Token Cantonese

Guy Freeman sent in this photograph of a beer advertisement in Hong Kong:

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Kein Durchgang

Multilingual sign near the entrance to a toilet at the Cologne Main train station, posted by Simon on douban, via Joel Martinsen:

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A little bit disingenuous

[TRIGGER WARNING: Harsh Quantitative Evaluation of a Facile Generalization]

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The secretary of state and its agents

Posted in front of a government building in Sheffield, UK:

 

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Modeling repetitive behavior

A recent conversation with Didier Demolin about animal vocalizations motivated me to return to a an issue discussed in "Finch linguistics", 7/15/2011. (See also "Markov's heart of darkness", 7/18/2011, "Non-Markovian yawp", 9/18/2011, and "The long get longer", 12/4/2013.)

The point is this: In modeling the structure of simple repetitive behavior, considerations from (traditional) formal language theory can obscure rather than clarify the issues. These threats to insight include the levels of the Chomsky-Schützenberger hierarchy, the "recursion" controversy, and so on.

What follows is an attempt at a simple illustrated explanation.

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7,530,000 mainlanders petition Taiwan actress to change her name

From David Moser:

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QQ chicken frame / skeleton / bones / whatever

David Rowe took this photo of a sign on a market stall in Sydney Chinatown:

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Presidential roleplayers

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Passive problem

We've been highly skeptical, in general, of usage mavens' often-mistaken disdain for what they call "passive voice". The objects of their animus are often not grammatically passive at all, but merely vague about agency — or sometimes just weakly phrased in some not-very-clear way.

But Jerry Friedman points out a case where vagueness about agency poses real-world problems — and here it really is a passive-voice construction that is at fault.

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Slut shames students

Jen Chung, "CT High School Slut Shames Students Over "Inappropriate" Prom Dresses", Gothamist 5/12/2015:

Female students at a Connecticut High School are furious that dresses bought for this weekend's prom are being banned because they have exposed shoulders, backs, sides and legs. One mother—whose daughter had two dresses rejected—said, "They've suggested the girls wear T-shirts under their dresses. My daughter won't wear a T-shirt. She would be mortified."

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An opportunity to immortalize yourself

Below is a guest post by Andrew Caines:


There's been growing interest in recent years in crowdsourcing as a means of data collection: for example, asking workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk to rate sentences for grammaticality, implicatures, sentiment, etc. As part of a special session for this year's INTERSPEECH Conference on innovative uses of crowdsourcing, we're building a crowdsourced spoken corpus of English and German.

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Wrack and ruin

The Northeast Regional, on its way from Philadelphia to New York City, derailed a couple of hours ago in North Philly. At least five people are dead, and many injured. This is a train that I've taken a hundred times.

One of the first things that I saw in the live online coverage was this grimly appropriate tweet:

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Punctuation

Brian Hutchinson, "UBC student writes 52,438 word architecture dissertation with no punctuation — not everyone loved it", National Post 5/8/2015:

There was Patrick Stewart, PhD candidate, defending his final dissertation before a handful of hard-nosed examiners at the University of British Columbia late last month. The public was invited to watch; two dozen curious onlookers saw Stewart attempt to persuade five panelists that his 149-page thesis has merit, that it is neither outlandishly “deficient,” as some had insisted it was, nor an intellectual affront.

Unusual? It is definitely that. Stewart’s dissertation, titled Indigenous Architecture through Indigenous Knowledge, eschews almost all punctuation. There are no periods, no commas, no semi-colons in the 52,438-word piece. Stewart concedes the odd question mark, and resorts to common English spelling, but he ignores most other conventions, including the dreaded upper case. His paper has no standard paragraphs. Its formatting seems all over the map.

The National Post story suggests that the document is a translation from Nisga'a:

He wrote his first draft in the Nisga’a language. That failed to impress at least one senior UBC professor, a powerful figure who would eventually have to sign off on the work, or all would be lost. Stewart was called on the professor’s carpet and told his work was not acceptable. He was asked to translate “every word” of his dissertation into English. “So I did that,” he recalls. “There was still no guarantee it would be approved.”

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