Archive for February, 2013

Keith Chen at TED

"Saving for a rainy day: Keith Chen on language that forecasts weather — and behavior", TED Blog 2/19/2013:

Back when my first paper on this topic circulated, many linguists were appropriately skeptical of the work. Their concerns are concisely explained in two well-thought out posts (here and here) by the linguists Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum on the blog they founded, Language Log. Mark and Geoffrey also invited me to write a guest post explaining the work. In that post, I discuss which of their possible concerns are unlikely given the patterns I find across the world in people’s savings and health behaviors, and also try to clarify which of their concerns I was not yet able to address.

This exchange prompted a broad set of discussions as to what different types of data, analyses and experiments could, in principle, answer the questions raised by the patterns I find. Cross-disciplinary discussions took place in a subsequent post by Julie Sedivy and followup posts by Mark Liberman, and also at the Linguistic Data Consortium’s 20th Anniversary Workshop. Several new avenues of investigation and work came out of these interactions, three of which are now ongoing projects.

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More on what "the" means

Neal Goldfarb, "The Recess Appointments Clause (Part 1)", LAWnLINGUISTICS 2/19/2013:

The verdict: the Recess Appointments Clause is a lot less clear than the D.C. Circuit makes it out to be, and the court’s reasoning isn’t very good.

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Severely artistic

Chris Hadfield, orbiting the earth,  was asked "Which part of the world looks the coolest from space?", and answered:

Australia looks coolest – the colours and textures of the Outback are severly [sic]  artistic.

As I observed in "Severely X", 2/11/2012, severely seems generally to be a negatively-evaluated intensifier:

more than 98% of the time, the following word is something generally regarded as regrettable if not downright bad.

But Kevin Conor, pointing to Hadfield's AMA response, wonders whether severely with positive connotations might be catching on.

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No breasts for our guests

Part of the ensuite bathroom in my room at the Deca Hotel in Seattle has wallpaper on which the decoration is text, in a variety of arty fonts. The text, repeated over and over in a variety of different fonts, is part of a poem. But there's something odd: one word from the poem is missing.

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Signs of the singularity

I've recently learned that there's a field called "Science of Science Policy", parsed as [Science of [Science Policy]] rather than [[Science of Science] Policy]. The Wikipedia article on the subject says that

The science of science policy (SoSP) is an emerging interdisciplinary research area that seeks to develop theoretical and empirical models of the scientific enterprise. This scientific basis can be used to help government, and society in general, make better R&D management decisions by establishing a scientifically rigorous, quantitative basis from which policy makers and researchers may assess the impacts of the Nation’s scientific and engineering enterprise, improve their understanding of its dynamics, and assess the likely outcomes. Examples of research in the science of science policy include models to understand the production of science, qualitative and quantitative methods to estimate the impact of science, and processes for choosing from alternative science portfolios.

The same article also observes that

The federal government of the United States has long been a supporter of SoSP.

In other words, the federal government has a Science of Science Policy policy.

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There's no limit to what he won't do

Kevin & Kell for 2/16/2013:

Among the various misnegation explanations, "negative concord" seems to fit this one best.

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Tangled web of the month

Reader KP sent in this gem, apparently from an internal office memo:

In order to accommodate the data merge, the Excel workbooks are locked down in various ways and utilize macros to keep the data in a consistent format. This creates rigidness in the workbooks and has made them difficult with which to work.

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Pearls Before Swine, as (re-)published in Metro 12 February 2013:

[h/t Eric Smith]

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Popes and prophets

Professor Heinz Giegerich has pointed out to me that in the wake of Pope Benedict's resignation of his position at least two BBC reporters have been referring to the next pope, whoever that might be, using singular they. I don't have specific word-for-word quotations, but (apparently) reporters have been using phrases like The next pope will find that they, or Anyone who expects the cardinals to elect them, and so on. Further evidence (to be added to evidence like the case of "They are a prophet") that singular they is not motivated solely or necessarily by ignorance or indecision about which gender is appropriate. The next pope, whoever they may be, will surely be a man, so the pronoun he would be appropriate and unobjectionable. But we have no idea which man, so singular they also feels entirely appropriate, contrary to what all the dumb usage pontificators say.

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Copying characters

From a collection of photographs of Chinese school children in rural areas:

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Valentine's Day homophony

Today's SMBC:

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Annals of verb phrase ellipsis

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Delicious snakes

To celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Snake (shénián 蛇年), the following sign is presently on display in a Chinese hotel lobby was on display in a Chinese hotel lobby in July 2009 or before and is being circulated among friends:

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