Ertegun Staff and Scholar Profiles

Matthias Lalisse

MPhil General Linguistics & Comparative Philology | 2015 Graduate
French/ American

I studied at Oxford as an Ertegun Scholar in 2013-2015, completing my M.Phil in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. I subsequently moved on to PhD work in the Cognitive Science program at Johns Hopkins University, where I am currently a doctoral student. My Masters work at Oxford focused on the semantic component of our language abilities--how we extract representations of meaning from strings of natural language, and produce language with particular meanings in mind. Recently, I have been interested in the statistics of word and sentence meaning: how can the meanings of words and phrases be characterized with reference to the contexts in which they tend to occur? This general field is known as distributional semantics. I am also interested in drawing out the logical characteristics of various linguistic constructions, particularly how the basic components of an utterance--generally, words--combine to generate meanings for larger phrases. I have worked on how these principles work out in such constructions as adjective-noun and noun-noun compounds. My PhD work at Hopkins is a continuation of these concerns, the solutions to which advance our understanding of the unique human ability to construct unboundedly long and complex meaningful expressions. Outside of strictly academic pursuits, I am highly interested in the history and practice of social and labor movements. I am also active, in climate change mitigation efforts through fossil fuel divestment. The Ertegun Scholarship provided ideal conditions in which to undertake the studies that prepared me to enter a PhD program. Besides the obvious financial benefits, the social and work space in Ertegun House greatly faciliated studying and helped develop personally and academically valuable relationships with other Ertegun Scholars. Many academic conferences take place throughout the year at Ertegun House, and there is much support for scholar-run conferences and events. While at Oxford, I co-organized a conference on The Humanities in the 21st Century at Ertegun House, an event made possible by the space, funding, administrative aid, and interdisciplinary atmosphere provided by the Ertegun Program. You can learn more about me and my research at my website, Feel free to contact me at lalisse, that funny "at" symbol, then with any questions about Ertegun, or if we have any interests in common.