From a shared FRIAS office to the top of international linguistic associations
What may result from a long-term office community is illustrated by the career development of the two linguists Martin Hilpert and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. From 2008 to 2012, both were Junior Fellows at the then existing School of Language and Literature at FRIAS, sharing an office during their fellowships. Now Martin Hilpert, Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), has been elected President of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), while Benedikt Szmrecsanyi, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Leuven, Belgium, was appointed Secretary of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE).
Martin Hilpert joined FRIAS in 2008, after his studies in English and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Hamburg and at Rice University in Houston, Texas, as well as a research position as postdoc at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley. During his FRIAS fellowship, he focused on phenomena of language change and the workings as well as theoretical implications of construction grammar, which assumes that processing, storage, production, acquisition and learning of human language are all largely based on ready-made complex entities (“chunks”). After his fellowship, Martin was appointed Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He is the author of several articles and books, among them Constructional Change (2013) and Construction Grammar and its Application to English (2014). On the 49th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE) from August 31 to September 3, 2016, he was elected President. SLE is the European association for linguistics, one of the largest of its kind in the world, aiming to advance the scientific study of language in all its aspects.
Benedikt Szmrecsanyi joined FRIAS in 2008 after his PhD in English Studies and a three-year term as Assistant Professor at the University of Freiburg. During his fellowship, he dealt with variation across the grammars of the dialects of English in the British Isles and of Englishes around the world, exploring the question how geographic factors and genetic patterns influence the development of the English language worldwide. After his fellowship at FRIAS Benedikt held a Lecturer position at the University of Manchester, UK, for one year, before being appointed Professor of Linguistics at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in conjunction with a highly prestigious research grant by the Flemish Research Foundation (Type II Odysseus Grant). At the 4th conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE) in Poznán from September 18 to 21, 2016, he was appointed as the Society’s Secretary. ISLE aims to support the scientific study of the English language both across all its varieties (geographical, social, ethnic, stylistic) and all historical periods. This society was founded in Freiburg in 2008 as the umbrella organization of international linguistic associations dealing with the English language and linguistics of English.
This little “Whatever has become of…?” story of our former Linguistics Juniors would not be complete, however, if we did not mention the third Linguistics Junior at FRIAS from 2008 to 2012, namely Anja Stukenbrock. Right after her fellowship, she was offered a full professorship for German Linguistics at the University of Duisburg-Essen. From there Anja moved on first to a Chair at the University of Jena (in 2014) and then (in early 2016) to a Chair in German Linguistics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. So Anja Stukenbrock and Martin Hilpert are, at least geographically speaking, quite close again, having been appointed to full professorships in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
In light of these three model career paths, what else can FRIAS Director Bernd Kortmann, Professor of English Language and Linguistics himself and co-Fellow of the three between April 2008 and September 2009, say but this: “The development of our Junior Fellows shows the enormous potential of this fellow format. All three of them have laid the foundations for their impressive international scientific careers during their fellowships at FRIAS, and it is with great joy that we keep following their career paths and impact on the discipline of linguistics.”