Saturday, December 8, 2012
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Friday, November 9, 2012
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Scott and I have a formal project that we hope to have complete by early next year. So I'm sure there'll be some overlapping posts as both sites soon...
Monday, October 29, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
If you do not have institutional access, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will be happy to share.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Most undergraduate linguistics majors will not become professional linguists. That's a good thing. The job market is tough enough as it is :-) But I want to write about what skills these undergraduates get that can apply to the other domains of their life in a way that is relevant. Hopefully, this can be part of a series. But I want to make sure I cover what I think is the most important piece of an linguistics undergrad's education-- phonology.
Linguistic undergraduates struggle the most with phonology. I know that there are certainly individual exceptions or perhaps larger groups that excel, but overall I suspect that your average undergraduate struggles the most in phonology. Why?
I think it is a complicated question, but the hypothesis I've come up with doesn't necessarily paint a pretty picture for the state of undergraduate education globally. I think phonology requires a level of comfort with dealing with the unfamiliar that students simply aren't receiving elsewhere. Students struggle with phonology because there are typically multiple paths to the correct answer; they must create, analyze and evaluate each of these paths. Individually, these are skills that students develop elsewhere-- it is tying them all together that seems so problematic.
Also, because there are often multiple paths, there are can be multiple "correct" answers. Or, at the very least, fundamentally different answers on a scale of "correct". This is a huge challenge for students used to a call and response style of education.
Overall, I think linguistics does a good job globally of developing these skills. But I believe it is particularly pronounced in phonology. I've taught or am teaching an undergraduate course on every major subarea except phonetics. All of them have something unique and important to offer, no class in a linguistics program is unnecessary or not useful. But I will take syntax (though semantics could work as well) as a comparison.
Syntax and phonology pedagogy share a lot in common. Typically, students deal with an increasingly challenging set of problems over the course of a term and with each set and accompanying discussion they develop the (toy) framework developed in the course. So, we could ask what makes them different?
To my mind, because Syntax has so much accompanying formalism and theoretic grounding homework problems and other exercises tend to be more like high schools math problems. There is a straightforward mechanism for solving the problem. There is a limited set of correct answers. Sure, syntax instructors normally throw an open-ended challenge problem or two at students, but a student can easily pass syntax by just learning how to properly apply the principles learned in class. (Not that this is necessarily EASY. Nor is it unimportant by any stretch.)
But how does this compare to phonology? When I teach phonology and when I have seen it taught the formalism tends to be much more minimal than what is required in Syntax. Many instructors (myself included) stick with formalism out of SPE. Others cover OT as well-- but even then, there is considerably less formal "baggage" (for lack of a better word). Students more or less get all the formalism they will need within the first few weeks (obviously, the formalism advances throughout the course as well but at a much slower pace). Students are essentially asked to do a lot more with a lot less. The burden of advancing their understanding comes not so much from lecture, but from solving problems themselves.
So while there is typically only one correct way to draw a syntactic tree (barring ambiguity), there may be multiple paths to deriving a allophonic distribution. Typically there is one "best" path (though not always).The challenge to the student is to develop these paths and evaluate them. This is not easy. And students often come in complacent in the idea that just applying some principles should be sufficient. It isn't.
For every proposed solution we have (in phonology, in life). We must always compare the alternatives and evaluate them appropriately. This idea seems to terrify students when they first walk into a phonology class. Though, I'm very glad that they walk in. I wish more would.
Monday, August 13, 2012
It has been far too long since I've posted here. I've been in Norman for a bit under two weeks now and am starting to feel settled in. Classes start next week and I am raring to go on those! I'm teaching some courses outside of my usual area and I think it is going to be a challenging but very rewarding term. I'll be teaching Psycholinguistics, Phonology and Intro (all undergraduate). It's going to be a really fun term.
I get back to the comforts of morpho-syntax in the Spring with Syntax II and Morphology (along with another Intro). All in all, I think it will be a great year.
The campus is absolutely gorgeous-- though, I'm still trying to get my bearings. My attempts at exploration have been a bit stymied by the heat. You'd think that a Tucson boy would no how to handle it....
Now that I'm getting settled, I'll be updating the site and posting a bit more often. I've got some new research to post and a few teaching posts that have been bouncing around my head.
Check back soon, there's definitely some new exciting stuff coming!
