Hunger

Here’s an interesting article [HT: Steve Crandall]:

Ciampolini, Mario, David Lovell-Smith, Timothy Kenealy, Riccardo Bianchi: 2013. Hunger can be taught: Hunger Recognition regulates eating and improves energy balance. International Journal of General Medicine. 6:465-478. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/IJGM.S40655.

Why do I find this interesting?

  • Any help with weight control is truly welcome.
  • I like seeing Open Access journals that are publishing good stuff.
  • I love that there is a video abstract of the paper.
  • I like the “Resume” at the end of the paper, which has five short subsections:
    • What was already known
    • What had been overlooked
    • What could not be known
    • What the authors’ studies have added
    • Implications

Doing this for many scientific articles wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

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Charles Leonard Hamblin

[This is a revision of a 2003 blog post.]

A student in my 2003 advanced semantics class asked about C.L. Hamblin, who in semantics is mostly —- and justly —- famous for his early montagovian paper on questions: C.L. Hamblin: 1973. “Questions in Montague English”, Foundations of Language 10: 41–53. [By the way, Foundations of Language was the precursor journal of Linguistics and Philosophy.]

But who was he and what else did he do? I didn’t know, but in 2003 I found two web pages by Peter McBurney about him. It turns out that he was both a philosopher and apparently a pioneer in computer science (he died in 1985):

[Francisco Gomes Martins pointed out to me this week that my old post about Hamblin had defunct links in it. Luckily, the Wayback Machine at archive.org still has copies. So, that’s what’s linked to above.]

Two tidbits: “According to his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald, Hamblin spoke 25 languages, mostly from the Asian-Pacific region, but also including ancient Greek. … At the time of his death, he was apparently attempting to set words of Wittgenstein to music.”

After I first posted about this, Peter McBurney, the author of the two web pages referred to above, wrote to me to remind me that

Hamblin’s book on Imperatives (published posthumously in 1987 by Blackwell, Oxford) was also influential with some linguists. This book has also influenced some recent work in computer science, on automated delegation between computational entities.

Peter McBurney followed up with another email:

Dear Kai —-

In your email of 8 May, you asked me about Charles Hamblin’s teachers in London. I have now had the opportunity of reading Hamblin’s PhD thesis at University of London. Although no one is thanked or acknowledged in his thesis, I have learnt from a former PhD student of Hamblin that he did his PhD under Karl Popper.

The thesis presents a strong critique of Claude Shannon’s then-recent theory of information for failing to deal with the meaning of information, along with a semantic theory of question-response interactions. Hamblin proposes a possible-worlds semantics for these, which is interesting in light of the fact that this was written 3 years before Saul Kripke’s first publication on the matter in 1959. Hamblin’s thesis also considers everyday usage of the word “information” and how this bears on any theory of information. His thesis is a mix of computer theory, philosophy of logic, formal logic, and philosophy of language —- perhaps one of the earliest works in which these disciplines were combined.

Best,

—- Peter

Francisco asked me whether Hamblin’s thesis is available online. After some digging, it turns out it is:

http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?did=3&uin=uk.bl.ethos.504487

You have to register for free and go through some hoops but in the end you will be able to download a pdf of Hamblin’s thesis. Here’s the cover page:

Cover page of Hamblin's thesis

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Up-goer five semantics

A couple of months ago, Randall Munroe’s xkcd web comic explained the design of the Saturn V rocket using only the thousand most common words of English: “the Up Goer Five explained using only the ten hundred words people use the most often”.

Explaining hard things in simple language has now become an internet meme. Just this morning, I found Walton Jones explaining his lab’s work on the genetics and neuroscience of olfaction in Drosophila: “We are interested in how little animals with six legs smell things”. There is a tumblr blog with many of these summaries.

The Up-Goer Five Text Editor makes it easy to experiment with writing down your research in the ten hundred most used words. Here’s an attempt at an up-goer five abstract for my upcoming colloquium talk at McGill (“Hedging your ifs and vice versa”, joint work with Thony Gillies):

How does the word “if” help things we say mean what they mean? It can work together with other words like “maybe” and “probably” to make things we say less strong. But how does it do that?

