Archive for August, 2017

Peripheral control nerdview

In various areas of Edinburgh there are signs that say "Peripheral Controlled Zone." What exactly would you do if you encountered one of these signs? What would it mean to you? Not much? That's the hallmark of nerdview.

What is peripheral to what? Who is controlling what? What is peripheral control? Why are you being told this? Nothing becomes clearer as you mull over what it says. They might as well have put up a sign saying "Argle bargle nurff gugga mongmong gooboo wah Mon – Fri 8:30am – 5:30pm."

But worse, if you did know what it meant you would become aware that it could not possibly be relevant to you.

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The mind-numbing official-speak of the CCP

David Bandurski has done the world a great service by providing a point by point translation and valuable exegesis of the essentials of President Xi Jinping's "important speech" delivered in Beijing on July 26, 2017.  See his:

"The Arithmetic of Party-Speak:  The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is just around the corner — and that means the machine of political discourse is humming away at high speed" (8/28/17).

As presented in state media products such as “Xi Speak in Pictures” (Xí yǔ tújiě 习语图解), the essence of the Core Leader's directives may be boiled down to and designated by the following magic numbers:  2, 3, 5, 9, 8, 3, 2.

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Censored belly, Tibetan tattoo

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

Imagine that a certain phrase could be potentially offensive to the authoritarian rulers of a country you would like to do business in. To promote that business, you intend to display images of certain professionals who work for you. One of these professionals has indelibly inscribed the potentially offensive phrase on their belly. The professional activity you wish to promote typically involves barebelliedness.

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Beyond the zombies: How we might get out of the science publication disaster

This is a guest post by Martin Haspelmath, building on our continuing coverage of Open Access in linguistics.

By now, everyone knows that scholarly publication is serious trouble. The actual costs of disseminating content have plummeted drastically, and yet academic institutions are paying more and more to the commercial publishers. This feels deeply wrong — as if Facebook charged us for posting cat videos. In some fields such as linguistics, there has been a lot of discontent for quite a while. Johan Rooryck's efforts to take the old "Lingua" away from Elsevier have been widely publicized, and Elsevier's handling of the situation, as well as the continuation of "Zombie Lingua", are regular talking points among linguists.

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Pitch contour perception

Listen to this brief four-syllable phrase, and answer a simple question:

once the eggs hatch

Is the end of the last sylllable ("hatch") higher or lower in pitch than the start of the first sylllable ("once")?

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"Dangal in Doklam": Sino-Indian propaganda video war

China fired the first shot with this infamous Doklam video called "7 Sins of India".  It's all about a remote spot on the border between Bhutan and Tibet, where India is now confronting China in an attempt to preserve the territorial integrity of tiny Bhutan.  This is the same area through which China invaded India in 1962, pushing south as far as Siliguri.

India has now countered China's propaganda video, which has been dubbed crudely racist by many, with a cute, corny video of its own called "Dangal in Doklam".

"Dangal in Doklam: After 7 Sins, Here’s India’s Sonu Song for China"

Deeksha Sharma    the quint

Updated: 23 August, 2017 9:18 AM IST

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La septième fonction du langage

Laurent Binet, La septième fonction du langageThe seventh function of language. This looks like an interesting book — pulp meta-fiction featuring Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco, Noam Chomsky, Louis Althusser, Paul de Man, Jean-François Lyotard,  Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, John Searle, Morris Zapp, Gayatri Spivak, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Julia Kristeva, Philippe Sollers, Jacques Lacan, Camille Paglia, and more. There are reviews by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post ("Who killed Roland Barthes? Maybe Umberto Eco has a clue.", 8/23/1017), by Nicholas Daves in the New York Times ("A Postmodern Buddy-Cop Novel Sends Up the World of Semiotics", 8/16/2017), by Anthony Domestico in the San Francisco Chronicle ("‘The Seventh Function of Language,’ by Laurent Binet", 817/2017), etc. And there's a play, scheduled for the Théâtre de Sartrouville in November, and various other venues in France through the spring of 2018. No doubt the movie rights have already been snapped up.

Versions in French and in English are available from the usual places.

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Ask Language Log: splittism and separatism

From Elijah Z. Granet:

I am an avid reader of Language Log, and am writing with a question that has puzzled me for sometime, and which, as far as I can tell, has never been addressed. I would be quite grateful if you could spare a moment of your valuable time to help me figure out this odd occurrence.

I do not speak Chinese (or any East Asian language, for that matter), but I do try to follow the news coming out of China.  For several years now, especially as unrest in Xinjiang has increased, I have been growing increasingly puzzled by the insistent use of the calque “splittism.”  Official sources (e.g., Xinhua) will always say “splittism”, and many English sources will  also use it (albeit with a qualifier along the lines of “the Chinese authorities have condemned what they call ‘splittism’”).  A cursory search of Google Books and News suggests the use of “splittism” in reference to China dates back decades.

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Chow mein from a can ≠ chǎomiàn / caau2min6 from a wok

The theme of today's post:  MSM chǎomiàn / Cant. caau2min6  trad. 炒麵 / simpl. 炒面 ("fried noodles").

When I was a wee lad growing up in East Canton (formerly Osnaburg; population about a thousand), Ohio, all that I knew of Chinese food came out of cans, and it was branded either as La Choy or Chun King.  The noodles were short, brown, hard, and crunchy, the vegetables were rather tasteless (with mung bean sprouts predominating and plenty of somewhat rubbery sliced mushrooms), all in a mucilaginous matrix of thick, starchy sauce.  But it was a lot of fun to prepare and eat because of the way it came in three cans and was so very exotic — not like the daily fare of meat, potatoes, peas, beans, and bread favored by Midwesterners.  Oh, and the watery, caramel colored soy sauce was so cloyingly salty.

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'Difficult to understate' correction

Here the source of the inversion corrects it within a few minutes:

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The sociolinguistics of the Chinese script

Jonathan Benda posted this on Facebook recently:

Reading [Jan Blommaert's] _Language and Superdiversity_ in preparation for my Writing in Global Contexts course in the fall. Does anyone else think the following conclusions about this sign are somewhat wrongheaded?

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Ask Language Log: How to pronounce "Antifa"?

From P.D.:

Long time reader, first time caller, etc. etc. As an armchair linguistics fan and someone who gets his news primarily online rather than from cable news, I've been wondering how one ought to go about pronouncing the word "antifa." I'd like to discuss current events with friends without putting my foot in it, like the friend I once had who pronounced "archive" as though it were something you might chop up and put on a bagel with some cream cheese.

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The Imperious Criterion of Meaning

Patrick Radden Keefe, "Carl Icahn's Failed Raid on Washingon", The New Yorker 8/28/2017, mentions the title of Icahn's Princeton senior thesis:

In 1960, after studying philosophy at Princeton (where he wrote a thesis titled “The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning”) and a stint in medical school (he was a hypochondriac, which did not help his bedside manner), Icahn shifted to Wall Street.

But Keefe doesn't mention what is now my favorite correction of all time — 2/12/2006 in the New York Times:

An interview on June 5, 2005, with Carl Icahn misstated a word of the title of a thesis he wrote while he was an undergraduate at Princeton. As a reader informed The Times two weeks ago, it is "The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning," not "Imperious Criterion."

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