Posts

February 26, 2015

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4:04 PM | Can we Live without Inferential Statistics?
The journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology (BASP) has taken a resolute and bold step. A recent editorial announces that it has banned the reporting of inferential statistics. F-values, t-values, p-values and the like have all been declared personae non gratae. And so have confidence intervals. Bayes factors are not exactly banned but aren’t welcomed with open arms either; they are eyed with suspicion, like a mysterious traveler in a tavern.There is a vigorous […]

February 21, 2015

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9:27 PM | Thank You, Oliver Sacks
I was pained this week to see a column in the New York Times (here) announcing the pending death of Oliver Sacks. Sacks wrote the news himself, so of course the report was both sharp and humane. Ever since Awakenings...

February 17, 2015

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6:04 PM | ICPhS phonetic capabilities satellite meeting – deadline extension
Re. The ICPhS phonetic capabilities satellite meeting, which has been previously advertised on this blog. We have received a number of requests for late submissions, which we have granted, and as a result, feel it fair to have the same extension for everyone. Thus, if you would like to either submit something, or would like to […]

February 16, 2015

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10:59 PM | Emotional Communication Matters
Thank heavens for parents who post baby babbling videos on YouTube. The basic fact of this blog is that now the whole human species uses language, but at one time none of our ancestors did. The basic question of this...

February 12, 2015

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9:52 PM | How spurious correlations arise from inheritance and borrowing (with pictures)
James and I have written about Galton’s problem in large datasets.  Because two modern languages can have a common ancestor, the traits that they exhibit aren’t independent observations.  This can lead to spurious correlations: patterns in the data that are statistical artefacts rather than indications of causal links between traits. However, I’ve often felt like […]

February 10, 2015

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10:54 AM | Hockett on open-mindedness in the language sciences
Charles F. Hockett (1916-2000) is well-known for his work on the design features of language. Many linguists will know his 1960 article in Scientific American1 — though Hockett himself preferred the more developed 1968 version co-authored with Altmann — in which sixteen design features are nicely illustrated. … Continue reading →

February 04, 2015

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3:58 PM | Persister: A sci-fi novel about cultural evolution and academic funding
Someone has written a sci-fi space opera about a serial killer that targets researchers of cultural evolution which is also a satire on the state of academic funding systems. That’s quite an action-packed sentence. Persister: Space Funding Crisis I by Casey Hattrey is a short novel set in the 45th century about a cultural evolution […]

February 02, 2015

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1:55 PM | Some Quick Thoughts on Cultural Evolution
Here are some thoughts I’ve been having on cultural evolution. All of them need fuller exposition, but I don’t have time for that now. 1. Cultural Evolution, so What? I’ve got a fairly sophisticated narrative account of some varieties of popular music in 20th century America. The account centers on the interaction between African- and […]
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12:52 PM | How Language Evolves Webcast
CARTA (Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny) are webcasting their free symposium on “How Language Evolves” on Friday, February 20th (1:00 – 5:30 pm PST), co-chaired by Roger Levy (UC San Diego) and David Perlmutter (UC San Diego).   The symposium addresses the question of how human language came to have the kind of structure it […]
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8:39 AM | Empty Constructions and the Meaning of “Meaning”
Textbooks are boring. In most cases, they consist of a rather tiring collection of more or less undisputed facts, and they omit the really interesting stuff such as controversial discussions or problematic cases that pose a serious challenge to a specific scientific theory. However, Martin Hilpert’s “Construction Grammar and its Application to English” is an […]

January 28, 2015

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8:34 PM | The Dripping Stone Fallacy: Confirmation Bias in the Roman Empire and Beyond
What to do when the crops are failing because of a drought? Why, we persuade the Gods to send rain of course! I'll let the fourth Roman Emperor, Claudius, explain:Derek Jacobi stuttering away as Claudius in the TV series I ClaudiusThere is a black stone called the Dripping Stone, captured originally from the Etruscans and stored in a temple of Mars outside the city. We go in solemn procession and fetch it within the walls, where we pour water on it, singing incantations and […]
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