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Archive for the ‘language and languages’ Category

Circumlocution in Diagnostic Medical Queries

July 9, 2014 Comments off

Circumlocution in Diagnostic Medical Queries
Source: Microsoft Research

Circumlocution is when many words are used to describe what could be said with fewer, e.g., “a machine that takes moisture out of the air” instead of “dehumidifier”. Web search is a perfect backdrop for circumlocution where people struggle to name what they seek. In some domains, not knowing the correct term can have a significant impact on the search results that are retrieved. We study the medical domain, where professional medical terms are not commonly known and where the consequence of not knowing the correct term can impact the accuracy of surfaced information, as well as escalation of anxiety, and ultimately the medical care sought. Given a free-form colloquial health search query, our objective is to find the underlying professional medical term. The problem is complicated by the fact that people issue quite varied queries to describe what they have. Machine-learning algorithms can be brought to bear on the problem, but there are two key complexities: creating high-quality training data and identifying predictive features. To our knowledge, no prior work has been able to crack this important problem due to the lack of training data. We give novel solutions and demonstrate their efficacy via extensive experiments, greatly improving over the prior art.

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CIA — Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications (8th Ed; 2011)

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications (PDF)
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (via National Security Counselors)

Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The information CIA gathers and the analysis it produces mean little if we cannot convey them effectively. The Directorate of Intelligence and the Agency as a whole have always understood that. Both have been home, from their earliest days, to people who enjoy writing and excel at it.

The Style Manual and Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications is an essential reference for the officers of our Directorate. Now in its eight edition, it reflected an enduring commitment to the highest standards of care and precision.

This guide is designed to be helpful and convenient, sensible in organization, and logical in content. It contains, among other changes, a revised list of accepted acronyms and new tips on word usage. The world is not static. Nor is the language we employ to assess it.

Your Morals Depend on Language

June 25, 2014 Comments off

Your Morals Depend on Language
Source: PLoS ONE

Should you sacrifice one man to save five? Whatever your answer, it should not depend on whether you were asked the question in your native language or a foreign tongue so long as you understood the problem. And yet here we report evidence that people using a foreign language make substantially more utilitarian decisions when faced with such moral dilemmas. We argue that this stems from the reduced emotional response elicited by the foreign language, consequently reducing the impact of intuitive emotional concerns. In general, we suggest that the increased psychological distance of using a foreign language induces utilitarianism. This shows that moral judgments can be heavily affected by an orthogonal property to moral principles, and importantly, one that is relevant to hundreds of millions of individuals on a daily basis.

Close to Half of New Immigrants Report High English-Language Speaking Ability, Census Bureau Reports

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Close to Half of New Immigrants Report High English-Language Speaking Ability, Census Bureau Reports
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

In 2012, 44 percent of the foreign-born population age 5 and older who arrived in the United States in 2000 or later reported high English-language speaking ability, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today. This means they either reported speaking only English at home or reported speaking it “very well” whether or not they did so at home.

About 13 percent did not speak English at all. By comparison, 63 percent of immigrants who arrived prior to 1980 had high English-speaking ability in 2012, while only 6 percent did not speak English at all.

A new report, English-Speaking Ability of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2012, uses statistics from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to focus on the relationships between English-speaking ability and place of birth, level of education and years spent living in the United States.

See also: Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 2012

Immigrant Parents and Early Childhood Programs: Addressing Barriers of Literacy, Culture, and Systems Knowledge

June 3, 2014 Comments off

Immigrant Parents and Early Childhood Programs: Addressing Barriers of Literacy, Culture, and Systems Knowledge
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Immigrant parents face significant barriers as they try to engage with their children’s early educational experiences, including greatly restricted access for many due to limited English proficiency and functional literacy. Parental engagement is critical for young children’s early cognitive and socioemotional development, and for their participation in programs that are designed to support early learning. Reducing the barriers to parent engagement in early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs would encourage school success, and help many young children of immigrants close the gaps in kindergarten readiness with their native peers.

Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the size and share of the U.S. young-child population with at least one immigrant parent, posing challenges to policymakers and front-line programs in the early childhood arena. These demographic changes are converging with efforts in many states to expand early childhood services and improve their quality. With one in four young children in the United States living in an immigrant family, efforts to build trust and establish meaningful two-way communication with these families is an urgent priority if system expansion efforts are to realize their purpose.

Many programs face difficulties engaging with immigrant and refugee parents who often require support building U.S. cultural and systems knowledge and in overcoming English language and literacy barriers. These difficulties have been exacerbated in recent years as adult basic education and English instruction programs, which early childhood programs such as Head Start had previously relied on to support parents in need of these skills, have been significantly reduced.

Against this backdrop, this report identifies the unique needs of newcomer parents across the range of expectations for parent skill, engagement, and leadership sought by ECEC programs, and strategies undertaken to address these needs. The study is based on field research in six states, expert interviews, a literature review, and a sociodemographic analysis.

Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market

May 30, 2014 Comments off

Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market
Source: PLoS ONE

Vocal fry is speech that is low pitched and creaky sounding, and is increasingly common among young American females. Some argue that vocal fry enhances speaker labor market perceptions while others argue that vocal fry is perceived negatively and can damage job prospects. In a large national sample of American adults we find that vocal fry is interpreted negatively. Relative to a normal speaking voice, young adult female voices exhibiting vocal fry are perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive, and less hirable. The negative perceptions of vocal fry are stronger for female voices relative to male voices. These results suggest that young American females should avoid using vocal fry speech in order to maximize labor market opportunities.

Automatic Characterization of Speaking Styles in Educational Videos

May 21, 2014 Comments off

Automatic Characterization of Speaking Styles in Educational Videos
Source: Microsoft Research

Recent studies have shown the importance of using online videos along with textual material in educational instruction, especially for better content retention and improved concept understanding. A key question is how to select videos to maximize student engagement, particularly when there are multiple possible videos on the same topic. While there are many aspects that drive student engagement, in this paper we focus on presenter speaking styles in the video. We use crowd-sourcing to explore speaking style dimensions in online educational videos, and identify six broad dimensions: liveliness, speaking rate, pleasantness, clarity, formality and confidence. We then propose techniques based solely on acoustic features for automatically identifying a subset of the dimensions. Finally, we perform video re-ranking experiments to learn how users apply their speaking style preferences to augment textbook material. Our findings also indicate how certain dimensions are correlated with perceptions of general pleasantness of the voice.

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