Summer Institute on The Investigation of Linguistic Meaning

[Posting this to boost the signal. This seems like an awesome opportunity.]

Call for Applications

The Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and the National Humanities Center in North Carolina are soliciting applications for the 2015/16 SIAS Summer Institute: The Investigation of Linguistic Meaning: In the Armchair, in the Field, and in the Lab. The Summer Institute wants to attract junior postdoctoral researchers (PhD 2009 or later) from one of three fields: (a) Theoretical Linguistics, especially Semantics and its interfaces with Pragmatics, Syntax, and Phonology, (b) Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, and (c) Linguistic and Anthropological Fieldwork. SIAS Summer Institutes are designed to support the development of scholarly networks and collaborative projects among young scholars from the United States and Europe. The institutes are open to scholars who have received a Ph.D. within the past five years and Ph.D. candidates who are now studying or teaching at a European or American institution of higher education. Each institute accommodates twenty participants and is built around two summer workshops, one held in the United States and another in Europe in consecutive years. One goal of the 2015/16 Summer Institute will be interdisciplinary team building, resulting in joint publications at the end of the project. A second goal will be capacity building, especially the acquisition of methods in the neighboring fields.

Dates

July 20 to 31, 2015, Berlin, Germany, organized by the Wissenschaftskolleg and ZAS

July 18 to 29, 2016, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Application deadline: January 6, 2015. Full call for applications with application details:

https://udrive.oit.umass.edu/kratzer/siassi-announcement-2015-2016.pdf

Conveners

Angelika KRATZER, Professor of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Manfred KRIFKA, Professor of General Linguistics at Humboldt Universität Berlin and Director of the Zentrum für Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin (ZAS).

Guest lecturers

Emmanuel CHEMLA, Research Scientist (CNRS), Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, École Normale Supérieure, Paris

Lisa MATTHEWSON, Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia

Jesse SNEDEKER, Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

Malte ZIMMERMANN, Professor of Semantics and Theory of Grammar, Universität Potsdam

Stipends and expenses

The program will cover the cost of travel, meals, lodging, and texts for both the United States and European meetings. Fellows will also receive a small stipend.

Sponsors and administration

In the United States the institutes are administered by the National Humanities Center. In Europe they are administered by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. The program is made possible by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The SIAS Summer Institutes are sponsored by SIAS (Some Institutes for Advanced Study) consisting of the following institutes:

  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
  • National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Wassenaar, Netherlands
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, MA
  • Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germany

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Keep reviewers in the loop

S&P makes a point of keeping reviewers informed about the fate of papers they review, copying them on the editorial decision, forwarding the other reviews, and letting them know if and when the paper gets published. We think that reviewers deserve to be kept in the loop. I get annoyed when I work on reviews for other journals and am not at all kept in the loop.

At this time of the year, I begin to feel the same about promotion and tenure letters I wrote over the summer. I find it irksome that departments do not let me know what happened to the cases I wrote for. Why is this not common practice?

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Apple Watch Purchase Prevention

This is the Apple Watch edition of my new Purchase Prevention Program, trying to keep me from early adopting.


Smart watches are going to be the new hotness, especially once the Apple Watch is out. I’m going to stick with my trusted basic Citizen watch for a while longer. Here’s what would persuade me:

  • an elegant stylish design that doesn’t scream “nerd”
  • displays just the time and date in analog form in its default appearance
  • displays an alert when there’s a message from a VIP connection
  • excellent speech recognition so I can respond to messages on the spot
  • functionality to take voice memos on the go
  • full set of GPS, altimeter, pulse rate, etc sensors so it can track my runs and every day activities
  • robustness so it can withstand movement and sweat when I’m exercising
  • standalone functioning, does not need a phone nearby (don’t want to lug anything else along when I’m on long runs)
  • can send music to Bluetooth earphones

I suspect that the third generation Apple watch will get close to this package but perhaps Garmin, Fitbit, UP or the like will beat them to it. In the meantime, I hope all the early adopters buy loads of early models so that R&D continues at full speed. Ping me when my dream watch is on the market.

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A guide for the perplexed author in semantics

Note: at the upcoming LSA annual meeting in Portland, I will be part of a session about the publication process. My role will be to talk about open access in linguistics. I just remembered that I had lying around a draft guide to publishing articles. So, here’s the draft. I’d be very grateful for feedback so I can improve this document but also figure out what makes sense to talk about in Portland.

