Archive for Language and computers

Annual wave of Anti-English sentiment in the PRC

Article in official CCP media source:

"Chinese lawmaker proposes removing English as core subject"

Liu Caiyu, Global Times (3/5/21)

Coming from GT, the hyper-nationalistic tabloid, this attack on English is not unexpected, and similar anti-English proposals come up every year around the time of the national meetings of the Liǎnghuì 兩會 (Two Sessions), annual plenary meetings of the national People's Congress and the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference that have just concluded in Beijing (March 4-11).

Here we go again:

Is English really that important? A Chinese lawmaker at the two sessions has proposed removing English as a core subject for Chinese students receiving compulsory education, triggering heated discussion on Chinese social media.

The proposal was made by Xu Jin, a member of the Central Committee of the Jiusan Society and also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). It has also been proposed by other lawmakers in previous years.

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Sinographic inputting: "it's nothing" — not

Last week in our Dunhuangology seminar, a student wanted to type "wǔ 武" ("martial; military") into the chat box, but instead out popped "nián 年" ("year").  I immediately said to her, "I'll bet you were using a shape-based inputting system", which left her a bit surprised.

Ever since information technologists began to wrestle with the problem of inputting, ordering, and retrieving Chinese characters in computers during the 70s, I have been intensely interested in the theoretical and practical obstacles they faced.  To better understand the overall situation with regard to characters in computers, I organized an international conference at Penn in 1990 on the computerization of Chinese characters that resulted in Victor H. Mair and Yongquan Liu, eds., Characters and Computers (Amsterdam, Oxford, Washington, Tokyo:  IOS, 1991).

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Ted Cruz in big trouble

Ben Hull writes:

In our Computational Linguistics class we were discussing different methods of segmenting Chinese character texts. Today I came across a terrific example of the problems of segmenting left to right, in the first sentence of the attached image. I hope you find it as amusing as I did.

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I'm milk

This has been making the rounds:

1. Go to Google Translate.
2. Set the input language to Spanish.
3. Paste in "soy milk"
4. Set the output language to English or X language.
5. Hilarity ensues.

The obligatory screen shot:

 

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Google Translate Sabotage, part 2

This is all over the Chinese internet:


(source)

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Translation loops

From Jeff DeMarco:

I’m sure you’ve seen the Facebook translation artifact where it repeats “and I’m going to go to the middle of the day.” This post does that and something similar with “of the 912th.” I keep advising Facebook that these are unintelligible, but they seem to be a low priority.

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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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Alphabetical storage, ordering, and retrieval

We just had a good discussion about a Sinitic language written with an alphabet:

"The look, feel, and sound of Dungan language" (10/15/20)

Under "Selected readings" below, there are listed additional earlier posts about writing Sinitic languages with Romanization.

One of the major advantages of the alphabet over a morphosyllabic / logographic ideopicto-phonetic writing system like the Sinographic script is that it is very easy to order and find / retrieve the entire lexicon with the former, whereas carrying out these tasks with the latter is toilsome at best and torturesome at worst.  See:

Victor H. Mair, "The Need for an Alphabetically Arranged General Usage Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: A Review Article of Some Recent Dictionaries and Current Lexicographical Projects", Sino-Platonic Papers, 1 (February, 1986), 1-31 pp.

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"Still advent received emails from her"

That's part of a message from one of my students.  I knew right away what he meant, but — as always — I'm curious about what causes such off-the-wall typos.  It can't be because of a spellchecker gone awry.  So I asked the student, "What type of input system do you use?  I'm trying to think about how that was produced."

He replied, "I use the bog-standard* American English input that Apple has. I think I missed the 'h' and it grabbed it from there? Maybe an additional incorrect letter?

[*This was the first time I encountered this expression, and I didn't know what it meant.]

I followed up:

just regular keyboard?

not on iPhone?

no shortcuts?     swypes?

speech recognition input?

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Typing by voice recognition

E-mail message from my son, Thomas Krishna:

I'm using the voice recognizer to write you this message. When you do take your truck in for service at Toyota place, ask them if an exterior cleaning is included. Having visited you over the years I know that where you park a lot of tree debris falls onto your vehicles! This is no big deal, except for one thing, you don't want stuff to fall on top of your vents right in front of where the windshield is. I had this problem with my truck under the crepe myrtles at Lacey's house. For a while I tried using cardboard cutouts to cover them up but they did not last very well in the Sun and rain. I know that at your place things dropping off the trees is almost a continuous problem whereas for me it was only in the fall. So just thinking maybe you should try to find something that can cover those vents for when your truck is parked there.

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Chinese transcriptions of Indic terms in Buddhist translations of the 2nd c. AD

A fuller and more specific version of the title of this post would be "Chinese transcriptions of Indic terms in the translations of An Shigao (Chinese: 安世高; pinyin: Ān Shìgāo; Wade–Giles: An Shih-kao, Korean: An Sego, Japanese: An Seikō, Vietnamese: An Thế Cao) (fl. 148-180 CE) and Lokakṣema (लोकक्षेम, Chinese: 支婁迦讖; pinyin: Zhī Lóujiāchèn) (fl. 147-189)".

With the collaboration of Jan Nattier, Nathan Hill was able to digitize some data from Han Buddhist transcriptions back in 2017 and has now published them as a dataset on Zenodo:

Hill, Nathan, Nattier, Jan, Granger, Kelsey, & Kollmeier, Florian. (2020). Chinese transcriptions of Indic terms in the translations of Ān Shìgāo 安世高 and Lokakṣema 支婁迦讖 [Data set]. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3757095

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"One I first saw": more on homophonically induced typing errors

A little over a week ago, I described how I mistyped "stalk" for "stock".  That led to a vigorous discussion of precisely how people pronounce "stalk".  (As a matter of fact, in my own idiolect I do pronounce "stock" and "stalk" identically.)  See:

"Take stalk of: thoughts on philology and Sinology" (3/29/20)

I just now typed "One I first saw…" when I meant "When I first saw…".

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"62 years ago I was killed at a midwifery clinic"

[This is a guest post by Cyrus Shaoul]

I am a long time LL reader and I came across an interesting machine translation error today.

When my Japanese friend sent me this sentence:

62年前のこの日に慶應義塾大学病院で命を授かりました。

I was flummoxed by the verb 授かる [VHM:  sazukaru {"be gifted / endowed with (an award / title); to be blessed (e.g., with a child); be granted / taught; to be given something of great value / a treasure, by deities or someone of higher social class"}] at the end of the sentence, so I asked Google Translate for help and lo and behold, it said:

"On this day, 62 years ago, I died at Keio University Hospital."

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