Many people have tried to find out how this works, but we will show that they face a big problem when one looks at people talking to each other and pointing to things the other said.

Can we do better?

There are some obstacles for a linguist. You often need to mention linguistic expressions that you work on. I was lucky that if, maybe, and probably are licit. On the other hand, “sentence” is not allowed.

Related: George Boolos’ classic exploit “Gödel’s Second Incompleteness Theorem Explained in Words of One Syllable”.

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Statement on Aaron Swartz

We are deeply saddened by Aaron Swartz’s death, and send our condolences to all who knew him. We are very mindful of his commitment to the open access movement. It inspires our own commitment to work for a situation where academic knowledge is freely available, so that others are not menaced by the kind of prosecution that he faced. We encourage everyone to visit www.rememberaaronsw.com, a memorial site created by Aaron’s family and friends.

Scott Aaronson
Sasha Costanza-Chock
Ellen Finnie Duranceau
Kai von Fintel
Richard Holton
George Stephanopoulos
Anne Whiston Spirn

Members of the MIT Open Access Working Group

[cross-posted from the OA Working Group wiki and Scott Aaronson’s blog]

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S&P acquired by LSA

[Crossposted from S&P Editors Blog]

We are excited to share good news about the future of S&P. We have been working with the LSA on moving S&P out of its current incubating stage to the next level with fuller support. This morning, the LSA Executive Committee unanimously approved an agreement to that effect.

As of today, S&P is a full-fledged LSA journal, alongside Language but independent of it. The LSA will join MIT and the University of Texas in providing financial support to the journal. In return, S&P is to become a journal owned by the LSA and titled “Semantics and Pragmatics” with the subtitle “A Journal of the Linguistic Society of America”.

The day-to-day operations of the journal will not change. The current editorial team will stay in place. The policies and procedures, including the open access nature of the journal, will remain as they are. Big decisions will be made cooperatively by the LSA Executive Committee, the editors, and the S&P advisory committee.

Both the LSA and the S&P team are excited about this partnership. Open access is the future of scholarly communication and we intend to work together to make S&P the best journal in its field and a model for our discipline and others.

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An S&P underground classic

[Crossposted from the S&P Editors Blog:]

Semantics & Pragmatics today published an underground classic, Craige Roberts’ famous paper "Information structure in discourse: Towards an integrated formal theory of pragmatics", which had previously been published in a volume of OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, and then circulated in a slighly edited manuscript form, but was never officially published. With the help of Anders Schoubye, Chris Brown, and Justin Cope, the old manuscript was transformed into LaTeX and formatted for the S&P stylesheet. Craige wrote a new afterword and prepared an annotated bibliography, which is linked from the afterword. We’re proud to be able to make this classic paper and the supplementary material available in an official publication.

Reissuing underground classics is a worthwhile undertaking, we believe. Some famous examples are David Kaplan’s "Demonstratives" published in Themes from Kaplan, Kripke on presupposition published in Linguistic Inquiry, and in a sense also Grice’s William James Lectures. There was also volume 7 of the series "Syntax and Semantics" entitled "Notes from the linguistic underground" (edited by Jim McCawley in 1976), featuring famous papers such as Karttunen’s "Discourse referents" and gems like "Why you can’t do so into the sink" by Lakoff & Ross. So, we are continuing a respectable tradition.

Question for our audience: which other underground classics in semantics and pragmatics should S&P consider publishing? You can email us at , comment on our Facebook page or our Google+ page, tweet (cc’ing @semprag), or leave a comment on our Editors Blog.

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Suspicion re Cestagi

I received this email:

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:06:16 +0000
Subject: Curriculum Vitae for Scientists and Researchers
From: Olivia Frogous olivia.frogous@gmail.com

Dear Kai Von Fintel,

I would like you to consider Cestagi when updating your curriculum vitae for this upcoming academic year. Cestagi is a web application that allows you to create and manage your CV with ease using academic best practices. Your personalized CV page can be monitored using Google-like visitor analytics and easily exported offline into Word, Latex, or PDF using various templates including NSF and NIH standards.

