- Website: http://ling.upenn.edu/~myl
Posts by Mark Liberman:
On the fence around a construction site that I walk past every day is this sign:
I don't watch broadcast TV a lot, but over the past couple of days I've experienced more than four hours of live television — which turned out to be a surprisingly positive experience. Sunday afternoon I watched the Philadelphia Eagles play the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Monday evening I watched the first presidential debate.
My expectations for both events were low. I agreed with most Philadelphians in hoping that the Eagles and their rookie quarterback Carson Wentz could avoid embarrassing themselves, and maybe keep it close before losing. And I reckoned that the debate would be a sort of political duel of pro wrestling promos, maybe mixed with some reality-television tropes, where dominance theater would dominate.
Geoff quoted Vox on Donald Trump's interruptions during last night's debate, and discussed the extraordinary childishness of some of those interruptions. I don't have much time this morning, so I'll just add a few words about words.
Trump used 35% more wordforms than Clinton did — 8,866 to 6,580, by my trivial debate-analysis program's count based on the Washington Post's transcript. And as expected based on past performances, Trump repeated himself a lot — a type-token plot shows that Clinton actually used a larger number of distinct words (1,333 to Trump's 1,253), despite using significantly fewer word tokens:
Emily Yahr, "Read George W. Bush’s speech at the African American Museum, 13 years after signing the bill to build it", Washington Post 9/24/2016:
Our country is better and more vibrant because of their contributions and the contributions of millions of African Americans. No telling of American history is neither complete nor accurate without acknowledging them.
Full audio is here.
Daniel Deutsch sent me the link, with the comment that "Bush 43 gave a beautiful speech at the museum opening, but this seems overly negative" — referring to the "No telling … is neither complete nor accurate" phrase.
Um, "there are recent update in our security features"? And did they never learn about comma splices? "This is simply for your safety online, after your account update normal banking activities will resume."
Lisa Feldman Barrett, "Hillary Clinton's 'Angry' Face", NYT 9/23/2016:
When Hillary Clinton participated in a televised forum on national security and military issues this month, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, tweeted that she was “angry and defensive the entire time — no smile and uncomfortable.” Mrs. Clinton, evidently undaunted by Mr. Priebus’s opinion on when she should and shouldn’t smile, tweeted back, “Actually, that’s just what taking the office of president seriously looks like.”
The implication of Mr. Priebus’s comment was a familiar one: A woman making stern-looking facial movements must be angry or upset. A man who looks the same, on the other hand, is focusing on the important matters at hand.
Rhett & Link:
"They're so close they can finish each other's sentences." Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
According to my iPhone-bearing sources, iOS 10.0.2
Addresses an issue that could prevent headphone audio controls from temporarily not working
I hate it when audio controls are prevented from temporarily not working, don't you?
If you were scanning science-related stories in the mass media over the past 10 days or so, you saw some extraordinary news. A few examples:
"Scientists discover a ‘universal human language’".
"The hidden sound patterns that could overturn years of linguistic theory" ("In a surprising new study, researchers have uncovered powerful associations between sounds and meanings across thousands of unrelated languages").
"Global human language? Scientists find links between sound and meaning" ("A new linguistic study suggests that biology could play a role in the invention of human languages").
"In world's languages, scientists discover shared links between sound and meaning" ("Sifting through two-thirds of the world’s languages, scientists have discovered a strange pattern: Words with the same meanings in different languages often seem to share the same sounds").
"Words with same meanings in different languages often seem to share same sounds" ("After analyzing two-thirds of the languages worldwide, scientists have noticed an odd pattern. They have found that the words with same meaning in different languages often apparently have the same sounds").
"Unrelated Languages Often Use Same Sounds for Common Objects and Ideas, Research Finds".
"Researchers Find the Sounds We Build Words From Have Built-In Meanings".
"WORLD LANGUAGES HAVE A COMMON ANCESTOR".
The trouble is, many of these reports are complete nonsense: no one "discovered a universal human language" or "overturned years of linguistic theory" or showed that "world languages have a common ancestor" or demonstrated that "the sounds we build words from have built-in meanings". And other stories simply trumpet as news something that has been known, argued, or assumed for millennia: "biology could play a role in the invention of human language", "words with the same meaning in different languages often have the same sounds", etc.) There may be a story out there that soberly presents the actual content and significance of the research — but if so, I haven't found it.
How did this happen? It seems to be the same old sad tale. Science writers, in search of sensational headlines and lacking adequate background to read and evaluate actual scientific papers, re-wrote wildly irresponsible press releases. And as usual, it's not clear how complicit the scientists were, but there's little evidence that they tried very hard to tone down the hoopla.
Last week, I posted a few notes about how the alienness of aliens might make it hard to learn to communicate with them ("Alien Encounters", 9/15/2016). To start with, even the basic modes of signal generation and interpretation would probably not fit our biology very well. And the interpretation of signals — biological as well as cultural — might also be outside the range that we expect from experience with our fellow humans.
Some people, including my colleague and friend Victor Mair, nevertheless proposed methods based on those that have been found to work in human contexts. So to clarify the issues I was trying to raise, here's a little Alien Encounter Sketch.
The latest message in the unending stream of spam sent my way by PayPal bears the Subject line "A great deal to get away from Hotels.com". My immediate response was that I don't need any help in getting away from hotels.com, thank you very much. But of course they're not offering to help me avoid hotels.com — rather they're trying to hook me up with hotels.com for a "get away".
Update — Following a suggestion in the comments, I looked again for a way to opt out of spam in my paypal account settings, but failed to find any. But inspecting the (very) fine print at the bottom of the latest note from the paypal spam bears, I did find a link that I was able to follow to reach a page that claimed I could use it to unsubscribe. So we'll see…
In "Annals of overgeneralization" (10/8/2013), I criticized a paper by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, "Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind", Science 10/3/2013. My complaint was that they drew conclusions about the effects of reading three general categories of texts — "literary fiction", "popular fiction" and non-fiction — based on experiments involved a small sample from each category, selected by the authors as in their opinion representative of the genre.
But you probably won't be surprised to learn that a replication attempt using exactly the same texts, performed by three separate research groups working in parallel, failed to replicate Kidd and Castano's results.
Harry Collins, Willow Leonard-Clarke, Hannah O'Mahoney, "Um, er: How meaning varies between speech and its typed transcript":
We use an extract from an interview concerning gravitational wave physics to show that the meaning of hesitancies within speech are different when spoken and when read from the corresponding transcript. When used in speech, hesitancies can indicate a pause for thought, when read in a transcript they indicate uncertainty. In a series of experiments the perceived uncertainty of the transcript was shown to be higher than the perceived uncertainty of the spoken version with almost no overlap for any respondent. We propose that finding and the method could be the beginning of a new subject we call 'Language Code Analysis' which would systematically examine how meanings change when the 'same' words are communicated via different media and symbol systems.