Check out this interesting article about Pittsburghese from Slate!


A Conversation in Psycholinguistics

Psycholinguistics flyer

Less Commonly Taught Languages Fair


Here’s an event that you most definitely would want to check out: The Language Resource Center, in cooperation with the Sole Language Instructor’s Club, is organizing the Less Commonly Taught Language Fair, featuring Persian, Dutch, Finnish, Vietnamese, Czech, Swahili, Ukrainian, Wolof and Catalan. Come to Low Steps anytime between 11am to 4pm to hang out with instructors and learn about these language offerings at Columbia!


AGORA: Language and Literary Traditions in Conversation

Join us for the inaugural event of AGORA: Language and Literary Traditions in Conversation– a new series exploring the beauty of language and culture. Professor Zhirong Wang will be guiding a conversation on Surprising the Tangs: Chinese Poetic Forms in the 10th Century. You can find the Facebook event here

Hope to see you there! If not, please keep an eye out for our future events and join our Facebook group at

“So-called Spanglish”

“So-called Spanglish”

Thursday November 29th, 2012

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Ricardo Otheguy, Ph.D.

Professor of Linguistics

City University of NY, Graduate Center

Nancy Stern, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Chair

Dept of Childhood Education

City College of New York

Columbia University- International Affairs Building

Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 IAB)

420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027


Co-Hosted by The Columbia Linguistics Society and The Workshop on Meaning: Language and Socio-cultural Processes.


The word ‘Spanglish’, used most often to describe the casual oral registers of the speech of Hispanics in the USA, is an unfortunate and misleading term. Speakers of popular varieties of Spanish in the USA would be better served by recognizing that they are already speakers of Spanish. The present article is intended as a technical discussion of the empirical foundations for our position that there is no justification for the use of the term Spanglish. We demonstrate that features that characterize popular varieties of Spanish in the USA are, for the most part, parallel to those of popular forms of the language in Latin America and Spain. Further, we show that Spanish in the USA is not of a hybrid character, that is, not centrally characterized by structural mixing with English. We reject the use of the term Spanglish because there is no objective justification for the term, and because it expresses an ideology of exceptionalism and scorn that actually deprives the North American Latino community of a major resource in this globalized world: mastery of a world language. Thus on strictly objective technical grounds, as well as for reasons of personal and political development, the term Spanglish is to be discarded and replaced by the term Spanish or, if greater specificity is required, Spanish in the United States.

“Boundary Conflict and Civil Sphere: How Institutional Crises are Constructed as Social Endangerments”

“Boundary Conflict and Civil Sphere: How Institutional Crises are Constructed as Social Endangerments”
Monday November 26th, 2012
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Jeffrey Alexander, PhD
Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology;
Co-Director, Center for Cultural Sociology
Yale University

Columbia University- International Affairs Building
Linsay Roger Room (707 IAB)
420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027

Co-Hosted by The Columbia Linguistics Society and The Workshop on Meaning: Language and Socio-cultural Processes.


Monday, November 19th, CLS is hosting a potluck at 8PM in East Campus 820! Bring your favorite food from the country of your favorite language (or just something you like to eat!) and come hear about summer opportunities in linguistics, linguistics related internships, and the linguistics major at Columbia.

RSVP to, and please note if you are not a Columbia student, because you will have to be signed in.

On Language

On Language: American English(es) and Popular Usage?

Friday April 27th 2012


Hamilton (room number TBA)

 Join the Lexicography Society and Columbia Linguistics Society for a panel discussion featuring:BENJAMIN ZIMMER, JOHN MCWHORTER, AND DAVID K. BARNHARTAgenda: American regionalisms, as recorded by the Dictionary of American Regional English, as well as neologisms and various aspects of 21st-century usage, particularly as influenced by the Internet.

Dinner (in the form of delectable sandwiches) and refreshments will be served.

Ben Zimmer is the executive producer of Visual Thesaurus and, as well as a language columnist for The Boston Globe. He is also the former “On Language” columnist for The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as an editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. His writing about language has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times Sunday Review, The New York Times Book Review, Forbes, and Slate.

John McWhorter is a lecturer at Columbia University, specializing in language contact and change. He is the author of What Language Is (And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be), Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English, and The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language. His work on language, culture, and race appears in The New Republic and The Root, at both of which he is a Contributing Editor, as well as in The New York Daily News, at which he is a columnist.

David K. Barnhart (dba Lexik House) has been a professional lexicographer since 1966, and has experience consulting with lawyers as an expert witness. His expert witness work has focused on reporting the status of meaning and usage in language, including trademark status. As the editor of The Barnhart Dictionary Companion since 1982, he has had extensive experience in primary linguistic research, including the use of traditional and electronic resources. He is also the author of Neo Words: A Dictionary of the Newest and Most Unusual Words of Our Time and a co-author of America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America.

***Please also RSVP here by Wednesday, April 25 if you will be attending:

Upcoming Talks

We have two really exciting talks coming up to close the semester, come have cookies and share interesting ideas with great professors!

