5th Language Science Day to be hosted at the Adele H Stamp Student Union

LSD - 1It is time to mark your calendars for the 5th annual Language Science Day!  The event is scheduled for Friday, September 19th, from 12 – 5pm at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union. We will find out about each other’s latest research endeavors over lunch, learn about the challenges and opportunities of collaborative research through student and faculty presentations, and ‘visit’ each other’s labs during the poster sessions. The day will end with our signature ‘Science is Social’ dinner and party at Colin Phillips & Andrea Zukowski’s house.

LSD - 3For those who are new members of the language science community: LSD is the student-organized flagship event of the year’s language science activities. The event brings together students and faculty from the cross-departmental community to showcase ongoing projects from various disciplines, to facilitate networking among participants, and to improve awareness of research and training opportunities at the University of Maryland. Last year’s event featured the launch of the Maryland Language Science Center and it brought together over 220 language science researchers from 17 departments and UMD-affiliated institutions to exchange ideas and interact with each other in a series of social events.

Language Science Day is a wonderful celebration of language science research at UMD and we hope to see you there!

Maria Polinsky to join UMD

Masha_PictureWe are delighted to welcome Maria (Masha) Polinsky to the language science community at Maryland. Masha is renowned for her research in cross-linguistic syntax and language universals, language processing and heritage languages. She is currently a Professor of Linguistics at Harvard, and will be joining us full time in Fall 2015 as Professor in the Department of Linguistics and an Associate Director of the Maryland Language Science Center. In the meantime she is already involved in some exciting projects and collaborations at UMD.

In theoretical syntax, Masha’s work spans a wide array of languages including Austronesian and Mayan languages, as well as languages of the Caucasus. She is a pioneer in bringing both the tools and the research questions of lab-based psycholinguistics to speakers of under-studied languages. She is currently working with the Language Science Center and other groups on plans to develop field stations: facilities beyond North America which will support interdisciplinary research involving indigenous communities, and which will allow for the use of traditionally lab-bound techniques such as eye-tracking and electrophysiology ‘in the field’.

Masha is also one of the leading figures in research on heritage language speakers, a group which includes more than 50 million Americans, and is co-director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA. Her research in this area focuses on understanding why there are such strong grammatical similarities found across heritage languages (regardless of the input language), how heritage speakers are different from other speakers and learners, and how this can inform models of language learning as well as effective language education for heritage speakers.

The breadth of Masha’s research and collaborations with language scientists throughout the world will make her a key participant in the Language Science Center’s rapidly growing international activities.

For more information on her research, publications, and interests: http://scholar.harvard.edu/mpolinsky


North American Summer School for Logic, Language and Information In Review

NASSLLI - 1Maryland hosted 80 students of linguistics, philosophy, and computer science from all parts of the world at the 6th North American Summer School in Logic, Language and Information (NASSLLI) from June 21-27. The students were treated to a week of advanced courses taught by two dozen top faculty – including Larry Moss (IU), James Pustejovsky (Brandeis), Frank Veltman (U of Amsterdam) and Angelika Kratzer (U of Massachusetts). Participants also enjoyed the opportunity to meet the current and next generations of leaders in their fields over coffee and cookies, a Burmese dinner banquet, and a tournament of Semantic Valueball (a local sport that approaches volleyball in the limit). Valueball_SmallWith the guidance of faculty organizers Eric Pacuit, Valentine Hacquard, and Alexander Williams, plus a crew of dedicated students in Linguistics and Philosophy, the Summer School was an intellectual and social success. Says Yoad Winter, Professor of Modern Languages at Utrecht, who taught “Introduction to Formal Semantics” at NASSLLI: “It was a very pleasurable summer school, and the organization was perfect! Also, perhaps most importantly, the interaction with the students was at a very high level. Very nice production!”


Courses were sorted into five tracks: Semantics, Grammar, Language and Computation, Probability and Games, and Philosophical Logic, with 2–5 classes in each area. Two of the most popular courses, attended by a majority of the students, were Angelika Kratzer’s “Mapping Possibilities in the Grammars of Natural Languages” and Frank Veltman’s “Topics in Update Semantics.”