You have written something that you think other people should read. You want the input of other experts. You want your ideas to make their way through the discipline. You want the excellence of your ideas to reflect positively on you. How best to achieve those goals? What follows are my recommendations. These are my opinions only, but I have reached them over my 25 years in the discipline. I hope that some might find this subjective guide useful.

My main prescription is: disseminate early, often, and relentlessly.

Make your work available

As soon as you have a handout or slides that you’ve used for an official talk, put that on your website. When you have a draft paper, put it on your website. In each case, also point people at it through whatever networks you are part of (your department, contacts at other institutions, your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ connections).

Post to repositories

By the time you have a revised draft that is ready for submission, it’s time to also share it via disciplinary repositories (LingBuzz, Semantics Archive, PhilPapers).


Excursus: Why not stop here? Why submit to peer-reviewed journals? At some point in the future, we might reach a system where you post something to the disciplinary repository, peer review occurs in the open, and you revise your paper accordingly. The paper gets rated and assessed by various metrics (likes, number of comments, number of downloads, number of citation). We are not there yet. And to be honest, I am a firm believer in high quality peer review of the old-fashioned kind. If and when we move to the kind of free-for-all I just sketched, I’m worried that quality work from young and hereto-forth unknown authors will not get the attention it deserves. Of course, whatever the superstars put in the repository will get all the attention it deserves (and more). But the expert feedback curation from good editors and peer reviewers of good journals makes it much more likely that the discipline will be exposed to the merits of new work even if it doesn’t come from the superstars.

So, yes, submit to peer-reviewed journals. I hope they’re here to stay.


Choosing a journal

When it comes time to submit your work to a journal, the first consideration in choosing a journal is whether it is an appropriate and adequately high profile venue for the work. Journals differ along various additional dimensions: quality of peer review and editorial feedback, speediness of the review and decision process, respect for author’s rights (including the right to make available preprints and postprints), quality (and existence) of copy-editing, quality (and existence) of professional typesetting (including whether they accept LaTeX source rather than insisting on a less sophisticated format), whether or not they publish an online-first/early version of a paper as soon as it is ready, speediness of publication of print version. If you are new-ish to the field, you should ask for advice from trusted mentors.

Don’t let them lock up your work

Many journals lock up your work behind a toll access barrier. You should attempt to mitigate that lock up, because it is in your best interest for your work to be as easily accessible by as many readers as possible. It is imperative that you carefully read the publishing agreement that the publisher will ask you to sign. Make sure to understand in detail which rights to your own work you are being asked to sign away. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to include this in your decision of where to submit. There is a handy service that lets you explore the policies journals have with respect to your rights as an author: Sherpa/RoMEO.

a. Unless forced otherwise by the publisher, keep the early versions of your work (sometimes called preprints) on your website and in disciplinary and/or institutional repositories, but add to the downloads all the bibliographic detail of the published version.

b. Unless the standard publisher’s agreement already gives you the right to provide open access to your final manuscript (sometimes called postprints; the version you prepared for final submission after receiving peer review and editorial feedback, but before copy-editing and publisher’s typesetting), try to insist on that right. You can try to make your signing of the agreement contingent on the publisher accepting an author’s amendment. See the SPARC Addendum.

c. An increasing number of publishers offer to make your paper open access if you pay them a fee. This is called an author-pays hybrid open access model. There is a suspicion that publishers charge excessive author fees (“double dipping” since they still rake in subscription fees for a journal that only contains sporadic open access articles). Some universities subsidize such fees. Fees can also sometimes be charged to grants that funded the research reported in the published article.

d. There are some journals that are entirely open access and charge author fees to fund their operations (this is often called gold open access). This is an unusual model in linguistics and at this point pretty much irrelevant to publication in semantics. Some universities subsidize such fees. Fees can also sometimes be charged to grants that funded the research reported in the published article.

e. There are some journals that are entirely open access and DO NOT charge author fees. These are typically funded through institutional support (this is sometimes called platinum open access). Semantics & Pragmatics is one such journal. Others in adjacent areas are The Philosophers’ Imprint and the Australasian Journal of Logic.

Don’t get involved with edited volumes

Sometimes you might be asked to contribute your work as a chapter in an edited volume or handbook. I have done this (sometimes after having a hard time getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal, sometimes because it felt like an easy way to get something out, sometimes because I felt an obligation to the editors). I recommend against it. Edited volumes are a poor vehicle for cutting edge work. They are not as rigorously reviewed as top journals. They are not recognized by promotion & tenure committees as particularly impressive. They often take an enormously long time to get published, often more than even the most egregiously slow journals. Don’t do it.


