Eric Baković


I'm a Professor in the Linguistics Department at UC San Diego. My interests are in pretty much all things having to do with phonology, phonological analysis, and phonological theory.

Posts by Eric Baković:

    Just in time for Open Access Week

    Today marks the beginning of Open Access Week, and last week's announcement about changes to the Linguistic Society of America's publications program was like an early OA Week present. Some highlights:

    • All content published in Language will be made freely available on the new LSA website after a one-year embargo period.
    • Authors who wish to have their content available immediately, either on the Language site or on other websites, may pay a $400 article processing fee to do so.
    • The contents of Language will continue to be immediately available to LSA members and to other subscribers of Project MUSE.

    Information about more Open Access goodness to come at the LSA's Annual Meeting in January here.

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    Joint LSA/MLA Organized Session on Open Access

    The 87th Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America is scheduled to be held in Boston, January 3-6, 2013. As it happens, the 128th Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association will also be held in Boston on the same dates. The LSA and MLA have planned a number of joint activities for meeting attendees.

    The LSA's Committee of Editors of Linguistics Journals (CELxJ) will sponsor an organized session on Open Access publishing, to be held at the LSA on Thursday, January 3, 4-7pm. In addition to yours truly, our confirmed panelists include:

    I hope that anyone planning to attend the LSA or the MLA will make time to attend this important and timely session. Building on its efforts with eLanguage, the LSA has recently committed to extend the range of the journal Language to include online-only, Open Access material; a business model for supporting Open Access publications is currently under consideration and will be available before the panel meets. The MLA Convention's Presidential Theme is Avenues of Access, including Open Access and the future of scholarly communication. The efforts on the part of both of these organizations to increase public access to scholarly work will be among the topics under discussion in this session.

    Check this space soon for more/updated information. [ Update, 10/2/2012 — abstracts for the session are now posted. ]

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    Endangered Alphabets

    My attention has been recently drawn to Tim Brookes' Endangered Alphabets project and to its second Kickstarter project, Endangered Alphabets II: Saving Languages in Bangladesh. You can follow the links to find out more; copied below is the text from the Kickstarter page, with images provided by Tim Brookes and Hailey Neal. If you feel moved to pledge to their cause, please do so — they have 127 backers as of this writing, pledging a total of $4,535, with only 19 days to go to reach their goal of $10,000.

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    Last month on the EL trail

    It's been a while since I've been on the endangered languages beat. Here are a couple of links of recent writings on the topic for those who are interested.

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    Open Access petition — an update

    One month after it was created (on May 13) and a week before it will be closed to signatures (on June 19), the White House Open Access petition (which I pointed Language Log readers to on May 23) now has 26,768 signatures — 1,768 more than the 25,000 threshold! By my calculation, the average rate was over 1,190 signatures a day from the first to the 25,000th signature (by "David L" of Holmdel, NJ, who signed on June 3 — three weeks after the petition was created); after that, the rate dropped to just shy of 177 a day. No reason to slow down the pace now! If you agree with the petition, please sign it and/or pass it on to your agreeable friends — send a strong message to Washington that "[e]xpanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our [public] investment in scientific research."

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    The trouble with making linguistic claims

    There is a lot for reasonable people to agree with and disagree with in Philip Kitcher's recent essay in The New Republic, "The Trouble with Scientism: Why history and the humanities are also a form of knowledge". This being Language Log, however, I can only urge readers of Kitcher's essay to take the following linguistic claim with a healthy dose of skepticism:

    In English we speak about science in the singular, but both French and German wisely retain the plural.

    Kitcher's point in making this claim — and the actual, reasonable argument that follows it — is that "science" is hardly a singular thing:

    The enterprises that we [English speakers–EB] lump together [with the singular word "science"–EB] are remarkably various in their methods, and also in the extent of their successes. The achievements of molecular engineering or of measurements derived from quantum theory do not hold across all of biology, or chemistry, or even physics.

    This argument is a key part of the larger (and again, reasonable) argument laid bare in the essay's subtitle: that "history and the humanities are also a form of knowledge". Anyone interested in this kind of topic (as I am) is encouraged to read this essay, followed by the other links further above, and perhaps counterbalanced by this NYT Opinionator blog post. (And don't forget to squeeze the comments.)

    So what about the linguistic claim? Unfortunately for Kitcher, it's complete hogwash.

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    Open Access petition

    Every once in a while, an article is discussed or mentioned here on Language Log that many of our readers can't access without paying a hefty fee, whether to pay to view the article or to subscribe to the journal in which it appears. Many of these same readers are American taxpayers, and much of the research in those same articles is funded by governmental organizations (such as the NSF and the NIH) that are of course underwritten by American taxpayers. Why — the argument goes — should taxpayers pay again to access the results of the research that they are already paying for? What prevents those results from being disseminated (relatively) freely, so that all may benefit?

