Archive for Language and technology

Tocharo-Sinica and Sogdo-Sinica

Exchange between VHM and Chris Button:


I just heard a lecture on Tocharian by Gerd Carling, and she said that the word for "enter" in Toch. is something like "yip".  That jerked me to the edge of my seat, since it is identical to the pronunciation of 入 ("enter") in many Sinitic topolects.

The verb is well grounded on the Tocharian side.  This is from the etymological section of Doug Adams dictionary or Tocharian:

  ■TchA yäw and B yäp– reflect PTch yäp– (though at least the preterite participle yaiwu in A shows the influence of B [VW:605]). PTch *yäp– is from PIE *yebh– ‘go, enter (into)’ seen in Hieroglyphic Luvian iba ‘west’ (for a discussion of the latter word, and different conclusions, see Puhvel, 1984:375-377) < *ibho– and Greek zóphos ‘dusk, gloom, (north)west,’ and Greek zéphuros ‘(north)west [wind]’ (< *yobh– and *yebh– respectively).  For the semantic development of Hieroglyphic Luvian iba– one should compare Greek dúsis ‘west’ from dúō ‘get, get into’ and the TchB kauṃ yäp– ‘set [of sun]’).  The Tocharian and Hittite words are to be connected with *yebh– ‘futuere’ [: Greek oíphō (< *o– + ibh-), Sanskrit yábhati, OCS jebǫ (P:298; 508)], the meaning ‘futuere’ coming from ‘penetrate’ (Winter, 1998:349; cf. Beekes, 2010:1063-1064).  The connection with yábhati is VW’s (1941) but later (1976:605) he suggests a phonetically impossible development from a PIE *(e)ieu-.  Malzahn (2017:283-284) adds, on the basis of Cheung, 2007:213, an Iranian cognate *ya(m)p/b-‘move, wander, rove, crawl’ and takes the antecedent Proto-Indo-European to have meant ‘go, move (slowly) inside.’

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AI-assisted substitute vocal cords

This is what the device looks like and how it is made:

Jun Chen Lab/UCLA
The two components — and five layers — of the device allow it to turn muscle
movement into electrical signals which, with the help of machine learning,
are ultimately converted into speech signals and audible vocal expression.

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Inverted writing in video subtitles: traditional cotton processing

In an off-topic comment (4/27/08), DDeden requested an English translation of the subtitles of a video about "Cotton: from fluff to dyed cloth the traditional Chinese way" (the video is embedded in this tweet).  It seemed a worthwhile endeavor, since the film itself was visually quite informative, though the subtitles looked rather sketchy.

I asked Zhang He, who is familiar with this kind of traditional technology, if she could transcribe the subtitles and give us an idea of what they say. She kindly obliged us by writing the following, extended comment, which I give in full with transcription and translation, both because of its innate value and because of the extraordinary circumstances under which she did it (described at the bottom).

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Policeman to Tesla driver: “It Is a Bit Ridiculous, But You Must Obey”

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TEAR here

The hotel where I'm staying in Morgantown, West Virginia kindly gave me a complimentary rectangular packet of freshmint toothpaste.  At the top right corner of the packet, there was a dotted, diagonal line with the words "TEAR HERE" printed above it.  Alas, no matter how hard I tried, I could not tear it open.

Then I thought that maybe I could RIP it open by pulling on the serrations along the upper edge of the packet.  No luck.

Then I tried to BITE and GNASH the packet with my teeth.  Abject failure.

Of course, I've been through all of this countless times before, and not just with toothpaste, but with packets of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and all sorts of other things.  It is especially dismaying when — after making a supreme effort — the packet bursts open and the contents spurt all over the place, including your clothing.  The worst case is when soy sauce flies out and drips everywhere.

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Super color Doppler

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Atomic Enema

Medical apparatus and preparation from Taiwan:

Source:  "Atomic Enema Gwoyeu Romatzyh", Pinyin News (8/17/22)

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Copper and tin: a reassessment of basic terms in ancient Chinese metallurgy

During the recent decade and more, we have had dozens of posts dealing with the importance of archeology for studying the spread of ancient languages.  A major subtheme of this research has been the accumulation and assessment of archeological and linguistic evidence for the dissemination of metallurgical technology (see "Selected readings") below.

A new study of an early Chinese text sharpens our understanding of key terms relating to the composition and smelting of bronze during the first millennium BC.  Here is a popular account of this pathbreaking investigation:

Researchers decode metal-making recipes in ancient Chinese text:  Study identifies mystery elements in Kaogong ji, shedding light on how early bronzes were produced

Sascha Pare, The Guardian (8/10/22)

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Archaic Greek in a modern world, part 2

[This is a guest post from Zhang He]

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing to you at the airport of Termez, a city on the southern border of Uzbekistan with Afghanistan. This city is so far the highest point of my trip. The city’s name is very likely after Demetrius, a general of Alexander the Great, who, after the death of Alexander, ruled this area. There are several important cultures that met here: Greek, Bactrian, Buddhist, and later Islam. A village 20 km north of the city is still called Macedon (!!!) after more than two thousand years! I went to a ruin called Kampir Tepe (Tepe means “hill”) which is believed to be one of the 80+ Alexandrias: Alexandria-Oxus (Alexandria on the Oxus River, which was later called Amu Darya). It was a citadel of Greco-Bactrians from 4th c. BCE to 2nd c. CE. It is believed that Alexander himself and his troops took six days to cross the river and started a settlement here. His third wife Roxana is from a nearby place in today’s Tajikistan (less than 60 miles). I saw big ceramic storage jars. The fragments were laid out on the ground by working archaeologists from more than two thousand years ago! Really amazing!

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Epochal Shanghai drone quote: "Control your soul’s desire for freedom."

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Old Ukrainian windmills and Old Sinitic reconstructions

VHM somewhere in Ukraine, probably late summer 2002:

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Massive long-term data storage

News release in EurekAlert, Optica (10/28/21):

"High-speed laser writing method could pack 500 terabytes of data into CD-sized glass disc:  Advances make high-density, 5D optical storage practical for long-term data archiving"


Researchers developed a new fast and energy-efficient laser-writing method for producing nanostructures in silica glass. They used the method to record 6 GB data in a one-inch silica glass sample. The four squares pictured each measure just 8.8 X 8.8 mm. They also used the laser-writing method to write the university logo and mark on the glass.


Yuhao Lei and Peter G. Kazansky, University of Southampton


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"Baton" and "needle" in space

Martin Delson asked about a couple of Chinese expressions that appeared in this article from the San Jose Mercury News (6/17/21):

"China launches crew to its new space station", by Carlos Garcia and Shubing Wang

Complete, and more easily accessible version from Reuters (6/17/21):

"Chinese astronauts board space station module in historic mission", by Carlos Garcia

The three astronauts are Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45.

"This will be the first crewed flight in the space station (construction) phase, and I'm lucky to be able to have the 'first baton,'" Nie told reporters in Jiuquan a day before the launch.

Wang Yaping, a member of the Shenzhou-12 backup team, told state media.

"In our crew, elder brother Nie is like the needle that stills the sea…".

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