I encourage you to take some time and learn more about this free service by visiting:

http://www.cestagi.com/

Please recommend Cestagi to your colleagues and friends who you feel would benefit from it.

Best regards,

Olivia
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology

I know of no “Olivia Frogous” at MIT and a search verified that there is no such person here. A Google search revealed at least one page where another institution was warning about this person (who had identified themselves as being affiliated with that institution in an email). So, appropriately suspicious, I looked at the advertised web service for sharing CVs.

At first glance, it looks legitimate and includes a privacy policy and terms & conditions of use. But there’s no information whatsoever on the site about who is behind the service and where it is run from. The whois information on the domain is deliberately uninformative as well, it just states who their registrar and webhost is.

There is a Quora query about this service with a positive reply from someone calling themselves “Mark Frendrope”, whose only presence on the web appears to be to tout Cestagi in a few places.

At this point, I can only assume that this may well be a fraudulent enterprise, perhaps designed to harvest personal information from those who upload their CVs to it. I would stay away from it at all costs and look for other ways of sharing academic information about yourself (Academia.edu comes to mind, or just posting your CV on your own webpages).

To repeat, following up on the fraudulent claim in the email signature that “Olivia Frogous” is affiliated with MIT somehow, I have found no evidence that Cestagi is a legitimate service with identifiable people standing behind it.

Update (2012-11-20): After I posted this note, I was immediately contacted by anonymous staff at Cestagi and asked to take the note down. I said I would update it if they gave me relevant information and and if they explained the spam campaign. It took quite a while but the website is now updated and identifies the owner (and sole staff?) of the site as Adrian M. Kopacz, a recent Mechanical Engineering PhD from Northwestern University.

I’m still awaiting an explanation for the spam campaign and the fraudulent affiliation claims by the spammers. By the way, a friend reported getting similar emails: from “Ann Mrego”, purportedly affiliated with Northwestern University, and “Stan Latuga”, “from” UC Berkeley; both institutions my friend has had e-mail accounts with. Google searches did not turn up any results for these people at these institutions. So, it does seem like there was a systematic campaign and I hope it’s not continuing.

Update (2013-01-29): I still have a bad feeling about this operation. Adrian Kopacz emailed me as follows: “I wish for you to remove this content, including my personal information, as it reflects negatively on the branding of Cestagi.” I do not intend to take this down nor to revise its cautionary tone unless and until the spammy character of the enterprise is cleaned up. I fail to see why this individual would not want his personal information to be associated with his own project, unless, of course, the project is not one that he can be proud of.

In the mean time, another MIT affiliate reports receiving an email touting Cestagi, this one from “John Merlocke”, another name that does not turn up anything via Google search, except a shell Google+ profile. So, the spamming campaign from made-up people does seem to be continuing. [I do wonder which fake name generator is being used to make up these names.]

One more update (2013-01-29): Word now that the spam/phishing campaign definitely continues unabated. Researchers at the United States Geological Survey have been receiving identical emails touting Cestagi from someone called “Stacy Ferando” (again a name that yields no Google hits other than a shell Google+ profile).

The template that the campaign currently uses is this:

Dear $X,

I noticed you have an outdated curriculum vitae web page. You should keep it up-to-date while working at $Y.

You may want to take advantage of Cestagi to create and maintain a curriculum vitae following academic regulations and best practices:

http://www.cestagi.com/

Please let others know about this free platform. I believe it will be of great benefit to everyone.

Warm regards,

$FAKE-NAME

Needless to say, my correspondents do not have outdated CVs.

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Guidelines for writing abstracts

Found via Facebook this morning: Guidelines for writing abstracts, drawn up a while ago by Johan Rooryck and Vincent van Heuven after consultation of the Linguist List. I pretty much agree 100% with these guidelines, but about 200% with this one: “Don’t put your examples on a separate page, even when the abstract guidelines allow you to do so: abstract reviewers hate having to go back and forth between pages”. (This is a corollary of the same principle that banishes endnotes from academic publishing.)

