Memorizing a thesaurus

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

People actually did it in ancient India, and they still do it today.

Here are some passages from the Wikipedia article about the Amarakosha, the most celebrated and most often memorized Indian thesaurus.

Introduction

The Amarakosha (Devanagari: अमरकोशः, IAST: Amarakośa) is the popular name for Namalinganushasanam (Devanagari: नामलिङ्गानुशासनम्, IAST: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsanam) a thesaurus in Sanskrit written by the ancient Indian scholar Amarasimha. It may be the oldest extant kosha. The author himself mentions 18 prior works, but they have all been lost. There have been more than 40 commentaries on the Amarakosha.

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Devangari

No, that's not a mistake.

My son just called me about some Hindi books I wanted him to order for me.  He asked, "Do they have to be in Romanization, or is it all right if they are in Devangari?"

The way he said the word "Devangari" made me chuckle.  Of course, with a name like Thomas Krishna Mair, and having been around me and my Sanskrit and Hindi books for the first two decades of his life, he was familiar with the word and knew that it was the script in which those languages are written

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Language Diversity in the Sinophone World

That's the title of a new book (Oct. 7, 2020) from Routledge edited by Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela, with the following subtitle:  Historical Trajectories, Language Planning, and Multilingual Practices.   I was present at the conference in Göttingen where the papers in the volume were first delivered and can attest to the high level of presentations and discussions.

This is the publisher's book description:

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World offers interdisciplinary insights into social, cultural, and linguistic aspects of multilingualism in the Sinophone world, highlighting language diversity and opening up the burgeoning field of Sinophone studies to new perspectives from sociolinguistics.

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Clipper Chinglish

From the person who bought the hair clipper described in this post:

"Card hair, and be careful to get an electric shock" (10/22/20)

They now tell us:

The hair clipper had to be returned. The report we are submitting (which was slightly more fun to write than it will be for them to read) says this:

Flimsy parts, very hard to fit together; utterly unintelligible instruction sheet with gibberish mistranslations from Chinese ("Above the thumb away can be unloaded segment"; "Close the interference"; "Trendy must hear clicking sound can be determined completely"). On the box it says "Trend of the choice" and "Comfortable enjoy". We did not comfortable enjoy: when we finally got a comb fitted to the cutting head, the clipper did not work — it did not cut hair.

A little plastic blade guard was stuck in a wrong position once we managed to get the cutting head fitted back on (it came out unexpectedly when we took a comb attachment off), so the device never cut a single hair. Back into the box.

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Transcription and digraphia in the rapidly changing linguistic landscape of China

With notes on 兑, 說 / 説, 悦, 銳, 脱.

From Stephen Tschudi:

A colleague was watching a tuōkǒu xiù 脱口秀 ("talk show") online today, and was shocked when a well-known actress did not pronounce "duìxiàn 兑现" (vb. "cash [a check]; fulfill / honor [a promise / commitment]") correctly. She was even more shocked when, in the audience chat that was scrolling across the screen, an audience member typed "dui 现不是 yue 现“ (no tone marks). The Pinyin leaped out at her visually. I bet there aren't too many examples of this mixture of Pinyin into daily discourse. Just an interesting tidbit! (I asked her for the source but she was watching too casually to remember.)

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The stupendous powers of memorization in the Indian tradition

Two days ago, I was going through past issues of Sino-Platonic Papers, all the way back to the first one in 1986.  I was pleasantly surprised to come across this one by my late, lamented colleague, Ludo Rocher:

"Orality and Textuality in the Indian Context," Sino-Platonic Papers, 49 (October, 1994), 1-3 of 1-28.  (free pdf)

As soon as I started reading it, I had a strong sensation that Ludo's paper speaks powerfully to the enigma of the overwhelming dominance of Indians in spelling bee competitions, about which we have so many times puzzled here on Language Log (see "Selected readings" below).

