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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

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This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Academic Paper

Title: Modeling the contribution of phonotactic cues to the problem of word segmentation
Author: Daniel Blanchard
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://cis.udel.edu/~blanchar/
Institution: University of Delaware
Author: Jeffrey N. Heinz
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.ling.udel.edu/people/jeffrey-heinz
Institution: University of Delaware
Author: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://copland.udel.edu/~roberta/
Institution: University of Delaware
Linguistic Field: Computational Linguistics; Language Acquisition
Abstract: How do infants find the words in the speech stream? Computational models help us understand this feat by revealing the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies that infants might use. Here, we outline a computational model of word segmentation that aims both to incorporate cues proposed by language acquisition researchers and to establish the contributions different cues can make to word segmentation. We present experimental results from modified versions of Venkataraman's () segmentation model that examine the utility of: (1) language-universal phonotactic cues; (2) language-specific phonotactic cues which must be learned while segmenting utterances; and (3) their combination. We show that the language-specific cue improves segmentation performance overall, but the language-universal phonotactic cue does not, and that their combination results in the most improvement. Not only does this suggest that language-specific constraints can be learned simultaneously with speech segmentation, but it is also consistent with experimental research that shows that there are multiple phonotactic cues helpful to segmentation (e.g. Mattys, Jusczyk, Luce & Morgan, ; Mattys & Jusczyk, ). This result also compares favorably to other segmentation models (e.g. Brent, ; Fleck, ; Goldwater, ; Johnson & Goldwater, ; Venkataraman, ) and has implications for how infants learn to segment.


This article appears in Journal of Child Language Vol. 37, Issue 3, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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