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Google Scholar personalized updates

If you have made a personal profile on Google Scholar, there is now a new feature when you go to the Google Scholar site: personalized updates, “My updates”, a list of new articles that Google’s algorithm determines are related to your own work. When I checked my updates this morning, it looked quite accurate, lots of stuff that I find relevant, quite a bit of which I already knew about but some that I didn’t. What would be good is a weekly email summarizing what’s new, but in the absence of this it’s another page to check out once in a while.

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S3 hosting & naked domains

For a while, I had been tempted to move the hosting of my static websites (including this one) to Amazon’s S3 storage service, which has been able to serve up websites for a while. One sticking point was that it wasn’t easily possible to use a “naked domain” as the URL to access the site. That is, it was easy to use DNS CNAME records to point URLs like http://www.kaivonfintel.org to an S3 “bucket”. But you couldn’t do that with the naked domain http://kaivonfintel.org. There were more or less ugly workarounds that I wanted nothing to do with.

Now, my DNS provider of choice, DNS Made Easy, has come up with a technology they call ANAME records (not to be confused with the standard A records). With this, naked domains on S3 are now possible. There is a tricky bit, though. All of the “hosting a static website on S3” tutorials on the net have you name your S3 bucket “foobar.example.com”, that is, using a non-naked domain. That is because otherwise S3 wouldn’t know what to do with an incoming request for that domain. If, however, you now wish to go the DNS Made Easy ANAME way, and want to host a naked domain on S3, the bucket has to be named “nakedly” so to speak: “example.com”. Then, an ANAME record can point http://example.com at the S3 bucket. Here is the relevant DNS record for this site:

kaivonfintel.org. 60 IN ANAME kaivonfintel.org.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com.

This means that if you have an S3 bucket named the old way, you have to create a new one named the naked way and re-upload your content to that new bucket. (S3 doesn’t allow you to rename a bucket.)

Another thing that took a bit of fiddling was to redirect traffic from http://www.kaivonfintel.org (if anybody ever tried that) to the naked domain. Turns out that again S3’s (in)capabilities mean that a workaround is needed. I have another S3 bucket named “www.kaivonfintel.org” and a CNAME record pointing traffic to the www address to that bucket. Its only content is a simple html redirect file that sends browsers straight to the naked domain.

As you might have guessed, I figured this out the hard way, through trial and error, since I hadn’t found a tutorial on this topic. If this is all gobbledegook to you, good for you. You probably have better things to think about.

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News from the open access revolution

Three items of interest on the open access front:

I think it is becoming clearer all the time that academic publishing will turn inexorably and perhaps quite quickly towards full open access. The question is which publishers and which universities, scholarly societies, and funding agencies will be at the forefront and who will lag behind.

[I will only occasionally posts news items of this nature. If you want to follow the revolution more closely, I recommend Peter Suber’s Google+ updates and Stuart Shieber’s blog.]

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My academic genealogy

Kai's Stammbaum, Part 1

I received my PhD from UMass in 1994 with a dissertation called “Restrictions on Quantifier Domains”. I started teaching at MIT in 1993 and was finishing my dissertation during my first year of teaching here. My dissertation advisor (Doktormutter, “doctor mother”) was Angelika Kratzer. There were other very strong influences, of course, chief among them Barbara Partee, but for the purposes of the tree I will go by formal dissertation advisor relationships where possible. I will find some other occasion to talk more about my own intellectual biography and research career.


Angelika Kratzer

There are many ways in which Angelika was the perfect doctor mother for me. But one aspect I want to highlight here is that just like me, she has a passion for the history of our field. Her dissertation abounds in historical connections, one of which that struck me early on was the emphasis on the contributions of John Wallis [If you’re interested in this kind of thing, John Wallis appears as a character in a fun novel: “An Instance of the Fingerpost”]. This kind of historiographic interest was something I just soaked up. One of my early encounters with semantics, in fact, was a seminar taught by Professor Schepers of the Leibniz Research Institute in Münster on medieval semantics (William of Sherwood, William of Ockham, etc.) and other classes like that. For example, I learned to read Aristotle in the original and wrote one of my first college-level term papers on the notions of contradiction and contrariety in Peri Hermeneias (using not just the original but also medieval Arabic commentaries thereon).

