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Elly van Gelderen

Elly van Gelderen. Outstanding Faculty Mentor 2016
Elly van Gelderen
Professor, Department of English, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

I hope that my own expertise and commitment excites students and that their interests guide my explorations. I have encouraged knowledge of and enthusiasm for syntax (my own area) but have also been excited to work with students in areas that are not my own. The below points make some of my mentoring attempts more concrete.

Create a linguistic community at ASU

When I joined ASU in 1995, I started a syntax reading group which has had between 8-12 members each semester and which reads cutting-edge articles in the area and pre-publications. It has been active since 1995 with faculty and students from various departments/schools. Thanks partly to it, our students keep abreast of new developments, e.g., the Problems of Projection approach (Chomsky 2015)

This reading group is also a place for students and faculty to practice their conference publications or dissertation chapters. The last few years, it has been on Wednesday from 11-1 so everyone can organize classes and other commitments around it.

Assess students’ needs

I (mainly) serve as chair for students in formal syntax, English historical linguistics, Arabic syntax, and applied linguistics. The first two are my areas of expertise; the latter two are areas that I have to work on, e.g., reading up on Arabic syntax and on statistics and pedagogy. I have also been mentoring students in philosophy and this has made me investigate first language acquisition and philosophy of language and these have been mutually beneficial.

We have “traditional” students, i.e., those aiming for a career in academics in linguistics, those who would like to teach English at a community college or ASU, and those going into Artificial Intelligence or another applied area. I try to encourage each student to achieve the best for the goals the student has set.

Professionalizing graduate students in linguistics

I organize workshops, e.g., Cycles I in 2008, the 2009 Workshop on Parameters and Typology, and Cycles II in 2014, and conferences, e.g., WECOL in 2013, WCCFL in 2013, and the Arabic Linguistics Symposium in 2018. I involve students in inviting keynote speakers, judging abstracts, and other issues.

I make sure that students are aware of the linguistic corpora that are available and other methodologies that are relevant.

Encouraging research in many languages

Apart from the Arabic mentioned above, I have (from 1995 on) conducted reading courses in Dutch, Yiddish and Swedish, where we read texts in these languages and discuss the grammar. I have also had students who wanted to study O’odham, Navajo and recently the Mayan languages.

In short, I try to encourage students to pursue topics that they are interested in while keeping them informed of the most recent developments in the field of linguistics, in particular syntax.