ICYMI: "Fog computing"

You've almost certainly heard about "cloud computing" — the phrase is frequently in the news, and has even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, with the gloss "the use of networked facilities for the storage and processing of data rather than a user's local computer, access to data or services typically being via the Internet", and citations from 1996. But do you know about "fog computing"? Wikipedia defines it as

an architecture that uses edge devices to carry out a substantial amount of computation, storage, communication locally and routed over the internet backbone, and most definitively has input and output from the physical world, known as transduction. […]

On November 19, 2015, Cisco Systems, ARM Holdings, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Princeton University, founded the OpenFog Consortium, to promote interests and development in fog computing.

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Nepal, Naple(s), Naipul, nipple, whatever

We at Language Log are no strangers to Nepal:

"'Bāphre bāph!' — my favorite Nepali expression" (8/12/18)

"Learn Nepali" (9/21/16)

"Dung Times" (3/14/18)

"Royal language" (9/29/15)

"Oli ko goli" (10/13/15)

"Unknown Language #7" (2/27/13)

"Unknown Language #7: update" (5/12/13)

Being linguists and language specialists, we know how to pronounce this deceptively simple name, right?

"Nepal":  /nəˈpɔːl/ (About this sound listen); Nepali: नेपाल About this sound Nepāl [neˈpal]

But the general public is not so sure.

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Joos jokes

While looking for something else, I recently stumbled on the November 1950 issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, which published the "Proceedings of the Speech Communication Conference at M.I.T.":

The following twenty-four papers constitute a report of the Speech Communication Conference held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 31-June 3, 1950, under the joint auspices of the Acoustical Society of America, the Carnegie Project on Scientific Aids to Learning at M.I.T., and the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard University.

Among those twenty-four papers was one by Martin Joos, "Description of Language Design", that included this passage:

We can allow other people — telephone engineers or sociologists, for example — to speak artistically, imprecisely, about language. But as linguists we lay upon ourselves the condition that we must speak precisely about language or not at all.

It's hard to tell whether this is deadpan humor or arid crankiness. But given that the author was Martin Joos, I'm voting for humor.

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Draconian dictionaries?

Rachel Paige King ("The Draconian Dictionary Is Back", The Atlantic 8/5/2018) suggests that lexicographers might be (re)turning to prescriptivism:

Since the 1960s, the reference book has cataloged how people actually use language, not how they should. That might be changing. […]

The standard way of describing these two approaches in lexicography is to call them “descriptivist” and “prescriptivist.” Descriptivist lexicographers, steeped in linguistic theory, eschew value judgements about so-called correct English and instead describe how people are using the language. Prescriptivists, by contrast, inform readers which usage is “right” and which is “wrong.”

King's historical sketch of lexicography's past century concludes that the descriptivists have won, but that

oddly enough, Merriam-Webster is doing a great deal to promote the idea that sounding educated and using standard—if not highbrow—English really does matter. […]

The company has a feisty blog and Twitter feed that it uses to criticize linguistic and grammatical choices. Donald Trump and his administration are regular catalysts for social-media clarifications by Merriam-Webster. The company seems bothered when Trump and his associates change the meanings of words for their own convenience, or when they debase the language more generally.

Maybe it’s not the dictionary that has become outmoded today, but descriptivism itself. I’m not implying that Merriam-Webster has or should abandon the philosophy that guides its lexicography, but it seems that the way the company has regained its relevance in the post-print era is by having a strong opinions about how people should use English.

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"Bāphre bāph!" — my favorite Nepali expression

As a Peace Corps volunteer in eastern Nepal (Bhojpur) from 1965-67, I became highly fluent in spoken Nepali.  I even dreamed in Nepali.

My Peace Corps buddies and I learned Nepali in Columbia, Missouri by the total immersion method, which I describe and demonstrate in this post:  "Learn Nepali" (9/21/16).

See also my comments to "Alien encounters" (9/15/16), especially this one, #7-8, and the links embedded therein.

I became enamored of many Nepali words and phrases, but my favorite of all is "bāphre bāph!", which corresponds roughly to "Wow", "OMG", etc. in English.

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Autocorrect

By Allie Brosh:

Update — apparently this is a meme derived from Allie Brosh's art, but not created by her. See the comment below.

