Ten Minutes With… Wendell Kimper

Posted on September 19, 2015 by

Next to agree to the dubious honour of being our interviewee is Wendell Kimper. Wendell has been specialising in phonology and phonetics at the UoM for 2 years and teaches in a range of modules including Quantitative Research Methodology, Principles of Linguistics and Language, Mind and Brain. An ‘obsessive fan’ of the Great British Bake Off, Wendell is originally from the US (New Hampshire and Massachusetts to be precise) and came to Manchester after teaching in Santa Cruz, California.

Manchet: Why does linguistics matter?
Wendell Kimper: It matters because it’s part of what it means to be human, and so understanding how it is that we do language is to understand cognitively and, to some extent socially, a pervasive aspect of humanity.

M: If you weren’t a linguist, what would you be doing?
WK: My alternate back up plan was to go into early childhood education. My linguistics doesn’t have anything to do with early childhood development, but that was my backup plan – taking care of babies.

M: If you ever moved back to the States, what one British thing would you take with you?
WK: Is it too much to say the NHS? The NHS, unarmed police and meat pies. I don’t know why steak pie doesn’t exist in the US, it would be brilliant.

M: If you had the chance, what advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
WK: Don’t throw away all of your class notes. For a while [at college] I kept all of the notes for all of the classes I took, and then at some point I decided I didn’t need them any more so I threw them all out. But there are some things it would be nice to remember how that was taught so I could teach it. I don’t have any of the materials from the first linguistics class I ever took, which is a shame because that was the class that made me want to be a linguist.

M: You’re a big fan of the Great British Bake Off. If you were to be on the show, what challenge would you be spectacular at?
WK: I think I’d be great at Bread Week. I make bread. When I first got here I missed bagels – they’re not proper bagels here, they’re rolls with holes in them. I missed proper bagels so I learned how to make them. And it was worth it.
[M: If you live under a rock and have no idea what the Bake Off is, you can watch the most recent series here. Watch out for Bread Week.]

M: Describe the LEL Department using 3 words (of any language).
WK: Diverse. Friendly. And big. There are a lot of us. We have a lot of very different specializations. In the department where I did my PhD it was not quite as big as Manchester but it wasn’t nearly as diverse. There were a lot of people who did very similar things. But here there’s people who do things like I do, experimental phonology and phonetics, and then Yaron [language contact] and Maj-Britt [pragmatics] and Eric [sociolinguistics] – all of us are doing such very different things.

[M: Check back next week for another interview with a colleague on the English Language side of the department!]

Image is from Wendell’s website.