Arquivo da tag: Semântica

Study suggests different written languages are equally efficient at conveying meaning (Eureka/University of Southampton)

PUBLIC RELEASE: 1-FEB-2016

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

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IMAGE: A STUDY LED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON HAS FOUND THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN THE TIME IT TAKES PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES TO READ AND PROCESS DIFFERENT LANGUAGES. view more  CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

A study led by the University of Southampton has found there is no difference in the time it takes people from different countries to read and process different languages.

The research, published in the journal Cognition, finds the same amount of time is needed for a person, from for example China, to read and understand a text in Mandarin, as it takes a person from Britain to read and understand a text in English – assuming both are reading their native language.

Professor of Experimental Psychology at Southampton, Simon Liversedge, says: “It has long been argued by some linguists that all languages have common or universal underlying principles, but it has been hard to find robust experimental evidence to support this claim. Our study goes at least part way to addressing this – by showing there is universality in the way we process language during the act of reading. It suggests no one form of written language is more efficient in conveying meaning than another.”

The study, carried out by the University of Southampton (UK), Tianjin Normal University (China) and the University of Turku (Finland), compared the way three groups of people in the UK, China and Finland read their own languages.

The 25 participants in each group – one group for each country – were given eight short texts to read which had been carefully translated into the three different languages. A rigorous translation process was used to make the texts as closely comparable across languages as possible. English, Finnish and Mandarin were chosen because of the stark differences they display in their written form – with great variation in visual presentation of words, for example alphabetic vs. logographic(1), spaced vs. unspaced, agglutinative(2) vs. non-agglutinative.

The researchers used sophisticated eye-tracking equipment to assess the cognitive processes of the participants in each group as they read. The equipment was set up identically in each country to measure eye movement patterns of the individual readers – recording how long they spent looking at each word, sentence or paragraph.

The results of the study showed significant and substantial differences between the three language groups in relation to the nature of eye movements of the readers and how long participants spent reading each individual word or phrase. For example, the Finnish participants spent longer concentrating on some words compared to the English readers. However, most importantly and despite these differences, the time it took for the readers of each language to read each complete sentence or paragraph was the same.

Professor Liversedge says: “This finding suggests that despite very substantial differences in the written form of different languages, at a basic propositional level, it takes humans the same amount of time to process the same information regardless of the language it is written in.

“We have shown it doesn’t matter whether a native Chinese reader is processing Chinese, or a Finnish native reader is reading Finnish, or an English native reader is processing English, in terms of comprehending the basic propositional content of the language, one language is as good as another.”

The study authors believe more research would be needed to fully understand if true universality of language exists, but that their study represents a good first step towards demonstrating that there is universality in the process of reading.

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Notes for editors:

1) Logographic language systems use signs or characters to represent words or phrases.

2) Agglutinative language tends to express concepts in complex words consisting of many sub-units that are strung together.

3) The paper Universality in eye movements and reading: A trilingual investigation, (Simon P. Liversedge, Denis Drieghe, Xin Li, Guoli Yan, Xuejun Bai, Jukka Hyönä) is published in the journal Cognition and can also be found at: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/382899/1/Liversedge,%20Drieghe,%20Li,%20Yan,%20Bai,%20%26%20Hyona%20(in%20press)%20copy.pdf

 

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Semantically speaking: Does meaning structure unite languages? (Eureka/Santa Fe Institute)

1-FEB-2016

Humans’ common cognitive abilities and language dependance may provide an underlying semantic order to the world’s languages

SANTA FE INSTITUTE

We create words to label people, places, actions, thoughts, and more so we can express ourselves meaningfully to others. Do humans’ shared cognitive abilities and dependence on languages naturally provide a universal means of organizing certain concepts? Or do environment and culture influence each language uniquely?

Using a new methodology that measures how closely words’ meanings are related within and between languages, an international team of researchers has revealed that for many universal concepts, the world’s languages feature a common structure of semantic relatedness.

“Before this work, little was known about how to measure [a culture’s sense of] the semantic nearness between concepts,” says co-author and Santa Fe Institute Professor Tanmoy Bhattacharya. “For example, are the concepts of sun and moon close to each other, as they are both bright blobs in the sky? How about sand and sea, as they occur close by? Which of these pairs is the closer? How do we know?”

Translation, the mapping of relative word meanings across languages, would provide clues. But examining the problem with scientific rigor called for an empirical means to denote the degree of semantic relatedness between concepts.

To get reliable answers, Bhattacharya needed to fully quantify a comparative method that is commonly used to infer linguistic history qualitatively. (He and collaborators had previously developed this quantitative method to study changes in sounds of words as languages evolve.)

