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Linguistics

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New York Times

Writing for The New York Times, Prof. Michel DeGraff details how the education system in Haiti discriminates against Kreyòl, forcing children to speak and learn in French, “a legacy of the French colonial design for Haiti’s impoverishment, which continues, centuries later, to drain us as a nation.” DeGraff adds: “Unshackling Haitian minds and society from centuries of linguistic discrimination is the first step to help Haiti overcome the disastrous consequences of its colonial and neocolonial history.”

The Boston Globe

Boston Globe correspondent Rose Pecci spotlights Joseph Applegate, a linguist who was the first appointed Black faculty member at MIT. Applegate “had a 60-year career in languages. By the end of his career, he knew 13 of them and was considered an expert on the Berber tongues of North Africa.”

TopUniversities.com

Provost Marty Schmidt speaks with TopUniversities.com reporter Chloe Lane about how MIT has maintained its position as the top university in the world on the QS World University Rankings for 10 consecutive years. “I am honored to have been a part of the MIT community for almost 40 years,” says Schmidt. “It’s a truly interdisciplinary, collaborative, thought-provoking place that encourages experimentation and pushes you to expand your mind. I think it’s a wonderful place to call home.”

VentureBeat

Researchers from MIT and a number of other institutions have found that grammar-enriched deep learning models had a better understanding of key linguistic rules, reports Kyle Wiggers for VentureBeat. The researchers found that an AI system provided with knowledge of basic grammar, “consistently performed better than systems trained on little-to-no grammar using a fraction of the data, and that it could comprehend ‘fairly sophisticated’ rules.”

BBC News

BBC News reporter David Robson writes that MIT researchers have devised a simple test to help determine whether you are communicating with a chatbot or a human. Robson writes that the findings suggest “knowingly flouting a taboo and provoking, rather than simply describing, an emotion might be the most straightforward way of conveying your shared humanity.”

New Scientist

Research led by postdoc Yevgeni Berzak examined the correlation between eye movement and language proficiency. Sandrine Ceurstemont of New Scientist notes that the team thinks results of the study could be used to “modify” text to a reader’s ability level, “catering to both second language and native speakers.”

The Boston Globe

Brian Marquard of The Boston Globe writes about the life of Prof. Morris Halle, who passed away on April 2. Prof. Halle, who helped found MIT’s linguistics program, was “considered one of the field’s most influential scholars,” writes Marquard.

The Guardian

In a forthcoming book excerpted in The Guardian, Alex Beard describes Prof. Deb Roy's project to record his infant son's learning behaviors. Beard explains that while Roy set out to create machines that learned like humans, he was ultimately blown away by "the incredible sophistication of what a language learner in the flesh actually looks like and does." "The learning process wasn’t decoding, as he had originally thought, but something infinitely more continuous, complex and social."

National Geographic

Research led by Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa finds that cave art may be symbolic of early human languages. “The cognitive functions needed to transfer acoustic sounds to pictures are the same cognitive functions needed in language,” senior researcher Cora Lesure tells Sarah Gibbens of National Geographic.

The Boston Globe

According to a new paper from Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa, “cave drawings may show evidence of the development of spoken human language,” writes Laney Ruckstuhl for The Boston Globe. “There’s this idea that language doesn’t fossilize,” Miyagawa said. “And it’s true, but maybe in these artifacts [cave drawings], we can see some of the beginnings of homo sapiens as symbolic beings.”

Boston Globe

In an article for The Boston Globe about the Boston school system’s new dual-language program in Haitian Creole, James Vaznis speaks with Prof. Michel DeGraff, who is assisting Boston with the program. DeGraff says that the program provides Boston with an opportunity to, “produce new material in Haitian Creole that in time can become models for programs in Haiti.”

Boston Magazine

MIT was named the top university in the world for the sixth consecutive year in the QS World University Rankings, reports Kyle Scott Clauss for Boston Magazine

WBUR Open Source

In this episode of WBUR’s Open Source, Christopher Lydon speaks with Prof. Emeritus Noam Chomsky about a wide range of topics, from the current political situation in America and Europe to the greatest challenges facing humanity. Chomsky noted that a “Socratic-style willingness to ask whether conventional doctrines are justified,” is a key ingredient in his thought process. 

Scientific American

Scientific American reporter Veronique Greenwood highlights a study by MIT researchers examining why some people seem to have an aptitude for languages. The researchers explored the structure of neuron fibers in white matter in beginning Mandarin students and found that students “who had more spatially aligned fibers in their right hemisphere had higher test scores after four weeks of classes.”

WGBH

Prof. Michel DeGraff speaks with WGBH reporter Judith Kogan about why people around the world use different words to describe animal sounds, such as a turkey’s distinctive “gobble.” “Your native language formats your mind to perceive animal sounds based on your own native language," DeGraff explains.