NASSLLI valentine

The success of this NASSLLI will have positive effects for both students and faculty in logic and language at Maryland. Many prominent researchers in linguistics, philosophy and computer science have gained a new appreciation of what goes on in these areas at Maryland. The event also developed and solidified collegial relations among faculty that will lead to cooperative exchanges in the future. Our students — whose intelligence and efficiency was much remarked on throughout the week — similarly made promising connections both with their own cohort, and with faculty in their areas of interest. In short, UMD made a lasting and positive impression.

2014 Language Science Student Placements

Join us in congratulating our language science graduate students on their excellent job placements in the US, Germany, UK, and Russia. Out of 10 students, 3 have accepted tenure-track positions and 7 are taking up postdoctoral fellowships. The Language Science (IGERT) program at UMD has a 6-year completion rate of 92%. Placements to date consist of 20 in academia, 1 in industry, 2 in government research, and 1 in medical school.

2014 Graduate Placements:


Alexis Wellwood (LING, PhD 2014) – assistant professor (tenure track), Northwestern University

wing yee

Wing Yee Chow (LING, PhD 2013) – lecturer (tenure track), University College London


Dan Parker (LING, PhD 2014) – assistant professor (tenure track), College of William & Mary


Giovanna Morini (HESP, PhD 2014) – postdoc at U of Delaware


Sol Maria Lago (LING, PhD 2014) – postdoc at U of Potsdam, Germany


Yakov Kronrod
(LING, PhD 2014) – postdoc at U of Pennsylvania


Megan Sutton
(LING, PhD 2014)
postdoc at U of Pennsylvania


Annie Gagliardi (LING, PhD 2012) – postdoc in Computer Science at U of Edinburgh


Susan Teubner-Rhodes (PSYC, PhD 2014) – postdoc at Med. College of S Carolina


Anna Chrabaszcz (SLLC, PhD 2014) – postdoc at Higher School of Economics, Moscow (best language group in Russia)


Postdoc, Tom Grano (LING, 2012-2014) – assistant professor (tenure track), Indiana University

Eight Undergraduates Join the Language Science Center’s PULSAR Program

As part of its mission of enhancing training in language science at UMD, the Language Science Center initiated an exciting new interdisciplinary training program geared towards undergraduates, the Program for Undergraduate Language Science Ambassadors in Research, or PULSAR. The program just admitted its first cohort of eight undergraduate students. These students represent a wide variety of majors, including Linguistics, Computer Science, Hearing and Speech Science, Psychology, Persian, German, and Biology. Their future goals are similarly broad, encompassing such areas as field linguistics, computational linguistics, bilingual language acquisition, and sign language acquisition.

The first cohort of undergraduate students in Language Science:


Ashley Thomas, Hearing and Speech Sciences


Stephen Devilbiss, Linguistics & Psychology


John Mathena, Linguistics & Psychology


Kristen Carlson, Hearing and Speech Sciences


Courtney Cooper, Linguistics


Jay Ritch, Linguistics, German & Persian


Neomi Rao, Biology & Linguistics


Eliana Vornov, Computer Science & Linguistics

As part of PULSAR, students take interdisciplinary coursework to broaden their background in language science and gain hands-on research experience. “PULSAR will help me gain a more complete understanding of language science, in addition to helping me figure out what parts of language science interest me the most. PULSAR will also help me get more involved within the language science community here at UMD,” said incoming PULSAR student Ashley Thomas.

Another major component of the program involves participating in outreach activities, and the PULSAR students are looking forward to their role ambassadors for language science. “Not many people in high school know what the field of language science entails – especially since it is so interdisciplinary,” said Neomi Rao. “I think a good goal would be to increase awareness of language science, especially for soon-to-be students.”
Eliana Vornov agreed. “I would love to be able to introduce language science to high school students who would not be otherwise aware of it. I became interested in language science because of a family member who is involved in cognitive science research; without his influence, I would never have even considered taking my first linguistics course. I want to help introduce students without a similar influence to language science, so that they will also be able consider it as a possible field of study.”  Ashley Thomas added, “I was fortunate enough to begin my research in language science during high school, but my placement in a language science lab was merely by chance. I would like to help get the word out about language science within the surrounding community.”

The PULSAR program also includes a weekly seminar series, where students learn about research opportunities on campus and have the opportunity to present their own research to their peers. “I am actively looking for opportunities to gain experience presenting and the seminar and other opportunities would provide this….I think in that type of environment, I can best tap into and share what is so thrilling for me about research,” commented Steven DeVilbiss.

