A different kind of "matched guise" test?

In a "matched guise" test, subjects are asked to evaluate "various traits including body height, good looks, leadership, sense of humor, intelligence, religiousness, self-confidence, dependability, kindness, ambition, sociability, character, and likability", for the same content presented by the same speaker in different languages, or perhaps by the same speaker associated with different pictures. The goal is to uncover linguistic or ethnic stereotypes.

This twitter "experiment" takes the idea in a different direction, using an associated picture to shift the interpretation of an ambiguous word:


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Tang (618-907) poetry in Min pronunciation, part 2

This is a supplement to "Tang (618-907) poetry in Min pronunciation" (10/14/21).  The following remarks are by Conal Boyce:

So far it seems the artist’s viewpoint is missing from the discussion. At the top of the thread, Victor Mair mentions two musical compositions of mine, and also kindly cites my unpublished Ph.D. dissertation in References. But the music and the thesis (both of 1973-1976 vintage) are almost wholly unrelated. (What is related tangentially to my compositions from that period is my paper called ‘Min sandhi in verse recitation,’ Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 1980, 8:1-14.) What do I mean by ‘the artist’s viewpoint’? My main task during 1973-1976 in Taiwan was to finish writing my dissertation on the rhythms used by my informants in their recitation of Sòngcí ([VHM:  Sòng lyric meters] sometimes in MSM, sometimes in Min) — nothing to do with music per se (except the abstract connection through ‘rhythm’).

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The missing variant

"WHO — You cannot be Xi-rious! The WHO’s decision to skip the Greek letter Xi in its ludicrous naming system shows exactly who controls it", by David Spencer, Taiwan News, Contributing Writer, 2021/11/28:


(source)

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Dramatically declining enrollments in Chinese studies

The number of students enrolled in a given foreign language is a good index of public perceptions of the importance of that language for global politics, economics, and cultural influence.  When I came to Penn in 1979, interest in all things Russian was soaring.  The Slavicists occupied quite a bit of real estate in Williams Hall, which houses language studies at Penn.  They had a number of institutes, research centers, libraries, and so forth, and they were extremely well funded.  A decade later, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian juggernaut at Penn began to fall apart, to the extent that it lost nearly all of its space and researchers, and they were tossing whole libraries into dumpsters.  As an ardent bibliophile, it pained me greatly to see precious books being thrown into the trash.  I rescued as many of them as I could stuff into my Volkswagen Beetle and cart away, including an enormous, old, and undoubtedly historically important encyclopedia that still sits in the enclosed porch of my home.

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Болельщик, fan, fancy, Phans, …

Slava Malamud goes on to explain the Russian relationship between fandom and pain:

The word "bolel'shchik" tells you all you need to know about the Russian approach. We did adopt the English word (in the form of "fanaty"), but it describes soccer hooligans exclusively.
"Bolel'shchik" is ours. Oh so very, very ours.
The root word is "bol", which means "pain"

"Bolet" is a verb derived from it. Its meaning is "to be ill." Therefore, "bolel'shchik" is someone who feels constant pain and/or is very sick. However, the word applies exclusively to sports supporters. A regular ill person is "bol'noi."
How Dostoyevskian is this shit?

The prevailing emotion of a Russian football fan (and this is where the word originated) is, of course, pain. Constant, unyielding feelings of sickness and discomfort that can only be understood if you ever sat on a wooden bench to watch a 0-0 slog in half-frozen mud in Saratov.

To support a sports team, in Russian culture, primarily means to experience pain, to be emotionally unwell, to subject one's mental health to voluntary mistreatment. To be unhealthily addicted to something bad.
Don't ever ask me why I root for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres again.

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"Cognitive Fossils" and the Paleo Mindscape

Below is a guest post by Mark Dow, consisting of an interview with Cory Stade.


Cory Stade is a cognitive archaeologist interested in "how Palaeolithic material culture can inform our understanding of the origin and evolution of language." Formerly a Visiting Fellow at the University of Southampton at the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO), she received a BA in linguistics from Simon Fraser University in Canada, with a minor in archaeology; a Masters degree in Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology at University College London; and a PhD in Archaeology at Southampton in 2017 with a thesis addressing "the different modes of culturally transmitted lithic material made experimentally by novice modern knappers." She currently runs an academic proofreading business and, with her partner, a jewelry business called the Stone Age Ceramic Studio.