Sunday, April 29, 2012
I have accepted a temporary position at the University of Oklahoma for the coming academic year. I am very excited about this opportunity. I think it is going to be an excellent place for me to be. So if you are coming through Norman next year... give me a ring.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Overall, it was a fantastic experience! Thanks to everyone who participated!
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
1:00 Alvaro Cerrón-Palomino: "Resumption in Spanish Relative Clauses:
Why Subjects are Different"
1:45 Elly van Gelderen: "Psych-verbs in the history of English"
2:10 Patsy Hansel: "Code Choice in the Spanish as a Foreign Language
2:35 Claire Renaud: "A processing investigation of the gender feature
in second language acquisition: Evidence from Spanish and French"
3:05 Jing Xia: “Rhetorical Invention in the Understanding of Research
Topic Selection: Prospects and Problems”
3:30 Coffee Break
3:50 Robert LaBarge: “vP-Shell, θ-Structure, and UG Implications in
4:15 James Berry: “Cyclical Renewal of Adverbs and Adpositions”
4:40 Dave Medeiros: TBA
5:05 Jeff Punske: "What nominalization can tell us about regularity"
Immediately following: Potluck/Department party at Andy and Adam’s house
Friday, April 13, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
As you know, I am wrapping up the final elements before I file my dissertation. I recently wrote my acknowledgments without much care to the fact that I would be limited to a single page. Of course, if I were truly to acknowledge everyone it would roughly equal the dissertation in length. But still, even in my attempt at modesty, I wrote 3x the accepted amount.
Eventually, I will have to cut this down. But this is who I want to thank and how I want to thank them, so I want to share that. And frankly, I will probably cheat in the final document and refer people to more complete version.
UPDATE: I, of course, neglected people in the original. I have updated this to include more folks. I'm sure some still are left off. This is so much harder than it looks.
A dissertation is not a work of individual effort. Though, only my name is listed as an author, there are so many other people who have contributed to this work directly or indirectly and supported me in the ways that made it possible. These pages are an attempt to acknowledge and thank those people, though understand it is impossible to list everyone or to thank those listed enough.
I would like to begin by thanking the graduate students (present and past), staff and professors in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona. All of you have been my family for the last several years. In particular I would like to thank, in no particular order, Simin Karimi, Heidi Harley, Andrew Carnie, Andy Barss, Adam Ussishkin, Amy Fountain, Mike Hammond, Diana Archangeli, Cecil McKee, Diane Ohala, Mary Willie, Ofelia Zepeda, Janet Nicol, Natasha Warner, Andy Wedel, Tom Bever, Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, Amy LaCross, Lindsay Butler, Jessamyn Schertz, Dan Siddiqi, Scott Jackson, Maggie Camp, Dave Mederios, Jeff Witzel, Leila Lomashvili, Bob Kennedy, Michael Anderson, Mans Hulden, Carly Tex, Jordan Brewer, Erin Good, Polly O’Rourke, Sumayya Racy, Peter Richtsmeier, Yosuke Sato, Angelina Serratos, Shannon Bischoff, Cathy Hicks-Kennard, Alina Twist, Jason Haugen, Erin O’Bryan, Colleen Fitzgerald, Gregory Anderson, Dane Bell, Rolando Soto, Andréa Davis, Jeff Berry, Dan Brenner, Ethan Dickinson, Emma Ehrhart, Julia Fischer, Kara Hawthorne, Colin Gorrie, Alan Hogue, Alex Trueman, Elly Zimmer, Samantha Wray, Miriam Diaz, Mercedes Tubino, Brecht Welch, Maureen Hoffman, Keisha Josephs, Hyung Kyoung Jung, Greg Key, Emily Kidder, Kenne Likkel, Lio, Mathieu, Jorge Muriel, Jaime Parchment, Jaehoon Choi, Kevin Schluter, Megan Stone, Jae-Hyun Sung, Deniz Tat and Sylvia Reed. I discuss many of these individuals in more detail. But I wanted to provide such a long list here to illustrate my point of how this is not an individual effort. And this is but a mere subset of the total people involved.
I would be extremely remiss to forget to mention Marian Wisely, Jennifer Columbus and Kimberly Young. Marian is a source of light and joy in the department. She can almost always be counted on to cheer you up when you are down or to knock you down a peg when you are getting too high on yourself. She’s great. She’s always ready to go to bat for you and she’s an endless source of knowledge and spirit. Kimberly is a rock star. She’s helpful and joyful in what she does.