Angelika wrote her dissertation entitled “Semantik der Rede: Kontexttheorie – Modalwörter – Konditionalsätze” doi:2027/mdp.39015015396008 in 1978. Her official advisor at the University of Konstanz in Germany was Urs Egli. I will not expand on Angelika’s intellectual biography, something she has already sketched on her website. Here’s an excerpt:

I wasn’t born to become a professor. The town I grew up in didn’t have a high-school for girls. Girls went to a Middle School run by nuns, learned cooking and bookkeeping, and got married. The next town over did have a high school for girls, but it only had a Modern Language track. The boys’ high school there had Modern Languages, too, but there also was a Science and a Classics branch. For reasons that nobody could remember any longer, the Classics track took in a few girls every year. I was one of them, and nine years of Latin and six years of Greek - six days a week - must have turned me into a linguist. I discovered modern linguistics when I tried to find a way to combine my love for the shape of languages and mathematics, and discovered the close-to-Utopian Linguistics Department in Konstanz after getting lost at the traditional University of Munich and taking a year off as an assistant teacher at the Lycée Jean Dautet in La Rochelle (France). I cobbled a graduate education together for myself via research assistantships and scholarships that took me to the University of Heidelberg and to Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). Before coming to Amherst, I was a researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen and taught at the Technical University in Berlin.”

[She further talks about] “a dream of a community of scholars that I myself was part of as a young student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Konstanz, where Arnim von Stechow and Peter (Eberhard) Pause took me in as a colleague and friend, and where I first met Irene Heim, (Thomas) Ede Zimmermann, and my thesis advisor Urs Egli. Other academic teachers whose lectures and seminars left a mark on me include Peter Glotz (film and communication), Wolfgang Braunfels (history of art), Hans Rheinfelder (Dante), and Yehoshua Bar-Hillel, who was a guest professor at Konstanz for a semester.”

[About her dissertation she adds:] “From the time I started my dissertation work in New Zealand with the help of Max Cresswell, George Hughes, John Bigelow, and David Lewis, I have been interested in context dependent semantic phenomena, in particular tense, modals and conditionals. My dissertation Semantik der Rede (Semantics of Discourse) dates from 1978, but the questions I struggled with then are still very much alive these days, and I keep returning to them.”

Angelika has shared with me this picture taken after her dissertation defense:

Angelika's Dissertation Defense

Urs Egli

Urs Egli wrote a 1967 dissertation entitled “Zur stoischen Dialektik” at the University of Bern (Switzerland) under the direction of Willy Theiler. This information was a bit hard to find. I obtained an interlibrary loan copy of Egli’s dissertation and there is a page with a statement from Dekan (Dean) Prof. Dr. E. Walder that the dissertation had been accepted by the philosophical-historical faculty of the University of Bern at the request of Herr Prof. Dr. W. Theiler. I show here the title page, the decanal note, and the vita from the end of the thesis (a traditional component of doctoral dissertations).


An aside: A striking (mostly unsurprising) thing to see in Egli’s acknowledgments is that in his long list of professors whose lectures and seminars he attended, there is not a single woman. In fact, Angelika is not just the only woman in my entire tree, but there is no other woman to even be mentioned in the intellectual biographies of any of these men [this may not be strictly true, since it seems that Anna Comnena might be in the tree]. Our community has come a long way when I can honestly say that the four most important people in my immediate academic background are Angelika, Barbara, Irene, and Sabine.

