A New Year: LSA 2017 and Updates on Future Posts.

I am only a few days into 2017 and it is already shaping up to be a productive year (President-Elects notwithstanding). I have just spent a weekend in Austin, TX, visiting the city while popping in to the Linguistic Society of America’s 2017 meeting, and it was fantastic! I was only there for a day, as well as the public lectures (see below); however, it was very educational and the atmosphere was absolutely vibrant. There is something about having a bunch of “word nerds” (as a friend of mine has dubbed my kind) gathered into one building, all talking about things that they love and are excited about. It certainly gave me a bit of reinvigoration and I plan to focus this into the blog.

First! I spent Friday at the annual LSA meeting. It was a great meeting, as it started out with a panel title “Linguistics Beyond Academia: The Versatility of Linguistics Training in the Professional World.” The panel (all women btw!) represented various industries, from non-profits to technology and policy institutions. It was interesting to see the different careers and perspectives on linguistic education that the speakers had. I was wanting to see this discussion partly because I myself am currently outside academia, trying to put the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from my linguistics education into work. I want to join the wily world of academia again one day, but it is certainly a relief to know that there is a way to do things outside of the ivory towers. In particular, there was a speaker from the Frameworks Institute, who work on translating public policy into something understandable for the general public.

Linguistics Beyond Academia Panel

I then perused the posters, though I feel like there were too many to see and too little time! I was able to go around and see some exciting presentations about things ranging from distributed morphology, to Japanese lexical strata, sign language contact, and focus in Amahuaca. I really enjoy the poster sessions because there is a lot of buzzing and excitement as people are excitedly telling people about their research.

Convention-goers perusing the posters

I even ran into my professor from Eastern Michigan, Eric Acton! He was giving a poster presentation about the use of English definite article ‘the’ (which came up with Trump last year. See this post)

Eric Acton giving a presentation on definite article ‘the’

After that, there was an excellent symposium titled Language and Educational Justice, headed up by Mary Bucholtz and Anne Charity Hudley (Twitter @ACharityHudley). This symposium featured a lot of great discussion about the way that linguistics intersects with minority issues concerning education and technology.

Of course, one of the things I was most excited for was the public lectures, which featured James Pennebaker, Eve Clark, John McWhorter, and Ben Zimmer. I attended the talks with Eve Clark and John McWhorter, which were concerned with first language acquisition and language change respectively.

Eve Clark on Language Acquisition
John McWhorter on Language Change

These lectures were wonderful, and I believe they really were great for the non-linguists (don’t worry, I sat in the back). The speakers both went over a great amount of material in a short amount of time, but did not curtail the detail. I also managed to get my book signed by John McWhorter! Before I left, I made sure to pack his book The Power of Babel, which was the first book I ever bought and read about linguistics and language. I remember reading that book, as well as his other book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, and instantly becoming engrossed in the wonderful phenomenon we call language. It’s from there I went to university for the subject. So, to get to express that to him and to “seal” the book in a way was really exciting!

Austin certainly got me back into the linguistic mood. After being away from the subject for a bit, I felt a bit rusty and unenthusiastic. LSA 2016 threw me right back into the loud and confusing world of linguistics and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve picked up a couple of new books and plan on doing a few things with this blog.

  1. I have an accompanying twitter now, where I will be posting as frequently as possible. My handle is @sean_stalley. Feel free to follow me and interact with me on twitter.
  2. I will be continuing the Information Structure (IS) series soon. I have recently acquired the Oxford Handbook of Information Structure and will be going through that book and giving a review. Thus, it will play a part, no doubt, in the formation of that series. However, it is planned as follows: a.) a run-through of cartographic and non-cartographic approaches; b.) a look at derivational solutions for IS; and c.) a few thoughts concerning the place of IS within the syntax as well as language as a whole.
  3. I will be doing some miniature book reviews periodically. I have my Goodreads account linked up with this one, and there should be an updated ticker both on the bottom of the page as well as in the Books section in the menu. I will give a brief overview of a few books as I finish them. The goal this year is to get through one hundred, so I should be okay doing a few!
  4. Occasionally I will be doing some informal linguistic investigations. It didn’t strike me until earlier this month that I can host some interesting surveys here! Now, it probably won’t be scientific, but I can certainly get some interesting observations out of it!

In any case, I am ready for the new year, and it seems that it will be a somewhat optimistic one despite the Orange Jackass himself taking power. Life must go on. Look for a new post in the next week or so!

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