Through this all, I owe most of this work to Simin Karimi, my far too gracious advisor. Simin has stood by me as I struggled to precisify a dissertation topic. She helped me manage to process of going from the dissertation that I thought I wanted to write into the dissertation that I actually wanted to write. She is funny. She is kind. She is prompt. One would be hard pressed to find a better advisor.
In many ways, Heidi Harley was advisor B. In many ways this work most closely reflects my vision of Heidi’s work. This was quite the transition for me. I entered into Heidi’s morphology and lexical semantics classes highly resistant to idea that Distributed Morphology had much going for it. Now, I have written a dissertation in that framework. I view that as a testament to Heidi as a teacher and as a scholar. But Heidi is so much more than that, she is truly a person to be admired. Despite all of her brilliance and all of the amazing work she does, she finds time for all of her students and she finds time to have fun. Occasionally, she even finds time to truck across the galaxy with me. Go get’em, Big Rig!
Andrew Carnie might be the single most important person in my education as a linguist. Andrew was my mentor through my undergraduate years and he was the person who pushed me the most during my graduate years. Andrew is exacting and honest. He is the perfect mentor. Besides being a great professor, mentor and colleague, I like to consider Andrew a friend. Andrew certainly helped feed my board gaming addiction which was absolutely necessary for my survival in grad school.
Andy Barss is a legend. Working with Andy is an amazing experience. The wealth of knowledge that he holds is probably unparalleled in the field. I truly believe this. His ability to recall critical arguments from obscure sources and blend them into a coherent theoretic picture is a sight that must be seen to be believed. Whenever I was stuck on a particular jarring issue, I’d always go to Andy. Without exception, Andy would set me on the course that find the answer.
Richard Larson was my most challenging committee member (and I mean this in a very good way). Never would he let me get away with a theoretic assumption for the sake of the analysis, he pressed me very hard. He made me a better-rounded linguist. It was truly a privilege and an honor to get the opportunity to work with him.
All together, my committee formed an amazing team. Whenever I am asked, “who was your advisor?” I, of course, say Simin but often I feel the need to say that I really had a whole committee working for me. Every single member of my committee went well above the call of duty for me. Everyone one of them deserves every ounce to gratitude I can offer. When I’m asked next who my advisor was, I might offer this as a response: “Larson-Barss-Carnie-Harley with Simin Karimi leading the charge.”
Outside of my committee members there are several faculty members I need to thank for their individual efforts. First, there is Adam Ussishkin who led me through the undergraduate-to-graduate transition and taught me a lot about how to be a professional linguist. Amy Fountain who taught me how to blend teaching and research and gave me a sounding board and a cookie whenever times were tough. Mike Hammond who taught me how to find balance. Diana Archangeli who taught me how to be a professional. Diane Ohala whose unrelenting kindness was always a joy and who gave me the space I needed to get this work done. And finally, Natasha Warner who taught me how to balance my teaching and service needs with my research. There are many others who did many things along the way. I wish I could list them all but this acknowledgment section is already pushing the bounds of tastefulness.
The students who have inspired or helped me are simply too numerous to fully list. As with above, I will list many, but understand that this list is incomplete. It would be egregious for me not to list Amy LaCross here. I know that many of the linguists have gotten immense joy from hearing Amy and I bicker as if we were 8 year-old siblings, or 75 year-old spouses. Essentially, we are both. More than anyone else, Amy feels like family. She’s seen me at my worst and still stood by me. Yosuke Sato has always been an inspiration to me. I wish I had his drive. He is a friend who kept me focused on what I needed to do next. Scott Jackson has been my guide through much of my graduate career. Whenever I was stuck I knew I could turn to Scott. Sylvia Reed has been my office-mate, frenemy, friend, and many other roles. She drove me through my last year. Lindsay Butler has been a complicated but inspiring figure to me. We have struggled together almost always at the same time. She has always been there to pull me out. Jessamyn Schertz’s no nonsense attitude was critical for me when I got stuck in a rut. I knew that if Iwasn’t working, she’d say whatever I need to make the “justifications” go away. And, that if I really just couldn’t get stuff done that day, she’d be over to play Dominion.
I would be remiss to not thank everyone who has listened to me speak at various venues and given me critical feedback that informs much of the work in this dissertation. There are simply too many conferences and individuals to thank here. But I would like to give a special acknowledgment to the audience of the 2009 Mid-American Linguistics Conference where the kernel that forms the bulk of this dissertation was first conceived. I also need a place to thank Mike Putnam, who I met there.
