Archive for Language and culture

Diversification of Proto-Austronesian

Important archeological news from Tainan:

South Taiwan park renovation project paused after archaeological artifacts unearthed

 Artifact pieces belonging to neolithic Niuchouzi Culture discovered, date back to 3000-4500 years ago.

By Stephanie Chiang, Taiwan News (2/26/23)

Finds include "orange-colored pottery made of fine sand-bearing rope patterns, polished hoe-axes, polished adze-chisels, and shell mounds."

The nature of this culture is intriguing in that one of its most distinctive features is the red cord-marked pottery that has been found at the Wangliao archeological site in Tainan’s Yongkang park.

The dating roughly corresponds to the estimated beginning of the diversification of Proto-Austronesian (PAN / PAn).

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2023 Super Bowl commercials

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Unususual Original

From the Facebook account of Mei Han:

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The role of long-distance communication in human history

If one has a knee-jerk reaction to attribute all distant cultural resemblances to chance coincidence (independent invention), that would be to make a mockery of human mobility and adaptability.  It would be as if people never deigned or had the opportunity to borrow something from another group.

I can give hundreds of long distance cultural correspondences that could not possibly have been due to chance coincidence — so complicated, intricate, and exact are they, especially when accompanied by textual, artistic, and other types of evidence, much of it hard / material.  Moreover, we often have the bodies and the goods and the words — at transitional stages and times — to go along with the transmission.  For some examples, see the "Selected readings" below.  Many more could be adduced.

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Whose New Year is it anyway?

The struggle for cultural priority, supremacy, and naming between China and Korea is perennial:  fishing nets, printing with metal movable type, kimchi….  Now it's over the lunar new year that is currently being celebrated.

"NewJeans' Danielle apologizes for calling the 'Lunar New Year' 'Chinese New Year'"

Yaki-Jones, allkpop (1/21/23)


"Chinese netizens terrorize the Instagrams of Korean celebrities who gave lunar new year greetings, including IVE's Wonyoung and CL"

Yaki-Jones, allkpop (1/22/23)

Might be better to avoid the orthological controversy altogether and just refer to it as the Lunar New Year.

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The difficulty of expressing "nothing"

This is a clever attempt to write a spring couplet (chūnlián 春聯), not in the usual Sinoglyphs / Chinese characters, but in pictographs:


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Broadcasters' accents

From Ellen Fleming, a reporter for WWLP22 in Chicopee, Massachusetts:

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Is Twitter an editorial media?

Ten days ago, Éric Freyssinet raised that question, which matters because Twitter might lose its immunity to libel suits under U.S. law if the company were acting as a publisher rather than as an "information service provider":

(Here's an image of the tweet, in case Twitter is down…)

But this is Language Log, not Defamation Law Log, so the topic here is the singular phrase "an editorial media". And as usual, the point is not to complain but to inquire.

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Fake 'Asian' speech at commencement

Here's a different take on "plastic" Chinese… Michell Quinn, "PNW Chancellor Keon apologizes for ‘offensive and insensitive’ remark during commencement", Chicago Tribune 12/14/2022:

Purdue University Northwest’s Chancellor Thomas Keon is apologizing for a culturally insensitive remark he made during the first of two commencement ceremonies Dec. 10.

The comment was a response after commencement keynote speaker Jim Dedelow finished his speech. Dedelow in his speech talked about a made-up language he created to entertain his new granddaughter and at one point used it to calm the baby from the stage when she squawked during his speech.

As Dedelow sat down, Keon came back to the podium and said, “Well, all I can say is,” and proceeded to speak in a made-up language that sounded as if he were trying to speak Chinese. He then said, “That’s sort of my Asian version of his …,” trailing off before going back on-script.

It wasn't really a "remark", in my opinion:

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The Twittering Machine

Illustrating Ben Tarnoff's 11/11/2022  NY Review of Books article "In the Hothouse", Paul Klee's 1922 painting Die Zwitscher-Maschine ("The Twittering Machine"):

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Some new words

Over the past few months, several of the leading characters in the Dumbing of Age webcomic have discovered that they are (or might be) autistic, in diverse ways, joining Dina who was always portrayed with stereotypical symptoms.

The reveal for Joyce came in the strip for 6/6/2022, and some of the ensuing discussion showed how new related terminology is spreading. Here's the strip for 6/23/2022, where Joyce enlightens Jennifer/Billie (click to embiggen):

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Hipster beer names

I'm used to the names of beers-and-such following the pattern <BRAND> <STYLE>, like "Yuengling Golden Pilsner" or "Orval Trappist Ale". Occasionally things get a bit more creative, like  "Victory HopDevil" or "Huyghe Delirium Tremens".

But a couple of days ago, in the food court of the Moynihan Train Hall in NYC, I was intrigued by a large ad for selections from Threes Brewing, which has a shop there. The picture below is what I think is the same line-up, copied from their website (click for a bigger version):

That particular array of beverage names, in left-to-right order, is

Fool's Errand, Temporary Identity, Here Ya Go, You People, I Hate Myself, Bad Wallpaper, Crying on the Inside, Logical Conclusion, Beyond the Void, Constant Disappointment, Chronic Myopia, Unreliable Narrator, Unintentional Fallacy.

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Another skirmish in the Dictionary Wars

A press release from the U.S. Atorney's Office, District of Massachusetts — "California Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening Merriam-Webster with Anti-LGBTQ Violence", 9/14/2022:

A California man pleaded guilty on Sept. 8, 2022 in federal court in Springfield, Mass. to making threats to commit anti-LGBTQ violence against Springfield-based Merriam-Webster, Inc. and others.

Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence against the employees of Merriam-Webster, and to another count charging the same offense, initially filed in the Eastern District of Texas, targeting the President of the University of North Texas. In a written statement of facts accompanying his plea agreement, Hanson also admitted to sending threatening communications to various corporations, politicians, and others, including the Walt Disney Co., the Governor of California and the Mayor of New York City, a New York rabbi and professors at Loyola Marymount University. Hanson also admitted that he frequently selected the object of his threatening communications because of the gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation of various persons.

The lexicographical part of Hanson's ire was directed against online M-W entries relating to sex and gender, including girlfemale, and gender identity.

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