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Why Words Matter: The Changing Language of Our Times


[00:00:05] Professor Julia Roberts thanks for being with us today. You're welcome. Happy to be here. So excited to have you here. So you are a tenured full professor at the University of Vermont in linguistics is there a better title for the man.

 [00:00:17] That is the time. Got it right. Yes. And I'm also just because it pertains to what we're talking about. Executive director of the American Dialect Society which is a group that's been around since 1889 so I haven't, but that is very exciting.

 [00:00:31] So I have as you can imagine a million questions because I think what you do and what we've certainly learned from you has been fascinating so how did you get interested in linguistics how to end up as a professor at the university.

 [00:00:41] Well believe me until very recently no one in high school ever has heard of linguistics. That's beginning to change. But I certainly hadn't when I was in high school. And so I became a speech pathologist fellow. Okay. And then after a while, I decided I wanted to do something a little more research oriented. And but what I really liked was the language part of it. So I was looking around for fields where I could combine what I. I wouldn't lose what I already had, but I could expand on the language part and linguistics was a natural. And then I kind of by absolutely accident got into the dialect piece of linguistics, and that's where I've been ever since. And how long you been at the university. Oh, about 22 years.

 [00:01:27] Fantastic. I had a flashback to. Oh gosh, I can't think of his name. It's unfortunate but my cultural anthropology teacher at UVM who I remember talking about Noam Chomsky language Yeah.

 [00:01:38] So I just tell to reconnect that as I was sitting there and I really liked that class.

 [00:01:42] So it was fantastic. So you moved from working in speech pathology with patients I'm assuming a mechanical setting in as I had did a whole bunch of things I was in the clinic a clinic for a little while.

 [00:01:56] I had a private practice. I worked in the public schools hospital children's hospital.

 [00:02:02] But yeah Jarvis area specialty I mean were you working with adults could be from stroke victims right.

 [00:02:08] Yes, you're very bright. That's right. Mostly children. OK. So the connection to education and K12 in higher ed has been kind of there all this time. Absolutely. Excellent.

 [00:02:20] So what does a professor of linguistics study. I mean you know I one would easily say well it must be language, but I have to believe that it's just so simple of a way to describe something that's more complex.

 [00:02:33] I mean Well language is far more complex than one word would suggest anyway. So it's all kinds. Anything that goes to make up our language or any language is what linguists study. So we can be the sound system like whether someone says are or not in a word.

 [00:02:51] I grew up in Boston. Took me years to go get ready to reinstall my All right back. Exactly.

 [00:02:58] And it can be semantics or the meaning underlying language as well as just vocabulary differences from region to region or whatever it can be the grammar of the language. It can be politeness things how we use language to accomplish the goals that we want to accomplish and then B and then how along with that how power and social norms cultural norms affect how we use language. So language in the courtroom, for example, language in police interviews I recently had a student who got a degree a master's degree in forensic linguistics because she was so interested in the legal aspects of language.

 [00:03:43] So it was fast. So it's it all comes. Well, it starts with the creation of sound. So it's not or maybe doesn't it also include non-verbal communication as it really can.

 [00:03:57] I mean certainly in the beginning of the field it was all the verbal communication, but there is a whole group of linguists who now study for example American Sign Language and that kind of thing. So it can be both.

 [00:04:10] OK. And so when I think about something, also you said just struck me. So when I think about how civil lawyers talk or how doctors you know physicians speak or how teachers and professors and what they all speak a little differently I mean I was a police officer and how you know cops spoke you watch an interview of a police officer on television, and they're chopping through lingo and language, and you know sometimes I scratch my head and I'm part of that you know that group that's all part of understanding linguistics and language right.

 [00:04:41] And they're also doing things other than just conveying a message. So if you're talking about police officers they may be trying to intimidate and using language is part of that process, or if they want someone on their side during an interview and to tell them more they may, and I emphasize solidarity rather than intimidation. So you use language in those ways.

