Inaugural embedding depth

Following up on yesterday's "Embedding depth" post, I've done the same analysis to the 62 Inaugural Addresses of U.S. presidents. (Actually, 61 of them — I had to omit John Adams' 1797 address, because its 35th sentence is 797 words long, which made the standard version of the Berkeley Neural Parser break down in tears…)

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What do the Friedmann equations have to do with the student protests in China?

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Embedding depth

In "Trends" (3/27/2022) I compared the distributions of sentence lengths in Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Wave in the Mind. The background, and some of the conclusions, can be found in the slides for my SHEL12 presentation. Hemingway is known for his short and simple sentences — see e.g. "Homo Hemingwayensis", 1/9/2005, for some discussion — but as I showed, his average sentence length is actually a bit on the long side for his time. And his overall distribution of sentence lengths is essentially identical that found in (later) work by Ursula K. Le Guin, despite her hilarious discussion of an alleged difference in her 1992 essay "Introducing Myself":

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Pandemic lockdown slogans

The photographs below are of government lockdown slogans on signs in Chinese cities.  The first was taken by a former student of mine in Guangzhou, and the other two are from Weibo.

In the first photograph, the last line is so awkward that if seems ungrammatical and barely makes sense.  As shown in the following analysis, it's the result of a forced rhyme.

1., 2. (left, right)

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The ultimate protest against censorship

https://twitter.com/GFWfrog/status/1596790029891735552

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Manx

I've always pronounced it as rhyming with "thanks", but Wiktionary makes it sound more like "monks" in German, Dutch, and UK English.

"Manx" is the English exonym for the language whose endonym "is Gaelg/Gailck, which shares the same etymology as the word 'Gaelic', as do the endonyms of its sister languages Irish (Gaeilge; Gaoluinn, Gaedhlag and Gaeilic) and Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)." (source)

Manx (or Manx Gaelic) was declared extinct as a first language in 1974 with the death of Ned Maddrell, but then achieved the remarkable feat of revival.  Since the topic of language extinction / survival / revival came up recently (see "Selected readings" below), I was especially drawn to this newspaper report:

An Ancient Language, Once on the Brink, Is a British Isle’s Talk of the Town

After being nearly silenced, Manx is experiencing a revival on the Isle of Man, thanks in part to an elementary school and some impassioned parents.

By Megan Specia, NYT (Nov. 24, 2022)

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"O wawa nu Pangcah" – Kolas Yotaka

Photograph of a political billboard in Taiwan (from AntC):


(more images here)

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Rein and reign

The word rein, which the OED glosses as "A long narrow strap, frequently of leather, attached to the bridle or bit of a horse or other animal on either side of the head and used by a rider or driver to control and guide the animal", was apparently borrowed into English from French a millennium ago. The Wiktionary entry gives the etymology in detail:

From Middle English rein, reyne, borrowed from Anglo-Norman reyne, resne, from early Medieval Latin retina, ultimately from Classical Latin retineō (“hold back”), from re- + teneō (“keep, hold”). Compare modern French rêne.

Displaced native Old English ġewealdleþer (literally “control leather”).

But the OED entry makes an interesting (apparent) mistake in this case — the full etymology seems good, but the "Origin" line gives the French etymon as regne — and règne (in the modern spelling) is actually French for "kingdom", from Latin rēgnum, which is the origin of a different English word, namely reign.

Rein and reign have been pronounced the same way in English for some time — perhaps always? — and their meanings overlap in extended or figurative uses having to do with control. This led to some early eggcorns, even back in the days when most people had personal experience with physical reins. Thus the OED entry for free rein, glossed as "Freedom of action or expression. Chiefly in to give (a) free rein (to)", includes "free reign" citations going back to 1834:

1834 J. Eberle Treat. Dis. & Physical Educ. Children (ed. 2) i. i. 6 She, who giving a free reign [1833 (ed. 1) free rein] to her appetite, indulges it to excess.
1924 Times 26 Sept. 11/5 Others thought themselves above the law, and gave free reign to their passions.
1993 Outdoor Canada Mar. 33/3 So few pike survive to a large size that the ones who do have virtual free reign to raid the pantry.

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Eurasia: archeology, historical linguistics, gender

Below are the opening paragraphs of a review by Richard Foltz in Caucasus Survey (2022), 1-2 [10.30965/23761202-bja10006; published by Brill].

Warwick Ball,The Eurasian Steppe: People, Movement, Ideas, Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 2022. 414+xix pp. ISBN: 978-1-4744-8806-8, £19.99 (pbk).

The work under review is a revised and expanded edition of the author’s earlier The Gates of Asia: The Eurasian Steppe and the Limits of Europe (London:  East & West Publishing, 2015), although he prefers to describe it as “a new book rather than a new edition” (p.4). In taking on the vast sweep of Eurasian steppe history, the author’s stated aim is “to focus on those subjects that shaped Europe, even at the cost of glossing over the effect on other regions such as the Middle East, South Asia, or China” (p.3).  Ball is an archaeologist, so it is not surprising that the book draws heavily on archaeology, although he ventures as well in to other topics such as language, ethnicity, mythology, and art (the possible echoes of Scythian motifs in art nouveau, for example).

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The status of Mandarin in Taiwan

Article by Keoni Everington in Taiwan News (11/19/22):

"90% of Taiwanese say learning Mandarin beneficial to job, relationships"

'Mandarin education should not be a victim of politics,' say National Taiwan Normal University professors

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"Sins against the language"

Jonathan Bouquet, "May I have a word about… the sins of Twitter, Meta and Amazon", The Guardian 11/20/2022:

[As if making thousands of people redundant were not bad enough, they compound it with their use of language]

It won’t have escaped your notice that the internet giants are going though turbulent times, with huge job losses announced at Twitter, Meta and Amazon. In the case of the last, it has been reported that the company is to start cutting 10,000 jobs within days to make its “fulfilment centres” more streamlined. In my day, a place where goods are stored, packed and sent to customers who have ordered them used to be known as a warehouse. […]

And thank you to Roy Perry for the following: “An offering from the November magazine of Weardale Railway Trust (of which I am a member): ‘Train operations have continued throughout the summer and ridership has been very encouraging.’”

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"Why I think the Chinese writing system is TERRIBLE"

That's the title of this YouTube video (12:39; 4,572 views  Nov 18, 2022) by ABChinese (34K subscribers):

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Crap Lolly Pop

Ambarish Sridharanarayanan sent in this image of a restaurant menu from Chennai:

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