At this week’s MCQLL meeting, Gaurav Kamath will be presenting The Apparent Time Construct in Vector and Substitution Space.

Tuesday, April 9, 15:00–16:00 (Montréal time, UTC-5)
MCQLL meetings this semester are in hybrid format. We will meet in-person in room 117 of the McGill Linguistics Department, 1085 Dr-Penfield. If you’d like to attend virtually, the Zoom link is here.

All are welcome to attend.

  • Speaker:
    Gaurav Kamath
    The Apparent Time Construct in Vector and Substitution Space

    Linguists often try to study how language changes over generations. But studying these patterns in real-time is difficult, as it would involve either tracking one population group over decades, or somehow going back in time to observe old speech. Sociolinguistic analyses of language change over time therefore often rely on the apparent time construct. This is a methodological construct that involves treating the speech patterns of older subjects (e.g. a 60 year old in 2023) as representative of the speech of younger subjects at a prior point in time (e.g. a 20 year old in 1983). The validity of the apparent time construct has been tested as it relates to phonetics and phonology (e.g. Bailey et al. 1991, Freuhwald 2017) – but it has so far not been adequately tested in terms of meaning change. In this talk, I present ongoing work that tests the validity of the construct in meaning space by analyzing (i) word embeddings trained on different slices of a historical corpus; and (ii) changes in distributions of BERT-generated word-substitutions over the same corpus.