 [00:05:05] To not just to convey a certain message from one person to another, so it's kind of like linguistics includes to a degree the Study of Politics. Oh absolutely. So I got you know independent of what side you know you or anyone else on in the political spectrum right now. I think we live in interesting times right. With politics and so watching the language of politics is another aspect of what a linguist might do. So there's the inner connectedness to other disciplines in the university website where that kind of goes.

 [00:05:34] Yeah I have a student for example who is looking at the Congressional Record and looking at the subject of immigration and how Republic Republicans talk about immigration versus how Democrats talk about immigration and the words that they use whether they're more negative sounding words or more positive sounding words.

 [00:05:53] And what we call something whether we call someone an illegal alien or not I'm not a moron. Yeah, I'm a grant or yes you know gives away not only who we're talking about but our attitude toward who we're down where we come from in the country.

 [00:06:11] One of the reasons why it's always a privilege to sit with someone as knowledgeable about a topic as I can see how it can kind of go all kinds of directions. You know one of the things that we do here is we study language as you know from having worked with us to teach computers how to understand human language very complex. The human brain is far more complex than a computer. And yet we make strides every day. So some of what you're also doing also now moves into the linguistic solving mental language wrong people. But now there's also language around machines, and what that was so we've kind of begun to bridge that gap.

 [00:06:48] Yeah. And I. And what makes the kind of work that you do so difficult and complicated is that because we now have the internet it's been shown that language is changing much more rapidly than it used to. It has always changed.

 [00:07:04] If it didn't, we'd all sound like they did in Shakespeare's time or talk that way. Write about what they do. They talk that way.

 [00:07:12] And not only did they talk that way but working class people and poor people talk that way because we think of Shakespearean language now as being normal and educated sounding in someone.

 [00:07:25] But that's not what it was. But anyway.

 [00:07:28] Oh yeah. Got a goal.

 [00:07:30] So and so obviously language changes over time and it changes due to where people move you know where populations move like the U.K. to the what's now the United States. What stands in the way mountains and rivers you know all kinds of things like that. But it took time it took generations because people tended to move someplace and mostly stay there and mostly talk with people that were in their communities. But now we have the Internet.

 [00:08:01] And so especially for things like vocabulary words which is what you are most concerned about as opposed to whether someone says an R or not, for example, the change has happened really fast and it's happened in ways that you wouldn't even think about. For example, you may have I'm sure you have heard, and you may even use it yourself although it started with younger people as most language change does when people instead of saying he said they said he's like and then they quote Yes yes. That has traveled expanded in just an unprecedented with unprecedented speed. It's been some people linguists in Canada tech Tekla Monti, and Darcy have been studying that for a while and have shown that really it is a whole different kind of language change that we've never seen before.

 [00:08:57] All Internet accelerant. Yeah, almost right.

 [00:09:00] Yes, yes. Are people online in general but has traveled much more quickly than the kind of language change that I'm used to studying certainly. And so you can imagine if that travels so fast because it's fairly complicated. We're talking about a whole quotation system. It's not just one word set to another word it's, and here I'm going maybe farther than you want to go. But it's uncharted. It's been like seems to have started with people. It actually filled a niche that was really useful because people used it to say to talk about things that they didn't actually say but they thought. So for example, if you asked me to have lunch with you and I don't really want to have lunch with you, I might. And I'm telling a friend about this interaction later I would say Gary asked me to have lunch with him and I'm like No way would I have lunch with you. But that's not what I said Gee I'd love to but I. I'm really busy, but then my listener knows that when I used I'm like that, I didn't actually say that to you. But now that was a really nice finish that it filled. And fortunately or unfortunately or just naturally it has expanded, and it doesn't mean that any more people use it for what they said what they didn't say. For all of that, it has become the quota system is that the.

 [00:10:33] Again, another example and wouldn't surprise. But the interconnected nature of our psychology and our language there's a social norm. There's a an example there's a social dynamic going on, and your language is used to address the potential uncomfortableness in one area and then explain it better in another, so that's I guess makes sense right. Because language is about expressing what we're thinking and feeling and sharing.

 [00:10:59] And once a new feature gets out there, it's going to change and grow. Assuming it's successful, it's going to change and grow and become more general.

