Archive for Words words words

"Spooked up"

Jack Shafer, "Week 86: FBI’s Blockbuster Probe of Trump’s Loyalty Revealed", Politico 1/12/2018:

Thanks to a redaction error made in a legal filing by convicted felon Paul Manafort’s lawyers, we learned that special counsel Mueller believes that former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort lied about passing, in spring 2016, political polling data to two Russia-aligned Ukrainian oligarchs he had previously worked for. Using his right-hand man— suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik as his go-between—the Manafort pass-through splinters Donald Trump’s protestations that his campaign was free of connections to the Russians. […]

Manafort’s partner in crime, confessed felon Rick Gates, told an associate that “Person A” (now widely known to be Kilimnik) “was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU” (the Russian military intelligence agency) according to a March 2018 Mueller filing. The filing later states that Kilimnik still had his Russian intelligence ties in 2016.  […]

If Gates knew Kilimnik was spooked up with the Russians, it stands to reason that Manafort did, too.

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Fanciful etymologies on an “ancient history” site

"Lost in Translation? Understandings and Misunderstandings about the Ancient Practice of 'Sacred Prostitution'",  Ancient Origins:

Ishtar was sometimes called the Goddess Har since she was the mother of the harlots. These “harlots” were not prostitutes as we know them, but priestesses and healers. These harlots were holy virgins serving goddesses such as Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite.

The Hebrew word hor means “a cave” or “dark hole” and the Spanish word for “whore”, puta, derives from the Latin term for “a well”. In turn, the Latin term for “grave” is puticuli, which means “womb of rebirth”. The root of the word came from an early Sanskrit language where puta is defined as pure and holy. The cave, the hole and the bottomless black lake were metaphors for the Great Goddess— the primordial darkness from which all life is born.

The Ancient Origins "about-us" page says that

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives

But the etymology in those two paragraphs is not just out-of-the-box, it's out-of-its-mind.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: “bear”

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.

Starting with this post, I’m (finally) getting to the meat of what I’ve called “the coming corpus-based reexamination of the Second Amendment.” The plan, as I’ve said before, is to more or less mirror the structure of the Supreme Court’s analysis of keep and bear arms. This post will focus on bear, and subsequent posts will focus separately on arms, bear arms, and keep and bear arms; I won’t be separately discussing keep arms because I have nothing to say about it. [Update: If you're confused about why I'm following this approach, as one of the commenters was, I've offered an explanation at the end of the post.]

In discussing the meaning of the verb bear, Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller said, “At the time of the founding, as now, to ‘bear’ meant to ‘carry.’’’ That statement was backed up by citations to distinguished lexicographic authority—Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, Thomas Sheridan, and the OED—but evidence that was not readily available when Heller was decided shows that Scalia’s statement was very much an oversimplification. Although bear was sometimes used in the way that Scalia described, it was not synonymous with carry and its overall pattern of use was quite different.

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"Biomarkers": Language as a substance?

For the past few years, I've been involved in some research on clinical applications of linguistic analysis. And as a result, I've done a lot of reading in the associated inter-, trans-, or meta-disciplinary literature (see e.g. the reading list for a seminar I taught last spring).  This involves assimilating some inter-, trans-, or meta-disciplinary terminology, of which one interesting example is the word biomarker.

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Japanese buzzwords

The buzzwords of the year (Shingo/Ryūkōgo Taishō 新語・流行語大賞) have been announced.  As Nathan Hopson, who called the results to my attention, puts it:

With the caveat that this is a contest run by a private company that publishes an annual collection of new and important words, and that there's a lot of peripheral annoyance around the biases this seems to create, there are always a few interesting terms.

This year's winner was "sodane〜 そだね〜" ("that's right〜" ), the kawaii (the culture of cuteness) shortened form of sōdesune そうですね ("I agree; that's right; that's so, isn't it; hmm"), one of my favorite Japanese expressions, popularized during the Pyeongchang Olympics broadcasts of the Japanese women's curling team.

