Archive for Friday, August 12, 2011

Heard on the Hill: Engineering students win regional Traffic Bowl; law student goes to NYC over the summer to study ‘fashion law’; professors earn grants to study endangered languages

August 12, 2011


Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• One thing KU students are apparently pretty good at? Traffic Bowl, evidently.

So what exactly is Traffic Bowl? It’s a Jeopardy-style competition for Institute of Transportation Engineers student chapters.

KU’s team won the regional competition, earning them $1,000, plus $2,000 in travel expenses to the national competition on Aug. 16 in St. Louis.

Questions, according to a KU statement, “are based from the contents of three professional traffic manuals, which cover everything from street signs and pavement markings to road construction standards and highway capacity considerations.”

Curious to know if I could find a sample question, I did enough poking around on the Traffic Bowl website to find this:

“Clue: The MUTCD 2000 provides guidance that pedestrian clearance time should be based on this normal walking speed.

"Response: What is 4.0 ft/s (1.2 m/s)?”

I’m not too sure what the MUTCD 2000 is, but I do know that I wouldn’t be able to come up with that answer.

So good luck to the team of Cheryl Bornheimer, Lenexa; Benjamin Alexander Mugg, Shawnee; Sara Rae Mallory Thompson, Salina; Huanghui Zeng, Zijin, China; and Xiaoxiao Zhang, Beijing, China, at the national competition.

• I spotted an interesting blog post from a KU law student who traveled to summer institute to study something I’d never really thought about — fashion law.

No, said second year law student Lauren Luhrs, she’s not like Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde.”

But she did have an undergraduate degree in apparel marketing and public relations, and was interested in fashion law, and traveled to New York to attend a summer intensive program on the topic.

The law intersects fashion quite a bit, it seems. Luhrs described a bit about the program, saying its students “explore the diverse areas of the law that affect the fashion industry and are at the heart of the Fashion Law Institute, including intellectual property, business and finance, international trade and government regulation, and consumer culture and civil rights.”

She also got this Marc Jacobs tote bag out of the deal, which might be something important in the fashion world, but might not.

You shouldn’t ask me about fashion. I own about 10 work shirts, about half of which are maroon, which gets me maligned by fellow reporter Shaun Hittle on a regular basis.

• Two KU professors are among those receiving funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation to support digital documentation of nearly 50 endangered languages from around the world.

Arienne Dwyer, an associate professor of linguistic anthropology, received two grants from the NSF, one for $174,609 to establish "CoLang: Institute for Collaborative Language Research," and another for $259,220 for "Interactive Inner Asia: documenting an endangered language contact area," for $259,220.

In looking at the more than $3.9 million in funds given to the cause, it’s interesting to see the kinds of languages that are being studied.

"Karuk and Yurok syntax and text documentation," for example, is one of the projects.

Lizette Peter, associate professor of curriculum and teaching, also received $41,795 for “Collaborative Research: Documenting Cherokee Tone and Vowel Length.”

• Once Carolyn MacKay of Ball State University finishes her dictionary of Pisaflores Tepehua, I might try to write an entire column in that language. If you have better things for me to write about, let me know at


Gandalf 6 years, 8 months ago

Endangered languages? Are they being hunted into extinction?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

Apparently you missed my positing on the LJWorld forum on August 7, 2011. I'll repeat it for you:

I'm sorry to say that I know for a fact that many Native languages are now extinct. And not just Native American languages, but hundreds of languages all over the world are disappearing. That reminds me of a Vietnamese person I knew years ago who told me of an old proverb that is commonly known in Vietnam (according to him, anyway), which went something like: "For each language you know, you gain another soul."

Not that long ago I had a rather lengthy conversation about the Biloxi language, which became extinct in the 1930s when the last Native who could speak the language died. The conversation was with a doctoral student here at KU who was writing his thesis on the Biloxi language, and he told me that he had plenty of material to work with.

But then, I was amazed when he told me that what he considered plenty of material to work with in order to reconstruct Biloxi to be was an old dictionary that really didn't have all that many words defined, and a textbook that had been used to instruct perhaps a sixth grade student. Those are the only two known extant books written in Biloxi. Perhaps there will be more found in the future, but that appears unlikely.

His only other resource was another Native language that was closely related, from which correct pronounciation could be inferred, but of course without a high degree of certainty.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Fashion law? Does that mean she works with the fashion police?

Ralph Gage 6 years, 8 months ago

Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. (I think!)

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 8 months ago

And is this the same Shaun Hittle, who evidently gets paid by the clip-on tie industry?

ahyland 6 years, 8 months ago

To his credit, I think they're actually zip-up ties...

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

I think that after you have had a few of your news stories picked up by the Associated Press for publication all over the country you might be more in his league and therefore more qualified to comment upon whether his choice of clothing is appropriate for a newspaper reporter or not.

Shaun Hittle 6 years, 8 months ago

Ron, Wow, a zinger for Andy! Nice.

Good work. That being said, we all love Andy in our own way.

Mike Ford 6 years, 8 months ago

yurok and wiyot are algonquian isolate langauges. most of the algonquian languages were between montana and nova scotia to the east and south carolina to the south. I am part Biloxi from my great great grandmother who lived along the Pascagoula River west of Hurley Mississippi. She was also Choctaw. Biloxi people either stayed in Mississippi or joined the Tunica and Houma peoples in LA. The Biloxi people who went to Texas either blended in there or went to Oklahoma or back to Louisiana. The federally recognized Biloxis are part of the Tunica Tribe in Louisiana. Biloxi and Mosapelea people are only Siouan people in the lower Mississippi River Valley. Back east the Tutelo, Saponi, Catawba, and Waccamauw people are Siouan peoples. The funny thing is that I learned all of this and the Choctaw language and never learned about it in college.

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