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Languages and linguistics

Fall 2005

Noam Chomsky

The surprising thing about Noam Chomsky in person was what he was not. Even though I was not intimately familiar with either his linguistics or his political writing, I had imagined him as stern and austere, too absorbed in thought to bother with either social grace or chitchat.

Rather, he’s like your favorite uncle-albeit the one who has perfect recall and is amazingly smart and has the ability to explain big ideas in everyday language. No jargon. No evasiveness.

A professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky is the most influential and best-known American linguist. Even more familiar … » More …

Winter 2007

Language lessons

When Saad Alshahrani came to graduate school at Washington State University, he didn’t speak a bit of English.

Addled by the long flights from Saudi Arabia, he tried to walk out of the airport in Seattle. He didn’t understand that his new home was still 300 miles to the east. The airport officials put him on a small plane to Pullman, which left him in a near-empty airport just after midnight.

“Imagine that,” he says. “I didn’t know anybody. No taxi, and no hotel.”

Fortunately, Devon Anderson, who works for the WSU Foundation, saw Alshahrani get off the plane. She understood that he was a … » More …