Archive for Linguistics in the comics

Year Hare Affair

That's the abbreviated title of a popular webcomic by Lin Chao 林超.  The full title in Chinese is Nà nián nà tù nàxiē shì 那年那兔那些事 (lit., "that year that rabbit those affairs"; i.e., "The story of that rabbit that happened in that year")

From the beginning of the Wikipedia article:

The comic uses animals as an allegory for nations and sovereign states to represent political and military events in history. The goal of this project was to promote nationalistic pride in young people, and focuses on appreciation for China's various achievements since the beginning of the 20th century.

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Syntactic analysis and folding fitted sheets

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Usefully strong language

Today's Random Crab:

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Carlyle and Kernighan

Thomas Carlyle, "Sir Walter Scott":

There is a great discovery still to be made in Literature, that of paying literary men by the quantity they do not write. Nay, in sober truth, is not this actually the rule in all writing; and, moreover, in all conduct and acting? Not what stands above ground, but what lies unseen under it, as the root and subterrene element it sprang from and emblemed forth, determines the value. Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity: speech is shallow as Time. Paradoxical does it seem? Woe for the age, woe for the man, quack-ridden, bespeeched, bespouted, blown about like barren Sahara, to whom this world-old truth were altogether strange!

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Peeving and breeding

Today's SMBC explores an important issue:

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Deadlock

Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "[They do not move.]"

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Anime

Today's Dumbing of Age illustrates, in contemporary Indiana, a point that George Bernard Shaw made about England in 1916: "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him."

Mouseover title: "super honestly, she just wants to punch everyone in the face"

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Secret messages

Today's SMBC:

Mouseover text: "Fun fact: In the middle of every Derrida book, there are nuclear launch codes, the recipe for Coca Cola, and the location of Blackbeard's gold."

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The quasi-compositionality of English compounds

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Trends in syntactic style

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Too many words for falsehood?

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News program presenter meets robot avatar

Yesterday BBC's Radio 4 program "Today", the cultural counterpart of NPR's "Morning Edition", invited into the studio a robot from the University of Sheffield, Mishal Husain and the Mishalbot the Mishalbot, which had been trained to conduct interviews by exposure to the on-air speech of co-presenter Mishal Husain. They let it talk for three minutes with the real Mishal. (video clip here, at least for UK readers; may not be available in the US). Once again I was appalled at the credulity of journalists when confronted with AI. Despite all the evidence that the robot was just parroting Mishalesque phrases, Ms Husain continued with the absurd charade, pretending politely that her robotic alter ego was really conversing. Afterward there was half-serious on-air discussion of the possibility that some day the jobs of the Today program presenters and interviewers might be taken over by robots.

The main thing differentiating the Sheffield robot from Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA program of 1966 (apart from a babyish plastic face and movable fingers and eyes, which didn't work well on radio) was that the Mishalbot is voice-driven (with ELIZA you had to type on a terminal). So the main technological development has been in speech recognition engineering. On interaction, the Mishalbot seemed to me to be at sub-ELIZA level. "What do you mean? Can you give an example?" it said repeatedly, at various inappropriate points.

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Prosodic punctuation

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