Mayor Pete's multilingualism

Sure, you may have heard that Pete Buttigieg, now on the presidential campaign trail, can speak a surprising number of languages. Now the Washington Post compiles the evidence in one video, under the appropriate headline, "Mayor Pete speaks a lot of languages, even when he's not fluent." In the video, Polyglot Pete shows off his varying skills in French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Farsi (aka Iranian Persian), Dari (aka Afghan Persian), and Norwegian. Oddly, there's no footage of him speaking Maltese, which is likely the foreign language in which he has the most fluency, given that his father is from Malta.

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Coherence Quiz answers

As promised, the results of yesterday's little experiment on "Coherence of sentence sequences" are here.

A tabular summary:

 Question Correct Wrong
1 166 (98%) 4 (2%)
2  135 (80%)  33 (20%)
3 167 (99%) 2 (1%)
4 158 (93%) 12 (7%)
5 113 (67%) 56 (33%)
6 152 (90%) 17 (10%)
7 165 (97%) 5 (3%)
8 115 (68%) 55 (32%)
9 169 (99%) 1 (1%)
10 167 (98%) 3 (2%)
11 163 (96%) 7 (4%)
12 137 (81%) 32 (19%)

So the survey respondents (as a whole) guessed the original order of all twelve sentence-pairs correctly — though the margins varied from 2-to-1 to 99-to-1. The overall percent correct was 89%, though of course that percentage will depend on the particular mix of examples.

(The counts don't all sum to the same row-wise value because a couple of participants left some answers blank — there's probably a way to get Qualtrics to prevent that, but I didn't figure it out in time…)

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Coherence of sentence sequences

Here are two successive sentences from The Wizard of Oz, presented in two different orders:

  1. "How strange it all is! But, comrades, what shall we do now?"
  2. "We must journey on until we find the road of yellow brick again," said Dorothy, "and then we can keep on to the Emerald City."
  1. "We must journey on until we find the road of yellow brick again," said Dorothy, "and then we can keep on to the Emerald City."
  2. "How strange it all is! But, comrades, what shall we do now?"

The first order (in blue) is easier to construe as a coherent sequence, because in that order, sentence 2 answers a question posed by sentence 1. The version in red could be rescued by a more complicated set of contextual assumptions or a more complicated theory of the interaction — but in fact it's the blue version that's the original.

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Plant-based "milk"

The company Oatly claims to have created a new Chinese word for plant-based milk by placing the grass radical above the character for milk:

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Language in Shanghai during World War II and now

Two days ago, I called the attention of friends and colleagues to this recently published book:

Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, 1933-1947: A Selection of Documents (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018.

At 717 pages and with 184 primary documents in German, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Chinese, and Russian, this big volume was edited by Irene Eber (1929-2019), who passed away a few days ago.  Here's a short (7:26) video telling how she became a Sinologist.

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The reality of emerging digraphia

Paul Battley spotted this nice specimen of digraphia written inside the glass of one of those soft toy grabber machines in Taipei last week:

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First grade science card: Pinyin degraded, part 2

Another science card given out to first grade students in Shenzhen, China (see "Readings" below for the first one):

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Sino-English neologisms

As I've mentioned before, Chinese feel that they have every right to experiment with English, make up their own English words, and compose their own locutions which have never before existed in the English-speaking world.  In recent years, they have become ever more playful and emboldened to create new English terms that they gloss or define in Chinese.  Here are ten such new English terms, or perhaps in some cases I should say modified English terms, together with their Chinese explanations:

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No scanner

I'm on the Amtrak train from Philadelphia to New Haven. Although I've ridden on trains hundreds of times all over the US and around the world, something just happened that I've never experienced before. The conductor was going through the entire car (and other cars too — with hundreds of people) asking each person politely and calmly, "Last name on your ticket?"

Whereupon each passenger said his or her name. Since the names were of all kinds of nationalities and variant spellings, in most cases he had to follow up by asking them to spell their name. Every single passenger did so, politely and clearly, and the conductor typed their surnames into his handheld electronic device.

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Reverted to the old LLOG machine

There were issues with the upgrade, so it was decided to revert to the old server at 11:00pm. The site is now running on the old server and should be used as normal. We will make another attempt when we believe we have the issue resolved.

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Totebag conversation

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First grade science card: Pinyin degraded

Science card given out to first grade students in Shenzhen, China:

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Old New Street

From June Teufel Dreyer:

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