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Hall of Heroes


These are the learned heroes fluent in many tongues that we have put forward as our champions. We give tribute to them for the many codices they have writ on the lore and peculiarities of the world's sundry tongues.


Martin Haspelmath

Angelika Kratzer


I love being a teacher. I wish my students, both graduates and undergraduates, knew how much I learn from them. The graduate students push me to do the research I do. They force me to go further into a topic than I would possibly manage on my own. I wish they were paid as well as I am. My undergraduates teach me what linguistics and semantics is all about: They insist on clear answers to the big questions. One of the greatest joys of my career has been to work with others on how to teach semantics...



Martin Haspelmath

Martin Haspelmath


I went to a traditional high school that emphasized Latin and Ancient Greek, and where I could even take some Biblical Hebrew. My father was a Lutheran minister and had studied these languages, so there were books on and in these languages in our home. My mother was born and raised in Łódź, Poland, which until 1918 was home to four important languages, Polish, Yiddish, German and Russian. This got me interested in Polish and Russian — my grandmother taught me how to pronounce Russian, though she had some difficulties with the post-1917 spelling, because all of her exposure to Russian dated to the time when Łódź was part of the Russian Empire. As if that were not enough...


Jean Berko Gleason

Jean Berko Gleason


The languages and the literature we read — The Wild Duck in Norwegian, for instance, and parts of the Mahabharata in Sanskrit — were absorbing, but they were not really what I was looking for. Quite by happenstance, I enrolled during my senior year in a new course called the Psychology of Speech and Communication, taught by a young assistant professor named Roger Brown, who had recently arrived from the University of Michigan. The lectures were a revelation, beautifully organized, and full of startling ideas...


Mamoru Saito

Mamoru Saito


I was stubborn, independent and in retrospect, stupid when I was a teenager in Japan. I pretty much ignored schoolwork and spent much of my time reading novels and philosophy books. That continued until I suddenly felt that there were more things I ought to know and that I wanted to be "taught." My father suggested that I go to the States and start my college life afresh. I followed his advice and ...


Emily M. Bender

Emily M. Bender


In one sense, I've been a linguist for just about as long as I can remember. But for a long time, I didn't actually know it. I have a distinct memory of spending some day-dreaming time in middle school wondering why there were two kinds of letters ("vowels" and "consonants") and what the difference was between these classes anyway. Though I'm pretty sure I came up with some possible answers to that question, they have long since...


Nikolaus Himmelmann

Nikolaus Himmelmann


Before getting to university, I had never heard of linguistics as an academic discipline and only found out about it during my first term, when I was studying English and law. As part of the English program, I had to take an introduction to (English) linguistics and another class on the linguistic analysis of texts (nowadays widely generally known as discourse analysis). And I was immediately hooked. Here there was a way of looking at language and grammar very different from how things were done at high school where most language teaching focused on learning vocabulary.


François Grosjean

François Grosjean


When I think about my first linguistics course, my mind wanders back to a large lecture hall in the mid-sixties at the University of Paris. Around 300 of us were attending a lecture on English Linguistics taught by Antoine Culioli. Suddenly, in his quiet voice, Culioli asked, "Is François Grosjean there?". I raised my hand and he continued, "Tell me, in British English, would you say ...(X)... or would you say ...(Y)...?". Because of my secondary schooling in England, I was one of the (quasi) native speakers that lecturers would call upon as linguistic informants. I don't remember the two alternatives...


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