Archive for Announcements

BAHfest: Linguistics under-represented?

Upcoming editions of the Festival of Bad ad Hoc Hypotheses will take place in San Francisco, Seattle, and London. If you're not sure what these are like, here's a winning entry from BahFest West 2014:

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LSA Emmon Bach Fellowship Fund fundraising launch

The LSA has recently established a new charitable contribution fund in memory of Emmon Bach (June 12, 1929 – November 28, 2014). The announcement, and a link for making donations (online or by mail) is here.

Quoting from the announcement page: This fund was established in consultation with Emmon’s families and close colleagues, and is to be used to support student fellowships at CoLang, the Institute for Collaborative Language Research. This will be the first named fellowship at CoLang; the founding donors are sure that Emmon would be pleased and honored to be helping to support the CoLang institutes, which offer an opportunity for practicing linguists, undergraduate and graduate students, and indigenous language community members to develop and refine skills and approaches to language documentation and revitalization.

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The International Linguistics Olympiad

From the news page at the LSA — "NACLO teams win nine medals at International Linguistics Olympiad":

Two USA teams and one Canada team, each consisting of four high school students, won eight individual medals and a team medal at the 13th International Linguistics Olympiad, held July 20-24 in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The USA contestants also took five of the top ten places in the individual contest, including three gold medals. USA Red also finished in first place among 44 teams based on the combined score of its members in the individual contest.

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Ghil'ad Zuckermann writes:

A free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on language revival will begin on 28 July 2015. All are welcome. Details are here.


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An opportunity to immortalize yourself

Below is a guest post by Andrew Caines:

There's been growing interest in recent years in crowdsourcing as a means of data collection: for example, asking workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk to rate sentences for grammaticality, implicatures, sentiment, etc. As part of a special session for this year's INTERSPEECH Conference on innovative uses of crowdsourcing, we're building a crowdsourced spoken corpus of English and German.

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Rising sun

James Madison, "Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention", Tuesday September 17, 1787:

Whilst the last members [of the Constitutional Convention] were signing [the final document], Doctr. FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun.

I have, said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.

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Text by the bay

I'll be spending next Friday and Saturday in San Francisco at Text By The Bay, billed as "A new NLP conference bringing together researchers and practitioners, using computational linguistics and text mining to build new companies through understanding and meaning."

With 46 interesting-looking talks and a couple of panels, this seems like an excellent way to get a sense of the opportunities and activities in this area. There are talks from people at Microsoft, Wikimedia, AirBnB, Trulia,, Bloomberg, OpenTable, Twitter, LinkedIn, Verizon, etc., and from people at Berkeley, Stanford, Penn, and Purdue. And some of the presentations by people from smaller, newer, less-familiar outfits may be the most interesting of all.

Registration is not cheap — "new companies", an expensive venue, and all — but the organizer, Alexy Khrabrov, tells me that the discount code TEXTMARK will get you 50% off, and students who email to from their university account may be able to negotiate further reductions.


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Another SOS for DARE

Two years ago I sent out an "SOS for DARE," that is, a plea for the indispensable Dictionary of American Regional English, which had run into funding troubles. Though DARE was granted a temporary reprieve, the latest news is more dire than ever.

Marc Johnson laid out the situation in an article for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The end may be near for one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's most celebrated humanities projects, the half-century-old Dictionary of American Regional English. In a few months, the budget pool will drain to a puddle. Layoff notices have been sent, eulogies composed…

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Lecture tomorrow at the Simons Foundation

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be giving a talk at the Simons Foundation (160 5th Avenue, New York NY) with the title "Reproducible Research and the Common Task Method".

Despite the April 1 date, the topic is a serious one. For some background on why the concept of "Reproducible Research" is currently a hot topic, see Paul Voosen, "Amid a Sea of False Findings, the NIH Tries Reform", Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/16/2105:

While the public remains relatively unaware of the problem, it is now a truism in the scientific establishment that many preclinical biomedical studies, when subjected to additional scrutiny, turn out to be false. Many researchers believe that if scientists set out to reproduce preclinical work published over the past decade, a majority would fail. This, in short, is the reproducibility crisis.

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Miracles of Human Language

Below is a guest post by Marten van der Meulen, who is a teaching assistant for this course.

On March 30th, the Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) Miracles of Human Language: an Introduction to Linguistics will start on Coursera. The course is facilitated by Leiden University, and is given by Marc van Oostendorp, professor at Leiden University and the Meertens Institute. Subscribing is still possible.

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From Christie Versagli:

It's with enthusiasm that we at the World Well-Being Project (University of Pennsylvania) would like to share with you the launch of, a hub for data, tools, papers, and almost any resource in the growing field of language analysis for social science. 

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We're back

Yesterday afternoon, a popular link from the Washington Post (Ana Swanson, "The equivalent of “It’s all Greek to me” in 30 other languages", Wonkblog 3/25/2015) caused a spike in LLOG page views; this happened to cause a disk drive to fill up, because the back-end database server was keeping binary logs of all transactions; this caused and/or uncovered various other problems; and so LLOG was down for about 24 hours.

More specifically, the site displayed

Error establishing a database connection

in response to nearly all attempts to display WordPress pages.

As a result of several hours of intelligent and heroic labor by Wayne Hill, we're back, with updated and better-configured version of all the underlying software packages. So performance should be better, but in any case, things are working.


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mark.liberman.121 is not me

Earlier today, someone set up a Facebook account, with a version of my FB profile picture, and began communicating with people as if they were me. My actual FB page is, which I don't use much except to look at things that people tell me about.

This is apparently a phishing enterprise. The impostor asks people for their phone number and email address and postal address — at least one person gave them this much information — and eventually gets around to money.

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