 [00:11:08] In most cases so it's not surprising that it's moved beyond its use at this point because we think that excuse me that you know I'm from New England, so I didn't grow up in the south I don't have a southern accent although I'm in Vermont maybe I'm in southern New England accent I don't know it depends where but I use the word y'all a lot and I'm not from the south but I get lazy you know so I go out so y'all can have a lunch and it's just it's easier for me to kind of roll that together and I'm trying to figure out I'm listening to it you win pick that up was it just me getting lazy about what I want to know.

 [00:11:42] I think what you're pointing to is a kind of missing piece in our grammatical system we no longer we used to have a separate word for you plural. Larry how to say you when you're talking to more than one person. I remember at one point we had V and now yeah. Singular and Plural now and we've lost that. So we have. So it's kind of a missing that he thinks is the gap. It fixes the gap, so it's not surprising that not only is there Yahoo in the south which many northerners including myself pick up. But there are lots of things there's you guys says the same thing. There's the UN's. Use guys there. I mean it's not surprising that there's so many dialects terms for that because it's a missing piece and we want to fill it in whereas in the south where it began it has also generalized, and it's not always in the south you plural anymore sometimes they use it for even if they're talking to one person right.

 [00:12:49] It's essentially a fit to me it's a hole that fills them. And then it flows into what's written. Now I'm thinking you know we you know we work with the hundreds of thousands and now schools across the country helping you know what we do to provide them access to important conversations that could be around safety and security and we're doing it through what is written and texted. So there's the how we talk how we intend to speak, and then it's translating into the digital conversation which is where 100 percent of us are communicating to some extent right outside of the conversation piece. And then it's happening around the country. So you mentioned you know mountains and rivers get in the way of. Mm-hmm. So I'm trying to sure you know put together. OK. So the Internet is speeding up how we communicate. It's allowing things like to propagate. We're also seeing how we talk in the northeast is different than in Southern California than maybe the Pacific Northwest the Midwest right. As such. So where's the future of language going. How is this evolution? Have we seen this before? I mean are you going to tell me that in 1985 we saw a similar you know whatever I is that we saw similar change. It was just constrained differently, and it was at a different pace so that the newspapers and newspapers could go national did they propagate language that didn't exist when we're regional.

 [00:14:10] I mean there's that kind of stuff as a way to propagate vocabulary words, not to the extent that we see now. I mean one of the other differences about texting and Twitter and all of the conversation is that it's much more like oral conversation than written conversation whereas newspapers were definitely written.

 [00:14:32] So I'm not even conversation but written were written language, but that had a thesis statement they had an action that was well thought out laid out exactly.

 [00:14:41] Emily and the language itself was more formal complete sentences, and you know  no swear words. No. You know all of that kind of stuff. It was much more formal. That's not the case with language at all. It is really the way people speak. And in fact, the people who do it best which are arguably younger people. Are the people who get it closest to oral conversation.

 [00:15:08] So the truncated you know comments the you know or the emojis and all of that. There are distilling in the language to the essence of what they're trying to communicate. Far better than we might know two generations or a generation removed from someone in high school.

 [00:15:26] Yeah I'd say it's way at least for me I speak for myself. It's definitely a second language that I do not control.

 [00:15:33] Right. Right right, right. Which becomes another. Another challenge is that you know school administrators whether you're in university or in K12 are you know our generation right there.

 [00:15:45] And they are caring for and supporting a younger generation, and they're communicating differently.

 [00:15:51] So we're trying to wear our social symbol and parties trying to distill and translate and understand so that we can understand what they're saying. What are your colleagues in the American dialectical association Dialect Society like? I'm sorry. Or you know other linguists across the country. Do you get together and scratch your head that you know the end of good language as we know it is me or I may not.

 [00:16:16] Well my goodness no no, absolutely not we. We really like studying what happens we are not controlled in it to control language at all. That's a whole different group of people.

 [00:16:29] Politics yeah yeah.

