Linguistics Potluck
Saturday, October 16th at 7:30pm in Hogan 6D
This should be a really cool potluck- the idea is that you bring a dish reflective of the culture whose language you study (let’s interpret that loosely and not get into a Whorfian/language-identity-culture/colonialism debate). Desserts, main courses, salads, whatever you like. Homemade or store-bought (if anyone without access to a kitchen wants to cook, contact me and we can talk, maybe you can use my kitchen).

Daniel Kaufman, Director of the Endangered Language Alliance
Friday, October 22nd at 4pm in Hamilton 703 (room number is tentative)
Daniel Kaufman is an adjunct professor in the CUNY Graduate Center who works on projects documenting, maintaining and revitalizing some of the estimated 400 endangered languages spoken in New York City. Check out this recent NYT article about endangered languages in the city and the ELA:

Workshop on Meaning: Language and Sociocultural Processes
“Mapping Mechanisms of Cultural and Political Power in the Debates over Workfare in New York City, 1993-1999”
Wednesday, October 27th from 2-4pm at SIPA (room TBA)
Prof. JOHN KRINSKY, (Columbia PhD in Sociology and Chair, Political Science at CCNY) on his use of, and further plans for, an innovative form of linguistic analysis of media coverage applied in studying the social dynamics of urban political issues (welfare reform), and Prof. JOHN MCWHORTER, (Socio-linguist, currently teaching “Intro to Linguistics”  at Columbia) as commenter on the method and its potential. This session advances the Workshop on Meaning Series’ mission to promote inter-disciplinarity between social scientists and sociolinguists.


Events this week (4/26 – 4/30)

This week is jam-packed with linguistic goodness! A quick synopsis:

Wednesday, 4/28

Thursday, 4/29

  • 4pm, 1512 SIPA: NYU’s David Poeppel on “The relation(s) between linguistics and neurobiology”. More information here.

Friday, 4/30

  • 1pm, 403 Kent: Oscar Lee Symposium of Undergraduate East Asian studies, featuring speakers from Columbia Linguistics Society! More information here.
  • 3:15pm, Lerner Hall C555: William Labov is coming! “Formation of Consensus in the Speech Community”. More information here.

4/28: Philosophy forum

This coming Wednesday, in our first collaboration with the awesome Philosophy Forum, we will be participating in a lively debate on Daniel Everett’s research on the Piraha language and culture.

We will be discussing Everett’s controversial 2005 paper on Piraha, which claims that the language exhibits some properties that we did not realize were possible in human language, such as a lack of strictly defined numbers and a lack of embedded clauses. What does it mean for the Chomskyian hypothesis of a language module that there are such languages? Should this have implications in how we study concepts?

Join us as we talk about these issues. As always, food will be provided.

The paper can be found here:

This meeting will take place at 8pm on Wednesday, 4/28, in 716 Philosophy Hall.

Please RSVP on Facebook!


Dear linguists,

Here’s wishing you a delightful spring break, wherever you’re going (or staying)! For your reading pleasure, here’s an overview of upcoming events:

  • March 26-27: The Trace Foundation: “Minority Languages in Today’s Global Society: Perspectives on Language Standardization.” The lecture will focus on Tibetan, Kurdish, and Hungarian.
  • March 26: Professor Julia Hirschberg, Computer Science at Columbia: “Knowing When to Speak: Turn Management in Spoken Dialogue Systems”
  • March 31: Professor Ann Seghas on Nicaraguan sign language:  “Social Scaffolding for Language Genesis: Why Nicaraguan Sign Language Emerged When, Where and How it Did”
  • April 1: Professor Robert Remez on voice recognition: “I would know that voice anywhere! The role of phonetic sensitivity in the perceptual identification of talkers.”
  • April 30: “Workshops on Meaning: Language and Socio-cultural Processes”, co-sponsored by the Columbia Linguistics Society, presents Dr. William Labov.

More details to come…

Love in a time of Cupcakes

This Sunday, we will be delivering delicious home-baked goodies (you can specify brownie, red velvet cupcake, or vegan cupcake) accompanied with a beautiful hand-decorated love or friendship poem in a wonderful foreign language (with translation) to your Valentine!

Send them to your lovers! Send them to your friends! Have them mysteriously sent to yourself!

If you have a specific language request for your poem, let us know and we will do our best to track a suitable poem down. Or if you already have a certain verse in mind, send it over.

Each order will be $5. Shoot us an email by Friday evening, or come by our bake sale on Friday on College Walk to order. In your email, let us know:

  • Type of treat (brownie, red velvet cupcake, or vegan cupcake)
  • Poem specifications (language? title in mind?)
  • Personal message (optional)
  • What we should write under “from who”?
  • Name of person to be delivered to, and address–preferably on campus/not far from campus as we will be working with limited staff who are not expert delivery people like ex-CUSnackers with speedy bikes and mental maps.
Любить иных – тяжелый крест,
А ты прекрасна без извилин,
И прелести твоей секрет
Разгадке жизни равносилен.

Весною слышен шорох снов
И шелест новостей и истин.
Ты из семьи таких основ.
Твой смысл, как воздух, бескорыстен.

Легко проснуться и прозреть,
Словесный сор из сердца вытрясть
И жить, не засоряясь впредь,
Все это – не большая хитрость.

Pasternak, 1931

Michael Dreyfuss on Occitan

This Friday  (2/5) at 4pm in 709 Hamilton, we will have a presentation from Columbia alumnus, CLS founding member, and Fulbright scholar Michael Dreyfuss. He did research this past year in France on the Occitan language.

“The Occitan language and its revival through bilingual primary school education”
Michael Dreyfuss
Friday Feb. 5 at 4pm in 709 Hamilton

Michael will talk about the Occitan language and the revival effort for Occitan in the bilingual primary school system, the calandretas. Occitan is a Romance language, closely related to Catalan, that is primarily spoken in regions of Southern France and parts of northern Spain and Italy.


Stay tuned for more event announcements, including a talk on Bengali (sponsored by Club Bangla), a collaboration with the Philosophy Forum, and with the series “Workshop on Meaning: Language and Sociocultural Processes”

Upcoming Events

Friday, 11/13/09
7:30 pm
Dinner at the Columbia Cottage. Join us for food and conversation – all are welcome! RSVP on Facebook.

Friday, 11/20/09
3 pm (location TBA)
A computational linguistics/natural language processing presentation by Nizar Habash of the Center for Computational Learning Systems:

Automatic Diacritization of Arabic Text

Arabic is written without certain orthographic symbols, called diacritics, which represent among other things short vowels. The restoration of diacritics to written Arabic is an important processing step for several computational linguistic applications, including training language models for automatic speech recognition, text-to- speech generation, and so on. We present here a new diacritization system for written Arabic based on a new combination of known techniques: a lexical resource for morphological analysis, a multi-classifier tagger and a lexeme language model. This new diacritization system outperforms the best previously published results by reducing the word error rate to 14.9% and reducing the diacritic error rate to 4.8%. The presentation includes a detailed error analysis classifying the type of errors resolved by each of the different modules used.

Friday, 12/11/09
Time and location TBA
Peter Connor of Barnard College will give a lecture on translation. More details to come.