GURT 2012: Measured Language

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For half a century, the annual Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics has featured interesting presentations on a topical theme.  GURT 2012, to be held 3/8/2012-3/11/2012, on the theme of "Measured Language",

…will bring together researchers presenting replicable methodologies for quantitatively analyzing different facets of language, with an emphasis on sharing and incorporating perspectives and findings across a diverse range of linguistic inquiry.

Readers who are in the profession will know about this anyhow. But for the rest of you, if you enjoy reading Language Log, you'll probably like GURT as well. And it's cheaper (as well as safer) than a Mediterranean cruise.

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13 Comments »

  1. Rubrick said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

    I hope someone submits a paper analyzing the use of blatherous academic jargon in colloquia calls for papers. "Replicable methodologies for quantitatively analyzing different facets"? "Emphasis on sharing and incorporating perspectives and findings"? Yuck.

  2. Peter W said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

    Rubrick: The first bit that you quote isn't really very 'blatherous'. At least I find it perfectly transparent and to the point. Quantitative analysis is precisely what the theme of measured language is about, since… well… since measuring means counting, in one way or another. Calling it "quantitative analysis" as opposed to "like, counting words and stuff" is just a way of clarifying that you are talking about serious, systematic, and most likely statistically driven analysis, not just any old counting. The 'replicable methodologies' part is relevant since, as anyone who is into quantitative work knows, replicability is a central component of sound quantitative method. If your methodology can be replicated, your findings can be more easily and thoroughly reassessed and supported or challenged by further investigation.

    And "different facets of language"? Now that's basically common everyday English. Language is a complex thing, so it has many facets that can be explored using any kind of methodology, and they are simply (very simply) specifying that they do not want to limit the event to any specific subset of such facets.

    It's a bit jargony, sure, but it communicates something meaningful in a really rather economical way to people who are in the know. It's just good technical language, not profligate nonsense.

    The other part you quote I would have even less of an issue with, except for the "incorporating" bit. "Sharing perspectives and findings" is quite transparent in the context of any kind of academic get-together, but I'll admit that I'm not at all sure what "incorporating" adds here of substance that isn't covered by sharing. However, a single superfluous word would hardly be the height of blather.

  3. Paul Zukowski said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    @Rubrick — I see no "academic jargon" in those phrases.

  4. Rubrick said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

    @Paul: I'd say it's awfully rare to see "methodologies" used outside of academia. But I'll grant that "academic jargon" isn't quite on the mark. Maybe it's just "call-for-papers jargon". However, I stand by "blatherous".

    A writer as good as, say, Mark would never write such a thing. What does "emphasis on sharing and incorporating perspectives and findings" convey that "It's a conference!" doesn't already?

  5. Rubrick said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    Ack, what have I done? How did I become the curmudgeon futiley defending himself on LL?

    To maintain a shred of dignity: I don't think the paragraph in question is a sign of the impending downfall of civilization. But I also don't think it will yield submissions much different than if it had just read "…researchers performing quantative analysis on diverse areas of language."

  6. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    Um, is there enough of a problem of people presenting papers at scientific conferences with quantitative analysis based on non-replicable methodologies that "replicable" needs to be specified rather than assumed to be a feature of any methodology respectable enough for the occasion? Maybe better safe than sorry . . .

    [(myl) Alas, there is indeed a problem. See for example the discussion in this panel at AAAS 2011, especially the presentation by Keith Baggerly, a version of which is available here.]

  7. John Roth said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

    @Rubrick:

    "What does "emphasis on sharing and incorporating perspectives and findings" convey that "It's a conference!" doesn't already?"

    Hopefully it means that the balance between formal presentations, spirited question-and-answer periods, discussion panels and the opportunity for informal meet and talk is balanced toward the later.

    There are conferences and there are conferences. While I'm not an academic, I've been to enough software conferences to know the difference.

    [(myl) In this case, I think it is also a polite way to say something like "there are several very different intellectual cultures engaged in this area, and our emphasis will be on finding common ground and productive relationships rather than on arguing about whose approach is the right one".]

  8. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    @Rubrick: "How did I become the curmudgeon futiley defending himself on LL?": Don't worry, that seems to happen to everyone at least once!

  9. John O'Toole said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

    @Peter W & Paul Zukowski – "Bald heads forgetful of their sins…" I'm with Rubrick. That bit of prose is fairly unappealing, rather like a big heaping bowl of some gray tepid stodge, a day-old porridge-pabulum. A necessary evil, though. Academics should at least recognize and even merrily play up the fact that that kind of description isn't going to win them fans beyond the circle of the converted. It's the precise opposite of caviar to the general, isn't it. On the other hand, I'm sure not a little of the ideas and information exchanged would be exciting to nonspecialists.

  10. Jan said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

    @rubrick

    Don't worry. Many readers are with you. As you said, you wouldn't catch Mark writing prose like that.

  11. Xmun said,

    January 30, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

    "futiley"? Surely it should be "futilely" with two audible Ls (one pre- and one post-vocalic)?

  12. Nick Wright said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 7:14 am

    I put the following paragraph through the StyleWriter plain English editing software:

    Measured language will bring together researchers presenting replicable methodologies for quantitatively analyzing different facets of language, with an emphasis on sharing and incorporating perspectives and findings across a diverse range of linguistic inquiry.

    It showed the writing had a grade level of 25 and a Bog Index (better measure of writing than grade level) of 110, bordering on gobbledegook. Perhaps authors of such dreadful academic prose should download the StyleWriter software trial (www.editorsoftware.com) and test their writing out before imposing it on the poor reader.

    Nick Wright

  13. Daniel said,

    February 29, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    Not for a Mediterranean, it's not >.>

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