When I first posted this first installment of my genealogy, I was contacted by Urs Egli and his wife, Renata Egli-Gerber. They shared with me a number of relevant materials, including a hard copy of Egli’s dissertation, some other writings, and an academic autobiography, which I can now make publicly available: “Wie man in Europa sowohl Altphilologe als auch Semantiker werden konnte”. For those who do not read German, here’s some highlights:

Egli entitles these memoirs: “How in Europe one could become both a classical philologist and a semanticist”. He was fascinated by Latin and Greek in school where he delved deep into grammatical and historical studies of those two ancient languages. He was also influenced early by the writings of Carnap, but it wasn’t possible to study mathematical logic or model-theoretic semantics in Bern, so after graduating from high school in 1960, he enrolled in General and Historical Linguistics and Greek and Latin, against the hopes of his high school teachers who thought he should study physics or “at least” biology. But his chosen disciplines offered at least a fail-save career option: he obtained a high school teacher’s diploma for Greek and Latin.

Around 1962, he discovered Chomsky’s “Syntactic Structures” in the university library and started thinking about ways to connect generative grammar, logic, and philology. He was a student of Georges Redard (a student of Emile Benveniste, in turn a student of Meillet’s, in turn a student of Saussure’s). Redard, though, wasn’t willing to advise a disertation on logic and formal grammar. So, what Egli finally settled on was a topic in the history of logical semantics (an area that he was drawn to through Bochenski’s work) and Willy Theiler in the same department as Redard agreed to advise the thesis. He wrote on stoic logic and semantics, combining logical analyses drawing on Mates and Lukasiewicz and philological work of Theiler, von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Eduard Schwartz, Fuhrmann, Kochalsky, and von der Mühll. The thesis was accepted in 1967.

Redard, who knew Chomsky from a summer school, wrote to Chomsky and helped Egli get an offer of a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, but he couldn’t go there because of health reasons. (Egli adds that not going to MIT may have been a good thing because he suspects that at the height of the “linguistics wars”, he might not have thrived there, because of his tendency to try to give all approaches their due and to combine them where possible.) So, he went to Cologne to work with Hansjakob Seiler, the director of the linguistics department there (who was just about to retire when I myself started studying linguistics there in 1984 and who was replaced by Sasse, who I took several seminars from). While there, he discovered the third significant work that informed his career: Montague’s universal grammar (through Helmut Schnelle’s exposition). He wrote his “habilitation” (second dissertation to earn the right to be a professor) on Montagovian/Chomskyan themes. This time, Redard advised the work and Egli stresses that the combination of insights that he put together seems to him to realize one of Redard’s favorite aphorisms of Saussure’s: “la linguistique sera algébrique ou elle ne sera pas”. Indeed. In 1974, the philosophical-historical school of the University of Bern accepted the habilitation.

Egli says that apart from his official genealogy through Theiler, von der Mühll, Schwartz, which is what I will be tracing here, he has a second lineage through Redard (associating him with Max Niedermann, Jacob Wackernagel, Emile Benveniste, Antoine Meillet, and Ferdinand de Saussure). And then, obviously, there is the intellectual influence, which we all share, of Carnap, Chomsky, and Montague.

Willy Theiler

Willy Theiler (* 24. Oktober 1899 in Adliswil; died 26. Februar 1977 in Bern) taught at the universities of Königsberg (1932–1944) and Bern (1944–1968). Here’s a photo of him from an obituary article in the journal Gnomon:

Willy Theiler

Theiler’s dissertation “Zur Geschichte der teleologischen Naturbetrachtung bis auf Aristoteles” was filed at the University of Basel (also Switzerland) in 1924 (at the age of 25) under the direction of Peter von der Mühll. A later edition is in fact dedicated to von der Mühll.

According to Theiler’s obituary, von der Mühll was an extraordinary teacher whose seminars attracted many young scholars over the years. Even though there were 43 years between Theiler’s dissertation and Egli’s dissertation, Egli writes in his acknowledgments that von der Mühll had helped him with some information about manuscript transmission. Theiler supervised 26 dissertations (and more at institutions other than the ones he was teaching at) over his career. He was an eminent philologist, specializing in ancient philosophy.

