Archive for Punctuation

Breath Ass Method

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Portentous periods

Further developments in the indexicality (intexticality?) of punctuation:

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Why commas count

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Diacriticless Vietnamese, part 2

This comment by Quyet on a recent post ("Dungan-English dictionary" [10/26/18]) is of such significance that I feel it merits separate, special recognition of its own:

The [Vietnamese] government often sends out mass text messages with announcements to every number in the country with no diacritics at all. Furthermore, teenagers have grown up to text toneless and abbreviated with no issues, and now it's common to see things like "Hn 2 vc mun dj choj oh cv thog nhat vs cac p dog nghiep hem?"

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Ampersand in Chinese

From Caitlin Schultz:

I was eating at a place called Yaso Tangbao in Midtown Manhattan recently and snapped these photos of Chinese characters and ampersands. I thought it was unusual!

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The importance of proper parsing and punctuation

Currently circulating on Facebook and on Chinese social media are seemingly impenetrable sentences with the same character repeated numerous times.  When you first look at them, your eyes glaze over and you can't make any sense of them.  But if you slow down and think about such sentences, you usually can figure them out without too much effort.  In fact,  I could read some of the following right off upon first encounter.  Others required more effort before I was able to crack them.

Although it looks formidable, of the six sample sentences treated in this post, this one was easiest for me.  I could understand it at one go.  [N.B.:  In my treatment of these sentences, I first give the Pinyin with spaces between each syllable, then repeat the Pinyin with requisite parsing and punctuation.]

1.

míng míng míng míng míng bái bái bái xǐ huān tā dàn tā jiù shì bù shuō

明明明明明白白白喜欢他但他就是不说

Míngmíng míngmíng míngbái Báibái xǐhuān tā, dàn tā jiùshì bù shuō.

"Mingming clearly knew that Baibai liked her, but he just wouldn't say it."

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German with pseudo-Vietnamese diacritics

Klaus Nuber spotted this poster of an ad in Germany with German text spruced up with Vietnamese diacritics:

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[. ] or [. ]?

You may have thought that idea of rhinoceroses peeving about semicolons (when they're not snorting and snuffing) was silly. But the comments on Mark's post Peeving and breeding have devolved to a level of even greater silliness: the pressing question of whether to type one space after a period or two.

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Pinyin in 1961 propaganda poster art

From Geoff Dawson:

On display in a current exhibition at the National Library of Australia.

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More on grammar, punctuation, and prosody

From "In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond", 12/17/2017:

We also pay tribute to another tragedy; the murder of John Lennon with jazz covers of several of his tunes.

Prepositional phrases like "with jazz covers of several of his tunes" are multiply ambiguous. Thus with can be comitative ("They rode with Kim") or instrumental ("open the can with a screwdriver") or several other sorts of things; and then there's the question of "attachment", i.e. which part of the preceding material it modifies.

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Court fight over Oxford commas and asyndetic lists

Language Log often weighs in when courts try to nail down the meaning of a statute. Laws are written in natural language—though one might long, by formalization, to end the thousand natural ambiguities that text is heir to—and thus judges are forced to play linguist.

Happily, this week's "case in the news" is one where the lawyers managed to identify several relevant considerations and bring them to the judges for weighing.

Most news outlets reported the case as being about the Oxford comma (or serial comma)—the optional comma just before the end of a list. Here, for example, is the New York Times:

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He comfortable! He quickly dry!

A neighbor of mine, a respectable woman retired from medical practice, set a number of friends of hers a one-question quiz this week. The puzzle was to identify an item she recently purchased, based solely on what was stated on the tag attached to it. The tag said this (I reproduce it carefully, preserving the strange punctuation, line breaks, capitalization, and grammar, but replacing two searchable proper nouns by xxxxxxxx because they might provide clues):

ABOUT xxxxxxxx
He comfortable
He elastic
He quickly dry
He let you unfettered experience and indulgence. Please! Hurry up
No matter where you are. No matter what you do.
Let xxxxxxxx Change your life,
Become your friends, Partner,
Part of life

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Apostrophe in Hangul

Google Street View in Pittsburgh at 5809 Forward Ave. shows a Young's Oriental Grocery.

The corresponding Hangul transliteration of "Young's" gives "Young 'seu 영 '스".

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