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The School of Linguistics was founded in December 2014. Today, the School offers undergraduate and graduate programs in theoretical and computational linguistics. Linguistics as it is taught and researched at the School does not simply involve mastering foreign languages. Rather, it is the science of language and the methods of its modeling. Research groups in the School of Linguistics study typology, socio-linguistics and areal linguistics, corpus linguistics and lexicography, ancient languages and the history of languages. The School is also developing linguistic technologies and electronic resources: corpora, training simulators, dictionaries, thesauruses, and tools for digital storage and processing of written texts.
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On April 10, 2015, the session ‘Universalism and Relativism in the Philosophy of Language and Mind’, organized by the Schools of Linguistics and Philosophy, took place at HSE as part of the XVI April International Academic Conference.
The session started with a presentation by Harvard Professor Maria Polinsky in which she discussed the idea of productive interaction between traditional theoretical linguistics and cognitive science. Professor Polinsky demonstrated persuasively that a correctly organized experiment allows results to be obtained that are equally important for understanding the nature of a language and the principles of how human consciousness is organized. One of the bright examples illustrating this thesis was a study of gender in Spanish. During the experiment, subjects were offered sentences with errors in verbal gender agreement, and the time spent for reading these was measured. The results of the experiment showed that native and non-native speakers of Spanish perceive the category of gender in different ways; while Spanish learners see male and female gender as equal values of the category, native speakers perceive male gender as a default value, which means that they have an idea of ‘presence/absence of gender’.
During the keynote speech, the room was filled to capacity, with interested listeners sitting on windowsills and even the floor.
After Professor Polinsky’s speech, the session divided into two parallel sessions, one focused on linguistics and the other on philosophy. As part of the linguistic section, postgraduate students from the HSE School of Linguistics – Ilya Kuznetsov, Maria Kuseva, and Daria Ryzhova – presented segments of their theses. HSE guests gave presentations, including Artem Shelya from the University of Tartu, Estonia, who spoke about a project developing a Soviet song-like poetry corpus, and Jennifer Hughes from Lancaster University, UK, who told the audience about several experiments related to formulaic and non-formulaic sequences in the English language.
In addition to the main conference programme, students from the School of Linguistics, Elmira Mustakimova (3rd-year postgraduate) and Evgenia Mesheryakova (1st-year Master’s), presented a demo version of a website especially for Professor Polinsky and other guests. The website, developed by students and lecturers, is a so-called ‘heritage corpus’ of texts in Russian that are written by children of emigrants for whom Russian is a native language but not the main language of everyday communication.
Summaries of all papers of the linguistic session can be viewed online.