Archive for February, 2019

Emergency in B flat

In his 2/15/2019 announcement about declaring a state of emergency on the southern border, President Trump used a sequence of a dozen or so singsong phrases:

So the uh the order is signed. And uh I'll f- I'll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office. And we will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, uh even though it shouldn't be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we'll get another bad ruling, and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court. Just like the ban, they sued us in the 9th Circuit and we lost, and then we lost in the appellate division, and then we went to the Supreme Court and we won.

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Japanese varia

First, as a slightly belated Valentine's present, onomatopoetic / mimetic chocolates:

"Chocolates That Represent Japanese Onomatopoeic Words To Describe Texture", by Johnny, Spoon & Tamago (1/16/15)

Here are the names of eight of the nine chocolates designed by Oki Sato of the Tokyo and Milan-based design studio Nendo:

ツブツブ (tsubu tsubu): a word for small bits or drops
スベスベ (sube sube): smooth edges and corners
トゲトゲ (toge toge): sharp pointed tips
ザラザラ (zara zara): granular like a file
ゴロゴロ (goro goro): cubic, with many edges
フワフワ (fuwa fuwa): soft and airy with many tiny holes
ポキポキ (poki poki): a delicate frame or structure
ザクザク (zaku zaku): makes a crunching sounds, like when you step on ice

You can see exceptionally clear photographs of the ingeniously designed 26x26x26mm chocolates in the article linked above.

[h.t. Becki Kanou]

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"Speech synthesis"

Ordinary language and technical terminology often diverge. We've covered the "passive voice" case at length. I don't think we've discussed  the fact that for botanists, cucumbers and tomatoes are berries but strawberries and raspberries aren't — but there are many examples of such terminological divergence in fields outside of linguistics. However, the technical terminology is itself sometimes vague or ambiguous in ways that lead to confusion among outsiders, and today I want to explore one case of this kind: "speech synthesis".

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Sinitic for "iron" in Balto-Slavic

[This is a guest post by Chris Button]

There are a couple of brief suggestions in Mallory & Adams' Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (1997:314;379) that the Lithuanian word geležis and Old Church Slavonic word želežo for "iron", which following Derksen (2008:555) may be derived from Balto-Slavic *geleź-/*gelēź- (ź being the IPA palatal sibilant ʑ), could possibly have a Proto-Sino-Tibetan association.

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"Hello" sung by a Kazakh

Here is Dimash Kudaibergen singing "Hello":

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Calling (a) moose

Headline from the Bangor Daily News (Feb. 13, 2019): "Maine now holds the world record for most people calling a moose at the same time."

Screenshot for posterity:

Update: The headline has been changed to read, "Maine now holds the world record for simultaneous moose-calling."

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Contextualized Muppet Embeddings

Over the past few years, it's been increasingly common for computational linguists to use various kinds of "word embeddings".

The foundation for this was the vector space model, developed in the 1960s for document retrieval applications, which represents a piece of text as a vector of word (or "term") counts. The next step was latent semantic analysis, developed in the 1980s, which orthogonalizes the term-by-document matrix (via singular value decomposition) and retains only a few hundred of the most important dimensions. Among other benefits, this provides a sort of "soft thesaurus", since words that tend to co-occur will be relatively close in the resulting space. Then in the 2000s came a wide variety of other ways of turning large text collections into vector-space dictionaries, representing each word as vector of numbers derived in some way from the contexts in which it occurs — some widely used examples from the 2010s include word2vec and GloVe ("Global Vectors for Word Representation").

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Too few words to describe emotions

At about 22:45 of the BBC discussion program The Moral MazeNatasha Devon  asserts

Well it- I- again, one of the problems is language, actually, because in English, we have a very limited emotional vocabulary. When you look at other languages, they- they have a much broader amount of words that they can use to describe their emotions and their mental health. So, if I say to you ‘I’m feeling anxious’, that could be anything from common or garden anxiety right through to an anxiety disorder. And one is a medical issue and the other is not.

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Only the Communist Party can save the earth

Movie ticket for "Liúlàng dìqiú 流浪地球" ("Wandering earth"):


(Source)

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Portentous periods

Further developments in the indexicality (intexticality?) of punctuation:

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The consequence is proud

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Reclamation of a wasteland by an army unit

Jane Skinner received this from a friend who saw it in Chengdu, Sichuan:

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The unpredictability of Chinese character formation and pronunciation, pt. 2

Emma Knightley asks:

My background is that I grew up in Taiwan learning Traditional Chinese and now most of what I use in my professional life is in Simplified Chinese. How exactly should the character of hē, "to drink," be written?

I grew up learning that the character inside the bottom-right enclosure is 人. Now I see that it is mostly written as 匕. I don't know when this changed, and I don't think it's a matter of Traditional vs Simplified, either, as I see both versions in Traditional writing as well. This Wiktionary entry illustrates the confusion nicely. No one I know has noticed this change, which leads me to think that I'm either losing my mind or experiencing the Mandela Effect.

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