Phrasetrain: Founder Christopher Johnson

About the founder

Christopher Johnson has worked as a linguist and language technologist for over 15 years. He got his PhD in Linguistics at UC Berkeley, and has applied his training to a number of exciting projects in business and academia.

Before founding Phrasetrain, Chris was an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago, where he taught linguistics in the Department of Comparative Human Development. He has written about a dozen academic papers on computational lexicography, cognitive linguistics, grammatical constructions, and child language acquisition, and was invited to be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Before he was a professor, Chris worked in the language technology industry. After finishing his dissertation in 1999, he had the quintessential Silicon Alley startup experience at Soliloquy in New York City. As a member of the Core Technology team, he helped build an e-commerce chatbot called the Notebook Expert, which was live and linked to CNET's website. When Soliloquy ran out of funding, Chris moved to AT&T Labs Research to work on the WordsEye project (now being developed by Semantic Light). There he designed and implemented a way to non-redundantly represent verbs and their grammatical properties for a system that converts text descriptions of scenarios to 3D visual depictions.

Chris also gained valuable applied linguistics experience during grad school. He did linguistic transcription for Berkeley Speech Technologies, which was acquired by Lernout & Hauspie, which was acquired by Nuance. He was also one of the original members of the FrameNet project at the International Computer Science Institute, and helped lay the foundations for what is perhaps the most important computational lexical resource since WordNet. Chris also worked for several years as a linguist at Lexicon Branding, where he helped develop new ways to invent and analyze brand names, screen them in foreign languages, and test people's responses to them. He now writes a blog called The Name Inspector, and helps people come up with names for their companies, products, and services.

Chris lives with his wife Jordanna and his sons Tobias and Finn in Seattle, Washington.