Friday, March 23, 2012

plants named in English now, not Latin

Plant DNA speaks English, identifies new species

The important changes to the way scientists name new plants that took effect on 1 January 2012 included the fall of the so-called Latin requirement - a stipulation that descriptions or diagnoses of new species had to be in Latin.

The new rules make it possible to take full advantage of an ongoing revolution in how botanists and mycologists verify that a particular species is indeed new to science: Many studies now routinely include the sequencing of short DNA regions that will amplify easily, even when the DNA comes from old specimens.

Such "barcoding" sequences can be used to confirm a suspected new species as long as related species that already have a scientific name are also being sequenced for the same DNA stretch.

There is no standard Latin vocabulary for describing DNA barcoding, yet in English, there is.
In an article in the open access journal PhytoKeys, botanists Natalia Filipowicz (Medical University of Gdańsk), Michael Nee (New York Botanical Garden), and Susanne Renner (University of Munich), now provide the first English-language diagnosis of a new species that relies exclusively on DNA data.

Their publication of a new species in the Solanaceae genus Brunfelsia also includes a traditional morphology-based description and pictures of the plant, but the researchers trust that "molecular diagnoses" will become a standard feature in future taxon descriptions.

The DNA sequences generated for the study have all been deposited in the public database GenBank, enabling other researchers to make use of them.

do dolphins use language

The idea of talking to dolphins has a long and chequered history. It was widely publicised in the 1960s by John Lilly, who argued that dolphins have such large brains that they must be extremely intelligent and have a natural language.

(D - or process plenty of sensory data.)

. “He said that in a few years, we will have established complex dialogue with them,” says Justin Gregg from the Dolphin Communication Project. “And he was saying that every few years.”

Lilly was right about dolphin intelligence, but not dolphin language. A true language involves small elements that combine into larger chains, to convey complex, and sometimes abstract, information. And there is no good evidence that dolphins have that, despite their rich repertoire of whistles and clicks...

Each individual has its own “signature whistle” which might act like a name. Developed in the first year of life, dolphins use these whistles as badges of identity, and may modulate them to reflect motivation and mood. This year, a study showed that when wild dolphins meet, one member of each group exchanges signature whistles.

But beyond this, dolphin chat is still largely mysterious.

(D - or they simply have distinctive voices. I do not need to name myself on a telephone.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

shared sri lankan word causes conflict.

Nadesan remembered a phrase from Tamil-language news reports about the 25-year-long civil war that ravaged the island nation: Samadhana pechchu vaarthaigal, or peace talks. He wanted a word found in both Sinhalese and Tamil, the languages spoken by the two ethnic communities in conflict in Sri Lanka, and Samadhana seemed an innocuous choice.

However, the reaction from some of his Sri Lankan Tamil friends, “moderate people, who grew up in Colombo and come from privileged backgrounds,” was unexpected.

“It sounded very Sinhalese to them; they thought I was bending over backwards for the Sinhalese,” says Nadesan. “I explained to them that Samadhana is actually a Sanskrit word.”

It’s this type of mistrust that Nadesan hopes to address through the inaugural Samadhana Benefit Reading Series that kicks off in Toronto on Thursday with readings from Sri Lankan-Canadian novelists...


D - a newly designed language lacks a body of artistic fiction made in it.
It also lacks a historical link to any particular cultural group.
But sometimes that is a very good thing.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Literal Lucy for denote vs connote


Literal Lucy to the rescue: A new way to distinguish between literal meaning and contextual meaning
Washington, DC – A new linguistic study of how individuals interpret various types of utterances sheds more light on how literal and contextual meaning are distinguished. The study, "A novel empirical paradigm for distinguishing between What is Said and What is Implicated," to be published in the March 2012 issue of the scholarly journal Language, is authored by Ryan Doran, Gregory Ward, Meredith Larson, Yaron McNabb, and Rachel E. Baker, a team of linguists based at Northwestern University. A preprint version is available online at:

Within linguistics and philosophy, two types of utterance meaning have traditionally been distinguished: semantic meaning, based on the literal meaning of the words themselves, and pragmatic meaning, based on how the sentence is used in a particular context. Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of empirical work exploring the line between these two types of meaning. However, few researchers have explored whether and under what conditions speakers can reliably isolate semantic meaning from pragmatic meaning. The new study by the Northwestern researchers does just this.

Using a novel paradigm in which participants assume the point of view of a literal-minded third person, Literal Lucy, the researchers tested whether speakers were able to tease apart semantic meaning from pragmatic meaning. Participants read through short vignettes and determined whether sentences containing certain key phrases (e.g., gradable adjectives, cardinals, quantifiers) were literally still true even in contexts that favored a more natural, pragmatic interpretation.

