Alice Davison is a faculty member (emerita) in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Iowa. She received a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago, and a BA in French and Latin from Bryn Mawr College. She has taught at the University of Iowa since 1989; before that, she spent a year at Cornell University with an NSF Visiting Professorship. She has also taught at Stony Brook University, University of Illinois CU, and University of Wisconsin.
Her research and teaching interests in linguistics include syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Her first publications were on speech acts and pragmatics, and more recently on the syntactic structures of Hindi-Urdu (HU) and other South Asian languages from the perspective of Chomskyan universal grammar. Related to this topic are issues about how natural languages are similar at an abstract level, but differ in concrete expression. Hindi-Urdu is related as an Indo-European language, but differs from English in many ways. Features of HU include dative and ergative case on subjects, sentence-final verbs, correlative relative clauses and complex agreement rules. She has taught courses on language typology and universal statements about human languages. For example, the position of the verb tends to determine other features of a sentence in a given language. She has been interested in learning about other formal or statistical approaches to natural languages, such as machine translation and tree banks for sentence structure parsing. She also wrote extensively about the misleading measures of text complexity underlying readability formulas.
Her interest in computational linguistics started in graduate school with a course on mathematical linguistics. Since then, she has read books and articles about parsing and applications of computing to the characterization of natural languages. She has served on dissertation committees in the University of Iowa Department of Computer Sciences. She is most interested in the differences in perspective on natural language in linguistics and computer science, the main focus of the books she has reviewed for Computing Reviews.