Elicit → illicit

Ruth Blau sent a link to a law firm's page on the "Difference Between Judges and Magistrates", which was probably created in response to the role of a magistrate in the recent FBI search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.

The linguistically relevant bit is the substitution of "illicit" for "elicit":

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"Sound" at the center, "horn" at the periphery: the shawm and its eastern cousins, part 2

For a good example of how music and musical instruments, together with the words to designate them, could travel long distances in antiquity, we have already taken a look at the case of the shawm:  "The shawm and its eastern cousins" (11/16/15).  Since writing that post nearly seven years ago, a few more interesting facts about the shawm family have come to light, so it's time to revisit this raucous instrument.

I first encountered this melodic noisemaker in the guise of the Chinese suǒnà 嗩吶.  Inasmuch as the Sinographic form has two mouth radicals, that could be to emphasize that it has to do with making sounds, which is definitely true, but that might also indicate that it is a transcription of a foreign word, which is certainly the case.  The latter is underscored by the fact that it has the variant orthographic form with a metal radical on the first character:  鎖吶.

So where did the suona come from, and how did it get to China?  By investigating suona's linguistic ancestry, we can get a pretty good idea of the route by which it came to the Middle Kingdom.

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Biological and Mental Evolution

While refiling some books yesterday, I came across an interesting reprint: Arthur Koestler, "Biological and mental evolution: An exercise in analogy", Nature 1965. Given the title, I thought Koestler might have scooped Richard Dawkins on the gene/meme analogy. But not so — here's how the paper starts:

ALLOW me to take you on a ride on the treacherous wings of analogy, starting with an excursion into genetics. Creativity is a concept notoriously difficult to define ; and it is sometimes useful to approach a difficult subject by way of contrast. The opposite of the creative individual is the pedant, the slave of habit, whose thinking and behaviour move in rigid grooves. His biological equivalent is the over-specialized animal. Take, for example, that charming and pathetic creature, the koala bear, which specializes in feeding on the leaves of a particular variety of eucalyptus tree and on nothing else; and which, in lieu of fingers, has hook-like claws, ideally suited for clinging to the bark of the tree — and for nothing else . Some of our departments of higher learning seem expressly designed for breeding koala bears.

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Bringing churches

I was puzzled for a while by a interesting error in yesterday's The Hill. A story by Jared Gans, under the headline "What Weisselberg’s guilty plea means for Trump", ended like this:

Weissmann said defense counsels requesting coverage in a plea agreement for other crimes that may have been committed is “standard,” so someone knows “there’s nothing waiting in the wings.”

He said its exclusion from the agreement is “striking” and makes him believe Bragg more when he said the investigation is ongoing.

“That made me think that we all need to sort of take a deep breath and wait to see what happens after the Trump Organization trial, and so whether other churches get brought,” Weissmann said.

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Conspiracy (theories)

This is a guest post by Breffni O'Rourke.


In the last couple of years I've noticed people using "conspiracy" where what makes more sense (to me anyway) is "conspiracy theory". Liz Cheney's concession speech had three instances of it:

1. "At the heart of the attack on January 6 is a willingness to embrace dangerous conspiracies that attack the very core premise of our nation."

2. "If we do not condemn the conspiracies and the lies, if we do not hold those responsible to account, we will be excusing this conduct, and it will become a feature of all elections."

3. "Donald Trump knows that voicing these conspiracies will provoke violence and threats of violence."

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authêntic?

Alex Baumans sent in the photo below, with the note "I came across this fast food restaurant on a recent trip to Germany. The franchise appears to be specialised in 'panasiatic' crossover cooking."

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"Seedy Customer"

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Shimao, graphic arts, and long distance connections

Introduction to the site:

"The importance of archeology for historical linguistics, part 2" (5/11/20)

I have written about Shimao informally before, but the more we keep finding out about it, the more I come to believe that it is the most important archeological site in China from before the beginning of our era.