There are many other people who I need to thank outside whose roles were largely outside of my academic development but no doubt were a major part of it. First, my parents-- for obvious reasons that I do not have the space to enumerate. Heather Jackson who took in whatever crazy I was spewing that day and turned it into something understandable. There were times when Heather felt like my life jacket is a vast sea of linguistic theory. John Ivens and all of the hikers for getting me outdoors and reminding me that one cannot have a healthy mind while one is trapped indoors all the time. Maggie Camp and James Garza who provided much needed silliness in a world that is all together too serious. The gamers (who somewhat sadly, but all together too predictably are too numerous to name individually) who gave my mind some other puzzles to solve—which opened it to solving the ones in here. And to the people at The Ultima who by training my body allowed my mind to open up and finish this thing.
I also owe an incredible debt to "the writers/crocheters" who not only taught me the art of Keith-Fu (thank you, Mr. Martin) but kept me in touch with perspectives outside of linguistics and kept the world a fun place. Also, they usually kept me well fed and well boozed.
I know that I have forgotten someone or something. For that I apologize.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Personally, I think the analysis is not quite neat (both in the 1950s lingo sense and in the fact that it is fairly self-contained with not a terrible amount of loose ends.)
I hope to have a near-final draft by Wednesday. Shoot me a line if you'd like to take a look.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Friday, March 2, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
Advantages: If accepted, very quick publication time. It is open-access which fits with my general beliefs about academia and education.
Disadvantages: There is a publication fee for authors (I could likely negotiate my fee down being a student). Nothing published yet, overall quality of the journal undetermined.
Overall, I'm still very torn. The paper is very near complete and so I have to come to a decision very soon. Thought?
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
- p ∧ q ⇔ q ∧ p
- John came in and (John) sat down ≠ John sat down and (John) came in
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Before I get into that, I want to quickly review what the different factors are and what they can tell us about language and theory.
First Factor: The genetic endowment (i.e., UG). This is where most of the work has been done for most of the life of generative linguistics. In a P&P model this is what gave most of the Principles and also the unset Parameters. Some modern approaches to syntax (especially those argued for directly by Chomsky) attempt to remove as much as possible from this factor.
Second Factor: The second factor is the individual contribution of the particular language being learned/used. In the old P&P model the 2nd factor would essentially be parameter setting. Chomsky rarely discusses this factor directly, but it can be cast in modern terms as the lexical properties of language-specific items (or some other view based on a lexicon (for lack of a better term) ala Borer and not via global parameter settings). Ultimately, I believe that this will the source of most linguistic phenomena with consideration from the other factors.
Third Factor: This factor is language independent. It is essentially natural law-- the requirement that computation is done efficiently (barring interference from either of the first two factors).
On the surface this makes a very simple story, but of course we haven't arrived on conclusions about any of the factors. Today, I will focus on the mostly on the third factor, but it is impossible to discuss the third without discussing the first.
In many ways I believe that the Third Factor is one of the greatest sources of misunderstanding and/or contention with modern syntactic approaches. At its heart, there should be nothing controversial about it; it is essentially a principle of science: a simpler operation should be preferred over a complex one all else being equal.
However, in practice, this claim is used inappropriately. I do not want to attack specific arguments here, but I often attend conference talks (or less commonly see this in published sources) where unexplained items are shunted off to some near mystical economy constraint.
There is the added confound that there is no single, standard definition of complexity (nor do I think there can be at this point). But without a solid understanding of complexity, more simple becomes something more like a best guess.
This is not inappropriate.
This is science.
It is hypothesis testing. But we need to never lose sight of what it actually is.
Economy/arguments to simplicity are also misused in another way that also undermines it acceptance generally.
To me, a model which takes seriously economy constraints must take the other aspects of the model presented--namely, a minimal UG. However, a lot of work takes virtually the opposite approach. For instance, Cartography (with its 400+ universally ordered functional heads) cannot possible be the genetic component of language. It is simply too specified to be innate. There are certainly much useful work that is coming out of that approach, but as a theory of UG it is simply not viable. Yet there are a theories of global economy based off of robust Cartographic approaches.... attempting to build a model based on how natural law interacts with an object that cannot exist in nature is a fool's errand, at best.