I was wondering if there is a good way to read and understand Quantitative linguistics articles that has graphs in it?

For example,

For a class, I am currently reading: "Recognition of spoken words by native and non-native listeners: talker-, listener-, and item-related factors. Bradlow AR(1), Pisoni DB."

But because I am not a native speaker of English, I am finding it hard to follow all the points. I read it once but I am still not sure what the authors' main goal is, cannot understand the tables.

Sometimes, I find summary of articles on the internet and read them to help me understand. But this one and others do not have summary. What should I do?

  • Is this specific to quantitative linguistics only? that would be mighty odd. The math might be not obvious, and not explained in the paper directly, I don't know.
    – vectory
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:25
  • I am not just talking about the math. The math is the easiest thing. I am talking about understand the article as whole. It is in English
    – User384789
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:27
  • For example, what is the article looking at and what is the overall goal?
    – User384789
    Oct 22, 2019 at 16:28
  • 1
    Have you tried reading the abstracts first?
    – b a
    Oct 22, 2019 at 19:46
  • yes! it is confusing. summaries simplify sentences but those do not.
    – User384789
    Oct 22, 2019 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


This suggests a possible meta-study on intelligibility of technical works by native and non-native speakers. A technical paper in phonology might be unintelligible because of the linguistic structure of the article, or because of the subject matter. The same is true in speech and hearing science, and various other areas. Fortunately, SPHS and phonetics papers tend to follow a formula for presentation, and that means that in section 1 you will know the point of the paper. In section one there is a fair amount of talk that justifies expectations, which from a practical perspective you don't care about (not initially).

There are some language-related conventions that can get in the way, for example the fact that speakers are called "talkers" (I suppose they would say, looking at a linguistics article, that we call talkers "speakers"). This is disciplinary jargon, not an ESL matter. Same with hyper- and hypo-speech. Everybody in the discipline (that discipline) knows what hyper-speech is, at least I think I have heard that expression. You may have to read the article they refer to in order to understand that expression. The main point that you can extract from this section is that physical outputs are partially shaped by "mental context" (various social and communicative factors, not just a person's physiology).

They say what experiments 1 and 2 are intended to do, so read that part over and over. There is nothing at all quantitative in the article in section 1. If you do not understand section 1 (I will admit that I do not truly understand section 1), you won't understand the article. This is not about understanding linguistics articles in general, this is about understanding a specific article.

  • I will go and read it again. thank you! This is helpful
    – User384789
    Oct 22, 2019 at 17:00
  • There's a lot of work about technical translations between specific different languages, at least, and, recently, about measures of how different they are (which, many deny, could be a measure of complexity; admittedly in more than one dimension, because they might come out identical in a span of the dimensions.)
    – vectory
    Oct 22, 2019 at 17:26

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