A biomechanical model of the human tongue for understanding speech production and other lingual behaviors

Adam Baker
Department of Linguistics
University of Arizona

Acknowledgements: The Dissertator's Cut

Did you know that UA dissertation formatting guidelines allow for just one page of acknowledgements? It was a nasty surprise to me. I am therefore pleased to present “Acknowledgements: The Dissertator's Cut”:

When I consider my level of expertise when I first resolved to create a biomechanical tongue model, and that which I now flatter myself to possess, I am aware of a large gap. That gap has been filled by the generosity and patience of many people. Here I would like to acknowledge some notable contributors.

Mike Hammond, my advisor and committee chair, has been excellent. There were many meetings in which the substance of my progress report was, “Yes, things are going well. No, I don't have anything to show you yet.” I don't doubt that the majority of advisors might have betrayed some discomfiture during such meetings, but, quite to the contrary, Mike's support and patience have been exemplary. I hope at some point to be able to model his patience with my own students.

I have also had a wonderful interaction with my other two committee members, Brad Story and Jonathan Vande Geest. These gentlemen were both generous with their time and their counsel. Their input is all the more to be appreciated because neither of them is from the linguistics department, and their help is therefore indicative of a strong generosity of spirit.

From the Department of Physiology, Andy Fuglevand and Fiona Bailey have both been extremely helpful. Their patience with a linguist grappling with the rudiments of neuromuscular physiology has been greatly appreciated. The fact that I was able to sit in meetings with accomplished scientists, well respected in their respective areas of expertise, and to leave those meetings feeling both respected and edified, is a witness to Andy's and Fiona's professionalism and character.

I extend thanks to the Department of Linguistics for five years of funding. Special thanks go to Diana Archangeli, my employer for four of those years, who provided an ideal environment in which to learn how to do science. Aside from my actual dissertation work, it was in APIL that I learned the most. It was unfortunate that her sabbatical year coincided with my dissertation year (or rather, the dissertation year in which I actually produced something), but I trust that our collaboration is not over.

The High Performance Computing office has been an enormous help to me. I acknowledge in particular Lucy Caruthers, Todd Merritt, and Kathleen Bowles. They received some questions from me which must have seemed beyond the pale of all reason, yet they answered them promptly and courteously. Marvin Landis of Scientific Visualization was instrumental in connecting me with the software I needed to perform the anatomical study. This saved many frustrating hours. Marvin was wonderfully consistent in answering my subsequent questions, which ranged from the mundane to the esoteric to the nonsensical.

I thank the library for their service during my time at U of A. Our library is well-stocked, both with books and electronic subscriptions. I have had consistently positive interactions with library staff.

I would like to extend thanks to the donor of the female body used in the Visible Human Project. That fact that I myself would not be comfortable making such a donation makes me all the more appreciative of her decision to do so. The data are unparalleled, and this dissertation could not have been written without them. I have had the privilege of examining or dissecting other cadavers, and I thank their donors as well.

I certainly did not expect at the outset of graduate school to be writing a dissertation filled with terms like “spline,” “conjugate gradient,” and “convex hull.” There have been many times when I needed a quick conceptual overview of some topic or another. I would like to acknowledge, quite generally, those who have invested the time and energy to make so much valuable tutorial material online. I have benefited from professors who have posted course notes, and from those who have contributed to Wikipedia and similar resources.

Academic life has of course been a small part of my actual life over the past years; the best times have been with my wife Amy, and my sons Abraham and David. Amy has been wonderfully patient with me when stresses from work spilled over into home life, or when a burst of inspiration would take me away from the family for an evening. Her love and support has meant a lot. Seeing Abraham and David grow up, and falling deeper in love with them day by day, has been the greatest blessing of these past years. The fulfillment afforded by family life is incommensurate with that afforded by academic life.

This work would not have been possible—and if it had been possible it would not be interpretable—outside of the context of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. I owe Him everything: my being, my accomplishments, my salvation. I do not thereby claim infallibility for this work, but rather rejoice that the Lord has shown Himself willing in all parts of life to partner with imperfect creatures. I heartily and humbly look forward to being the weaker partner in many future collaborations.

All contents copyright © 2008 Adam Baker