LINGUIST List 10.60

Fri Jan 15 1999

Qs: Deixis, Physics & Language, Encoding

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

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  1. clifton soh, Research done on deixis
  2. Melih Sener, Language as an Evolving Dynamical System
  3. Fred Cummins, Low bit-rate encoding and linguistic insight

Message 1: Research done on deixis

Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 10:42:40 PST
From: clifton soh <>
Subject: Research done on deixis

Dear Linguistlist,

I am an honours student and am currently doing my thesis on deixis and
child language. However, it has been rather difficult obtaining recent
research done in this area. I would be most grateful for references
(or other relevant information) that could be of use to me.

Many thanks in advance.

Clifton Soh (National University of Singapore)
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Message 2: Language as an Evolving Dynamical System

Date: Thu, 14 Jan 99 12:24:14 EST
From: Melih Sener <>
Subject: Language as an Evolving Dynamical System


I am a physicist by training with only peripheral knowledge of
linguistics. The question that I am about to pose started out
as some sort of curiosity but having talked to a number of linguists
I realize it might be worth more serious consideration.

Take the list of all words in English language [by word I mean
any combination of letters that would pass a spellchecker]
and count the number of words K[l] of a given length l.
If you plot K[l] vs. l you realize that it is a very smooth
curve reminiscent of the normal distribution [it isn't one]
peaked around 8 letters.

Now there is saying that "any beautiful experimental curve shall
have a reasonable theoretical explanation". [In this case the curve
is very smooth, unlike for example in a Zipf's plot]
Language being as complex as it is, it was natural to think of a
model based on "economy" [or the principle of least effort as Zipf
would say - which is also quite natural for a physicist] that might
reproduce some properties of the curve in question.

The basic idea here is that as a language evolves the dynamical process
that is responsible for adding words to it will have an average effect
which under very general circumstances gives a distribution as mentioned above.
[This of course is totally conjectural and because of this I'm posting this

Without going into the details of any possible models for such an explanation
I would very much like to hear from the linguistic community, whether I am
talking about something that is well known and already explained.
[And also who in the world probably deals with such problems....]

Thanks for your time,

Melih Sener
Physics Department
SUNY Stony Brook
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Message 3: Low bit-rate encoding and linguistic insight

Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 12:25:20 +0100
From: Fred Cummins <>
Subject: Low bit-rate encoding and linguistic insight

In developing the many ways of coding the speech signal
(LPC, cepstral coefficients, Rasta, etc), researchers have
typically been interested either in fidelity (ensuring that
a reconstituted signal is 'close' to the original in some
sense), or in economy (getting the number of bits down). My
question is whether there has been any significant
*linguistic* insight which is attributable to the attempts
to reduce the number of bits required to represent the
signal. For example, has LPC analysis provided evidence for
the existence of any underlying phonetic/phonolgical units?
If responses warrant, I'll post a summary.

Fred Cummins, IDSIA, Corso Elvezia 36, CH-6900 Lugano, Switzerland
email: fred at (replace ' at ' with '')
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