 [00:16:31] And or so often writers formal writers like I was actually just looking this morning at a video clip of John Simon I think his name is the movie theater critic sorry. And also one of the great prescriptive is who just absolutely bemoans any kind of language change. But that's not at all what we do. We look at thing at the way language is changing and trying to figure out what the new meanings are and give you another example in each language. One thing that people my age complain about when they look at tweets and even emails sometimes now is the lack of punctuation. Right. So. So it's really sloppy. It does. You know people don't put periods at the end of sentences, but what has happened is the meaning of a period in e language has changed. And now, instead of being just something you put at the end of a thought or a sentence, it becomes a marker for anger. So if you put a period at the end of text in some groups not again and people my age that means you're angry as sort of angry at someone or you're being because it's formal and you're formal with people you want to distance yourself from. And therefore you know you leave off the period. That means we're fine.

 [00:17:57] Think when you said that I'm thinking of The Who was the great cosmic Victor Borg.

 [00:18:01] Victor he would be. Yeah. Yeah. You get one of those out there right.

 [00:18:08] So you know it also gets me as a Muslim you thinking about. You know I you know like you I you know I progressed through through college and high school college and earned a doctorate, and you know writing dissertations and writing in graduate school was more formal. You had to convey a thought you would reference and say it is that. Is that kind of language. On the decline is that kind of communication changing.

 [00:18:34] I mean I you know are we reading as much are we. Because all that's tied to language right I mean. Right.

 [00:18:40] And then it's beyond my field to know if we're reading more or less.

 [00:18:45] But in general I don't think that kind of writing is disappearing, but it is becoming more attached to different genres rather than something that seems to be something everybody is supposed to be able to do. You know when people ask me you know don't you think it's really important for people you know we need to correct kids language, so they don't do this anymore. And I tend to look at it like no you don't need to correct them, but you need to teach them that they're different genres and different ways of communicating obligations for their language finding out what you want to convey and who you want to convey it to in what situation.

 [00:19:27] So are you saying. So you know you know you worked with kids are really in your career you now have been teaching college students for 20 years or 20 plus. And what's been the quality of their skills coming in. I mean you know you're seeing generations now come through your classroom in terms of their ability to communicate the language they're built now are they predisposition to be a certain way or not because they're in a linguistics class or I mean are you seeing. I mean, how is it play out for you as you're interacting with the generations that are now flowing through your classroom.

 [00:19:59] Honestly I think there's still a range of when I get a new group of students I get some very skilled writers and some very unskilled writers, and I think you know that's a mix of training and innate talent.

 [00:20:15] And I I can't really say I know that it's popular to say that there's been a decline. Maybe there isn't. And I mean I haven't really seen it in in the students that I have I have now I've certainly seen other changes. I see more informal speech probably a little bit less of what.

 [00:20:40] People would call kind of respectful behavior toward professors. So students are more informal than they used to be. But I don't think that means they don't have the skills to be formal if they need to be.

 [00:20:55] Maybe a generational, cultural type. Yeah, I think I'm thinking as a former university police chief sometimes they got to informal with professors.

 [00:21:06] But that was true when you were there. Now it's true before you Andre Andre percent.

 [00:21:12] So what are you. So I would love your perspective on. So now we have this thing called social media. You know email communication. You know I was at the University when you know I remember when we when students stopped using they weren't using their university email they had their own. And then they moved to texting and then texting moved to social media. And you know it's like I just like just keep progressing as it goes. What do you and your colleagues seeing around the impact of further impact of social media on communication? What else is standing out to you not just the example of you know why? For that reason, you know there must be others that are standing out in your scratching your head that are being fascinated by.

 [00:21:54] Well yeah I think some of the things that are I mean are not totally new but are certainly there are the impact on language of things like hip hop and even gang culture of them. None of my students come from gangs, but still, that language goes out and probably through hip hop and then into the wider.

 [00:22:17] So there's an example of how you know modern society or you know modern cultural is impacting language and how that propagates.

 [00:22:27] Yeah yeah. And again it's it seems to be affecting language much more quickly at least through young people than it used to be. But when I keep talking about young people, you have to understand that young people have always been the leaders in language change even before the Internet because teenagers have always had their own way of talking. They've always wanted to separate from their parents and be independent people. So language change has always come from. It's very very rare that you see a language feature come into wider use from a middle-aged group of speakers.

