Linguistics and Computer Science Collaboration at SLIS

March 03, 2016

Lotus Amber Eileen Welcome Tea

Visiting Scholar Lotus Goldberg tells us about her work with Asst. Prof. Amber Stubbs

Amber Stubbs is an Assistant Professor in the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, where she teaches Computer Science and other technology-related courses. Her research area is in Natural Language Processing, which aims to create computational models of human language.

Lotus Goldberg is an Associate Professor of Language and Linguistics at Brandeis University. She specializes in theoretical syntax—the formal study and modeling of sentence structure in the world's languages—and is spending the Spring 2016 semester as a Visiting Scholar at SLIS, during her sabbatical leave from Brandeis. Stubbs and Goldberg answered some questions about their collaboration.

How did you become interested in the field of linguistics, and more specifically the study of syntax? Do you need to speak many languages to study linguistics?

I didn't know what linguistics was when I began college, and by chance had chosen a university (University of California, Santa Cruz, in my home state) which had an excellent linguistics program. I took a linguistics course in the second term of my freshman year. As soon as I understood what the field was, I showed up at the department office and declared my major.  

I had always enjoyed studying languages, but also had a strong scientific bent and a love of pursuing and uncovering patterns. I love all of the core areas of linguistics, including the other core subfields of phonetics and phonology, which focus on sounds and sound patterns in languages; morphology, which focuses on word structure formation; and semantics, which studies how meaning is represented in languages. But I have been most drawn to the subfield of syntax, which studies phrase and sentence structure in languages.

I speak a few languages, but you don't necessarily need to be good at learning or speaking languages to be good at linguistics. Linguistics involves the scientific study of language data, so you need to be fascinated by languages and the structures they feature—but the most important skills are an eye for interesting patterns and generalizations, and the ability to investigate them with analytic preciseness and attention to detail.

Read the full article on the InfoLink blog

Photo, (l-r): Amber Stubbs, Lotus Goldberg, Dean Eileen Abels, pose at a recent Staff and Faculty Tea where Lotus was welcomed to Simmons SLIS.