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Re: Language & IT

Posted by David FG on January 08, 2005

In Reply to: Re: Language & IT posted by Smokey Stover on January 07, 2005

: : : : : : : : : So "Do You Speak American" was broadcast last night. It lasted several hours and is one of those epic programs that will probably live on in classrooms for years to come. I have not watched all of it but I have recoreded it with TIVO. However, there were several points of what I watched that surprised me.

: : : : : : : : : The first and most shocking, is just how much "surfer dude" is spoken: "off the wall", "rad", "totally", "to the max", "buff" and many other words and phrases I can not think of before caffeine.

: : : : : : : : : The other interesting thing is that English in the United States is becoming more, not less regionalised. Listening to the different pronounciations out of context, it is truly amazing anyone understands anyone else. According to one of the linguists interviewed this is semi-conscious thing. People are embracing the differences in their speech and thus it is becoming even more distinct from other spoken English. At the same time slang from surfer, California valley girls, Hip-hop and Spanglish seems to wash over the nation where it is adopted and spoken with a regional accent.

: : : : : : : : : The other thing that goes on everywhere is the use of "like". The nice Canadian presenter, whose name eludes me, said it takes the place of "quote, unquote". "So I'm like, 'no way! and he's like 'way'...".

: : : : : : : : : Thanks to ESC for alerting us to it. I wish there was an equivalent for the UK. It was fascinating.

: : : : : : : : : Camelita

: : : : : : : :
: : : : : : : : I just remembered one of the examples of regional pronounciation. In the Great Lakes region Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Cleveland, etc. (not sure if this included Pittsburgh or not), the word "block", as in "apartment block" is pronounced "black". "Buses" is pronounced "bosses". And the amazing thing is it's only become this way in the past 30-40 years. Before that, the great lakes region had the accent closest to standard American English (if there is such a thing). It was the accent most radio or television people adopted.

: : : : : : : I forgot to watch it. Nuts.

: : : : : : Any thoughts about the question raised at the end of the program: Will the ability of computers to recognize just "standard American English" homogenize the language?

: : : : : I think the big market for spoken commands in in China where the complexity of the written language makes it difficult to manage with keyboards, etc.

: : : : : I think that, eventually computers will recognise the different variations in English. Otherwise I don't think people will have the patience to use these voice activated devices. I remember over hearing a man talking to what I'm guessing was a voice recognition program over the telephone... "NO!".... Information.... NO! INFORMATION! NO! NO!" , at which point he slammed down the payphone and went off in a huff. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (which is a phrase we don't have an origin for, as it happens)

: : : : : Camel

: : : : As a native of Ireland and a resident of the UK I am amazed by the LACK of regional accents in a country the size of the US. There has been a certain loss of some in recent years, but it is still possible to hear noticeably different accents by travelling 15 miles or so in many places in either country.

: : : : DFG

: : : Latest generation desktop/personal voice recognition software is written to be "trained" by the user upon first install - it's far more competent than earlier iterations that were more hindrance than help. Inbuilt "learning" algorithms engender a constant improvement in accuracy, so, taking both factors into account, accent becomes laregely a non-issue. Of course, this is no help whatsoever in automated response voice-driven menu-based telephone systems.

: : : As to the Chinese market, yes it's the great yellow hope for Western big business. IBM very recently made the incredibly bold and (for them) intelligent move of selling their entire PC/Notebook division lock, stock and barrel to Lenovo, a major Chinese PC manufacturer for $1.25 billion in return for an 18% stake in the latter - the net effect being to give IBM near-instant access to the vast untapped Chinese market *and* a far cheaper source of manufacturing for PCs and notebooks carrying the IBM badge for the rest of the world. I wouldn't fancy being Carly Fiorentina (HP's CEO) now for any money.

: : In the discussion involving the prescriptivists vs. the descriptivists I found the Columbus Dispatch editor's little list of misused words interesting: 'more importantly' instead of 'more important'; 'bemused' to mean amused (instead of confused); and 'non-plussed' to mean not upset (instead of perplexed).

: Three comments: David FG says he's surprised by the "LACK of regional accents in a country the size of the US," but goes on to say that "it is still possible to hear noticeably different accents by travelling 15 miles or so...." I fear that I need clarification. The nice Canadian is Robert MacNeil, co-host of the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, 1975-1995. I once lived on a farm that was farmed by a fellow who lived down the road a piece and said things like "melk the caows" and all the other things farmers are supposed to say. His dad, the actual owner, lived in town, a place of about 1,500 souls. Not a metropolis, but the dad spoke standard American. This was in the snowbelt of upstate New York (between Ratchester and Buffalo), and the farmer was very kind. Once, when we were snowed in, he rode up to the house on a horse and offered to get us some provisions. SS

I meant that it is possible in many places in Ireland and the UK to travel a short distance and hear markedly different accents, compared with what seems (to me) to be a remarkable homogeneity within the immensely bigger USA.

Sorry for not making that clear.

DFG