Monthly Lectures 2012

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
Dec 8 Gender, Language Change and Identity Construction in Washington, DC, African American English Natalie Schilling (Georgetown University)
Nov 10 The Etymology and Early Use of Greek Sophos 'Wise' Edwin Floyd (University of Pittsburgh (emeritus))
Oct 6 Bilinguals and Borders: Patrolling Languages and Identities on the US-Mexico Border Ana Celia Zentella (University of California San Diego)
May 12 Forensic Linguistic Analysis in Three 2007 Staged Suicide Attempts; Utilizing Authorial Attribution Analysis to Determine Who Wrote the "Suicide" Notes James R. Fitzgerald (Academy Group)
Mar 24 Global Education: Hope or Hype? Jochen Fried (Salzburg Global Seminar)
Feb 25 A Dozen Headaches for Dictionary Advocates in the 21st Century David K. Barnhart (Lexik House)

December 8, 2012

Gender, Language Change and Identity Construction in Washington, DC, African American English

Natalie Schilling, Georgetown University

Time: 11:00am - 12:00pm
Venue: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Room L2.82, 524 West 59th Street

In this presentation, I present results from ongoing work on African American English in Washington, DC., conducted in connection with the Georgetown University Linguistics Department's Language and Community in Washington, DC (LCDC) research project. I focus on inter- and intra-gender patterns of language variation and change among DC African Americans in apparent and real time. Results of our quantitative analyses indicate that, in parallel with findings from other U.S. cities, DC AAE is in general becoming more different from surrounding White varieties. At the same time, the amount of differentiation depends on the linguistic feature, as well as speaker gender, as there is evidence that African American women in in DC are beginning to adopt some language features and linguistic changes that are characteristic of White speech.

In one sense, the gender-based differences in the maintenance vs. reduction of vernacular features align with those found for numerous communities throughout the U.S. and world, as women move more quickly away from language patterns that relegate them to traditional marginal status than men, whose traditional roles afford them more power over women than more contemporary roles. However, explanations are also localized and internalized, as DC African Americans use language variation to project and shape personal identities and character traits, including gender identities.

The quantitative analysis is supplemented by up-close investigation of intra-speaker variation in the speech of two teenage boys. The analysis indicates that they boys use dialect and discourse variation (e.g. in narrative structure) to project different types of masculinity. For example, the younger boy projects aggressiveness and antagonism toward foes, while the older boy projects a detached, 'cool' demeanor in the face of adversity. At the same time, both boys use high levels of vernacular AAE features, especially when talking about topics with which they are most closely involved.

Hence, whereas African American females in DC may be (slowly) moving away from AAE speech norms, their male counterparts seem to be more deeply involved in the local, a level of community involvement which, ironically, may be possible only through developing and maintaining a personally non-involved demeanor.



November 10, 2012

The Etymology and Early Use of Greek Sophos 'Wise'

Edwin Floyd, University of Pittsburgh (emeritus)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Room L2.82, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA

Pretty much everyone with an interest in words knows that Greek sophos ('wise', etc.) underlies English 'philosophy', 'sophomore', 'sophist', etc. - but can one go beyond Greek to proto-Indo-European? Neither Frisk nor Chantraine in their respective Greek etymological dictionaries does so, but I suggest that we can, if we consider the earliest attestations of soph-.

Homer, Iliad 15.412 uses the derivative sophie 'what the sophos man / woman does', in a context of battle-lines being inexorably measured out. Measurement is also latent in the combination of sophos with kubernetes 'helmsman' at Archilochus, fr. 211, inasmuch as the good helmsman must always know his ship's location accurately.

Working from these and other archaic Greek examples, I have utilized Starostin's reworking, available on line at http://dnghu.org/indoeuropean.html of Pokorny's Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. What I posit is a phonologically straightforward connection of soph- with Pokorny's root dheubh-, dhubh- 'spike, wedge, etc.' Besides fitting easily into recognized Greek sound changes, the resulting semantic associations of soph- fit the various archaic Greek contexts admirably. At Iliad 15.412, for instance, the chalk-line (stathme), previously mentioned at line 410, must surely be held in place by some kind of spikes, and the Archilochus fragment equally falls into place, since it includes the word triainan 'trident, three-pronged fork'.



