Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Words of the Year

Language Change, 2010 style:



So, yeah, in the past I've knocked on computers for not being as cool as humans, but since my foray into computer programming this semester, I've been giving natural language processing some thought. I'm not nearly knowledgable enough about programming to be able to do anything yet, but computers DO have the capabilities to process human language. It's kinda scary. It's kinda cool. And I want to learn more about it. Here we go...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On a similar thread as my last post, the NY Times just had a cool article about computers trying to learn the semantics of words through making webs of associations through scanning websites. I don't think computers will ever quite get it right, but it's good to see them trying...


Thursday, September 23, 2010

A lack of linguistics?

Now for some actual thoughts after a dryspell and a lot of articles before that...

This semester is kind of slim for me on the psycholinguistics. However, I am taking a computer science class. Although not everything must revolve around brains and language, I have to take the class for the concentration, so clearly they thought there was something connective in it. With that, I have come look at it like artificial brains understanding artificial language. The professor, the revered Andy Van Dam, talks about syntax and semantics and lexicality all the time. And there's even polysemy, what is called "overloading" of a specific term. I've found that the frustration of programming comes in the face that computers know no pragmatics. There is no "you know what I mean" when it comes to forgetting a semi-colon in the code. There is no inference on the part of the "listener."

So it is pragmatics that makes us human?

Well, maybe not pragmatics. It all goes back to the theory of mind. A human can "know what I mean" when I forget to do this that and the other thing in speech, so long as the gist is there. A computer can't, just like an autistic child cannot understand humor.

A computer is a brain, but does it have a mind?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's a talking bird!

Cool little article about how the zebra finch genome might point us to genes for speech disorders and help us learn more about the roots of human speech.


Monday, March 22, 2010

On Dreams and Language

An aside about my dreams, as in my aspirations: Ben Zimmer is now the new On Language columnist for the NYTimes Sunday Magazine. I look forward to looking forward to reading his articles weekly. I guess I need to look for other job options now!

And now to the juice of the blog post. I am reading/writing about Freud and the interpretation of dreams. Dreams, it seems, are the semiotic system of the unconscious, the 19th century version of the implicit memory system. Dream-thoughts are the semantemes of dream language, and have the same associative connections that make spreading activation possible. In fact, this connective mechanism is what leads to the production of dreams. Thus the interpreter parses through the connections but never reaches an end because the chain of signification is infinite.

Never thought I'd be passionate about reading Freud, but his accounts of encoding and implicit memory systems really aren't that far off from today's theories!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Webinar (NYTimes On Language)


Interesting article about why some neologisms that are splices of words, or portmanteau words, make it into our daily usage and some don't. That is quite an interesting question! Does it have to do with their acoustics? Utility?

But to me what is more interesting than what sticks is why these words are created in the first place, that the things we are creating are seen as hybrids between already existing things. Is this a sign that novelty is dwindling— in both our new inventions and our words for them? I think more accurately it a sign that we require concision in our references. We are looking to be so efficient that saying "webinar" is leagues easier than saying "seminar on the Internet"

I think writing the On Language column might just be my dream job... I heard there is an opening. Are they looking for a stable, weekly writer by any chance?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Language: Cellar Door

A little ditty on the beauty in the sounds of some words. Personally, I don't find "cellar door" that acoustically pleasing!


Friday, February 12, 2010

NYTimes Article: When to Worry if a Child Has Too Few Words


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Beginning

So I decided to start a blog to collect all my thoughts, connections, etc., that have to do with language, culture, thought, and the connections between them. Articles, little blurbs, ramblings, you name it... they'll be here!