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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Prof. Dr. John Nerbonne

Prof. Dr. John Nerbonne

University of Groningen
Humanities Computing
External Senior Fellow
August 2013 - January 2014; August 2014 - October 2015


John Nerbonne studied Linguistics and Computer Science at the Ohio State University and then worked in industry for eight years (Hewlett Packard Labs and the German Artificial Intelligence Center) before becoming professor of Computational Linguistics and chair of Humanities Computing (alfa-informatica) in Groningen in 1993. He has supervised over thirty dissertations, has directed the Center for Language and Cognition, Groningen (more than 100 members) for fourteen years, has directed several large research projects, and has served as president of the Association for Computational Linguistics. He’s worked on a range of theoretical and applied topics in computational linguistics, including grammar development, semantics, natural language interfaces, computer-assisted language learning, information extraction, simulations of language learning, language contact and detecting syntactic differences in corpora. His focus over the last decade has been work on computational tools for analyzing pronunciation differences, where he has contributed a number of techniques and refinements to dialectology.


Selected Publications

  • John Nerbonne. Data-Driven Dialectology. Language and Linguistics Compass, 3(1), 2009, 175-198. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-818x2008.00114.x
  • John Nerbonne and Wilbert Heeringa. Measuring Dialect Differences. In Jürgen Erich Schmidt and Peter Auer (eds.) Language and Space: Theories and Methods. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, (Series Language and Space. An International Handbook of Linguistic Variation, Vol.1) Chap.31, 2009, 550–567.
  • John Nerbonne. Measuring the Diffusion of Linguistic Change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365, 12 Dec. 2010. 3821–3828. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0048. Online as of 1 Nov. 2010.
  • Martijn Wieling, John Nerbonne and Harald Baayen (2011) Quantitative Social Dialectology: Explaining Linguistic Variation Geographically and Socially. PLoS ONE, 6(9), 2011: e23613. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023613 .
  • Martijn Wieling, Eliza Margarethe and John Nerbonne. Inducing a Measure of Phonetic Similarity from Pronunciation Variation. Journal of Phonetics. Mar., 2012. 307-314.


FRIAS Research Project

Variation and Frequency

Since most collections of dialect material (e.g., atlases), contain little systematic information on the frequency of sounds, words, or constructions, and most quantitative work is based on these, the quantitative work generally ignores the influence of frequency on variation. Exceptions include research that uses frequency in the collection, but this is potentially rather different from the token frequency that informs other linguistic work, e.g. that in sentence processing or lexical recognition. Honorable exceptions base their frequency estimates on concept frequency in corpora (normally of standard language, assuming that frequency will normally not differ greatly across dialects), a reasonable assumption hasn’t been tested closely, however. The studies often report that frequent items tend to resist standardization more successfully. I want to start systematizing what’s known about the relation, comparing it also to the tendency of frequent items to reduce phonologically.