Video Highlight: Timothy Pulju's TEDx Talk

Timothy Pulju is a Senior Lecturer in Classics and Linguistics and an expert in the fields of comparative Indo-European linguistics, functional linguistics and language description, and history of linguistics. Among students, he is widely acknowledged as a fascinating lecturer.

In a hilarious exploration of modern language and its consistencies - and inconsistencies- Pulju shows the "Uncanny Science of Linguistic Reconstruction" and raises a dead language right before our eyes.

Can Xylophones ‘Talk’? Yes, in Africa, and Soon, at the Hop

Mamadou Diabate’s music is also speech, says linguist Laura McPherson.

This fall, on Wednesday afternoons, the syncopated rhythms of balafons—African xylophone-like instruments—have been spilling out of Faulkner Recital Hall in the Hopkins Center for the Arts. It’s a call-and-response improvisation. In a lilting voice, Mamadou Diabate, one of Burkina Faso’s most illustrious musicians, recites a traditional lyric, and beginning players—students and a few faculty— try to find those notes on their balafons, creating a tune that sounds a lot like what they have just heard Diabate say.

In this way, the performers are doing more than adding melody to lyrics. They are directly translating speech into song.

Hello, New New England (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a study by James Stanford, an assistant professor of linguistics and cognitive science, Kenneth Baclawski Jr. ’12, and Thomas Leddy-Cecere ’10, who write about the dropped R after vowels and other variations in spoken English in New England.

The authors cite an eastward movement of the 200-year-old boundary between eastern New England’s pronunciation and that of people living to the west. The dividing line used to be the Green Mountains of Vermont, according to the study, but is now the Vermont-New Hampshire border. Among young people, the boundary is even farther east, say the authors, whose study was published in the journal American Speech.

Read the full story, published 8/13/12 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Researchers Study How Ppl Shorten Words on Twitter (NPR)

How does Twitter help words become shortened versions of themselves? Dartmouth researchers mined 180 million tweets from 900,000 users to understand the use of clipped words—think “awk” for “awkward,” or “defs” for “definite”— reports NPR.

Sravana Reddy, a research associate in the department of computer science and the department of linguistics and cognitive sciences, and her team discovered that people aren’t simply clipping words to fit Twitter’s 140-character limit, NPR writes. In fact, says NPR, the “average length of the tweets containing clipped words ranged from 80 to 90 characters, meaning that people were specifically choosing to use these shortenings.”

The team also discovered that clipping is most popular in California. “It might have originated in that area and spread over because of Hollywood and TV,” Reddy tells NPR.

Read the full story, published 1/17/14 by NPR.

Is That New England Accent in Retreat? (The New York Times)

The New York Times reports on a study by James Stanford, an assistant professor of linguistics and cognitive science, Kenneth Baclawski Jr. ’12, and Thomas Leddy-Cecere ’10, who say New England’s distinctive accent is fading away.

The erosion of the accent, especially among young people, extends well beyond the famous “pahk the cah in Hahvadh yahd,” the authors say. “After so many generations of consistent transmission,” they write, “the social patterns laid down by the founders are now rapidly shifting and dissipating in the current generation.”

With help from a team of Dartmouth students, the authors interviewed dozens of citizens in New Hampshire and Vermont. After analyzing their subjects’ speech patterns, the authors determined that the traditional east-west speech border had moved eastward, and that among the young, the accent seemed close to vanishing.

Published 8/15/12 in The New York Times.

Dartmouth Linguists Remap Boundary Between East, West (VPR)

In an interview with Vermont Public Radio (VPR), Professor James Stanford explained that the Green Mountains of Vermont no longer serve as the divide for eastern and western speech patterns in New England.

After collecting dialect recordings from residents of the Upper Valley, Stanford, an assistant professor of linguistics at Dartmouth, and his colleagues found that the linguistic divide now lies along the state line of New Hampshire and Vermont. “Nowadays locals talk about the air being different when you cross over the Connecticut River,” Stanford told VPR. “And part of that may be an unconscious sense of linguistic differences, but then also a sense of state identity that’s also playing a role.”

Listen to the story, broadcast on 7/3/12 by VPR.

Linguistics Professor Examines Prescription Drug Websites

Dartmouth Linguistics Professor Lewis Glinert and Jon Schommer, the associate head of the Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems at the University of Minnesota, have examined the corporate websites dedicated to the 100 best-selling prescription drugs. They found a startling lack of consistency in an industry where advertising standards are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA).

“Communicating via a website is common practice today,” says Glinert, “and consumers are very savvy about doing their own research on the Internet. The FDA has rules about direct-to-consumer print and television drug advertising, so we think it makes sense to also regulate websites and other marketing tools when it comes to prescription medicine. Consumers need consistent and balanced information.”