LINGUIST List 5.818

Tue 19 Jul 1994

Sum: Intersubjectivity of coherence judgements, Foreign language

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Merja Koskela, Sum: Intersubjectivity of coherence judgements
  2. "T.F. Mills", statistics on foreign language competency (summary)

Message 1: Sum: Intersubjectivity of coherence judgements

Date: Tue, 19 Jul 1994 10:56:20 Sum: Intersubjectivity of coherence judgements
From: Merja Koskela <>
Subject: Sum: Intersubjectivity of coherence judgements

In the beginnig of June I asked the listers a question concerning the
intersubjectivity of coherence judgements. Since there has been considerable
interest on the replies I got, I will now post a short summary.
I want to thank everyone who responded, special thanks are due to Tony
Sperber Sardinha, Marti Hearst and Becky Passoneau.
1) A book by Prof. Kim Sydow Campbell (, coming out
in August by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates includes a discussion on Coherence,
Continuity and Cohesion. (Prof. Campbell is conducting a study of perceptions
of coherence and understandability through survey questions and comprehension
2) Passoneau, R J & Litman, D. (1993). Intention-based segmentation: Human
reliability and correlation with linguistic cues. In: Proceedings of the
31st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics.
There is also a book coming out on this topic by the same authors.
3) Kozima, Hideki (1993). Text segmentation based on similarity between
words. Proceedings of ACL-93.
4) Hearst, Marti A (1994). Multi-paragraph segmentation of expository texts.
Project Sequioia technical report 94/790. (Available via ftp from
A critical view was recommended (not that all views shouldn't be critical) on:
5) Stoddard, Sally (1991). Text and Texture: Patterns of Cohesion. Advances in
 Discourse Processes. XL. Ablex Publ. Corp.
6) References were also made to The University of Liverpool electronic archive
of papers in linguistics available at ftp
The discussion on intersubjectivity measures has been interesting and it has
strengthened my conviction that valid judgement can hardly be gained by
testing small numbers of people: individual bias is not radically different
from that of two or three individuals. However, small pilot studies with
intersubjectivity tests are a way of developing the test method for further

Greetings, Merja
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: statistics on foreign language competency (summary)

Date: Mon, 18 Jul 1994 23:45:49 statistics on foreign language competency (summary)
From: "T.F. Mills" <>
Subject: statistics on foreign language competency (summary)

With profound apologies for the very long delay here is a summary of
responses to my question on the availability of reliable and
up-to-date statistics on:
< * percentage of US college graduates fluent in second language
< * US college foreign language entrance requirements
< * US college foreign language graduation requirements
< * US graduate school foreign language entrance requirements
< * international comparisons of the above statistics


According to Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez:

You can get numbers (but will have to compile the aggregate stats) of FL
majors, requirements, etc. from Barron's or other guides to U.S. colleges and
universities. It's time-consuming, but thoroughly possible, and
up-dated annually (or they'll tell you when the numbers date from). Such books
are in any reference room, public library more likely than univ. library, but
should be in both.

According to Dan Bayer:

The most recent study on the areas you mention, i.e., % of US college grads
with fluency in FL, etc. was made in 1967 (Carroll, J. _The Foreign Language
Attainments of Language Majors in the Senior Year: A Survey Conducted in US
Colleges and Universities_. Cambridge, MA: Graduate School of Education,
Harvard University.) This was somebody's thesis.
 The MLA in 1986 surveyed college administrators to deterine which
languages are taught where, and how many students they had in them. (_Fall
1986 Survey of Foreign Language Registrations in US Institutions of Higher
Education_. New York: Office of Special Projects, Modern Language
Association.) Nothing of this magnitude has been attempted since.
 A survey of college FL entrance requirements has not been done to my
knowledge. I attempted to get such information last year (ACTFL, MLA, ADFL)
with no luck. Graduate schools generally do not have FL entrance
requirements, but specific programs may.
 To get an idea of the general feeling in the world of FL educators in
colleges and universities in the US, you might want to check out the DCHeath
Series on FL Acquisition and Research (vol. 1 in 1991). The field of FL
education is very young with a very short trail of research.

To these very helpful comments, I can add a few of my own findings:

1. The President's Commission on Foreign Language and International
Studies (1979) recommended the creation of a permanent national
commission to monitor and report and maintain statistics on this
field. (This was supplemented by Commission member Paul Simon's book
THE TONGUE-TIED AMERICAN (Continuum, 1980)). Nothing of the sort
appears to have been implemented. These two works seem to contain the
most recent broad statistical analyses (yet not comprehensive) of FL
at the college level.

2. In 1987 the Center for Language Education and Research conducted a
survey of elementary and secondary schools. Much of the findings are
by Amado M. Padilla, Halford H. Fairchild, Concepcion M. Valadez (Sage
1990). No similar surveys appear to have recently been conducted at
the college level.

SCIENCE, vol. 511 (Sept. 1990), totally devoted to foreign language in
the workplace, contains several statistical surveys of limited aspects
of college level education. Several articles address issues of
competence as opposed to simple enrollment in language study.

statistics on higher education registrations in FL (broken down by
language) at 10 intervals between 1960 and 1990. From a high of
1,127,400 in 1968, enrollments dropped to a low of 924,800 in 1980, and
climbed back to 1,184,100 in 1990.

5. The annual DIGEST OF EDUCATION STATISTICS (National Center for
Education Statistics) gives enrollment statistics by language at the
secondary level, and statistics of academic degrees conferred (also by
language). As an example: Bachelors degrees in FLs declined from
19,945 in 1970/71 to a low of 9,479 in 1983/84, and have steadily
climbed back to a high of 12,095 in 1990/91 (latest available figures).


My sincere thanks go those who responded to my query, and apologies if
during the delay I lost some responses among the many requests for a
summary. To the latter I again offer my regrets for the long delay.

To conclude, here's a word of encouragement from Karl Marx: a foreign
language is "a weapon in the struggle for life".

T. F. Mills
University of Denver Library 2150 E. Evans Ave. Denver CO 80208 USA
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue