Life of a PhD Student: 1 Year Later – Lightbulb

Yes! Finally! I had another Eureka moment with my research! My last one happened about a year ago, and less than a month after that I realised it would come to no good. I had to throw out all my hard work and start over. But now I finally seem to be on a decent track again.

To give you some extra context. As I’ve mentioned before, I am doing a PhD in linguistics. The kind of linguistics I do is very much theoretical, and if you would ask what the use of it is to our community, I would have to start a rather philosophical argument about the importance of understanding exactly what language can and cannot do. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

The problem I’ve been having was very much of the theoretical kind. I was doing research in a framework called nanosyntax, and this framework very much still has to prove itself. To me, it really hasn’t. I had worked out a nice little theory, found some very interesting data, even wrote an article. But as I sent it out for reviewing, all hell broke loose. I got a bad review. No, that’s an understatement. I got a disastrous and very vicious review. Let’s just say that my reviewer, who I happened to have met before and who had expressed his discontent clearly on several occasions, is not a fan of the framework. Or of young female PhD students working on the same topic as he is. Booooh!

But I wasn’t giving up. I still very much believed in nanosyntax being able to explain why words are the way they are. So I wanted to look at more data, see if what this reviewer had told me was actually true. A lot of it isn’t, to be fair. I have definitely found my linguistics nemesis in this person since we seem to disagree on almost everything. Him being an established researcher and me being a fresh PhD student, I think we can all agree that’s a bit disconcerting. But there was one point where he was right: the main diagnostic for my framework will not get me anywhere for my topic. As I checked my theory against a very friendly other established researcher’s (thank god they do exist) database, I noticed that indeed everything is attested and my theory was ready to be binned. For every piece of data confirming my hypothesis, there was another piece of data as a counterargument. So I didn’t only put aside my theory, I also said my goodbyes to the framework. All the reading up I had done the past year, I had to start again.

And I didn’t know where to start. I was hired on a project about nanosyntax. Now what. But luckily one of the professors in my team, is very enthusiastic about his expertise and he’s been trying to convert me. And I think he has been successful. I’ve been reading up about the new framework, even about the new discipline, as I am not doing syntax anymore, but I am now doing logic and semantics. And today I think I found something. Eureka! Ligggghtbuuuulbbb!


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