St. Olaf News

 

Students launch new linguistics symposium

Hannah Erickson '13 presents her research on "Phoneme identification under a cochlear implant simulation" at the Minnesota Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium.

Hannah Erickson ’13 presents her research on “Phoneme identification under a cochlear implant simulation” at the Minnesota Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium.

St. Olaf College recently hosted more than 100 students from across the Midwest interested in semantics and syntax.

They were here thanks to the initiative and drive of Michelle Frank ’13 and the St. Olaf Student Linguistics Society, which was responsible for imagining, organizing, and executing the first Minnesota Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium.

“One goal of the conference was to reflect the diversity of linguistics,” says Frank, president of the Student Linguistics Society and lead organizer of the symposium. “We wanted to emphasize the experiential potential within the field.”

The symposium served as an arena for students to share their research in the field of linguistics, and featured undergraduate presenters from St. Olaf, Carleton, Luther, and Macalester Colleges, as well as the University of Minnesota.

St. Olaf seniors (from left) Michelle Frank, Kelsey Klein, Hannah Erickson, and Eileen King organized the linguistics symposium.

St. Olaf seniors (from left) Michelle Frank, Kelsey Klein, Hannah Erickson, and Eileen King organized the linguistics symposium.

Their work examined linguistic phenomena from a range of languages, including Modern Standard Arabic, Basque, Northern Italian dialects, and Amharic, a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia.

To illustrate the broader social context and potential applications of their research, the students also assembled a panel of professionals to discuss the various career paths a linguist can pursue. They also invited Stephanie Farmer of the University of California, Berkeley to deliver a keynote address on graduate studies in the field.

In doing so, Frank and the Student Linguistics Society aimed to increase student awareness of opportunities to conduct linguistics-related research at St. Olaf.

“We’ve now established the symposium as an annual event, and look forward to another strong showing of student research at next year’s conference,” says Frank.