Today, I went to a nerd party. Some linguistics students from around the city organized a sort of mini-conference to give linguistics students from the whole area a chance to get together, meet, and talk about their research. In total about 20 people came from four universities (the Humboldt, Technische, and Free Universities in Berlin, and Uni Potsdam (about an hour away)), and seven people gave presentations. You may be wondering, “Who on earth would give up possibly the last beautiful Friday of the summer to go sit in fluorescent lighting and do extra school for no credit?” My people, that’s who. 


Presentations ranged from the highly theoretical (eye tracking of people reading source code) to the anthropological (perceptions of nation and ethnicity among Muslim Pontic Greek-speaking Turks), and my overall impression was that I chose exactly the right university to attend (I also considered Potsdam and HU–didn’t know the TU had a linguistics program, but it looks like I dodged a bullet there). In contrast to the very technical presentations of the HU and UP students, the FU ones were more culture/people-oriented. One guy, who’s actually in my program (but a year ahead of me), presented on translating code-switching in literature, focusing on Czech novels in German. The other FU presenter, who I think is finishing up her work now or already finished it, went to Turkey and interviewed Muslim Pontic Greek-speakers in Turkey to see how they identify themselves ethnically, how they view Turkish, how they view MPG, etc. It was much more compelling when she was talking about it than when I am. Basically, she was examining the same phenomenon that I looked at (but didn’t write about) in a paper last semester on the former Yugoslavian countries and how their languages and their national identities are intertwined.


Long story short, FU has all the cool research. HU and TU can keep their syntactic trees and source code to themselves.