Linguistic anomaly and regularity

Lecture by Dr. Carl Vogel, Trinity College Dublin

Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 at 13:15, HF:400


Linguistic systems are interesting to study in part because of their regularity: people often find beauty in regularity. However, linguistic anomaly is also worthy of attention. Firstly, as diversions from the norm, anomalies are inherently curiosities. Secondly, some anomalies are adopted as new norms (whether originating as apt novel metaphor, insightful generalization, or some other type of creative formulation — even if not intended as such by the speaker, but recognized as such by others). Thirdly, anomalies that are not taken up by others bring regularities into relief, supporting deeper insight into the regularities.

Focus on distinctive linguistic events has a wide range of applications. For example, sometimes distinctive linguistic events are reports of changes in experience that should be attended to: this is the case when monitoring self-rated health reports of individuals with chronic illness. However, sometimes such distinctive linguistic events are not reports, but symptoms of cognitive decline. This contrast points to a fundamental problem requiring complementary approaches to achieve solution: the discrimination of change in language of an individual (ideolect) from change in language in general (dialect), on one hand, and from change in the underlying described reality, on the other hand. Pursuit of solutions to this problem leads to a range of empirical and analytical explorations: models of language evolution, models of dialogue interaction, narrative analysis informing predictive models of personal health, identification of emergent leaders in social media fora, compuational stylistics applied within the digital humanities, and more.

Progress so far and future directions within this research programme are outlined.

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