Memes, tropes, and frames

In a workshop over the weekend at the Annenberg Public Policy Center,  one of the presentations was based on a paper by Dan Kahan et al., "Culturally antagonistic memes and the Zika virus: an experimental test", Journal of Risk Research 2017. The abstract starts this way [emphasis added]:

This paper examines a remedy for a defect in existing accounts of public risk perceptions. The accounts in question feature two dynamics: the affect heuristic, which emphasizes the impact of visceral feelings on information processing; and the cultural cognition thesis, which describes the tendency of individuals to form beliefs that reflect and reinforce their group commitments. The defect is the failure of these two dynamics, when combined, to explain the peculiar selectivity of public risk controversies: despite their intensity and disruptiveness, such controversies occur less frequently than the affect heuristic and the cultural cognition thesis seem to predict. To account for this aspect of public risk perceptions, the paper describes a model that adds the phenomenon of culturally antagonistic memes – argumentative tropes that fuse positions on risk with contested visions of the best life. Arising adventitiously, antagonistic memes transform affect and cultural cognition from consensus-generating, truth-convergent influences on information processing into conflictual, identity-protective ones.

During the discussion, someone remarked in passing that these things are properly not memes or tropes but rather frames.  What follows is a bit of idle lexicographic investigation into this terminological tangle.

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Hyphenation with words containing capital letters

A truly startling (and surely unintended) hyphenation in the print edition of The Economist (March 11th) suggests that some updating of word-breaking algorithms is in order in the light of the fairly recent practice of inventing product and brand names that have word-internal upper-case letters. An article about juvenile delinquency, reporting that kids are less involved in crime in part because they're indoors playing video games, ends with this paragraph (I reproduce the line breaks and hyphens of the UK print edition exactly, though not the microspacing that justifies the right-hand margin; the only thing I'm interested in is the end of the penultimate line):

    The decline in crime among the young
bodes well for the future. A Home Office
study in 2013 found that those who com-
mitted their first crime aged between ten
and 17 were nearly four times more likely to
become chronic offenders than those who
were aged 18-24, and 11 times more likely
than those who were over 25. More PlayS-
tation, less police station.

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Daylight(-)Saving Time

Julian Hook writes:

The attached plot corroborates my vague recollections: a few decades ago many people spelled Daylight-Saving Time with a hyphen, but now almost nobody does.

The hyphen makes sense by the same logic as the hyphens in other N-Ving compounds like man-eating and blood-curdling. (Those who would object that Daylight-Saving Time doesn’t actually save any daylight should consider that man-eating plants and blood-curdling screams don’t really do what the words say they do either.)

More interesting than the punctuation, perhaps, is the pronunciation. Every other N-Ving compound I can think of is accented on the initial noun, but for some reason everybody seems to accent Daylight-Saving Time on Saving. Why do we do this? Could it have something to do with the fact that the noun daylight is itself a compound, with a secondary stress on the second syllable? And could this pronunciation explain the disappearance of the hyphen—if, perhaps, the odd stress pattern disguises the logic of the compound?

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(South) Korea bashing

Following up on these two recent posts:

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Fluent disfluency

A couple of days ago, in "Mistakes", I noted that

verbatim transcripts of spontaneous speech are often full of filled pauses, self-corrections, and other things that must be edited out in order to create what that commenter would count as a "coherent sentence". And this is true even for people who have risen far in the world on the basis of their ability to impress others in spontaneous verbal interaction.

In the comments, David L suggested that we should

Listen to sports commentators, for instance. The best of them of them can keep talking (and talking and talking…) with little hesitation or stumbling.

So I took two random segments featuring a local sports-radio talk show personality, Howard Eskin. These were literally random segments, in the sense that I picked two random spots in the time line of the first hour of the podcast of Eskin's March 4 show, and selected a coherent segment of monologue around each point.

Eskin is certainly known for his ability to "keep talking (and talking and talking…) with little hesitation". But what I found in those two passages was the typical pattern of "fluent disfluency": filled pauses and self-corrections are roughly as common as the commonest "real words".

