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UCLA hosted its annual PIE conference

The attendees of the conference listen as a speaker presents. (Photo by Stephanie Kiang)

UCLA hosted its annual PIE, or Proto-Indo-European linguistics conference from Friday, Nov. 9 to Nov. 10.

I attended the conference on the 10th, and I found all of the presentations thoroughly engaging. I had time to stay for three and a half of them, and they all featured wonderful topics presented by knowledgeable linguists.

The first full one I saw was about Tocharian A & B. The speaker, Tao Pan, made a comparison using diagrams to show how Tocharian was different from Sruti tones, which are found in classic Indian music. That was just one part of his presentation.

“This [project] is part of my dissertation, and it’s very interesting to see [how] everything compares,” Pan said.

Ronald Kim spoke about Old Armenian. He focused on the aorist and imperfect (both of these are verb tenses), as well as some phonology.

“With Old Armenian, or any Indo-European language really, you have to cater to your audience, especially with [Old] Armenian, because I think a lot of people here didn’t know much about it,” Ronald said.

Jay Jasanoff, the featured speaker of the day, gave his presentation on word equations.

“This linguistics is not for the faint of heart,” Brent Vine, who introduced Jasanoff to the attendees of the conference said.

Many in the room laughed (myself included), but I was not expecting word equations to be as detailed as they are. But that is what made them so fun.

During his presentation, Jasanoff brought up Hittite verbs, which I found particularly interesting. Hittite is a language that was spoken by the Hittites, and it is an Indo-European language. He gave a terrific piece of advice in relation to verb conjugation in Hittite: “If you don’t like the t, drop the t.”

After he was finished, Jasanoff and Kim got into a hilarious yet captivating debate about Hittite verbs.

If you are interested in linguistics, I highly recommend attending this event next year. The speakers and audience members all come together for something they are incredibly passionate about, which is one of the main things that made this conference quite enjoyable.

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