Sounding out ideas on language, vivid sensory words, and iconicity

Author: mark

  • Consolidating iconicity research

    Consolidating iconicity research

    Readers of this blog know that I believe serendipity is a key element of fundamental research. There is something neatly paradoxical about this claim. We might like ‘key elements’ to be plannable so that we can account for them on budgets and balance sheets. But here is an element that I think can make a […]

  • At the smallest scale of human interaction, prosocial behavior follows cross-culturally shared principles

    At the smallest scale of human interaction, prosocial behavior follows cross-culturally shared principles

    We have a new paper out in which we find that people overwhelmingly like to help one another, independent of differences in language, culture or environment. This is a surprising finding from the perspective of anthropological and economic research, which has tended to foreground differences in how people work together and share resources.

  • Playing with R: unrolling conversation

    Playing with R: unrolling conversation

    A lot of our recent work revolves around working with conversational data, and one thing that’s struck me is that there are no easy ways to create compelling visualizations. In the Elementary Particles of Conversations project we’re aiming to change that. Here’s a sneak peek.

  • Malinowski (1922) on Large Language Models

    Malinowski (1922) on Large Language Models

    It’s easy to forget amidst a rising tide of synthetic text, but language is not actually about strings of words, and language scientists would do well not to chain themselves to models that presume so. For apt and timely commentary we turn to Bronislaw Malinowski

  • Mindblowing dissertations

    We don’t generally see PhD dissertations as an exciting genre to read, and that is wholly our loss. As the publishing landscape of academia is fast being homogenised, the thesis is one of the last places where we have a chance to see the unalloyed brilliance of up and coming researchers. Let me show you using three examples of remarkable theses I have come across in the past years.

  • Beyond Single-Mindedness

    Beyond Single-Mindedness

    No mind is an island (after John Donne). In a new piece, we make the case for putting interaction at the heart of cognition. This represents a figure-ground reversal for the cognitive sciences, which traditionally have focused on single minds.

  • On Bakhtinians

    Perhaps only those who haven’t read Bakhtin can call themselves true Bakhtinians: the ideas have to reach you and influence you through a polyphony of other texts and people.

  • We zijn al lang elders

    NRC vraagt zich af of wetenschappers hun werk blijven delen op twitter en vindt op twitter maar liefst 7 fervent twitterende wetenschappers die desgevraagd bevestigen nog op twitter te blijven.  Twitter is inderdaad van belang geweest voor de wetenschap, maar het lijkt vooral de journalistiek te zijn die nog aan het twitterinfuus ligt. Het geweldige collectief WO in Actie ontleende een deel […]

  • Thinking visually with Remarkable

    Thinking visually with Remarkable

    Sketches, visualizations and other forms of externalizing cognition play a prominent role in the work of just about any scientist. It’s why we love using blackboards, whiteboards, notebooks and scraps of paper. Many folks who had the privilege of working the late Pieter Muysken fondly remember his habit of grabbing any old piece of paper […]

  • Monetizing uninformation: a prediction

    Over two years ago I wrote about the unstoppable tide of uninformation that follows the rise of large language models. With ChatGPT and other models bringing large-scale text generation to the masses, I want to register a dystopian prediction. Of course OpenAI and other purveyors of stochastic parrots are keeping the receipts of what they […]

  • Talk, tradition, templates: a meta-note on building scientific arguments

    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 her description David Turnbull’s work on the construction of gothic cathedrals. In brief, the intriguing point is that no blueprints or technical drawings or even sketches are known to have existed for any of the early modern gothic cathedrals, like that of […]

  • 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 http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2022.09.015 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 […]

  • A serendipitous wormhole into the history of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (EMCA)

    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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • ‘From text to talk’, ACL 2022 paper

    📣New! From text to talk: Harnessing conversational corpora for humane and diversity-aware language technology — very happy to see this position paper with Andreas Liesenfeld accepted to ACL 2022. This paper is one of multiple coming out of our @NWO_SSH Vidi project ‘Elementary Particles of Conversation’ and presents a broad-ranging overview of our approach, which […]

  • 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 […]

  • New paper: Trilled /r/ is associated with roughness

    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.