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Adjectives and adverbs

A puzzling note arrived in my inbox a few days ago: I came across an article you wrote about the use of adverbs and adjectives.  To count the use of adverbs and adjectives you actually wrote a program. Is this something you would be willing to share or give me some advice on how to create […]

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More about UM/UH on the Autism Spectrum

At a workshop in June, a group of us will be presenting a report that includes this graph: The x axis is the relative frequency of "filled pauses" UM and UH, from 0% to 8%, and the y axis is the proportion of filled pauses that are UM, from 0% to 100%. The individual plotting […]

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More political text analytics

I spent a few minutes this morning getting transcripts for all 12 Republican and all 9 Democratic debates, and over the next few days I'll do some additional Breakfast Experiments™ on the results. One trivial thing is a complete type-token plot, from texts constructed by concatenating all the transcript pieces attributed to each remaining candidate […]

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R2D2

Now that there are effectively just two Republican and two Democratic presidential candidates left, I'm starting to get questions about comparing speaking styles across party boundaries. One simple approach is a type-token plot — this is a measure of the rate of vocabulary display, where the horizontal axis is the sequentially increasing number of words ("tokens"), […]

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Positivity?

Christiaan H Vinkers et al., "Use of positive and negative words in scientific PubMed abstracts between 1974 and 2014: retrospective analysis", BMJ 2015: Design Retrospective analysis of all scientific abstracts in PubMed between 1974 and 2014.   Methods The yearly frequencies of positive, negative, and neutral words (25 preselected words in each category), plus 100 […]

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French vs. English

When I travel around the world and come upon parallel translations of French and English, I am often struck by how much longer the French usually is than the English.  This impression was reinforced last week in the bathroom of the Marriott Courtyard in Columbia, Maryland.

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More Pinker peace creak

Yesterday ("Pinker peace creak") I followed up on Breffni's reference to vocal fry/creak  in the speech of the young woman who introduces Steven Pinker's talk at the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum. And indeed, in her first 40 words (16 seconds of audio, 8.3 seconds of voiced speech, 1,653 f0 estimate) I found three clear examples of […]

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The Inspiration-o-meter

Molly Fitzpatrick, "Know. Here. More. The top 100 words used in 2015 commencement speeches are oddly inspiring, even out of context", Fusion 5/21/2015: Is there a formula for inspiration? If so it involves these words: know, here, more, life. They top the list of the 100 most common words used in commencement speeches this year.  We […]

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Decreasing definiteness

During the course of the 20th century, the frequency of the English definite article the decreased gradually and radically. I first noticed this effect about a year ago, in a post about the history of State of the Union addresses ("SOTU evolution", 1/26/2014), where I observed, in reference to the graph on the right, that The […]

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Pre-filled-pause lengthening

It's well known that syllables and words are longer before silent pauses, other things equal.  It makes sense that syllables and words would also be longer before filled pauses (UH and UM), but I haven't seen this explicitly noted or quantified. For a course assignment, I recently prepared an R-accessible version of  Joe Picone's manually-corrected word alignments […]

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Phrasal trends in pitch, or, the lab subject's moan

It's been a while since I posted a Breakfast Experiment™ — things have been hectic here — but yesterday in a discussion with some phonetics students, I learned that certain old ideas about (linguistic) intonation have passed out of memory. And in trying to explain these ideas, I posed a problem for myself that is […]

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Trending in the Media: Um, not exactly…

I like journalists, really I do. But sometimes they make it hard for me to maintain my positive attitude. The recent flurry of U.K. media uptake of Language Log posts on UM and UH provides some examples of this stress and strain.

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Um, there's timing information in Switchboard?

We start with a psycholinguistic controversy. On one side, there's Herbert Clark and Jean Fox Tree, "Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking", Cognition 2002. The proposal examined here is that speakers use uh and um to announce that they are initiating what they expect to be a minor (uh), or major (um), delay in […]

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