October 6, 2012

Bilinguals and Borders: Patrolling Languages and Identities on the US-Mexico Border

Ana Celia Zentella, University of California San Diego

Despite their envied bilingual and bicultural capital, college students who have spent years living and studying in both San Diego and Tijuana (transfronterizos), struggle with conflicting constructions of language and identity that are the result of rigid national and language borders. In particular, intra-sentential code switching, or Spanglish, is frowned upon, because that way of speaking is identified with el hablar mocho de los pochos ['chopped up Mexican American speech']. Transfronterizo attempts to distinguish themselves from monolinguals on both sides of the border suggest the creation of a "Migra Bilingüe", or language border patrollers, akin to the federal agents who track the undocumented. The hierarchy of authenticity that results among Mexicano-Americanos in an era of heightened English-only fervor parallels the Boricua-Nuyorican pattern in several significant ways.

Click here for the video of this presentation



May 12, 2012

Forensic Linguistic Analysis in Three 2007 Staged Suicide Attempts; Utilizing Authorial Attribution Analysis to Determine Who Wrote the "Suicide" Notes

James R. Fitzgerald, Academy Group

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Room L2.82, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA

Although the academic analysis of suicide-related communications often centers on attempting to identify indicators of victim intent (e.g. actual suicide vs. "cry for help"), it is more important to first determine whether such communications were indeed authored by the victim or whether the apparent suicide and related communications were staged in an attempt to cover up a murder or attempted murder. Hence, alleged written suicide communications should never be assessed in isolation but rather in comparison with known writings of the victim and, if the investigation dictates, with the known writings of others who may be suspects in the authorship of the communication and/or the actual death.

In 2007, three separate homicides/homicide attempts in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia were initially handled as suicides, as each crime scene included an alleged suicide communication. However, in each case factors emerged that suggested homicide (and, in one case, attempted homicide). In each case, forensic linguistic comparison of the alleged suicide communication with documents known to be authored by the victim and by suspected perpetrators yielded invaluable evidence indicative of inconsistency of the "suicide" notes with the victims' known writings and/or consistency with those of the suspects. Each case resulted in an arrest for the charge of homicide and the eventual successful conviction of each.

In this presentation, I will outline the forensic linguistic analyses conducted in connection with these cases, demonstrating the efficacy of qualitative and quantitative forensic stylistic methods of authorial attribution focusing on such features as punctuation, orthography and lexical usages. I will highlight linkages between forensic stylistics and sociolinguistic studies of stylistic variation and authorial imitation, as well as recent computational linguistic methods in authorial attribution of computer mediated communications, thereby demonstrating the solid linguistic basis as well as practical utility of the authorial attribution methods used in these three cases.



March 24, 2012

Global Education: Hope or Hype?

Jochen Fried, Salzburg Global Seminar

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Room L2.82, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA

A buzz is going around in U.S. undergraduate education – the buzz of "global awareness/perspectives/literacy/ proficiencies" etc. For some, it encapsulates the essence of a liberal arts education for the 21st century, for others it represents a sloppy use of language or straightforward gibberish. From a more dispassionate point of view, the discussion about the advantages or disadvantages of a global education can be seen as an indication for a widespread uncertainty how to best prepare students for a successful life as professionals and citizens in an increasingly interconnected world. In his talk, Jochen Fried will focus not so much on specific models of, or approaches to, global education. Instead, he will analyze some of the the discourse patterns which underpin this call for a reorientation of what constitutes a meaningful and relevant education for an age of mounting complexity and uncertainty.



February 25, 2012

A Dozen Headaches for Dictionary Advocates in the 21st Century

David K. Barnhart, Lexik House

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Room L2.82, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA

Lexicography is often reducible to cycling units of information, especially words. It is usually done, especially in what is often called commercial lexicography, with an eye on the clock. Budgets for dictionary projects are usually quite restricting. One consequence of such confinement is the headache of complying with production schedules, often imposed by a publisher. This brief presentation will focus on what such headaches entail and whether or not there is a suitable cure: (1) One of the most important challenges for present-day dictionary editors is the large numbers which accompany collections of evidence. (2) "Where do all the new words come from?" (3) Print, electronic, and Web-based, each have attractors and detractors – what to do? (4) "Doomed-ness" of unabridged dictionaries – reality or dreaming. These four problem areas are of interest but probably not of overwhelming importance to teachers and students. Their headaches include: (5) Why is it here and not there? (6) Why is it neither here nor there? (7) How do I get my students to read the "blankity-blank" front matter? These half-dozen or so issues and more will be discussed; there's room for your headaches, too.



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