Their study found that speakers were in fact able to tease apart pragmatic elements of meaning from semantic ones but that the ability to do so is sensitive both to the particular type of phrase used in the sentence as well as the point of view a speaker adopts (e.g., his or her own, or that of a third party). By adopting a third-party perspective and relying upon their folk notion of interpreting literally, speakers were able to distinguish between semantic and pragmatic meaning more reliably.

These findings have implications both for future research into the theoretical distinction between semantics and pragmatics and for the empirical investigation of this distinction. The fact that participants' ability to distinguish semantic from pragmatic meaning was sensitive to the different types of phrases used in the experiment is not predicted by the theoretical literature classifying types of pragmatic meanings. This finding raises questions concerning the psychological validity of such classifications. For the empirical investigation of semantic and pragmatic meaning, the fact that, when interpreting from the perspective of Literal Lucy, speakers more frequently drew this distinction suggests that speakers need appropriate criteria to guide their judgments about an utterance's meaning.

Friday, March 9, 2012

finch bird singing genes. human disorders.

The scientists discovered that some 2,000 genes in a region of the male zebra finch's brain known as "Area X" are significantly linked to singing. More than 1,500 genes in this region, a critical part of the bird's song circuitry, are being reported for the first time. Previously, a group of scientists including the UCLA team had identified some 400 genes in Area X. All the genes' levels of expression change when the bird sings.
"We did not know before that all of these genes are regulated by singing," said Stephanie White, a UCLA associate professor of integrative biology and physiology and senior author of the new study. She believes the 2,000 genes -- at least some of which she believes are also shared by humans -- are likely important for human speech.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

letter/ # link to emotion of words

For one experiment, Topolinski used a set of number sequences that correspond to positive words, like 54323 ("liebe" -- love) and 373863 ("freund" -- friend), and a set for negative words, like 7245346 ("schleim" -- slime) and 26478 ("angst" -- fear). Volunteers were handed a cell phone with stickers over the buttons so they could only see the numbers, not the corresponding letters, and were told to type the number sequences. After typing each one, they rated how pleasant it had been to dial the number on the phone. Volunteers believed they were participating in a study on ergonomics -- in the debriefing afterward, none had any idea that the numbers might relate to words.

On average, volunteers preferred dialing numbers that related to positive words over those related to negative words. Merely dialing the numbers that corresponded to those letters -- not even pushing them multiple times, as you'd usually do to text words on a 10-digit keypad -- was enough to activate the concepts in their minds.

Topolinski relates these findings to a psychology concept called "embodiment" -- the idea that certain body movements can make you think about related ideas

right hand keyboard letters happier


Some words are spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard, others with more letters on the left. In a series of three experiments, the researchers investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings. They found that the meanings of words in English, Dutch and Spanish were related to the way people typed them on the QWERTY keyboard. Overall, words with more right-side letters were rated more positive in meaning than words with more left-side letters. This effect was visible in all three languages and was not affected by either word length, letter frequency or handedness.

The QWERTY effect was also found when people judged the meanings of fictitious words like “pleek,” and was strongest in new words and abbreviations like “greenwash” and “LOL” coined after the invention of QWERTY.Why should the positions of the keys matter? The authors suggest that because there are more letters on the left of the keyboard midline than on the right, letters on the right might be easier to type, which could lead to positive feelings. In other words, when people type words composed of more right-side letters, they have more positive feelings, and when they type words composed of more left-side letters, they have more negative feelings.

pinpoint brain location for tone sweeping

In addition to finding the site where FM sweep selectivity begins, the researchers discovered how auditory neurons in the midbrain respond to these frequency changes. Combining physical measurements with computational models confirmed that the recorded neurons were able to selectively respond to FM sweeps based on their directions. For example, some neurons were more sensitive to upward sweeps, while others responded more to downward sweeps.

"Our findings suggest that neural networks in the midbrain can convert from non-selective neurons that process all sounds to direction-selective neurons that help us give meanings to words based on how they are spoken. That's a very fundamental process," says Wu.

Wu says he plans to continue this line of research, with an eye -- or ear -- toward helping people with hearing-related disorders. "We might be able to target this area of the midbrain for treatment in the near future," he says.

Knowing the direction of an FM sweep -- if it is rising or falling, for example -- and decoding its meaning, is important in every language. The significance of the direction of an FM sweep is most evident in tone languages such as Mandarin Chinese, in which rising or dipping frequencies within a single syllable can change the meaning of a word.

In their paper, the researchers pinpointed the brain region in rats where the task of sorting FM sweeps begins.

