John M. Lawler

Current Projects

  • Characteristically, I'm pursuing several different research projects simultaneously.

    • The topology of semantic mental spaces. A draft of my first article on the subject ("Space, Time, and Polarity", with my colleague Karen van Hoek) is available here in MSWord format.

    • The metaphorical structures of mathematics. Based on work by George Lakoff and Rafael Nuñez (to download their paper in MSWord format, click here), my student Eric Breck and I have been looking at how to work out the metaphors underlying the basic mathematical operations. Unsurprisingly, we've found the human body implicated; i.e, these metaphors are embodied. A copy of our paper ("Embodying Arithmetic: Counting on Your Hands and Feet") in MSWord format is available here.

    • English phonesthemes and sound symbolism. This is a long-standing interest of mine, following my 1981 paper with Rich Rhodes, in which we charted the phonosemantics of English assonances and rimes. This led to the Lawler-Rhodes monosyllable database to which I've returned from time to time, mostly working with English assonances -- you can download the whole database here, after viewing the "README" file. During 1999 and 2000, I presented the first results of my survey of English rimes, for which the handout is here. More recently, I've been looking at the ST- assonance class, in a paper for the journal Style called "Style Sheets", and a presentation entitled "Style Stands Still", for which the handout is here.

    • English syntax, in particular word grammar, in the sense of the detailed study of the syntactic peculiarities of individual lexical items. Recently I've worked on the grammar of the strange version of A-Raising that appears with remain in sentences like "She remains to be convinced that he's the right one." I have a paper called "Remainders" that deals with that, and a more recent elaboration in the form of a lecture called "Leftovers", with more data -- the handout for "Leftovers" is here. You can get the full minicorpora I used to get the data, and the awk scripts I used to massage them, on my home page.

  • I have finally emerged from the throes of co-editing (with my colleague Helen Aristar-Dry of Eastern Michigan University's Linguistics Program) and writing the Introduction to and Chapter 5 of a book entitled Using Computers in Linguistics: A Practical Guide, published by Routledge, in 1998. The Web pages for the book are an online Appendix, including all the changeable technical information, with evaluations and download links for all kinds of linguistic software.

    This book grew out of the year (1991) that I was Chair of the Computing Committee of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA).  We conducted a membership survey (which you can download in HyperCard format, in the unlikely event you're interested), organized the first annual LSA Linguistic Software Exhibition, and held a symposium at the LSA Annual Meeting on "Computing and the Ordinary Working Linguist".  All this led us to the conclusion that there was immense potential, but very few good ways for linguists to find out about what was available to them.   Our book is intended to remedy at least some of this problem.

  • Following a long-standing concern about the low quality of linguistic education in America, I have begun writing short pieces of what I fondly consider a popular nature, answering frequently asked questions about languages and linguistics.  My experience over more than 30 years of teaching in the United States has been that there are plenty of such questions but very few sources of good answers.  A most useful source of such questions is provided by the Usenet newsgroup alt.usage.english, and over the last several years, I have posted extensively there and collected the posts, and the first and second series of Frequently Asked Questions about English Grammar is now available.

  • Last change 4/23/02     John Lawler