Search Results

Breakfast experiments in THE

Matthew Reisz, "Big data serves up linguistics insights", Times Higher Education 5/29/2014: Meaningful research into linguistics can now be conducted in the time it takes to have breakfast, thanks to the “transformative” impact of “big data” on the field.   That is the view of Mark Liberman, Christopher H. Browne distinguished professor of linguistics at […]

Comments (4)

Two Breakfast Experiments™: Literally

A couple of days ago, following up on Sunday's post about literally, Michael Ramscar sent me this fascinating graph: What this shows us is a remarkably lawful relationship between the frequency of a verb and the probability of its being modified by literally, as revealed by counts from the 410-million-word COCA corpus. (The R2 value […]

Comments (40)

Do linguistics still matter?

I've been scarce here for a while, due to moving (for a year, while the Quadrangle is reconstructed) and dealing with some overdue professional obligations. Time will continue to be tight for me, and it'll be a couple weeks before I have time for a Breakfast Experiment™ but I'll try to find time for a […]

Comments (40)

Q. Pheevr's Law again

A few days ago, a journalist asked me for an interview about Donald Trump's rhetoric, "to discuss the style of his campaign events, the role his rhetoric plays in them, and why they’ve been an effective tool for him". In preparation, I made a list of past LLOG posts about Trump's rhetorical style,, and I'll […]

Comments (5)

Read vs. spontaneous speech

Across the many disciplines that analyze language, there's surprisingly little focus on the properties of natural, spontaneous speech, as opposed to read (or memorized and performed) speech. But of course that dichotomy is an oversimplification — there are many linguistic registers, many ways to read each of the many styles of text, and even more […]

Comments (4)

"Literally CVS"

In at least two recent interviews, Eric Trump has objected to his father's recent indictment by complaining about the lack of prosecutorial attention to the factors leading NYC drugstores (he says) to lock up Tylenol and Advil. On Fox News: Your browser does not support the audio element. And this is a city — I […]

Comments (16)

Syllable rhythm in English and Mandarin

I've always been skeptical of the distinction between "stress-timed" and "syllable-timed" languages, at least as a claim about the phonetic facts of speech timing as opposed to the psychological dimensions of speech production and perception. Syllable durations in all languages vary widely, due to differences in the intrinsic durations of different vowels and consonants, the […]

Comments (23)

The dynamics of talk maps

Over the years, across many disciplines, there have been many approaches to the analysis of conversational dynamics. For glimpses of a few corners of this topic, see the list of related posts at the end of this one — today I want to sketch the beginnings of a new way of thinking about it.

Comments (2)

Gender polarization or accommodation in conversational pitch

It's been a while since my last Breakfast Experiment™, but a conversation yesterday spurred me to run a simple data-analysis script with interesting results, presented below. The script and the results are simple, but the issues are complicated — consider yourself warned.

Comments (1)


About six weeks from now, I'm scheduled to give a (virtual) talk with the (provisional) title "Historical trends in English sentence length and syntactic complexity". The (provisional) abstract: It's easy to perceive clear historical trends in the length of sentences and the depth of clausal embedding in published English text. And those perceptions can easily […]

Comments (15)

First novels

I traditionally start my phonetics courses with an "over-under bet", about how much randomly-selected audio we need to listen to (and look at), before we find a systematic, interesting, and essentially unstudied phenomenon. In the case of English, I generally offer 20 seconds as the threshold value — for less well-studied languages like French or […]

Comments (17)

Sanctioned behaviors/ideas/methods?

In the comments on Tuesday's "Come and go" post, Andrew Gelman wrote Here's an example: the statistician Steve Stigler quoted as saying, “I don’t think in science we generally sanction the unequivocal acceptance of significance tests.” Unfortunately, I have no idea what he means here, given the two completely opposite meanings of the word “sanction.” […]

Comments (17)

"Guess that"

One of the benefits of checking linguistic hypotheses in real-world data is that you sometimes stumble on unexpected and potentially interesting patterns. This morning's Breakfast Experiment™ provides an example. Yesterday, as I prepared for a seminar on prosody and syntax, the following passage caught my eye (in Gerrit Kentner and Isabelle Franz, "No evidence for […]

Comments (8)