As a Branco Weiss Fellow, Dr. Damián Blasi will investigate the impact that large and influential languages have on language-related science, technology, medicine and education. He will statistically scrutinize large databases on language-based resources across fields and develop practical models to inform evidence-based policies geared towards extending the utility of language-based resources to the largest possible number of languages as possible.
- Ph.D. in Computer Sciences, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany (2012-2015, defended 2018)
- M.Sc. in Statistical and Interdisciplinary Physics, Balseiro Institute, Argentina (2009-2010)
- Licenciatura in Physics, Balseiro Institute and Buenos Aires University, (2004-2009)
- Maury Green Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University (2019-2020)
- Glushko dissertation award (2020)
- Research Academy Leipzig dissertation award (2019)
- Fellowship from the International Max Planck Research School (2012-2015)
- Fellowship from the Indian Department of Science and Technology (2011)
- Fellowship from the Argentinian National Commission of Nuclear Energy (2007-2010)
- National Geographic: A change in our diet might have changed human language
- The Wall Street Journal: The Science Behind Why We Use ‘F’ Words
- The Economist: Distant languages have similar sounds for common words
- The Guardian: The hidden sound patterns that could overturn years of linguistic theory
Branco Weiss Fellow Since
Computational social sciences
Human Evolutionary Biology Department, Harvard University, USA
There are over 6,500 languages spoken or signed in the world today, yet a handful of large and influential languages -English most prominently in the present- has served as the de facto prototype for how to describe, model and measure language. Research on linguistic diversity has revealed that, along with common properties shared by all languages, there are countless dimensions on which languages can differ from each other, ranging from the readily apparent (such as the vocabularies or the sound or sign repertoires they use) to the subtle and complex (like morphosyntactic strategies for reference tracking in discourse). These differences compromise the capacity to produce truly universal language-based resources, including communication technologies, medical therapies and educational assessments.
Dr. Blasi’s research goal is threefold. First, to quantitatively characterize the mismatch between the (often economically and politically dominant) languages in which language-based resources are produced and the ones where they are applied, across scientific and technological fields and aided by large databases of scientific publications and patents. Second, to deploy computational models to inform, plan and estimate the cross-linguistic generalizability of any given resource as dependent on the languages in which it was conceived and evaluated. Third, to promote a critical dialogue across society, academia and industry on the mostly silent but ubiquitous consequences of this systematic bias induced by large and powerful languages in the production of resources.