Featured Linguists


Colin Phillips

When the LINGUIST editors invited me to write a piece for this year’s 30th anniversary fund drive, I was curious to dig into the LINGUIST archives. LINGUIST started shortly after I started in the field. Like, really shortly. So LINGUIST and me were finding our feet right around the same time, in late 1990.

A quick scan of the first 6 months of LINGUIST turned up this message:

Date: Thur, 04 Apr 91
Subject: Our 1000th Subscriber
If we were not an academic organization, and therefore had some money, we might hand out a prize for this. As it is, all we have to offer is congratulations to Colin Phillips ([email protected]), who is our 1000th subscriber.

I was an exchange student in linguistics at the University of Rochester at the time, taking a year to find some direction in my life. I was definitely finding...

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Bonny Sands

The mostly blue-collar suburb on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon where I grew up was not the best place for a hopeful polyglot in the 1970s and early '80s. Today, the area has many shops, churches and other establishments with signs in Russian, Korean, and Spanish. Back then, classmates who used languages other than English in their homes were small in number, and, with the exception of ASL, I don't recall any languages being shared at school much. Looking back, I can see that I missed opportunities for learning about other languages and cultures; I failed to pay attention because English dominated the linguistic landscape. I tried learning about languages from books but rarely got past the sections on pronunciation which inevitably had something about the vowel in "caught" being different than the vowel in "cot", which...

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Amani Lusekelo

I cannot recall anytime that I had inspirations of becoming a linguist. That I shall never claim. But I cannot ignore the fact that I became a linguist by effort, mainly in search of full-time scholarship.

I was born in an administrative district called Rungwe in Southern Highlands of Tanzania in East Africa. Both parents of mine, Bernard Lusekelo and Janeth Ndambo, were born in the families of the Moravian church clergy-men Undule and Mwandambo, respectively. I am the seventh-born child in the family of ten children.

My father worked first as a primary school teacher and later as an office administrator in many parts of Tanzania but came to retire in the office of Rungwe District Council. My mother, remained home to care for us, her precious children. By 1983, when I joined Lupale Primary School, my father had...

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Adele Goldberg

As a kid, my mom always praised me for being logical. Not appreciating how generously mothers view their children, I took this praise very literally and as an undergraduate at U of Penn, I signed up for all of the courses related to logic I could find. I ended up majoring in math and philosophy: Math, because my parents wanted to ensure I would be employable, and philosophy because I was interested in the philosophy of mind (and because I had a lot of courses in logic).

When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and the job market was lousy. If I could only afford it, I just wanted to continue taking classes. This passion, to just be a student, is what led me to...

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Joakim Nivre

I am delighted to support the fund drive for the LINGUIST List in the year of its 30th anniversary. Like so many of my colleagues I have relied on the services of the LINGUIST List throughout the years, and this gives me a wonderful opportunity to share some glimpses from my career as a computational linguist as well as some reflections on the development of the field during these three decades.

When the LINGUIST List was started in 1990, I was a PhD student in general linguistics at the University of Gothenburg, trying to complete a thesis on situation semantics (a framework of formal semantics that has since faded into oblivion) and mostly ignorant of the computational side of linguistics that later became the focus of my career. The 1990s was the decade when computational linguistics was transformed by the so-called statistical revolution, which meant a methodological shift from carefully hand-crafted rule-based systems that delivered a deep linguistic analysis but were often lacking in coverage and robustness to statistical models trained on corpus data going for breadth instead of depth.

The statistical turn in computational linguistics is also...

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Lauren Gawne

Early next year my blog Superlinguo will turn 10, which means I’ve been blogging about linguistics for almost a third of LINGUIST List’s life. I’ve been a subscriber to LINGUIST List a little longer than that, having signed up at the start of graduate school in 2009, something I now encourage my own grad students to do. One of the delightful things about blogging for almost as long as I’ve been a full-time linguist is that the blog now acts as an external memory device; I wrote a detailed post about how I got into linguistics back in 2012. I came to linguistics by luck, but I have stayed because language is...

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