Language research is turning up some surprising things about how language and gender interact.

It appears that our brains process language differently with male or female speakers. But what about online text? Can you tell whether someone is male or female just from their writing?

Computers can, and linguist Daniel Midgley talks to us about it on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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On the Net, can you tell whether someone is male or female? Sometimes you can get a sense of gender, and sometimes not. It’s difficult for computers to do this, but it’s especially hard when you’re looking at tweets because you only have 140 characters worth of data to make the decision. And yet computers are doing that very thing. So that’s what this show is about.

I also get pig-biting mad about pop grammar, and Ben and I celebrate Thansgivukkah. Or is it Thanksganukkah? It doesn’t matter really; we won’t have one again until the next Ice Age. That’s why I’m voting Thansgivukkah (or Thanksganukkah) this year’s Word Least Likely to Succeed.

Say, it’s almost time for Words of the Year. That’ll happen on our first show back after the break, at the end of January. In the meantime, we’ll be getting things ready for a whole new year of Talk the Talk.


Show notes

Stupid Buzzfeed grammar quiz
http://www.buzzfeed.com/tabathaleggett/30-super-geeky-spelling-and-grammar-questions

The Gender Genie is no more, but we still have the Gender Guesser.
http://www.hackerfactor.com/GenderGuesser.php

Sex of speaker affects language processing
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141945.htm

Actual paper
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0079701

Burger et al‘s 2011 Twitter study
http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2145568
http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/2150000/2145568/p1301-burger.pdf (PDF)

Detecting gender in languages other than English
http://phys.org/news/2013-11-twitter-users-gender-en-francais.html

Actual paper (PDF)
http://www.derekruths.com/static/publication_files/CiotSondereggerRuths_EMNLP2013.pdf

Thansgivukkah — or should that be Thanksganukkah?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25125042

The next one won’t happen for a while.
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/11/the-next-thanksgivvukkah/


Show tunes

‘London Girls’ by Stephen Duffy
from the album Duffy

‘Boy (Go)’ by the Golden Palominos
from the album Visions of Excess