PyeongChang: how do you say that in English?

Should we say the name of the host city of the 2018 winter Olympics the way the Koreans pronounce it [pʰjʌŋtɕʰaŋ]?  Or should we say it more in accord with English phonetics?

The following article by Jane Han spells out the controversy clearly:

"NBC, read my lips – it's PyeongChang" (The Korea Times [2/18/18)

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Language machinery

Xavier Marquez, "Stalin as Reviewer #2", Abandoned Footnotes 117/2018:

Most people reading this blog probably know about Trofim Lysenko, who, with Stalin’s help, set back Soviet genetics in the late 1940s, preventing any discussion of Mendelian inheritance. Yet Stalin’s influence on Soviet scholarship after WWII was much more far reaching. He intervened in disputes concerning philosophy, physics, physiology, linguistics, and political economy; in fact one of the epithets by which he was sometimes referred in the press was “the coryphaeus of science”, i.e., the leader of the chorus of Soviet science. (Lysenko himself used the term in his eulogy for Stalin in 1953, though it was first used in 1939).

Most of these interventions were editorial in character. He edited pre-publication drafts of articles and books, often in close consultation with their authors and at great length (he was actually a decent editor), and occasionally provided feedback on published and unpublished work. And he did this despite the fact that he was the undisputed ruler of one of the victors of World War II, a country that was facing the gigantic task of reconstruction after one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. In short, he was the editor and reviewer from hell.

The story of Stalin’s intervention into Soviet linguistics is particularly funny, at least in the morbid way that anything from that time can be funny. And it also brings out some interesting points about how official ideological commitments both constrained and enabled Stalin and Stalinism.

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Rhetoric in Troll-land

Anton Torianovski, "A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’", WaPo 2/17/2018:

You got a list of topics to write about. Every piece of news was taken care of by three trolls each, and the three of us would make up an act. We had to make it look like we were not trolls but real people. One of the three trolls would write something negative about the news, the other two would respond, “You are wrong,” and post links and such. And the negative one would eventually act convinced. Those are the kinds of plays we had to act out.

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Barking roosters and crowing dogs

The following full-page ad was published in a Chinese daily in Malaysia:

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Zombie factoid check

It's been a few years since I checked for references to the invented "science" of gender differences in talkativeness — and a scan of recent news articles for "words per day" turns up a steady drip of replications.

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Excessive quadrisyllabicism

Many readers of Language Log will remember the visit of China's former internet censor-in-chief, Lu Wei, to the headquarters of Facebook, Apple, and Amazon in late 2014.  Those were his glory days, but now his star has fallen in a most spectacular fashion:

"China’s ‘tyrannical’ former internet tsar Lu Wei accused of trading power for sex in long list of corruption charges: Lu accused of a range of crimes from abusing power for personal gain to disloyalty", by Frank Tang (SCMP [2/13/18])

"China's former chief of internet regulator expelled from Communist Party" (Reuters [2/13/18)

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o ai aaa oa ueui

As ktschwarz pointed out in the comments on yesterday's post "Easy going crazy", Google Translate is disposed to recognize text consisting only of vowels and spaces as Hawaiian, and to hallucinate a coherent if sometimes chilling translation into English.

In order to exercise this option more fully, I wrote and tested a simple R script to generate random messages of this type:

 N = 150
 Letters = c("a","e","i","o","u"," ")
 cat(sprintf("%s\n",paste0(sample(Letters,N,replace=TRUE),collapse="")))

So for example:


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An overnegation that isn't hard to miss

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Bilingual, biscriptal sign in Virginia

Sticker at a gas station near the Richmond airport, courtesy of Jonathan Smith:

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Easy going crazy

Today Josh Tenenbaum gave a talk here in the Interdisciplinary Mind and Brain Seminar Series, under the title "On what you can’t learn from (merely) all the data in the world, and what else is needed". One of his themes was that current RNN systems lack common sense, and so in honor of that point, here's another episode in our ongoing Elephant Semifics series. This one is based on repetitions of  0x306C "HIRAGANA LETTER NU", which Google Translate correctly diagnoses as Japanese.

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Ottoman Hebrew scroll

Or so it would seem, but the people who have looked at this scroll so far cannot make much sense of what's written on it.

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Freudian misnegation of the year

Leonardo Boiko writes "It's still mid-February, but I feel like this is a strong contender nonetheless".

The source: Joshua Rhett Miller, "Pastor says nothing weird was going on with bound naked man in car", New York Post 2/13/2018.

The key phrase: “I won’t deny that he began to take his clothes off and propositioned me, but I will deny, on a stack of Bibles with God as my witness, that I did nothing".

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Replicate vs. reproduce (or vice versa?)

Lorena Barba, "Terminologies for Reproducible Research", arXiv.org 2/9/2018:

Reproducible research—by its many names—has come to be regarded as a key concern across disciplines and stakeholder groups. Funding agencies and journals, professional societies and even mass media are paying attention, often focusing on the so-called "crisis" of reproducibility. One big problem keeps coming up among those seeking to tackle the issue: different groups are using terminologies in utter contradiction with each other. Looking at a broad sample of publications in different fields, we can classify their terminology via decision tree: they either, A—make no distinction between the words reproduce and replicate, or B—use them distinctly. If B, then they are commonly divided in two camps. In a spectrum of concerns that starts at a minimum standard of "same data+same methods=same results," to "new data and/or new methods in an independent study=same findings," group 1 calls the minimum standard reproduce, while group 2 calls it replicate. This direct swap of the two terms aggravates an already weighty issue. By attempting to inventory the terminologies across disciplines, I hope that some patterns will emerge to help us resolve the contradictions.

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