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linguistics

Public Lecture: "Sign Languages of Israel"

Israel is a microcosm of the sign language world.  Within a country about equal in area to New Jersey, Israel contains both a widely dispersed deaf community sign language used in schools, Israeli Sign Language, and a number of much smaller village sign languages, each confined to a single community and used only within its confines.  Our research team was formed to study Israeli Sign Language, but we have also spent the last decade studying and documenting the sign language of the Bedouin village of Al-Sayyid, located near Be’er Sheva, the ancestral home of Abraham.  I will compare the history and structure of these two languages and show how the study of their emergence has provided a variety of insights into language and human nature.

Date:
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Location:
WTY Library Auditorium
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Linguistics Seminar: "On the architecture of the left periphery in early Celtic and related matters"

While in verb-initial Old Irish, topicalization was achieved via left dislocation and focalization was achieved through clefting, the older Continental Celtic languages achieved such pragmatic information structuring through movement into the left periphery of the clause (though the right edge of the clause could also be a target for such purpose).  This paper commences with an inspection of relative clause syntax in Continental Celtic while outlining what we can tell about other movement mechanisms in the clause and then goes on to explore the architecture of the left periphery in these languages.  This exploration provides some insight into the prehistoric development of verb-initial clausal configuration in Insular Celtic.  Some comparative attention is also paid to the architecture of the left periphery in other Indo-European languages and it is found that the Continental Celtic languages have a role to play in determining the degree of articulation to be reconstructed for the left periphery of proto-Indo-European itself.

Date:
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Location:
Lexmark Room
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Compressed Course: "An Introduction to Text Mining and Textual Data Analysis for the Humanities and Social Sciences"

A special 1-credit opportunity to discover text mining and textual data analysis.

Across many disciplines, interest is increasing in the use of computational text analysis in the service of answering questions in the humanities and the social sciences. Media scientists analyze social media in order to predict corporate crises, political scientists and economists look for indicators of mood and sentiment in platform speeches and economic forecasts, literary scholars analyze the distribution of motifs in large numbers of texts in different literary epochs, and social historians and sociolinguists look for networks and connections among the people, places, and times related to the documents they study.

Following the distinction between "digitized" vs. "digital" scholarship, computers not only assist the work of researchers (digitized scholarship) but also transform the basis of the scholarship: they foster research that would have not been possible without digitization and increasing computing power (digital scholarship). Mapping emotions by mining huge numbers of books, or searching all Latin texts from Antiquity for paraphrases of Plato, are only two examples of investigations documenting the innovative potential of digital research. This transformation makes it necessary to reflect on the new relationship of scholars to their objects of investigation and to discuss the new ways researchers handle textual "data".

In this course we will familiarize ourselves with the concepts, debates, and selected tools within text-based digital scholarship and discuss the repercussions on the way we perceive and construct our objects of research.

Date:
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Location:
Dickey Hall (multiple classrooms)
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Public Lecture: "Terrorist Spotting for Beginners: Mass surveillance through language"

Mass surveillance is only possible with the help of smart computer algorithms. Whenever text data is monitored by machines, methods from computational linguistics come into play. The main goal is to automatically filter and identify content that points to certain attitudes or behavioral dispositions viewed as a threat to security. When monitoring online data, the task is even more complicated.  Since people are not usually required to provide their real identity in cyberspace, the tracing of identities through language features ("writeprint") is another challenge for computational linguistics at the service of the intelligence apparatus. Surveillance through language relies on the idea of the expressive function of language: Whenever we utter something, we do not just say something about the world to someone else, we also reveal something about ourselves.

In my talk I will give a critical account of some of the linguistic methods used to automatically attribute identities such as "extremist", "endangerer", or "potential terrorist" on the basis of text analysis. Starting with an overview of the political, legal, and technical framework of state surveillance measures in Germany, I will discuss core concepts of the surveillance discourse and present examples of how linguistic knowledge can be used to assign identities for the purpose of control. In doing so, I hope to foster a discussion on the logic of surveillance in western democracies and the responsibility of the sciences and humanities.

Date:
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Location:
Center Theater (Old Student Center)
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Linguistics Seminar: "Data-Driven Compound Analysis"

"Speakers of German enjoy forming compounds and the German language is infamous for long words like 'Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz". Even though compound formation is an easy task for speakers, the linguistic analysis of the semantic relations of the stems of a compound is a complex task. This talk will discuss possibilities of how we can use compound analysis for a deeper understanding of cultural change, discuss data-driven methods, and present empirical evidence from large German newspaper corpora. The talk will present: 1. a quick overview of the different word formation processes in German, 2. different heuristics for the semantic analysis of compounds, 3. analysis of distributional patterns of stems in large corpora, and 4. possibilities of a data-driven identification of the semantic relations between the stems."

Date:
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Location:
Lexmark Room - Main Building
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