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Rapaganda

The Chinese government has grown mildly addicted to the use of rap for disseminating propaganda.  I'm going to call this new variety "rapaganda", but I am not the first to do so.  The use of this portmanteau word might have started here:

"Chinese Communist Party Modernizes its Message — With Rap-aganda" (China Real Time Report, WSJ, 12/29/15)

WSJ's China Real Time Report just used it again:

"Video: China’s New ‘Rap-aganda’ Tells You What President Xi Cares About " (3/10/17)

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Sociolinguistically aware smartphone

Today's xkcd, with a "cot-caught merger switch":

Rumored in the XKCD Phone 6: a "Northern Cities Shift slider".

 

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Decoding political attitudes

I was initially baffled by the political stance of "John Q. Esq.", who submitted this NYT comment:

Having simultaneously benefited from Obamacare and despised Obama and his party for bringing it to them, I have absolutely no doubt what-so-ever that the low information voters who voted for the Republican Congress and Trump will enthusiastically turn out to vote for them again in 2018 and 2020, respectively, while angrily blaming Obama and Democrats for the loss of healthcare that the GOP has stripped them of. The vicious cycle will continue in our broken democracy – this I am sure of.

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Siri in Korea

"The bizarre political scandal that just led to the impeachment of South Korea's president" (Jennifer Williams, Vox, 3/9/17)


Protestors wearing masks of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (R) and her confidante Choi Soon-Sil (L) pose for a performance during a rally denouncing a scandal over President Park's aide in Seoul on October 27, 2016. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

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What a woman can't do with their body

Mark Meckes noticed a tweet about an interview with Emma Watson, who was being discussed in this Language Log post, and mentioned it in a comment thereto. It was completely off topic (and thus violated the Language Log comments policy), but I felt it was too interesting to be left languishing down there in a comment on a post about preposition doubling, so I'm repeating it here, where it can have its own post:

If you think @EmmaWatson is a hypocrite, maybe consider you shouldn't be telling a woman what they can and can't do with their own body.

Two occurrences of singular they (they and their), with the phrase a woman as antecedent!

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Synesthesia and Chinese characters

Leo Fransella asks:

I'm curious to know whether, in your years studying and teaching written Chinese, you've ever come across synaesthesia as applied to Chinese characters (zi) or words (ci)?

The most common form of synaesthesia (~1% of people, I think) involves the systematic assignment of colours to letters, numbers or (sometimes) whole words. I have this 'grapheme-colour' quite strongly: when I hear a phone number or see a number written on a page, for example, I automatically sense it as bands of colour. Much the same for words: it literally bothers me when I don't know how to spell someone's name, as their associated colours can be so different (Catherine is bluey-green with a dash of red; Kathryn is green-yellow). Sounds a bit loopy to people who don't do this, but it's a very useful mnemonic trick when learning French vocab or Latin verb conjugations and noun declensions.

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What's hot at ICASSP

This week I'm at IEEE ICASSP 2017 in New Orleans — that's the "Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing". pronounced /aɪ 'trɪ.pl i 'aɪ.kæsp/. I've had joint papers at all the ICASSP conferences since 2010, though I'm not sure that I've attended all of them.

This year the conference distributed its proceedings on a nifty little guitar-shaped USB key, which I promptly copied to my laptop for easier access. I seem to have deleted my local copies of most of the previous proceedings, but ICASSP 2014 escaped the reaper, so I decided to while away the time during one of the many parallel sessions here by running all the .pdfs (1703 in 2014, 1316 this year) through pdftotext, removing the REFERENCE sections, tokenizing the result, removing (some of the) unwordlike strings, and creating overall lexical histograms for comparison. The result is about 5 million words for 2014 and about 3.9 million words this year.

And to compare the lists, I used the usual "weighted log-odds-ratio, informative Dirichlet prior" method, as described for example in "The most Trumpish (and Bushish) words", 9/5/2015.

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No Japanese, South Koreans, or dogs

Here we go again.  Image trending on WeChat, a sign on a Beijing bus:

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