[Lingtyp] spectrograms in linguistic description and for language comparison

Adam James Ross Tallman ajrtallman at utexas.edu
Sat Dec 3 07:22:17 UTC 2022

Hello everyone,

Thanks for the replies and thanks for the papers Christian!

To a certain extent I agree with you, Juergen, but I wonder if there are
standards in some areas of morphosyntax even if they are not made explicit
and even if they  are vague and rough around the edges because of the
difficulty of defining what a speech community is. It's just that they are
so trivial we don't think about them.

Standard 1: Do not make claims about the ordering of morphemes / groupings
of morphemes  that are refuted by data in your corpus that you claim to
represent language of the same speech community.

I suspect variation comes in when we consider what to do with elicitation
data that cannot be corroborated or lined up with data in the corpus...

Standard 2: Tell the reader whether data come from natural speech and what
data were elicited (even better say how they were elicited)

And then in cases where there are strong statistical tendencies, there is
another vaguer and perhaps more problematic norm about saying that certain
patterns are more or less frequent in descriptive grammars, sometimes with
specific reports of frequency.

For the phonetic realization of phonological categories, at least in terms
of suprasegmentals, it's less clear to me whether there are any standards
that relate to spectrograms or pitch displays. You can easily claim that H
is realized with a higher or rising pitch or longer duration on the vowel
or syllable that hosts in relation to L, even if that is not obvious from
every example in your corpus. For apparent counterexamples, you just have
to claim that there is fast speech phenomena or that the rise is undershot,
realized with some other phonetic correlate (after all there could be
changes in progress) etc. So I think there's a sense in which examples
purporting to illustrate something about morphosyntax can be data while the
analogy doesn't easily extend to pitch tracks / spectrograms. I was more
thinking about whether there could be a way of choosing which examples are
illustrative based on finding those that are closest to some central
tendency in the data.



On Fri, Dec 2, 2022 at 5:32 PM Eitan Grossman <
eitan.grossman at mail.huji.ac.il> wrote:

> Thanks Adam for raising this issue and thanks especially to Christian for
> for pointing us to his article.
> Just as an anecdote about examples and what they illustrate - I am going
> through spontaneous conversational Hebrew corpora right now, and am having
> a very hard time locating examples that one could use to illustrate basic
> grammatical relations in the language, i.e., clauses that are the
> equivalent of the standard ones that we can all produce in our languages
> and which populate linguistic discussions of GRs. So even if one does
> occasionally find something like "I used avocado cream mask" or "She fell
> asleep," one would hardly find them representative of hours of language as
> actually used.
> Back to spectrograms and pitch tracks etc., I wonder what your impression
> is of the very qualitative type of work done in interactional linguistics,
> where typically not much is claimed in terms of generalizations but each
> utterance is analyzed pretty exhaustively in terms of, inter alia, prosody.
> My own impression of this kind of work is that it does not make fancy
> claims with respect to science, but the reader does get a good idea of what
> the range of variation is and how the prosody of each utterance relates to
> this.
> Eitan
> On Fri, Dec 2, 2022 at 5:16 PM Christian Lehmann <
> christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de> wrote:
>> Dear Jürgen,
>> to mitigate a bit your pessimist opinion of the methodological situation
>> of our discipline, let me mention, as a contribution to the discussion you
>> are requiring, my web page
>> https://www.christianlehmann.eu/ling/ling_meth/ling_description/representations/?open=example.inc
>> which advocates a distinction between
>>    1. a probatory example (which is data used as scientific evidence)
>>    2. and an illustrative example (or pedagogical example, which is only
>>    meant to render a descriptive statement more concrete and, thus, to help
>>    understanding).
>> Methodological standards for these two kinds of examples are completely
>> different. On #1, I may recommend:
>> Lehmann, Christian 2004, “Data in linguistics.” *The Linguistic Review*
>> 21(3/4):275-310.
>> <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249931781_Data_in_linguistics>
>> Best,
>> Christian
>> --
>> Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
>> Rudolfstr. 4
>> 99092 Erfurt
>> Deutschland
>> Tel.: +49/361/2113417
>> E-Post: christianw_lehmann at arcor.de
>> Web: https://www.christianlehmann.eu
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Adam J.R. Tallman
Post-doctoral Researcher
Friedrich Schiller Universität
Department of English Studies
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