Baby talk, part 2

Two days ago, I was sitting in a Panera around lunch time.  Next to me was a mother with two young daughters.  One of them looked to be about four years old, and the other about one and a half year old.

The girls were both well behaved, and I enjoyed their company for more than an hour.  Without intentionally eavesdropping, I could not but overhear what they were talking about.  After half an hour, I started to become amused by the younger daughter's speech, because it consisted entirely of the following three words:

1. no! — falling intonation

2. what? — rising intonation

3. why!? — half-falling then half-rising, sounding somewhat plaintive and querulous

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LSA solicits ClinicalTrials.gov responses

[Below is a guest post by Matt Goldrick on behalf of the Linguistic Society of America]

Over the past decade the lack of transparency in research – and its implications for the reproducibility of research findings – has been a major focus of scientists and funding agencies (see previous discussions on LanguageLog here, here, here). This has led to many exciting developments in the social sciences including the founding of no-fee platforms for sharing and pre-registering studies (e.g., the Center for Open Science, AsPredicted) and new professional sciences promoting transparent, open research practices (e.g., the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science). These positive developments have, unfortunately, lead to an overzealous reaction from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) which is likely to hamper basic science (more info below). The LSA, in partnership with other research organizations, is asking for your help in pushing back against policies that could hamper the work of NIH-funded linguists.

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∆ in Chinese

Karl Smith saw this sign in Taichung, Taiwan:

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Explication of a scene at a labor rally

The following photograph accompanied this article:

"China's Student Activists Cast Rare Light on Brewing Labor Unrest", U.S. News & World Report (Aug. 14, 2018)


People hold banners at a demonstration in support of factory workers of Jasic Technology, outside Yanziling police station in Pingshan district, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Sue-Lin Wong

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mmhmm etc.

Kumari Devarajan, "Ready For A Linguistic Controversy? Say 'Mmhmm'", NPR 8/17/20018:

Once upon a time, English speakers didn't say "mmhmm." But Africans did, according to Robert Thompson, an art history professor at Yale University who studies Africa's influence on the Americas.

In a 2008 documentary, Thompson said the word spread from enslaved Africans into Southern black vernacular and from there into Southern white vernacular. He says white Americans used to say "yay" and "yes." […]

Ugo Nwojeki, a professor of African-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, says he "always assumed" that the word was African. Lev Michael, a linguist at the same school, says that "doesn't seem very plausible." Roslyn Burns, a linguist at UCLA, says "it's hard to say."

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LRNLP 2018

On Monday, I'm pursuing the quixotic enterprise of talking to an NLP workshop about phonetics.

LRNLP ("Language Resources for NLP") 2018 is a workshop associated with COLING 2018 in Santa Fe NM.  My abstract:

Semi-automatic analysis of digital speech collections is transforming the science of phonetics, and offers interesting opportunities to researchers in other fields. Convenient search and analysis of large published bodies of recordings, transcripts, metadata, and annotations – as much as three or four orders of magnitude larger than a few decades ago – has created a trend towards “corpus phonetics,” whose benefits include greatly increased researcher productivity, better coverage of variation in speech patterns, and essential support for reproducibility.

The results of this work include insight into theoretical questions at all levels of linguistic analysis, as well as applications in fields as diverse as psychology, sociology, medicine, and poetics, as well as within phonetics itself. Crucially, analytic inputs include annotation or categorization of speech recordings along many dimensions, from words and phrase structures to discourse structures, speaker attitudes, speaker demographics, and speech styles. Among the many near-term opportunities in this area we can single out the possibility of improving parsing algorithms by incorporating features from speech as well as text.

Due to semester-initial commitments at Penn, I won't be able to stay for COLING, but I'm looking forward to an interesting day of presentations at the workshop.

 

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Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference

[Forwarded from James Heilpern]

Call for Papers: The Fourth Annual Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference

Deadline: October 10, 2018

Event Date: February 7-9, 2019

Location: Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Organization: Brigham Young University

Contact: James Heilpern, heilpernj@law.byu.edu

BYU Law School is pleased to announce the Fourth Annual Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference, to be held in Provo, Utah on February 7-9, 2019. The Law School seeks original proposals for papers to be presented at the conference, addressing a broad range of topics related to the emerging discipline of Law & Corpus Linguistics, including (but not limited to), applications of corpus linguistics to constitutional, statutory, contract, patent, trademark, probate, administrative, and criminal law; philosophical, normative, and pragmatic justifications for the use of corpus linguistics in the law; philosophical, normative, and pragmatic criticisms of the use of corpus linguistics in the law; best practices and ethical considerations for the use of corpus linguistics in trial and appellate advocacy; potential applications of corpus linguistics in legislative, regulatory, and contractual drafting; corpus design, especially as it relates to the building of future legal corpora; Law & Corpus Linguistics and statistics; and sociolinguistic insights drawn from corpus linguistics, especially as it applies to the relationship of racial, ethnic, or linguistic minorities to legal and government institutions.

