Resisting reunification

Comments (15)


Donald Trump: Cognitive decline or TDS?

Sharon Begley, “Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change?“, STAT 5/23/2017:

STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable.  

Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)


Chinese emoji, with a twist

Adrienne LaFrance has an eye-opening article about “The Westernization of Emoji” in The Atlantic (5/22/17).  Here’s the summary statement at the beginning:

The takeout box and the fortune cookie are perceived as emblems of Chinese culture, when they’re actually central to the American experience of it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


Homonyms

Comments (15)


“Little Man” the eating machine

There’s a curious article by Kathy Chu and Menglin Huang in the Wall Street Journal (5/21/17):

How a Toddler Who Loves Eating Transfixed China:  2½-year-old Xiaoman is an online sensation, bringing fame, a Pampers ad and questions about her weight”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-toddler-who-loves-eating-transfixed-china-1495387268

If you have difficulty reading the whole article via the embedded link, try this TinyURL, which should lead you to a complete preview.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)


Siri can you hear me?

Wired.com has some perfect linguaphile clickbait: “Watch People With Accents Confuse the Hell Out of AI Assistants.”  By “accents” they mean, non-American ones (e.g., Irish English). The AI Assistants were Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Home. I’m curious about how well the voice recognition systems in these devices work with varieties of spoken English, so I clicked. Sucker! Can’t tell anything from the video except that it’s fun to say “Add Worcestershire sauce to my shopping list” to a machine.  This definitely beats asking Siri “What is the meaning of life?”

Mainly I was impressed by how poorly I understood the speakers.  I have a bad time understanding other people’s accents  but that’s only one data point.  How well do people understand speech that is in the same language as their own but spoken with a different accent?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)


Study the linguistics of Game of Thrones

At the instant of posting this, there are only 18 places remaining out of the 40 maximum in Linguistics 183 001, David Peterson’s summer session course at UC Berkeley on “The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention.” 3 to 5 p.m., Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu, May 22 to June 30.

It’s not a ‘Structure of Dothraki’ course; it’s about how you go about inventing languages (Peterson has done this for film and TV several times, and has been paid money for it).

Hurry to sign up. And don’t ever let me hear you saying that linguistics doesn’t provide fun things to do.

Comments off


-ist vs. -ic in Riyadh

During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump was repeatedly insistent that everyone should use the term “radical Islamic terrorism”. For example, his reaction to the Orlando massacre, from Inside Edition 7/13/2016:

Announcer: Trump spoke out about the massacre today, saying the president is afraid to call it an act of Islamic terrorism.
Donald Trump: He won’t even use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” which I think is insulting to our country and it’s insulting to everybody. And if you don’t use the term, if you don’t describe what’s happening, you’re never going to solve the problem.

So like many others, I was curious how he would handle the issue in his speech to the “Arab Islamic American Summit” yesterday in Riyadh.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)


Schrödinger’s pundit

Today’s SMBC:

Mouseover title: “On second thought, let’s just leave them in the box.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)


The unreasonable hilarity of recurrent neural networks

If you haven’t done so already, read Andrej Karpathy, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Recurrent Neural Networks“. And then Janelle Shane, “New paint colors invented by neural network“.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)


Trends in presidential pitch II

In Trends in presidential pitch (5/19/2017), I observed that the median fundamental frequency (= “pitch”) of President Trump’s weekly addresses has increased  steadily since January, by about 30%.  As a point of comparison, I did the same calculation for President Obama’s first few months of  weekly addresses, from 1/24/2009 to 5/23/2009, in comparison to Trump’s weekly addresses from 1/28/2017 to 5/19/2017:

[I’ve omitted Trump’s three addresses from 3/3/2017, 3/25/2017, and 3/31/2017, because of the differences in recording context and production style explained in the earlier post. Because Obama seems not to have recorded any weekly addresses in February of 2009, the time span of the 13 plotted weekly addresses from the two presidencies is very nearly the same. ]

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)


BARF (Belt and Road Forum) 2.0

[This is a guest post by the inimitable satirist, S. Tsow]

[1.0 is this: “BARF (Belt and Road Forum)” (5/19/17)]

Xi Jinping (“Mr. Eleven” [XI]) calls his New Silk Road initiative “One Belt, One Road”  (Yidai-Yilu).  A map I have shows a land route in the north, going westward, bifurcating at Urumchi, and ending at Rotterdam and Istanbul.  OK, that’s the “belt”.  The “road” shows a sea route in the south that wanders all over the place and ends in the west at Venice.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)


BARF (Belt and Road Forum)

We are currently in the midst of a massive propaganda barrage unleashed upon the world by the People’s Republic of China.  It’s all about something that started out being called “Yīdài yīlù 一帶一路” (“One Belt One Road”), at least that’s what it was named when I first heard about it a year or two ago.  The Chinese publicists writing about it in English may have just styled it “The Belt and Road”, but everybody I know spoke of it as “One Belt One Road” — “OBOR” for short, which reminded me of Über.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)