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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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Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

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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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Academic Paper

Title: The Self-Organization of Speech Sounds
Paper URL: http://www.csl.sony.fr/~py/publications.htm
Author: Pierre-Yves Oudeyer
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.csl.sony.fr/~py
Institution: Sony Computer Science Laboratory, Paris
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Computational Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Neurolinguistics; Sociolinguistics
Abstract: The speech code is a vehicle of language: it defines a set of forms used by a
community to carry information. Such a code is necessary to support the linguistic
interactions that allow humans to communicate. How then may a speech code be
formed prior to the existence of linguistic interactions? Moreover, the human speech
code is discrete and compositional, shared by all the individuals of a community
but different across communities, and phoneme inventories are characterized by
statistical regularities. How can a speech code with these properties form?
We try to approach these questions in the paper, using the "methodology of
the artificial". We build a society of artificial agents, and detail a mechanism that
shows the formation of a discrete speech code without pre-supposing the existence
of linguistic capacities or of coordinated interactions. The mechanism is based on
a low-level model of sensory-motor interactions. We show that the integration of
certain very simple and non language-specific neural devices leads to the formation
of a speech code that has properties similar to the human speech code. This result
relies on the self-organizing properties of a generic coupling between perception and
production within agents, and on the interactions between agents. The artificial
system helps us to develop better intuitions on how speech might have appeared,
by showing how self-organization might have helped natural selection to find speech.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: Journal of Theoretical Biology
Publication Info: Oudeyer, P-Y. (2005) The Self-Organization of Speech Sounds, Journal of Theoretical Biology, 233(3), pp. 435--449.
URL: http://www.csl.sony.fr/~py/publications.htm

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