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February 2, 1998

February 12 humanities lecture gives linguist the final word

By Barbara McKenna

Avrupalilastirilamiyacaklardansinizdir. That Turkish word may not come up often in everyday conversation, even in Turkey, but it is commonly used by linguists who are interested in the structure of words.

Noted linguist Jorge Hankamer, dean of humanities and a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will discuss various facets of word structure in a talk titled "Understanding Words." His talk is part of the 1997­98 Humanities Lecture Series, sponsored jointly by UCSC's Humanities Division and the Museum of Art and History. It takes place from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 12, at the Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. The talk is free and open to the public. A reception follows.

In his talk, Hankamer will discuss the structure of words, such as the one above, that begin with a root and develop into an elaborate idea by stacking one concept on top of another. (The above example begins with the root word "avrupa," meaning "Europe," and translates as, "You are certainly among those who will not be able to be caused to Europeanize.")

Hankamer will explain how understanding the structure of such words is useful in a number of areas—including computational analysis and translation and the psychology of word recognition. He will also describe some frequently held assumptions in these areas and explain why they miss the target.

Hankamer joined the UCSC faculty in 1980 as a member of the linguistics program—a program with a national reputation for excellence that he was instrumental in creating. A recognized leader in the studies of syntax and semantics, Hankamer is an expert on the structure of the Turkish language, with recent research interests focusing on computational linguistics. He has written numerous articles for professional journals and has served for the past 20 years as an editor for the series, "Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics" (Garland Publishing, New York).

For more information on the lecture, call (408) 459-2696 or 429-1964.


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