Archive for May, 2023

"Vatnik" — ethnic or political slur?

Adam Taylor, Anastacia Galouchka & Heidi Levine, "Ukrainians fighting outside Bakhmut see Russian mercenaries withdrawing", Washington Post 5/282023:

“The Wagner guys have left and the [regular Russians] have come in,” said a 26-year-old commander who asked to be identified by his call sign, Chichen. He used an anti-Russian ethnic slur to refer to the troops who appear to be replacing the mercenaries […]

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Chickee cakes

Taken at a restaurant in Hangzhou:

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Insults, oaths, and curses in the Middle Ages


"By God’s Bones: Medieval Swear Words"

What were bad words in the Middle Ages? Cursing or swearing in medieval England was really different from today’s world.

May, 2023

The post begins:

Some historians have looked into the topic, such as Melissa Mohr, the author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing. In her chapter on medieval England, Mohr explains that people back then did not have much of an issue with describing bodily functions in ways that we might find less appropriate. Going into a city you might find a street called ‘Shitwell Way’ or ‘Pissing Alley’. Open a medieval textbook to teach reading to children and you might find the words arse, shit or fart. If you saw ants crawling around you would most likely call them ‘pisse-mires’.

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"Failure to Launch"?

Along with half a million other people, I logged onto Twitter at the designated hour to hear Elon Musk help Ron DeSantis announce his run for U.S. President. After about half an hour of  noises, silences, and puzzling graphics, I gave up — too early to catch the restart on a different account.

This event was generally covered as an embarrassing failure, with Twitter tags like #DeSaster and #FailureToLaunch. A few hours later, I checked again, and was able to find the Twitter Spaces recording of the rebooted event — which I found less entertaining than the initial parade of glitches, alas. But I also found this:

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"Master the essence of solid"

From the website for Royal China Group, a famous Chinese restaurant group in London:

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Decipherment of Linear A

Methodologically, the following communication from Elizabeth J. W. Barber is too important to be left buried in a comment to this post:  "ChatGPT does cuneiform studies" (5/21/23)

As I showed in my 1974 book, Archaeological Decipherment, there is a mathematical algorithm showing how much text one needs to PROVABLY accomplish a decipherment for what sort of script. Since 1974, we haven't added enough new text to our pile of LINEAR A to make it over the hump, if the language it hides is unrelated to anything we already know (or if the hidden language, like Semitic, "cross-classifies" its morphemes between consonants and vowels, since each phonological sign in Linear A represents one C and one V). And if it IS hiding some language we already have a linguistic handle on, we are still scarcely up to the top of the hump. So what language, or language family might one try? We already know that Linear A shows virtually nothing in the way of suffixing or other inflection, so it looks very UN-Indo-European.

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Chinese characters and the messiness of Chinese culture

Is it really so?

Uncannily and independently, Apollo Wu* sent me the following note before I made this post:

Hànzì bǐ bù shàng zìmǔ wénzì de guānjiàn lǐngyù zàiyú páixù jiǎnsuǒ hé réngōng zhìnéng děng fāngmiàn. Fùzá fánsuǒ nán xué nán yòng shì dāngqián miàn duì de kùnnán. Hànzì wú xù gěi Zhōngguó wénhuà dǎshàng língluàn de làoyìn!

汉字 比不上 字母文字 的 关键 领域 在于 排序 检索 和 人工智能 等 方面。复杂 繁琐 难学难用 是 当前 面对的 困难。汉字 无序 给 中国 文化 打上 凌乱 的 烙印!

Google Translate:

The key areas where Chinese characters are not as good as alphabetic characters are sorting, retrieval and artificial intelligence. Complicated, cumbersome, difficult to learn and difficult to use are the difficulties we are currently facing. The disorder of Chinese characters marks Chinese culture as messy!

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Learning sinitic and sinoglyphic "zero"

Plus Indic, plus Arabic, Korean, Vietnamese, Hokkien (Taiwanese), Hakka, and Fuzhou (Eastern Min).

For an exciting read / ride, be sure to follow the whole thread, travelling through time and space.

Courtesy of Egas Moniz-Bandeira ᠡᡤᠠᠰ ᠮᠣᠨᠢᠰ ᠪᠠᠨᡩ᠋ᠠᠶᠢᠷᠠ

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Hack of the year: 1980

I recently stumbled on this 5/10/2023 Medium article by David Brock, "A Backup of Historical Proportions" — which reminded me of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center ("PARC") and the Xerox Alto. Those were the people and the machine that invented interactive GUIs on bit-mapped displays, the computer mouse, and so on — though it took Steve Jobs to "borrow" the ideas and turn them into a social (and business) success.

But as a speech person, I always thought it was odd and unfortunate that the Alto had no provision for audio input or output — and I was impressed by the hack that Henry Thompson used to get around the audio output problem for his 1980 Berkeley thesis, "Stress and Salience in English: Theory and Practice".

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ChatGPT does cuneiform studies

We have seen ChatGPT tell stories (and variants of the stories it tells), fancify Coleridge's famous poem on Xanadu, pose a serious challenge to the Great Firewall of China, mimic VHM, write Haiku, and perform all manner of amazing feats.  In a forthcoming post, we will witness its efforts to translate Chinese poetry.  Today, we will watch ChatGPT make a credible foray into Akkadiology.

Translating old clay tablet by using chatGPT

Jan Romme, Jan's Stuff (5/15/23)

The author commences:

You might have heard how I asked chatGPT to pose as a Jehovah’s Witness, write a “witnessing letter” with 2 or 3 bible scriptures in it, and then translate that letter into an English rap song, Eminem style.  Or you might have missed that news. My point is, I like to play with AI’s.

I’m increasingly stupefied by how much AI models like OpenAI’s chatGPTGoogle’s BARD, and Facebooks LLaMMa and others are capable of.

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AI comic strip creation?

Today's Tank McNamara:

Of course the joke in this strip is the seven fingers on Tank's right hand, and the eight fingers on his left hand.

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"Romanisation 'gives clarity'"

As we have pointed out countless times on Language Log, if one wishes to learn a Sinitic language, one can concentrate on the characters (writing system), one can rely exclusively on romanization or other phoneticization, or one can devise various means for combining the two approaches.  Here is a clever, fun method for learning Cantonese that tackles the problem head on.

Hongkonger creates colourful Cantonese font to foster language learning

Jon Chui’s new font shows coloured, context-sensitive jyutping for Chinese text. He created it as his partner “had a hard time with the tones” when learning Cantonese.

Mandy Cheng, Hong Kong Free Press (5/16/23)

Jon Chui "has created a new Cantonese font, which combines over 8,000 characters with colourful, Romanised pronunciation guides in order to foster language learning and teaching."

Cantonese Font. Photo: Jon Chiu.

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Since about the 90s, pho has been popping up all over the place.  It has been especially conspicuous after the turn of the millennium, and I think it adapted well to the pandemic as a quick and ready kind of street food.  I've often wondered whether it had anything to do with French "fire" or Cantonese fan2 粉 ("noodles; vermicelli").  Rather than continuing to fruitlessly speculate in my waking hours, as I did again this morning, I figured it's about time I looked up what the authorities say.  So here goes:

Borrowed from Vietnamese phở.


That much we all agree on. 

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