Bon voyage to Simon Todd

Simon Todd, who graduated from UC with a First Class Honours in Maths and Linguistics, has won a very prestigious Fulbright scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the USA. Congratulations, Simon! He will leave Christchurch in the next few days to begin studying for a PhD in Linguistics in Stanford, California. We wish Simon all the best for this exciting next stage in his career (you’ll be missed in the Linguistics labs!).

Simon Todd

Simon Todd

Want to know more about what Simon plans to work on for his PhD? Read on…

“My research will be in the field of Linguistics, focusing on the intersection between language variation and change and computational methods and models. Because there are thousands of diverse languages in the world, it is highly desirable to develop ways of enabling speakers of these different languages to communicate easily with each other and interface with the global community. These goals are perhaps most easily pursued computationally, through the development of machine translation tools and automatic speech recognition systems. However, on top of the technological difficulties associated with getting a computer to understand natural language, there are linguistic difficulties in that no two speakers behave in the same way and languages are constantly changing. It is only by understanding language variation and change in a mathematically precise way that we can create technologies sophisticated enough to deal with these linguistic difficulties. In addition, having a mathematical model of language variation and change enables us to explore possible consequences of such variation and change, which could usefully inform language revitalisation efforts such as the recent one for Te Reo Māori. Traditional methods and theories in linguistics involve introspection and abstraction, which are not fundamentally translatable into the goals outlined above. However, the field is changing, with increased attention being paid to variation and change, computational and experimental methods, and the amassing and analysis of large bodies of data (e.g. from the internet). These areas are giving rise to theories which are usage-based and computationally implementable, and therefore increasingly valuable for the previously-mentioned goals. I plan to study towards a PhD in Linguistics at Stanford University, which houses forward-looking faculty with expertise in computation and theories of language variation and change. By doing so, I hope to be able to contribute both to the understanding of language variation and change and to the practical accounting for it in computational activities.”

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Welcome to the blog of the Linguistics programme at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
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