Complex Systems for Lexicography and Text Analysis

William A. Kretzschmar, Jr.

University of Georgia

As shown in The Linguistics of Speech (2009) and Language and Complex Systems (2015), the basic elements of speech (i.e., language in use, what people actually say and write to and for each other) correspond to what has been called a “complex system” in sciences ranging from physics to ecology to economics. After a non-technical introduction to the principles of complexity science, this talk will apply properties of complexity to lexicography and text analysis. Complex systems are made up of massive numbers of components interacting with one another, and this results in self-organization and emergent order. The quantitative model from complex systems, a nonlinear curve, helps lexicographers to interpret their work with large data sources, including the Internet. The same curve is also relevant to text analysis, in that it demands careful use of statistics.

About the Speaker

Bill Kretzschmar is Harry and Jane Willson Professor in Humanities at the University of Georgia. He also has an appointment at the University of Oulu (Finland). He edited the American Linguistic Atlas Project for 34 years, the oldest national research project to survey how people speak differently across the country, which led to his preparation of American pronunciations for the online Oxford English Dictionary. He has been active in corpus linguistics, including work on tobacco industry documents. He has been influential in development of digital methods for analysis and presentation of language variation, including application of complexity science.