 [00:23:06] And I can think as I look back you know just in popular culture the 50s had its own lingo. The 60s had its own lingo the 70s. Yeah. They don't start with the 30-year-old. It started with a 16 to 20-year-old singer and music once they had in the 50s was the 70s. So. You mentioned the point of you might not see some of that in your life and so that that I'm assuming is tied to who comes to a particular university where do they recruit from whereas anything like.

 [00:23:37] Student or youth discussions or language or use of language across the country this idea that what's Southern California might sound like is different than Florida. You talk more about that, and what that because for us we're solving, and we're trying to solve. A universal problem right. And what we continue to learn is that it may be a universal problem, but every area of the country is a little bit different in how we kind of approach the language aspect of it. And I just keep coming back to your really comment. You know there may have been a Glen or hill or mountain or a river between you and you know amplify that times a thousand. Now we have two different parts of the country don't even know myself. Do you know?

 [00:24:17] Right. Right. And again it also depends on the way the country was settled. So obviously it was settled first well after Indigenous people clearly but. From from an English language perspective, it was settled by from the U.K. into the you the eastern United States, and then people went pretty much due west from there. They didn't necessarily go south. People came from England to the south England to the Middle England to Great Britain, and then we had a great expansion and then it expanded west and then it was helped of course by the Erie Canal. And then you have the other influence which was the African influx from the slave trade and that greatly influenced southern English. And then there are also though pretty substantial migrations of the African American population after the Civil War North. So into Chicago into Detroit into New York and to the point where there actually some pretty clear familial connections say between Mississippi and Chicago where people go back and forth still to visit family because their family moved or parts of their family moved to Chicago. So you have some of that Mississippi influence on Chicago African-American English which also mixes with other ethnicities of English in Chicago and culminates in kind of a Chicago sound which is also I mean also is differentiated by race to a certain extent too.

 [00:25:58] And that's true in every pocket of the country where there's been an immigration or as that goes. You know my family are immigrants I'm thinking the language they use in the way they sound but in the way that is is this is different from where I came from, and I would imagine you know the Pacific Northwest might be different because of the influx of immigration from Asia or that part of the world.

 [00:26:22] And so and of course Spanish influence from the south has been hugely influential to the point now where in the state Texas Southern California and the states along that southern border there is actually a kind of English called Spanish influenced English that people speak even beyond the point where they can not speak Spanish anymore. So in other words, if you hear someone who down there who sounds like they have a Spanish accent or Hispanic accent as a northerner who hasn't been there in a while or much at all you might think well that person must be bilingual in Spanish. Well, it's possible they're not.

 [00:27:03] It's possible they just speak a particular kind of English it's an accent, not an indicator it's a dialect yes.

 [00:27:11] What's different in a dialect generally speaking a dialect encompasses everything about language difference so the different words you use the different grammar the different ways of pronouncing words the whole deal.

 [00:27:25] And usually is pronunciation only we think we have one of our colleagues here in the company who's from Boston has a thick SB accent you know exactly where he's from.

 [00:27:36] When you have what you think you do, most people figure it out. But it's interesting to listen to the differences I'm even hearing you're having moved here from Southern New England you know 30 something years ago now you know I go to northern Vermont or to the Northeast Kingdom or places where they have a very distinct what we call Vermont accent which is probably a combination of.

 [00:27:56] Quebec Vermont and French and English are not only mostly not so much French surprisingly maybe a really along the border. But in general, the Vermont accent is mostly British influence.

 [00:28:09] They'll place names not so you know a lot of the French pronounce.

 [00:28:16], So a lot of those are French influence but the dated sort of the day to day Vermont dialect is pretty much English. UK influence.

 [00:28:26] So is there any particular tide or movement like we talked about you know in the 50s there was language in the 60s there was language too. Are you seeing as a linguist and do your colleagues you know sit down and say we were seeing are you able to codify and to characterize or categorize the changes in language that you're seeing in the last 10 years 15 years 20 years and I think you were probably very immersed in point history because as a linguist you're able to now match that against this electronic you know Internet which you know your colleagues from years past may not have the Internet. So. Right. Are we seeing like what's coming? What do we see? What's the research. What are we seeing?

