Word lists, word frequency and contextual diversity

How to build an efficient word list ? What are the limits of word frequency measures ? These issues are relevant to readability.

First, a word about the context : word lists are used to find difficulties and to try to improve the teaching material, whereas word frequency is used in psychological linguistics to measure cognitive processing. Thus, this topic deals with education science, psychological linguistics and corpus linguistics.

Coxhead’s Academic Word List

The academic word list by Averil Coxhead is a good example of this approach. He finds that students are not generally familiar with academic vocabulary, giving following examples : substitute …

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Interview with children’s books author Sabine Ludwig

Last week I had the chance to talk about complexity and readability with an experienced children’s books author, Sabine Ludwig (see also the page on the German Wikipedia). She has published around 30 books so far, as well as a dozen books which were translated from English to German. Some of them were awarded. The most successful one, Die schrecklichsten Mütter der Welt, had sold about 65.000 copies by the end of 2011 (although a few booksellers first thought it was unadapted to children). I was able to record the interview so that I could take extensive notes …

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My contribution to the Anglicism of the Year award

I contributed to the Anglicism of the Year award nominations. It is the second edition, the first was rather confidential but still got mentionned by the English-speaking press (e.g. by The Guardian).

The jury is once again chaired by Anatol Stefanowitsch, a professor in linguistics at Hamburg University. The selection of the final nominees will be relayed by a few German bloggers specialized in linguistics. I made it to the first nominees, but there was no selection so far, this phase goes till January 7th. News can be found on the official blog.

My suggestions are:

  • das Handyticketsystem
  • whistleblowen …
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Tendencies in research on readability

In a recent article about a readability checker prototype for italian, Felice Dell’Orletta, Simonetta Montemagni, and Giulia Venturi provide a good overview of current research on readability. Starting from the end of the article, I must say the bibliography is quite up-to-date and the authors offer an extensive review of criteria used by other researchers.

Tendencies in research

First of all, there is a growing tendency towards statistical language models. In fact, language models are used by Thomas François (2009) for example, who considers they are a more efficient replacement for the vocabulary lists used in readability formulas.

Secondly …

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Bibliography and links updates

As I try to put my notes in order by the end of this year, I changed a series of references, most notably in the bibliography and in the links sections.

Bibliography

I just updated the bibliography, using new categories. I divided the references in two main sections:

Corpus Linguistics, Complexity and Readability Assessment

Background

Links

First of all, I updated the links section …

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A note on Amazon’s text readability stats

Recently, Jean-Philippe Magué advised me of the newly introduced text stats on Amazon. A good summary by Gabe Habash on the news blog of Publishers Weekly describes the perspectives and the potential interest of this new software : Book Lies: Readability is Impossible to Measure. The stats seem to have been available since last summer. I decided to contribute to the discussion on Amazon’s text readability statistics : to what extent are they reliable and useful ?

Discussion

Gabe Habash compares several well-known books and concludes that the sentence length is determining in the readability measures used by Amazon. In fact, the …

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Parallel work with two taggers

I am working on the part-of-speech-tagging of the German political speeches corpus, and I would like to get tags from two different kinds of POS-taggers :

  • on one hand the TreeTagger, a hidden Markov model tagger which uses statistical rules and decision trees,
  • on the other the Stanford POS-Tagger, a bidirectional maximum entropy tagger.

This is easier said than done.

I am using the 2011-05-18 version of the Stanford Tagger with its standard models for German (I don’t know if any of the problems I encountered would be different with a newer or still-to-come version) and the basic …

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Find and delete LaTeX temporary files

This morning I was looking for a way to delete the dispensable aux, bbl, blg, log, out and toc files that a pdflatex compilation generates. I wanted it to go through directories so that it would eventually find old files and delete them too. I also wanted to do it from the command-line interface and to integrate it within a bash script.

As I didn’t find this bash snippet as such, i.e. adapted to the LaTeX-generated files, I post it here:

find . -regex ".*\(aux\|bbl\|blg\|log\|nav\|out\|snm\|toc\)$" -exec rm -i {} \;

This works on Unix …

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Selected recent discoveries

Here are a few links about interesting things that I recently read.

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Display long texts with CSS, tutorial and example

Last week, I improved the CSS file that displays the (mostly long) texts of the German Political Speeches Corpus, which I introduced in my last post (“Introducing the German Political Speeches Corpus and Visualization Tool”). The texts should be easier to read now (though I do not study this kind of readability), you can see an example here (BP text 536).

I looked for ideas to design a clean and simple layout, but I did not find what I needed. So I will outline in this post the main features of my new CSS file:

  • First of all, margins, font-size …

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