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Concept: Natural language

167

Phonology and syntax represent two layers of sound combination central to language’s expressive power. Comparative animal studies represent one approach to understand the origins of these combinatorial layers. Traditionally, phonology, where meaningless sounds form words, has been considered a simpler combination than syntax, and thus should be more common in animals. A linguistically informed review of animal call sequences demonstrates that phonology in animal vocal systems is rare, whereas syntax is more widespread. In the light of this and the absence of phonology in some languages, we hypothesize that syntax, present in all languages, evolved before phonology.

Concepts: Bird, Phonology, Linguistics, Language, Semiotics, Natural language, Historical linguistics, August Schleicher

134

The process of documentation in electronic health records (EHRs) is known to be time consuming, inefficient, and cumbersome. The use of dictation coupled with manual transcription has become an increasingly common practice. In recent years, natural language processing (NLP)-enabled data capture has become a viable alternative for data entry. It enables the clinician to maintain control of the process and potentially reduce the documentation burden. The question remains how this NLP-enabled workflow will impact EHR usability and whether it can meet the structured data and other EHR requirements while enhancing the user’s experience.

Concepts: Linguistics, Knowledge, C, Electronic health record, Programming language, Output, Natural language

108

A word like Huh?-used as a repair initiator when, for example, one has not clearly heard what someone just said- is found in roughly the same form and function in spoken languages across the globe. We investigate it in naturally occurring conversations in ten languages and present evidence and arguments for two distinct claims: that Huh? is universal, and that it is a word. In support of the first, we show that the similarities in form and function of this interjection across languages are much greater than expected by chance. In support of the second claim we show that it is a lexical, conventionalised form that has to be learnt, unlike grunts or emotional cries. We discuss possible reasons for the cross-linguistic similarity and propose an account in terms of convergent evolution. Huh? is a universal word not because it is innate but because it is shaped by selective pressures in an interactional environment that all languages share: that of other-initiated repair. Our proposal enhances evolutionary models of language change by suggesting that conversational infrastructure can drive the convergent cultural evolution of linguistic items.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Culture, Linguistics, Language, Semiotics, Natural language, Historical linguistics

77

It is widely assumed that one of the fundamental properties of spoken language is the arbitrary relation between sound and meaning. Some exceptions in the form of nonarbitrary associations have been documented in linguistics, cognitive science, and anthropology, but these studies only involved small subsets of the 6,000+ languages spoken in the world today. By analyzing word lists covering nearly two-thirds of the world’s languages, we demonstrate that a considerable proportion of 100 basic vocabulary items carry strong associations with specific kinds of human speech sounds, occurring persistently across continents and linguistic lineages (linguistic families or isolates). Prominently among these relations, we find property words (“small” and i, “full” and p or b) and body part terms (“tongue” and l, “nose” and n). The areal and historical distribution of these associations suggests that they often emerge independently rather than being inherited or borrowed. Our results therefore have important implications for the language sciences, given that nonarbitrary associations have been proposed to play a critical role in the emergence of cross-modal mappings, the acquisition of language, and the evolution of our species' unique communication system.

Concepts: Psychology, Critical thinking, Linguistics, Language, Anthropology, Semiotics, Speech, Natural language

64

Citations to previous literature are extensively used to measure the quality and diffusion of knowledge. However, we know little about the different ways in which a study can be cited; in particular, are papers cited to point out their merits or their flaws? We elaborated a methodology to characterize “negative” citations using bibliometric data and natural language processing. We found that negative citations concerned higher-quality papers, were focused on a study’s findings rather than theories or methods, and originated from scholars who were closer to the authors of the focal paper in terms of discipline and social distance, but not geographically. Receiving a negative citation was also associated with a slightly faster decline in citations to the paper in the long run.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Linguistics, Real number, Citation, Natural language

59

Language and speech are the primary source of data for psychiatrists to diagnose and treat mental disorders. In psychosis, the very structure of language can be disturbed, including semantic coherence (e.g., derailment and tangentiality) and syntactic complexity (e.g., concreteness). Subtle disturbances in language are evident in schizophrenia even prior to first psychosis onset, during prodromal stages. Using computer-based natural language processing analyses, we previously showed that, among English-speaking clinical (e.g., ultra) high-risk youths, baseline reduction in semantic coherence (the flow of meaning in speech) and in syntactic complexity could predict subsequent psychosis onset with high accuracy. Herein, we aimed to cross-validate these automated linguistic analytic methods in a second larger risk cohort, also English-speaking, and to discriminate speech in psychosis from normal speech. We identified an automated machine-learning speech classifier - comprising decreased semantic coherence, greater variance in that coherence, and reduced usage of possessive pronouns - that had an 83% accuracy in predicting psychosis onset (intra-protocol), a cross-validated accuracy of 79% of psychosis onset prediction in the original risk cohort (cross-protocol), and a 72% accuracy in discriminating the speech of recent-onset psychosis patients from that of healthy individuals. The classifier was highly correlated with previously identified manual linguistic predictors. Our findings support the utility and validity of automated natural language processing methods to characterize disturbances in semantics and syntax across stages of psychotic disorder. The next steps will be to apply these methods in larger risk cohorts to further test reproducibility, also in languages other than English, and identify sources of variability. This technology has the potential to improve prediction of psychosis outcome among at-risk youths and identify linguistic targets for remediation and preventive intervention. More broadly, automated linguistic analysis can be a powerful tool for diagnosis and treatment across neuropsychiatry.

