Author Archives: Kie Zuraw

one-year position or part-time position at UCLA

In case you haven’t seen this ad on Linguist List:

The UCLA Department of Linguistics is seeking to fill either a one-year, full-time lecturer position or a series of part-time teaching positions in the area of Phonology for the 2008-2009 academic year.

The one-year, full-time lecturer position would involve teaching 5 courses (over 3 quarters), including two offerings of introductory undergraduate phonology, one of intermediate undergraduate phonology, and two other courses to be negotiated. Salary is approximately $50,000 for the academic year.

If we are unable to fill the one-year lecturer position, we will seek to hire one or more instructors for the following courses: introductory undergraduate phonology (twice: Fall Quarter 2008, Winter Quarter 2009) and intermediate undergraduate phonology (Spring Quarter 2009, could also be taught in Winter). Pay level is approximately $8,000 per course.

Please send applications in electronic form to Prof. Bruce Hayes [to reduce his spam, I’ll ask you to find Bruce’s web page and get his e-mail address from there–the phonologist Bruce Hayes is not to be confused with the one-man band or swimmer of the same name]. Applications should include a cover letter, CV, and whatever information the applicant may wish to include as evidence of a strong teaching record (these may be course evaluation data, course materials, and/or recommendation letters). Please specify whether you are interested in the full-time lecturer position or the part-time position (or both); for the part-time position, please indicate which course(s) and quarter(s).

UCLA is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and has a strong commitment to the achievement of excellence and diversity among its faculty and staff.

More on a vs. an

After my post about using an when an immediately following parenthetical begins with a consonant (but the first word after the parenthetical begins with a vowel), I felt the need to get some Google counts. What follows are the stats for strings of the form “a/an to me (at least/anyway) X”.

The finding is that Julian Barnes is not alone: there are a lot of people out there writing things like an–to me–unknown singer.

I wonder about the converse: a–obviously–preposterous idea. I easily found an example, “a (obviously refurbished) replacement unit”, but didn’t investigate systematically (and it seems there are a lot of people typing things like “displayed with a obviously wrong pixel ratio”, so we need to control for baseline use of a before vowels).

Tables and graphs come after the jump…

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Prescient 'an'

Page 57 of the Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 1, 2007 New Yorker, in a piece by Julian Barnes called “The past conditional“:

In the car on the way back to London, we had an–to me–even more peculiar exchange about my niece and her boyfriend.

Two theories:

  1. For Julian Barnes or an editor, a/an allomorph choice can skip over a parenthetical.
  2. It’s just an error; Barnes and editors would have changed it if they’d noticed it. Maybe Barnes wrote an even more peculiar exchange and inserted to me later, neglecting to change an to a.

Still, it makes me wonder. Are there English speakers for whom the choice between a and an can (or must??) ignore, in some circumstances, what immediately follows? If so, what are the syntactic or prosodic conditions?

And if not–if all English speakers would consider the above example to be an error–how common are speech errors in which the choice between a and an gets locked in before the speaker decides to insert some more material? Does the error’s frequency vary as a function of syntax or prosody? I pose these as serious questions: maybe someone has looked at this, if not for a/an then maybe for a similar case.

What do you think of a/an before um and other hesitations? I can’t decide what I think about these (imagine the following as fairly fluent utterances):

  • It’s a(n), um, strong argument.
  • It’s a(n), um, uneven surface.

(I can imagine at least three possibilities: always use a before um; always use an before um; always act as though the um weren’t there, assuming you’ve already got the next word lined up in your speech plan.)


As many of you know, Adam Albright and I enjoy collecting aggressive reduplications. (Short version: I’ve argued that if a word has partial internal similarity, there’s a drive to treat it as reduplicated. One consequence of such treatment is enhancement of that similarity, as in orangutan > orangutang.)

Bryan came across a fictional example the other day in Boondocks
that could be called “exuberant reduplication”:
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This afternoon I was listening to CBC‘s Radio 1 on my computer, using the Edmonton station in order to listen to a 2:30 show at 1:30 PST. I kept listening to the next show, apparently a local one, with Peter Brown hosting a sort of New Year’s Eve musical face-off between Alberta and Saskatchewan.

There was an interesting bit in which Brown, who apparently grew up partly in Saskatoon, interviewed people on the street (of what city, I didn’t hear—maybe Edmonton?) about how to pronounce ‘Saskatchewan’.

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Re: Speaking like a Maine-ah

In reply to Lisa’s post about Maine phonology/phonetics:

I’m no dialectologist, and I know little about other North New England dialects, but since my father’s a second-generation Mainer (or “Maineac,” as he insists) and the only one of his family to move out of the state, I’ve had a lot of exposure to the speech of Penobscot County. I often had difficulty understanding my cousins and remember well a game of Operation that was stalled by my failure to recognize “charley horse.”

What has always struck me as most distinctive about Maine phonology/phonetics is the quality of stressed vowels followed by unpronounced orthographic <r>s. The vowel is much more different from the Standard American English vowel than it is in, say, Boston. For example (all vowels approximate!):

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