Linguistics News and
Laura Michaelis appointed 2014-2015 CHA fellow
CU Linguistics associate professor Laura Michaelis has been awarded a 2014-2015 fellowship by CU's Center for Humanities and Arts. Awardees were selected by a panel of external reviewers. Fellowships consist of a two-course teaching reduction. The selection committee considers the intellectual merit of the project, the overall excellence of the applicant’s academic record, and the timeliness of the project in the applicant’s career. As a 2014-15 CHA fellow, Michaelis plans to complete major work on a book about grammatical and lexical innovation in English. This book, Construction Grammar and Linguistic Innovation, is currently under contract to Oxford University Press. This book links the study of social performance and narrative practice to the study of grammar.
CU Linguistics doctoral students win NSF Small Business Innovation Research funding for development of language games for handheld devices
CU Linguistics doctoral students Steve Duman and Kevin Gould, principals of Inherent Games, LLC, have won a $150,000 Small Business and Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant through the National Science Foundation for the development of language-learning games. NSF SBIR programs enable startups and small businesses to undertake R&D with high technical risk and commercial reward, if the project involves significant market opportunity and transformational technology with significant societal or commercial impact. This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop a language learning game for mobile devices that uses augmented reality technology. Inherent Games' unique pedagogical method, called Embodied Categorical Scaffolding, allows for engaging gameplay that utilizes actual physical motion to best reflect the patterns of neurological activation that occur when one uses language. The application of augmented reality technology provides an enriched learning experience for the user. The initial prototype will be fully scalable to accommodate multiple languages, extensive vocabulary domains within a given language and even more complex language concepts, such as tense and aspect. The game will also include a (massively) multiplayer component, where users, classes, schools, or even school districts can compete against one another. Given rising demand in the US and abroad for foreign-language instruction, as well as the game's unique utilization of embodiment, the developers believe that this app will make a strong impact on the language-learning market.
Samuel Beer wins National Science Foundation grant for Ugandan fieldwork
CU Linguistics PhD student Sam Beer has won a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement grant for a project entitled "A Grammar of Nyang'i with Historical-Comparative Notes". Nyang'i is a nearly-extinct member of the Kuliak language family, remembered by only one or two elderly inhabitants of a remote valley in the Nyangea Mountains of northeastern Uganda. Previous research in the Nyang’i language has been hindered by difficulty of access—both to the geographically remote region in which the language is spoken and to clearly translated data, as Karimojong is the only second language spoken by Nyang’i speakers. As a result, existing scholarship is limited to a small section of a single article. This project aims to produce a corpus of transcribed, glossed and translated audio- and video-recorded texts. The corpus will not only form the basis for the first grammatical description and lexicon of Nyang’i, but will also provide a resource from which future linguists and members of the Nyang’i community will gain access to the Nyang’i language beyond the lifetime of its remaining speakers.
Zygmunt Frajzyngier publishes landmark studies of African languages and language groups
CU Linguistics Professor Zygmunt Frajzyngier has produced two landmark studies in African linguistics. The first work is 2012's A Grammar of Wandala (Mouton de Gruyter). This book represents the first description of Wandala, a Central Chadic language spoken in the Far North Province of Cameroon and in North-Eastern Nigeria by about 45,000 speakers. The grammar covers all formal coding means and all functional domains of the language. Wandala shares vocabulary with other Central Chadic languages, but its grammatical system differs significantly from both other Central Chadic languages and Chadic languages generally. The second work, co-edited by Frajzyngier and CU Linguistics Research Assistant Professor Erin Shay is The Afroasiatic Languages (2012; Cambridge University Press). Afroasiatic languages are spoken by some 300 million people in Northern, Central and Eastern Africa and the Middle East. This book is the first typological study of these languages, which comprise around 375 living and extinct varieties. The work contains chapters by eminent scholars of this area on Egyptian and Coptic, Berber, Semitic, Chadic, Cushitic and Omotic. Frajzyngier's concluding chapter provides a typological outline of Afroasiatic languages. Prof. Frajzyngier's other recent accomplishments include the publication by University of Warsaw Press of Wspoldzialanie podsystemów w strukturze jezyka, the Polish edition of Frajzyngier and Shay's 2003 Explaining Language Structure through Systems Interaction (Benjamins) and the funding of a research project CORTYPO (Amina Mettouchi, PI) by the French Agence National de Recherche, based on the framework elaborated in this work.
CU professor leads Gros Ventre language revitalization efforts
CU Professor of Linguistics and French J. Andrew Cowell, working with graduate student assistants in the Linguistics Department and collaborating with language teachers from the Gros Ventre Tribe in Montana, recently produced a Gros Ventre Student Dictionary and a Gros Ventre Student Reference Grammar, to aid in the tribe's language revitalization efforts. These resources are being used by high schools and the tribal college on the Fort Belknap Reservation.
