Archive for the ‘Linguistic Musings’ Category

Language and Ideology in the Sixteenth Century: Religion, Politics and Spelling Reform

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 by Emma

spelling2

Welcome to the second semester of the academic year!

This week’s LangSoc lecture will be given by Professor Jeremy Smith of the University of Glasgow, and it will be about language and ideology in the sixteenth century.

His abstract is as follows:

Since the late nineteenth century, spelling reform of the English language has become a minority pursuit, although the English Spelling Society still exists and indeed its American branch has picketed events such as Spelling Bees as recently as 2004. But no-one has been burned at the stake for adopting a particular English spelling-practice.
Things were rather different in the sixteenth century, and my paper will discuss how spelling became a vector of ideology during the Reformation, both in England and in Scotland.

Free entry for members, £2 for non-members.

18:00 doors for a 18:15 start — Wednesday 13 January — NB! This semester lectures will take place in Appleton Tower LT4.

As always, we’ll be going to Usher’s afterwards and everyone is welcome!

Don’t forget to let us know you’re coming on Facebook!

Extra-Special LangSoc Lecture!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Emma

numbers2

 

To celebrate a delegation of Dutch students visiting the University of Edinburgh, LangSoc is proud to present a special lecture in addition to our usual program! This lecture will be given by our very own Chris Cummins and will be about reasoning with numbers in language. His full abstract is as follows:
 
“There’s a substantial literature on the semantics and pragmatics of quantity expressions, including those involving number. This literature has only tangentially connected to the celebrated body of research on cognitive biases, which has been argued to show that humans are predictably irrational in certain aspects of reasoning. However, some pragmaticists have raised the concern that there are linguistic confounds in some of the most striking experimental demonstrations of human irrationality. In this talk I sketch some of the pragmatic inferences that are licensed by the use of expressions of numerical quantity, and consider how these might emerge in reasoning paradigms, and what implications this might have.”
 
Free entry for members, £2 for non-members. As always, we’ll be going to the pub afterwards — come along to socialise with Chris and with our guests!
 
Appleton Tower LT3 (NB! we’re in LT3 this time, not LT1 as usual) — 18:00 doors for a 18:15 start — Friday 20 November

Secondary Linguistic Personality and associative effects on vocabulary mapping in L3

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 by Emma

personality

Happy November and welcome to this week’s LangSoc lecture by Ekaterina Matveeva!
The talk will cover the research on the secondary linguistic personality in the process of language acquisition. Also questions related to the associative effects in vocabulary mapping in the process of L3 acquisition will be touched upon.

Free entry for members, £2 for non-members.

Doors open at 18:00 for a 18:15 start.

Appleton Tower — Lecture Theatre 1 — Wednesday 4 November

Tell us you’re coming on Facebook!

Hoodies!

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 by Emma

This year LangSoc will be offering hoodies and t-shirts in six different models! The designs from previous years are available here, and you can also order a hoodie or t-shirt with this year’s winning design:

12180558_10206987635425993_1733272901_o

 

Also available this year is the design from the committee t-shirts:

Committee Lingwugstics

The various models on offer are

College Hoodie — £17
order here

JH001

 

see available colours here (hover for colour names)

Zipped Hoodie — £20
order here

JH050

see available colours here (hover for colour names)

Girlie Zipped Hoodie — £20
order here

JH055

 

see available colours here (hover for colour names)

Varsity Jacket — £20 (subject to change, will be confirmed ASAP)
order here

JH043

see available colours here (hover for colour names)

Unisex T-Shirt — £9
order here

GD05

see available colours here (hover for colour names)

Ladies V-Neck T-Shirt — £9
order here

GD78

see available colours here (hover for colour names)

The Final Countdown Quiz – Last LangSoc Social

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 by David

Thursday 20 November – 20:30 to 22:30 – Dining Room, Teviotclue

Contestant Number 1, come on down!

Join us for our last social of the year. Put your knowledge to the test, because we all know there’s only one way to separate the best from the rest; the venerable pub quiz. This time we’re putting a game show spin on things, so fingers on buzzers and no conferring! The questions will be tough and only one team can leave victorious! Do you (and several friends) have what it takes?

