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Madison Talks


In this issue:

Dear friends of the Linguistics Department,

Welcome to another academic year! It's shaping up to be a great one for us. We have two new faculty members (Marie Hélène Côté and Tom Purnell—an interview with Tom appears below and one with Marie Hélène will follow in the next issue), we have lots of talks scheduled (by, for example, Mark Aronoff, not to mention four already given by Tonjes Veenstra, Mark Louden, Keren Rice, and Hooi Ling Soh), the LSO continues to be active (see below), and we even managed to finagle a teensy new meeting room up here on the 11th floor of Van Hise. Wow—luxury! (Okay, so it's a utility room with a sink—that's luxury for us.)

One project that we're working on might be of interest to our alumni. Last fall I applied for a grant to do an assessment of the Linguistics major, and I got a bit of funding to work on revisions to the major. I've hired a first-year graduate student, Ryan Hanke, as a Project Assistant, and we're working on several things—like looking at what other Linguistics departments do in their majors; considering whether to maintain Linguistics 101 and 301 as they are, or make changes; revamping our course evaluations; and eventually sending out questionnaires to find out what those who have gone through our program think about it. This, of course, is where you will come in. I hope that if and when you receive something from us, you'll be willing to give us some input on what you thought could be improved about our major. I'll keep you posted on this topic.

Have a great holiday season!

Monica Macaulay, Chair

News and Notes

  • Dr. Kychul Sung from Seoul University is a Visiting Scholar in the department this year. Professor Sung is an expert on Korean grammar, and our many Korean graduate students are finding him an invaluable resource.
  • Graduate student Jina Lee did fieldwork in Mongolia last summer, while Linguistics major Clare Cook went to Papua New Guinea and worked on the language Bamu.
  • Congratulations to Laura Smith for winning a French-Felton award for inspirational teaching as a TA!

Faculty Profiles: Thomas Purnell

Professor Purnell received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Delaware in 1998. Although he begins his tenure-track appointment in the department in the Fall of 2000, he is not a newcomer, having been here as a Visiting Assistant Professor since the Spring of 1998. Professor Purnell recently agreed to be interviewed by one of our graduate students, Jason Roberts.

JR: We're taking a new approach to presenting faculty members in the newsletter, with students interviewing faculty. You're the first brave soul to submit to this. Are you nervous?

TP: Yes. I might be the last one, too.

JR: What are your "Jeopardy" dream categories?

TP: I would say "Small Towns Between Richmond and New York City," that's one. The other would be "Hit Songs from Obscure Rock Bands in the 1970s and 80s." Something along those lines, I would do well on.

JR: And a linguistic topic?

TP: It would probably be things that have to do with stress and tone, obviously.

JR: So how did you get into the field?

TP: Through ESL, screaming and kicking. (laughter) After I graduated with my undergraduate degree in English Literature I thought I was going to do literature. I didn't want to do linguistics and I really didn't want to do ESL. But then I sent out grad school applications and one of them happened to be the ESL Program at George Mason, and that's the one I ended up going to… things just worked out better to go there. I remember the first day, sitting in phonology class, and even though I stuck it out with the ESL stuff, which I really enjoy, I felt myself being more drawn to a lot of the theoretical phonology.

JR: The "Wisconsin Idea" is the philosophy that the members of the academic community should find applications for [their] work beyond the confines of the university. Your work with John Baugh has been an excellent example of this. Would you talk briefly about that work and the future of the project?

TP: That was something else that I kind of fell into-getting to know John at Swarthmore. I was a grad student; he was a visiting faculty member. He gave me all this data to look at and work on phonetically. I realized at that stage-it was one of those moments of epiphany-that you can do linguistics and make it really matter to people, to their lives. What John is interested in is housing discrimination based on someone's speech. One thing I was interested in was, what are the low level cues that could be triggering discrimination? So if someone speaks, or let's say uses syntax that is Standard American English but still has phonetic residue of African American English, they could still not get a house.

