## No depth-charge channel is too noisy to be confused by

Yuhan Zhang, Rachel Ryskin & Edward Gibson, "A noisy-channel approach to depth-charge illusions." Cognition, March 2023:

The “depth-charge” sentence, No head injury is too trivial to be ignored, is often interpreted as “no matter how trivial head injuries are, we should not ignore them” while the literal meaning is the opposite – “we should ignore them”. Four decades of research have failed to resolve the source of this entrenched semantic illusion. Here we adopt the noisy-channel framework for language comprehension to provide a potential explanation. We hypothesize that depth-charge sentences result from inferences whereby comprehenders derive the interpretation by weighing the plausibility of possible readings of the depth-charge sentences against the likelihood of plausible sentences being produced with errors. In four experiments, we find that (1) the more plausible the intended meaning of the depth-charge sentence is, the more likely the sentence is to be misinterpreted; and (2) the higher the likelihood of our hypothesized noise operations, the more likely depth-charge sentences are to be misinterpreted. These results suggest that misinterpretation is affected by both world knowledge and the distance between the depth-charge sentence and a plausible alternative, which is consistent with the noisy-channel framework.

Speaking of depth, I'm definitely out of mine when it comes to noisy-channel frameworks. But it isn't the case that I'm not so ignorant as to fail to recognize that this paper is not too unimportant for Language Log not to pay no attention to it.

(Hey, ChatGPT — betcha can't make sense out of that!)

## Theory of Mind (ToM) skills

Language Is Not Enough for Brains in Conversation

Zoom Webinar: https://uu-se.zoom.us/j/69177119780

4 October, 2:15 p.m. SEMINAR – WEB EVENT

Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), Uppsala

Julia Uddén, Pro Futura Scientia Fellow, SCAS, and the Departments of Linguistics and Psychology, Stockholm University.
Affiliated Researcher, Department of Neurobiology of Language, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

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## A Remembrance of Anne Cutler

The following is a guest post by Martin Ho Kwan Ip,  who is now a postdoc at Penn. See "Anne Cutler 1945-2022", 6/8/2022, for some background and links.

I am one of Anne's most recent students (her 44th student from the MARCS Institute in Australia). I met Anne for the first time in 2014 when she was invited to give a talk at the University of Queensland (we had been corresponding by email but had never met until then). Although I was fascinated with languages, I was still an undergraduate student in psychology and foreign languages; I knew next to nothing about speech and was totally unfamiliar with many of the concepts and jargon in linguistics. But her talk was like a story and it was so memorable – she showed us some of the different mental challenges associated with listening (like when she used speech waveforms to show us how gaps between words are not as clear as we think), why different languages are needed to better understand how the mind works when we listen, how infants’ early segmentation abilities influence later vocabulary growth – this was the first language-related talk I had attended and I was just so, so intrigued.

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## Green needle vs. brainstorm

Remember "Yanny vs. Laurel", the viral acoustic sensation (28.2M views) of mid-May, 2018?  It was covered extensively on Language Log (see the items under "Selected readings" below).  Now we have another supposedly ambiguous recording that has gone viral (5.3M views [posted 7/3/21]):

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## The precursors of the Scalia/Garner canons (updated)

All three canons that are in play in Facebook v. Duguid (the Last Antecedent, Series Qualifier, and Nearest Reasonable Referent Canons) have precursors in U.S. and English caselaw. That’s no surprise, given that all 57 canons in Reading Law are presented as being  well established in the law. But as my last post noted, each canon departs from the previous caselaw in one respect or another. And in the case of the Series Qualifier Canon, the departure is quite substantial.

To lay the groundwork necessary in order to describe those departures, this post will summarize the prior law from which the three canons deviate.

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## Corpora and the Second Amendment: “keep and bear arms” (Part 2)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts “Corpora and the Second Amendment” is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

COFEA and COEME: lawcorpus.byu.edu.

This post will complete my analysis of the Second Amendment—for now. So far, I’ve focused almost entirely on the Second Amendment’s specification of the right that it protected—the right of the people, to keep and bear Arms—and have said little or nothing about well regulated or militia. That doesn’t mean I have nothing to say about those expressions, it just means that I’ll defer that discussion until sometime in the future.

Meanwhile, here in the present, this post will try to answer the question that I raised in the last post: whether the Supreme Court was right in saying that the fact that bear arms appears in the phrase keep and bear arms means that bear arms couldn’t have been used in its idiomatic military sense:

[If bear arms were given its idiomatic meaning,] the phrase “keep and bear arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.” Grotesque.

It’s true that interpreting bear arms as having been used idiomatically would mean that arms conveys two different meanings (a phenomenon known as copredication). But as explained in my last post, that doesn’t rule out such an interpretation. Now, in this post, I’ll argue that interpreting bear arms in that way is more than just a theoretical possibility. I’ll discuss evidence that makes it reasonable to think keep and bear arms was intended to convey such a meaning, and that such an interpretation would have been more likely than the alternative.

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## Corpora and the Second Amendment: “keep and bear arms” (part 1) (updated)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts “Corpora and the Second Amendment” is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

COFEA and COEME: lawcorpus.byu.edu.

This was supposed to be the final entry in my series of posts on the Second Amendment, but I’ve decided to split the discussion into two parts.

In my last post, I concluded that as used in the Second Amendment, bear arms was most likely understood to mean ‘serve in the militia.’ The question that I’ll address here and in my next post is whether that conclusion is changed by the fact that the Second Amendment protects not simply “the right of the people to bear arms” but “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

The corpus data on keep and bear arms is of no help in answering that question, because all the uses of the phrase in the data are either from the Second Amendment or from drafts of proposals for what became the Second Amendment. Therefore, I won’t deal with the corpus data at all in this post, and I’ll deal with only a relative handful of concordance lines in the next one (though those lines will play an important role in the analysis).

