Background and Miscellany

I did my undergraduate work in Linguistics at the University of California at San Diego. After receiving my BA in 1981, I went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do graduate work in Linguistics. I received my PhD from MIT in 1985.

After getting my degree I joined AT&T Bell Labs as a Postdoc, and then became a regular member of the technical staff in 1986. While at AT&T Bell Labs I worked mostly on natural language processing and text-to-speech synthesis.

In 1996 AT&T underwent the second of its long fragmentations (the first had been back in 1983 with the breakup of the Bell System). I decided to stay at Bell Labs, which became part of Lucent Technologies. At Bell Labs, I continued to work on text-to-speech synthesis, and was one of the main people responsible for the Bell Labs Multilingual TTS System. In 1997 I was made a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Bell Labs.

In 1999 I decided to leave Bell Labs and move to AT&T Labs --- Research. There I continued to work on TTS for a while, but soon moved onto other things, such as the WordsEye automatic text-to-scene conversion system, and my most recent work, which was on speech data mining.

In 2003 I left AT&T to join the faculties of Linguistics, and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In January 2009 I left Illinois to join the Center for Spoken Language Understanding at the Oregon Health & Science University.

I have always been interested in languages, and have studied a few of them over the years, resulting in varying degrees of familiarity. These include modern languages like Spanish, French, German, Russian, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Dutch and Welsh; "dead" languages such as Old English, Old Icelandic, Greek, Latin, Ancient Egyptian, Classical Chinese; and "resurrected" languages such as Manx Gaelic. Unfortunately I have also forgotten quite a few of the ones I have studied. Probably I have forgotten more languages than most people ever knew 😃.

I am interested in history, in particular the cultural history of China, and the history of the Arabs. I also have a special interest in Easter Island, which has an as yet largely undeciphered script called rongorongo. (This is related to my more general interest in writing systems: see my publications page.) Though there have been recently some rather strong claims to the effect that rongorongo is a full writing system (as opposed to a mnemonic system as proposed by Alfred Métraux), I find the evidence presented so far to be equivocal. Given time, I intend to write something on this topic. Recently I've been doing some work on discovering parallel texts using approximate string matching techniques.

Moving further afield I have in the past been an amateur musician (recorder), and an amateur mycologist: I still have a rather nice specimen of Battarrea phalloides, which I collected at Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego in 1976; I also have a specimen of the even rarer Battarrea digueti, collected about the same time in the Anza Borrego Desert.

I love to travel. Some of the more interesting places I've been are Easter Island, Madagascar,
Orchid Island 蘭嶼 (off the south east coast of Taiwan), Malacca (Peninsular Malaysia), Isle of Man (Irish Sea), and Dorrigo National Park (NSW, Australia). See my December 2004 note on an interesting experience I had in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Finally: I love cooking.

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