In primary school and high school, my favourite subjects were languages and math. I later came to realize that this is true for many linguists. I did better in math classes than other classes, but I really loved the languages. I grew up in a Swedish-speaking area of Finland, and I studied Finnish in school. I also studied English, French, German and Spanish. I loved the classes, but I seemed to like the languages for different reasons than my peers. My friends either did not like studying languages, or else they liked it because it might be useful. You could communicate with people from different places and backgrounds. I never became good at communicating in the languages I studied, I simply enjoyed the patterns and structures. The grammar lectures and exercises were great, but I didn’t really enjoy the conversation exercises.
After high school, I had some idea that languages and math don’t “go together” and I would have to choose. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to attend Brandeis University in Waltham outside Boston, and I chose to study French language and literature. I enjoyed those classes very much, but what became my true passion was linguistics. In my first semester, I took Introduction to Linguistics. I didn’t quite get all the talk about cognition, but the puzzles in the homework assignments were a lot of fun. I was hooked and decided to double-major in French and Linguistics. Boston was obviously a great place to be for exploring linguistics, and I attended talks and classes around town. I received valuable support from Joan Maling and Ray Jackendoff at Brandeis, and also Charles Reiss and Mark Hale at Harvard. I got to spend a lot of time with many people who care deeply about how language works. All the talk of language and cognition slowly started to make sense. I was intrigued by all aspects of linguistics that I learned about, but I ended up writing my thesis on a topic in Finnish morphosyntax.
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