Archive for February, 2021

Throat whistling?

Comments (13)

Using automatic speech-to-text in clinical applications

A colleague pointed me to Terje Holmlund et al., "Applying speech technologies to assess verbal memory in patients with serious mental illness", NPJ digital medicine 2020:

Verbal memory deficits are some of the most profound neurocognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia and serious mental illness in general. As yet, their measurement in clinical settings is limited to traditional tests that allow for limited administrations and require substantial resources to deploy and score. Therefore, we developed a digital ambulatory verbal memory test with automated scoring, and repeated self-administration via smart devices. One hundred and four adults participated, comprising 25 patients with serious mental illness and 79 healthy volunteers. The study design was successful with high quality speech recordings produced to 92% of prompts (Patients: 86%, Healthy: 96%). The story recalls were both transcribed and scored by humans, and scores generated using natural language processing on transcriptions were comparable to human ratings (R = 0.83, within the range of human-to-human correlations of R = 0.73–0.89). A fully automated approach that scored transcripts generated by automatic speech recognition produced comparable and accurate scores (R = 0.82), with very high correlation to scores derived from human transcripts (R = 0.99). This study demonstrates the viability of leveraging speech technologies to facilitate the frequent assessment of verbal memory for clinical monitoring purposes in psychiatry.

This is great work, but over-interpretation of such results is likely to be a problem. At this stage in the development of the technologies, experimenting with with speech-to-text in such applications is a very good idea, but relying on it without accurate human-corrected transcripts is a very bad idea.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Cantonese under threat at Stanford

Opinion article in SCMP (2/26/21), by Brian Chan, Kevin Hsu, and Jamie Tam:

Why Stanford University must strengthen, rather than cut, its Cantonese courses
The plan damages the university’s global reputation and undermines its self-professed commitment to diversity
As the most widely-spoken Sinitic language other than Mandarin, Cantonese offers a more pluralistic understanding of China

The article is accompanied by this intriguing photograph (credited to AFP):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Articulate Tory gestures

At our most recent Penn Phonetic Lab meeting, we heard a (virtual) talk by Marc Garellek on the topic "Reconsidering voicing during glottal sounds". The talk was quite interesting, but more relevant for a general audience was what happened when someone turned on Zoom's "Live Transcription" feature:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Coronawords

The Institut für Deutsche Sprache has been compiling a list of "Neuer Wortschatz rund um die Coronapandemie" (New Vocabulary about the Corona Pandemic). German morphology and orthography being as they are, these are mostly new pandemic-related compounds.

The list and its compilation are documented by Abby Young-Powell, "Coronaangst ridden? Overzoomed? Covid inspires 1,200 new German words", The Guardian 2/23/2021:

From coronamüde (tired of Covid-19) to Coronafrisur (corona hairstyle), a German project is documenting the huge number of new words coined in the last year as the language races to keep up with lives radically changed by the pandemic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Laws

Comments (18)

Kunlun: the origins and meanings of a mysterious place name

A recent post introduced the evocative place name, Kunlun:

"Kunlun: Roman letter phonophores for Chinese characters" (2/16/21)

As we learned from the previous post, Kunlun is known from historical and fictional sources dating to the last two millennia and more to refer to mythological and geographically locatable mountains in Central Asia and in the far west as well as to vague places in Southeast Asia and blacks associated with them.

Simply because of the wide range of referents, one cannot help but be intrigued how it transpired that the same unusual name, which mostly refers to mountains, can be so broadly dispersed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Pork in a pot

That's how Google Translate renders "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉", and it sounds pretty good, though it's wrong, as we will discover below.  Baidu fanyi gives "Soul of shadow", for which I have no idea how they got it or what it means in relation to a pork entree.  Microsoft Bing Translator has "Pots and pans of meat", which leaves me wondering how carefully prepared it might be. 

I got interested in this term, "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉" (lit., "pot package / bag / bundle meat") because of these remarks by Michael Broughton:

I am a Chinese translator and a long time reader of Language Log. 
 
I am currently in the midst of translating a travel book from Chinese to English and have recently come across a dish called 锅包肉. 
 
After doing some searching online I discovered that the most common translation for this dish is "Fried Pork in Scoop" (over 2000 hits in Google when searched with quotation marks [VHM:  I got 11,500 hits]).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Sinographic inputting: "it's nothing" — not

Last week in our Dunhuangology seminar, a student wanted to type "wǔ 武" ("martial; military") into the chat box, but instead out popped "nián 年" ("year").  I immediately said to her, "I'll bet you were using a shape-based inputting system", which left her a bit surprised.

Ever since information technologists began to wrestle with the problem of inputting, ordering, and retrieving Chinese characters in computers during the 70s, I have been intensely interested in the theoretical and practical obstacles they faced.  To better understand the overall situation with regard to characters in computers, I organized an international conference at Penn in 1990 on the computerization of Chinese characters that resulted in Victor H. Mair and Yongquan Liu, eds., Characters and Computers (Amsterdam, Oxford, Washington, Tokyo:  IOS, 1991).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

India pips China

Headline from the Deccan Herald:

"India pips China, inks deal to develop, support maintain harbour at naval base in Maldives", Anirban Bhaumik (2/21/21)

Although I could guess from the context what it meant in the title of this article, I had never encountered "pip" with this meaning before.

Upon looking it up in Wiktionary, I find that "pip" has no less than seven different main meanings.  Of these, five are nouns and only two are verbs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (38)

Oxymoronic metonymy?

Robinson Meyer, "Texas Failed Because It Did Not Plan", The Atlantic 2/21/2021:

The Texas grid is named after the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, the agency in charge of managing it. (Yes, reliability is in the name—making ERCOT perhaps the sole instance of oxymoronic metonymy in English.) 

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (23)

"Believe (that) PNP"

Following up on yesterday's "'Guess that'", this morning I looked at whether "speakers use the unstressed optional complementiser that to maximise rhythmic alternation of weak and strong syllables" in the case of complements following the verb believe. I again used data from Shuang Li's INTERVIEW: NPR Media Dialog Transcripts dataset.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Acquiring literacy in medieval Dunhuang

This semester, I'm teaching an advanced graduate seminar on Dunhuangology.  Below, I will explain what that means, but first let me post photographs of one of the manuscripts from Dunhuang that we will be studying in the class:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)