A big thank-you to our graduate students

The other day, as I was rearranging the chairs in our conference room for a meeting with our graduate students, I saw a plaque with my name and the year 2017 engraved on the wall. It turns out that, unbeknownst to me, I won the annual Graduate Teaching Award given by the Department’s Graduate Student Association. This is a coveted award in our department and it has never before gone  to a linguist, so I am extra grateful for this recognition and for our graduate student’s support.

Fortunately, since we were about to have our fall pizza meeting, a number of our graduate students were in the room and I could thank them right away. You are the best!

ELL pizza party, Nov. 2018

Greetings from London

This summer, I had the opportunity to present at ISLE5, the 5th conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English, organized by the Survey of English Usage at University College London (right next to the British Museum). Every day I passed a myriad of famous sights (some captured below),…

..but this simple office entrance seemed to capture all linguists’ attention, in particular.

A very special commencement

My view of Camp Randall and speaker David Muire at Commencement! (For more pictures, not mine, follow the link.)

I had the honor to be part of the platform party one more time (representing the faculty as chair of the University Committee), which also came with certain obligations … or should I say ‘obligations’…
…3/4 through the ceremony:

As an added bonus, on the way out I managed to take a quick selfie with (most of) our AEL Class of 2018. What an unexpected surprise!

In and out of the classroom

It’s always great to have a speaker visit one’s class or to take one’s class to experience a different learning environment. I took my “English Grammar in Use” class to the Special Collections section of Memorial Library, where librarians Susan Barribeau and Robin Rider introduced us to early volumes of the Philosophical Transactions and other early scientific texts. (Fun fact: The pad thingies the books rest on are known as “book futons.”)

As part of their course work, students updated the Grammar Badgers website and added several new features, including an interview with linguist John McWhorter as well as with teaching assistants from across campus and, a linguistic listicle (“Linguist tell all“).

At the end of the fall term, I had the privilege to be part of the “podium party” at Winter Commencement. It was very special to see every graduate cross the stage from up close. (Since my alma mater, the University of Göttingen, doesn’t really do robes, I was handed a hood with German colors — not sure which college and degree it actually belongs to.) The person next to me in the picture is Lori Berquam, our fabulous Dean of Students.

During spelling bee season, speech language pathologist Beth Coppoc Gunshor from BCG Language & Literacy gave a guest presentation on the linguistic basis of spelling in my class “The Structure of English.” Beth shared insights from her work with students who struggle with reading and writing. She is passionate about teaching students how to analyze the structure of words — recognizing common roots and learning about the behavior of affixes. English spelling — it’s not as crazy as you think! (Bonus fact: “helicopter” and “pterodactyl” share a common Greek root.)

Beth Coppoc Gunshor

Eccles Professorship

I am grateful to announce that I have been named the new Mark and Elisabeth Eccles Professor in English. The Eccles family has long supported the mission of the department. Mark Eccles was a Shakespeare scholar and Elisabeth Eccles was an editor at UW press. Mark Eccles was particularly well-known for working with biographical data extracted from public records. Perhaps he would appreciate this picture (please click on link) owned by The Wisconsin Historical Society of his son Bob (currently a member of the department’s Board of Visitors) competing in the West High School Spelling Bee in 1961.

5th Prescriptivism Conference

Just back from presenting the Grammar Badgers project at the 5th Prescriptivism Conference, hosted by Brigham Young University in Utah from June 22-24, 2017.  The conference touched on topics such as the influence of style guides, the turn to ‘big data,’ the overall value of studying prescriptivism for the discipline of linguistics, and the questionable binarity of ‘prescriptive’ vs. ‘descriptive’ as such. Great people, great talks, great conference organization

… great place

…and great people.


Congrats, Class of 2017!

It was a glorious day for having one’s picture taken in front of Bascom Hall.

Congratulations to our fabulous Applied English Linguistics Class of 2017, pictured with incomparable graduate coordinator Robyn Shanahan: Vilcky Wu, Tiffany Xu, Jake Zhu, Neal Liu, and Jonathan Jibson (not in the picture: Glenn Starr and Christine Geng). We’re excited to see where they degree and their passion for all things language will take them.


Introducing “Grammar Badgers”

I am so proud to introduce Grammar Badgers, a website created by graduate students in English Language and Linguistics who took my “Bad Grammar” class this semester. As part of the class, students were tasked with creating materials that would be of interest for the general public. We called it the “Wisconsin Idea” project.

Students worked in four teams: One group created one-minute videos that address grammar issues people often feel confused about, one group created four-minute podcasts on “linguistic misfits” and on what we can learn from mistakes , one group created a grammar quiz with video explanations, and one group created teaching materials for ESL classes. Students learned about the ins and outs of filming on campus, figured out the best interviewing techniques, worked collaboratively on sound and movie editing (those phonology classes came in handy!) as well as website and logo design and had the brilliant idea to make Bucky Badger an ally. The result is a website that provides information, resources, and entertainment! Check it out!

Grammar Badger Website (Screenshot)

Linguistic Lunch Hour with Trini Stickle

It was my great pleasure this week to host Professor Trini Stickle (Western Kentucky University), an alumna of our Ph.D. program in English Language and Linguistics. Trina and I talked about our joint research on the grammar of persons diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease (an article version of this talk has just been published in Applied Linguistics). Additionally, Professor Stickle gave a brownbag on the job market in linguistics. It was great to have her back in Madison!

Published: “Transivitity Patterns Exhibited by Persons with Dementia in Conversation”

My joint work with Trini Stickle (Western Kentucky University) on the grammar of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease has just been published in Applied Linguistics. Trini Stickle graduated from our Ph.D. program in 2015 with a dissertation on the linguistic and interactional competence of persons diagnosed with dementia and autism. At her proposal conference I suggested that someone take a closer look at underlying transitivity patterns…. and here we are.


Skype discussion with Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade

We had a great discussion with Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (Leiden) in our seminar on “Bad Grammar” this week – from preposition stranding to Robert Lowth to Professor Tieken’s usage guides data base to prescriptivism as an area of linguistic inquiry and Geoffrey Pullum’s anniversary note to Strunk and White. Four weeks to go until we will hold our end-of-semester symposium.

Teaching Academy Fellow

I am honored to have been accepted into the Teaching Academy as a fellow.

Membership in the Teaching Academy is an honor bestowed on individuals who have demonstrated teaching excellence, are recognized and nominated by their peers, and are committed to advancing the mission of the Academy.

One TA event I can recommend highly is TASI — the annual Teaching Academy Summer Institute. I attended TASI last year and used my time to develop the syllabus for a new course.