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"Ostensibly the main target"

John Leicester, Raf Casert, and Lori Hinnant, "In remembering WWI, world warned of resurging ‘old demons’", Associated Press 11/11/2018 [emphasis added]:

As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and dozens of other heads of state and government listened in silence, French President Emmanuel Macron used the occasion, as its host, to sound a powerful and sobering warning about the fragility of peace and the dangers of nationalism and of nations that put themselves first, above the collective good.

“The old demons are rising again, ready to complete their task of chaos and of death,” Macron said.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” he said. “In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”

Trump, ostensibly the main target of Macron’s message, sat stony-faced.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: “keep” (part 2)

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.

In  my last post (longer ago than I care to admit), I offered a very brief introduction to corpus analysis and used corpus data on the word keep as the raw material for a demonstration of corpus analysis in action. One of my reasons for doing that was to talk about the approach to word meaning that I think is appropriate when using corpus linguistics in legal interpretation.

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Umarell

Umarell is one of those words that people like because it references a somewhat familiar concept that their own language or variety has no easy way to name. Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛlː]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term popular in Bologna referring specifically to men of retirement age who pass the time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice. Its literal meaning is "little man" (also umarèin), and it is often pluralized in spelling by adding a final s (out of English influence).

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Lexico-cultural decay?

Jonathan Merritt, "The Death of Sacred Speech", The Week 9/10/2018:

America boasts more Christians than any other country on planet Earth. But you wouldn't know it from listening to us.

According to Google Ngram Viewer data, a searchable database of millions of printed works stretching back 500 years, most of the central terms in the Christian vocabulary are rapidly declining. One 2012 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, for example, analyzed 50 moral terms associated with Christianity and found that a whopping 74 percent were used less frequently over the course of the last century […]

"Whopping "? If the frequency of each word were following a random walk, we'd expect 50% of them to decline and 50% of them to increase. And to be confident that 74% is "whopping", or even meaningful, we'd need to do something that neither Merritt nor the cited paper do, namely verify that there's no overall bias in the data source for reasons other than changing "cultural salience", either towards decreasing frequency of certain types of words, or decreasing frequency of individual words in general, But in fact there's good reason to believe that both sorts of bias exist — see below.

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Word, syllable, morpheme, phoneme

What is the basic unit of discursive, communicative language — word, syllable, morpheme, or phoneme?

This topic came up in the comments to the following posts:

"The concept of word in Sinitic" (10/3/18)

"Words in Vietnamese" (10/2/18)

"Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco" (9/30/18)

"Words in Mandarin: twin kle twin kle lit tle star" (8/14/12)

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"Go Ralph Club!"

Below I've reprinted a prominent intellectual's Facebook post. The recent upsurge of interest in 1980s-era American slang gives it some relevance to LLOG, but mostly I just admired the sentiment. Since it was not a public post, I asked permission to quote it, and the author responded:

Go ahead. It was briefly a tough decision – I sat there cynically thinking "but I have a reputation". Then I thought, you know what, that's the problem. We don't let people be human, so they lie and cheat and pretend they're angels instead. So yes, go ahead. 

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The concept of word in Sinitic

In the following posts, we've been tackling the thorny, multifaceted question of whether Vietnamese has words and lexemes, as opposed to having syllables and morphemes:

During the course of our discussions, the parallel question of whether Sinitic had words or not also came up.  Let me put it this way:  although there was no concept of "word" in Sinitic before the 20th century, there were Sinitic words, going all the way back to the oracle bone inscriptions (the first stage of Chinese writing) more than three thousand years ago, as documented in these posts and dozens of others:

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Words in Vietnamese

In "Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco" (9/30/18), we discussed the advisability of joining syllables into words or separating all syllables.  The ensuing string of comments revealed that there is a correlation between linking syllables and word spacing on the one hand and the necessity for diacritical marks on the other hand.

This prompted me to ask the following questions of several colleagues who are specialists on Vietnamese:

Roughly what percentage of Vietnamese lexemes (words) are monosyllabic? Disyllabic? Any trisyllabic or higher?

The average length of a word in Mandarin is almost exactly two syllables.

Can you think of examples in Vietnamese parsing where it would be clearer or more helpful to have the syllables of words joined together?

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