“Translation uncovers a disagreement between two languages on how concepts are grouped under a single word,” says co-author and Santa Fe Institute and Oxford researcher Hyejin Youn. “Spanish, for example, groups ‘fire’ and ‘passion’ under ‘incendio,’ whereas Swahili groups ‘fire’ with ‘anger’ (but not ‘passion’).”

To quantify the problem, the researchers chose a few basic concepts that we see in nature (sun, moon, mountain, fire, and so on). Each concept was translated from English into 81 diverse languages, then back into English. Based on these translations, a weighted network was created. The structure of the network was used to compare languages’ ways of partitioning concepts.

The team found that the translated concepts consistently formed three theme clusters in a network, densely connected within themselves and weakly to one another: water, solid natural materials, and earth and sky.

“For the first time, we now have a method to quantify how universal these relations are,” says Bhattacharya. “What is universal – and what is not – about how we group clusters of meanings teaches us a lot about psycholinguistics, the conceptual structures that underlie language use.”

The researchers hope to expand this study’s domain, adding more concepts, then investigating how the universal structure they reveal underlies meaning shift.

Their research was published today in PNAS.

Noemi Jaffe: A semântica da seca (Folha de S.Paulo)

26/02/2015  02h00

Emmanuel Levinas disse que a “consciência é a urgência de uma destinação dirigida a outro, e não um eterno retorno sobre si mesmo”. Penso que, embora não pareça, a frase se relaciona intimamente à “crise hídrica” em São Paulo.

Temos sido obrigados a ouvir e a falar em “crise hídrica”, na “maior seca em 84 anos” e expressões afins, que culpam a natureza, e não em catástrofe, colapso, responsabilidade ou palavras de igual gravidade.

O cidadão comum vive, na gestão do governo paulista, sob um regime eufemístico de linguagem, em aparência elegante, mas, na verdade, retoricamente totalitário, com o qual somos obrigados a conviver e, ainda, forçados a mimetizar.

“Crise hídrica”, “plano de contingência”, “obras emergenciais”, “volume morto”, “reservatórios”, tal como vêm sendo usados, não são mais que desvios covardes da linguagem e da política para ocultar o enfrentamento do real.

Não há água, houve grande incompetência, haverá grandes dificuldades, é necessário um plano emergencial de orientação e a criação de redes de contenção e de solidariedade. É preciso construir e distribuir cisternas, caixas d’água para a população carente, ensinar medidas de economia, mobilizar as subprefeituras para ações localizadas e, sobretudo, expor pública e claramente medidas restritivas à grande indústria e à agricultura, que podem ser bem mais perdulárias do que o cidadão.

Mas nada disso se diz ou faz. E por quê? A impressão que tenho é a de que a maioria dos políticos não trabalha sob o regime da responsabilidade –a condição de “destinação ao outro”–, mas sim na forma do “eterno retorno sobre si mesmo”.

Vive-se, em São Paulo, uma situação de absurdo, em que, além das enormes dificuldades cotidianas –deslocamento, saúde, segurança, educação, enchentes, e agora, a de ter água–, ainda é preciso ouvir o presidente da Sabesp dizer que São Pedro “tem errado a pontaria”.

Meu impulso é o de partir para o vocativo: “Ei, presidenta Dilma, deputados federais, governador Alckmin, prefeito Haddad, vereadores! Ouçam! Nós os elegemos para que vocês batalhem por nós, e não por seus mandatos! Nós é que somos aquele, o outro, a quem vocês devem responsabilidade!”.

Ou não tem relação com a “crise hídrica” um deputado federal receber cerca de R$100.000,00 por mês em “verbas de gabinete”? Por que deputados têm direito a um benefício que, entre outros, lhes garante seguro de saúde e carro, se quem ganha muitíssimo menos não tem?

Desafio os deputados, um a um, a abrirem mão publicamente de seus seguros de saúde e a usarem o transporte público para irem ao trabalho –a entrarem no real.

Até quando a população, sobretudo a mais carente, que tem poucos instrumentos para amenizar o que já sofre, vai ser tutelada e oprimida sob o manto eufemístico da “maior seca em 84 anos”?

Queremos o real, a linguagem responsável, que explicita o olhar para o outro e dá sustentação e liberdade para que se possam superar as dificuldades com autonomia.

O eufemismo livra os políticos e aliena a população da chapa maciça do real. Ele representa um estado semelhante à burocracia ineficaz. Como ser responsável se, para cada ação, há infinitas mediações?

O resultado é que as mediações acabam por alimentar muito mais a si mesmas do que ao objetivo final e inicial de governar: ser para o outro –no caso, nós, impotentes diante do que nos obrigam e do que, há meses, nos forçam a presenciar.

NOEMI JAFFE, 52, é doutora em literatura brasileira pela USP e autora de “O que os Cegos Estão Sonhando?” (editora 34)