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  Why are some languages confused for others? Investigating data from the Great Language Game

Skirgard, H., Roberts, S. G., & Yencken, L. (2017). Why are some languages confused for others? Investigating data from the Great Language Game. PLoS One, 12(4): e0165934. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165934.

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Copyright: © 2017 Skirgård et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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 Creators:
Skirgard, Hedwig1, Author
Roberts, Sean G.2, Author              
Yencken, Lars3, Author
Affiliations:
1The Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity Laureate project, Department of Linguistics, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia , ou_persistent22              
2Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society, ou_792548              
3Independent researcher,, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia , ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: In this paper we explore the results of a large-scale online game called ‘the Great Language Game’, in which people listen to an audio speech sample and make a forced-choice guess about the identity of the language from 2 or more alternatives. The data include 15 million guesses from 400 audio recordings of 78 languages. We investigate which languages are confused for which in the game, and if this correlates with the similarities that linguists identify between languages. This includes shared lexical items, similar sound inventories and established historical relationships. Our findings are, as expected, that players are more likely to confuse two languages that are objectively more similar. We also investigate factors that may affect players’ ability to accurately select the target language, such as how many people speak the language, how often the language is mentioned in written materials and the economic power of the target language community. We see that non-linguistic factors affect players’ ability to accurately identify the target. For example, languages with wider ‘global reach’ are more often identified correctly. This suggests that both linguistic and cultural knowledge influence the perception and recognition of languages and their similarity.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2017-04-05
 Publication Status: Published online
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 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165934
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Project name : INTERACT
Grant ID : 269484
Funding program : Funding Programme 7 (FP7)
Funding organization : European Commission (EC)

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Title: PLoS One
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: San Francisco, CA : Public Library of Science
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 12 (4) Sequence Number: e0165934 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 1932-6203
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/1000000000277850