Dissertation Acknowledgment 

It is important to me to acknowledge the help I received from many in completing my dissertation. Writing this section was simultaneously enjoyable and emotional, but it resulted in a document that makes me proud. It is impossible to list everyone who helped, but I hope those whose names are not listed will recognize my gratitude in the general thanks I offer to everyone who has been with me on this journey.

 

I wanted the many people who are credited, but who will never read my dissertation, to have a way to read this acknowledgment of their work. The following text was included as the opening text of my dissertation, submitted December 2020. 

 

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who is listed (directly or indirectly). 

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The use of the royal “we” throughout this dissertation is neither a mistake nor reflective of hesitance to take full responsibility for this work, both its flaws and its contributions. It is an homage to the multitude of people who have helped me to produce it. While I proudly acknowledge it as the product of more than five years of my own work, it would not have been possible without the contributions of numerous people. These contributions took many forms and I will not be able to cover them all, but I will do my best to recognize a few essential people who have made this work, and the accomplishment it represents, possible for me.

I must begin by thanking Géraldine for the countless meetings, discussions, emails, skype calls and every act of support. I have appreciated every one of them. Géraldine often says that academia is not for the faint of heart, as it comes with very few pats on the back. I am thankful for this opportunity to take this space to give her a pat on the back. As her student, I have learned more than I imagined possible. I have made more progress than I knew I could. I leave this department feeling capable of pursuing the career I wish and it is in large part because of her. Géraldine has encouraged me to apply for conferences and publications I would have thought “out of my reach” if left to my own devices. I certainly would not have (successfully) applied for an NSF grant without her encouragement. This was, perhaps, the most successful method of showing me my “reach” was greater than I thought, which is a lesson too few graduate students are taught. Géraldine has helped me gain experience teaching and supported my efforts in every way. I think the most crucial thing to say is that Géraldine has made it clear throughout my five (plus) years working with her that she is on my team. That is a quality that cannot be too highly praised.

I must also acknowledge the guidance of Akira Omaki whose presence is still palpable in this work. Without him, this work simply would not be what it is. No one could have predicted that my first years in academia would be his last or that I would be one of the last students he would advise, but I will be forever grateful to have learned from him as much as I did. While I am sure this project would have been different had he been here to supervise it, I hope that he would be proud of what it has become.

Next, I wish to gratefully acknowledge the members of my committee who took the time to thoughtfully engage with this work. It is truly appreciated. Special thanks to Dana McDaniel for serving on this committee from outside of the Johns Hopkins community. Her particular expertise is invaluable to the discussion of this work.

Within the department of Cognitive Science, I would like to acknowledge Kyle Rawlins, who took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me countless times over the past five years and who provided extremely helpful feedback on both of my qualifying papers. Special thanks to Barbara Landau, who welcomed me into her lab meetings in my second year and has given me valuable feedback on my experimental methodology and has helped me navigate my understanding of children’s processing and child development. I am also grateful to Tal Linzen and Bonnie Nozari for joining the team on my grant and for numerous meetings discussing the best way to pursue the questions I wanted to answer. I also wish to thank Colin Wilson for numerous discussions about the statistical methods I employ and Paul Smolensky for his thoughtful comments on the Optimality Theory sections of this paper. The help and expertise provided to me from so many in the department has been invaluable.

I must also acknowledge the help of two recent graduates of the program: Emily Atkinson, for years of conversations and “R” tutorials and Eleanor Chodroff for a serious discussion about the puzzle of children’s prosody.

Outside of the Johns Hopkins community, a particular acknowledgement must be made to Bettina Braun and the BabySprachLabor at the University of Konstanz, Germany. In spite of many barriers and difficulties, Bettina has been enthusiastic about my project from the first email I sent her asking if she would welcome a stranger into her lab space. She opened her lab to me, donated her time, recruited research assistants, and arranged for me to give a talk at the University of Konstanz which provided me with much helpful feedback. Her expertise and support have been invaluable to me. Again, this work would simply not have been without her.

