Michael McCourt, a grad student in the UMD philosophy department, spoke to us about the semantics of adjectives (e.g. “why a blue diamond is a diamond but a fake diamond is not a diamond”), and gave us a general overview of different approaches to semantics.
Elections 2013 are coming soon! If you’re interested in running, please send in an email with your (brief) spiel by 3:00 on May 28th, and we’ll post it here. You can also just comment on this post.
Voting will take place during the end-of-year party on June 4th. If you won’t be able to make that meeting, you may vote between 3:00 on May 28th and 3:00 on June 4th by emailing your name and choice for each position.
The positions are:
President/Co-President (currently Alan Du and Daniela Ganelin)
organizes meetings and special events (guest speakers, UMD trip, NACLO, etc.)
provides NACLO practice problems and backup lectures if necessary
works with Secretary to communicate with club and keep site updated
PR (currently RN)
recruits new members of the club, especially younger students
advertises through club fairs, InfoFlow, posters, class presentations, etc.
Secretary (currently de facto Megan Chao)
takes notes on presentations
works with President to communicate with club and keep site updated
If desired, candidates can run as panels of more than one member, and share work as they wish. Each person would then take the title of Co-[Position].
Alan Du and Daniela Ganelin: We plan to keep inviting guest visitors (from UMD, Georgetown, possibly MIT), practicing for NACLO, visiting UMD, and having student lectures. Baking frequency may increase.
RN and MN: [RN] will advertise for Linguistics Club, recruit and retain new members, and enthusiastically support it everywhere [RN] go[es]. [RN] will also visit classes of freshmen/sophomores to spread the word and invite them to join. [MN] promise[s] not to scare underclassmen away and will do everything (within normal reason) that authorities, including [RN], tell [her] to do. [MN is] also taking a lot of classes next year that current sophomores are going to take (bad decision) so that may help in underclassmen accessibility.
Hannah Tsai and Megan Chao: [Hannah] will type very fast. There will be so many notes you’ll swear [Hannah] actually understand[s] the presentation. Yours truly [Megan] will attempt to take twice as many notes as this past year and make them a lot more coherent than they were this year. [Megan] might even take notes on questions that people ask, if they’re particularly enlightening and/or amusing. Also, notes will be completely electronic next year, so they should be up on the website the day of the lecture instead of several weeks afterwards, due to problems with paper and general inefficiency with typing up written notes. On another note, [Megan] double[s] as the honorary Linguistics food truck.
Jill Robbins and Abbas Mousavi from Second Language Testing, Inc spoke to us about second language testing and assessment. Dr. Robbins has worked on developing approaches to teach language, and Dr. Mousavi specializes in proficiency assessment (and is somewhat of an expert in Arabic calligraphy).
Pamela Toman, a data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton with training in linguistics, spoke to us this Tuesday about the linguistics of American Sign Language, including its phonological, syntactical, and social aspects.
Pamela’s posted a resource page/outline of her lecture here (note that we did not discuss everything). Here’s a summary of stuff we talked about not on her site:
Oralism – belief that deaf people should learn to function in a hearing world. That means making them learn lip reading and speaking. Back in the 1960s and earlier, people even believed that sign language would harm one’s spoken language, and so they banned signing in schools. On a side note, people didn’t ban signing in black schools, which is why Black Sign Language is significantly different and older than American Sign Language.
Sapir-Worf Hypothesis – may be in play here, although probably not. Because of sign language’s emphasis on space, maybe deaf people have better spatial reasoning?
Sociolinguistics – We talked about how hearing parents raising deaf children can be a problem, starving children of language.
UMD permission slips are ready at last! Please print out the slip, fill it in, and give it to me by this Friday (the sooner the better). Mr. Ostrander has asked me to point out that, although your absence will be excused, this is not a field trip or school-sponsored activity – e.g., if you trip and break your leg, you’re responsible.
We will meet at the attendance office at 7:35 – so just check in with your first period teacher. Please do not be late, otherwise we miss the bus and bad things ensue.
We’ll take the C2 to UMD (7:49 – 8:15) and back (2:25 – 2:56). Please bring school ID, and money/SmarTrip just in case. Our stop is University and Colesville (we’ll walk over together from the attendance office), and the other is just north of Marie Mount Hall, which houses the linguistics department.
Lunch will be provided.
Time permitting, we’ll very quickly run over to the dairy (also nearby) after the lectures, grab some ice cream, and be back at the bus stop by 2:20. Bring money if you want ice cream, of course.
Please bring your phones, and wear red! A notepad and an umbrella might also be useful.
Tentative schedule for the day (check later post for updated version):
NACLO Round II results are out! Congratulations to Samuel Zbarsky, who’s an alternate for the US team, and Michelle Noh, who received an award for best solution of problem 1. Sam was on the US team last year, and received an honorable mention at the IOL.
We had six Round II qualifiers from Blair. In order of final ranking: Sam Zbarsky (#11), Victor Xu (#15), Alan Du (#24), Michelle Noh (#78), Daniela Ganelin (#82), and Daniel Amir (#115). Combined with a homeschooled student who qualified from our site, Blair was 5th in the nation for number of qualifiers.
Colin Phillips, a professor at the UMD Linguistics Department spoke to us about linguistic illusions. He specializes in psycholinguistics and is “an authority on diverse topics such as sentence processing, pronoun/anaphora resolution, real-time language processing, and many others.”
He asked that we read a paper that introduces some grammatical illusions and selective fallibility of the brain’s language processor. It was accurate several years ago, but “some more recent findings undermine certain conclusions”. Partial outline available here, thanks to Alan. To see some grammatical illusions explained in nontechnical language, look here.
Slideshow is available here – note that we did not get to everything.
NOTES (thanks to Megan Chao):
There is often ambiguity in language (e.g. HISTORIC CHURCH + TOILETS sign)
Examples of visual illusions: we are inclined to see a certain effect (e.g. curved instead of straight lines); of course this can also occur in language
Ideally, language should be robust even in noisy environments
This leads to examples of confusing japanese sentences where verbs come at the end: