Linguistic roots of connectionism

A preprint claims that “ideas from theoretical linguistics have played no role in [NLP]”. Outside the confines of Chomskyan linguistics folks have long been working on incorporating storage, retrieval, gating and attention in theories of language, with direct relevance to computational models. The only way to give any content to the claim is by giving the notion “theoretical linguistics” the narrowest conceivable reading.

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Large language models and the unstoppable tide of uninformation

Large language models make it entirely trivial to generate endless amounts of seemingly plausible text. The web is about to be engulfed in unending waves of algorithmically tuned AI-generated uninformation. This builds a feedback loop of uninformation feeding on uninformation. Counterintuitively, there was never a better time to be a scholar.

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Concrete reasons to be skeptical about an ‘Abstract Wikipedia’

Wikidata is an ambitious enterprise, but social ontologies are never language-agnostic — so the project risks perpetuating rather than transcending the worldviews most prevalent in current Wikipedia databases, which means broadly speaking global north, Anglo, western, white cishet male worldviews. I think Wikidata is perhaps promising for brute physical facts like the periodic table and biochemistry. But the social facts we live with —from politics to personhood and kinship to currency— are never fully language-independent, so any single ontology will be biased & incomplete.

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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 also known for his extensive work on ideophones, playful and evocative words with sensory meanings.

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