RSVP on Facebook

Hoodies, Hoodies, Hoodies!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 by David

Here is an overview of the hoodie styles and colours available.
You can see our existing designs here. Colours available for each style are listed on this page below.
This year’s winning design, How Linguists Have Fun, is also available:
syntax2

 

We will be accepting orders until the end of Sunday 15th February. Payments are cash only and can be made at any of our events. There will be other opportunities once orders are closed. Further details will be communicated through Facebook and emails.

Zipped Hoodie – £20
Order Here

JH050

  • Full zip hoodie
  • Covered main zip with self fabric
  • Twin needle stitching detailing
  • Double fabric hood
  • Self Coloured Cords
  • Kangaroo pouch pocket
  • Right hand side pocket has small hidden opening for ear phone cord feed
  • Hidden ear phone loops
  • Ribbed cuff and hem
  • Self coloured twill tape puller
  • Soft cotton faced fabric creates ideal printing surface
  • Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified production

Girlie Zipped Hoodie – £20
Order Here
JH055

  • Full zip hoodie
  • Girlie fit
  • Covered main zip with self fabric
  • Twin needle stitching detailing
  • Double fabric hood
  • Self coloured cords
  • Kangaroo pouch pocket
  • Right hand side pocket has small hidden opening for ear phone cord feed
  • Hidden ear phone loops
  • Ribbed cuff and hem
  • Deep hem
  • Ribbed main pocket edge detail for comfort
  • Self coloured twill tape puller
  • Soft cotton faced fabric creates ideal printing surface
  • Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified production

College Hoodie – £17
Order Here
(Some restrictions apply to colour choices for XS, XXXL, XXXXL and XXXXXL sizes. See order form for details)
JH001

  • 50 great colours
  • Twin needle stitching detailing
  • Double fabric hood
  • Self coloured cords
  • Kangaroo pouch pocket with small hidden opening for ear phone cord feed
  • Ribbed cuff and hem
  • Soft cotton faced fabric creates ideal printing surface
  • Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified production

ILW Film Screening – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Wednesday 19th February

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 by David

As part of Innovative Learning Week, we’ll be showing the award-winning adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoirs. Paralysed by a stroke, Bauby transcribed his memoirs letter-by-letter from his hospital bed, blinking as his interlocutor reached the right letter in the alphabet.

Click to RSVP via Facebook

Marie-Josée Croze as Henriette Roi, holding a card showing a French frequency-ordered-alphabet, used in partner-assisted scanning, which enabled Bauby to write his memoirs.

Both a powerfully emotional film and an insight into alternative communication methods employed by therapists working with severely speech impaired patients.

LangSoc Members £2 – Non-Members £3

Wednesday 19th February
18:00 – Study – Teviot

RSVP on Facebook

Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 30 Oct | Mark Steedman

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 by jamiecroy27

at 18:00 in Lecture Theatre 4, Appleton Tower

RSVP on facebook

The Ghost in the Machine: Linguistics and Computation

Abstract: Almost sixty years ago, Chomsky 1957 placed automata-theory at the
centre of linguistic theory, arguing that natural languages were
beyond the context-free recognition capabilities of pushdown automata,
and raising the question of exactly what level of automata theoretic
expressive complexity would be the minimum needed to capture natural
languages. The interest of the question lies in the fact that most
natural linguistic phenomena, despite the important exceptions, seem to be
context-free, prompting the conjecture that there might exist a
“mildly context sensitive” natural family of languages with a little more
expressive power, but with comparably attractive computational
properties, and consequent increased linguistic explanatory adequacy.

Transformational rules themselves turned out to be too expressive to
be of automata theoretic interest in this sense, and mainstream
linguistics has shown little interest in the question since. However,
in recent years there have been a number of proposals for less
expressive formalisms from computational linguists who build practical
devices for tasks like question-answering and machine translation.
I’ll review some of these developments in non-technical linguistic
terms, using examples from various languages, and draw some
conclusions for understanding problematic notions such as universal
grammar, the role of statistical models, and the course of language
acquisition in children as observed by psychologists.

***

Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

***
Our talks are public lectures open to all, regardless of whether you are a student or not or what or where you study if a student. We aim for all of our events to be accessible to all; please feel free to contact us beforehand if you require assistance or further information.

