September 15, 2014

10:23 PM | Dolphins Know Each Other by Name
Signature whistles can be heard in a variety of dolphin species. Suppose I had an eight-month old baby who liked to say something like gork, and I told you that one day I heard the baby's two-year-old brother make a...

September 10, 2014

8:56 AM | Malinowski on observing ‘performance’
There is no doubt, from all points of sociological, or psychological analysis, and in any question of theory, the manner and type of behaviour observed in the performance of an act is of the highest importance. Indeed behaviour is a … Continue reading →

September 09, 2014

12:51 PM | Report on Cultural Evolution for the National Humanities Center, Revised Edition
Back in 2010 I wrote a piece for the National Humanities Center (USA), Cultural Evolution A Vehicle for Cooperative Interaction Between the Sciences and the Humanities, which is online at their Forum along with comments. I have since revised it to include a section on Jockers, Macroanalysis: Digital Methods in Literary History (2013). You can […]

September 08, 2014

6:49 PM | More on Basic and Extended Syntax
Question pronouns are important but hard to visualize. Yesterday I posted a notice about a review article by Heather K.J. van der Lely and Steven Pinker titled "The biological basis of language," that reports the brain supports two separate syntax...

September 07, 2014

6:57 PM | A Breakthrough Paper
Sophie's Story looks at the strengths and limitations of Specific Language Impairment. The story of language and its origins that has been emerging on this blog is fairly simple: Members of the human lineage began using words when a population...

September 03, 2014

6:18 PM | Reading Macroanalysis: Notes on the Evolution of Nineteenth Century Anglo-American Literary Culture
Matthew L. Jockers. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History. University of Illinois Press, 2013. x + 192 pp. ISBN 978-0252-07907-8 I’ve compiled all the posts into a working paper. HERE’s the SSRN link. Abstract and introduction below. * * * * * Abstract: Macroanalysis is a statistical study of a corpus of 3346 19th Century […]
12:11 AM | A Surprising Meeting at the Summit
Napoleon and the tsar meet at Tilsit to agree on their spheres of interest. (But Tolstoy still got a story to tell) Talk about a marriage of irreconcilables! PLOS Biology has published an article titled "How Could Language Have Evolved?"...

September 01, 2014

3:59 PM | From Macroanalysis to Cultural Evolution
The purpose of this post is to recast the work reported in Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History in terms appropriate to cultural evolution. The idea is to propose a model of cultural evolution and assign objects from Jockerss analysis to play roles in that model. I will leave Jockers’ work untouched. All I’m doing […]

August 20, 2014

12:26 AM | Reading Macroanalysis 6.1: Theme–Dogs, Gold, Slavery, and Awakening
Over at New Savanna I’ve been blogging my way though Matthew Jockers, Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History, University of Illinois Press, 2013. I figured this particular post would be of interest here. If you’re not familiar wiht topic analysis, there’s some links below that’ll help you out. Chapter 8 of Macroanalysis is about “Theme.” […]

August 19, 2014

9:54 PM | Which Came First, the Word or the Gesture?
I got a good laugh out of this cartoon on Alex Baker's Cake or Death cartoon file. And it fits in with this post's point: gestures have their limits. Susan Goldin-Meadow is a hero on this blog because her work...
8:35 AM | Functional trade-off between lexical tone and intonation
Languages can use pitch to make lexical contrasts (so called tone languages) or to mark contrasts at the utterance level, usually called intonation, such as using rising pitch to indicate a question as opposed to a statement.  In fact, a language can use pitch to do both by various means such as changes in pitch […]
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