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Figures of speech in which a part stands for the whole contribute to making linguistic expression so rich, flexible, complex, and interesting. For human speakers, it's a lifelong learning opportunity and a palette from which to paint word pictures and create new expressions. For computers trying to understand language, it can be an intractable problem.  Continue reading...

The phrase going forward is impossible to avoid: it is beloved by politicians, journalists, and marketers. Going forward does, however, provide an opportunity to look at the many ways that English offers to unite "now" with what may lie ahead, and the ways in which fashions in usage, among other factors, influence how speakers and writers signal their expectations or wishes.  Continue reading...

Few of us get through a week without asking some version of the question, "What's happening?" There's always a lot going on and there are always a lot of people who want to know about it. Authorities want to know about it too, if what's going on threatens the safety or security of a population that is under their protection. A 21st-century way that authorities try to find out what's going on is called event detection.  Continue reading...

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution is now specifically interpreted to mean that individuals have a right to possess a firearm for traditionally legal purposes. The Supreme Court case on which this interpretation of the amendment rests came down to arguments over language and definitions.  Continue reading...

Arm-twisting is a means of inducing cooperation through pressure. Words do it too — in the case of words, it is peer pressure that induces cooperation, and the pressure on a word is to express a meaning that the word's companions make compulsory.  Continue reading...

There's a new game in town. Actually, there are a number of new games, all of them about words. They give you an opportunity to test your language skills and aptitude, as well as to advance the cause of science. The games are GWAPs, that is, games with a purpose, and they help researchers develop valuable training data for getting computers to process language the way humans do, only better and faster.  Continue reading...

Technology today allows us to outsource, perhaps to "upsource," a number of tasks to the cloud — tasks that used to require some degree of focused effort, record-keeping, or mindfulness from us. Anyone who uses a GPS navigational device, whether on a smartphone or in a vehicle, can testify to its revolutionary effect on wayfinding: the means by which we orient ourselves and navigate from place to place.  Continue reading...

1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 117 Articles