Archive for July, 2013

Recent Japanese loanwords in Chinese

For the last couple of weeks we've been focusing on loans from Chinese and Japanese into English and from English into Chinese and Japanese. In this post, I'd like to demonstrate the intricate intertwining of Mandarin, topolectal Chinese, Japanese, and English, with Japanese providing for Chinese two key terms from comic book culture. All of these things are illustrated in the following promotional item that Nuno Sobral stumbled upon in the QQ music app:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Metaphors which you are used to seeing in print

Prospero, "The World's Worst Sentence", The Economist 7/17/2013:

FINANCIAL books are not renowned for their literary merits. Neverthless, the reader is still entitled to expect something better than the following (from Philip Mirowski's new book "Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste"):

Yet the nightmare cast its shroud in the guise of a contagion of a deer-in-the-headlights paralysis.

That is not just a mixed metaphor; it is meaningless and pretentious at the same time. One would nominate it as the world's worst-written sentence but it is only the opening clause. After a semi-colon, the author drones on for a further 32 words, from which Economist readers should be spared.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (61)

Cherry wine

On Friday of last week, Pieter Muysken and I organized a party in the Northwood housing area at the University of Michigan. We were in Ann Arbor to teach at the 2013 LSA Institute, and because Noam Chomsky's Forum Lecture had been the evening before, the get-together was advertised as the "Epi-Chomskyan Block Party". We chose epi- because its wide range of senses (above, on, over, nearby, upon; outer; besides, in addition to; among; attached to; or toward) seemed appropriate.

Anyhow, a good time was had by all. The thing that I want to focus on is the cherry wine that Marianne Mithun brought. Michigan cherry wine is apparently a thing, which I didn't know — but I already had a strong association, in the wrong direction, from Buddy Guy's 1968 song about leaving Chicago, A man and the blues:

I think I'll move on back down south,
where the water tastes just like cherry wine.
I think I'll  back down south, people,
where the water tastes to me like cherry wine —
uh this Lake Michigan water tastes to me just like turpentine.

But when I looked into it, I discovered that the connections among blues music, cherry wine, and the upper midwest are older and more complex than I thought.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Galbraith: the secret clue

Patrick Juola's guest post on identifying the authorship of The Cuckoo's Calling (now number 1 in the Amazon hardback bestseller list) is fascinating. But I seem to be the only person in the world who picked up the secret message that Joanne "J. K." Rowling sent when she picked the pseudonym under which she would publish her first crime novel. It is amazing that no one else picked up on it, but there we are: it was just me. I saw it as soon as… well, as soon as the Sunday Times revealed their discovery of the novel's pseudonymous nature, actually, which is not quite as good as seeing it before the story was all over the newspapers, but I still think I deserve a lot of credit for my penetrating intelligence. I can't imagine why I don't do crosswords; I'd probably win prizes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Too many recent Japanese loanwords in English?

In "Chinese loans in English" and in "Too many English loanwords in Japanese?" we examined the propositions that Chinese borrowings into English in recent times have been very few, while English borrowings into Chinese and Japanese have been relatively numerous.  Some commenters even made the assertion that the age of borrowing is past.

In this post, I would like to suggest that — unlike Chinese, and contrary to those who believe that the age of borrowing is largely over — there has been a substantial amount of borrowing from Japanese into English going on in recent decades.  As to why this is happening in the Japanese case, but not in the Chinese case, and why there are numerous borrowings from English into Chinese and Japanese, and into many other languages as well, these are questions that might be good to take up in the comments to this post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (83)

Anti-PRC sign in Syria

During the Arab Spring demonstrations, we saw many signs that attempted to reach a Chinese audience in Chinese: "Maybe Mubarak understands Chinese", 2/10/2011; "Chinese sign in Benghazi", 3/21/2011; "Roll out of here, Mubarak", 4/3/2011. Similar signs were spotted during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations later the same year:  "No more corruption".

Now, in Syria, we see protesters condemning China with signs written in Arabic:

(from this website)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Judgment leads to…

The latest xkcd explains:

Mouseover message: "But the rules of writing are like magic spells. If you never acquire them, then not using them says nothing."

Comments (12)

Rowling and "Galbraith": an authorial analysis

The Sunday (UK) Times recently revealed that J.K. Rowling wrote the detective novel The Cuckoo's Calling under the pen name Robert Galbraith. The newspaper explained that, as part of their investigation, they sought the assistance of two scholars who have developed software to help with authorship attribution: Peter Millican of Oxford University and Patrick Juola of Duquesne University. Given the public interest in the Rowling revelation, I asked Patrick to write a guest post describing the authorial analysis that he conducted. (For more on the story, see my post on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

Update on Nom

On May 28, 2013, I made the following post: "Vietnamese in Chinese and Nom characters". The discussion that followed, as usual at Language Log, was lively and informative, and raised a lot of very interesting issues concerning the history and nature of Nom and its relationship to Chinese characters and Chinese languages.

John Balaban had wanted to participate in that discussion, but was delayed by heart surgery (he's all right now), and has taken the first opportunity to send in these remarks, which help us to understand why many people, including some of my own students and colleagues, still care passionately about this unique writing system.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)

Rachel Jeantel on CNN

Following up on "Rachel Jeantel’s language in the Zimmerman trial", LLOG readers may welcome an opportunity to hear Rachel Jeantel in person, tonight on CNN — "Tonight at 9: Piers Morgan welcomes Rachel Jeantel and a live studio audience":

Less than 48 hours removed from seeing the jury in the George Zimmerman trial return a "not guilty" verdict, this evening "Piers Morgan Live" will welcome Rachel Jeantel – and a live audience – for a live hour dedicated entirely to the case that continues to divide and enthrall the nation.

In her first public comments since testifying, tonight the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin shortly before his death will join Piers Morgan for a live, exclusive interview as a collection of guests surround her throughout the studio.

Comments (1)

No justice, no peace

J.P. Villanueva writes:

I've been seeing the old "No justice, no peace" chant lately after the Zimmerman trial. It seems like people are lamenting that "there is no justice and there is no peace."

When I first heard the chant (during the Rodney King riots), I had understood quite clearly that "No justice, no peace" was a conditional statement… as in, "if you can't guarantee us justice, we will not let you have peace" in other words, it was a call to riot.

I'm sure the chant has a longer history, right? Has it always meant both things? or did I misinterpret back in the 90s?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (42)

American Passivity

This is an illustrative Breakfast Experiment™ for my course at the LSA Institute (on "Corpus-Based Linguistic Research"). It starts from an earlier LL post, "When men were men, and verbs were passive", 8/4/2006, where I observed that Winston Churchill, often cited as a model of forceful eloquence, used the passive voice for 30-50% of his verbs  in various passages from his 1899 memoir The River War — several times the rate noted in statistical usage studies from the 1960s and later.

So I thought I'd do a quick historical survey of passive-voice rates, as a example of what can be done with Mark Davies' COHA corpus.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)

Sum Ting Wong

In case you haven't already seen it, here's a news story that KTVU-TV in San Francisco ran on Friday, purporting to give the names of the four pilots of the Asiana plane that crashed at SFO on July 6:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (56)