CU Linguistics graduate named A&S Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2013
CU Linguistics Linguistics minor (and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology major) Jessica Lutz was named Outstanding Graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences for the spring 2013 commencement. Lutz wrote Honors theses in both Linguistics and MCDB. Lutz graduated summa cum laude and was one of 209 honors graduates in a class of 4,687. Her honors thesis in Linguistics, conducted under the supervision of CU Linguistics professor Rebecca Scarborough, used experimental methods to analyze how native Mandarin Chinese speakers produce and perceive English plosives in word-final position. While a CU-Boulder student, Lutz also worked in Lesotho, a nation completely surrounded by South Africa. Lutz helped edit public-health grant applications for projects including HIV-AIDS tracking. Jessica is contemplating a career in public health that will combine her interests in second-language acquisition and virology.
CU Doctoral Graduate Hartwell Francis appointed Fall 2013 Yale fellow
Hartwell Francis, Colorado Linguistics PhD '06, is the Archibald Hanna Jr. Fellow at Yale's Beinecke Library this fall. Dr. Francis, an assistant professor at Western Carolina University, is working with the Cherokee tribe to help teach and revitalize the Cherokee language. His fellowship allows him to spend time in residence at Yale, examining the library's extensive collection of Cherokee-language manuscripts, which he and the tribe hope to make more widely available and integrate into the language program.
CU Linguistics professor Kira Hall named 2013 Outstanding Teacher for Teaching with Technology
Dr. Kira Hall of the CU departments of Linguistics and Anthropology has been been named by ASSETT as an Outstanding Teacher for Technology in Teaching. ASSETT asked students across the CU College of Arts and Science to nominate an instructor who uses technology in outstanding ways to support student learning. The classes Language in U.S. Society and Service Learning Practicum: Adult Literacy were cited in the award. The ASSETT committee particularly noted effective use of Powerpoint, video-capture assignments and video presentations by Dr. Hall (see linked article). ASSETT (Arts and Sciences Support of Education through Technology) is a program whose mission is to support the use of technology in advancing the teaching and learning mission of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
CU Linguistics ranked by NRC in top 15 of US linguistics programs
In its 2010 survey of American doctoral programs, the National Research Council has placed the Department of Linguistics at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the top quarter of American linguistics programs. Based on an overall measure of excellence that combines factors like publication rates, faculty honors and PhD graduation rates, CU Linguistics was ranked thirteenth out of 52 linguistics programs in the country. CU Linguistics is one of only 2 units in the CU Social Sciences division to rank in the top 20 in their respective disciplines. The NRC operates under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. The NRC study of doctoral programs at more than 200 US universities is considered the gold standard of rating systems by the academic community: it offers a much more detailed and comprehensive assessment of PhD programs than do popular ranking systems.
Martha Palmer wins 2010 Boulder Faculty Assembly Research Award
Martha Palmer, CU Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science, has won a 2010 Boulder Faculty Assembly award for excellence in research. The award recognizes Professor Palmers stature as one of the foremost computational linguists in the world, and a preeminent figure in the field of computational semantics. Dr. Palmers research concerns the representation, acquisition, and use of semantic information in computer systems that process language, with a particular focus on the role of verb semantics in such systems. Dr. Palmer has been actively involved in research in natural language processing and knowledge representation for over 20 years, beginning with her pioneering doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh on the use of lexical conceptual structures for driving the semantic interpretation process. This work provided the basis for the highly successful text-processing system, Pundit, built at Unisys during the 1980s and funded by the government agency DARPA. This system combined semantic and pragmatic processing in innovative ways that enabled sophisticated reference resolution and temporal analysis, and led to insights into the use of computational semantics that have continued to inform her research at the University of Colorado. Since her arrival at CU, Dr. Palmers research has been funded by a wide array of grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and industry sources. She currently has five grants in force, totaling approximately $2 million. The Boulder Faculty Assembly represents the faculty on the Boulder Campus. It presents up to four faculty awards annually in each of three areas teaching, research and service.
Lise Menn publishes new psycholinguistics textbook
Lise Menn, Professor Emerita of Linguistics, has published a new textbook, Psycholinguistics: Introduction and Applications, available from Plural Publishing. The book provides an introduction to current thinking on how our brains process language in speaking, understanding and reading. It is a completely integrated, self-contained account of psycholinguistics and its clinical and pedagogical applications, set in a unifying framework of the constant interplay of bottom-up and top-down processing across all language uses and modalities. The book also includes a multimedia CD with audio files illustrating phenomena like categorical perception and the phoneme restoration effect, an x-ray video of normal speech, audio files of dialect variation, audio samples of several kinds of disordered language, and a video interview with aphasic speaker Shirley Kleinman.
CU Linguists win National Science foundation grant for new-generation Hindi/Urdu lexicon
CU Linguistics professors Martha Palmer and Bhuvana Narasimhan have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant, Collaborative Research: A Multi-Representational and Multi-Layered Treebank for Hindi/Urdu, to develop linguistic annotation for these two closely related languages of India/Pakistan. The project is a collaborative effort involving researchers at the India Institute of Technology in Hyderabad, India, the Universities of Washington and Massachusetts and Columbia University. It will produce a database of close to a million words of Hindi and Urdu annotated with syntactic structure (both dependency structure and phrase structure) and semantic-role labels (PropBank). The researchers will also create a process for automatically converting between the different representations. The first project meeting was held in January 2009 in Hyderabad, India. Such efforts have led to significant advances in the efficacy of natural-language processing by providing training data for supervised machine-learning algorithms.