Any questions or comments? Comment below. Email me. Tweet in response to the announcement of this post on twitter. Leave a Facebook comment.

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MUST and SHOULD figured out

Those of us trying to figure out the meaning of deontic modals, especially the distinction between weak and strong necessity, should just pack in and go on vacation. There’s an official RFC1 that settles the issue.

Scott Bradner, all around internet wizard at Harvard, wrote RFC 2119 “Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels” in 1997. It has this definitive pronouncement on the difference between strong and weak necessity expressions:

  • MUST: This word, or the terms “REQUIRED” or “SHALL”, mean that the definition is an absolute requirement of the specification.
  • SHOULD: This word, or the adjective “RECOMMENDED”, mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances to ignore a particular item, but the full implications must be understood and carefully weighed before choosing a different course.

Exercise for the reader: do any current semantic proposals mesh with this official pronouncement on how must and should differ?


  1. A Request for Comments (RFC) is a publication of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Society, the principal technical development and standards-setting bodies for the Internet.” (Wikipedia

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The art and craft of semantics

The Art and Craft of Semantics is a Festschrift for Irene Heim that students, colleagues, and friends presented to her yesterday, October 30, 2014, on the occasion of her 60th birthday. I have two co-authored contributions in the collection:

The definiteness paper is a brief report on a rumored account that’s been floating around for a while. I hope there’ll be follow-up work. The modal comparison paper is a very short plea for Irene’s help with some puzzles that are simply too hard for Angelika and me.

Happy birthday, Irene!

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DSpace statistics

The MIT Libraries just made available a new website displaying various statistics about our Open Access DSpace repository. I have three papers in that archive. Here are the download counts for those papers:

DSpace download stats

And here is a graph with the cumulative download count over time:

DSpace download timeline

I can’t compare this to the download numbers that these articles get at the official publisher sites because publishers don’t seem to share those numbers with their authors. But it makes clear that DSpace is a legitimate distribution venue and that I should probably make as much of my work available through it as is feasible. Stay tuned.

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Quirky conditionals workshop

Next March, there is a workshop on “quirky conditionals” in Leipzig during the German Linguistics Society meeting, where I will be the invited speaker. Below is the description and call for papers (also on LinguistList). The deadline for submitting the two page abstracts is August 15.

Modelling conditionality

This workshop is part of the DGfS 2015 meeting in Leipzig.

Conditionals are a particularly interesting part of language because they offer insight into the way humans reason about possibilities. While analyses traditionally focus on the syntax and semantics of English hypothetical conditionals, other languages employ different strategies to talk about conditionality. Recently there has been an effort to broaden the focus from modelling only English hypothetical conditionals to include other languages, other types of conditionals (e.g. anankastics; relevance conditionals; Imperative And/Or Declarative constructions), and insights from language processing. Nonetheless modelling the interaction of different types of conditionals with tense and mood remains a difficult challenge to compositional semantics.

This workshop aims to provide a forum to discuss models for the syntax and semantics of different conditional constructions in natural language (particularly understudied languages, but also English and German), and to challenge these models with experimental data.

Invited Speaker: Kai von Fintel (MIT)

Organizers: Ryan Bochnak (UC Berkeley), Eva Csipak (Göttingen)


Call for Papers:

Topics for the workshop include, but are not limited to, the following questions:

(1) What constructions are used cross-linguistically to express conditionality, and how should this shape current theories of conditionals? How do these constructions influence our understanding of the nature of modals in general?
 (2) How do recent analyses of anankastics, relevance conditionals, and Imperative-and/or-Declarative constructions hold up when tense and mood come into play? (3) Does data from language processing support current theories of the syntax and semantics of conditionals? Can a probabilistic theory account for the ‘quirky’ non-hypothetical conditionals?

We invite abstracts for 30-minute presentations (20+10) that address any of the questions above or related topics. Abstracts should be anonymous and not exceed two pages (including examples and references; using a 12-point font and 2.5cm/1 inch margins on all four sides).

Please send your abstracts electronically in pdf format by August 15, 2014 to the following address: conditionals2015@gmail.com

Please include your name, affiliation, and title of the abstract in the body of your email.

Important Dates:

Abstract deadline: August 15, 2014
Notification of acceptance: September 15, 2014
Workshop dates: March 5-6, 2015

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Telegram

Going through boxes of old stuff, I came across the April 12, 1988 telegram(!) that told me that I had been accepted into the UMass PhD program in linguistics:

UMass acceptance telegram

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Fruits and veggies would be healthy

A famous example by Sperber & Wilson shows the context dependency of conversational inferences:

He: Will you have some coffee?
She: Coffee would keep me awake.

