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Linguistic Anthropology Roundup #3

The Boston Globe: The Word
Following up on Leila’s introduction to our man at the Times, I’d like to point to The Word, a regular column at The Boston Globe. Editor and author Jan Freeman writes the column, and in recent years has split that duty with lexicographer and author Erin McKean. Recent columns include McKean’s take on “you guys” as a gendered expression and Freeman’s attempts to track down the origins of duck/duct tape, a perennial puzzler that Safire covered at the New York Times in 2003 but whose original spelling Freeman suggests is still a matter “of faith, not fact”.

Dear Ron: Conversations with a Scholar, Teacher, Mentor and Friend
eVox, Georgetown University’s journal for working papers in Language, Discourse, and Society, has a special issue in honor of the late Ron Scollon. Scollon, an eminent scholar of discourse analysis, intercultural communication, public and media discourse, language acquisition, and Athabascan languages, is remembered by fifteen of his former students from Georgetown, as well as colleagues from the University of the District of Columbia and City University of Hong Kong. The issue also includes a piece by Scollon himself, “Aristotle Fails to Persuade the Donkey,” a lecture he prepared for a conference at Aalborg University, Denmark.

Monkeys with Internet Access: Sharing, Human Nature, and Digital Data
Several internet outlets have been reporting on Clay Shirky’s presentation at the South by Southwest Interactive conference, “Monkeys with Internet Access.” At Scientific American Christie Nicholson gives a sixty-second podcast summary; Creativity Online has a more in-depth recounting, as does a Huffington Post piece by John Grohol. According to the summaries, Shirky cites Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology on humans’ and other primates’ inclination to share information, and draws implications for businesses on the World Wide Web. Each summary makes me wish I’d heard the original presentation.

Talk. Just Talk.
At the Voting Osage discussion platform Ryan Red Corn recounts a personal and historical tale of the Osage Language Program that has developed over the past eight years. Red Corn describes “a program with no first language speakers, being led by a man with no formal training in education or linguistics, sufficiently funded by his tribal government” that has achieved admirable success, despite proposed budget cuts this year. Red Corn’s message is an important one even for those outside the Osage nation: “The point is to create speakers, and last I checked reversing a 200 year trend is not easy, nor does it happen overnight.”
(Thanks to Mark Liberman at Language Log for bringing Voting Osage to my attention, and to Carrie Shanafelt for bringing it to his.)

Predicting What People Are About to Say
Science Daily previews work by Joan Bresnan and Marilyn Ford on people’s ability to predict the syntactic content of others’ talk in progress. Science Daily compares this to the common experience of finishing another speaker’s sentence, a practice that is known in conversation analysis as “projecting” or “projection”. Bresnan and Ford’s work does not treat CA-style projecting, though. Rather, it is a laboratory study of subjects’ ability to predict the form of the dative in a corpus of informal conversations. Members of the Linguistics Society of America or those with library access can read the original paper in the latest issue of Language.