    This is the gist of this petition that has been posted at the Obama Administration "We The People" petition site by the good folks at access2research. 25,000 total signatures are needed by June 19; as of this writing, they're almost halfway there. Please take a look at the petition and sign if you're for it.

    And please also tell others about this petition! Stuart Shieber (computational linguist, open access advocate, and Director of Harvard University's Office of Scholarly Communication) has written and shared a message suitable for passing on to colleagues, friends, and family. Or, you can point them to the video found below the fold.

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    Create a language, go to jail

    I've received several messages with links to this NYT piece since its appearance online on Sunday. The piece is on Dothraki, a constructed language used in the HBO series "Game of Thrones" and invented by David J. Peterson, founder and President of the Language Creation Society and (as it happens) a former PhD student here in the Extreme Southwest Wing of Language Log Plaza. The piece also talks about constructed languages ("conlangs") and language constructors ("conlangers") a bit more generally, and most specifically with respect to their use in Hollywood. (That 'their' is purposely ambiguous.)

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    Quotes and context

    HuffPo has a post today entitled "Michele Bachmann: 'I Haven't Had a Gaffe'", in which they take Bachmann to task for what she said to Greta van Susteren in a recent Fox News interview. This is easy bait for those of us who are appalled at the prospect of Candidate Bachmann and who have delighted at the many gaffes that she has managed to have in the course of her presidential campaign. But note the context from which the 'I haven't had a gaffe' quote was pulled:

    As people are looking at the candidate that is the most conservative and the most consistent candidate, I've been that candidate. I haven't had a gaffe or something that I've done that has caused me to fall in the polls. People see in me someone who's genuinely a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, a national security conservative and a Tea Partier. I'm the whole package.

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    Watching the deceptive

    After almost a month, I'm finally following up on the results of the single-question surveys that I asked Language Log readers to participate in. Each survey received an overwhelming 1500+ responses, and I didn't realize that I needed a "pro" (= "paid") account on SurveyMonkey in order to view more than the first 100. I owe special thanks to Mohammad Mehdi Etedali, to whom I transfered the surveys and who kindly sent me the overall percentages.

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    Pick a survey, either survey…

    Ever wish you could participate in a little linguistics experiment? Neither have I. But anyway, now you can! I have set up two very easy surveys, one question each. (Well, it's not technically a question, but that's a word-sense issue for another day.) Pick one survey (either one, but please not both), read the question, and select one of the three possible answers. I'll wait about a week month, and then post a discussion of the results.

    [Update, Sept. 5: there has been an overwhelming response to both surveys, but a slight preference for #2 (1500+ responses thus far vs. 1100+ for #1). So I've closed #2 but kept #1 open to encourage another 400 or so responses to that one. — EB]

    [Update, Sept. 7: both surveys are now closed, as they've both reached about the same overwhelming number of responses (1500+). Now I have to analyze the results, which may take longer than I originally thought so it may take another week or so. Speaking of which: anyone have access to a paid SurveyMonkey account? If so, please let me know…]

    LLog Survey 1 LLog Survey 2

    When you're done, you are allowed to do either of the following (again, not both): (a) take a peek at the other survey (but don't answer the question!), or (b) let us know that you've completed the survey and you'll be entered into a drawing for a free one-year subscription to Language Log! Don't say we don't take care of our readers.

    And, for those observing it: have a great Labor Day weekend.

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    Longetivity is the name of the game

    Listening to this recent Freakonomics podcast episode, I heard a word variant that I'd never heard before: longetivity, being used to mean longevity. You can hear it at about the 8:35 mark of the podcast — I was listening on Stitcher, in case that matters. Coincidentally, the relevant portion of the podcast (from an interview with Dick Yuengling, beer lovers!) is transcribed on the episode's webpage, with the word "corrected" to longevity.

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    Acting, speech, and authenticity

    In advance of the fifth and last season of The Wire, HBO released a documentary-like special called "The Last Word". The very first line is from an interview with series protagonist Dominic West, who says: "What makes The Wire so amazing is its level of authenticity." (Watch the first part of the special here.)

    Even now, after having re-watched the entire series several times, I'm floored by the irony of that line, spoken in West's native British dialect (born in Sheffield, but of Irish descent). West plays Detective James "Jimmy" McNulty of the Baltimore Police Department, and McNulty is a very American character: breaking all the rules in a very selfish (but also self-destructive) way, all in the name of some greater good (doing "real police" work and catching the bad guys). So how authentic can the show be, if this very American character is played by a Brit?

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