04 September 2012

Introducing our new first-year students

Welcome to our ten newcomers! Here are brief introductions to each of them:

Thomas Borer:

"I am Austrian by birth but was raised in Liechtenstein, a small country (about  61 sq mi) surrounded by Switzerland and Austria. Liechtenstein, if known at all, is most famous for being small, but next to that for banking, Hilti (known for manufacturing hammer drills and direct fastening systems), as well as being the world’s largest producer of sausage casings and false teeth. My hometown is Gamprin, a midsized village at the border to Switzerland.

I studied African studies at the University of Vienna, where I graduated in 2012. The African studies program in Vienna requires every student to have some introductory courses in history, literature as well as linguistics and to specialize in one of these fields. Since I was most fascinated by linguistics I chose to focus on that. I am most passionate about syntax and semantics. I also learned basic Fulfulde, an Atlantic language spoken in the Sahel, and Hausa, a Chadic language spoken mainly in northern Nigeria and southern Niger. In my thesis I worked on voice in Hausa.

In my spare time I like to cook, bake, bike and hike. I am also particularly fond of table tennis and Foosball."

Afton Coombs:

"My name is Afton Coombs. After growing up in Southern California, I received B.A.'s in linguistics and English literature from across town at the University of California Los Angeles. At UCLA I was a research assistant to then-graduate student Kristine Yu, working on tone language universals. My senior thesis was on stress patterns in English. Although my focus was always in phonetics and phonology, now at USC I also want to pursue computational applications. I am looking forward to working with the other graduate students, and I hope to collaborate with people in other departments. Outside of linguistics, I love dancing and playing music."

Monica Do:

"Hi! I was born and raised in the wonderful San Fernando Valley. I did my undergraduate work at USC, where I majored in Linguistics, competed nationally on the Trojan Debate Squad, and served as an undergraduate research assistant for the Language Processing Lab. After taking a year off school, I am thrilled to be returning to Troy to further my studies in psycholinguistic and syntactic work and crucially, to watch the #1 ranked Trojans win the BCS Championship. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, trying new foods, playing fantasy football, and hiking with my adorable husky, Bella."

Samantha Gordon:

"My name is Samantha Gordon and I recently moved to Los Angeles from Texas. I grew up in Houston where I attended an arts high school for visual art. For my undergraduate education, I attended the University of Texas at Austin, where I earned a B.F.A. in Studio Art and B.A.s in Linguistics (minoring in Russian) and Plan II, a liberal arts honors program. For my degree in Plan II I wrote a thesis entitled "Gastronomic Aesthetics" about the theory and practice of using food as fine art. After graduating from UT, I stayed in Austin to work in a small house museum, at a humanities non-profit, at the Phonetics Lab at the University of Texas, and I also completed the Baking and Patisserie program at the Le Cordon Bleu college of culinary arts.

My interests in Linguistics are in phonetics (my background is in acoustic/auditory phonetics though I hope to learn more about articulatory phonetics while at USC) and psycholinguistics. When I'm not working or studying, I love to cook and bake (the more complicated the instructions and the harder to find the ingredients, the better). I enjoy practicing Muay Thai kickboxing, hiking and trail running, hanging out with my cats, painting, reading, and attempting to convince people to play Scrabble or go to karaoke bars with me. I also like seeing stand-up and improv comedy and watching movies."

Jessica Harmon:

"I’m a mostly California girl, and I’ve lived in 5, now 6, places around the state, from the tippy-top northern coast (that everyone always forgets is part of CA) down to LA. Driving on these traffic-y freeways down here is somehow terrifying and terribly boring at the same time. I did my undergrad in linguistics at CSU Fresno. I studied Latin/Greek as well and was somehow able to work them into my honors thesis on Chukchansi Yokuts, a language native to the Fresno area. I’m not too sure what my main interests are going to be, but most likely something in syntax/semantics. I love traveling and Asian food (you know, the cuisines from Japan to the Mediterranean), and hopefully one day soon I’ll get to have both at the same time. Too much of my time is spent reading blogs and watching youtube videos about science, language, religion, politics, and the intersections between/among them. But I like print (or at least kindle) books too, mostly scifi/fantasy (Ender’s Game! Harry Potter!). Over the summer I finished cataloguing my library according to the Library of Congress system. I also recently caught up on Doctor Who, and I'm looking forward to the premiere in September."

