Language, People, Influence

Sunday, 15 February 2015: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room LL20C (San Jose Convention Center)
Lillian Lee, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
What effect does language have on people, and what effect do people have on language? You might say in response, "Who are you to discuss these problems?" and you would be right to do so; these are Major Questions that science has been tackling for many years. But as a field, I think natural language processing and computational linguistics have much to contribute to the conversation, and I hope to demonstrate that in this talk.

One direction we'll look at is motivated by the question of what information achieves widespread public awareness. We consider whether, and how, the way in which the information is phrased --- the choice of words and sentence structure --- can affect this process. In other words (so to speak), we'll investigate how wording alone can influence which movie quotes catch on, which tweets get more attention, and which Facebook posts generate more comments.

And, to show how people from many walks of life, from Supreme Court justices to behind-the-scenes editors of Wikipedia, reveal aspects of themselves through even the most subtle differences in phrasing, we'll explore how power relationships are subtly revealed by how much one person echoes the linguistic style of the other, even seemingly non-conscious levels.