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My field, computational linguistics, is interdisciplinary.   Over many years I have had the good fortune to study with terrific teachers whose interests crossed multiple disciplines.  

Ph.D., Computational Linguistics, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Linguistics at UNM was connected with Computer Science through the singular efforts of George Luger, Professor of Computer Science, Linguistics, and Psychology.  The linguistics department is a center for the growing usage-based and cognitive answer to formalist, Chomskian linguistics.   The emphasis is on gathering linguistic data to examine language as it is spoken by real, living human beings.   My dissertation on automatic speech recognition required an interdisciplinary committee: George Luger (Computer Science, Penn), Caroline Smith (Linguistics, Yale), Bill Croft (Linguistics, Stanford), Chuck Wooters (Linguistics & Computer Science, Berkeley).


M.S., Computer Science, University Fellow, Temple University, Philadelphia. 

Judith Weiner (Linguistics, Penn), opened my eyes to the possibility of using computational techniques to study language.   We wrote several papers using simile and metaphor as a way to model lexical ambiguity in language processing.   


M.A., English, Woodrow Wilson Fellow, University of California at Berkeley.

At Berkeley, Henry Nash Smith convinced me that the study of literature required the study of its social and historical context.   Recently, I reread Virgin Land: The American West as Myth and Symbol.  It was as fresh and exciting to me as it was decades ago.


A.B., English, Phi Beta Kappa, St. Louis University, St. Louis.

St. Louis University was the home of the great, Jesuit rhetorician, Walter Ong and, not long before, his teacher,  Marshall McCluhan.  I studied with Fr. Ong in an Honors Program seminar.  His insistence that speech and writing shape thought informs my current interest in the properties of spontaneous speech. 

Professional Experience

Before joining the Gonzaga faculty, I spent a decade developing commercial software.  Since then, I often work with local companies.  


NextIt (Verint), Spokane

For several summers, when small companies could still engage in automatic speech recognition research, I worked on language technology software. 


Towers Perrin (Willis Towers Watson), Philadelphia
Towers Perrin is a management/actuarial/HR consulting firm whose clients include three-quarters of the world’s 500 largest companies.  I was a software developer and project leader working on (then, new) relational databases.   

Sperry Univac (Unisys), Philadelphia

Sperry Univac traces its origins to the inventors of the first programmable, fully electronic, digital computer at the University of Pennsylvania.  I was a software developer, working on manufacturing and inventory control systems for automobile plants.


Selected Publications/Presentations

For the past several years I have been working with colleagues and talented students on topics in computer processing of human language.  

Kilfoyle, J., Garcia-Camargo, L., De Palma, P., Stover, J., Fishburn, P. Giccobbi, A., Vandam, M.  (2021). Speech tested for zipfian fit using rigorous statistical techniques. Proceedings of Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America.

Krantz, J., Dulin, M., De Palma, P. (2019). Language-Agnostic Syllabification with Neural Sequence Labeling. Presentation and Proceedings of 18th International Conference on Machine Learning and Applications (ICMLA), December 16-19, Boca Raton, Florida. 


Krantz, J., Dulin, M. De Palma, P., VanDam M. (2018). Syllabification by phone categorization.  GECCO 2018: The Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, Kyoto, July 15th to 19th, 2018.  Poster at conference, paper in proceedings. 



Several years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet Dr. Mark Vandam of the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Washington State University.  We have collaborated since then on a series of papers describing techniques to extract vocal characteristics from day-long recordings of children and toddlers.   Here is a sample of our work.


VanDam, M., Thopmpson, L., Wilson-Folwer, E., Campanella, S., Wolfenstein, K. & De Palma, P.. (2022). Conversation initiation of mothers, fathers, and toddlers in their natural home environment.  Computer  Speech & Language, 73, 101338. doi:10.1016/j.csl.2021.101338.


VanDam, M., De Palma, P. (2019).  A modular, extensible approach to massive ecologically-valid behavioral data.  Behavioral Research Methods, 51(4): 1754-1765. Springer in cooperation with the Psychonomic Society. 


