Linguistics researchers: What programming language(s) do you use?

FIrst of all, I agree with /u/langaugejones:


Everybody sort of loves to hate Praat, I think. It's big and clunky and often difficult to work with.

On the other hand, it's kind of the de facto software for this kind of research. As far as I know, nothing else even comes close to it. It has years and years of momentum, and everybody has used it, and labs everywhere are very heavily invested in it already. In spite of its ugliness, it really does work.

As far as the features that would be necessary for a "NeoPraat" to replace it go: I really can't say. I'm not really involved in the phonetics/phonology world these days. I used it for some undergrad projects. But then by grad school (which was when I was working ON Praat, not WITH it) I'd realized that my interests really were elsewhere. And even then, the stuff I was adding didn't really have much at all to do with the signal-processing stuff, which is really where a lot of the value is. You'd also be taking a huge step backwards by only supporting Mac, in my opinion. Would that mean writing the core of it in Objective-C?

I think you're probably right that building a new pretty face on top of the Praat core wouldn't be all that great. At least, most of the complaints that I've heard are some variation on the theme of it being really obtuse and difficult to work with, and a prettier UI really only goes so far toward addressing those. Plus, I imagine that wrangling all the code inside to work with something else would probably be very difficult.

On the other hand (again), Praat already has a really impressive set of signal processing/FFT/etc. functionality. Like I said, I'm very far from a SP person so it's really difficult for me to estimate how much work it would be to rewrite all that (my best guess: a huge amount of work... after all, it's been in very steady development for more than a decade already). But I do know enough about phonetics and phonology to know that you really can't do much meaningful research at all if you don't have all of that kind of analysis available to you. (And, if you're doing research that doesn't require any of that processing, then you wouldn't be using Praat in the first place).

So, yeah, I don't know. A better Praat would be really awesome. But my best guess is that trying to develop anything else would be prohibitively expensive, and it's not like we're replacing something that's broken. It definitely works... it's just ugly and annoying. It's kind of similar to why large banks and government agencies still have millions and millions of lines of COBOL in their systems. In the end, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense spending all that money and engineer-time to replace something that already does the job just because it's not stylish.

I still hate Praat, though, and I could very easily be wrong about a lot of what I said above. I hope I'll be proven wrong and one day soon we'll have an intuitive, well-designed, easily extensible Praat. Or something like it, anyway.

So I guess to sum up:

  • Writing a new Praat? Too Hard.
  • Not Writing a new Praat? Somebody should, Praat sucks.


Just my thoughts, though. There are tons and tons of people way more qualified to weigh in on this than I am, so I wouldn't take my opinions THAT seriously if I were you.

/r/linguistics Thread