– See more at: http://langsoc.eusa.ed.ac.uk/?cat=9#sthash.cp7rOBq1.dpuf

LangSoc Discussion Group on Revival Linguistics | Wed 23 Oct

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by jamiecroy27

19:30 in The Potting Shed, 32 Potterrow.

RSVP on facebook

Langsoc hasn’t done a reading group for a while, so we thought we’d do this as something a bit different.

Just have a look at the paper and come along for a relaxed discussion over a drink at the Potting Shed pub. You can contribute as much as little as you like, and don’t worry if you don’t have time to read the whole paper—you can just skim read it: all will be explained at the event. The discussion will be led by our Vice-President, who has a strong interest in the linguistics of language revival and personal experience of the subject.

http://www.zuckermann.org/pdf/Hybridity_versus_Revivability.pdf

Making sense of words that don’t exist

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 by Gina

Some days ago I had a sensation in my eyes which I referred to as ziepen (tweaking) when I told a (German) friend. She got what I meant even though she didn’t actually know the word and it would not normally be used in this way. I wondered:

How did I come up with ‘ziepen’ if it wasn’t meant to be used in such a context?

Ziepen describes ‘the brief pain through pulling of hair’. The meaning of ‘brief pulling pain’ can probably be transferred easily, e.g. in my situation to my eye.

How did she know what the word meant for me, i.e. what kind of sensation I was trying to describe, without actually knowing it?

New words are often deduced from words with similar meanings, giving them a similar sound pattern, which belongs to the study of phonesthemic patterns. A phonestheme is a sound (sequence) that suggests a certain meaning and has the tendency to show up in neologisms. Phonesthemes are often initial, but can also be final or even medial. The remainder of the word may not itself be a morpheme. (Waugh, 1994) Some examples:

  • fl- (often expresses movement): flick, fly, flip, flourish, flee, flop…
  • sn- (found in nose-related words): sniff, snore, snot, sneer, sneeze…

The German cluster zw (cf. tw in English) is generally related to the number two: zwei (two), zwischen (between), Zwilling (twin)… However, there are several exceptions, e.g. zwirbeln (twirl) and zucken (twitch). Although these don’t carry the specific meaning (two), they do seem to be somewhat semantically related.

Studies have shown that when asked to invent/interpret new words, participants look at phonesthemes in their language to follow a predictive pattern. This could explain why my friend was able to tell what I meant without actually knowing the word: She might have associated ziepen with zucken which describes a brief, usually involuntary movement.

In general, how do we agree on words for particular sensations while we can’t tell what they feel like for anyone else, and how do we learn them?

When we learn new words we understand their meanings by, for example, being pointed at the ‘thing’ or the ‘action’ they (nouns and verbs) describe. When it comes to internal experiences like perception it all gets a lot fussier.

How do you know that the pain I experience is actually painful? This touches upon linguistics, philosophy and biology. All our knowledge comes in through our senses which are subjective and unreliable (as revealed by the many ways in which they can be manipulated and deceived, e.g. hallucinations and optical illusions) and truth is defined by language which is more of an agreement than an objective state.

Pears (1971) explains that an empiricist view on sensations involves accepting that the general meaning of e.g. ‘pain’ involves two aspects: 1) the set of teaching links 2) the inner reference (private sensation). Only a primitive empiricist would think it only involves the latter – a language only about private sensation would be unteachable. He says that “our language of sensations is not really teachable, and we do not ever really communicate about such matters” (p.158). So, while we can ‘teach’ nouns and verbs that can be pointed at in the world, we cannot teach words that have their meaning lying within ourselves. We all live in our own worlds, we can never know for sure about other people’s sensations, so I guess instead of being ‘taught’ we can only infer such information from cues: When I bleed, I’m hurt and I’m in pain. So when you bleed, you are probably experiencing pain too.
Yet it is to note that pain comes in a whole lot of different forms, as you may notice when you see your doctor and try to find words to explain what’s hurting you. That’s where neologisms and phonesthemic patterns might come handy…

It is incredible how we manage to communicate things we don’t have words for, by using common words or inventing new ones. Life is miraculously mysterious and mysteriously miraculous!

References

  • Oxford handbook of Wittgenstein (2011). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Pears, D. (1971). Wittgenstein. London: Fontana.
  • Waugh, L. (1994). Degrees of Iconicity in the Lexicon. Journal of Pragmatics, 22(1), 55-70.