The last Monday in April marks the final 2011/2012 meeting of the Anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences at the Wenner-Gren Foundation. We’ve had a great range of presenters this season, and for this last session we welcome the first presentation dealing explicitly with linguistic anthropology. Ben Zimmer of ThinkMap, Inc. and the Boston Globe, best known for previously penning the column “On Language” in the New York Times, will discuss the emergent linguistics of digital communication – and the new tools used to study it – with discussants Melissa Checker of Queens College and Rudolf Gaudio of SUNY Purchase.
The New Language Detectives:
Investigating Linguistic Phenomena in a Data-Driven Age
New data-driven techniques of analyzing language have emerged in recent years, opening up lines of inquiry that were previously seen as unapproachable. What linguistic “signatures” do we leave when we open our mouths or type on the keyboard? What subtle cues do we give each other when we change from one style of speaking or writing to another? And how can we plot the large- and small-scale changes in language usage to reveal fresh insights, applicable to fields as diverse as legal investigation, literary analysis, and political marketing? I will tour some of the avenues that researchers are exploring, with powerful new tools at their disposal: both the “microscopes” that can track the smallest shifts in variations in our language and the “telescopes” that can expose the evolution of talk and text over the historical long haul. In their own ways, the “micro” and the “macro” analyses promise to illuminate how we express ourselves and how people come together to build language through social interaction.
As always, the talk will be preceded by a reception and refreshments one hour prior to its commencement at 7:00 PM. Attendance is free, but please contact the New York Academy of Sciences (212-298-8600) in order to register prior to the event.
We will post an audio recording of Mr. Zimmer’s talk in the days after the event. Check out audio from previous NYAS meetings at Wenner-Gren.