• Deep learning, image generation, and the rise of bias automation machines
    DALL-E, a new image generation system by OpenAI, does impressive visualizations of biased datasets. I like how the first example that OpenAI used to present DALL-E to the world is a meme-like koala dunking a baseball leading into an array of old white men — representing at one blow the past and future of representation … Continue reading
  • Sometimes precision gained is freedom lost
    Part of the struggle of writing in a non-native language is that it can be hard to intuit the strength of one’s writing. Perhaps this is why it is especially gratifying when generous readers lift out precisely those lines that {it?} took hard work to streamline — belated thanks! Interestingly, the German translation for Tech … Continue reading
  • Talk, tradition, templates: a meta-note on building scientific arguments
    Reading Suchman’s classic Human-machine reconfigurations: plans and situated actions, I am impressed by what I’m reading on the performative and interactional achievement of the construction of gothic cathedrals, as studied by David Turnbull. In brief, the intriguing point is that no blueprints or technical drawings or even sketches are known to have existed for any … Continue reading
  • Over-reliance on English hinders cognitive science
    Been reading this paper by @blasi_lang @JoHenrich @EvangeliaAdamou Kemmerer & @asifa_majid and can recommend it — Figure 1 is likely to end up in many lecture slides Naturally I was interested in what the paper says about conversation. The claim about indirectness in Yoruba and other languages is sourced to a very nice piece … Continue reading
  • A serendipitous wormhole into the history of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (EMCA)
    A serendipitous wormhole into #EMCA history. I picked up Sudnow’s piano course online and diligently work through the lessons. Guess what he says some time into the audio-recorded version of his 1988 Chicago weekend seminar (see lines 7-11) [Chicago, 1988. Audio recording of David Sudnow’s weekend seminar] We learn too quickly and cannot afford to … Continue reading
  • The perils of edited volumes
    Ten years ago, fresh out of my PhD, I completed three papers. One I submitted to a regular journal; it came out in 2012. One was for a special issue; it took until 2017 to appear. One was for an edited volume; the volume is yet to appear. These may be extreme cases, but I … Continue reading
  • Some ACL2022 papers of interest
    Too much going on at #acl2022nlp for live-tweeting, but I’ll do a wee thread on 3 papers I found thought-provoking: one on robustness probing by @jmderiu et al.; one on underclaiming by @sleepinyourhat; and one on bots for psychotherapy by Das et al.. Deriu et al. stress-test automated metrics for evaluating conversational dialogue systems. They … Continue reading
  • ‘From text to talk’, ACL 2022 paper
    (this post originated as a twitter thread) 📣New! From text to talk: Harnessing conversational corpora for humane and diversity-aware language technology — very happy to see this position paper w/ @a_liesenfeld accepted to #acl2022nlp — Preprint 📜: This paper is one of multiple coming out of our @NWO_SSH Vidi project 'Elementary Particles of Conversation' … Continue reading
  • Why it is useful to distinguish iconicity from indexicality
    Every once in a while I come across work that conflates iconicity and indexicality, or lumps them together under a broad label of motivation (often in opposition to ‘arbitrariness’). Even if I tend to advocate for treating terminology lightly, I think there are many cases where it does pay off to maintain this distinction, and … Continue reading
  • New paper: Trilled /r/ is associated with roughness
    Very happy to see this paper out! We combine comparative, lexical, historical, and psycholinguistic evidence for an in-depth look at a pervasive form of cross-modal iconicity. For me, this goes back to ~2011, when I wondered why Siwu ideophones for roughness like wòsòròò, safaraa and dɛkpɛrɛɛ (all with trilled /r:/) felt so… rough. So something … Continue reading
  • Coordinating social action
    📣New! Coordinating social action: A primer for the cross-species investigation of communicative repair. Very happy to present this work w/ stellar coauthors @rapha_heesen @MarlenFroehlich Christine Sievers @mariekewoe, accepted in PhilTrans B 🧵 In this paper we consider the awesome flexibility of communicative repair in human interaction and take a peek under the hood. We … Continue reading
  • Always plot your data
    Always plot your data. We're working with conversational corpora and looking at timing data. Here's a density plot of the timing of turn-taking for three corpora of Japanese and Spanish. At least 3 of the distributions look off (non-normal). But why? Plotting turn duration against offset provides a clue: in the weird looking ones, there’s … Continue reading
  • The Gruner Map: a 1913 map of the Togo Plateau in present-day Ghana
    Few historical maps of Ghana’s Volta and Oti regions have been invested with so much political and sociohistorical meaning as Hans Gruner’s 1913 map of the Togo Plateau. Gruner, stationed for over twenty years at Misahöhe in present-day Togo, was a long-time colonial administrator known for his ethnographical and historical knowledge of the area. His … Continue reading
  • Why article-level metrics are better than JIF if you value talent over privilege
