The first post

This is post number 1 for my blog.  I’m planning to use the blog to keep anyone who is interested up-to-date on my health (I have stage 4 bowel cancer) but also for thoughts on language, corpus linguistics, and life and the world in general.  The plan is to use these four categories. I recently wrote up a fascinating paper I’d come across on how “the speakers shape the language and the language shapes the speakers” so I’ll use that as a next blog (and a first one with content).

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Adam Kilgarriff

I'm a scientist who has set up and runs a small company. I'm married (to Gill Lamden) with three children, Boris (22), Maddie (18) and Raffie (9) (as at today, 28 January 2015, in case I forget to update!) We live in Brighton, UK. Last November (2014) I found I had bowel cancer (stage 5; not curable; only 'manageable'). We've been adjusting to that since (and it is what provoked me to start the blog) My scientific area is linguistics, with my specialisms being corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, and lexicography - or, best of all, the intersection of all three. Since 2004, my company, Lexical Computing Ltd., has been providing a web service, the Sketch Engine, to linguists and lexicographers wanting to find out about words, using corpus-driven methods. Customers include Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Collins, Macmillan, Le Robert, Dictionary.com and around a hundred universities worldwide.

5 thoughts on “The first post”

  1. Apropos your remarks aout the uses of dialect to gain group acceptance, I was reading (Times this week) about a group of Dutch baboons Introduced into Edinburghzoo. The two groups had different words for ‘carrot’ but after a few weeks the Dutch contingent were using the scottish word.
    And yes, we stayed at the Tea Garden hotel in Sri Lanka. Nearest to Heaven we’ve been!

    1. Baboons using words ? Did I miss something ? Only parrots, mynah birds, etc use words.

      1. I was using ‘word’ as defined in the OED:
        “Any sound or combination of sounds …..”
        Or do you have a preferable definition?

        1. No preferred definition but I now understand what you meant, so many thanks. Owning two dogs, I have a high opinion of the ability of animals to “think”. So I can easily imagine a process in the baboon brain going something like this : “those guys get fed when they make that noise, so if I can figure out how to make that noise I’ll get fed”. Alternatively, the immigrant baboon might try a lot of new noises until one works (he gets fed) and then stick to that one. I seem to remember reading that this is how human babies learn in the first two years : they try out various hypotheses and stick with the one that works. The really cool thing about babies is that during the first two years, when they discard the hypotheses that don’t work, those neural connections get cleared down so that those circuits can be re-used for something else. It seems that the rewiring thing stops working at age two. BTW I am not involved in human or animal development – I just read a lot.

  2. Dear John Flood-Paddock

    Dealing with your points in turn (?)

    Our son has an elderly Boxer bitch ,Tara’ who has an English language vocabulary of about ten words. In converse with her she tries desperately to articulate, but the canine vocal system being what it is, fails. To our mutual disappointment!

    In the human case, the special ability to acquire language seems to switch off at the age seven or so. We had neighbours, Eric and Justine, he was French ,she only taught it, and their children were effortlessly bi-lingual.

    But how far can Adam’s marginilia go?

    Regards Ralph

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