Lively Blind Men

At last weekend's memorial for Lila Gleitman, the hundreds of people physically present were joined by a large crowd on Zoom. The automatic closed captioning was turned on, and so the audience got to see a large sample of speech-to-text versions of Lila's name, of which this was my favorite:


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The implications of Chinese for AI development

New article in EnterpriseAI (October 21, 2021):

"Language Model Training Gets Another Player: Inspur AI Research Unveils Yuan 1.0",  by Todd R. Weiss

From Pranav Mulgund:

This article introduces an interesting new advance in an artificial intelligence (AI) model for Chinese. As you probably know, Chinese has been long held as one of the hardest languages for AI to crack. Baidu and Google have both been trying for a long time, but have had a lot of difficulty given the complexity of the language. But the company Inspur just came out with a model called Yuan 1.0 that shows significant advances from previous companies' AIs.

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Writing Mandarin phrases with Roman letter acronyms

Since the vast majority of inputting in the PRC is done via Hanyu Pinyin, netizens are thoroughly familiar with the alphabet and use it regularly as part of the Chinese writing system.

One common usage for the alphabet in the PRC is acronymically to designate frequently encountered Mandarin phrases.  In "The Chinese Internet Slang You Need to Know in 2021", CLI (10/19/21), Anias Stambolis-D'Agostino introduces six popular online acroyms:

1. yyds (永远的神)

永远的神 (yǒngyuǎn de shén; yyds) means “eternal God” and describes an outstanding person or thing. It's similar to the saying GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in English. The phrase is often used by fans to praise their idols or simply to describe something they are fond of.

For example:

    • 桂林米粉太好吃了,桂林米粉就是yyds!
    • Guìlín mǐfěn tài hàochī le, Guìlín mǐfěn jiùshì yyds.
    • Guilin rice noodles are delicious, they’re just yyds!

Here's another example:

    • 李小龙的中国功夫太厉害了,他就是yyds!
    • Lǐxiǎolóng de Zhōngguó gōngfū tài lìhài le, tā jiùshì yyds
    • Bruce Li’s kung fu skills are so good, he’s such a yyds!

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Confucius didn't mean that

We often encounter fake "Oriental wisdom" that purports to come from the ancient sages.  So much of it clogs the internet that it is very hard to keep track of what is genuine and what is false.  And then there's the (in)famous pseudo-linguistics of the "Crisis = danger + opportunity" trope which has captured the occidental imagination.

Another type of distortion and misinformation concerning Chinese thought are actual quotations of an ancient sage's words that are misused and misinterpreted to imply something other than what was originally intended.

In "Things Confucius Never Said", The World of Chinese (10/9/21), Sun Jiahui has assembled a group of five such abused quotations attributed to Confucius.  Since she has done such a superb job of presenting them, I will make only minor adaptations in giving them here.

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Your Pinky Heart

Phenomenally viral song by the Malaysian hip-hop artist, Namewee, "It might Break Your Pinky Heart. Namewee 黃明志 Ft.Kimberley Chen 陳芳語【Fragile 玻璃心】@鬼才做音樂 2021 Ghosician" — premiered on 10/15/21, and it already has nearly 9,000,000 views:

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Dubbing and subtitles

From an anonymous correspondent:

G and I have always enjoyed foreign films, but only if they're subtitled. We shy away from films that are dubbed into English. The dubbing clearly adds another layer of clumsy artifice that stops me from entering into the film.

The Italians, and I believe most Europeans, prefer dubbing when they're watching foreign films. Their voice actors are a highly-paid group. A few years ago, when the Italian dubbers went on strike, no new foreign (i.e., American, British, French, etc.) films were released for months, maybe years.

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Speak not: dying languages

In Asian Review of Books (10/20/21), Peter Gordon reviews James Griffiths' Speak Not: Empire, Identity and the Politics of Language (Bloomsbury, October 2021).  Although the book touches upon many other languages, its main focus is on Welsh, Hawaiian, and Cantonese.

