LINGUIST List 8.1752

Fri Dec 5 1997

Qs: Dialect/Language, Swatow Dialect, Conversation

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  1. gmodica, Dialect or Language?
  2. YEUNG YAT FAN, Swatow Dialect
  3. Jonathan Klein, Conversational Style

Message 1: Dialect or Language?

Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 13:15:35 +0900
From: gmodica <>
Subject: Dialect or Language?

In doing a comparative study of Afrikaans and Dutch one of my students
has come to need a good set of tests for "languagehood". Wasn't it
Weinrich who gave us the famous statement of the political test: "a
dialect with an army and a navy"? I did a quick check and discovered
definitions of dialect/language based on political, geographical,
social (e.g. class, ethnic) measures, but nothing of a linguistic
nature. One linguistic atlas even claimed that there are no linguistic
measures of languagehood. The oftnoted measure of "mutual
intelligibility," which should be stated [-mutual intell.] =>
[+language], doesn't travel too far as a linguistic variable.

So I put it to the community, are there any linguistic yardsticks by
which we measure (i.e. define) the demarkation of "dialect" and
"language", or do these two terms lack technical sense? (That would be
sad news to dialectologists!) Thank you in advance.

Guy Modica
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Message 2: Swatow Dialect

Date: Fri, 05 Dec 1997 20:00:17 +0800
Subject: Swatow Dialect

I am doing an acoustic project on the vowels, diphthongs, triphthongs
and tones of Swatow dialect (a Chinese dialect and Swatow is a place
in Guangdong). It seems that there are not so much studies on Swatow
dialect. It will be thankful if anyone can give me some suggestions or
send me some relevant studies on Swatow dialect. My email is: Thank you very much. Yeung Yat Fan
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Message 3: Conversational Style

Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 09:22:14 -0500 (EST)
From: Jonathan Klein <>
Subject: Conversational Style

Do people want to talk to people who talk like them? 

I'm a human-computer interaction designer doing research on
conversational style (a la Tannen), and I'm trying to find out if
anyone knows of relevant work in the area. Specifically, I'm trying
to see if the manipulation of _pacing aspects_ of conversational style
(such as speech rate and inter-turn pauses/overlaps), by themselves
constitutes real and meaningful differences to participants in dyadic
conversation. If pacing parameters alone can be manipulated by one
conversational partner A (say, a computer), might the other partner B
have preferences for A's pacing? If B tends to speak in a
"high-involvement" style, might B clearly prefer that A use
"high-involvement" pacing parameters over those of a "high-politeness"
style? Even if no other aspects of conversational style are

I'm thinking of doing an experiment in which I test to see if this is
true, having human subjects interact with a computer capable of
synthesized-speech, in a "Wizard of Oz" experimental design. I'm
wondering if anyone's already done a study like this, or done similar
or related work, or knows of any. I've done library searches aplenty,
with few meaningful leads.

In a more technical vein: I'm also looking to see if the nature of the
human-computer conversation is comparable to that of human-human
conversation: Is conversational human-computer interaction inherently
like a service relationship, or are people willing to accept the
computer as a partner in a social way?

Any pointers you can give me would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks so much,


- -------- ------------------------------------------
Jonathan Klein Grad Student Research Assistant Affective Computing Group MIT Media Laboratory
E15-394, 20 Ames St. Cambridge 02139 (617) 253-0384
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