Mathematicians at the University of Vermont have been meddling in a field very far from boring numbers. Earlier this month, they officially declared the English language “optimistic” based on a careful analysis that combined statistics and subtle human evaluation. The researchers, led by assistant professor Chris Danforth, aggregated texts from Twitter, the New York Times, song lyrics, and Google Books’ database dating back to 1520. They picked the top 5,000 words from each source, which totaled 10,222 words. (Why is it not 20,000 words? There was some overlap in the top 5,000. It is no surprise that “the,” “a” and “of” are some of the most frequently used words across these different collections.)

Once they had the most frequently used words, they brought in human evaluators to judge the words on a happiness scale: 0 being the least happy and 9 being the happiest. When each word had a value, they calculated their frequency in the texts. The composite score for all of the words was 6 – a statistically significant shift towards the “happy” end of the spectrum.

Of course, this study isn’t perfect. For one, some words that may be judged as “happy” are not always used that way. The word “bad” has developed an alternative meaning of “outstandingly excellent; first rate.” Some words had very divergent scores from the evaluators. Words like “pregnant” and “alcohol” may be very positive to one person but very negative to another.

Also, the study measures the use of words, not the existence of words, so perhaps it would be more accurate to say that English speakers in the selected works were positive, rather than the English language being inherently positive. If the study evaluated the unabridged dictionary using the same methods, we might be able to better measure the emotional tone of the language as a whole.

Danforth and his colleague Peter Sheridan Dodds have been developing a “hedonometer” to measure the mood of a population based on the words they use. The idea of a scale to rate happiness has been around for quite some time; an economist Francis Edgeworth first spread the idea in the 1800s. But Dodds and Danforth have come much closer than their predecessors to a successful system that generates a happiness score for a particular time period by reading tweets, political speeches, and blogs, among other raw texts. Read their academic word here.

Do you think English is an innately positive language? Do you think you can measure happiness by word use?

Xbox woes add to costs for Microsoft

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) July 6, 2007 | Jessica Mintz Associated Press SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp. on Thursday extended the warranty on its Xbox 360 to three years after too many of the video game consoles have succumbed to “general hardware failure.” The company said it will record a $1.05 billion to $1.15 billion charge for the fourth quarter that ended Saturday to pay for “anticipated costs.” Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division, which makes the Xbox 360 and Zune digital music player, reported an operating loss of $315 million on $929 million in sales in the third quarter this year. go to site how to fix the red ring of death

“We don’t think we’ve been getting the job done,” said Robbie Bach, president of the division. “In the past few months, we have been having to make Xbox 360 console repairs at a rate too high for our liking.” Bach said the company made manufacturing and production changes that he expects will reduce Xbox 360 hardware meltdowns, which are indicated by three flashing red lights on the front of the console. website how to fix the red ring of death

He declined to identify the problems Microsoft fixed, or say what problems remain that could prompt general hardware failure. Bach also would not say how many gamers have sent in machines for repair – just that the percentage is “bigger than we are comfortable with.” Microsoft will pay for shipping and repairs for three years, worldwide, for consoles afflicted with what gamers casually call “the red ring of death.” Previously, the warranty expired after one year for U.S. customers and two years for Europeans.

Microsoft also will reimburse the Xbox 360 owners who have paid for shipping and repairs on out-of-warranty consoles, Bach said.

In June, bloggers speculated the Xbox 360 return problem was getting so severe that the company was running out of “coffins,” special return-shipping boxes Microsoft provides to gamers with dead consoles.

Jessica Mintz Associated Press


  1. Andrew Armijo -  May 19, 2012 - 10:26 am

    I would also like to express that most individuals that find themselves with out health insurance are normally students, self-employed and those that are laid-off. More than half of the uninsured are under the age of Thirty five. They do not come to feel they are looking for health insurance because they are young and also healthy. Its income is frequently spent on property, food, as well as entertainment. A lot of people that do work either whole or part time are not offered insurance by means of their work so they head out without due to the rising expense of health insurance in the United States. Thanks for the concepts you reveal through your blog.

  2. Mike -  March 19, 2012 - 10:58 pm

    Seems like the broader question is whether or not there CAN be anything INNATE about language; language is a function of the mind and of its use in mass culture. So, I think it’s a question of whether humans are innately positive or not.

    But, a more objective, quantifiable approach might be to compare the number of negative or positive words in English and other languages; has anyone noticed, by the way, that there seems to be an innordinate number of English words of the like “berate,” “chastise” “castigate” etc. — generally to “criticize or reprimand severely”?

  3. how to stop a cough -  March 4, 2012 - 3:31 pm

    This is a topic that is close to my heart… Thank you! Where are your contact details though?

  4. JJ in Chula Vista, CA -  February 29, 2012 - 9:20 pm

    I think that some commenters are misunderstanding the crux of the article.

    This isn’t an argument for whether English is somehow more beautiful than other languages or not, nor is it an argument to measure whether the subjects involved in the study are positive or negative themselves, or whether the culture is positive or negative from which these measurments were derived from.

    Like the title of the article states, the study is attempting to quantify and thus measure the innate aspects of words in the English language, and contends that English, like other languages, has innate positive aspects that set it apart from other languages. The reality is that what isn’t clear is what specific languages exist (or even once existed) that are not innately positive, and in that way the article fails to be clear.

    Sure, there are both positive and negative words in English, just like in all languages, but by no means does that mean that there’s an argument being made that this study therefore proves that English is somehow “better” or “more beautiful” or “more meaningful” to their native speakers than other languages, nor does it open itself up to the opposite conclusion.

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