Archive for Language and politics

Sex with Senator Bob Taft?

Last Friday, Bill O'Neill decided to "speak up on the behalf of all heterosexual males" by posting this on Facebook:

Since O'Neill is a justice of the Ohio State Supreme Court, and a declared candidate for governor of Ohio, this occasioned a certain amount of commentary.

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Linguistic Science and Technology in China

I just spent a few days in China, mainly to attend an "International Workshop on Language Resource Construction: Theory, Methodology and Applications". This was the second event in a three-year program funded by a small grant from the "Penn China Research & Engagement Fund". That program's goals include "To develop new, or strengthen existing, institutional and faculty-to-faculty relationships with Chinese partners", and our proposal focused on "linguistic diversity in China, with specific emphasis on the documentation of variation in standard, regional and minority languages".

After last year's workshop at the Penn Wharton China Center, some Chinese colleagues (Zhifang Sui and Weidong Zhan from the Key Laboratory of Computational Linguistics and the Center for Chinese Linguistics at Peking University) suggested that we join them in co-sponsoring a two-day workshop this fall, with the first day at PKU and the second day at the PWCC. Here's the group photo from the first day (11/5/2017):

The growing strength of Chinese research in the various areas of linguistic science and technology has been clear for some time, and the presentations and discussions at this workshop made it clear that this work is poised for a further major increase in quantity and quality.

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How to pronounce the name of the president of Catalonia

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Forbidden terms

Xinhua News Agency has published another list of banned words:

Xīnhuá shè xīnwén bàodào zhōng de jìnyòng cí 新华社新闻报道中的禁用词 ("Forbidden words in news reports of Xinhua News Agency").

Since it is designated as 第一批 ("first batch"), we can expect that more batches will be issued in the future.

You can find versions of the current list circulating all over the internet.  Here's one from a WeChat (Weixin.qq.com) post that I have relied on for the following account.  The proscriptions may also be found here.

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East Asian multilingual pop culture

Currently circulating political poster in the PRC:

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Presidential fluency

In a number of posts about Donald Trump's rhetorical style, I've noted how seldom he uses filled pauses such as UM and UH in spontaneous speech, compared to other public figures. For example, in "The narrow end of the funnel" (8/18/2016), I noted that filled pauses were 8.2% of Steve Bannon's words (in a sample passage from a panel discussion on The Future of Conservatism), and 4.0% of Hilary Clinton's words in a Vox interview, while three of Trump's unscripted rally speeches had between 0% and 0.05% filled pauses, and in a CNBC interview, Trump used 74 filled pauses in 5329 words, for a rate of 1.4%.

Like many others, I've noted how often Trump abandons a discourse thread in mid-phrase, sometimes returning to it after a digression, and sometimes just forging ahead with new themes. (See e.g. "The em-dash candidate" (8/15/2016) and "Disfluencies and smiles" (9/30/2016).) And I've certainly also noted his fondness for phrasal repetitions, sometimes literal and sometimes transformed or paraphrased, which is one of the factors leading to his low rate of vocabulary display. (See "Donald Trump's repetitive rhetoric" (12/5/2015), "Trump's rhetorical style" (12/26/2015), "Vocabulary display in the CNN debate" (9/18/2015), "Political vocabulary display" (9/10/2015), and  "More political text analytics" (4/15/2016).)

But I don't believe that I've noted, at least quantitatively, how rarely Donald Trump exhibits the type of disfluency where the leading edge of a phrase is rapidly repeated, sometimes to correct a pronunciation or inflection, and sometimes just as an apparent hitch in the speech production process. Nor do I think I've noted how little dead air (AKA pause for thought) there is in his spontaneous speech.

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Headlessness in North Korean propaganda

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

After coverage of dotage and DOLtage, as diagnosed by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Victor Mair's latest Korean-themed post deals with a more serious condition: headlessness.