Peter von der Mühll

With Peter von der Mühll (* 1. August 1885 in Basel; died 13. Oktober 1970 also in Basel), the tree leaves Switzerland; he was Swiss and taught at Zürich and Basel, but he got his doctorate in Göttingen (Germany) in 1909 (at the age of 26) with a dissertation entitled “De Aristotelis Ethicorum Eudemiorum auctoritate” under the direction of Eduard Schwartz, who together with Jacob Wackernagel and Friedrich Leo made Göttingen a center of excellence in classic studies. From now on in the tree, all dissertations were written in Latin. This one is a mere 47 pages long and it has a DOI: 2027/uc1.b2619343. Unfortunately, Google’s scan of the last page of the dissertation, which has a Vita including acknowledgments, is a bad scan cutting off the right side of the text, so it’s not really useful, except that one can see that he acknowledges Wackernagel among others. So, I obtained a fresh scan from Harvard’s Widener Library. I am posting a four page excerpt with the title, dedication, and Vita pages.


Von der Mühll didn’t publish all that much in his career, focusing on his teaching, advising, and on administrative duties (he was rector of the University of Basel for a while). Here’s a photo (again from an obituary article in Gnomon):

Picture of von der Mühll

Eduard Schwartz

Eduard Schwartz (* 22. August 1858 in Kiel; died 13. Februar 1940 in München) was mainly trained at the University of Bonn (when I lived in Cologne and regularly visited Bonn, the Intercity trains used to announce that Bonn was the birth place of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven and the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany … in that order).

He received his doctorate there with a dissertation entitled “De Dionysio Scytobrachione” (freely downloadable as a pdf from Google Books) in 1880 (at the age of 22; note that the ages at which these academic ancestors got their degrees are decreasing as we go back in time, indicating how professionalized the discipline has become over time). His co-advisors were Franz Bücheler and Hermann Usener. His dissertation has a list of 11 controversial theses at the end (a feature you can still see in linguistics dissertations from the Netherlands, and which recurs in the dissertations further up the tree). The title page lists three fellow students who served as the disputants at the defense (again, a traditional component of doctoral dissertations for a while). His doctorfathers are acknowledged on the next page in the dedication, and his vita contains a list of other teachers.


[To be continued]

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Recent talks

This past month I have been busy with talks in various venues. Three papers that now need to be written. Slides are available for all three and in one case there’s a draft paper of sorts.

  1. I gave a talk on deontic modals in a session at the Central meeting of the APA. There’s a draft paper and a set of slides from the conference. Nate Charlow has put up the handout from his commentary on my talk. I don’t know yet whether I will develop the paper as it is, a whirlwind tour of three challenges to the standard semantics for deontic modals, or write a stand-alone paper expanding on the third part that deals with the hot topic of information-sensitive deontic modality, or both.
  2. Thony Gillies and I presented a talk on conditionals and hedging in an another session of the same APA Central meeting (well, Thony gave the talk, I heckled from the cheap seats). There are slides. This a talk we’ve given an airing a couple of times over the last two years. It’s time to write it up and we’re just about starting to do that.
  3. Sabine Iatridou and I have been working on imperatives ever since we taught a seminar on the topic in the spring of 2008 and included them in our LSA class at Berkeley in the summer of 2009. We now have a talk on the meaning of imperatives, including a bunch of data from a bunch of mediterranean languages. You can take a look at my slides from my UMass colloquium yesterday. Again, we are just starting to write this up.

Clearly, I have plenty to do between now and the end of my sabbatical on June 30. There’s not just these three papers but a few other projects that I should wrap up, and one biggie that I should really get started on so that the momentum will carry it through even when I’m back at the Institute.

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When you know you’re a geek

When you know you’re a geek, part 145: a slideshow needs to be prepared for a talk in a couple of days. So, you think that instead of writing the slides directly in LaTeX Beamer code (of course, anything like PowerPoint or Keynote is beyond the pale), you should write them in markdown, since that’s so nicely uncluttered. This of course means that you need a conversion engine to convert markdown source to beamer source. Enter pandoc. This of course means that you need Haskell installed, which is of course best done by running Homebrew, which doesn’t seem to be on the laptop yet. So, first step is updating XCode since Homebrew relies on that and of course, everything needs to be up-to-date so that the slide-writing can happen in a spic-and-span system. This is when you remember the first time you saw Hans Kamp give a talk: with overhead transparencies that he had handwritten on the flight over.

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