The PULSAR program develops students’ abilities in integration, communication, discovery, and leadership, while becoming a member of a strong, collaborative group of peers. “PULSAR is a great way to learn more about Linguistics and express my love of Linguistics with people who feel the same way,” said John Mathena.

Nautilus Features UMD CASL’s High Level Language Aptitude Battery (Hi-LAB)

nautilus_lscwebImagine a test that could tell you how good you can ultimately get in any foreign language, from Hindi to Welsh, from Igbo to Spanish, before you’ve even learned how to say “hello” or “please pass the butter.” Tres alléchant, no? Most adults would have to put in 10 years or more of dedicated work to find out if they have what it takes to end up with the vocabulary, accent, and grammatical sensibilities of a near-native speaker. This test could direct them from the début.

And it may be coming your way soon.

Called the Hi-LAB (or “High Level Language Aptitude Battery”), it was developed by University of Maryland researchers working on a government contract in order to predict a person’s ability to learn a language to a very high level. Since its release in 2012, the Hi-LAB has been rolled out to government agencies and military training schools and will eventually be available for civilians as well. (Details of the Hi-LAB were only recently released to the public.) In the same way that America’s space program and the Cold War created spin-off products and technologies that altered civilian life, the Hi-LAB could become one of the first civilian benefits to come out of America’s war on terror.

To read the full article in Nautilus, click here.

Interdisciplinary Language Science for Undergraduates: PULSAR

Morgan MoyerMaryland’s vibrant interdisciplinary language science community has mostly benefited faculty and grad students, with limited impact on undergraduate programming. Until now. The new PULSAR program, which is accepting applications now, seeks to spread the language science action to the university’s largest constituency by bringing together undergraduate students from diverse fields.

PULSAR, which unpacks as Program for Undergraduate Language Science Ambassadors in Research (try to say that three times quickly) will develop students’ abilities in integration, communication, discovery, and leadership – skills that are in high demand in current graduates. It will do this by building on the successes of the NSF-IGERT interdisciplinary graduate program that has run since 2008. Members of PULSAR will join a broad community of students, researchers, and faculty from areas such as Computer Science, Psychology, Hearing & Speech Sciences, Electrical Engineering, the College of Education, the iSchool, the School of Public Health, Linguistics, and the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

STEMPULSAR students will take some courses outside their major area, will get involved in research, education, or policy initiatives, and will join LSC’s growing outreach efforts. They will also participate in a weekly PULSAR seminar course that focuses on sharing research with peers. The program involves a 2-year commitment, so it is intended for freshmen, sophomores, and rising juniors.

PULSAR is now accepting applications for the fall 2014 cohort, so please encourage your undergraduate students to apply. Applications can be completed online, and are due by April 25th. Information sessions for interested students will be offered on April 11th and 23rd. Questions should be directed to PULSAR Director Rochelle Newman, who is also Associate Director of LSC. (Or email can be sent to pulsar@umd.edu.)

Tess Wood appointed as Assistant Director of the Maryland Language Science Center

Tess Wood_1Tess Wood has joined the Language Science Center as Assistant Director.  She will play a central role in all aspects of LSC’s activities, including research and grants development, establishing new programs, and external relations.

Tess has expertise in diverse areas of language science. She has a Linguistics PhD from UC Berkeley, where she did fieldwork in Yurok and Chechen, in addition to spending time working in computational lexicography at Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute. More recently she was project manager for the UMARC research consortium on language and autism based in the Dept of Hearing and Speech Sciences. She has taught diverse courses in HESP and LING in recent years, and also coordinated the very popular fieldwork course in Winter Storm 2013. In addition to these, Tess is a stalwart member of the language science running team in the annual Ragnar Relay.

Tess is currently dividing her time between teaching classes for HESP and LING and her LSC role. Her LSC efforts are currently focused on the Langscape project, a global language mapping resource that LSC and CASL will be jointly launching this spring … if spring ever comes. From June onwards she will be full-time with LSC, playing a central role in many LSC initiatives.

Language Science Outreach – Spring 2014

Montgomery Ling ClubLSC students and faculty have been busy spreading the word about language science to students of all ages. The outreach program started as a noble add-on to our day jobs, but it soon grew into a core part of our mission, as we learned that learning to communicate our science to diverse audiences also makes us better interdisciplinary scientists. Go figure.

