Archive for linguistics

The foundations of Statistics: a simulation-based approach

Posted in Books, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2011 by xi'an

“We have seen that a perfect correlation is perfectly linear, so an imperfect correlation will be `imperfectly linear’.” page 128

This book has been written by two linguists, Shravan Vasishth and Michael Broe, in order to teach statistics “in  areas that are traditionally not mathematically demanding” at a deeper level than traditional textbooks “without using too much mathematics”, towards building “the confidence necessary for carrying more sophisticated analyses” through R simulation. This is a praiseworthy goal, bound to produce a great book. However, and most sadly, I find the book does not live up to expectations. As in Radford Neal’s recent coverage of introductory probability books with R, there are statements there that show a deep misunderstanding of the topic… (This post has also been published on the Statistics Forum.) Continue reading

Robin Ryder’s interview

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on March 9, 2011 by xi'an

Robin Ryder—with whom I am sharing an office at CREST, and who is currently doing a postdoc on ABC methods—, got interviewed in the March issue of La Recherche. (The interviewer was Philippe Pajot who wrote “Parcours de mathématiciens”, reviewed in a recent post.) The interview is reproduced on Robin’s blog (in French) and gives in a few words the principles of Bayesian linguistics. This two-page interview also includes a few lines of a technical entry to MCMC (called Monte Carlo Markov chains rather than Markov chain Monte Carlo) that focus on the exploration of huge state-spaces associated with trees. Overall, a very good advertising for MCMC methods for the general public through the highly attractive story of the history of languages…

Welcome, Robin!

Posted in R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , on February 26, 2010 by xi'an

Robin Ryder started his new blog with his different solutions to Le Monde puzzle of last Saturday (about the algebraic sum of products…), solutions that are much more elegant than my pedestrian rendering. I particularly like the one based on the Jacobian of a matrix! (Robin is doing a postdoc in Dauphine and CREST—under my supervision—on ABC and other computational issues, after completing a PhD in Oxford on philogenic trees for language history with Geoff Nicholls. His talk at the Big’MC seminar last month is reproduced there.)

And, in a totally unrelated way, here is the Sudoku (in Le Monde) that started my post on simulated annealing, nicely represented on Revolutions. (Although I cannot see why the central columns are set in grey…) I must mention that I am quite surprised at the number of visits my post received, given that using simulated annealing for solving Sudokus has been around for a while. Even my R code, while original, does not compete with simulated annealing solutions that take a few seconds… I thus completely share Dirk Eddelbuettel‘s surprise in this respect (but point to him that Robin’s blog entry has nothing to do with Sudokus, but with another Le Monde puzzle!)