The SpecGram Inquisition—Pete Bleackley—with Inquisitor Generalis Jonathan Downie SpecGram Vol CLXX, No 3 Contents Decrypt the Missives <s>from the Cosmos</s>—A Puzzle in Many Parts—Trey Jones

Dreaming in R
A Psycho­linguistical Statistical Reverie

by “Doc” Yoomin Terrean
(with assistance from 4 ≥ n ≥ 1 anonymous psycho linguisticians)

I had been eking out a living as an under-employed linguist when, taking advice I got from strangers on the internet, I decided to try to improve my computational and corpus linguistic skills to enhance my marketability. One of the elements of my multi-faceted, multi-pronged approach* was to take classes in the statistical computing language / environment, R. At first it was challenging, but rewarding, and there were lots of pretty pictures.

Then I started dreaming in R. As are many linguists, I’m a semi-failed semi-polyglot (I speak π languages, too!), and I’ve always looked forward to the point in my language studies where I begin dreaming in the new language.

With R, though, I was not experiencing the feeling of enhanced fluency and heightened savoir faire that I have with natural human languages. Rather, mathematics rose unbidden in my brain and did a nightmare dance. Strange numbers and symbols, and horrifying charts and graphs invaded my slumber, and I slept furiously.

I asked a number of psycholinguists for their advice, given their general acquaintance with both statistics and language acquisition. I did not find the solace I sought, butgiven the ever-increasing prominence of numerical, statistical, and computational methods in the un-under-employed segments of our fieldI thought I would share their collective counsel with a wider audience.

As luck§ would have it, as I was leaving the Psychology Department I happened to take a wrong turn into the office of Winniphred Phroyd, Computational Freudian Psychologist. She talked to me about my problems, asked me about my childhood and my motherboard, and she helped me understand my p-value–envy. That helped, but not really enough.

In the end, though, she solved all my problems, after a fashion, when she showed me the following R-or-Shock™ Personalized Graph-o-Blot℠ Multiplot:

I don’t know what it means, but it gave me quite a shock all right, and I had a seizure right there in Dr. Phroyd’s office. When I came to, I decided to abandon my quest for statistical, numerical, and computational enlightenment. Instead, I’ve decided to devote myself to a life of abstract theoretical asceticism as a monk in the order of The Brothers of Austere Syntaxfree from the temptations and evils of data, analysis, and anything having to do with numbers. I will soon take an official and sacred vow of innumeracy, and I’m even going to swear off subscripts. Nothing more concrete than Greek letters for me.

Good luck to the rest of you in your wordy, worldly pursuits, though. Peace out. ✌ ☮ ䷊

* Other facets and prongs included, but were not limited to, NLP**, Positive Thinking, Dynamic Writing Exploitation, Marketing Speak Deployment, Energetic Capitalization Availment, Vigorous and Aggressive Thesaurus Utilization and Application, and NLP***.

** The good kindbut it was so hard!

*** The bad kindbut it was so easy!

Editor’s Note: We have been advised by The SpecGram Council of Computational Linguists that actually naming a programming language in this context could be considered uncouth at best and could be construed as religious harassment at worst. —Eds.††

†† It was Perl. Written “bare-knuckled in vi”, no less. —Skip Tacular†††

††† Dammit, Skip! You’re going to get us all killed! —Butch McBastard

Methodological Note: I chose from among my psycholinguistic acquaintances (N = 4) randomly, but with replacement in order to gather more data points, so it is possible that multiple responses actually come from the same source.‡‡

‡‡ I never really got a feel for experimental design, I guess.

§ As four wise men once sang, “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all!”

The SpecGram InquisitionPete Bleackleywith Inquisitor Generalis Jonathan Downie
Decrypt the Missives from the Cosmos—A Puzzle in Many PartsTrey Jones
SpecGram Vol CLXX, No 3 Contents