We report here trends in the usage of “mood” words, that is, words carrying emotional content, in 20th century English language books, using the data set provided by Google that includes word frequencies in roughly 4% of all books published up to the year 2008. We find evidence for distinct historical periods of positive and negative moods, underlain by a general decrease in the use of emotion-related words through time. Finally, we show that, in books, American English has become decidedly more “emotional” than British English in the last half-century, as a part of a more general increase of the stylistic divergence between the two variants of English language.
Children’s ability to understand speakers with a wide range of dialects and accents is essential for efficient language development and communication in a global society. Here, the impact of regional dialect and foreign-accent variability on children’s speech understanding was evaluated in both quiet and noisy conditions. Five- to seven-year-old children ( n = 90) and adults ( n = 96) repeated sentences produced by three speakers with different accents-American English, British English, and Japanese-accented English-in quiet or noisy conditions. Adults had no difficulty understanding any speaker in quiet conditions. Their performance declined for the nonnative speaker with a moderate amount of noise; their performance only substantially declined for the British English speaker (i.e., below 93% correct) when their understanding of the American English speaker was also impeded. In contrast, although children showed accurate word recognition for the American and British English speakers in quiet conditions, they had difficulty understanding the nonnative speaker even under ideal listening conditions. With a moderate amount of noise, their perception of British English speech declined substantially and their ability to understand the nonnative speaker was particularly poor. These results suggest that although school-aged children can understand unfamiliar native dialects under ideal listening conditions, their ability to recognize words in these dialects may be highly susceptible to the influence of environmental degradation. Fully adult-like word identification for speakers with unfamiliar accents and dialects may exhibit a protracted developmental trajectory.
The studies described in this article outline the design and development of a British English version of the coordinate response measure (CRM) speech-in-noise (SiN) test. Our interest in the CRM is as a SiN test with high face validity for occupational auditory fitness for duty (AFFD) assessment.
Corpus-based word frequencies are one of the most important predictors in language processing tasks. Frequencies based on conversational corpora (such as movie subtitles) are shown to better capture the variance in lexical decision tasks compared to traditional corpora. In this study, we show that frequencies computed from social media are currently the best frequency-based estimators of lexical decision reaction times (up to 3.6% increase in explained variance). The results are robust (observed for Twitter- and Facebook-based frequencies on American English and British English datasets) and are still substantial when we control for corpus size.