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View Diary: Phenomena of Language: The Great English Vowel Shift (141 comments)

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  •  Alright, but there has to be something (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Allogenes

    to it that the exceptions do have an "r" or an "l," doesn't there? Or am I just seeing something that isn't there?

    So you think you can love me and leave me to die?

    by unspeakable on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 01:56:22 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Linguistics is full of uncertainties (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Allogenes, mayim, unspeakable, budr

      And the best I can answer is that there could be something there, but there doesn't have to be.

      I work with all kinds of small data sets, and I have to ask myself all the time "am I seeing a pattern that's really there, or is it just a mirage?"  One way to deal with the problem is to cast your net as broadly as you can -- make sure you've really looked at all the relevant items; then see if you can aggregate enough data (maybe from superficially separate categories) to create a statistically meaningful pattern.  But then you really need to be sure that you can apply your rule uniformly!  If you have exceptions, you need to ask: are these just sporadic exceptions?  Or are these indications that my rule just doesn't work?

      Sometimes there just aren't any clear answers.  Sometimes a rule which looked like it was no good turns out, with some extra qualification, to be perfectly applicable.  Other times, you just have to admit that you can't be sure you know what's going on.

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