Archive for the ‘Linguists’ Category

OUTiL: a historical note

October 23, 2019

For LGBT History Month, some notes on a little piece of that history in linguistics, in the loose network of academic acquaintanceship that formed at the Linguistic Institute at UC Santa Cruz in the summer of 1991: OUT in Linguistics, OUTiL, OUTIL (the abbreviation pronounced /áwtǝl/, through some wags joked about its being French outil /uti/ ‘tool’, with the expected sexual slang use). A notice went out on the Institute mailing list for an informal social gathering of the new group, with a characterization that then varied, from occasion to occasion, in its list of invitees; a version from several years later:

The group is open to lesbian, gay, bisexual, dyke, queer, homosexual, trans, etc. linguists and their friends. The only requirement is that you be willing to be out to everyone on the list as lgbt(-friendly); it’s sort of like wearing a pink triangle.

This was at a Linguistic Institute, so no one was fussy about who counted as a linguist; if you wanted to hang out with rest of us for the summer, you were welcome. Just so with OUTiL; if you wanted to hang out with the rest of us for an hour or two, you were welcome. OUTiL, however, was primarily social, and that was an excellent thing, especially at the time.

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The C.L. Baker Award

July 24, 2019

On March 6th, the Linguistic Society of America announced the creation of the C.L. Baker Award (named in memory of Carl Leroy Baker, known as Lee), and on July 12th put out the call for nominations.

Lee, who died in 1997, was my first Ph.D., the first person to finish a Ph.D. under my direction, with the excellent 1968 dissertation Indirect Questions in English (at the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). Also a friend and a fine person (modest, gently humorous, earnestly principled, and humane).

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A bit more reaping

June 29, 2019

Just one day after a particularly fine Rhymes With Orange cartoon combining the Desert Island cartoon meme and the Grim Reaper meme — in my 6/27 posting “The Desert Island Reaper” — came a Wayno/Piraro Bizarro with a groaner Grim Reaper pun:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

The figure of the Grim Reaper — the bringer of death — as a window-washer, removing — destroying — the grime on the windows of a high-rise building, with the blade of his scythe replaced by a window-washer’s squeegee.

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The thread drifted in my direction

February 5, 2019

Conversations typically drift in topic, as one thing suggests another. (Occasionally, the conversation is reset when one of the participants introduces a new topic or external events intrude with fresh things to talk about.) On-line threads similarly drift, sometimes in unexpected directions.

Case in point. I posted enthusiastically on this blog (with links elsewhere) about John McIntyre’s book The Old Editor Says: Maxims for Writing and Editing (2/2/19, “The crusty old editor speaks”), and John then noted my review on Facebook. I expected the Facebook discussion to continue with more observations about John’s little book, but since my name had entered the thread, several commentators shifted the topic to me. Whoa!

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Lessons from the English Auxiliary System

January 18, 2019

The title of a remarkable paper in Journal of Linguistics 55.1 (Feb. 2019) — published on-line on 1/3/19 — by an international panel of 11 authors, realizing a plan of the senior author, my Stanford colleague Ivan Sag, who died in 2013 before the project could be completed.

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Books of the year

December 9, 2018

… in the Economist‘s 12/1 issue,”Books of the year: The big read”, (p. 76), in the Culture category: 6 books selected, including:

The Prodigal Tongue. By Lynne Murphy. Penguin Books; 368 pages; $17. Oneworld, £16.99.

The first and perhaps only book on the merits of American and British English that is dominated by facts and analysis rather than nationalistic prejudice. For all its scholarship, this is also a funny and rollicking read.

And in “The Economist’s journalists unbound: A short hstory of moonlighting: Here are the books our writers published in 2008” (p. 77):

Talk on the Wild Side: The Untameable Nature of Language. By Lane Greene. Economist Books/Hachette; 240 pages; $26. Profile Books: £14.99.

Our Johnson columnist argues that English is a living organism; language rules are often preferences in disguise. “He is open-minded and discerning,” the Spectator said; “no zealot and no snob.”

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A book for the professor

October 22, 2018

On Facebook yesterday, this message from the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Linguistics and the Humanities at Stanford University, my excellent colleague John R. Rickford:

Last night (Oct. 20), I experienced one of the most moving, memorable events of my academic career! After giving a keynote talk at the 47th annual conference on New Ways of Analyzing Variation in language, at New York University, I was presented with a festschrift (book) containing 47 articles and 9 vignettes by faculty colleagues and former students from around the world. It was a surprise gift to mark my retirement (last Stanford class is Jun 2019). Tears flooded my eyes more than once, beginning with the moment I saw all 4 of our children and 6 grandchildren in the huge audience, and ending with editors Renee Blake and Isa Buchstaller presenting me with four bound pre-print volumes and the contributors and family members coming on stage. The book, entitled “The Roundtable Companion to John Russell Rickford,” will be about 588 pages when printed (May 2019). This was truly one of those life-moments that “take your breath away.”

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The Warren Cowgill student fellowship

October 16, 2018

Press release on the 2nd from the Linguistic Society of America, “New Diversity Fellowship Established in Honor of Warren Cowgill”, beginning:

The LSA is delighted to announce that the family of deceased (1985) LSA member Warren Cowgill (Yale University) has established a new endowment to support a student fellowship serving historically under-represented scholars wishing to attend the LSA’s Linguistic Institute.

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The Rickford plenary address

October 2, 2018

Tomorrow at Stanford, John Rickford is doing a dry run for his plenary address at the NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) conference later this month:

Class and Race in the Analysis of Language Variation and the Struggle for Social Justice: Sankofa
John R. Rickford, Stanford University
Abstract for NWAV-47 plenary, NYU, 10/20/18

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DJ is chaired at Stanford!

June 16, 2018

Yesteday’s hot news from my little corner of academia, a message from my Stanford linguistics colleague Beth Levin announcing that

Dan Jurafsky … has just been appointed to an endowed chair, the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professorship in the Humanities.

Margaret Jacks Hall was thronged with well-endowed celebrants bearing chairs and singing paeans to the law and the American banking system, bringing to conclusion not only the month of Ramadan but also an extraordinarily crowded season of doctoral debuts (some of which I will report on in other postings).

In the midst of this, excited buzz — like the murmuring of innumerable bees — over the verbing of chair in the sense (roughly) ‘to award a named professorship to’.

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