Archive for Awesomeness

"Frequency illusion" in the OED

The latest batch of updates to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary includes a term that originated right here on Language Log, in a 2005 post by Arnold Zwicky. The term is frequency illusion, first attested in Arnold's classic post, "Just Between Dr. Language and I." Here is the OED treatment, an addition to the main entry for frequency:

frequency illusion n. a quirk of perception whereby a phenomenon to which one is newly alert suddenly seems ubiquitous.
Also called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (see Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at BAADER-MEINHOF n. 2).
2005   A. ZWICKY Lang. Log 7 Aug. in http://itre.cis.upenn.edu (blog, Internet Archive Wayback Machine 10 Sept. 2005)    Another selective attention effect..is the Frequency Illusion: once you've noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even ‘all the time’.
2018   R. J. HILTON in J. Marques & S. Dhiman Engaged Leadership (e-book, accessed 25 June 2018) xiv. 244   The frequency illusion occurs when you buy a new car, and suddenly you see the same car everywhere. Or when a pregnant woman suddenly notices other pregnant women all over the place.

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Political text-to-speech

News from the laboratories of democracy — Anna Staver, "Computers zip through 2,000-page bill after Senate Republican forces its reading", Denver Post 3/11/2019:

All work in the Colorado Senate came to halt Monday morning thanks to a procedural maneuver invoked by a ranking Republican.

Committee hearings, floor debates and votes were all delayed as House Bill 1172 — a 2,000-page bill revising Title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes — was read in its entirety.

“I’m just following the rules,” Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, said with a smile when asked about his request to read the whole bill. “We keep saying we want things slowed down, and this is the only thing we have in our arsenal.”

What Cooke wanted to slow down was the hearings and votes on the death penalty and oil and gas bills. He said he talked with Democratic leadership last week about delaying the oil and gas hearing but that he was dismissed.

Some estimated it would take 60 hours for a human to read the bill, but Monday afternoon Democrats used a maneuver of their own to cut that time drastically: After a Senate staffer read for three hours, they brought in five computers to read the bill simultaneously at a speed far faster than humans can understand.

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The first prime minister with a Linguistics PhD

Wikipedia on Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš:

Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš (born December 13, 1964) is a Latvian politician[1], current Prime Minister of Latvia and former Member of the European Parliament.

Kariņš was born in Wilmington, Delaware, United States to a Latvian American family. In 1996, he finished a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. […]

He was Unity's candidate for the Latvian premiership at the 2018 election. On 7 January 2019, he was tasked by the Latvian president with forming the next government. He took office as prime minister on 23 January 2019, leading a centre-right coalition of five conservative and liberal parties (KPV LV, JKP, AP, NA and Unity).

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David Bowie in 1999: The internet is an alien life form

All I have time for this afternoon:

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Complex nominal of the year

I recently got a note from the Philadelphia chapter of the Acoustical Society of America, informing me that the November meeting will held at a location identified as the "Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division Machinery Silencing Complex".

I'm pretty sure that this is the longest English complex nominal  that I've encountered so far this year, but unfortunately I'll be out of town on the date in question, so I won't be able to see the actual referent.

 

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An xkcd for Geoff Nunberg

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Bishnu Atal

Here at Interspeech 2018, the first presentation will be by Bishnu Atal, winner of the ISCA medal for scientific achievement. Though you probably don't know it, Bishnu has had an enormous impact on your life — at least if you ever talk on a cell phone, or listen to music on iTunes or Spotify or Amazon or wherever.

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Polyphonic overtone singing

[h/t Three Quarks Daily via Bob Shackleton]

Lessons here.
 

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Vowels are the souls of consonants

And a consonant without a vowel is a body without a soul.

So says Spinoza in his Hebrew Grammar (Compendium grammatices linguæ hebrææ), as published postumously in 1677.

At least, that's sort of what he says.

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Toward a recursive meta-pragmatics of Twitterspheric intertextuality

A few days ago, I posted a post consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a Language Log post (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet (by me) consisting of…

a screenshot of a tweet by Lynne Murphy, a linguistics professor, quote-tweeting* an earlier tweet by Benjamin Dreyer, who is (although I didn’t know it at the time) a vice president, Executive Managing Editor, and Copy Chief at Random House.
* retweeting and adding a comment

The post was titled, "There's a fine line between recursion and intertextuality."

A screenshot of the post is provided below the fold—but I hasten to add that I am providing the screenshot solely as a convenience to the reader, to save them the trouble of having to leave this post in order to look at that one, should they be so inclined.

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Modality is a bitch (updated)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H/t (via retweet) Hugo Mercier.

UPDATE:

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There is No Racial Justice Without Linguistic Justice

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

One of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes come from a speech he delivered at a retreat attended by staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in South Carolina, one year before he was assassinated:

“We have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights, an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We have been in a reform movement… But after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be the era of revolution. We must recognize that we can't solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can't really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.” (King 1967)

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Zebra finch self-tutoring

Sometimes a new experimental result suggests a very different way of interpreting older results. On a visit a couple of days ago to Ofer Tchernichovski's lab at Hunter College, I encountered a striking example of this effect.

The background is the experimental literature on zebra finch song learning. If one of these birds is raised in acoustic and social isolation, it never learns to sing a species-typical song, but rather continues to produce "proto-song", which is a sort of songbird equivalent of grunts and groans. In contrast, with a relatively brief exposure to an example of adult song during a "critical period" early in life, a bird will (later on) learn to sing properly, in fact imitating the tutor's song quite closely. Crucially, species-typical zebra finch song is made up of discrete "syllables" arranged in regular "motifs", whereas proto-song is relatively diffuse and non-categorical at all time scales.

A decade ago, I reported on some fascinating work from Ofer's lab showing that species-typical song can emerge over a few generations in a colony raised in acoustic isolation, never encountering any external adult models ("Creole birdsong?" 5/9/2008).

Now a newer experiment (Olga Fehér et al., "Statistical learning in songbirds: from self-tutoring to song culture", Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 2016) adds a result that makes us think differently about the earlier work.

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