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Concept: Sociolinguistics


Conversations reflect the existing norms of a language. Previously, we found that utterance lengths in English fictional conversations in books and movies have shortened over a period of 200 years. In this work, we show that this shortening occurs even for a brief period of 3 years (September 2009-December 2012) using 229 million utterances from Twitter. Furthermore, the subset of geographically-tagged tweets from the United States show an inverse proportion between utterance lengths and the state-level percentage of the Black population. We argue that shortening of utterances can be explained by the increasing usage of jargon including coined words.

Concepts: Function, United States, United Kingdom, U.S. state, English language, Oral communication, Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics


Understanding how and why pronunciations vary and change has been a dominant theme in variationist sociolinguistics (Labov, , ). Linguistic variability has also been an area of focus in psychology and cognitive science. Work from these two fields has shown that where variation exists in language, an alternative form, once used, persists in working memory and has a greater chance of reuse (Bock, ; Bock & Loebell, ; Branigan, Pickering, & Cleland, ). While there have been efforts to connect priming research with sociolinguistics at the level of grammar (Poplack, ; Travis, ), there has been less work which explicitly considers the potential role of priming as a motivating factor in accent variation and change. This paper explores the role of priming in a socially conditioned sound change. There are two main findings: (a) phonetic variants with the same voicing tend to cluster together in naturally occurring speech and (b) repetition of phonetic form interacts with widely attested sociolinguistic predictors of variation. I argue that there are benefits to both cognitive science and sociolinguistics from this synergy: Incorporating research from cognitive science into sociolinguistics provides us with a better understanding of the factors underpinning a sound change in progress; incorporating insights from sociolinguistics into cognitive science shows that priming does not always operate in the same way for all speakers.

Concepts: Psychology, Memory, Linguistics, Grammar, Sociolinguistics, William Labov, Language change, Dialectology


In human societies, cultural norms arise when behaviours are transmitted through social networks via high-fidelity social learning. However, a paucity of experimental studies has meant that there is no comparable understanding of the process by which socially transmitted behaviours might spread and persist in animal populations. Here we show experimental evidence of the establishment of foraging traditions in a wild bird population. We introduced alternative novel foraging techniques into replicated wild sub-populations of great tits (Parus major) and used automated tracking to map the diffusion, establishment and long-term persistence of the seeded innovations. Furthermore, we used social network analysis to examine the social factors that influenced diffusion dynamics. From only two trained birds in each sub-population, the information spread rapidly through social network ties, to reach an average of 75% of individuals, with a total of 414 knowledgeable individuals performing 57,909 solutions over all replicates. The sub-populations were heavily biased towards using the technique that was originally introduced, resulting in established local traditions that were stable over two generations, despite a high population turnover. Finally, we demonstrate a strong effect of social conformity, with individuals disproportionately adopting the most frequent local variant when first acquiring an innovation, and continuing to favour social information over personal information. Cultural conformity is thought to be a key factor in the evolution of complex culture in humans. In providing the first experimental demonstration of conformity in a wild non-primate, and of cultural norms in foraging techniques in any wild animal, our results suggest a much broader taxonomic occurrence of such an apparently complex cultural behaviour.

Concepts: Sociology, Social psychology, Social capital, Social network, Knowledge management, Network theory, Network science, Sociolinguistics


Language diversity has become greatly endangered in the past centuries owing to processes of language shift from indigenous languages to other languages that are seen as socially and economically more advantageous, resulting in the death or doom of minority languages. In this paper, we define a new language competition model that can describe the historical decline of minority languages in competition with more advantageous languages. We then implement this non-spatial model as an interaction term in a reaction-diffusion system to model the evolution of the two competing languages. We use the results to estimate the speed at which the more advantageous language spreads geographically, resulting in the shrinkage of the area of dominance of the minority language. We compare the results from our model with the observed retreat in the area of influence of the Welsh language in the UK, obtaining a good agreement between the model and the observed data.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Semantics, Minority language, Languages, Sociolinguistics, Indigenous language, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Breton language


In the United States, reports about perioperative complications associated with bariatric surgery led to the establishment of accreditation criteria for bariatric centers of excellence and many bariatric centers obtaining accreditation. Currently, most bariatric procedures occur at these centers, but to what extent they uniformly provide high-quality care remains unknown.

