Archive for Phonetics and phonology

Two dozen, two thousand, whatever

For Times Insider, David W. Dunlap has an article about some of the more entertaining errors and corrections that have graced the pages of The New York Times: "The Times Regrets the Error. Readers Don't."

Among the goofs is this one from a Q&A with Ivana Trump that appeared in the Oct. 15, 2000 New York Times Magazine:

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Ted Chiang uninvents Chinese characters

Yesterday morning on the commute to Penn, I was intrigued by a series of six articles in the latest New Yorker (5/16/16) that appeared under the rubric "Uninvent this":  Mary Karr on high heels, Charlie Brooker on dancing, Carrie Brownstein on conference calls, Lee Child on fiction, Alexandra Kleeman on mirrors….  When I reached the sixth and last one, I was so stunned that I almost dropped the magazine and nearly fell out of my seat.

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Ted Cruz's "basketball ring" — or was it "rim"?

Ted Cruz has gotten a lot of very creative grief for apparently messing up the re-enactment of a scene from the movie Hoosiers by referring to the height of a "basketball ring":

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Old Sinitic reconstructions and Tibeto-Burman cognates

[The following is a guest post by Tsu-Lin Mei.]

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The Old Chinese reconstruction of Gong Hwang-cherng and James Matisoff is not only internally consistent, but can be shown to have a Tibeto-Burman counterpart through Sino-Tibetan comparative studies.  Gong Hwang-cherng's Collected Papers on Sino-Tibetan Linguistics 龚煌城, Hàn-Zàngyǔ yánjiū lùnwén jí《汉藏语研究论文集》(2002) has about 300 cognate sets — involving Old Chinese, Written Tibetan, Written Burmese, and reconstructed Tangut. I am writing a paper whose purpose is to unite Gong's work with Zàng-Miǎn yǔzú yǔyán cíhuì《藏缅语族语言词汇》(Lexicon of Tibeto-Burman languages), edited by Huang Bufan 黄布凡 (1992). So far I have 142 cognate sets and can testify that Gong's cognate sets on the whole hold water.

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Some phonetic dimensions of speech style

My posts have been thin recently, mostly because over the past ten days or so I've been involved in the preparation and submission of five conference papers, on top of my usual commitments to teaching and meetings and visitors. Nobody's fault but mine, of course. Anyhow, this gives me some raw material that I'll try to present in a way that's comprehensible and interesting to non-specialists.

One of the papers, with Neville Ryant as first author, was an attempt to take advantage of a large collection of audiobook recordings to explore some dimensions of speaking style. The paper is still under review, so I'll wait to post a copy until its fate is decided — but there are some interesting ideas and suggestive results that I can share. And to motivate you to read the somewhat wonkish explanation that follows, I'll start off with a picture:

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 5

Previous posts in the series:

As mentioned before, the following post is not about a sword or other type of weapon per se, but in terms of its ancient Eurasian outlook, it arguably belongs in the series:

Today's post is also not about a sword, but it is about a weapon, namely an arrow.

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Cymascope: a new form of pseudoscience?

I have just learned of what is either a remarkable development with implications in many fields or, more likely, a new form of pseudoscience. It is a device called the Cymascope. Information about it may be had at the Cymascope web site. The Cymascope is a device for visualizing sound by causing a membrane to vibrate and shining lights on the membrane. It is claimed that this new method of visualizing sound has already led to marvelous new insights in fields ranging from Astrophysics and Biology to Egyptology and Musicology.

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 3

Previous posts in the series:

"Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions " (3/8/16)
"Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 2 " (3/12/16)

The following post is not about a sword or other type of weapon per se, but in terms of its ancient Eurasian outlook, it arguably belongs in the series:

"Of felt hats, feathers, macaroni, and weasels " (3/13/16)

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 2

Part 1 in this series was posted here on 3/8/16 and dealt with a sword called Mòyé 鏌鋣 / 莫邪.  The post was followed by a vigorous discussion that revealed the existence of a large number of words for "sword" in other languages that sound like the reconstructed Old Sinitic form (roughly *mˤak-ja or /makzæ/), stretching westward across Eurasia.  Surprisingly, such words were found prominently in Slavic and Finno-Ugrian languages, but these were determined to be of Germanic origin.  There were also parallels in Caucasian languages.  All of this strongly suggested the possibility that further research along these lines would be rewarding.

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Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions

In "The hand of god" (3/4/16), I cited a Chinese text in which the term Mòyé 鏌鋣 (the name of a famous sword in antiquity) came up.  The translation I provided rendered that term as "Excalibur", which caught the attention of a couple of commenters who wondered how one could get from Mòyé 鏌鋣 to "Excalibur", when all that Google Translate could offer is "ROBOT 鋣".

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Poetic sound and silence

Following up on "Political sound and silence", 2/8/2016, here's a level plot of speech segment durations and immediately-following silence segment durations from William Carlos Williams' poetry reading at the Library of Congress in May of 1945:


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Zuckerberg's Mandarin, ch. 2

Just a little over a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled to China and the world that he was willing to speak publicly in Mandarin: "Zuckerberg's Mandarin" (10/23/14).

That post includes a video which allows us to watch and listen to his every gesture and word.  Now he's back at it again at the exact same location, Tsinghua University, China's premier engineering and science school:

(Or see: "Mark Zuckerberg’s 20-minute speech in clumsy Mandarin is his latest attempt to woo China," 10/26/15.)

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Grammarians, Whores, Buffoons

From an anonymous colleague:

I'm currently auditing Jennifer Houseman Wegner's class on Cleopatra. Today, in a Powerpoint lecture on Ptolemy IV, she showed the following quote from Edwyn Bevan's "A History of Egpyt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty": (Metheun, 1927, p.233)

"Agathocles and Agathoclea still, as before, ruled the king's [Ptolemy IV] corrupt affections. The palace swarmed with literary pretenders, poets, grammarians, whores, buffoons, philosophers."

Somehow put me in mind of Language Log.

Heavens!  What a motley crew!

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