Concepts: Linguistics, Language, Semantics, Schizophrenia, Psychiatry, Semiotics, Syntax, Natural language

32

Research on the mental representation of human language has convincingly shown that sign languages are structured similarly to spoken languages. However, whether the same neurobiology underlies the online construction of complex linguistic structures in sign and speech remains unknown. To investigate this question with maximally controlled stimuli, we studied the production of minimal two-word phrases in sign and speech. Signers and speakers viewed the same pictures during magnetoencephalography recording and named them with semantically identical expressions. For both signers and speakers, phrase building engaged left anterior temporal and ventromedial cortices with similar timing, despite different linguistic articulators. Thus the neurobiological similarity of sign and speech goes beyond gross measures such as lateralization: the same fronto-temporal network achieves the planning of structured linguistic expressions.

Concepts: Neuroscience, Linguistics, Sentence, Language, Grammar, Sign language, Semiotics, Natural language

32

Iconicity, a resemblance between properties of linguistic form (both in spoken and signed languages) and meaning, has traditionally been considered to be a marginal, irrelevant phenomenon for our understanding of language processing, development and evolution. Rather, the arbitrary and symbolic nature of language has long been taken as a design feature of the human linguistic system. In this paper, we propose an alternative framework in which iconicity in face-to-face communication (spoken and signed) is a powerful vehicle for bridging between language and human sensori-motor experience, and, as such, iconicity provides a key to understanding language evolution, development and processing. In language evolution, iconicity might have played a key role in establishing displacement (the ability of language to refer beyond what is immediately present), which is core to what language does; in ontogenesis, iconicity might play a critical role in supporting referentiality (learning to map linguistic labels to objects, events, etc., in the world), which is core to vocabulary development. Finally, in language processing, iconicity could provide a mechanism to account for how language comes to be embodied (grounded in our sensory and motor systems), which is core to meaningful communication.

Concepts: Linguistics, Language, Semantics, Logic, Sign language, Semiotics, Natural language, August Schleicher

28

BACKGROUND: We introduce the linguistic annotation of a corpus of 97 full-text biomedical publications, known as the Colorado Richly Annotated Full Text (CRAFT) corpus. We further assess the performance of existing tools for performing sentence splitting, tokenization, syntactic parsing, and named entity recognition on this corpus. RESULTS: Many biomedical natural language processing systems demonstrated large differences between their previously published results and their performance on the CRAFT corpus when tested with the publicly available models or rule sets. Trainable systems differed widely with respect to their ability to build high-performing models based on this data. CONCLUSIONS: The finding that some systems were able to train high-performing models based on this corpus is additional evidence, beyond high inter-annotator agreement, that the quality of the CRAFT corpus is high. The overall poor performance of various systems indicates that considerable work needs to be done to enable natural language processing systems to work well when the input is full-text journal articles. The CRAFT corpus provides avaluable resource to the biomedical natural language processing community for evaluation and training of new models for biomedical full text publications.

Concepts: Linguistics, Semantics, Natural language processing, Natural language, Named entity recognition, Computational linguistics, Lexical analysis

23

Existing general clinical natural language processing (NLP) systems such as MetaMap and Clinical Text Analysis and Knowledge Extraction System have been successfully applied to information extraction from clinical text. However, end users often have to customize existing systems for their individual tasks, which can require substantial NLP skills. Here we present CLAMP (Clinical Language Annotation, Modeling, and Processing), a newly developed clinical NLP toolkit that provides not only state-of-the-art NLP components, but also a user-friendly graphic user interface that can help users quickly build customized NLP pipelines for their individual applications. Our evaluation shows that the CLAMP default pipeline achieved good performance on named entity recognition and concept encoding. We also demonstrate the efficiency of the CLAMP graphic user interface in building customized, high-performance NLP pipelines with 2 use cases, extracting smoking status and lab test values. CLAMP is publicly available for research use, and we believe it is a unique asset for the clinical NLP community.

Concepts: Linguistics, Logic, User interface, Natural language processing, Natural language, Named entity recognition, Computational linguistics, Message Understanding Conference