The movie "Arrival" has been in theaters for three weeks now, and it has already grossed $100 million worldwide. That's an impressive box-office draw, and it can't all be due to linguists and their friends attending. Clearly this contemplative film, with a field linguist as the heroic protagonist, is resonating with audiences. But what does that mean for linguistics as a discipline and its perception by the public at large? Below is a guest post by Luke Lindemann, a PhD student in linguistics at Yale University who is working on the semantics of ergativity in Indo-Aryan. He is also a member of the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project, and I had the pleasure of attending a press screening of "Arrival" with Luke and a few of his colleagues from the YGDP team. The film led to some intense discussions afterwards, as I'm sure it has for linguists everywhere. (In a separate post, I'll round up reactions from linguists since my last "Arrival" post.)
Archive for Linguistics as a discipline
A couple of weeks ago, I wrung my hands on Facebook over the proliferation of commercial publishers' Handbooks of Linguistics. These are usually priced out of individuals' budgets, being sold mostly to university libraries, and the thousands of hours of work poured into them by dedicated linguists are often lost behind a paywall, inaccessible to many of the people who would most like to read them.
That post prompted a flood of urgent discussion; it seemed like this was a thought that was being simultaneously had around the world. (Indeed, Kai von Fintel had posted the identical thought about six months prior; probably that butterfly was the ultimate cause of the veritable hurricane that erupted on my feed.)
Long story short, a few weeks later we now have a proto-editorial board and are on to the next steps of identifying a venue and a business model for the series. Please check out our announcement below the fold, and follow along on our blog for updates as the series develops!
For a linguist, at least if the linguist is me, it is a thrill to cross for the first time the northern border that separates Austria from Czechia. Immediately after crossing the border last Sunday, my train stopped at Břeclav, and I was able to hear over the beautifully clear announcement PA system my first real-context occurrence of one of the rarest sounds in the languages of the world.
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Or maybe I should say, Tom Wolfe's take on linguistics.
I've been an avid reader of Tom Wolfe's works since the 60s: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff, The Painted Word, Bonfire of the Vanities). What I like most about his non-fiction is that, as a leader and exponent of the New Journalism, he writes with a flair that captures the reader's attention without sacrificing accuracy and objectivity. What attracts me to his novels is that they convey the impression of having been based on a huge amount of research, without in the least being turgid or dull.
Anyone familiar with academia will have noticed how often the high-prestige invited participants at conferences or summer schools and the holders of endowed professorships tend to be men. Well, not so much in linguistics, it would seem. Look at the list of the faculty members selected to hold the four prestigious endowed professorships at the 2017 Linguistic Institute, a large summer school sponsored by the Linguistic Society of America and hosted next year by the University of Kentucky:
- Collitz Professor: Joan Bybee (University of New Mexico)
- Sapir Professor: Penelope Eckert (Stanford University)
- Hale Professor: Lenore Grenoble (University of Chicago)
- Fillmore Professor: Julia Hirschberg (Columbia University)
One hundred percent women for the top invited professorships! And make no mistake, they are all very distinguished senior professors, known worldwide for their research. This isn't tokenism. It's the way our discipline has been developing over the past thirty years or so. Makes a feller proud to be a linguist.
My sources say that Elsevier is now actively trying to recruit scholars for the editorial team of Zombie Lingua (see these Language Log posts for the background: "Lingua is dead. Long live Glossa!", Lingua Disinformation"). Here's a redacted sample of what they are sending to people:
Subject: Editorial Position Opportunity
Dear Professor […]
First please let me introduce myself as the […] at Elsevier responsible for the Social Science Journals, including our Linguistics portfolio.
I hope you do not mind me contacting you out of the blue like this, but as you may be aware we are currently looking for a new editorial team to head up the journal, Lingua. In discussions regarding this your name was suggested as a potential candidate to be part of this team. If this is something you would be interested in considering and would like to discuss this further, with no obligations, then please let me know. I would be more than happy to provide more details of the role and responsibilities.
Thank you for your time in considering this proposal. I look forward to your reply and hope to discuss this further with you in the near future.
Best regards […]
Needless to say, I'm hoping that the community is sufficiently immunized by now and that Elsevier will fail to attract linguists to stand up a zombie version of Lingua, which would not have any legitimacy as a successor to the journal's proud tradition. The true successor to Lingua is Glossa.
By the way: Glossa is now open for business. The first few submissions have already been made.
Some time ago I obtained a used copy of Martin Joos, Notes on the Development of the Linguistic Society of America, 1924 to 1950. I've now scanned it and made it available for anyone to read (warning: 6.5 MB .pdf).
For me, the most interesting parts are chapter V "Improvising" and chapter VI "Reconverting", which discuss the period of WWII and its immediate aftermath. I've made those two chapters available separately here (1.6 MB .pdf).
Erica Kritsberg, "From One to One Million Article Views: Q&A with Author John Ioannidis", PLOS Bogs 6/23/2014:
"Why Most Published Research Findings Are False", the PLOS Medicine article by John Ioannidis, surpassed one million views late April 2014, the first PLOS article – research or other – to reach this milestone.
I was going to post this as a comment to Mark Liberman's "What would a 'return to philology' be a return to?", but it got to be too long, so I'm putting it up as a separate piece.
To begin with, when people ask me what my profession is, I've always replied that I am a Sinologist, but most people don't know what a Sinologist is, so that leads to complications.
Let me illustrate.