In her 2020 article "Theory of mind as a proxy for Paleolithic language ability," Stade argues as follows:

The development of "theory of mind" (the term for our ability to infer the mental states of others) in typical human children can be mapped onto the evolution of cognition in humans by examining the stone tool fossil record. This, in turn, can teach us about the evolution of language because of the extent to which theory of mind and language ability are intertwined and predictive of each other.

This interview was conducted via email in the Spring of 2021.

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Brew

Making coffee this morning made me think about brewing — not the process, but the English verb brew and its semantic evolution. In particular, it made me wonder again about nativist versions of semantic atomism, which hold that word meanings are (perhaps structured) collections of innate atomic features. Versions of these ideas go back thousands of years, but their most prominent recent exponent was Jerry Fodor.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article puts it this way:

Fodor was also a staunch defender of nativism about the structure and contents of the human mind, arguing against a variety of empiricist theories and famously arguing that all lexical concepts are innate. Fodor vigorously argued against all versions of conceptual role semantics in philosophy and psychology, and articulated an alternative view he calls “informational atomism,” according to which lexical concepts are unstructured “atoms” that have their content in virtue of standing in certain external, “informational” relations to entities in the environment.

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Matteo Ricci's tombstone

Epigraph on the Tombstone of Matteo Ricci in the Zhalan Cemetery in Beijing:

Inscription on the tomb of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), black-and-white photograph, unknown photographer; source: with the kind permission of the Ricci Institute, University of San Francisco.

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"Just another day"

Andrew Gelman sent a link to blog post (with a rather long title): "Just another day at the sausage factory . . . It’s just funny how regression discontinuity analyses routinely produce these ridiculous graphs and the authors and journals don’t even seem to notice", with the note "You might enjoy the statistics content in the main post, but I'm sending to you because of the phrase-origin discussion".

That discussion happened in a comment asking about the origins of the phrase "another day at the sausage factory", and Andrew's response was

I have no idea where the phrase comes from! I didn’t even know it was a phrase, at least I don’t think so. It derives from the saying that you don’t want to see sausage or legislation being made . . . ummm, let’s google *sausage legislation* . . . here’s Quote Investigator which is always my favorite source for this sort of thing. They cite Fred Shapiro who dug up the earliest known version: “The Daily Cleveland Herald, March 29, 1869, quoted lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe that ‘Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made,’ and this may be the true origin of the saying.”

As to the exact phrase, “Just another day at the sausage factory”: maybe I read it somewhere and it lodged in my unconscious? A quick google turns it up in various places, for example this news article by Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times. So my guess is that it’s just a natural formulation that has been independently coined many times, derived from the well known saying about sausage and legislation.

I don't have anything to add to Quote Investigator's story about sausages, but there's more to be said about "Just another day".

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Fierce, ferocious, formidable; awesome, amazing, astonishing

If there's any Mandarin word that I often wish I could use in English, it is "lìhài 厲害 / 厉害" ("intense; fierce; ferocious; formidable; strict; stern; severe; shrewd; sharp; smart; serious [as of an illness]; cruel; terrible; powerful; amazing; fantastic; impressive"), with tones of "awesome" — and many other nuances, implications, and connotations.

Example sentence:

"Zhège rén hěn lìhài 这个人很厉害 / 這個人很厲害" ("This person is great / amazing", and lots of other things, many of them not so flattering, depending on the context).

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Ways To Be More Interesting in Conversation

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Kleptogenesis?

Lorraine Boissoneault, "Genetic Mystery: The all-female salamanders of the Great Lakes", Great Lakes Now 11/2/2021:

Looking at them, you wouldn’t guess that the unisexual Ambystoma salamanders are any different than the other members of what was once considered their group.

These interlopers were previously grouped with five other mole salamander species: the tiger salamanders with yellow stripes; the blue-spotted salamander, marked as its name suggests; the brownish smallmouth salamander and Jefferson salamander; and the pale streamside salamander. All five species have lithe, wet bodies, bulbous eyes, and cutely smiling faces.

What sets the mysterious unnamed Ambystoma species apart is something that can only be seen by looking at their genetics. They’re an all-female lineage—and they steal genetic material from all five other species of salamander in their region, a feat that would seem impossible if not for the fact that these lady salamanders have been around for more than 5 million years.

“We often get asked, ‘What is the species name for these organisms?’ And the answer is that we don’t have one because they don’t play by the rules of what we would typically call a species,” said Rob Denton, professor of biology at Marian University.

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Child child child child child child child child child child child child child

Following on the hoofs of "Sumomomomomomomomo" (11/17/21), here's another good one, from rit majors:


(source)

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