Category Archives: Special Events

More Syntactic Bootstrapping

Today, Elia Martin came to talk about his Senior Research Project in linguistics! His experiment looked at how infants use syntactic bootstrapping to learn new words and how this changes between sixteen-month olds infants who already have been producing verbs (have more developed processes) and those who haven’t. Earlier studies had found that the more developed sixteen-month olds and nineteen-month olds were worse at identifying the unknown word in the sentence “She’s pushing with the tig.” Corpus analysis suggested that the more linguistically adept infants knew from experience that noun phrases often followed push (so they were expecting “She’s pushing the tig”) and therefore they predicted incorrectly that the new word ought to be a noun phrase. In other words, the kids were being tricked. They did a further experiment to confirm this hypothesis, which it did.

Why Nerds Shouldn’t Make Languages

This meeting we were talking about constructed languages, so naturally, we wanted to try our hand at making our own language. It turns out that if you take a bunch of crazy nerds and tell them they can make up the rules…yeah.

We didn’t finish making the language, but there’s a basic structure. So far there are five sounds in the alphabet: ‘bo’, ‘ma’, [click], [ascending hum] (denoted as “m/”), and [descending hum] (denoted as “n\”), with more to be added as needed.  We collectively decided immediately that conjugation was stupid/boring (I’m possibly projecting…).

The first sentence we translated was: “I am shopping”.
I = [click]
shopping = bo-ma-m/

Now, tense. Tense is fun. We thought that it would clearly make the most sense for the word order to determine tense. If the verb is before the subject, past tense. If the verb is before the subject, future. Nobody really needs more specificity than that. Oh yeah, present. Present’s simple: You put the subject inside the verb. Duh. I guess that means all verbs are more than one syllable long…

I was shopping: [click] bo-ma-m/
I am shopping: bo-[click]-ma-m/
I will be shopping: bo-ma-m/ [click]

Best of all: I was shopping a long time ago = [click][long pause][bo-ma-m/]

I’m not sure if pauses can actually have meaning in language (I feel like that’s problematic), but we’re going with it.

This structure makes recursion odd, but fortunately, we figured out a simple solution. When a clause finished, we used a popping sound (made like kissing, except you’re kissing yourself) to denote that the next clause was nested inside.

For example, if you were to say “The store I was shopping at sucked”, you would say “the store sucked [pop] I was shopping there”.

Next time, we’ll either translate some more sentences or do NACLO puzzles.

UMD Visit (3/11/14)

On Tuesday, March 11, we visited the University of Maryland Linguistics Department and saw lectures on various topics.

We learned about crowdsourcing from Alex Quinn.

Slideshows from Alia Biller on music and tone language acquisition here and here.

Chris Heffner‘s slideshow on phonetic category learning is here.

Zoe Schlueter and Liz Nguyen spoke to us about MEG/EEG. Zoe’s slideshow on EEG and prediction is here.

More slideshows coming soon!

SLIYS Linguistics Summer Camp

We received an email from the Summer Linguistic Institute for Youth Scholars at Ohio State University. It’s copied below if you’re interested — sounds like a fun opportunity. The flyer is available here.

We’re writing to you from the Ohio State University Linguistics Department to let you know about a great opportunity for high school students interested in linguistics. For the last five years we’ve run a week long summer camp here at OSU called SLIYS – the Summer Linguistic Institute for Youth Scholars. SLIYS (pronounced like “slice”) is the nation’s only linguistics summer camp for high school students, and we want to share our program with high school linguistics clubs around the country.

SLIYS students spend one week living on campus here at Ohio State, gaining the tools to better understand how languages work. You will learn about sound systems, grammatical systems, writing systems, and the ways that speakers of different languages interact with each other.

Whether you want to become a foreign language teacher, join the Peace Corps, live in another country, or study languages or linguistics in college, the knowledge you gain from your SLIYS experience is certain to help! SLIYS Instructors are members of the Department of Linguistics at the Ohio State University, including faculty, staff, and PhD candidates. We have a wide range of linguistic expertise and are familiar with an extensive and diverse collection of the world’s languages.

I’ve attached the flyer for this year’s program, which includes information on dates and costs. Please share this information at your next linguistics club meeting, and check out our website at Feel free to contact us ( if you have any questions! We’re glad you’re interested in linguistics, and look forward to seeing you at SLIYS!

2013 Elections

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.

UMD Trip Summary

Lots of ling happened! Notes (big thanks to Megan Chao) available here.

At Marie Mount Hall
At Marie Mount Hall

Thanks to all our presenters:

Yakov Kronrod Introduction (and general organization)
Phillip Resnik Machine Translation (history)
Josh Falk Sentiment Analysis (movie reviews)
Mike Fetters Minimalism
Tara Mease Infant Language (Baby Lab tour)
Alix Kowalski and Chris Heffner Aphasia
Josh Falk (again) Phono-Poetry (stress patterns of Finnish)
Alexander Williams Semantics (implicitness)
Ellen Lau EEG and MEG (lab tour and discussion)

UMD Visit Details

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):
Time Topic Speaker
8:30 – 8:45 Introduction Yakov Kronrod
8:45 – 9:15 Minimalism Mike Fetters
9:15 – 9:45 Machine Translation Philip Resnik
9:45 – 10:15 Sentiment Analysis John Falk
10:15 – 11:00 Infant Language Tara Mease
11:00 – 11:00 Aphasia Alix Kowalski and Chris Heffner
11:30 – 12:00 Lunch and Psycholinguistics Colin Phillips
12:00 – 1:00 Phonology Mike Key and Josh Falk
1:00 – 1:30 Semantics Alexander Williams
1:30 – 2:00 EEG and MEG Ellen Lau