Faculty and students are engaged in a wide variety of different outreach activities, many of them created independent of LSC. We will asking you to tell us about these in the coming weeks. But here is a summary of the activities that LSC’s students have been coordinating in this semester alone. The 2014 Outreach Team is led by Alison Shell (Psychology), with lieutenants Chris Heffner (NACS), Alix Kowalski (Hearing and Speech Sciences) and Rachel Dudley (Linguistics), and ably assisted by faculty mentors Meredith Rowe (HDQM) and Ellen Lau (Linguistics).

High School Visits
A partnership with the AP Psychology program at Northwood High School (Silver Spring) is now in its 6th year, and has since expanded to include Paint Branch High School (Burtonsville). These partnerships now reach around 200 students per year, mostly first-generation college candidates, giving them a taste of college life and for science in action. Meredith Rowe (HDQM) gave lectures on language acquisition at both high schools, in each case followed by a panel composed of graduate and undergraduate students. A couple of weeks after the school visits, around 100 students from each school visited the University of Maryland and participated in 9-12 interactive research activity groups led by students from different areas of language science. They visited labs, heard a talk by Ellen Lau (LING) and ended their campus visit with lunch at the Stamp Student Union, a highlight for many.

Montgomery-Blair HS Linguistics Club
High school students at MBHS in Silver Spring took it upon themselves to form a linguistics club, and UMD faculty and students from diverse departments have visited them for regular language science talks over the past couple of years, covering such topics as aphasia and disordered language, phonology in poetry, semantics and philosophy of language, natural language processing, sentiment analysis, and machine translation. MBHS students took a field trip to UMD on March 11th where they enjoyed more discussions, and demos, and pizza. Thanks to Yakov Kronrod (LING) and Alix Kowalski (HESP) who have been the key ambassadors for this unusual partnership. One MBHS student, Alan Du, did language science internships (in the iSchool and LING) in the past two summers, and recently traveled with us to Columbus OH, as he was co-author on a talk at the CUNY Sentence Processing Conference, led by his summer mentor Dan Parker (LING).

High School Internships
During the months of April and May, 2014 the outreach team will help to match students from the Eleanor Roosevelt High School with prospective faculty mentors. A poster session at the end of their internship will allow students to present their research to a broad language science crowd. Please contact us if you are interested in mentoring a student – ERHS has a strong science and technology magnet program, and many faculty have had great experiences with interns in past years.

Elementary Schools
Each year student volunteers from multiple departments volunteer as judges at science fairs for 3rd-5th grades at local elementary schools. In January a group of students participated in the University Park Elementary Science Fair; in May another group will attend the UPES Career Day; in December with the Berwyn Heights ES STEM Fair.

Maryland Day April 26, 2014
Don’t miss the Cognitive-, Neuro-, and Language Science tent at Maryland Day, the university’s annual celebration of science, arts, and sports that brings over 60,000 people to campus each spring. This year our tent will be moving to higher altitude, on Tawes Plaza.

GSIT Program Doubles US Capacity for Training Interpreters/Translators

interpreter01 A new program in the Department of Communication has doubled the US capacity for training interpreters and translators. How is this possible? Many countries have scores of programs for training translators/interpreters, but until recently there was only one graduate program for these fields in the US, hidden away in dreary Monterey, CA. This year’s launch of the new Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation (GSIT) Program creates a second, and the only such program in the eastern US. And it’s no surprise that this program is in great demand, given the wealth of organizations that depend on the availability of highly qualified interpreters (spoken language) and translators (written language): the United Nations, the World Bank, and the State Department, to name just a few. In addition to growing demand for professional positions in the political, legal, business, health, and educational domains.

In addition to its work in training professional interpreters and translators, GSIT aims to also advance research capacity in these fields, providing opportunities for interesting connections to other research strengths in language science at UMD.

The GSIT Program is directed by Dr David Sawyer, who has many years of practical and academic experience in interpreting. He is a specialist in German, including gigs working for this guy. The GSIT Associate Director is Shawn Parry-Giles, an expert in rhetoric and politics who directs UMD’s Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership. Shawn has a number of prominent publications on this person (busy couple of years ahead for Shawn!).