- Website: https://webspace.utexas.edu/dib97/
Posts by David Beaver:
Dinosaur Comics for 8/26/2013:
Click on the image for a larger version that lacks some mouseover text helpfully glossing what is expressed by “*sigh*”.
Hat tip: Bonnie Krejci
Philosophy and the Poetic Imagination
by E. Lepore & M. Stone, 2012
We spend our days
In the spirit of Geoff Pullum's lyrical prescriptive poppycock offering, I can offer some Raymond Chandler in verse and letter. And this being Language Log, I will follow it with a light dessert of cheap science. Here's a small sample of Chandler's 1947 poem Lines to a Lady With an Unsplit Infinitive for your edification:
There ain't no grammar that equals a hammer
To nail down a cut-rate wit.
And the verb 'to be' as employed by me
Is often and lightly split.
A lot of my style (so-called) is vile
For I learned to write in a bar.
The marriage of thought to words was wrought
With many a strong sidecar.
Following on from Barbara Partee's example of Kruschev not banging his shoe, I just came across a great example of chained hypothetical negative events. It was during Bonnie Webber's plenary address here in Austin yesterday, at the NASSLLI Summer School. (BTW, if you'll be in the Austin area on Saturday, I have an announcement for you: NASSLLI is hosting a big event commemorating the centenary of Turing's birth, and it's free and open to the public.) But without more ado, here's the "Not raising hogs" text, a good Texas story of how to get something from nothing:
THE NOT RAISING HOGS BUSINESS
To: Mr. Clayton Yeutter
Secretary of Agriculture
My friends, Wayne and Janelle, over at Wichita Falls, Texas, received a check the other day for $1,000 from the government for not raising hogs. So, I want to go into the "not raising hogs" business myself next year.
Almost the end of January, and not a single Language Log reader hasn't failed to complain about the lack of over-negation in any of this year's posts. But here's some naughtily nutty negation anyway:
"It's not that I don't doubt the sincerity of their desire to protect the talent. And believe it or not, we have the same ambition," Christian Mann, general manager of Evil Angel Productions who also serves on the porn industry's Free Speech Coalition, said last week after the council's vote. "We just don't believe their way is the best way." (Associated Press, LA mayor signs law requiring condoms in porn films, Jan. 24, 2012; widely syndicated story.)
Hmm. That's a curious lack of non-self-doubt. So does it mean Mann does in fact doubt the sincerity of "their" desire to protect the talent? I don't think so.
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
’Tis the season to announce seasonal schools. Geoff Pullum announced a short course on grammar for language technologists as part of a winter school in Tarragona next month, and Mark Liberman announced a call for course proposals for the LSA's Linguistic Institute in summer 2013. But what if you can't make it to Tarragona next month, and can't wait a year and a half to get your seasonal school fix? Well, I have just the school for you! Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
According to Ben Zimmer, I'm writing from the front lines. But it's pretty quiet here, sitting at home in Texas, looking at tweets that have come out of Libya in the last couple of weeks. And somehow I don't think I'll be the first twitterologist to suffer from combat fatigue. Maybe that's because my students Joey Frazee and Chris Brown, together with our collaborator Xiong Liu, have been the ones doing computational battle in our little research team. That and the fact that nobody is firing mortars around here.
Yet quiet as it is where I'm sitting, it's a startling fact that today it's easy to hear far off clamor, to listen to the online noise made by thousands of ordinary people. Ordinary people in war zones. What are those people thinking?
The big deal in a new paper "Motivating voter turnout by invoking the self" (see also the official PNAS site, or e.g. this Discover magazine article "The power of nouns….") is that people can be manipulated into voting simply by clever use of nouns instead of verbs in a questionnaire. In each of several studies, potential voters were split into two groups and given (amongst other questions which didn't vary by group) one of two questions to answer:
Group 1 question: How important is it to you to be a voter in the upcoming election?
Group 2 question: How important is it to you to vote in the upcoming election?
Turned out that Group 1 turned out. Really. In one of the studies an amazing 95.5% of them actually turned out to vote, whereas only 81.8% of Group 2 voted. That's obviously a huge effect on voting behavior. And it appears to be caused by the use of a construction with the nominal "voter" instead of the verb "vote".
In this week's online BBC News magazine, Alan Metcalf reprises his recent book OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word. I haven't read the book, but Prof. Metcalf is an established scholar as well as a successful popularist, and I have every reason to think that the book is well worth reading. Still, I have a little semantic problem with the article.
The article mostly discusses the history of OK, saying that its widespread circulation probably dates back to an unfunny joke in an 1839 article in the Boston Morning Post. Fair enough: he and the OED agree on this point. Then he goes on:
But what makes OK so useful that we incorporate it into so many conversations?
To mark 20 years of the Theoretical Linguistics program at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, our friends there celebrated with remarkable panache:
—Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven; Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads, (A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads, Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
— Exerpt from Walt Whitman's Year of Meteors, 1859
Busy June 20 – June 26? Could you manage to squeeze one of the most intellectually intense weeks of your life into your summer schedule? For free?
I'm talking (once again!) about the North American Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLI 2010), of which I am program chair. It's aimed at graduate students, researchers, and advanced undergraduates, in fact anyone interested in formal approaches to language, philosophy, and computation. And I bring you, Language Log reader, some hot news that gives you the chance of attending the school and making 100-150 new friends for life for free… provided you apply by June 1.
Here's the news (and this is aimed at students). The National Science Foundation has given preliminary approval for a sizable grant to NASSLLI 2010. Together with other funds we have raised this will enable us to provide students with financial support to attend the school. We expect to be able to reimburse the registration fees of about 40 deserving students, and to pay further travel expenses for those whose need is greatest. You can find online information on how to register and how to apply for the grants – see the Support is Available from NASSLLI Itself section on the NASSLLI grants page. Basically, you need to send NASSLLI an email with a reason why NASSLLI is relevant for you, and have your academic advisor send an email too.
I'm really, really looking forward to meeting many of you in Bloomington, Indiana at the end of next month, and if you want to ask me personally about it, send me an email.