Study: Cities Speak A Different Language Than Their Small-Town Neighbors
Whatever your native language, you've probably noticed that city people speak it differently than do country folk. But so what? It's also true that Chicagoans speak a bit differently than do Baltimoreans, and the French of Marseilles is not that of Paris. When it comes to differences in accent, grammar and vocabulary, you might expect that region, culture, social class and gender would count for more than the size of your town. So the people of, say, Caracas, should sound more like their fellow Venezuelans than like people in Miami. But according to this paper, you would be wrong. "The Spanish language," its authors write, "is split into two superdialects"—a city dialect in which Caracas and Miami have a lot in common, versus a dialect of rural regions and small towns.
As novel as the finding is the method that Bruno Gonçalves and David Sánchez used to distinguish the dialects: They analyzed every tweet made in Spanish over two years for which geolocation data was also available (they don't say which years). Breaking down these 50 million tweets according to different words used for "computer," "car," and other key concepts revealed the boundaries of the two dialects.
The researchers used Spanish because it is widely spoken and widely spread across several continents. Spanish also has plenty of Twitter users (unlike Chinese) to supply evidence. And written Spanish is logical—the letters you see represent the sounds you'd hear. On the other hand, in English (as noted here) the same letter combo can represent five different sounds ("Though I cough through the day, this rough bough comforts me"). Conversely, different sounds can be rendered by the same letters ("Archer, I bow to your bow, and I will lead you to the mines of lead"). That sort of thing, which has incensed sensible people for centuries, messes up textual analysis.
The researchers divided up the Spanish-tweeting world into cells of approximately 25 square kilometers each, and noted in each cell the majority-endorsed words for 131 key things. That gave them a map distinguishing, for example, places where the word for "computer" was "computadora" from those where the word is "computador" or "ordenador." They then applied their algorithms to identify cells that are closely related to each other. In this way, they discovered "a profound correlation" between one widespread dialect and areas of high population density. In other words, one of their super dialects was spoken mostly in cities—even cities as widely scattered about the globe as Buenos Aires, San Diego and San Juan. The other cluster is spoken outside major urban centers. "This suggests a natural lexical bipartition of Spanish into two superdialects," they write. "Superdialect α is utilized by speakers in main American and Spanish cities and corresponds to an international variety with a strongly urban component while superdialect β is comprised mostly of rural areas and small towns."
Why cities? Because people who move to cities want to communicate with one another (and, I am guessing, want to sound as if they didn't just step off the boat from Nowheresville). For the sake of efficiency and identity, then, city-dwellers are inclined to drop the more idiosyncratic parts of their speech. They come to talk like their fellow city-dwellers, not Mom and Pop back home. "This leveling process," write Gonçalves and Sánchez, is present throughout the Spanish-speaking cities, where it "is reinforced by the rapid increase of worldwide social ties and the powerful influence of mass media precisely located in important metropolitan areas (Madrid, Mexico City, Miami)."
That Twitter can be used to find heretofore unrecognized dialects surprised me (who knew 140-character utterances could be so revealing?) but Gonçalves and Sánchez believe it's likely to be a rich Big-Data source of insights into language. In fact, they think, the abundance of tweets worldwide, combined with GPS data, could soon permit linguists to track language differences in real time, as they arise and evolve among different regions.
I was tempted to call their paper a "Big Data" approach to language analysis. But the term is almost a misnomer. They made a new finding not because their data was abundant but because it was different. Instead of having to go out and interview (often male, often rural) people to ask about their language use, the researchers had an immense river of language use ready and waiting for them. This is the new kind of data all of us are generating every day, in tweets, Facebook likes, YouTube clicks and so on. Where once we had to be asked about a topic, and think about our answers, we now reveal ourselves without thinking. This may not be great for our notions of personal autonomy, but it is going to be a great source of insight into human behavior for a long time to come.
Illustration: Geographical distribution of the dominant word for the concepts Computer (left) and Car (right), from the paper.
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Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.
Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2010.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage
What we may be able to learn<p>Earthly space programs being as young as they are, scientists would love to know what's happened to our rocket during a half century in space.</p><p>While 2020 SO won't get close enough to drop into our atmosphere, its slow progress has scientists hopeful that they'll still get some kind of a decent look at it.</p><p>Spectroscopy may be able to reveal what the rocket's surface is like now — has any of its paint survived, for example? Of course, being out in space, it's likely to have been hit by lots of dust and micrometeorites, so the current state of its surfaces is also of interest. Experts are curious to know how reflective the rocket is at this point, valuable information that can help planners of future long-term missions anticipate how well a craft out in space for extended periods will remain able to reflect sunlight.</p>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
- An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
The U.S., China, and Russia are in a "vaccine race" that treats a global challenge like a winner-take-all game.