Taken together, these two posts will provide an extended rebuttal of the portion of Heller (consisting of only four sentences) that raised the question that these posts will address. Those four sentences were part of the court’s argument that bear arms as used in the Second Amendment couldn’t possibly have been understood in its idiomatic military sense:

[If bear arms were given its idiomatic meaning,] the phrase “keep and bear arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.” Grotesque.

When I first read Heller, this struck me as a pretty strong argument. But I’ve rethought the issue since then, and have come to think that the argument is seriously flawed. At this point, although I don’t dismiss the argument altogether, I don’t think it rules out interpreting bear arms in the Second Amendment to mean ‘serve in the militia.’

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## Rating and judging non-native English

From Martijn Wieling:

We have created a questionnaire about rating English accents and judging English audio samples from non-native speakers of English. We'd like to get as many native English speakers as possible to provide their judgements about the audio samples and I was hoping you'd be willing to link the questionnaire.

Note that the survey link randomly redirects people  to one of two questionnaires. One is about deciding which English word you hear (pronounced by a Dutch speaker), the other about rating the nativelikeness of English accents, similar to the questionnaire that you recruited subjects for in 2012 ("Rating American English Accents").

So all you native English speakers, please volunteer — the task just takes a couple of minutes: http://www.martijnwieling.nl/survey

## Yanny vs. Laurel, pt. 2

Just when you thought you'd never have to worry about this vexing acoustic phenomenon again, "Yanny vs. Laurel: an analysis by Benjamin Munson" (5/16/18) and the comments thereto having carried out such a probing, exhaustive investigation, a 3:44 video (5/15/18) attempts surface to explain it in a way that has not yet been mentioned:

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## Yanny vs. Laurel: an analysis by Benjamin Munson

A peculiar audio clip has turned into a viral sensation, the acoustic equivalent of "the dress" — which, you'll recall, was either white and gold or blue and black, depending on your point of view. This time around, the dividing line is between "Yanny" and "Laurel."

The Yanny vs. Laurel perceptual puzzle has been fiercely debated (see coverage in the New York Times, the AtlanticVox, and CNET, for starters). Various linguists have chimed in on social media (notably, Suzy J. Styles and Rory Turnbull on Twitter). On Facebook, the University of Minnesota's Benjamin Munson shared a cogent analysis that he provided to an inquiring reporter, and he has graciously agreed to have an expanded version of his explainer published here as a guest post.

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## An inconclusive psycholinguistic take on post-period spacing

A while back, I peeved about the people for whom public devotion to single-spacing after a period is a form of virtue-signaling. I’ve now learned that the one-space-or-two issue has found its way into the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, which has posted “Are two spaces better than one? The effect of spacing following periods and commas during reading” ($) by Rebecca Johnson, Becky Bui, and Lindsay Schmitt. The paper came to my attention via Matthew Butterick, the author of Typography for Lawyers and the free, online-only Butterick’s Practical Typography ("Are two spaces better than one? A response to new research"). He writes: Ap­par­ently de­fy­ing Bet­teridge’s Law, the study claims to show that two spaces af­ter a pe­riod are eas­ier to read than one. On its face, this also seems to con­tra­dict my long­stand­ing ad­vice to put only one space be­tween sen­tences. Be­cause the study costs$39.95 for a PDF, I’m cer­tain the so­cial-me­dia skep­tics rush­ing to claim vic­tory for two-spac­ing have nei­ther bought it nor read it. But I did both.

True, the re­searchers found that putting two spaces af­ter a pe­riod de­liv­ered a “small” but “sta­tis­ti­cally … de­tectable” im­prove­ment in read­ing speed—about 3%—but cu­ri­ously, only for those read­ers who al­ready type with two spaces. For ha­bit­ual one-spac­ers, there was no ben­e­fit at all.

Fur­ther­more, the re­searchers only tested sam­ples of a mono­spaced font on screen …. They didn’t test pro­por­tional fonts, which they ac­knowl­edge are far more com­mon. Nor did they test the ef­fect of two-spac­ing on the printed page. The au­thors con­cede that any of these test-de­sign choices could’ve af­fected their findings.

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## "and himself jail"

In "More Cohen Businesses Coming to Light," on Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall writes:

The biggest taxi operator in New York, Evgeny “Gene” Friedman, now manages Cohen’s 30+ NYC medallions or at least did the last time we spoke to him. Friedman has been struggling for the last year to keep his taxi businesses out of bankruptcy and himself jail.

The final three words of the boldfaced clause present a weird, and dare I say unusual, case of double ellipsis. The semantic content communicated by those three words (in the context of the sentence) is richer than you'd think could be expressed by only three words, especially given that one of them is merely the conjunction and. That content can be represented as follows, with the struck-through text standing for the content that the reader must infer:

Friedman has been struggling for the last year to keep his taxi businesses out of bankruptcy and to keep himself out of jail.

There's nothing unusual about the first omission; I don't see anything wrong with the clause to keep his taxi businesses out of bankruptcy and himself out of jail. But the omission of out of strikes me as very strange, and what's even stranger is that to my ear, the clause is worse if to keep is put back:

* Friedman has been struggling for the last year to keep his taxi businesses out of bankruptcy and to keep himself jail.

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## Hearing interactions

Listen to this 3-second audio clip, and think about what you hear:

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