Depending on whether one surmises that she would like to stay awake, one can infer either a positive or negative answer to whether she would like some coffee.

The April 7, 2014 issue of the “Zits” cartoon gives us a new illustration:

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Only”

In today’s Boston Globe baseball preview section: “Jake Stahl (1912), Ed Barrow (1918), Terry Francona (2004), and John Farrell (2013) are the only Red Sox managers to win the World Series in their first season.”

Hmm. Yeah, no. The Red Sox have had 44 managers in their history, so when 4 of them win the World Series in their first season, does that really merit an “only”? I mean, what is the expected frequency of a manager winning a world series in their first season? Almost certainly a lot less than 4 in 44.

But the more astonishing fact is that of the 8 World Series wins the Red Sox have had, half of them were by rookie managers. (And one of those, Francona, won another one. So, 5 trophies belong to managers who won one in their first season.) That’s definitely not an “only”.

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Every department needs a publication advisor

Every academic department anywhere should designate one of their members to be Publication Advisor. This will be someone who, with the help of their local librarians and whoever else can be helpful, informs themselves about the current state of scholarly publishing. They will learn about their institution’s Open Access Policy (if it exists; otherwise, they may initiate discussions about putting such a policy in place). They will learn to read publication agreements and spot potential pitfalls. They will make themselves familiar with the practices of the leading journals in their discipline. They will look for discipline-appropriate ways of publishing that will give readers open access to research results.

When a member of the department has a manuscript to submit, they can consult the Publication Advisor in their search for a good venue. Throughout the submission and publication process, they can ask the Publication Advisor for advice.

Some universities have staff members who try to fill that role for the entire university. I think that a more local, embedded approach is needed to make progress on the ground.

This idea was prompted by the latest skirmish in the war between scholars and mercenary publishers: http://blogs.library.duke.edu/scholcomm/2014/03/27/attacking-academic-values/ (Nature playing hardball with Duke over Duke’s OA Policy).

Not unrelated: http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2014/03/german-university-tells-elsevier-no-deal. More from Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/medizin/uni-konstanz-stoppt-verhandlungen-mit-elsevier-zu-teuer-a-961084.html.

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Language Science Press

It’s still early days but the open-access revolution in linguistics continues. Stefan Müller and Martin Haspelmath, with seed funding from the German Science Foundation (DFG), have started an open access monograph press in linguistics called Language Science Press. E-books will be free to authors and readers. There will be a print-on-demand option as well. There are several series planned, including one on “Topics at the Grammar-Discourse Interface”, edited by Philippa Cook, Anke Holler and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen. I have enthusiastically agreed to be on the editorial board of this series. You can support the venture in many ways. Sign up at http://hpsg.fu-berlin.de/OALI/sign/.

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My Academic Genealogy - Part 2

Kai's Stammbaum, Part 2

This is the second part of my reconstruction of my academic lineage, in which we encounter someone whose dissertation defense lasted seven hours and someone else who basically compiled his dissertation the night before it was due.

I am still learning quite a bit about each of these academic ancestors of mine, but because this could take a while, I wanted to present at least the outlines of the tree and give a few notes on the characters in it.

In the first part, we reached Eduard Schwartz, who defended his dissertation in 1880 in Bonn and who worked with two advisors, Franz Bücheler and Hermann Usener. Before we go further, I have to note that with Schwartz, there’s a blemish in my academic ancestry: Wikipedia says that in 1928, Schwartz became a supporter of the antisemitic Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (although they also report that he had no sympathy for the Nazis). We’ll soon see that there is a modicum of anticipatory redemption earlier in the tree.

Bücheler & Usener

Usener and Bücheler were the twin towers of classical philology in Bonn, lifelong friends, and jointly advised plenty of other students besides Schwartz. Here are pictures of them:

Bücheler Usener

With them, the tree branches in an interesting way. Bücheler and Usener both got their degrees in Bonn (Bücheler in 1856 at the age of 18 (!) and Usener in 1858 at the age of 24). Both of them had two advisors, as far as I can tell, and they shared one of them.

