Language Log



They cut me out
Geoffrey K. PullumGeoffrey K. Pullum, Language LogLanguage Log, 2012/09/13

Proof that I think more of OLDaily readers than the Chronicle does its readers: I'm including and highlighting a link to this article by Geoff Pullum on multiple meanings in single phrases (and in particular, how "Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread" can mean [Organic][Raspberry Fruit Spead], and contain only raspberries, and not contain chemicals, or [Organic Raspberry][Fruit Spread] and can contain both organic raspberries and certain chemicals. Writes Pullum, "The daily email newsletter through which The Chronicle points its subscribers to what they can find today on the web refused to include a pointer to my piece. They 'didn't get it', I'm told." Well, I get it. And I'm sure OLDaily readers get it. And I've commented before on how a single symbolic representation can have multiple meanings. (p.s. I love the people in the comments saying the chemicals must have come from somewhere so it's all organic.)

Today: Total:33 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Why don't more jokes die?
Geoffrey K. PullumGeoffrey K. Pullum, Language LogLanguage Log, 2011/06/15

I'm running this item not only because of the classic facepalm moment (pictured), but also because Geoff Pullum draws out the lesson educators should note. "The joke is very simple and brief: The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza joint and says, Make me one with everything." But it fails utterly, because the Dalai Lama (right) does not understand the concept of ordering "one with everything" at a pizza joint. "How easy it is," remarks Pullum, "to underestimate the quantity of cultural and linguistic background needed if you are to reliably get the jokes that people tell." Yes, but on the other hand, I salute the audacity of a television interviewer who has the fortitude to try out a joke during his interview with the Dalai Lama. Few others would have dared. Today: Total:31 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Boldog születésnapot!
David BeaverDavid Beaver, Language LogLanguage Log, 2010/12/02

"We are the world, we are the linguists, we are the ones who make a better day by making theory." Language Log says, "To mark 20 years of the Theoretical Linguistics program at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, our friends there celebrated with remarkable panache." Today: Total:55 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A concept cluster quiz
Geoffrey K. PullumGeoffrey K. Pullum, Language LogLanguage Log,

Not everybody is happy when I say words have different meanings for each person that uses them. But it's hard to escape that conclusion when you actually look at language. Look at the different dings "I see ..." can mean, depending on context:
# understanding: I see what you're saying.
# judging: I see honesty as the fundamental prerequisite.
# experiencing: Our business saw some hard times last year.
# finding out: I'll see whether he's available.
# dating: I heard that she's seeing someone.
# consulting: You need to see a doctor.
# visiting: I'd be go and see my aunt for a while.
# ensuring: I'll see that this is done immediately.
# escorting: Let me see you to your car.
# sending away: I'll come to the airport and see you off.
Geoffrey K. Pullum writes, "The people who think clarity involves lack of ambiguity, so we have to strive to eliminate all multiple meanings and should never let a word develop a new sense... they simply don't get it about how language works, do they?" A good lesson for the Semantic Web people, no? Today: Total:77 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The grammar gravy train
Geoffrey K. PullumGeoffrey K. Pullum, Language LogLanguage Log,

What makes language such a great tool for thinking and learning is that it can approach a greater precision than most alternatives. In current usage, however, with a general decline in language and logic among what would in previous years have been called the intellegensia, language remains as imprecise an instrument as the rest. The fault, though, lies not with the speakers - at least, according to this author - but rather, with the grammarians themselves, who have been practising their are with no particular knowledge of the subject. Related: Seven Bad Writing Habits you learned in school. Today: Total:36 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Formality and Interpretation
Mark LibermanMark Liberman, Language LogLanguage Log,

Interesting and heady romp through the realm of reference and meaning, using Stanley Fish as a point of departure and rambling through Russell and Frege. What's at issue? The supposition, shared by many, that words and sentences have meaning, that meaning is not something that results from interpretation and point of view. "A formalist believes that words have clear meanings, and in order to believe that (or because he believes that) he must also believe (1) that minds see those clear meanings clearly... [etc.]" The typical defense of formalism takes a consequentialist turn: "Once you start down the anti-formalist road, there is no place to stop; remove the connection between observable features and the specification of meaning." You remove the direct, inferential connection, maybe - but there is still a great deal of room, in my view, for empiricism and non-formalism. Why does all this matter? If formalism is right, then learning can be a matter of just remembering the words (because that will also provide the meaning). But if formalism is wrong, then there's more to learning than merely remembering - this is the position I take. Today: Total:52 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Interactive Visualization for Computational Linguistics
Mark LibermanMark Liberman, Language LogLanguage Log,

This is why I read Language Log every day, as Mark Liberman links to "some really terrific slides from a tutorial by Christopher Collins, Gerald Penn and Sheelagh Carpendale on "Interactive Visualization for Computational Linguistics". (Warning: it's a 13.8 MB .pdf file)." Today: Total:67 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Interactive Visualization for Computational Linguistics
Mark LibermanMark Liberman, Language LogLanguage Log,

This is why I read Language Log every day, as Mark Liberman links to "some really terrific slides from a tutorial by Christopher Collins, Gerald Penn and Sheelagh Carpendale on "Interactive Visualization for Computational Linguistics". (Warning: it's a 13.8 MB .pdf file)." Today: Total:48 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Trademark Sanity Restored
Bill PoserBill Poser, Language LogLanguage Log,

The US Patent and Trademark Office reversed its decision to grant Dell a trademark on the term 'cloud computing'. What is disturbing is that the trademark would ever have been issued in the first place, and that a company like Dell would have applied to own it at all. I can picture the conversation: "Let's trademark 'cloud computing." "But it's used all over the place." "Well, that makes it more valuable then! And it could be ours!" "Bwa ha ha ha ha." Today: Total:28 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Do You Speak Canadian?
Arnold ZwickyArnold Zwicky, Language LogLanguage Log,

Interesting post partially because of the analysis of what would constitute an appropriate language test and partially because it exposes what amounts to a complete misrepresentation on the part of the Toronto Star wherein reporter has simply made up information about a putative language test purportedly being proposed by the government. Sad. Today: Total:68 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Turn-Taking Etiquettes
Mark LibermanMark Liberman, Language LogLanguage Log,

I don't have a mobile phone and I don't like calling people. This item nicely illustrates why. "It's always seemed weird to me that people who would never consider barging into the middle of someone else's life in other ways, at least not without serious motivation and elaborate apologies, think nothing of making a randomly disruptive phone call." Today: Total:49 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Dr. Alfred Crockus and Crosley Shelvador, M.D.
Mark LibermanMark Liberman, Language LogLanguage Log,

Oy. I think that the lecturing career of Dan Hodgins - an "internationally known presenter" - is about to come to a screeching halt. This stems from a teacher who reported that "Red flags went up for me when, very early in his presentation, he showed a drawing of the brain and claimed that, 'Girls see the details of experiences... Boys see the whole but not the details.'" A detailed examination of Hodgins's claim found no evidence of the difference - nor of the brain region he describes, the 'Crockus' ("the detailed section of the brain, a part of the frontal lope"), nor of the supposed discoverer of the Crockus, Dr. Alfred Crockus, nor the Boston Medical University Hospital, where Crockus is supposed to have worked. The name, indeed, bears more resemblance to slang than to any living human (or human brain area). Crockus is about to come into existence, however, as a new award, the Dr. Alfred Crockus Award for the misuse of neuroscience. Hodgins has presented - as a keynote, no less - at a disturbingly large number of education conferences. More from Mind Hacks, Body Impolitic, Auntie Em's, Magnolia77sc, Ann Bartow, Alibi. Today: Total:122 [Comment] [Direct Link]


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