Archive for Books

Languages and cultures of Central Asia

Herewith, I wish to announce the publication of a stupendous Festschrift in honor of András Róna-Tas’s 90th birthday. 

András Róna-Tas, distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Szeged, Hungary, winner of several international prestigious prizes, has devoted his long academic career to the study of Chuvash, Turkic elements in Hungarian, Mongolic-Tibetan linguistic contacts, the Para-Mongolic language Khitan and other Central Asian languages and cultures.

This book, presented to him on the occasion of his 90th birthday, contains a collection of papers in Turkic and Mongolic Studies, with a focus on the literacy, culture, and languages of the steppe civilizations. It is organized in three sections: Turkic Studies, Mongolic Studies, and Linguistic and cultural contacts of Altaic languages. It contains papers by some of the most renowned experts in Central Asia Studies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Wondrous blue

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Phonology and orthography in Ming China

New book from Columbia University Press:

The Culture of Language in Ming China:  Sound, Script, and the Redefinition of Boundaries of Knowledge

by Nathan Vedal

Pub Date: March 2022 ISBN: 9780231200752 320 Pages

$35.00  £28.00

Publisher's description:

The scholarly culture of Ming dynasty China (1368–1644) is often seen as prioritizing philosophy over concrete textual study. Nathan Vedal uncovers the preoccupation among Ming thinkers with specialized linguistic learning, a field typically associated with the intellectual revolution of the eighteenth century. He explores the collaboration of Confucian classicists and Buddhist monks, opera librettists and cosmological theorists, who joined forces in the pursuit of a universal theory of language.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Platitudinous pukey police Party peace pablum for the people

It's no wonder that the people are losing patience with the Party:

 "‘A toddler could write this’: senior Chinese policeman’s Peace Mantra book, praised by authorities, is ridiculed

    Investigation and apologies over ‘intellectual’ officer’s book, which provincial government and state media had said was recommended reading
    Sharing of the book’s repetitive content leads to online debate about unthinking praise for officials"

By Jun Mai, SCMP (7/30/20).

The "intellectual" author of the volume is He Dian, the second most powerful officer of the public security department in the northeastern province of Jilin.  The title of his 336-page tome is Píng'ān jīng 平安經, to which the English name Peace Mantra has become attached.  Since it's such a phony work, we might as well give it a more accurate apocryphal Sanskrit title, Śānti sūtra शान्ति सूत्र.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

Handbooks and manuals

Joe Farrell wrote in to ask:

Do you know whether the word "handbook" (Gk encheiridion, Lat (liber) manualis) can be found in any other ancient or medieval languages? And, if so, whether it is clearly a loan word or it simply arises spontaneously in different languages from a similar conceptual and material relationship between books and hands.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

Nested calligraphy

Clément Pit-Claudel writes:

I was recently at the Boston antiquarian book fair, where I spotted a book titled The Battle of Foochow about the Fuzhou Uprising of November 8, 1911, in which revolutionaries defeated the Qing (Manchu) army, a significant step on the way to the fall of the last dynasty in traditional Chinese history, when the six-year-old Last EmperorPuyi, abdicated on February 12, 1912.  Here's a photograph of the cover:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Open Access Handbooks in Linguistics!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrung my hands on Facebook over the proliferation of commercial publishers' Handbooks of Linguistics. These are usually priced out of individuals' budgets, being sold mostly to university libraries, and the thousands of hours of work poured into them by dedicated linguists are often lost behind a paywall, inaccessible to many of the people who would most like to read them.

That post prompted a flood of urgent discussion; it seemed like this was a thought that was being simultaneously had around the world. (Indeed, Kai von Fintel had posted the identical thought about six months prior; probably that butterfly was the ultimate cause of the veritable hurricane  that erupted on my feed.)

Long story short, a few weeks later we now have a proto-editorial board and are on to the next steps of identifying a venue and a business model for the series. Please check out our announcement below the fold, and follow along on our blog for updates as the series develops!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Chinese proverbs

A frequent topic of our Language Log posts has been about how best to learn Chinese, e.g.:

"How to learn to read Chinese " (5/25/08)

"How to learn Chinese and Japanese " (2/17/14)

"The future of Chinese language learning is now " (4/5/14)

Two things I have stressed:  1. take advantage of properly parsed Pinyin or other phonetic annotation and transcription; 2. utilize the full resources of digital, electronic, hand-held, and online dictionaries and other devices to assist and enhance the learning of reading and writing.

Whenever a well-designed, efficient pedagogical tool appears, I am always pleased because it means more rapid acquisition and less suffering for students.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Bad sex writing: really really bad

I'm pleased to be able to announce on Language Log the winner of the Literary Review's 2015 Bad Sex in Fiction Award. The award went to the singer Morrissey for his debut novel List of the Lost. And it seems to have been honestly earned. The judges cited this sentence:

Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza's breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra's howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza's body except for the otherwise central zone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Global imaginary Chinese

Two or three days ago, I received the following call for papers:

"CFP The Chinese Script and its Global Imaginary" (H-Asia 10/7/15)

This is for a conference that will be held in New Zealand on April 1, 2016.  Perhaps they do not celebrate April Fools' Day in New Zealand.  Otherwise, I would have wondered whether this were some sort of hoax.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (29)

Orient(al[ism]) in East Asian languages

Cortney Chaffin writes:

Today I've been corresponding over email with a colleague of mine at XYUniversity who organized an exhibition of Korean art to open tomorrow. Yesterday he sent out a description of the exhibit in which he used the phrases "oriental landscape painting" (in contrast to Western painting) and "oriental sensitivity" to describe the aim of the artist (to demonstrate "oriental sensitivity" in painting). I don't allow my students to use the term "oriental" in my art history classes, not only because it is a complex and loaded term, but I have first-hand experience of it being used as a racial slur in the U.S., so it makes me uncomfortable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (95)

Literate programming and reproducible research

From the Scientific and Technical Achievements section of last week's Academy Awards:

To Matt Pharr, Greg Humphreys and Pat Hanrahan for their formalization and reference implementation of the concepts behind physically based rendering, as shared in their book Physically Based Rendering.  Physically based rendering has transformed computer graphics lighting by more accurately simulating materials and lights, allowing digital artists to focus on cinematography rather than the intricacies of rendering. First published in 2004, Physically Based Rendering is both a textbook and a complete source-code implementation that has provided a widely adopted practical roadmap for most physically based shading and lighting systems used in film production.

I believe that this is the first time that an Academy Award has been given to a book. And this (ten-year-old) book was written in a way that deserves to be better known and more widely imitated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (42)