John is a tridialectal speaker of AAVE, Chicano English, and Standard American English, and he had recorded these phrases "Hello, I'm calling about the apartment you have advertised in the paper," which came out of his own experience with discrimination. So I took the word "hello" from the three dialects, and played them to my Linguistics 101 students. The word "hello," which was the first word, is pragmatically a very important word in phone conversations, and at the same time it has no syntax, really no phonology. Yet there has to be something there because the students were able to make the judgments at a much better than chance level-they were 80%, 90% right in their responses. So what we found from that was that people are making very fast judgments about people's speech, or that they are able to. What we would like to do is to open that up and look at bidialectal and monodialectal speakers, and see if the characteristics are there. Ideally the fair housing commission could use this for making sure that their testers had these characteristics, that in a court of law would stand up.

JR: I'm going to put you on the spot somewhat: what do you think is the future of non-constraint-based theories of phonology?

TP: (laughter) I think it's going to be around, in the same way that there are other theories in other sub-fields of linguistics, where you find certain schools that have latched onto it, and I think you are going to continue to see certain schools continue pushing OT. I think what's going to happen in the immediate future is that people are going to start talking about properties of phonology, and trying to do it in less theoretical terms. On the one hand people have to talk about OT to get published; on the other hand they may not personally agree with it. So I think you are going to find a move away from, or maybe an ambivalence towards notation, which I think is not necessarily the best approach. I think that notation is important, but I think that you are going to find people becoming weaker in that area. I think that schools will continue to teach OT, but that it will be like other theories, just another in a long line of theories.

JR: We have three phonologists in the Linguistics department now, and there are others in other departments [too]. What do you see as the contributions that Wisconsin phonologists will make to the field as a whole?

TP: Well, I think one advantage of Wisconsin is actually the phonetics side of sounds—with the people in Communicative Disorders, Psychology—combining that with the theoretical work we're doing. I think probably what you are going to see is that our niche is going to become this marriage of phonetics and phonology. I think that we are going to have a real strength in that area, where people have practical phonology, or applied phonetics, or theoretical phonetics. We're going to do well with competing because we have a lot of resources already here to begin with, like the microbeam lab, and if we bring a sound phonological theory to some of these phonetic data I think that's going to be a real feather in our cap for Wisconsin.

JR: You can sometimes be found in your office or in the phonetics lab rocking one of your twins in one arm, rocking another in a carrier on the floor with your foot, and typing on your keyboard, or working on a piece of recording equipment with your free hand. How long until you turn the recording equipment onto your twins?

TP: Soon actually, I think. (laughter) They're doing some interesting things and I may do it soon. But, I find myself being more of a father and just enjoying hearing their sounds and interacting rather than saying "Oh, there's a sound. Say it again," and going to get the tape player. I'm more apt to just sit there and try to respond, make babbling noises back-I'm more apt to do that than recording.

Retirement News: Professor Manindra Verma

On April 27th, 2000, the departments of Linguistics and South Asian Studies honored Professor Manindra Verma with a dinner at the University Club on the occasion of his retirement from the UW. Professor Verma received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan in 1965, and began his appointment at Madison that year. During his long and illustrious career he chaired both departments (several times over), and was Director of the Center for South Asia. He published ten books and numerous articles, and in 1989 received a Vilas Award for outstanding scholarly achievement. The Linguistics department is grateful for all that he has done for us, and looks forward to a long continuing relationship with him in his new role as Emeritus Professor.

Recent Graduates

Congratulations to our graduates:

Jaimie Gilbert
Gordon Gotschall
Francine Keyes
Jung-Hoon Kim
James Kirby
Patricia Pape
Wing-Yip (Winston) Szeto

Abdulrahman Al-Homoud
Elizabeth Miller
Rebecca Roeder
Randi Stebbins
Luis Fernando Tejedo-Herrero
Christopher Woodard

Mi-Ae Park
Yookang Kim

20 Years!

Jackie at her partyIn August, Jackie Drummy celebrated twenty years with the department. We shocked her with a surprise party after the new graduate student orientation. (Yes, we managed to fool the Woman Who Knows Everything.) As anyone who has ever been part of this department knows, we could not function without Jackie at the helm. We are deeply grateful to her for her continuing work for this department. And Jackie, about retirement? DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!!