The proposal deadline is October 10, 2018. Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 750 words, an outline of the proposed paper, and complete contact information. Please send materials to James Heilpern at heilpernj@law.byu.edu.

 

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ICYMI: "Fog computing"

You've almost certainly heard about "cloud computing" — the phrase is frequently in the news, and has even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, with the gloss "the use of networked facilities for the storage and processing of data rather than a user's local computer, access to data or services typically being via the Internet", and citations from 1996. But do you know about "fog computing"? Wikipedia defines it as

an architecture that uses edge devices to carry out a substantial amount of computation, storage, communication locally and routed over the internet backbone, and most definitively has input and output from the physical world, known as transduction. […]

On November 19, 2015, Cisco Systems, ARM Holdings, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Princeton University, founded the OpenFog Consortium, to promote interests and development in fog computing.

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Nepal, Naple(s), Naipul, nipple, whatever

We at Language Log are no strangers to Nepal:

"'Bāphre bāph!' — my favorite Nepali expression" (8/12/18)

"Learn Nepali" (9/21/16)

"Dung Times" (3/14/18)

"Royal language" (9/29/15)

"Oli ko goli" (10/13/15)

"Unknown Language #7" (2/27/13)

"Unknown Language #7: update" (5/12/13)

Being linguists and language specialists, we know how to pronounce this deceptively simple name, right?

"Nepal":  /nəˈpɔːl/ (About this sound listen); Nepali: नेपाल About this sound Nepāl [neˈpal]

But the general public is not so sure.

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Joos jokes

While looking for something else, I recently stumbled on the November 1950 issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, which published the "Proceedings of the Speech Communication Conference at M.I.T.":

The following twenty-four papers constitute a report of the Speech Communication Conference held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 31-June 3, 1950, under the joint auspices of the Acoustical Society of America, the Carnegie Project on Scientific Aids to Learning at M.I.T., and the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard University.

Among those twenty-four papers was one by Martin Joos, "Description of Language Design", that included this passage:

We can allow other people — telephone engineers or sociologists, for example — to speak artistically, imprecisely, about language. But as linguists we lay upon ourselves the condition that we must speak precisely about language or not at all.

It's hard to tell whether this is deadpan humor or arid crankiness. But given that the author was Martin Joos, I'm voting for humor.

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Draconian dictionaries?

Rachel Paige King ("The Draconian Dictionary Is Back", The Atlantic 8/5/2018) suggests that lexicographers might be (re)turning to prescriptivism:

Since the 1960s, the reference book has cataloged how people actually use language, not how they should. That might be changing. […]

The standard way of describing these two approaches in lexicography is to call them “descriptivist” and “prescriptivist.” Descriptivist lexicographers, steeped in linguistic theory, eschew value judgements about so-called correct English and instead describe how people are using the language. Prescriptivists, by contrast, inform readers which usage is “right” and which is “wrong.”

King's historical sketch of lexicography's past century concludes that the descriptivists have won, but that

oddly enough, Merriam-Webster is doing a great deal to promote the idea that sounding educated and using standard—if not highbrow—English really does matter. […]

The company has a feisty blog and Twitter feed that it uses to criticize linguistic and grammatical choices. Donald Trump and his administration are regular catalysts for social-media clarifications by Merriam-Webster. The company seems bothered when Trump and his associates change the meanings of words for their own convenience, or when they debase the language more generally.

Maybe it’s not the dictionary that has become outmoded today, but descriptivism itself. I’m not implying that Merriam-Webster has or should abandon the philosophy that guides its lexicography, but it seems that the way the company has regained its relevance in the post-print era is by having a strong opinions about how people should use English.

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"Bāphre bāph!" — my favorite Nepali expression

As a Peace Corps volunteer in eastern Nepal (Bhojpur) from 1965-67, I became highly fluent in spoken Nepali.  I even dreamed in Nepali.

My Peace Corps buddies and I learned Nepali in Columbia, Missouri by the total immersion method, which I describe and demonstrate in this post:  "Learn Nepali" (9/21/16).

See also my comments to "Alien encounters" (9/15/16), especially this one, #7-8, and the links embedded therein.

I became enamored of many Nepali words and phrases, but my favorite of all is "bāphre bāph!", which corresponds roughly to "Wow", "OMG", etc. in English.

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Autocorrect

By Allie Brosh:

Update — apparently this is a meme derived from Allie Brosh's art, but not created by her. See the comment below.

 

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