Varieties of the ailment have been reported in, e.g., chickens and compound nouns, but the latter sense would be out of place in KCNA vocabulary; (at least South) Korean linguists would talk of nouns 'lacking a nucleus' (핵어(核語) 없는 haegeo eomneun / 무핵(無核) muhaek 합성명사(合成名詞) hapseong myeongsa) rather than a 'head'. Another candidate for headlessness is the North Korean state itself, per OPLAN 5015 (작전계획(作戰計劃) 5015 jakjeon-gyehoek ogong-iro). Said PLAN involves a 'decapitation' (참수(斬首) chamsu) strike against Kim Jong-un. He's supposedly familiar with the nitty-gritty of the PLAN, reportedly obtained by hacking into South Korean military networks. The South Koreans, rumour has it, are speeding up their defence upgrade plans, so it's understandable any potential decapitees would feel uneasy.

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Guys and gals: Or, why the "Chinese" are called "Han"

In the comments to "Easy versus exact" (10/14/17), a discussion of the term "Hànzi 汉子" emerged as a subtheme.  Since it quickly grew too large and complex to fit comfortably within the framework of the o.p., I decided to write this new post focusing on "Hàn 汉 / 漢" and some of the many collocations into which it enters.

To situate Language Log readers with some basic terms they likely already know, we may begin with Hànyǔ 汉语 ("Sinitic", lit., "Han language"), Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic spelling"), and Hànzì 汉字 ("Sinograph, Sinogram", i.e., "Chinese character").  All of these terms incorporate, as their initial element, the morpheme "Hàn 汉 / 漢".  Where does it come from, and what does it mean?

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Paramilitary

Does Spanish paramilitar have a different meaning than English paramilitary, or at least stronger negative connotations? This question has recently become the focus of reaction to a New Yorker article by Jon Lee Anderson, "The increasingly tense standoff over Catalonia's independence referendum", 10/4/2017.

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The less… umm… fewer the better

Someone with a knowledge of usage controversies, German language, and modern political history put this on the web somewhere; I haven't been able to find out who or where:

[Hat tip: Rowan Mackay]

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More vitriolic rhetoric from KCNA

We've already had a taste of the crass, crude contumely that the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) typically spews forth against the perceived enemies of the North Korean state:

"Dotard" (9/22/17)
"Of dotards and DOLtards" (10/4/17)

KCNA hits a new low with their latest denunciation of the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe:

"North Korea promises to bring 'nuclear clouds' to Japan, mocks PM as 'headless chicken'", by Katherine Lam, Fox News (10/3/17)
"N. Korea threatens nuke strike on Japan, calls Abe ‘headless chicken’:  Abe’s comments at UN will 'bring nuclear clouds to the Japanese archipelago,' says KCNA", Asia Unhedged, Asia Times (10/4/17)

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The British Bad Dream

Yesterday (10/4/2017) Theresa May gave a speech at the Conservative Party conference in which a remarkable number of things went wrong: she suffered an extended coughing fit, the comedian Simon Brodkin handed her a fake dismissal form ("P45") signed by Boris Johnson, and two letters fell off her background slogan "BUILDING A COUNTRY THAT WORKS (F)OR EVERYON(E)". For details and commentary, see e.g. "The cough, the P45, the falling F: Theresa May's speech calamity"; "Theresa May battles a sore throat and prankster in conference speech"; "Theresa May’s speech overshadowed by a persistent cough and a prankster"; "The most excruciating moments in Theresa May’s speech"; "Theresa May's nightmare speech: a prankster, a lost voice and a stage-set fail"; "Theresa May, Coughing and Caught by a Prankster, Endures a Speech to Forget".

But besides these performance issues, the content of the speech also came in for some criticism — there was the "British Dream" theme, and the alleged West Wing plagiarism.

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Of dotards and DOLtards

[A guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

After all the brouhaha over Kim Jong Un's 'dotard' philippic, I was reminded of some other Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) invective: those sexist insults against Park Geun-hye, the racist insults against Obama, and specifically those aimed at Michael Kirby, the Australian judge who led a UN inquiry on North Korean human rights. The NK leadership didn't appreciate the scrutiny, and responded by calling Kirby, who is openly gay, a DOL (Disgusting Old Lecher). I was wondering what the Korean for that would be, so I looked for the original piece.

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