    I’ve been caught up in a few debates recently about Recognition and Rewards, a series of initiatives in the Netherlands to diversify the ways in which we recognize and reward talent in academia. One flashpoint was the publication of an open letter signed by ~170 senior scientists (mostly from medical and engineering professions), itself written … Continue reading
  • Van betekenisloze getallen naar een evidence-based CV
    Lezenswaardig: een groep jonge medici ageert tegen de marketing-wedstrijd waarin volgens hen narratieve CVs in kunnen ontaarden — de nieuwste bijdrage aan het Erkennen & Waarderen-debat. Maar niets is wat het lijkt. Over evidence-based CVs, kwaliteit & kwantificatie Eerst dit: de brief benoemt het risico dat je met narratieve CVs een soort competitie krijgt tussen … Continue reading
  • Linguistic roots of connectionism
    This Lingbuzz preprint by Baroni is a nice read if you’re interested in linguistically oriented deep net analysis. I did feel it’s a bit hampered by the near-exclusive equation of linguistic theory with generative/Chomskyan aps. (I know it makes a point of claiming a “very broad notion of theoretical linguistics”, but it doesn’t really demonstrate … Continue reading
  • New paper: Interjections (Oxford Handbook of Word Classes)
    📣New! “Interjections“, a contribution to the Oxford Handbook on Word Classes. One of its aims: rejuvenate work on interjections by shifting focus from stock examples (ouch, yuck) to real workhorses like mm-hm, huh? and the like. Abstract: No class of words has better claims to universality than interjections. At the same time, no category has … Continue reading
  • WOCAL10 workshop: Centering pragmatic phenomena on the margins
    With the tenth World Congress of African Linguistics around the corner (June 7-12, 2021), let me draw your attention to a workshop we are organizing: Centering pragmatic phenomena on the margins in African languages. Convened by Felix Ameka and Mark Dingemanse, this workshop gathers researchers from at least 8 African universities and from around the … Continue reading
  • On gatekeeping in general linguistics
    An exercise. Take 1️⃣️this paper on ‘Language disintegration under conditions of formal thought disorder‘ and 2️⃣ this Henner and Robinson preprint on ‘Imagining a Crip Linguistics‘. Now tell us in earnest that only one of these contains “theoretical implications that shed light on the nature of language and the language faculty”. (That was the phrasing … Continue reading
  • Titling scholarly work in anthropology: Signifying significance, enregistering erudition
    Betwixt and between: structure and anti-structure in titular rituals (>600 papers with “Betwixt & between” in title) Homo Imitatens: Ludic pretense as a cover for essentialist tropes in anthropological titling (>2000 papers with “Homo + Latin Participle”, excluding sapiens & erectus) Beyond Colons: Towards subtitles as sites for ponderous prolixity (>600 papers with “Beyond X: … Continue reading
  • The sound of rain, softly falling (Tucker Childs, 1948-2021)
    News just reached me that we have lost a dear colleague and one of the people responsible for introducing the world of linguistics to African ideophones: George Tucker Childs, 1948-2021. Tucker was a cheerful presence in the field of African linguistics and a towering figure in the subfield that he and I had in common, … Continue reading
  • APA but without auto-sorting of in-text citations: easy CSL fix
    For better or worse, APA is one of the most widely used citation styles in the cognitive sciences. One aspect of it that always bugs me is that it prescribes alphabetical sorting of in-text citations. I’m not talking about the bibliography; of course that should be alphabetical. I’m talking about the order of names when … Continue reading
  • A rant about Elsevier Pure
    I have other things to do but one day I’ll enlarge on the insidious effects of elevating this cursed little histogram of “Research output per year” as the single most important bit of information about academics at thousands of universities that use Elsevier Pure. Consider this mini-rant my notes for that occasion. Most importantly, we … Continue reading
  • Team science is slow science
    With Times Higher Education writing about citation gaming and hyperprolific authors (surely not unrelated) I hope we can save some of our attention for what Uta Frith and others have called slow science. On that note, consider this: Team science is (often) slow science. Recently two team science projects I’ve been involved in since the … Continue reading
  • Erkenning en waardering voor schapen met vijf poten
    Terwijl er lustig gefilosofeerd wordt over het verlichten van de rat race mag de jongere lichting op 5 borden tegelijk schaken! Een verbreding van hoe we erkennen en waarderen kan ik alleen maar toejuichen, maar ik heb nog niet vaak gehoord over één van de meest voelbare bijeffecten voor de jongere lichting academici nu: van … Continue reading
  • New personal site
    Almost 13 years ago, in 2007, this blog started as a sub-site on my personal web page. It soon took over most of my online presence and I moved it to its own domain. Now that I blog much less regularly, and have moved institutions, it’s useful again to have a personal academic web page. … Continue reading
  • Liminal signs
    I have a new paper out as part of a special issue filled to the brim with things on the border of language if not beyond it. There are seven empirical articles on response cries, “moans”, clicks, sighs, sniffs, & whistles, flanked by an intro (by editors Leelo Keevallik and Richard Ogden) and a commentary … Continue reading
