Archive for November, 2019

Multiscriptal face writing

We've mentioned "kaomoji " before (see "Readings"), but only gave a few examples.

"Kaomoji 顔文字 ("face character / writing") is a Japanese term for more or less elaborate "drawings" composed of kana, characters, punctuation marks, and now letters and other symbols drawn from a wide range of writing systems.  They can be quite fanciful, even florid.  Some of them are exquisite, breathtakingly beautiful.

I hadn't seen many of them in the past, but in the last few days, Diana Shuheng Zhang started sending a bunch of them to me, and I found them utterly captivating, so I've decided to share some delightful kaomoji with Language Log readers.

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"Knock it off, algorithms!"

An experience that's become all too common — as documented in Zits for 11/25 through 11/28:



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Command your kitchen

…or at least the faucets in it, using Delta's VoiceIQ Technology.

Delta VoiceIQ Technology pairs with your connected home device to give you exactly the amount of water you need with features like metered dispensing and custom container commands.

I have to say that being able to tell my kitchen faucet to dispense 137 milliliters of hot water, or whatever, is not high on my list of desires. I'm happy enough with good old-fashioned indoor plumbing, reliable supplies of potable water, and filters to take care of residual issues. But apparently the market-research folks at Delta think that the faucet-buying public is more forward-looking than I am.

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Loophole-ridden 'screenplay' concocted by anti-China forces

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

This statement, attributed to the new Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman of the PRC, reinforced my impression that Relevant Organs (including exoprop media like the Gobar Times (Huánqiú shǐbào 环球屎报 [Global Shit News], a pun for Huánqiú shíbào 环球时报 [Global Times], for which see "Dung Times" [3/14/18])) often start generating unusually quaint English when they go into full patriot mode.

> This is a totally absurd, loophole-ridden 'screenplay' concocted by anti-China forces…

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O.K. is rude

Caity Weaver, "Typing These Two Letters Will Scare Your Young Co-Workers: Everything was O.K. until you wrote 'O.K.'", NYT 11/21/2019, starts with a note from someone in Queens:

I am a Gen X-er who generally speaks proper English and am a "digital native." (Hey, kids: We built these tools that you claim as your own.) When I respond to a text or email with "O.K.," I mean just that: O.K. As in: I hear you, I understand, I agree, I will do that. If I reply with "K," I'm just being more informal.

However, I have been informed by my Millennial and Gen Z co-workers that the new thing I'm supposed to type is "kk." To write "O.K." or "K," they tell me, is to be passive-aggressive or imply that I would like the recipient to drop dead. To which I am tempted to respond, "Believe me, if I want you to drop dead … you'll know."

I find "kk" loathsome. Are my co-workers being overly sensitive, or am I not acknowledging the nuance of modern communication? I would really like to settle this debate once and for all. O.K.?

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Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese dependency parsing

We are keenly aware that, while advances in machine translation of Vernacular Sinitic (VS) (Mandarin) are quite impressive and fundamentally serviceable, they cannot be applied directly to the translation of Literary Sinitic / Classical Chinese (LS/CC).  That would be like using an Italian translating program for Latin, a Hindi translation program for Sanskrit, or a Modern Greek translation program for Classical Greek, probably even less useful than these parallel cases, because the whole structure and nature of LS/CC and VS are different from each other.

However, now there is available a LS/CC parsing program that takes us on a major step toward a functional system for the machine translation of the literary / classical written language (it is only a written / book language, not a spoken language).  It was developed by  YASUOKA Koichi 安岡 孝一 of Kyoto University's Institute for Research in Humanities (Jinbun kagaku kenkyūjo 人文科学研究所) and is available here.

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Begging control

This headline confused me until I read the story: Julian Chokkattu, "Email App Maker Begs Apple CEO to Get Back on the App Store", Wired 11/22/2019.

I couldn't figure out why an app maker wanted Tim Cook to "get back on the App Store", or indeed what it would even mean for Cook to be "on the App Store". But of course it's the app maker who wants to get back on the App Store, because Apple kicked them off.

This is an example of what syntacticians call control, the problem of assigning subjects to predicates.  The classical examples include things like

I persuaded Kim to leave. (Kim is the one who leaves)
I promised Kim to leave. (I'm the one who leaves)

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Shelties On Alki Story Forest

Last week I gave a talk at an Alzheimer's Association workshop on "Digital Biomarkers". Overall I told a hopeful story, about the prospects for a future in which a few minutes of interaction each month, with an app on a smartphone or tablet, will give effective longitudinal tracking of neurocognitive health.

But I emphasized the fact that we're not there yet, and that some serious research and development problems stand in the way. In particular, the current state of the art in speech recognition is not yet good enough for reliable automated evaluation of spoken responses.

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"NG" and "CP" in Taiwan

From an anonymous contributor:

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Eraser from Muji

From Anne Henochowicz:


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Ablative acting as locative in an Inner Mongolian Mandarin topolect

Yuqing Yang, a first-year MA student in our department, was talking to Jingran Joy Luo, another first year MA student in our department, when she noticed something special in Joy's manner of speech.  Namely, Joy used the ablative particle cóng 从 as a locative.  Normally, the locative is indicated by zài 在 in Mandarin.

Joy is from Baotou, which has the largest population (2,650,364 [in 2010]) of any city in Inner / Southern Mongolia.  Joy was totally oblivious to this special usage of hers until Yuqing pointed it out to her.  Although the ablative can be used as the locative in Joy's Baotou Mandarin, a certain criterion has to be met.  That is, there must be an option where the action one is planning will take place.

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Wordplay of the week

https://twitter.com/jessica_roy/status/1197934195508572160

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Yorkshire Topolect

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