Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our Amazing Linguistic System

Confession #7: Even after all these years, the human language system still fascinates me.

Good evening! I have to admit, I love watching and reading scientific information about the English language (well, all languages, actually). Last night I stayed up much too late watching NOVA on PBS. It was a fascinating look at how the "Watson" computer, used to compete on the game show Jeopardy, was designed and created. The look into how computers are getting better at (but still don't match human intelligence) interpreting and using our language system was amazing. Although new science is allowing these "super computers" to, in effect, "learn" based on experience (typical human responses to a question or problem), and they seemingly have every bit of data ever entered online (e.g., encyclopedias, dictionaries, databases, etc.), the ambiguity of the English language still  confounds these computers.

NOVA gave a wonderful example of a sentence that may stump a "super computer". The sentence read, "I shot an elephant wearing my pajamas". Of course, we instantly can guess that the computer may have difficulty understanding WHO was wearing the pajamas, the elephant or the shooter. Also, what kind of "shot" was it...with a gun or a camera? Of course, they stated that humans use CONTEXT to determine the meaning of the message....not so easy for computers that rely solely on "facts" stored as code.

As we all know, the ambiguity of English can also confound many of our students. In order to understand the meaning of a word or sentence, they must use context as well as language experience to figure it out. Tonight I have a Fabulous Freebie for multiple meanings of words! I've been thinking about the idea of some firefly activities. Growing up, I always called them lightning bugs, but I think fireflies sounds cuter!

My Fabulous Freebie is titled: Catching Fireflies: Multiple Meanings of Words.
It includes 40 multiple meanings firefly cards, 10 blank cards to make your own, 10 lose-a-turn cards, a net "draw pile" board, jars for players to "catch" their fireflies in, a definitions of words template, and game directions. Here's a peek!

 You can grab a copy of my freebie here, and please watch for more "Catching Fireflies" language and articulation activities!

PS-please don't forget to leave FEEDBACK!

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