Franz Bücheler (* 3. Juni 1837 in Rheinberg; † 3. Mai 1908 in Bonn) graduated on March 13, 1856 in Bonn with a dissertation entitled “De Ti. Claudio Caesare Grammatico” (freely downloadable from Google), which deals with Latin orthography during the time of Emperor Claudius. He lists as advisors Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker and Friedrich Ritschl. Here are the title page and the vita from his dissertation:

Bücheler Title Page Bücheler Vita

Hermann Carl Usener (* 23. Oktober 1834 in Weilburg; † 21. Oktober 1905 in Bonn) wrote a dissertation called “Analecta Theophrastea” (freely viewable and downloadable from the library in Munich). He dedicates the work to his two main teachers: Christian August Brandis and, again, Friedrich Ritschl. Here are the title page, dedication, and vita from the dissertation:

Usener Title Page Usener Dedication

Usener Vita

The Bonn-centrism of this period of our genealogy is both personally appropriate (given my years in nearby Cologne and my frequent visits to Bonn) and historically non-accidental: Bonn was a pre-eminent center of classical philology. A history of the University of Bonn points out the two successive triumvirats of classical philology that taught in Bonn: Usener, Bücheler, and Kekulé, and before them, Welcker, Ritschl, Jahn. The author claims that these six would have to be mentioned among the twelve most important scholars in classical studies during the 19th century. In fact, Wilamowitz is quoted as saying that the history of classical philology simply is the history of Bonn’s philological seminar.

Continuing from Usener and Bücheler, there are now three ancestors to look at: Brandis, Welcker, and Ritschl. Brandis and Welcker had no doctor father that I can identify, so only Ritschl’s branch of the tree continues into the past.

Brandis

Christian August Brandis

Christian August Brandis (* 13. Februar 1790 in Holzminden; † 21. Juli 1867 in Bonn) graduated on January 12, 1812 (at the age of 21) at the University of Copenhagen, with a thesis “Commentationes Eleaticarum” (a collection of fragments from Xenophanes, Parmenides and Melissus). He had studied at the University of Kiel before, starting at the age of 18 (so it took him little more than 3 years to get his first degree). Brandis doesn’t seem to have had a clear advising relationship with anyone. I haven’t found out who, if anyone, might have been his sponsor in Copenhagen. Even his autobiographic sketch doesn’t include any mention of teachers or advisors in Copenhagen, just a list of people he hung out with. He does say that his defense lasted seven hours, so maybe that left such a scar that he repressed the memories. In any case, unless I manage to find out more, this branch of the tree ends with Brandis. Here is the title page of his thesis:

Brandis Thesis Title Page

There is no vita or dedication in the thesis.

Welcker

Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker

Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (* 4. November 1784 in Grünberg; † 17. Dezember 1868 in Bonn) studied classical philology at the University of Giessen. He had to earn his keep by teaching at a kind of prep school and in his free time wrote his dissertation “Exercitatio philologica imaginem Ulyssis quae in Iliade exstat adumbrans”, which got him his doctorate two days before Christmas 1803 (when he was barely 19 years old). (I have not been able to access the work.) Welcker was home-schooled as a youth and seems to have continued mainly as an autodidact, so just like with Brandis, the tree ends with his node.

In something of an anticipatory redemption for the academic family, he was a notorious liberal and was arrested at least once.

Welcker was house teacher and friend in the Humboldt household when they were in Rome. He wrote a history of Greek gods and Mommsen said of him that the gods wouldn’t let him die before he had finished writing their history; he lived to the ancient age of 84. He was director of Bonn’s university library for 35 years.

I should note that another of Welcker’s students, Friedrich Christian Dietz, has massive progeny among modern linguists, since Uriel Weinrich and through Weinrich, William Labov, are among his decendents. See the relevant subtree here. So, all of the people tracing back their ancestry to Dietz are distant cousins of ours.

Ritschl

Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl

Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (* 6. April 1806 in Großvargula (Thüringen); † 9. November 1876 in Leipzig) got his degree at the University of Halle in 1829 (at the age of 23). He taught at various universities but for the longest time in Bonn. He is the founder of the Bonn School of Classical Philology and thus was perhaps the true ancestor of Usener, Bücheler, Schwartz, von der Mühll, and Theiler, and thus of Egli, Kratzer, and myself. To see the topics that he covered in his teaching, we can inspect the list of all of the classes he taught when he was at the University of Leipzig from 1866 to 1876.

His most famous student is Friedrich Nietzsche, who he taught in Bonn and Leipzig, and who he helped to his first professorial appointment, in Basel, which Nietzsche got without having written a dissertation. Thus, through Ritschl’s mentorship of Nietzsche, my academic family has acquired a truly illustrious cousin!

