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Thread: Graphing the Human Language

  1. #1 Graphing the Human Language 
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    Hey everyone,

    Being interested in behavioural science and culture, I decided to do an experiment.

    I want to see if I can make a graph out of the vague quantizing american words. Using a simple survey, I collect statistical information about word usage. In English, do the words "A Little" and "A Few" mean the same thing? That is what I'm finding out.

    Take the test and view the results right after:

    http://www.veniaminilmer.com/graphingculture/test


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  3. #2  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
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    Awesome! I remember discussing this with a buddy in Chengdu. He was noting how English speakers try to be so precise with their language. I'm still not sure if it was just the problem of Chinese speakers trying to keep the Chinese conversation simpler for the non-native speaker, but it was interesting anyhow. English speakers do like to be very precise with these words.

    I find I'm pretty loose throwing the term "a few" around, even for larger amounts. Probably my tendency to play things down.

    Dobro požalovat'!


    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  4. #3  
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    He was noting how English speakers try to be so precise with their language.
    It's not a preference for precision. The big issue in English is that we simply have more words than other languages. Having more options means we have to make more choices.

    And now I put on my grumpy old lady hat. Seeing as we do have these options, we should make the most of them. I am firmly in the school that says we should maintain the distinction between countables and uncountables. Purdue OWL: How to Use Adjectives and Adverbs
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    And now I put on my grumpy old lady hat.
    You mean you previously had it off?!
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    I am firmly in the school that says we should maintain the distinction between countables and uncountables.
    I agree. I am always put off when a native English speaker uses bad grammar, while I always try not to and the countable/uncountable thing is one of them. I am also put off when people say "couple of", when they don't necessarily mean only two.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LiteHacker View Post
    Hey everyone,

    Being interested in behavioural science and culture, I decided to do an experiment.
    [SIZE=2][FONT=arial]
    [COLOR=#000000]I want to see if I can make a graph out of the vague quantizing american words. Using a simple survey, I collect statistical information about word usage. In English, do the words "A Little" and "A Few" mean the same thing? That is what I'm finding out.
    Interesting. It would be useful to show the number of people who have responded on the results page.

    And, as others have noted PLEASE remove the option of "a little".
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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  8. #7  
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    My particular bug bear is the word "decimate". It does not mean 'destroy the greater part of" or "destroy most of" or " destroy almost all of". This word has a specific, numerical, meaning. It means destroy one tenth part of something. The word derives from the Roman military punishment for a legion that did not preform well in battle. They lined them up at attention and an officer walked down the line killing every tenth man. Brutal but effective motivation.
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  9. #8  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    My particular bug bear is the word "decimate". It does not mean 'destroy the greater part of" or "destroy most of" or " destroy almost all of".
    It does in English. You may be confusing it with a similar Latin word.

    This word has a specific, numerical, meaning.
    Had. In Latin (and, perhaps for some time, in English).

    This is known as the etymological fallacy.

    You can of course use it with that narrow meaning but don't expect all other English speakers to understand you or follow your example.
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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  10. #9  
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    As per request, I have updated the results to show sample size.
    You can view the sample size for any point by placing the mouse on any dot in the line graphs.

    Note that number of circles <=10 have a greater sample size.
    This was done intentionally.
    The randomness was originally adjusted to have smaller number of circles to appear more frequently to get better precision of small amounts.
    Since then, the randomness has been adjusted to be equal for all quantities to encapsulate all remaining results.

    Regards,
    Veniamin


    (Note - my English is not the most incredible. I don't know if the word 'precision' or 'accuracy' is better in the context above.)
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  11. #10  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
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    I actually am quite interested in "poor" grammar. Because most ways of talking are structured in some sensible way. It's cool listening to non-native speakers because the mistakes they make are related to their own language. Chinese speakers mix up he and she. German mixes up if and when (when we crash you want to have a seat belt on). In the case of native speakers, it's like there are tons of mini-dialects that say something of a person's background, and not necessarily their intelligence. I personally love to manipulate language, like using blatant small talk (not replying to things like "What's up," or saying "and a 'how do you do' to you"). In my own dialect of English the word "weird" is highly influenced by a related Chinese word also carrying the meaning of "wonderful." The words discrimination, mindfulness, and compassion, stemming from their usage in Buddhist communities (discrimination does not mean prejudice, compassion is not something one can do, be rather something one can be). The little things. The other day I met someone who refused to use the word impact as a verb, preferring affect.
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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