  • Farewell, Mr. Ideophone: William J. Samarin (1926-2020)
    I note with sadness that William J. Samarin has passed away in Toronto on January 16, 2020 at the age of 93. An all too short obituary notes that he was “known for his work on the language of religion and on two Central African languages: Sango and Gbeya”. In linguistics, Samarin was of course … Continue reading
  • Semantic primitives and conceptual decomposition
    Thought-provoking discussion on semantic primitives and conceptual decomposition this morning at @in_interaction, led by Guillermo Montero-Melis We went from Wittgenstein & Osgood via Rosch & Lakoff to Kemp & Tenenbaum and recent work by Mitchell, Binder, and others The paper that drew most attention was Binder et al. 2016’s ‘Toward a brain-based conceptual semantic representation’ … Continue reading
  • Playful iconicity: Having fun with words
    What do words like waddle, slobber, tingle, oink, and zigzag have in common? These words sound funny, but they are also iconic, with forms that resemble aspects of their meanings. In a new paper we investigate the link between funniness and iconicity in 70,000 English words. “This is play” The starting point is a theory about metacommunication: some words (or signs) are more striking than others in terms of … Continue reading
  • Een week @NL_Wetenschap
    In voorjaar 2019 mocht ik een week twitteren in naam der wetenschap voor het wissel-account @NL_Wetenschap (10-17 februari 2019). Omdat het account steeds rouleert van wetenschapper naar wetenschapper en omdat Twitter natuurlijk altijd in beweging blijft is het moeilijk om achteraf een goede indruk te krijgen van zo’n week. Daarom hier een overzichtje in blog-vorm. … Continue reading
  • Micromoments in music
    This post originated as a twitter thread. 1 One of my favourite micromoments in music: the creak at 1:15 in Old Folks by Miles Davis. Perfectly timed with an inbreath, I always imagine Davis leaning back in his chair, pure concentration building up for the next lyrical phrase. 2 Another musical #micromoment — the signature … Continue reading
  • Integrating Iconicity: session at ICLC15
    I’m happy to co-convene a session to take place at the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference in Nishinomiya, Japan. The session and general discussion will be chaired by Thomas van Hoey (National Taiwan University) and Jonas Nölle (University of Edinburgh) and has a diverse roster of speakers. Friday August 9, Room 301, 13:15 to 17:25 Speakers: … Continue reading
  • Rethinking Marginality: panel on interjections & interaction at IPRA
    We’re convening a panel at the 16th International Pragmatics Conference in Hong Kong next week. This doubles as the inaugural workshop of my VIDI project Elementary Particles of Conversation. The workshop ties into the overall theme of the conference, which is “Pragmatics at the Margins”. Have a look at the panel programme & abstracts (PDF), … Continue reading
  • What is ‘non-lexical’? Notes on non-lexical vocalisations, II
    New! Some of this is now published here (open access, free for all!): Dingemanse, Mark. 2020. Between Sound and Speech: Liminal Signs in Interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 53(1), 188–196.  doi:10.1080/08351813.2020.1712967 (PDF) TL;DR — Non-lexical is a term people use for things that seem borderline linguistic, like sniffs, coughs, and grunts. However, it’s rarely a great … Continue reading
  • A variety of vocal depictions: Notes on non-lexical vocalisations, I
    Last week I was happy to present my work at a workshop on Ideophones and nonlexical vocalisations in Linköping, Sweden, organised by Leelo Keevallik and Emily Hofstetter. This was the kick-off for a new project on “Non-lexical vocalisations“. It was my first time in Linköping and it was great getting to know the vibrant community of … Continue reading
  • Sign names and theories of naming
    Every time I learn new name signs —e.g. during my UCL visit hosted by @gab_hodge— I’m struck by how they call into question Searle’s (spoken English-based) arguments about how proper names work. Many sign names appear to be descriptive (or at least originate as descriptions) Moreover, often one gets the ‘baptismal story’ along with learning … Continue reading
  • John Benjamins collective volumes linguistics CSL style
    Linguists will know John Benjamins as one of the nicer academic publishing houses, not quite so terrible as Elsevier or other profiteering behemoths, and one with really good typography to boot. Iconicity afficionados will probably know the Iconicity in Language and Literature series published by Benjamins. One of my first articles on ideophones and iconicity appeared … Continue reading
  • Slides for a hands-on Zotero workshop
    One of the key tasks scientists need to master is how to manage bibliographic information: collecting relevant literature, building a digital library, and handling citations and bibliographies during writing. This tutorial introduces Zotero (, an easy to use reference management tool made by scholars for scholars. The tutorial covers the basics of using Zotero for … Continue reading
  • How often does Google Scholar update citation counts?
    TL;DR: every other day. Read on for details. Many scientists use Google Scholar to find papers, get alerts about new work, and —if they have a profile— display a publication list which tracks citations. What is the Google Scholar update frequency? It occurred to me that we have a perfect way to check this in … Continue reading