Ritschl’s main teacher in Halle was Christian Karl Reisig but Reisig had died by the time he got his doctorate, so we will also need to trace back the lineage of his official sponsor, Moritz Meier. The story of Ritschl’s studenthood is well re-told by William Clark in his book “Academic charisma and the origins of the research university” on pages 230-237 (based largely on Ribbeck’s biography of Ritschl). Here’s the gist of it:

Ritschl started as a student in Göttingen in 1824, studied in Leipzig in 1825 and 1826, and then went to Halle. He had studied with Gottfried Hermann in Leipzig and then studied with Hermann’s student Reisig in Halle. Reisig was in a feud with Moritz Meier, who had been appointed director of the philological institute over Reisig’s head. That feud was in fact a continuation of a feud between Reisig’s teacher Hermann and Meier’s teacher Böckh. We will get back to this (a faint echo in the past of the sixties’ Linguistics Wars?).

Reisig founded and ran a private society which was meant to be a rival to the official institute run by Meier. Clark picks up the story:

In Ritschl’s student days at Halle, public disputation enjoyed high esteem anew, especially among the classicists. Nonclassicists trembled when they faced classicists as opponents in disputation, still conducted in Latin. Internecine warfare between the classicists had arisen from the projection of the Hermann-Böckh feud into the camps of Reisig’s society versus Meier’s Greek section of the Halle seminar. Ritschl had transferred to Halle in 1826, the year after the Hermann-Böckh feud had become bitter. He soon made a name for himself as an opponent at disputation. He sought to annihilate students from the seminar’s Greek section — students, that is, of Böckh’s student Meier — in disputations.

In 1828, Heinrich Foss, the senior student in the seminar and a devoted disciple of Meier, wrote and tried to defend his doctoral dissertation. Foss himself had previously attacked a student named Wex from Reisig’s classics society at Wex’s public disputation. Ritschl sought to play the avenger by attempting to destroy Foss at Foss’s public disputation in 1828. Foss received his doctorate, but the disputational battle between him and Ritschl supposedly not only split the gown but also the town of Halle in two camps. “Even the ladies” of the town supposedly took sides in this doctoral drama.

After Reisig’s death, Ritschl was without a doctor father. But Meier took the high road and took him under his wings. He even said that if Ritschl could get his doctorate and his habilitation before the fall of 1829, he would get him a job as a lecturer (Privatdozent). But this meant that Ritschl had to get two pieces of written work done by the fall. So, he did what every good student would do: procrastinate. In the end, a heroic effort got everything done just in time:

he spent three days, with a total of nine hours sleep, shaping the emendations into a coherent dissertation. He then paid for three typesetters to work through two nights to get the dissertation printed on time — the printer probably had other obligations for the normal day hours. “This was the thing composed, set, printed, and bound at night — a true work of the the night.” But it was done. He did the theses the night before the disputation. After two hours sleep, he appeared at the public disputation at 10:00 a.m. I do not know if any of Meier’s seminar students tried to annihilate Ritschl. But, by 3:00 p.m., 11 July, after five days labor with little sleep, a new doctor of philosophy existed.

Here is the title page of the dissertation, which is available from the Bavarian State Library:

Ritschl's Thesis Title Page

I already mentioned that there will be more to say about the Hermann-Böckh feud. But clearly, bad blood arose easily in those days. Ritschl was the central party in the so-called “Philology War of Bonn”. The gist: Ritschl wanted to hire an additional faculty member to strengthen classical philology in Bonn when his colleague Welcker was getting on in years. He chose Otto Jahn and got him hired without Welcker’s knowledge, while Welcker was abroad on sabbatical. Welcker wasn’t all too thrilled when he found out. Jahn tried hard to become Welcker’s friend, which angered Ritschl. Years later, Jahn tried to get his friend Hermann Sauppe hired, this time behind Ritschl’s back. Sauppe in the end didn’t accept the offer, but Ritschl went ballistic and started a campaign against Jahn. Ritschl was reprimanded by the ministry of education, the press got riled up, the parliament discussed the case. Fun and games. In the end, Ritschl left Bonn to take a position in Leipzig. Soon though, Bücheler and Usener restored Bonn Philology to its leading status.

In the next installment, I will talk about Ritschl’s teachers Meier and Reisig, and their teachers Hermann and Böckh. Reisig, by the way, is often mentioned as the first philologist to take semantics seriously, under the term “Semasiology”, which he coined.

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