Hello, universe

After several months of producing unintelligible data, NASA’s spacecraft Voyager 1 has recently started sending usable information back to Earth again. Voaygers 1 and 2 departed from Earth in 1977 on tours of the outer planets, before heading off from the Solar System into inter-stellar space. Greetings, non-earthlings Among other things, the Voyagers carry a…… Continue reading Hello, universe

When ‘irrelevant’ cannot replace ‘not relevant’

A recent short post on Language Log pointed drew attention to sentence (1): ‘The patch is irrelevant, but the events that follow are.’ (1) Language Log » When “irrelevant” is not “not relevant” (upenn.edu) Although the post didn’t say so explicitly, sentence (1) is clearly odd in some way. The title of the Language Log…… Continue reading When ‘irrelevant’ cannot replace ‘not relevant’

Hearing bad grammar affects your heart

Linguistic knowledge and skills develop largely without awareness and may therefore be difficult or impossible to articulate. A recent paper examined whether variability in heart rate can be used to assess implicit language knowledge. The paper is Physiological responses and cognitive behaviours: Measures of heart rate variability index language knowledge, Dagmar Divjak, Hui Sun, Petar…… Continue reading Hearing bad grammar affects your heart

How much are AI tools writing out in the wild?

A recent paper suggests that between 6% and 16% of the text of peer reviews for some major recent conferences on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) may have been written with substantial help from Large Language Models (LLM), such as ChatGPT. The paper makes these estimates in illustrating a method for estimating how…… Continue reading How much are AI tools writing out in the wild?

Non-meant or intended

On some tickets we bought the other day, the terms and conditions say: ‘Tickets are non-refundable or transferable’. Now, I know what they meant to say, but they didn’t achieve it. They intended to say (1). (1) Tickets are not refundable and not transferable. They could also have expressed that meaning with (2). (2) Tickets…… Continue reading Non-meant or intended

The werewolf or who-wolf

I’ve discovered an interesting translation of the well-known poem Der Werwolf (‘The Werewolf’), by the German poet Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914). What led me to this translation was a blogpost on Language Hat about ontogeny. Someone commenting on that post mentioned a translation of this poem. The translation is by Jerome Lettvin (1920– 2011). I hadn’t…… Continue reading The werewolf or who-wolf

Schock prize for linguists

The 2024 Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy has been awarded jointly to Hans Kamp (University of Stuttgart, Germany) and Irene Heim (MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It as awarded ‘for (mutually independent) conception and early development of dynamic semantics for natural language.’ The laureates are selected by collaboration between three Swedish royal academies: the Royal…… Continue reading Schock prize for linguists

How to need and how to have

The way languages express needing something is linked in a surprising way to how they express having something. In their paper Having “need” and needing “have” Stephanie Harves and Richard Kayne (Linguistic Inquiry, 2012) summarise the facts and suggest an explanation. How to have: H-languages English and some other languages use a transitive verb like…… Continue reading How to need and how to have

Japan to change official romanisation?

Recent press reports suggest that the Japanese government is thinking of changing the officially recommended system for romanising Japanese. Romanisation is writing Japanese in roman characters (known in Japanese as rōmaji). There are 2 main romanisation systems for Japanese: Hepburn, devised by an American Missionary James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911). Kunrei, issued by the Japanese government…… Continue reading Japan to change official romanisation?