 [00:29:05] Oh well. I mean what's coming is a vast area of research and eat. Communication of all kinds which is actually is not as far along as you would like. I mean publishing just takes a while, but the time to do the research and get a review.

 [00:29:22] Yes, exactly. So that is not all that far along. So we're seeing a lot more of that a lot more influence again from things like hip hop and music in those fields and the other thing that we're kind of interested in is there is kind of a controversy between well all are all the dialects kind of levelling out because of their SO I MEAN I'LL POP my time or are they becoming more distinct because even though we may talk to people from all over or travel to places from all over. Does that. And it happens sometimes make us want to emphasize our own identity and just as you emphasize your identity through what you wear and how you do your hair. You also emphasize it in how you talk. So sometimes even with all the travel and everything.

 [00:30:22] Some dialects actually are getting more distinctive because we come home we may travel export when we come home to the the the our own community our own where we talk himself in the way we talk, and so we have troops in Iraq.

 [00:30:37] And if you don't talk like that, then you're ostracized, or that's probably too strong of word, but you're different. And people don't necessarily want to be different. I mean nice especially 20 years ago when I started at UVM people, students would tell me that when they came to UVM, and this is a state school in Vermont. So Vermonters would come to UVM and be made fun of because if their Vermont accent or in Vermont. But then they would try to do what they could to get rid of it and someone kind of like you getting your arms back in, and then they would go home, and people go What's wrong with you. You're too good for us now. So you know that's why I think the goal is to have a range of styles not to necessarily get rid of one and replace it with another but to expand it hasn't happened yet.

 [00:31:29] I mean I'm just thinking it just hasn't happened. You know for I don't know 100 years you know whether you were in a major city or you were in rural you know South Carolina you know accents or dialects haven't gone away. No, you haven't. No, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen anytime soon. It's interesting. Like what's the dialect of each communication like you know. Is it that.

 [00:31:52] We often say here that how you how we talk and how we may email or how we text or how we post on social media how we post on different kinds of social media could all be different.

 [00:32:03] It could be the same kind of message but different, so our job is to try and understand what that looks like. So it sounds like what's happening in the world of electronic communications. It's maybe its own dialect its own way where we're communicating.

 [00:32:18] I think that's fair. Yeah. As I said the goal, I think for most speakers except they don't speak but is to get as close to spoken language as possible. But still, it's clearly different.

 [00:32:30] I mean we don't talk in a Modise of all that we don't, but sometimes that's all I'll send them a right. Right right. I really want to do an oral artist people kind of do that.

 [00:32:43] I mean you can hear sometimes people say smiley face or Lowell or something like that. So I mean it does. The influence goes back and forth. It's not just that oral language influence. Is texting also turns back around and influences or a language too, so people sometimes say the things that they text.

 [00:33:06] Yeah you know I'm as I'm listening to you I'm thinking you know other some thoughts that that require. I think if I if I've heard you there are some thoughts that require the opportunity to write to flush to get it right and ah. And I'm trying to figure out ah is the move to be able to communicate that kind of depth through these simple means or will we always revert back to the way we communicate.

 [00:33:40] We'll fill whatever need in that moment.

 [00:33:41] I would guess the latter. I mean it's not something that I've studied, but I don't think anyone is ever gonna want to. Well, that's probably too strong. I think that it's unlikely that people will be putting philosophical treatises into text to an emoji.

 [00:33:59] Yes, exactly.

 [00:34:00] But those emojis do get more and more meaningful and pick up new meanings, but they're good for certain audiences at certain times to convey certain things in certain situations. They're not good for everything even just as the language you would use for a philosophical treatise is not good for it. I mean you would be really lame in the world that language.

