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January 2012: Anne Baker
1971 French and German
What I am doing now:
I am a professor of linguistics at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, specialising in Psycholinguistics and Sign Languages of the Deaf.
How did you get to where you are now?
Life: by being determined to overcome personal setbacks.
Work: I went to York University to do my PhD, where you basically had to do the undergraduate linguistics course in one year (necessary because Keele had no linguistics) and then proceed to complete your PhD in two years. My supervisor became a professor in Tuebingen, Germany, in 1975 and offered me a job as a lecturer there. I completed my Habilitation in 1985 (required in the German system) and then became senior lecturer at York St John University. Very soon after moving there I was offered the chair of Linguistics at Amsterdam and moved in 1988. I have been here ever since, being director of the Linguistics Research Institute. In my research I have specialized in child language acquisition, normal and exceptional, and the acquisition of sign languages. I am president of the Sign Language Linguistics Association.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Life: bringing up four children who are all delightful each in their own way.
Work: setting up the BA degree in Sign Linguistics and helping to make the Linguistics Research Institute an intellectually lively and supporting place to be.
And your biggest mistake?
Work and Life: trusting people who turned out not to be trustworthy.
What are your ambitions now?
I am nearing retirement but I still want to carry on supervising PhD students, carrying out projects and writing until I have had enough of my subject (which I cannot imagine).
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
There are not many universities that specialize in linguistics. Choose one that has a good reputation and try to spend some time abroad, again at a top institute.
What made you choose Keele University?
I did not choose – it chose me. I was doing an interpreter training in London when on advice I applied through clearing for a university place and was offered one at Keele. A really great stroke of luck.
What kind of a student were you?
Because I had had two years of higher education already I was very dedicated to learning and wanted to get everything out of what Keele offered. I went to very many activities outside the regular curriculum. I was of the generation of 1966-1968 and so I was involved in the political debate, including trying to levitate the Vice-Chancellor’s house. I also kicked against the traces of the social restrictions by living off campus secretly with my boy friend (which was strictly forbidden then).
How has Keele influenced your life?
I was of the privileged generation hat had the Foundation Year and choice of four subjects for the subsequent three years. This broadening of my vision has been invaluable and shaped my career perspective. I have always been involved in multi-disciplinary work and that is down to Keele.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Difficult to choose. In general, meeting a great mix of people that attended Keele – people of different ages and from very different backgrounds than mine; people from the Potteries for whom we were the strange lot on the hill. In particular: attending the Master class type concerts of the Lindsay Quartet (Leverhulme scholars at Keele) in the Victoria Theatre in the round when they explained all the pieces they played.
What is your impression of Keele now?
So much bigger, greener – a bit less personal?
Anything else you would like to add?
I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.