Chorong Kang:

"My name is Chorong. I am from Korea, and it is the first time for me to live in a foreign country. Thus, I came here with great expectations of living and studying in this beautiful, energetic study area. I have special interest in Syntax, Semantics, and theoretical methods. When I was on MA course, I loved to discuss syntactic phenomena drawing tree diagram and my MA thesis topic is “Issues on Sub-extraction: Morphological Freezing Effects.” I hope that I could learn more about syntax and interdisciplinary issues in Linguistics from this fall. In my free time, I call my husband who is in Korea and I used to eat something sweet when I feel sad or depressed. And I love to go to concert or art gallery, thus if there is a great performance or others you would be also interested in, let’s go and enjoy together."

Cynthia Lee:

"Hi, my name is Yoonjeong, but most of my friends call me Cynthia. I'm from Seoul, South Korea. Seoul is a big, fun, and lively city. The only thing I wasn't very happy about in Seoul was the weather. But, wow, the weather in LA is absolutely amazing. Though I've been here for only a few weeks, I'm sure I'll like this city a lot. I got my M.A. in Linguistics from Hanyang University (in Seoul) and worked as an RA from 2008 spring to 2012 summer. I'd been involved in several projects regarding the prosodic structure of a language that I'd love to know more about. The title of my first published article (Cho, Lee, & Kim, 2011), for which I participated in as the second author, is "Communicatively-driven versus prosodically-driven hyper-articulation in Korean". My M.A. thesis title is "Effects of prosodic strengthening and lexical boundary on /s/-stop sequences in English". Besides studying hard, I love playing Nintendo Wii (still pretty nerdy, huh?), going out with friends, shopping (all sorts of), and singing/dancing! I'm so glad that I've chosen USC for my future study and excited to start my new long journey with you all. Fight on!"

Binh Ngo:

"My name is Binh Ngo and I am from Vietnam. I grew up in Ho Chi Minh city, also known as Saigon, where I received my B.A. in English Linguistics from University of Social Sciences and Humanities. I worked as an EFL teacher for a few language schools there for seven years before leaving for the Master's program in the US. I recently received my M.A. in Linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. During the program, I had the wonderful opportunity tutoring undergraduate students in linguistics classes. I also participated in the two one-month workshops which the department conducted for EFL teachers from Chungnam Province in Korea. My thesis was about Vietnamese Classifiers and their role in denoting (Non)Specificity. I plan to work on the Syntax-Semantics interface in Vietnamese as well as in other East Asian languages during my years at USC. Besides nominal constructions, WH-movement and particles are also amazingly intriguing to me. Teaching is my passion and I can't wait to start the TA here at USC. In my free time, I love walking around places, hiking, and going to the movies. Last but not least, a get-together with friends is always great to have."

Andrés Benítez Pozo:

"My name is Andrés Benítez Pozo. I'm from Jerez, in southern Spain. I'm coming to USC from University College London, where I completed a master's degree in the area of speech sciences. Before that, I went to the University of Granada, in Spain, for undergrad. I'm currently on a Fulbright Foreign Scholarship.

My main research interests lie within the area of phonetics. For my master's thesis I did research on second language speech perception, under the supervision of Paul Iverson. I'm interested in many aspects of language and speech, and especially in laboratory phonology and the interaction of speech perception and production.

In my free time I like to run while listening to music, and I also enjoy eating out and reading newspapers and random social psychology articles. Perhaps my biggest hobby is television shows; I love a good sitcom."

Alif Silpachai:

"My name is Alif. (It's pronounced like "a leaf".) I grew up in San Fernando Valley, California, where I spoke Thai (Siamese) at home. I received my B.A. in linguistics from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2012. As an undergraduate student, I found phonetics, intonational phonology, and historical linguistics most fascinating. I also began learning Spanish, Catalan, and French in classes, while I was learning other Thai related languages, namely Lao, Northern Thai, and Shan from native speakers mostly via Skype and telephone. Although I found the prosodies of Spanish, Catalan, and French fascinating, I was more interested in discovering more about the prosodies of these Tai languages, given that these languages are tonal. In particular, I was always interested in discovering how the lexical tones in these languages interact with intonation. And I also wanted to discover how creaky voice in these languages plays a role in perception. Since not too many studies have been done on their prosodic structures, I had to do my studies firsthand with native speakers. However, I find this process rather difficult because my current knowledge of the prosodies in these languages and my research skills are not quite sufficient for me to independently and confidently study these languages. Therefore, as a graduate student at USC, I am looking forward to learn the skills needed to become a better researcher. Furthermore, some of my hobbies are learning different English accents, improving my Lao and Northern Thai accents, reconstructing Proto-Southwestern Tai, studying facial expressions, watching Spanish series from Spain, reading novels in English and Spanish, and making videos on Youtube."