I must thank the members of The Language Acquisition Lab, The BabySprachLabor, The Language Processing and Development Lab, and the Language and Cognition Labs for listening to multiple iterations of this work as it progressed. The feedback of so many from various backgrounds has given this work substance it would have otherwise lacked.

This work would not have been possible without the help of several research assistants who have played key roles in its development. At the Johns Hopkins Campus, these include, most prominently, Caroline West and Laura Nugent. Without Caroline’s assistance investigating German corpora, I might never have gotten the question of how German-speaking children would perform on these tasks rolling around in my head. Laura Nugent’s investigation into Hungarian corpora as well as her assistance recruiting child participants was simply invaluable. Both Caroline and Laura assisted in the creation of the tasks and the stimuli (including the creation of the ‘alien language’!) used in Chapters 5 and 6. I will be forever grateful for their help and I hope they learned from me as much as I learned working with them. I must also thank Tegan White-Nesbit who joined the team as an official translator from the German department at JHU. Her expertise proved vital and her enthusiasm and interest were most welcome. In Konstanz, Germany Carina Haase and Naomi Reichmann adopted my project as their own and treated it with all the care and enthusiasm I could have asked for. They worked diligently and carefully. I cannot thank them enough.

I would never have been able to present such an in-depth, cross-linguistic study without the help of numerous native-speakers who chose to help me purely because they are my friends. Thus, my heart-felt gratitude goes out to Anna Luescher, Edit Takacs, Beatrice Gregg, Ayushi Pandey, Rashi Pant, and Sadhwi Srinivas. Ladies, without your help translating and recording stimuli, without your willingness to sit with me and discuss “what that question really means”, I do not know where I would be. Anna deserves a second thank you for helping me navigate the streets of Konstanz upon my arrival in the fall of 2019.

Over the years I have reached out to numerous experts in my fields of interest and must thank the following people for meetings, emails, and discussions at conferences. These include wonderful courses and conversations with David Pesetsky, Coppe van Urk, Brian Dillon, and Norvin Richards at the LSA Summer Institute in 2017. I am grateful to Benjamin Breuning, Veneeta Dayal, and Matt Goldrick for some very interesting one-on-one meetings and to Dana McDaniel and Jeff Lidz for engaging conversations at BUCLD over multiple years. I am grateful to Joel Wallenberg who has always been ready to discuss my work or the process of getting a PhD. I also have to thank him for convincing me that I ‘had what it takes’ to pursue a PhD. Finally, I thank Julia Horvath, Gisbert Fanselow, and Martin Hakl for very engaging feedback over email.  All of these conversations helped challenge my thoughts and expand my thinking.

I must offer my sincere thanks to all of my fellow graduate students for every time they listened to a practice talk, helped me understand some new problem I was grappling with, or invited me to have a cup of tea. They were all appreciated. Special thanks go to the members of my cohort who braved that first year together with me. In particular, thank you to Celia, who encouraged me from the moment we met at our interview weekend, shared an office with me for 5 years, and who recorded the voice of the (now internationally famous) Hillary Hippo.

I also must acknowledge the work and effort of over 200 kindergarteners and their parents who came to ‘play science with me’. I appreciate the work and energy you brought to my research. I also appreciate you reminding me that this work is fun as well as fascinating.

To my friends around the world who have maintained a friendship with me even when I have been swamped with work and who reminded me of life outside, I thank you for keeping me grounded.

I think it cannot be overstated how important a strong support group is. I have always been incredibly grateful for my family, but their support during these past five years has been invaluable. They listened with enthusiasm to every ‘fun fact’ I shared (even when it was nonsense to them). They told me I belonged in academia when imposter syndrome made me doubt it. They kept me sane and reminded me of what is really important.

Finally, thank you to Jeff for making everything better.