Tuesday, May 31, 2011

645 meanings of run


"The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary."


When they prepared the first edition of the OED, which took them 70 years to do, so they began this in 1857 and finished - the first edition was published in 1928 - the longest word then or the one with the most definitions was another three-letter word. It was the word set.

Well, during the 20th century, that word was displaced by another rather similar word, which was the word put. You put things on the table. You put things on a piece of paper. You put people down and so on. It became a much more complex word.

And after that, a four letter word, take, which we, I guess, we won't discuss today. But those first nine letters occupy, well, in the verb form alone, well over 1,000 meanings - 1,200 meanings, I think.


Here are the top 100 words (from tv scripts) in alphabetical order:

a · about · all · and · are · as · at · back · be · because · been · but · can · can't · come · could · did · didn't · do · don't · for · from · get · go · going · good · got · had · have · he · her · here · he's · hey · him · his · how · I · if · I'll · I'm · in · is · it · it's · just · know · like · look · me · mean · my · no · not · now · of · oh · OK · okay · on · one · or · out · really · right · say · see · she · so · some · something · tell · that · that's · the · then · there · they · think · this · time · to · up · want · was · we · well · were · what · when · who · why · will · with · would · yeah · yes · you · your · you're

We see how regular rules for such words allow for rapid basic conversation.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

giant database of metaphors to gain insights


Much more recently, scientists have uncovered those roots in our biology. Turns out, metaphors are more than just figurative flourishes or explanatory shortcuts; they shape our thoughts, beliefs and actions.

Take the conceptual metaphor, “affection is warmth.” People who hold hot cups of coffee are more likely to judge strangers as friendly than those who get iced coffee. Or, “morality is purity”; more people will request antiseptic wipes when they’ve been asked to think about adultery or cheating than when they’ve pondered good deeds.

To solve this problem, Iarpa, the mad science unit of the intelligence community (or Darpa for spies), is asking universities and businesses to help them build a giant database of metaphors. The goal is to “exploit the use of metaphors by different cultures to gain insight into their cultural norms.”

Besides improving communication and interactions in a globalized world, metaphors might help us bridge cross-cultural gaps.

For example, the topic of morality. Americans are likely to think of morality in terms of rights, or things we “possess” or can be “deprived of” — “rights as IOUs.” In China, on the other hand, morality is usually conceived of as bounded space or concentric circles, so you can “overstep boundaries” or “hit the mark.” These two metaphors aren’t really compatible, but if we started talking about a moral right as a “right-of-way” (a path to move along without interference), we might have found a metaphor that carries weight in both cultures.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

language learned in moments of insight- EUREKA


"In past studies of this kind, researchers used artificial stimuli with a small number of meaning options for each word; they also just looked at the final outcome of the experiment: whether you end up knowing the word or not," Trueswell said. "What we did here was to look at the trajectory of word learning throughout the experiment, using natural contexts that contain essentially an infinite number of meaning options."

By asking the subjects to guess the target word after each vignette, the research could get a sense of whether their understanding was cumulative or occurred in a "eureka" moment.

The evidence pointed strongly to the latter. Repeated exposure to the target word did not lead to improved accuracy over time, suggesting that previous associations hypotheses were not coming into play.


TVs are bad for kids.



Early verbal skills help with reading skills later.


D - speaking to kids in an adult fashion helps them relate to teachers in an academic setting.


D - read to your kids.

I cannot find the article, but you need to explicitly indicate a subpart of an object for the kid to get the reference.
For example, the tail of a dog.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

many English don't understand grammar


Dr Dabrowska and research student James Street then tested a range of adults, some of whom were postgraduate students, and others who had left school at the age of 16. All participants were asked to identify the meaning of a number of simple active and passive sentences, as well as sentences which contained the universal qualifier "every."

As the test progressed, the two groups performed very differently. A high proportion of those who had left school at 16 began to make mistakes. Some speakers were not able to perform any better than chance, scoring no better than if they had been guessing.

She adds: "Our results show that a proportion of people with low educational attainment make errors with understanding the passive, and it appears that this and other important areas of core grammar may not be fully mastered by some speakers, even by adulthood.

D - Sounds like an argument to avoid multiple ways to structure the same statement.
If these results apply to the first childhood language, then imagine for a second adult language!

chomsky's universal grammar vindicated


Culbertson reasoned that if knowledge of certain properties of human grammars-such as where adjectives, nouns and numerals should occur-is hardwired into the human brain from birth, the participants tasked with learning alien Verblog would have a particularly difficult time, which is exactly what happened.

The adult learners who had had little to no exposure to languages with word orders different from those in English quite easily learned the artificial languages that had word orders commonly found in the world's languages but failed to learn Verblog. It was clear that the learners' brains "knew" in some sense that the Verblog word order was extremely unlikely, just as predicted by Chomsky a half-century ago.


D - so there are more and less easily learned language designs.