"This type of processing is very important for understanding language and speech in humans," says Guangying Wu, principal investigator of the study and a Broad Senior Research Fellow in Brain Circuitry at Caltech. "There are some people who have deficits in processing this kind of changing frequency; they experience difficulty in reading and learning language, and in perceiving the emotional states of speakers. Our research might help us understand these types of disorders, and may give some clues for future therapeutic designs or designs for prostheses like hearing implants."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

# of words baby should know

In fact, Prof. Rescorla, director of the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, has suggested that the normal range for a two-year-old is 75 to 225 words.

This and other work is aimed at trying to pinpoint children who can benefit from early intervention, since language delays can have long-lasting negative effects on a child’s education and behaviour.

Diane Pesco, an assistant professor in Concordia’s Department of Education, and her co-author Daniela O’Neill of the University of Waterloo, have found that low scores on early language testing were an accurate predictor of language problems at age of 5 and 6...

The LUI questionnaire captures not just vocabulary but also children’s use of language in a social context: how they get a parent’s attention, join a conversation, make jokes or use language to get things done.

As such, words and language are a window into a much broader range of abilities. For instance, children’s use of words like “think” and “know” reflect a child’s growing understanding of other people’s preferences and thoughts.

“It’s related to social competence,” she says.

This is a useful way for parents to frame their children’s language development, too. Instead of treating words and language as an academic subject, consider them as tools for rich conversation.

While reading a book, instead of asking “What is this?” while pointing to a page, ask “Why do you think that boy ran after the dog?” she says.

When talking with children, she suggests parents consider striking a balance between a child’s language comfort zone and more challenging concepts.

“We want to scaffold them toward more complex language,” she says.


D - one of my home town academics!
"her co-author Daniela O’Neill of the University of Waterloo..."


Here are the 25 words!


















Thank you





All gone


Bye bye

Friday, March 2, 2012

prufred yore rayzoomay

1. Know your homophones

A quick refresher:
Their, they're, there
Their: The possessive form of "they." ("Applicants submitted their error-free cover letters.")
They're: The contraction of "they are." ("I think they're getting the hang of this grammar thing.")
There: A location. ("The pile of cover letters is over there.")

2. Use apostrophes properly

Apostrophes are used for a few reasons:
They indicate the possessive: "In my last job, I managed the CEO's calendar."
They indicate the omission of letters in words (i.e., in contractions).
They indicate the exclusion of numbers in dates: "I graduated college in '05."
They indicate time or quantity: "I must give my current employers two weeks' notice."

3. Keep tenses consistent

Similarly, as a general rule, all activities or accomplishments that you completed in the past should be in the past tense. Activities that you perform now should be in the present tense. This should be kept consistent throughout your résumé.

4. Proofread and then proofread again


D - resume can take 1 or 2 accents.
Used to be alt-0233.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

naming of the calendar months

I say "loose" because while this new calendar had 365 days and its 30-day and 31-day months no longer accurately tracked the phases of the Moon, the Romans clearly weren't too bothered about overly precise timekeeping. For one thing, there were only ten months, which correspond to the modern March through December and totaled 304 days of the year.

This, incidentally, is why the ninth through twelfth months have names - September, October, November, December - that derive from the Latin words for seven through ten. Those once were their positions in the Roman calendar. The end of the year between the final month December and first month March belonged to no specific month. This might seem like horribly shoddy timekeeping, but the early Romans were primarily concerned with practical questions of the harvest. The wintry period between December and March didn't factor into the harvest, so what was the point of assigning specific months to describe them?


The full mnemonic is "Thirty days hath September/April, June and November/All the rest have thirty-one/except February alone/which has eight and a score/until leap year gives it one day more."


D - just to make it even less helpful, the etymological # basis for the months does not even coincide with what month they are. I found this one out the hard way. This past year, I had to renew my guard license. I somehow thought September was month 8 and not 9. My brain assumed September was month 8. This nearly made me unable to work as I rushed to complete the renewal at the last minute.

D - this is how I started thinking about expanding a # system to a base-12 instead of base-10. I expand on the simple and rational naming conventions in this fashion. Instead of needing to denote 11 and 12 with a 10+1 and +2 system, the base-16 hexadecimal system allows equal ease into double digits. Note that the English tradition refers to 12 as a dozen, and 20 as a score. Eleven and twelve both has unit 'single digit' style names, unlike the much more regular "-teen" from 13 to 19. The similarity of the 'teen' sound to 'ty' for 20s is most unfortunate.

D- aside: days of the week.
Germanic - from old English.
Sunday - sun. Monday - moon. Tuesday - Norse god Tyr. Wednesday Wodan (Odin). Thursday - Thor. Friday - goddess Frige. Saturday - Saturn, associated with Greek titan and progenitor of their gods, Cronos.
Haha ... TGIF! It's GODDESS day! Yessirreee.