How frequent are interjections?

The occurrence of interjections in 10-min excerpts of informal dyadic conversations in six spoken languages. Every panel shows the turns of a dyadic exchange; colored dots indicate turns that belong to the top 10 most common one-word standalone turn formats in the language. These excerpts cannot support strong comparative or typological inferences; they are only meant to give an impression of the prevalence of interjections across unrelated languages.

Dingemanse, M. (2024). Interjections at the heart of language. Annual Review of Linguistics. doi: 10.1146/annurev-linguistics-031422-124743 PDF

How conversational data challenges speech recognition (ASR)

A Word error rates (WER) for five speech-to-text systems in six languages. B One minute of English conversation as annotated by human transcribers (top) and by five speech-to-text systems, showing that while most do some diarization, all underestimate the number of transitions and none represent overlapping turns (Whisper offers no diarization). C Speaker transitions and distribution of floor transfer offset times (all languages), showing that even ASR systems that support diarization do not represent overlapping annotations in their output.

Liesenfeld, A., Lopez, A., & Dingemanse, M. (2023). The timing bottleneck: Why timing and overlap are mission-critical for conversational user interfaces, speech recognition and dialogue systems. Proceedings of the 24th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue. doi: 10.1145/3571884.3604316 PDF

Sequential context of continuers

A Candidate continuer forms in 10 unrelated languages, B shown in their natural sequential ecology (annotations as in the original data), C with spectrograms and pitch traces of representative tokens made using the Parselmouth interface to Praat (Jadoul et al., 2018; Boersma & Weenink, 2013).

Dingemanse, M., Liesenfeld, A., & Woensdregt, M. (2022). Convergent cultural evolution of continuers (mmhm). The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the Joint Conference on Language Evolution (JCoLE), 61–67. PDF

Mhmm over time

Even apparently universal patterns (like the use of ‘mhm’ during tellings) can show important cross-cultural differences. A. Continuers (marked ○) are among the most frequent recipient behaviours in both English and Korean, shown here in four 80 second stretches of tellings. B. However, the relative frequency of continuers is about twice as high in Korean based on 100 random samples of 80 second segments in both languages: on average, 21% of turns are continuers in Korean, against 9% of turns in English (measures expressed this way to control for speech rate differences).

Dingemanse, M., & Liesenfeld, A. (2022). From text to talk: Harnessing conversational corpora for humane and diversity-aware language technology. Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers), 5614–5633. doi: 10.18653/v1/2022.acl-long.385 PDF

The iconicity boom

Proportional number of publications cataloged in Web of Science (1900–2017), showing concurrent upsurges in six topics related to iconicity (corrected for overall publication volume).

Nielsen, A. K. S., & Dingemanse, M. (2021). Iconicity in Word Learning and Beyond: A Critical Review. Language and Speech, 64(1), 52–72. doi: 10.1177/0023830920914339 PDF

Evolving language

Visual by Sean Roberts, Shawn Tice, and Marisa Casillas

This was one of the most fun science communication events we did, part of a series over the course of 2012-2014. Participants did a communication game where they could only signal using slide whistles. After completing a round, a new pair could start by learning the signals invented in the prior round (an iterated communication game). While people played, onlookers could get an abstract view into the evolving system.

Dingemanse, M., Verhoef, T., & Roberts, S. G. (2014). The role of iconicity in the cultural evolution of communicative signals. In B. de Boer & T. Verhoef (Eds.), Proceedings of Evolang X Workshop on Signals, Speech and Signs (pp. 11–15). PDF
Verhoef, T., Roberts, S. G., & Dingemanse, M. (2015). Emergence of systematic iconicity: transmission, interaction and analogy. In D. Noelle, R. Dale, A. S. Warlaumont, J. Yoshimi, T. Matlock, C. D. Jennings, & P. P. Maglio (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2481–2486). Cognitive Science Society. PDF

Science communication expert Dr. Hannah Little singled out this event as an example of effective science communication.

Little 2023:25 ‘Principles of good research communication’