In part two of a four part series, this Transnational Lives podcast focuses upon social theory, language, and society and the roles they play in diversity.
"It’s not just a drawl, y’all: Fact vs. fiction in Kentucky speech" (student documentary film on Kentucky English)
Rough cut viewing about a half hour in length of a UK-student-created documentary film, followed by a panel discussion. Viewing and discussion are open to the public, so bring a friend or two!
This study discusses perceptions of variation across dialects of Arabic in the Arab world as revealed through a perceptual dialectology map task. On a map of the Arab world, female undergraduate students at Qatar University provided information about boundaries where people speak differently and labels for those boundaries. A correlation analysis of the boundaries showed that participants viewed Arabic dialects as constituting five major dialect groups: the Maghreb, Egypt and Sudan, the Levant, the Gulf, and Somalia. A closer analysis of the content of the labels revealed variation in terms of principal (Goffman 1981) on whom they draw in their judgments, the latter being either individual, regional (intermediate) or wide-scope generic. This analysis not only identifies more granularity in the concept of principal, it also quantifies the different kinds of principal and identifies statistical relationships between them, the labels, and the boundaries.
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.
Most of us heard that the world was going to possibly end on December 21st, 2012, and that it was predicted by the traditional Mayan calendar. In this podcast, Rusty Barrett, a linguist and scholar of Mayan culture and history, explains the superstitions and misunderstandings surrounding December 21st, and a little bit about how the Mayan calendar works.
Jennifer Cramer is a sociolinguist specializing in Kentucky dialects. Her current research utilizes students from all around the Commonwealth.
This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman.