Professor Pierrehumbert part of Symposium on Statistics, Language Change and Variation

Professor Pierrehumbert part of Symposium on Statistics, Language Change and Variation

The Centre's Professor of Language Modelling Janet Pierrehumbert spoke on modelling the spread of arbitrary innovations in language at the Symposium on Statistics, Language Change and Variation at Oxford University's Taylor Institution on Thursday 17 November.

She discussed how novel forms, which are rare at their inception, can become widely adopted, and how cognitive and social factors interact to determine the spread of linguistic innovations.

Professor Pierrehumbert's research interests are in language dynamics, word formation, computational linguistics, phonology, phonetics, and sociophonetics.

The Symposium brought together a local network of researchers and visitors working in various disciplines, with a common interest in quantitative modelling of language evolution, variation and change, and their causes and impediments to change.

It is part of the research project 'Mixing acoustic phonetics, statistics and comparative philology to bring speech back from the past', which investigates what words sounded like in the past in a revolutionary new way. Rather than reconstructing written forms of ancient words, the project aims to develop methods to triangulate backwards from contemporary audio recordings of simple words in modern Indo-European languages to regenerate audible spoken forms from earlier points in the evolutionary tree.