The gender of Christ and the subject of PRO

On August 26, 2016, there will be a double Friday seminar with two short presentations related to priming, one in Experimental Aesthetics, the other in Experimental Syntax.
Room: HF: 301. Time: 14:00-16:00.

Presentation 1: Priming the gender of Christ
by Per Folgerø & Christer Johansson (University of Bergen)
We show that briefly presenting a word (male / female) before a letterbox-shaped image of eyes of a portrait affects the recognition of gender of the face. Our participants were reliably able to tell the the gender of the images in less than a second. A congruent word speeded up decisions. Renaissance images of the Holy Face, were also significantly more often recognized as a female image when primed by the word “female”. Implications for Experimental Aesthetics will be discussed.

Presentation 2: The subject of PRO
By Tori Larsen & Christer Johansson (University of Bergen)
An experimental study of big PRO is presented. PRO is a mysterious hypothetical empty category in modern grammatical theory, which has some promise to unify phrase structure such that all clauses, including infinite clauses, have a formal element for the subject.  According to the PRO theorem, PRO must be ungoverned, which contrasts with PRO carrying case in some languages. Our study focus on reactivation at PRO-positions, as measured by reaction time differences. Our observations indicate an effect, in Norwegian, when PRO reactivates the subject of the matrix sentence. The closer object position does not reliably show reactivation at its related PRO-position. Is this specific for Norwegian?

Edits in Russian Wikipedia

Alexandr Kotlyarov (University of Bergen) will present his master’s thesis project:

Task-driven Web Mining for NLP: Constructing a Special-Purpose Corpus of Stylistic Edits in Russian from the Wikipedia Revision History.

Thursday June 23 at 14:15 in HF:435.

Google shares its parser

Google has announced that it is sharing Syntaxnet, a parsing framework, and hopes that it will be useful to developers and researchers. This release also includes Parsey McParseface, its parser for English.

How productive is Machine Translation? (Friday seminar)

carla_sqCarla Parra Escartín (Hermes, Spain): Machine Translation Evaluation and Productivity Thresholds for Machine Translation Post-Editing Tasks

Time and place: April 22, 2016 at 14:15 in HF:435

Abstract: Machine Translation has become a reality in the translation industry. Over the past few years, translators have experienced the introduction of Machine Translation Post-Editing tasks in their workflows, However, the question of whether MT output has a positive impact in productivity is still open. In an experiment, the productivity of ten professional translators was measured when translating from scratch, post-editing Translation Memory fuzzy matches and post-editing Machine Translation output. The results and the productivity thresholds will be discussed.

Short bio: Carla Parra Escartín obtained her PhD in Computational Linguistics at the University of Bergen and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Hermes Traducciones y Servicios Lingüísticos, a Spanish translation company. She works as Experienced Researcher within the EXPERT ITN. To see her work within the EXPERT project, visit:

Linguistic anomaly and regularity

Lecture by Dr. Carl Vogel, Trinity College Dublin

Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 at 13:15, HF:400


Linguistic systems are interesting to study in part because of their regularity: people often find beauty in regularity. However, linguistic anomaly is also worthy of attention. Firstly, as diversions from the norm, anomalies are inherently curiosities. Secondly, some anomalies are adopted as new norms (whether originating as apt novel metaphor, insightful generalization, or some other type of creative formulation — even if not intended as such by the speaker, but recognized as such by others). Thirdly, anomalies that are not taken up by others bring regularities into relief, supporting deeper insight into the regularities.

Focus on distinctive linguistic events has a wide range of applications. For example, sometimes distinctive linguistic events are reports of changes in experience that should be attended to: this is the case when monitoring self-rated health reports of individuals with chronic illness. However, sometimes such distinctive linguistic events are not reports, but symptoms of cognitive decline. This contrast points to a fundamental problem requiring complementary approaches to achieve solution: the discrimination of change in language of an individual (ideolect) from change in language in general (dialect), on one hand, and from change in the underlying described reality, on the other hand. Pursuit of solutions to this problem leads to a range of empirical and analytical explorations: models of language evolution, models of dialogue interaction, narrative analysis informing predictive models of personal health, identification of emergent leaders in social media fora, compuational stylistics applied within the digital humanities, and more.

Progress so far and future directions within this research programme are outlined.

Teenage girls and language change

New research suggests that teenage girls are an influential group that drives language change.  If that is true, sociolinguists may need to pay more attention to language processes in this group.

Is Norwegian weird?

Idibon has an article that attempts to identify linguistic outliers based on their characteristics as documented in the World Atlas of Language Structures. According to this article, Norwegian is not really a middle-of-the-road language.