broken down into a set of simpler maps – intuitively, individual phonological processes – that make particular changes in particular contexts.
The question we ask in this work is: what is the set of possible interactions among the individual maps that constitute a phonological grammar?