The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Welcome to our new students!

Welcome to the new students who are joining the graduate program!

Neil Banerjee

“I’m from Mississauga, Ontario. I was born in West Bengal in India, but I’ve lived in Canada since I was four and so have become very fond of the cold. In June I received a B.Sc. in Mathematics and Linguistics from the University of Toronto. My main linguistic interests are the syntax and semantics of the INFL domain. So far I’ve worked on the syntax of historical English and the semantics of epistemic modals cross-linguistically. My main non-linguistic interests are hiking, flags, maps, and Star Trek.”

Christopher Baron

“I’m originally from the suburbs of Chicago, which you’ll hear in my accent pretty quickly. I received a BA in linguistics and a BA in philosophy at UMass Amherst, where I wrote a thesis on attitude ascriptions. I spent this last year at the University of Maryland as a Baggett Fellow, where I did some language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and fieldwork. I’m primarily interested in semantics and its interfaces, especially in Kaqchikel and other Mayan languages. In my spare time, I love cooking, running, and drinking excessive amounts of coffee.  I am also a classically trained clarinetist, and make a mean loaf of banana bread.”

Keny Chatain

“I was born and grew up in Tours (France), in the Loire valley, amid a bunch of Renaissance castles, but I studied in the Quartier Latin in Paris at ENS. I initially got a BA in maths there, before turning to linguistics, by doing a cognitive science master degree. Last year, I decided to take a year off to visit MIT, and MIT got me. My main interest lies in semantics, pragmatics. I have a special sympathy for pronouns, demonstratives, anything anaphoric, referential in general. I also have a dilettante interest in the Arabic language, literal and dialects, mainly Egyptian. Outside academia, I enjoy reading novels and poems, listening to cheesy French pop, I have a passive hobby of hiking, and a soft spot for French classical theater (attending, mind you).”

Yadav Gowda

“I’m from Illinois, specifically the part that’s in the Upper Midwest, so my æshes are all over the place. I completed a BA in linguistics in 2014 at the University of Chicago, which stoked my interest in a few areas: morphology, argument structure, and the intersection of theoretical computer science and linguistics (especially syntax). Apart from linguistics, I enjoy cooking, watching videos of otters, and Scavving.”

Cora Lesure

“I grew up in Annapolis Maryland before attending McGill University in Montreal. I finished my B.A in linguistics last December and have since been working in the McGill Fieldwork Lab. There I have been researching Chuj (Mayan) morphophonology and aiding in the development of orthographic conventions. My main theoretical interests include prosody and morphophonology and I hope to continue working with Mayan. My non-academic interests are rather eclectic, but some highlights include garage rock, knitting, calligraphy, and the collected works of J.R.R Tolkien.”

Newell Lewey

“Currently enrolled in the MIT Linguistics Masters Program with a focus on Indigenous Language (Passamaquoddy).

Newell was the Community Planner for the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point. He helped coordinate research and develop lines of funding for the Tribe with the twin goals of community economic development and job creation. Newell also has a background in Information Technology and expertise with all aspects of computer hardware and software. Over the past 15 years, Lewey has trained many Tribal entities and individual clients in the use and functioning of various office products, personal computers and networks. Newell is also a part time Language Immersion apprentice for the Passamaquoddy Immersion School.  Language learning and teaching has been a life long dream that is coming true. Newell has also been accepted into MIT’s Linguistics Master program; this will benefit him greatly in years to come when teaching the language.

Newell is serving his second elected term as Tribal Councilor for the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribe. The Council is the sole governmental structure for the Tribe and works to effect positive change for all who live in Sipayik. The Tribal Council is responsible for the development and implementation of policy and procedural issues. Lewey’s experience as a Councilor has taught him that good governance requires careful attention to the will of the people and a commitment to listen very carefully.

In describing himself, Lewey writes, ‘I am a father and grandfather who is concerned about my families’ future and that of all the generations of all our People who are yet to come. I have been in recovery and following the traditional ways of the Passamaquoddy for more than twenty nine years.  In the past I have done work and volunteered with Native youth in many summer camp and fitness programs. I have also been a mentor and coach to Native youth in three Native American Olympic Games. I have also participated in and helped coordinate more than ten sacred runs which were done in an effort to unite the Wabanaki people of the Northeast. I have done some volunteering at a few of the Maine Correctional Institution in order to support the recovery of Native American prisoners.’”

Elise Newman

“I was born and raised in the city of Chicago, otherwise known as ‘the Chi’, ‘Chi-town’, ‘the Windy City’, ‘Chi-beria’, ‘Is that even a city?’ (used by New Yorkers), etc. Between high school and college, I spent a year on exchange in Germany where I learned German and became interested in syntax. I recently graduated from MIT with a B.S. in both Physics and Linguistics, and decided to pursue a PhD in linguistics. My main interests are currently in syntax, and seem to be localized to verb-tense interactions in the vaguest sense. Outside of academia, I enjoy playing soccer, singing in vocal ensembles, pottery, and being outside in any capacity.”

Frank Staniszewski

“I’m originally from Wisconsin, and attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where I studied Spanish and Japanese, and also was lucky enough to see a few impromptu late night Prince performances at Paisley Park. After two years at the U of M, I decided to take a leave of absence and move to Los Angeles, where I worked as a musician and songwriter before returning to academics to finish my B.A. in linguistics at UCLA in 2015. My primary interests are in syntax and semantics, with a focus on questions relating to modality, negation, NPIs, and neg-raising. While at UCLA, I worked on negative and positive polarity items in Japanese, and neg-raising in English. I’m excited to continue working in these areas at MIT, and look forward to learning about new topics in areas that I have yet to explore. I am also a lover of music (writing, playing, and listening), reading, and stand up comedy.”

Danfeng Wu

“I was born and raised in Shanghai, China, and did my undergraduate studies at Columbia University with a B.A. in economics and mathematics, during which I studied abroad in Paris and interned in Hong Kong. After that I worked in Mumbai, India for two years in the automobile industry. Despite the detour, I have always been interested in linguistics, and am grateful to have the opportunity to study it formally. I’m very curious in general and like to ask lots of questions. I’m particularly intrigued by syntax and phonology. Puzzled by problems such as the English expletive there and ellipsis, I look forward to exploring them further at MIT, and getting to know more new fields such as experimental and computational linguistics.”