 

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Science Wars

The dark side of Paul Feyerabend's anarchistic philosophy of science — the observation that researchers often try to resolve scientific questions by political means, in the most negative possible sense of "political" — is confirmed all too often by experience. Linguists can point to the excesses of the The Linguistics Wars of the 1970s, and to plenty of other doctrinal disputes, including the Great Recursion Squabble of recent memory. So it's paradoxically a comfort to read Bianca Bosker's article "The nastiest feud in science", The Atlantic 9/2018, about Gerta Keller's struggle to argue that the Fifth Extinction was caused by volcanos rather than by a meteor:

The impact theory provided an elegant solution to a prehistoric puzzle, and its steady march from hypothesis to fact offered a heartwarming story about the integrity of the scientific method. “This is nearly as close to a certainty as one can get in science,” a planetary-science professor told Time magazine in an article on the crater’s discovery. […]

While the majority of her peers embraced the Chicxulub asteroid as the cause of the extinction, Keller remained a maligned and, until recently, lonely voice contesting it. She argues that the mass extinction was caused not by a wrong-place-wrong-time asteroid collision but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions in a part of western India known as the Deccan Traps—a theory that was first proposed in 1978 and then abandoned by all but a small number of scientists. Her research, undertaken with specialists around the world and featured in leading scientific journals, has forced other scientists to take a second look at their data.[…]

Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.” Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.”

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Hot words

It is my solemn duty to call the attention of Language Log readers to a seriously deficient BBC article:

"China's rebel generation and the rise of 'hot words'", by Kerry Allen with additional reporting from Stuart Lau (8/10/18). 

Language Matters is a new column from BBC Capital exploring how evolving language will influence the way we work and live.

Even though the article annoyed me greatly, I probably wouldn't have written a post about it on the basis of the flimsy substance of the last 23 paragraphs were it not for the outrageous first paragraph, which really requires refutation.

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All the thyme in the world

A small recent experience with herb-related synchronicity reminded me of some very interesting phonetics research.

This all began a couple of weeks ago, when Larry Hyman and I were discussing what seasonings to use on meat to be grilled for dinner. I suggested thyme, and Larry reminded me of Suzanne Gahl's 2008 paper "Time and Thyme Are not Homophones: The Effect of Lemma Frequency on Word Durations in Spontaneous Speech":

Frequent words tend to shorten. But do homophone pairs, such as time and thyme, shorten equally if one member of the pair is frequent? This study reports an analysis of roughly 90,000 tokens of homophones in the Switchboard corpus of American English telephone conversations, in which it was found that high-frequency words like time are significantly shorter than their low-frequency homophones like thyme. The effect of lemma frequency persisted when local speaking rate, predictability from neighboring words, position relative to pauses, syntactic category, and orthographic regularity were brought under statistical control. These findings have theoretical implications for the locus of frequency information in linguistic competence and in models of language production, and for the role of articulatory routinization in shortening.

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Ampersand in Chinese

From Caitlin Schultz:

I was eating at a place called Yaso Tangbao in Midtown Manhattan recently and snapped these photos of Chinese characters and ampersands. I thought it was unusual!

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: 'keep' (part 1)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

With this post, I begin my examination of the corpus data regarding the phrase keep and bear arms. My plan is to start at the level of the individual words, keep, bear, and arms, then proceed to the simple verb phrases keep arms and bear arms, and finally deal with the whole phrase keep and bear arms. I start in this post and the next one with keep.

As you may recall from my last post about the Second Amendment, Justice Scalia's majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller had this to say about the meaning of keep: "[Samuel] Johnson defined 'keep' as, most relevantly, '[t]o retain; not to lose,' and '[t]o have in custody.' Webster defined it as '[t]o hold; to retain in one's power or possession.'" While those definitions could be improved on, I think that for purposes of this discussion, they adequately explain what keep means when it's used in the phrase keep arms. So I'm not going to discuss that data with an eye to criticizing this portion of the Heller opinion.

Instead, I'm going to use the data for keep as the raw material for an introduction to the nuts and bolts of corpus analysis. I suspect that many people reading this won't have had any first-hand experience working with corpus data, or even any exposure to it. Hopefully this quick introduction will enable those people to better understand what I'm talking about when I start to deal with the data that does raise questions about the Supreme Court's analysis.

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Creative translation

From Tanner Greer:

I was playing around on The Communist Youth League's Bilibili channel the other day when I came across this video. You'll notice it is an attempt to appropriate an interview with Trump's chief of staff to legitimize Party narratives. Some of things the Party says are fair game, I suppose, but a lot of them revolve around… very creative translations. This is my favorite:

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Menu mysteries

In this article, we have the following peculiar menu items:

餐蛋治 Meal egg rule

腿蛋治 Leg treatment

奶油多 Cream more

華田 Hua Tian

新界油菜 Rape in the New Territories

净面 Wash the face

加底 With the bottom

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