 [00:34:27] You know I have a deep interest in listening to you and having had this time with you I have a deeper appreciation for what you're studying and for I think the message being correct me if I'm wrong that how we communicate the tools and means and the medium in which we do that is going depend on the circumstances we're in. What we're trying to communicate whether it's the social aspect it's all of that so that there's not any one way to do it better than the other. There may be some instances where we communicate with one means that may not be appropriately aligned with what we're trying to communicate something, but that gets self-correcting and we kind of correct ourselves around that as opposed to the end of the world to know it because you know everything's going down to an emotion.

 [00:35:09] Exactly. Exactly. I couldn't have said it better.

 [00:35:12] No. Well, you're a good professor. See. I figured this out just in the struggle for you. I should come take you back. Yeah well, we learned so much from you. And then we'd ask you about cup speech. Yeah. Oh my God, you got us. Yes yes. Oh, I tell you.

 [00:35:28] You know I was I I think at one point I was just about finishing my master's degree, and I was writing an action report, and I was signing and referencing it and using the I remember the state's attorney calling and saying this is your right. And she said to me your credit score. Yeah. It's an interesting thing it used to drive me crazy you know much like my sisters are physicians and I can't always understand what they're talking about with me. I got about medical stuff. Yeah. But that's the way it goes profession. We've been fortunate to have your influence and an input into helping us produce the work that we do. What has been some of the things that have stood out for you in the years that you've helped us? I know there's been many, so you know. But it's I know we've gotten better because of our interaction with you. So one of the things that you've been able to put your finger on that you've said yep that's something that we needed to change.

 [00:36:20] Yeah well one thread that I've seen going on in your work that it's made it again very difficult and important work is that what happens to words is of course they grow and change and mean different things in different contexts. So just you know it's no good just to look for a threatening word because almost all of those threatening words have non-threatening uses especially if they've been around for a while. So, for example, to take one of my favorites and bomb originally meant you know that thing that blows up a cyclone a bomb like it's a sports it's a positive adjective in like a bomb hairdo or a hairdo that's the bomb.

 [00:37:09] You know it's all different kinds of things. And so the challenge that I'm interested in is what context is bomb just to use that one example used in that makes it more threatening. So, for example, a noun usage of bomb is at least somewhat more likely to be threatening than an adjective use of bomb, and a noun use a bomb is likely to follow the law and not likely to.

 [00:37:45] And more likely to be followed by a verb than you if you get both of those scenarios then you have a better sense of understanding what's behind.

 [00:37:56] And yeah so it's intentionality. It's looking at context to inform intentionality. And you know we used you know my kids are in high school you know and you're doing your tests the way I killed my test today. Exactly. As opposed to you know the you know I'm going to kill my teacher.

 [00:38:12] A totally different context in which that completely one is completely positive and negative. Right.

 [00:38:19] So yeah. You can't. So it also looks you know is it an animate object that comes after kill or is it an inanimate object that comes after kill it also. And what about tense. Because if someone is threatening to do something, it's more likely to be in future.

 [00:38:38] So we've left at a future looking at future constructions with these threatening terms as opposed to something was the bomb.

 [00:38:47] Something is the bomb something you know or. But going to bomb. Or gonna kill are gonna murder which is you see that you pull it out right away.

 [00:38:59] Absolutely. So you guys I'm listening to you I'm thinking we've removed 100 percent of the irrelevant posts from our deliverables and north of 90 percent of the false positives have been removed, and you've been a part of that by helping us understand. So there are. Yeah, it feels it feels good. We're grateful for that. There are thousands thousand schools across the country benefiting from that work so that they're able to intervene when someone needs help or when someone's crying out. And I think it's fascinating work. I think there's a dimensionality as I mentioned to linguistics and language and its influence on how we think and get my limited experience with Noam Chomsky which is just one of about 100 probably experts in your field that I come back to this idea of thought and language and how the two of them are so intricately linked. We've been able to make such incredible strides with our technology servicing all the schools we do and making some great value in helping intervene when something's gone or potentially could go terribly wrong. So we're grateful for the help, so I'm professor Julia Roberts professor of linguistics at the University of Vermont. And we're grateful to have you on the team.

 [00:40:05] Thank you so much. I'm happy to do that work. It's important. Thanks.