Li Jaang, Zhouyong Sun, Jing Shao, and Min Li, "When peripheries were centres: a preliminary study of the Shimao-centred polity in the loess highland, China", Antiquity, 92.364 (August 22, 2018), 1008-1022.

Chinese archeologists continue to do work at Shimao, although with restrictions because of the sensitive nature of the site.  We can expect additional publications about the site and its artifacts, including, for example, 20,000 bone needles (reported by Min Li who is writing a paper on the textile industry found at Shimao).

New article:

"King Carved In Stone Found at 4,200-Year-Old Chinese Pyramid Palace", by Sahir Pandey, Ancient Origins (8/11/22)

With copious illustrations from the site, including clear photographs of relief carvings and inscriptions.  Astonishingly, in some respects they resemble figures from the mysterious Bronze Age site of Sanxingdui in Sichuan (southwestern China)

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Tuoba and Xianbei, part 2

Inquiry from Kiraz Perincek Karavit, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department, Bogazici University, Istanbul, who is interested in the intercultural relations along the Silk Roads, and the mobility of languages, images, tales, and legends. 
 
I am writing you to ask for your advice on a subject, after reading your blog in Language Log about Tuoba and Xianbei:
 
"Tuoba and Xianbei: Turkic and Mongolic elements of the medieval and contemporary Sinitic states" (5/16/22)
 
Vasily Barthold, in his book Orta Asya Türk Tarihi Dersleri, 1927 (a compilation of 12 lessons about Central Asian Turkic history, that he taught at Istanbul University in 1926), that a dictionary of the Xianbei language was found among the Chinese sources. Barthold's reference is Paul Pelliot, who announced the existence of such a dictionary at a conference in Leningrad. He states that Pelliot examined this dictionary and argued it was in the Turkic language. According to Barthold, that is why there is no doubt that the "Sien-pis" are Turkic.

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Does "splooting" have an etymology?

In the summer of 1990, I spent a memorable five weeks at the outstanding summer institute on Indo-European linguistics and archeology held by DOALL (at least that's what we jokingly called it — the Department of Oriental and African Languages and Literatures) of the University of Texas (Austin).  The temperature was 106º or above for a whole month.  Indomitable / stubborn man that I am, I still insisted on going out for my daily runs. 

As I was jogging along, I would come upon squirrels doing something that stopped me in my tracks, namely, they were splayed out prostrate on the ground, their limbs spread-eagle in front and behind them.  Immobile, they would look at me pathetically, and I would sympathize with them.  Remember, they have thick fur that can keep them warm in the dead of winter.

I assumed that these poor squirrels were lying with their belly flat on the ground to absorb whatever coolness was there (conversely put, to dissipate their body heat).  At least that made some sort of sense to me.  I had no idea what to call that peculiar, prone posture.  Now I do.

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Character-shape wordplay

[This is a guest post by David Moser]

I happened to notice the following bit of character-shape play on a YouTube site called "Wen Zhao tangu lunjin" 《文昭谈古论今》。 He's talking about the tourists on Hainan island who were stuck there after a sudden Covid breakout.  In expressing the observation that these sudden incidents occur time and time again, he used a four-character phrase that is evidently a new Internet slang, 又双叒叕 yòu shuāng ruò zhuó, in which each subsequent character adds another 又 component, a visual representation of the concept "over and over again".

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More BS from the BBC

Earlier today, Victor Mair was naive enough to believe a BBC "No word for X" story, and spread some of its misinformation in his post "No 'no'". He cited "The language that doesn't use 'no'", by Eileen McDougall, BBC (8/9/22); and at least in the aspect that Victor (and the headline) featured, that article is apparently nonsense. As David Eddyshaw pointed out in a comment on Victor's post, "Kusunda has negatives."

David gave a link to David E. Watters, "Notes on Kusunda Grammar", Himalayan Linguistics 2006. Here's a link to the relevant section of Watters' paper, 5.5.4 Negation.

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Cornell Linguistics: IPA in action

I was pleasantly surprised to see this banner on the Cornell campus:

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