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Card hair, and be careful to get an electric shock

From a correspondent in the Washington DC area who doesn't go out much and wanted to enjoy a haircut at home without wearing a mask:
 
On the factory packaging for a new electric hair clipper that was just delivered by Amazon to an address in Virginia:
 
SECURITY
INTELLIGENT LIFE
TREND OF THE CHOICE
BRING YOU COMFORTABLE EXPERIENCE
 
and perhaps most mysterious of all, on the front of the box:
 
COMFORTABLE ENJOY
PEACE OF MIND NOT CARD HAIR
 
Not card hair?  I cannot help suspecting that someone has been translating from Chinese by selecting "English" on Google Translate and hitting the button.

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Thanks wasabi

Jonathan Silk wonders how this mistranslation from Latin to Dutch in Google Translate occurred the same way in English:

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What happened to the spelling bee this year?

Like so many other good things in this annus horribilis, COVID killed it.

For quite a few years now, I have reported on the national spelling bee (usually in May).  This has been such a dismal year that I didn't make an effort to inquire about what happened with it this spring.  Now, however, as I am preparing a post on Indian feats of memorization, I could not help but wonder about the fate of the 2020 national spelling bee.  Here's what I found out.

"Tough words, little drama, familiar champ in virtual bee"May 29, 2020)

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Lawyers as linguists

Alison Frankel, "Lexicographer (and Scalia co-author) joins plaintiffs’ team in Facebook TCPA case at SCOTUS", Reuters 10/20/2020:

Can a lexicographer fend off the combined forces of Facebook, the Justice Department and the entire U.S. business lobby at the U.S. Supreme Court?

What if said lexicographer is also the co-author, with Justice Antonin Scalia, of a landmark book about textualism that is cited multiple times in the other side’s briefs?

Bryan Garner – the Black’s Law Dictionary editor, legal writing consultant and, with Justice Scalia, author of Reading Law – has joined the Supreme Court team of Noah Duguid, a Montana man who sued Facebook in 2015 for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. And though he’s only been working with Duguid’s other lawyers for a matter of weeks, Garner’s influence on Duguid’s just-filed merits brief is unmistakable. Who else could so boldly assert that the TCPA’s meaning depends on whether the statute’s “adverbial modifier” applies to just one or both “disjunctive verbs” with a “common object”?

Without taking anything away from the well-deserved kudos for Bryan Garner, I want to underline how odd it is to suggest that without his help, lawyers couldn't be expected to understand simple grammatical concepts like "adverbial modifier", "disjunctive verb", and "common object".

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The pain of pronouncing Mandarin "guóqí" ("national flag") for a Mongolian child

09/12/2020 Look ‼️ How Chinese teacher is torturing our Mongolian kids in Bayangol Mongolian autonomous state in Xinjiang. China bans the Mongolian language in Xinjiang from 2017. The teacher is visibly frustrated trying to make a Mongolian child pronounce a Chinese expression and make him recognize Chinese nationalistic emblems. Southern Mongolia is under Chinese occupation just like Tibet and Uyghur.

Posted by Unimunkh Uriankhai on Sunday, September 13, 2020

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Mandarin tongue twister

Trending on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website:

[So as not to give anything away, all syllables are separated and not divided into words.]

Nǐ de huò lā lā lā bù lā lā bù lā duō? Huò lā lā lā bù lā lā bù lā duō yào kàn nǐ de huò lā dé duō bù duō. Rú guǒ lā dé bù duō jiù lā nǐ de lā bù lā duō, rú guǒ lā dé duō jiù bù lā nǐ de lā bù lā duō.

"你的货拉拉拉不拉拉不拉多?货拉拉拉不拉拉不拉多要看你的货拉得多不多。如果拉得不多就拉你的拉不拉多,如果拉得多就不拉你的拉不拉多。"

Google Translate:

"Your cargo pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls more? If you pull too much, it won’t pull you.

Before turning the page, if you know Mandarin, try to parse and translate the above sentences.

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Purchase wine, buy beer

30 years ago, Don Hindle explored the idea of calculating semantic similarity on the basis of predicate-argument relations in text corpora, and in the context of that work, I remember him noting that we tend to purchase wine but buy beer. He didn't have a lot of evidence for that insight, since he was working with a mere six-million-word corpus of Associated Press news stories, in which the available counts were small:

wine beer
purchase 1 0
buy 0 3

So for today's lecture on semantics for ling001, I thought I'd check the counts in one of the larger collections available today, as an example of the weaker types of connotational meaning.

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