CIRC November Symposium

November 20, 2015
Goergen 108


Understanding the Structures that Underlie Human Language: What is a Word?

Joyce McDonough

Department of Linguistics

A word is the most ordinary thing. Everybody knows what a word is. If you ask an English speaker they are highly likely to think of an object and name it. ‘Cat’. If you ask them to think of words related to that word, they can probably name a couple; ‘cats' ‘cat-like’, even ‘catty’, though that is getting away from the meaning a bit. But how come words like ‘been’, ‘have’ or ‘always’ or ‘the’, or even adjectives or verbs don’t come to mind? And what if you are a speaker of Arabic, Swahili, or Serbian? Words in these languages are more complex. Then, we have languages like Navajo, where words are extremely complex, with many hundreds of related forms and there are very few nouns. In this talk I’ll lay out a foundational issue in the structure of human language, the structure of words. I’ll focus on Navajo, and the challenges that words in this and related languages present to our understanding and theories of human language structure, the differences between syntagmatic (syntax) and paradigmatic processes, the structure of the mental lexicon and word learning and language processing.

Ongoing Research Talk

Determining the Effects of Error in RNA Folding Parameters on Structure Prediction

Jeffrey Zuber

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

RNA thermodynamic parameters, frequently used to predict RNA secondary structures, are based on experimental data. As such there is quantifiable uncertainty within those parameter values. However, the relationship between the uncertainty in the thermodynamic parameters and RNA secondary structure prediction are have previously not been determined. We performed a sensitivity analysis of the partition function in the software suite RNAstructure to determine which parameters contribute to the uncertainty in the predicted RNA base pair probabilities. In this study, we have identified a subset of RNA thermodynamic parameters with the greatest impact on the precision of RNA structure prediction, as well as subsets of parameters with limited impact on the predicted secondary structures.

Friday, November 20, 2015

11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Goergen 108 (River Campus)

Category: Talks