That Speak Not is more politics than linguistics is telegraphed by the title. For Griffiths, language is the single most important aspect of group identity, both as marker and glue: that what makes the Welsh Welsh or Hawaiians Hawaiian is primarily the language, rather than lineage, culture, belief systems or lifestyles. While some might debate this, governments have all too often taken aim at minority languages with precisely this rationale in the name of national unity.

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Judo: martial arts neologism or ancient philosophical term?

The term "judo", which sport / martial art ("as a physical, mental, and moral pedagogy" [source]) was only created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano 嘉納治五郎 (1860-1938).  What I find amazing is that jūdō / MSM róudào 柔道 ("soft / flexible / gentle / supple / mild / yielding way") comes right out of the Yìjīng 易經 (Book / Classic of Change[s]).  Of course, traditional Japanese scholars have always been learned in the Chinese classics, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they would draw on the classics for terminology and ideas that had great meaning for them.  But I'm curious whether Jigoro Kano explicitly referred to the Yìjīng in any of his writings about jūdō 柔道.

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All-purpose word for "glamorous woman"

The PRC authorities have always policed human behavior and thought, but especially during the last half year or so and particularly toward young people, for whatever reason, they have been coming on more gangbusters than usual.

First they went after the phenomenon of tǎngpíng 躺平 ("lying flat"), i.e., those who chose to opt out of the cutthroat rat race.  Then they chastised niángpào 娘炮 ("effeminate men"), i.e., girlie boys and men.  The social minders even drew a bead on jīngfēn 精芬  for socially averse millennials who identified themselves as spiritually Finnish.  These were serious efforts to squelch such unwanted tendencies in the population.  Now they have taken quite a different turn and are aiming at an altogether different target:  beautiful women.  Strange to say, they are coupling this campaign against female pulchritude with a crusade against Buddhism.

Well, it's not that strange after all, since communism has never been fond of religion, and Buddhism has often been persecuted by Chinese regimes, almost from the time of its arrival in the Middle Kingdom nearly two millennia ago.  Even the combination of feminine beauty and Buddhism reveals a certain psychological fixation on the baldness and celibacy of nuns in traditional Chinese society.

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Oont ze knakkers

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Tang (618-907) poetry in Min pronunciation

Usually, though not always, when I Romanize Sinographs on Language Log, I do so using Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), but that is misleading, because MSM is only one of countless different topolectal pronunciations that could be used (Cantonese, Shanghainese, Sichuanese, and so on and so forth).  MSM is particularly ill-suited for the Romanization of pre-modern literature, since — of all topolects — it is the most highly evolved (ergo youngest) and least like earlier stages of Sinitic.  In this post, I will use Southern Min pronunciation to give a sense of how different it is from MSM.

The Min Romanizations have been prepared by Conal Boyce using a Yale-like system he developed in 1975 in preference to Douglas-Campbell.

Douglas, Carstairs (1899) [1873]. Chinese-English Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy (2nd ed.). London: Presbyterian Church of England.

 Campbell, W. (1913). A Dictionary of the Amoy Vernacular. Tainan: Ho Tai Tong.

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Om, sumo, and the universality of sound

From Zihan Guo:

A Japanese expression I came upon in a reading from Takami sensei's class reminded me of the "om" you mentioned weeks ago in our class.

阿吽の呼吸(aun'nokokyū あうんのこきゅう)
 
It refers to the synchronization of breathing of sumo opponents before a match. I read about this in an article about an interview with a sumo wrestler. But the "aun あうん" part lingered in my mind. Then I realized that it was the Japanese transliteration of the "om" that you were telling the class that encompassed all sounds:  "a" and "un" signify the beginning and end of the cosmos respectively, or so wikipedia explains. The Japanese phrase means a harmonious, non-verbal communication.

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German lexicographic richness

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