Graduate Students

Abdulrahman Almansour presented "A Segmental Analysis of Prenasalization" at the 10th Southeast Asian Linguistics Conference here at the UW. Becky Roeder presented "Do ESL Students Need Critical Thinking Skills to Achieve? A Microethnographic Investigation in a U.S. Secondary School" with Christina Higgins and Mary Thompson at the Second Language Research Forum (SLRF), also here at the UW. "Studies on Phonological Opacity" by Mun-Seon Shin appeared in Chung-Ang English Review. Laura Smith gave "Acquisition of /r/ and /l/ by Learners of English: Evidence for Production and Perception as Two Distinct Processes in SLA," also at SLRF. And "Wh-Scrambling and QP-Scrambling," by Gwangrak Son appeared in the proceedings of the 2000 West Coast Conference on Linguistics (WECOL).

DARE: Frederic Gomes Cassidy
October 10, 1907-June 14, 2000

By Joan Houston Hall

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Frederic G. Cassidy, Chief Editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English. At age 92, Fred was energetic, purposeful, and mentally acute up until the moment of a stroke on May 11. He had been working on DARE since 1963, and it was his great hope that he would live to see the last volume published. But he was also a realist and recognized that statistics were not on his side. He had complete confidence in the abilities and dedication of his staff, and trusted us to finish the job. We shall do it in his honor.

Three volumes of DARE have been published by Harvard University Press: I (introduction & ABC), 1985; II (DBH), 1991; III (IBO) 1996. IV (PBSm-) is scheduled for 2002, with V (SnBZ) anticipated in 2007. A final volume, with bibliography, maps, indexes, supplements, and the Data Summary (all of the responses to fieldwork questions) will follow.

DARE's web site provides more information about the project and also invites your help: it includes several lists of words for which we'd like additional evidence or explanations. If these are part of your regional vocabulary, please let us know!


By Marianne Milligan

The Linguistics Students Organization (LSO) continues to be active in the department. Student representatives are present at all open faculty meetings, and were part of last year's Phonology Search Committee. Last year, the LSO sponsored a talk by Matt Pearson (UCLA) and co-sponsored talks by Morris Halle (MIT) and John Archibald (UCalgary). This semester, we have co-sponsored talks by Hooi Ling Soh (U of MN), Keren Rice (UToronto), and Mark Louden (UW). We have also started a working papers volume, titled LSO Working Papers in Linguistics. The first volume contains articles by the following students: Zaharia Pilus, Laura Catherine Smith, Yookang Kim, Philipp Strazny, Cathlin Davis, and Sky Lee. (The second volume will be published in Spring 2001.) The first volume is available for purchase; print out and mail in a copy of the order form. Copies of a previous working papers volume from 1996 are also available. In addition, we accept and appreciate donations to the LSO, which can be sent to the same address.


We thank the following alumni and other friends for their generous donations to the Department of Linguistics:

Carrie Anne Estill
Nancy Carmen Jacobson
Alice E. Mathis
Margaret A. Naeser
Donna H. Riddel
Mun-Seon Shin

Your (tax-deductible) gift does make a difference to us! Donations can be made out to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, specifying Linguistics Department Fund #12540435, and sent to:

University of WI Foundation
1848 University Avenue
P.O. Box 8660
Madison, WI 53708-8860
attn: David Simon

Thank you!

MADISON TALKS is a newsletter published twice a year by the Department of Linguistics at UW-Madison.
This issue edited by Monica Macaulay.
Send address changes and corrections to Jackie Drummy.


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Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison