Perspectives on Low-Resource Languages and Language Varieties

Internet penetration world map from wikimediaMy colleague Stefania Degaetano-Ortlieb and I, with generous support from Elke Teich, organised a workshop last week. We invited researchers from a variety of backgrounds, spanning language documentation, typology, language acquisition, computational linguistics and historical linguistics. We were very happy with the inspiring talks and vibrant discussions about challenges and solutions, which I am sure will continue beyond the small event we had.

Last talk of 2017, at the MPI for the Science of Human History

2017 was a year full of talks, so don’t be surprised if you won’t see me on the circuit as much during 2018. The last talk of that year was at the MPI in Jena, where I talked about some of the things you’ll see if you compare languages based on corpus data that you’re likely to miss if you look at grammatical descriptions. I had some incredibly inspiring conversations and hope to visit more often (maybe even in 2018).

Bibtex bibliographies selected by keywords, with customised keyword separators

This is a very specialised problem, but since I just found the solution, I wanted to briefly document this for myself. I usually use natbib, but for the preparation of reading lists, sorted by topic, I wanted to try biblatex. Creating a list of references selected by a keyword is not a problem at all.

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Starting in Saarbrücken: Information density, complexity and cross-linguistic variation

It’s October already and I have just received my appointment as a guest professor in the SFB (special research unit) on Information density in Saarbrücken. I will teach a class on “Cross-linguistic variation in structural complexity” and I’m excited to learn more about information density and possible applications of existing hypotheses and tools to typological comparison.

Now out: Dozing eyes and drunken faces

 In many languages of the world, emotions and medical conditions are not attributed to an individual, but to a certain body part. For example, instead of saying “I am sad”, you may have to say something along the lines of “my heart is heavy” in many languages. In these cases, the meaning of “being sad” does not reside in a single word. “Heart” alone does not express sadness, and neither does “heavy”. Only the combination of the two can express this concept. The question is then how such languages form expressions that refer to an abstract emotion such as “sadness” . And the answer is that there are different strategies. One strategy is to say something like “the heaviness of the heart”. The Oceanic language Daakaka, however, uses a different strategy. Here, an emotion concept is expressed by a structure such as “the heavy heart”. This paper investigates these differences and their implications. Get it here or ask me for the preprint.