Archive for Language and culture

The mechanization of the human mind

On my dining room wall there's a painting of a woman, a child, a horse, and some ducks. The woman is Marussia Burliuk, wife of David Burliuk. As I wrote a few years ago, Marussia and David were friends of my grandparents, among many that I thought were aunts and uncles when I was small.  I've been thinking about the Burliuks recently, because of their origins in Ukraine.

So I re-read Burliuk's 1926 "Radio-Style" Manifesto more thoroughly than I had before. You can read it yourself here.

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"C’est carré comme en Corée" / It's square like in Korea

Article by Clara Cini in Le Monde (4/27/22):

« C’est carré comme en Corée », de la fascination des rappeurs pour la dictature au tic langagier

"It's square like in Korea", from the fascination of rappers for the dictatorship to the language tic

[The above French to English translation is from Google Translate.  Since the entire article is in French, I will provide selected English translations done by Google Translate, with minimal editing by me.]

 

Preface

The expression from rap referred to the North Korean regime. Decontextualized, devoid of its “from the North”, it has lost its meaning and is now used mechanically.

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John Knox as a Romance author

For reasons not at all connected with this post, I was looking for scans of the 1558 (first) printing of John Knox's infamous screed THE FIRST BLAST OF THE TRUMPET against the monstruous regiment of Women. And one of the places that Google sent me to was a link on the website of the Somerset County (New Jersey) Library System , where the work is apparently classified as a Romance novel:

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Algospeak

Taylor Lorenz, "Internet ‘algospeak’ is changing our language in real time, from ‘nip nops’ to ‘le dollar bean’", WaPo 4/8/2022:

“Algospeak” is becoming increasingly common across the Internet as people seek to bypass content moderation filters on social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch.

Algospeak refers to code words or turns of phrase users have adopted in an effort to create a brand-safe lexicon that will avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by content moderation systems. For instance, in many online videos, it’s common to say “unalive” rather than “dead,” “SA” instead of “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”

As the pandemic pushed more people to communicate and express themselves online, algorithmic content moderation systems have had an unprecedented impact on the words we choose, particularly on TikTok, and given rise to a new form of internet-driven Aesopian language.

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Pleiades: From Sumer to Subaru

During the early part of my career, one of the most stunning academic papers I read was this:

Roy Andrew Miller, "Pleiades Perceived:  MUL.MUL to Subaru", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 108.1 (January-March, 1988), 1-25.

"Pleiades Perceived" was the presidential address delivered March 24, 1987 at the American Oriental Society's 197th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.  "Roy Andrew Miller (September 5, 1924 – August 22, 2014) was an American linguist best known as the author of several books on Japanese language and linguistics, and for his advocacy of Korean and Japanese as members of the proposed Altaic language family." (source)

Miller received his Ph.D. in Chinese and Japanese from Columbia University.  He taught successively at the International Christian University in Tokyo, Yale University, and the University of Washington.  He was (in)famous for his harsh reviews, to be compared only with those of Leon Hurvitz (August 4, 1923 – September 28, 1992), who also received his Ph.D. from Columbia and, after teaching at the University of Washington, ended his career at the University of British Columbia.  Miller and Hurvitz both were immensely learned scholars who knew Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, and other challenging languages.  I didn't meet Miller in person, but did study for one year with Hurvitz, who was extraordinarily eccentric.

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Strange tales and labiovelar transcriptions

East Asians have been addicted to strange stories for millennia.  Many of these fall under the rubric of guài 怪 ("strange"), e.g., zhìguài 志怪 ("records of anomalies"), the name of one of the earliest genres of strange stories in China.

One of the strangest aspects about East Asian strange tales is that perhaps the most famous collection of all was written by a Westerner, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904).

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Tai People in South China

[This is a guest post by Bob Ramsey]


Fairy Tale-like Landscape in Guangxi

Millions in South China today, especially in Guangxi, are not Han Chinese at all, but “Tai.” Tai groups in China include, among others, the Dai, the Li, and the Zhuang. Culturally and linguistically related to the Thai (or Siamese) of Thailand, Tai in China don’t ordinarily stand out as different. They live among Han Chinese. Most look and act Chinese. They wear the same clothes. Most are bilingual in Cantonese or some other variety of Chinese. Nevertheless, the PRC classifies them as minorities, and some pose for the tourist trade, sporting exotic “native” clothes and putting on colorful festivals for paying visitors.

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Advanced techniques

I'm in the process of composing a "cheat sheet" of DSP techniques for ling525, so today's xkcd is right on time:

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P.O.S.H. tea in Chicago

From Miffy Zhang Linfei:

I went to Chicago over the weekend, and look what I found in a small European vintage shop named P.O.S.H.

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Serial blind dates

This story (referencing Australian ABC News [1/13/22], with video)  has been doing the rounds in the Taiwan media:

"Chinese bachelorette locked in blind date's apartment after Henan's snap lockdown:

Woman says her date's performance under lockdown left much to be desired"

By Liam Gibson, Taiwan News (1/14/22)

This extraordinary report begins thus:

An unmarried Chinese woman surnamed Wang (王) had her blind date dramatically extended by several days after authorities announced an immediate lockdown.

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The cattle-keeping Bai of Yunnan

The province of Yunnan in the far south is home to more ethnic minorities and languages than any other part of China (25 out of 56 recognized groups, 38% of the population).  The Bai are one of the more unusual groups among them.


Bai children—in Yunnan, China

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Pronoun substitution peril: "they sneezes"

J. O'M. sent a link to the Cambridge Dictionary's online entry for gesundheit, which offers the gloss "said to someone after they sneezes":

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The foreign origins of the lion dance and words for "lion" in Sinitic

Here at Language Log, we have shown how the most common word for "lion" in Sinitic, shī 獅, has Iranian and / or Tocharian connections (see "Selected readings").  The etymological and phonological details will be sketched out below.  For a magisterial survey, see Wolfgang Behr, "Hinc [sic] sunt leones — two ancient Eurasian, migratory terms in Chinese revisited", International Journal of Central Asian Studies, 9 (2004), 1-53.  This learned essay has appeared in multiple guises and many places (I knew it originally and best while it was still in draft, perhaps back in the 90s), so I don't know which one the author considers to be the most authoritative version.  Perhaps he will enlighten us in the comments to this post.

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