Department of Germanic Studies

Dr. Hans Boas and Dr. Marc Pierce co-present a talk at the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America / North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences

Wed, January 9, 2019
Dr. Hans Boas and Dr. Marc Pierce co-present a talk at the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America / North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences
LSA
Jan. 5, 2019.
 
Links: for North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences https://naahols.wordpress.com/and Linguistic Society of America: and https://www.linguisticsociety.org/node/9647/schedule
 
 
 
 
 
 

Abstract

 

Capturing the flow of linguistic ideas: The Linguist Family Tree

 

Hans C. Boas, Hope C. Dawson, Brian D. Joseph, Todd B. Krause, Marc Pierce

 

When working with senior linguists, one is frequently left with the impression that they retain a wealth of insights above and beyond what they have imparted to their closest colleagues and students or committed to refined publication. Moreover, though formal retirement often signals a retreat from the constant stream of publication and lecture, researchers at this advanced stage of their careers may have a unique perspective on the history and shape of the discipline and on fruitful directions for further investigation. We have thus started a project aimed at preserving these insights in a freely accessible online repository, which will benefit the field as a whole, but particularly those younger scholars still in search of ways to make profound and meaningful contributions to linguistics.  

 

This paper presents the first results of our pilot project, based on interviews using formal and informal questionnaires, as well as on donated materials (print, audio, video, handwritten notes, etc.) that provide clues about how to advance the field. We present our interview protocol, our workflow, how we process the various types of digital and non-digital materials, and a first prototype of our online repository of senior linguists, including multiple ways of accessing it.  


It is also the case, however, that some perspectives do not lend themselves to easy characterization in the speech or writing of a given individual. Certain insights or schools of thought make themselves known only over the course of generations, as the discipline observes the types of ideas that emerge in the publications of those who work together or share a common academic lineage.  The mathematical sciences have sought to highlight such trends in the development of scientific thought through the tracing of the academic lineage of great mathematicians in the Mathematics Genealogy Project and other similar works.  We see the same need for tracing the academic heritage of notable linguists, and we thus present a first version of our digital Linguist Family Tree based on our initial interviewees. We will show how our prototype will be expanded in the future to outline the academic connections among important linguists throughout history. Over time, each node will include a brief description of the given linguist’s background and major contributions to the discipline. The structure of the tree itself will serve as an aid to researching the origin and development of important trends and shifts in thinking throughout the history of linguistics.

 

These two initiatives are intimately connected, in that senior scholars are best positioned to offer informed perspectives on where a field has been and where it can go, while at the same time forming a key link between generations of mentors and mentees.

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