Shooting for the moon

In her Language and the Brain course, linguistics professor Kathryn Schuler asked 30 undergrads to think big about big problems—and their solutions didn’t disappoint.

Michele W. Berger

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In the News

Huffington Post

Here’s why it’s a big deal to capitalize the word ‘Black’

Nicole Holliday of the School of Arts & Sciences spoke about the importance of acknowledging the cultural ramifications of whiteness. “We call some classes ‘Black History’ but the ones that focus on ‘white history’ are just called ‘history,’” she said. “That kind of erasure is an issue, because it continues to situate whiteness as ‘normal’ and everything else as ‘other.’”


The New York Times

Massachusetts court won’t use term ‘grandfathering,’ citing its racist origins

Nicole Holliday of the School of Arts & Sciences spoke about the phasing out of words with direct links to slavery, such as “grandfathering.” “This is the legal system, and there are wrongs to be righted,” she said.


Philadelphia Inquirer

Is the word ‘picnic’ racist? How to deal with questions about language right now

Nicole Holliday of the School of Arts & Sciences spoke about avoiding offensive nomenclature. “The default should be whatever that person wants to be called,” she said.


Christian Science Monitor

Hearing isn’t always believing with ‘mondegreens’

Mark Liberman of the School of Arts and Sciences explained how expectations shape our comprehension of language.


The Economist

How to think about African-American English

Taylor Jones, a grad student in the School of Arts and Sciences, led a study that found court reporters were only able to accurately transcribe 60% of sentences spoken in the African-American English dialect, regardless of the transcriptionists’ race or experience level.


Philadelphia Inquirer

Philly accent: There’s a lot youse don’t know about it. Just ask these experts.

William Labov is best known for his decades of studying language patterns in Philadelphia, but the local accent is anything but fixed in time. Josef Fruehwald of the School of Arts and Sciences commented on the Philadelphia region’s shifting accent, alongside colleagues Meredith Tamminga and Jami Fisher.