Christopher Ahern
Data scientist at Oncora Medical

Check dis out

Source code for a draft of a new paper with Meredith Tamminga and Aaron Ecay is available on github. We use generalized additive models to simultaneously estimate the effect of priming and style-shifting on the use of DH-stopping variants: Check this out! vs. Check dis out!

Here’s the abstract:

Intraspeaker variation is typically characterized by repetitiveness in variant choice, but there are multiple possible sources of such repetitiveness. We distinguish two types of clustering: sequential dependence, which we associate with priming, and baseline deflection, which we associate with style-shifting. We argue that because both priming and style-shifting are likely to be at play in producing observed quantitative patterns, it is desirable to adopt quantitative models that can simultaneously estimate sequential dependence and baseline deflection as distinct sources of temporal clustering. We propose the use of Generalized Additive Models (GAMs) for this purpose. We test the use of GAMs on a case study of DH-stopping in Philadelphia English sociolinguistic interviews and find that the resulting parameter estimates are reasonable given basic expectations about how style and priming should be distributed across individuals. We advocate for the adoption of this and similar new tools to advance the integration of psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, and corpus linguistic insights in the study of intraspeaker variation.

New paper avilable

I’ve posted the draft of a new paper with Robin Clark online, entitled Conflict, cheap talk, and Jespersen’s cycle. The source code can be found in this repository. Here’s the abstract:

Game-theory has found broad application in modeling pragmatic reasoning in both the classical Gricean case of common interests between interlocutors and, more recently, in cases of conflicting interests. This work brings these considerations of common and conflicting interests to diachronic patterns of language use. We use tools from evolutionary game theory to characterize the effect of conflicting interests on how meaning is signaled with costless signals in a population over time. We show that the dynamics of a particular class of inflationary processes in language, including Jespersen’s cycle, can be modeled as a consequence of signaling under conflicting interests and fit the resulting model to historical corpus data.

Upcoming presentation at FWAV

I’m excited to say Akiva Bacovcin and I will be presenting our paper The logistic language learning curve? at FWAV. We’ll be presenting on the second day (Thursday, May 19th). Looking forward to it!

The logistic function, which has long served as the basic model of discrete language change (cf. Altmann et al. 1983; Kroch 1989), has both deep connections to change in biological populations as well as a practical implementation in terms of logistic regression. However, no particular cognitive mechanism has been proposed to underlie the logistic (Kroch 1989, 4). Yang’s (2002) variational learning model offers a cognitive basis for change insofar as its mean dynamics yield S-shaped curves. Indeed, using simulations, we show that given sufficiently large datasets, it is possible to gain insight into whether the learning or logistic model generated an empirical S-shaped curve.