De Palma, P., VanDam, M. (2017).  Using Automatic Speech Processing to Analyze Fundamental Frequency of Child-Directed Speech Stored in a Very Large Audio Corpus. Proceedings of the Joint 17th World Congress of International Fuzzy Systems Association and 9th International Conference on Soft Computing and Intelligent Systems, Otsu, Japan, June 27-30, 2017.


VanDam, M., Warlaumont, A. Bergelson, E., Cristia, A., Soderstrom, M., De Palma, P., Mac Whinney, B.  (2016).  HomeBank: An Online Repository of Daylong Child-Centered Audio Recordings.  Seminars in Speech and Language.  37(02):128-142.


VanDam, M., De Palma, P. (2014).  Fundamental Frequency of Child-Directed Speech Using Automatic Speech Recognition.  Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Soft Computing and Intelligent Systems and the 15th International Symposium on Advanced Intelligent Systems, Kitakyushu, Japan, Dec., 2014.



For several years I worked with Dr. Sara Ganzerli of Civil Engineering, Dr. Shannon Overbay of Mathematics and students on the use of genetic algorithms to solve intractable problems in graph theory and structural engineering.  Here is some of our work. 


Ganzerli, S., De Palma, P. (2008). Genetic Algorithms and Structural Design Using Convex Models of Uncertainty. In Y. Tsompanakis, N. Lagaros, M. Papadrakakis (eds.), Structural Design Optimization Considering Uncertainties. London: A.A. Balkema Publishers, A Member of the Taylor and Francis Group.


Overbay, S., Ganzerli, S., De Palma, P., Brown, A., Stackle, P. (2006). Trusses, NP-Completeness, and Genetic Algorithms. Proceedings of the 17th Analysis and Computation Specialty Conference , St. Louis. 


Ganzerli, S., De Palma, P., Stackle, P., Brown, A.  (2005). Info-Gap Uncertainty on Structural Optimization via Genetic Algorithms. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Structural Safety and Reliability, Rome.


Ganzerli, S., De Palma, P., Smith, J., Burkhart, M. (2003). Efficiency of genetic algorithms for optimal structural design considering convex modes of uncertainty. Proceedings of The Ninth International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability in Civil Engineering, San Francisco


Computing has a dark side that’s hard to ignore.  Here are a few articles I wrote and a book of readings I edited, mostly during periods when I tired of hearing Silicon Valley boosterism.  The 1999 American Scholar article was included in the annual Houghton-Mifflin series, Best Science and Nature Writing.  Oddly, a short article on women and computing that I wrote nearly two decades ago continues to be cited regularly.   I made a guess as to why women avoid computer science.  That was twenty years ago.  We still haven’t figured it out. 


De Palma, P. (2019).  The Pre-Modern Self in Post-Modern Times: The Rhetoric of Privacy in the work of Walter J. Ong, S.J.  Explorations in Media Ecology, pp 73-96, vol. 18 (1&2).


De Palma, P. (ed.). (2006-2011).  Annual Editions: Technologies, Social Media, and Society. Dubuque, Iowa: Duskin/McGraw-Hill.


De Palma, P. (2005). The Software Wars: Why You Can’t Understand Your Computer. The American Scholar, 74, 1.


De Palma, P. (2001).  Why Women Avoid Computer Science.  Communications of the ACM, 44, 36, pp. 27-30

De Palma, P. (1999). http://www.when_is_enough_enough?.com. The American Scholar, 68,1.

Sometimes I get to talk about things that interest me.

SEAS -SFCC Mesa Presentation, January 25, 2023

Cryptography: The Art and (Computer) Science of Secret Writing (GEL Weekend, April, 2023)

The Discrete (and Continuous) Charm of Zipf's Law (Classics 375, Intro. to Linguistics, April 14, 2023)

The Private Lives of Cyborgs, The Decay of the Self, The Melancholy of Scholars (GU Socratic Club, October, 2018)

(Narration for GU Socratic Club slides)

Open The Pod Bay Doors, Hal (GEL Weekend, April, 2014)

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