Linguistics

Jean-Pierre Houël / Wikipedia Commons

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was the bloody scene setter for a myriad of European political upheavals. Now, machine learning is shedding light into how linguistics played a role in the discussion of democratic ideals and formation of the new government.

A team of researchers, including Carnegie Mellon University assistant professor Simon DeDeo, used machine learning to analyze more than 40,000 digitized transcripts from the first two years of debates of the first makeshift French parliament, during the beginning of the revolution.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The famous, or perhaps infamous, Pittsburgh accent is as central to the Steel City’s identity as Terrible Towels and yellow bridges.

Shaun / Flickr

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on 2014 and airing some of the Essential Pittsburgh stories that were most popular on our website, wesa.fm.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, take a look at the original web post.

Back in October some folks weren’t quite sure what to make of Pittsburgh’s ascension -- or, descension -- to the final four in America’s ugliest accent tournament, created by the website Gawker. Was this honor a source of pride or a put-down to a certain part of our citizenry?

Shaun / Flickr

  

Updated at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday: Pittsburgh has advanced to the final round of Gawker's "America's Ugliest Accent" tournament. But is this a source of pride or a source of embarrassment?

Some area linguists argue that when people make fun of local accents or describe them as “ugly,” they’re actually making fun of poor and working class people.

University of Pittsburgh linguistics professor Scott Kiesling has researched the Pittsburgh accent in collaboration with Barbara Johnstone, CMU professor of English and linguistics and author of "Speaking Pittsburghese."