Concepts: United States, United Kingdom, Poverty in the United States, U.S. state, Bariatric surgery, The Establishment, Sociolinguistics


Medical educators aim to train physicians with sound scientific knowledge, expert clinical skills and an ability to work effectively with patients, colleagues and health systems. Over the past century, educators have devoted considerable thought and effort to how medical education might be improved. Analysing the language used to describe these initiatives provides insight into assumptions and practices. The authors conducted a Foucauldian critical discourse analysis of prominent recurrent themes in the North American medical education literature. The assembled archive of texts included works of Abraham Flexner, articles from the journal Academic Medicine (including its predecessor journals) and major medical education reports. A series of recurring themes were identified, including the need to avoid over-specialization, the importance of generalism, and the need to broaden criteria for medical student selection. Analysis of these recurring themes allowed identification of a prominent and recurrent discourse of ‘new.’ This discourse places focus on the future, ignores the ongoing historical nature of issues, suggests a sense of urgency and enables the proposal of modest solutions. It emphasizes changes for individual future doctors, thereby limiting consideration of institutional and systemic factors. Using the image of a carousel, the regular return of themes can be seen as carousel ponies circling around repeatedly in medical education. Identification of this medical education carousel provides an opportunity for medical educators to understand the historical nature of calls for change, and to consider what kinds of reform might be required if they wish to avoid this repetition in the future.

Concepts: Medicine, Physician, Linguistics, Discourse analysis, Discourse, Medical education, Critical discourse analysis, Sociolinguistics


The article examines the process of discursive construction of the ‘SUS problem’ in reports published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo in 2008. Through an online search of the Folha archives, 667 news items were selected and then studied from the perspectives of critical discourse analysis and contributions from social constructionism. In methodological terms, at the text practice level of analysis, the investigation sought to determine what linguistic resources had been used to construct the SUS problem. At the discursive practice level of analysis, it further explored how the newspaper medium and the journalistic style influenced the production of these meanings. The article concludes that as this production constructs the SUS problem, it fosters a limited, negative view of the the Sistema Único de Saúde (Unified Healthcare System, or SUS) based on mistrust and on the notion that it is impossible to improve the system.

Concepts: Linguistics, Discourse analysis, Discourse, Newspaper, Critical discourse analysis, Sociolinguistics, Norman Fairclough, Henry Widdowson


Internationally, women give mixed reports regarding professional support during the early establishment of breastfeeding. Little is known about the components of midwifery language and the support practices, which assist or interfere with the early establishment of breastfeeding. In this study, critical discourse analysis has been used to describe the language and practices used by midwives when supporting breastfeeding women during the first week after birth. Participant observation at two geographically distant Australian health care settings facilitated the collection of 85 observed audio-recorded dyadic interactions between breastfeeding women and midwives during 2008-2009. Additionally, 23 interviews with women post discharge, 11 interviews with midwives and four focus groups (40 midwives) have also been analysed. Analysis revealed three discourses shaping the beliefs and practices of participating midwives. In the dominant discourse, labelled ‘Mining for Liquid Gold’, midwives held great reverence for breast milk as ‘liquid gold’ and prioritised breastfeeding as the mechanism for transfer of this superior nutrition. In the second discourse, labelled ‘Not Rocket Science’, midwives constructed breastfeeding as ‘natural’ or ‘easy’ and something which all women could do if sufficiently committed. The least well-represented discourse constructed breastfeeding as a relationship between mother and infant. In this minority discourse, women were considered to be knowledgeable about their needs and those of their infant. The language and practices of midwives in this approach facilitated communication and built confidence. These study findings suggest the need for models of midwifery care, which facilitate relationship building between mother and infant and mother and midwife.

Concepts: Childbirth, Milk, Linguistics, Discourse analysis, Discourse, Midwifery, Critical discourse analysis, Sociolinguistics


Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) is a DNA damage sensor that catalyzes the poly (ADP-ribose) (PAR) onto a variety of target proteins, such as histones, DSB repair factors and PARP1 itself under consumption of NAD+. Besides, PARP1 can affect a variety of proteins in noncovalent modification manner to carry out specific cellular functions. Here, we establishment a method to generate non-radiolabeled free PAR by PARG moderately cleaving PAR from autoPARylated PARP1, and utilize dot-blot assay to determine the interaction between free PAR and interested proteins. The methods to generate free PAR and detect the noncovalent interactions between proteins and free PAR are nonradioactive and convenient, which will facilitate the studies to explore the significance of PAR reading in various biological processes.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Metabolism, Histone, Biology, DNA repair, Sociolinguistics


We learn language from our social environment, but the more sources we have, the less informative each source is, and therefore, the less weight we ascribe its input. According to this principle, people with larger social networks should give less weight to new incoming information, and should therefore be less susceptible to the influence of new speakers. This paper tests this prediction, and shows that speakers with smaller social networks indeed have more malleable linguistic representations. In particular, they are more likely to adjust their lexical boundary following exposure to a new speaker. Experiment 2 uses computational simulations to test whether this greater malleability could lead people with smaller social networks to be important for the propagation of linguistic change despite the fact that they interact with fewer people. The results indicate that when innovators were connected with people with smaller rather than larger social networks, the population exhibited greater and faster diffusion. Together these experiments show that the properties of people’s social networks can influence individuals' learning and use as well as linguistic phenomena at the community level.

Concepts: Sociology, Science, Systems theory, Experiment, Networks, Semiotics, Network theory, Sociolinguistics