Christine Brisson

Dear Alan,

There are things that you taught me that I’ll never forget. Like Berber syllabification, and looking for long borrowed words like Monongahela to figure out stress rules without pesky morphology interfering.

One summer I applied for a Cognitive Science research fellowship, and I asked you to read my proposal. Your review was something like, ‘looks good, just made a few changes.’ But the changes you suggested made a big impression on me. Every place where I had written “might,” “could,” “possibly,” and other mushy, equivocating words, you either flat out struck them or else, if that didn’t work grammatically, suggested a stronger alternative. The effect was not to suggest that I already knew the answer to the question I wanted to investigate; rather, the effect was that the writer was confident in her ability (to investigate a scientific question, in this case). That writer was me. This lesson has stayed with me even as my career has moved outside of linguistics.

Thanks for being such a great teacher and mentor to the graduate students at Rutgers. And as part of that, thanks for all the great beer you always brought to the colloquium potlucks.


Christine Brisson