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The Ideophone

The Ideophone
Sounding out ideas on language, interaction, and iconicity
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Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

I have been blogging at The Ideophone since 2007, and not all of it has been as ephemeral as my PhD promotor once feared. My short post documenting the etymology of Zotero is apparently the only scientific documentation of where Zotero’s name comes from; it has served as a source in Wikipedia for ages and has received over 15 scholarly citations.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

Interjections are, in Felix Ameka’s memorable formulation, “the universal yet neglected part of speech” (1992). They are rarely the subject of historical, typological or comparative research in linguistics, and as Aimée Lahaussois has shown (2016), they are notably underrepresented in descriptive grammars. As grammars are the main source of data for typologists, this is of course a perfect example of a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

There is a minor industry in speech science and NLP devoted to detecting and removing disfluencies. In some of our recent work we’re showing that treating talk as sanitised text can adversely impact voice user interfaces. However, this is still a minority position. Googlers Dan Walker and Dan Liebling represent the mainstream view well in this blog post: Fair enough, you might say.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

The last time I blindly accepted an invitation to speak was in 2012, when I was invited to an exclusive round table on the future of linguistics at a renowned research institute. As a fresh postdoc I was honoured and bedazzled. When the programme was circulated, I got a friendly email from a colleague asking me how I’d ended up there, and whether I thought the future of linguistics was to be all male.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

This is a the second part in a two part series of peer commentary on a recent preprint. The first part is here. I ended that post by noting I wasn’t sure all preprint authors were aware of the public nature of the preprint. I am now assured they are, and have heard from the senior author that they are working on a revised version.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

One of the benefits of today’s preprint culture is that it is possible to provide constructive critique of pending work before it is out, thereby enabling a rapid cycle of revision before things are committed to print. I have myself benefited from comments on preprints, and have acknowledged such public pre-publication reviews in several of my papers. The below remarks are shared in that spirit.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

Clark & Fischer propose that people see social robots as interactive depictions and that this explains some aspects of people’s behaviour towards them. We agree with C&F’s conclusion that we don’t need a novel ontological category for these social artefacts and that they can be seen as intersecting with a lineage of depictions from Michelangelo’s David to Mattel’s talking barbie doll. We have two constructive contributions to make.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

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 of conversation as it unfolds over time. The most common form seems to be pixelated screenshots of transcription software not made for this purpose.

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

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 who wrote: In follow-up work, Malinowski has critiqued the unexamined use of decontextualised strings of words as a proxy for Meaning: Malinowski did not write this on his substack,

Published
Author Mark Dingemanse

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.