Names and Predicates
With Delia Fara, department of philosophy, Princeton
TODAY, Friday December 9th, from 4-5:30
Hamilton 709

Tyler Burge convinced us that names are predicates in at least some of
their occurrences:

There are relatively few Alfreds in Princeton.

Names, when predicates, satisfy the being-called condition:
schematically, a name “N” is true of a thing just in case that thing
is called N. This paper defends the unified view that names are
predicates in all of their occurrences. I follow Clarence Sloat, Paul
Elbourne, and Ora Matushansky in saying that when a name seems to
occur bare in an argument position of a predicate, it is really
occurring in the predicate position of a definite description with an
unpronounced “the”. I call these “denuded definite descriptions”.
There are good linguistic reasons for defending the denuded-definites
view. For example, it explains why “the” cannot be dropped in a
sentence like the following:

The ever-popular Bill will be speaking this afternoon;
The taller Maria is downstairs.

The definite article occurring before a name doesn’t get pronounced
when it’s syntactically right next to the name. Denuded definite
descriptions with names are incomplete definite descriptions since
most names have multiple bearers. Incomplete definite descriptions are
in general rigid, though. So the view survives Kripke’s modal


Discourse Analysis and Music
Daniela Veronesi
Saturday, December 10th from 2-3:30
Hamilton 511

In recent decades, music making as a social practice has drawn specific interest in scholarly research, in that ethnomusicologists, sociologists, linguistic anthropologists and conversation analysts have started to explore the multimodal and collective nature of music practices and the role played by verbal communication and language use in the organization of music action and in the construction of musicians’ professional identity. Given the growing internationalization of music making, which affects ensembles’ composition and educational activities alike, an area of particular interest for linguists and conversation analysts is the study of interaction among musicians who do not share their linguistic repertoires: How do musicians, for instance, treat linguistic, cultural (and musical) diversity in such encounters? To what extent are linguistic resources – in the absence of a professional interpreter – made locally available and relevant for the organization of interaction? How does language use (lingua franca, code-switching, occasional translation) intersect with the intrinsic multimodal nature of music making in the accomplishment of different types of participation and courses of action?

After providing an overview of this new emerging field of research at the intersection between language and music, in this talk I will discuss some data from an ongoing study on ensemble music workshops held in Italy by US composer and conductor Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris; the workshops, attended by music students and professional musicians, focused on “Conduction®”, a practice developed by Mr. Morris based on a lexicon of gestural directives employed to activate music action mostly without notation. In particular, we will see examples of how in such an exolingual setting 1) occasional translation is organized and contributes to shaping interaction; 2) the conductor multimodally introduces new directives and provides correction of music action and 3) social actors’ roles and individual and collective identities (conductor, teacher, professional musician, music student, the ensemble as a group) emerge and are negotiated in the workshops.

The study adopts a multimodality oriented Conversation Analysis approach; methodological and pratical issues related to examining interaction from this perspective (for instance, data collection and transcription practices) will also be discussed.

On “Conduction®”: an interview with L.D. “Butch” Morris:

Learning to Generate Understandable Animations of American Sign Language

Join CLS at 4:30pm on Thursday, November 17th in Hamilton 306 for a talk by Matt Huenerfauth, entitled “Learning to Generate Understandable Animations of American Sign Language”. Refreshments will be provided. Hope to see you there!

A detailed abstract follows:

A majority of deaf high school graduates in the U.S. have a fourth-grade English reading level or below, and so computer-generated animations of American Sign Language (ASL) could make more information and services accessible to these individuals.  Instead of presenting English text on websites or computer software, information could be conveyed in the form of animations of virtual human characters performing ASL (produced by a computer through automatic translation software or by an ASL-knowledgable human scripting the animation).  Unfortunately, getting the details of such animations accurate enough linguistically so that they are clear and understandable is difficult, and methods are needed for automating the creation of high-quality ASL animations.

This talk will discuss my lab’s research, which is at the intersection of the fields of assistive technology for people with disabilities, computational linguistics, and the linguistics of ASL.  Our methodology includes: experimental evaluation studies with native ASL signers, motion-capture data collection of an ASL corpus, linguistic analysis of this corpus, statistical modeling techniques, and animation synthesis technologies.  In this way, we investigate new models that underlie the accurate and natural movements of virtual human characters performing ASL; our current work focuses on modeling how signers use 3D points in space and how this affects the hand-movements required for ASL verb signs.

About the Speaker:

Matt Huenerfauth is an assistant professor of computer science and linguistics at the City University of New York (CUNY); his research focuses on the design of computer technology to benefit people who are deaf or have low levels of written-language literacy.  He serves as an associate editor of the ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, the major computer science journal in the field of accessibility for people with disabilities.  In 2008, he received a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation to support his research.  In 2005 and 2007, he received the Best Paper Award at the ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, the major computer science conference on assistive technology for people with disabilities; he is serving as general chair for this conference in 2012.  He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.