Archive for December, 2023

Effective X

"The 'Effective Accelerationism' movement doesn't care if humans are replaced by AI as long as they're there to make money from it", Business Insider 12/30/2023:

The Effective Accelerationism movement — a staunchly pro-AI ideology that has Silicon Valley split over how artificial intelligence should be regulated — appears to be walking a razor's edge between being a techno-libertarian philosophy and a nihilistic, even reckless, approach to advancing one of the world's most significant technological developments. […]

A riff on the effective altruism, or "EA," philosophy touted by tech influencers like Sam Bankman-Fried and Elon Musk, e/acc took off in 2023, though its exact origins remain unclear. The movement has attracted a cast of unlikely characters, including venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and convicted fraudster Martin Shkreli.

"EA and e/acc are mostly the same people," Emmett Shear, the former interim CEO of OpenAI, said in an interview with Meridian. "Their only difference is a value judgment on whether or not humanity getting wiped out is a problem."

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The Miracle of Western Writing

The following essay is from the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci's (1552-1610)  Xī zì qíjì 西字奇蹟 (The Miracle of Western Letters) published in Beijing in 1605. This was the first book to use the Roman alphabet to write a Sinitic language. Twenty years later, another Jesuit in China, Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628), issued his Xī rú ěrmù zī (Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati) 西儒耳目資 at Hangzhou. Neither book had much immediate impact on the way in which Chinese thought about their writing system, and the romanizations they described were intended more for Westerners than for the Chinese, but their eventual impact on China was enormous, and it is still unfolding.

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“Misaharan ini na punapunan” — indigenous languages in Taitung, Taiwan

[This is a guest post by AntC]

This T-shirt I had to buy *immediately*:

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A.A. wrote:

In the recent Christmas movie "Jingle Smells", a character says "[if I had experienced what you did] I would have crawlen into a bottle too". Is this usage of the form crawlen grammatical in English? Perhaps a dialect thing? Because to my ear it sounds valid, but others have said that to them it sounds like a mistake.

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Q. Pheevr's Law again

A few days ago, a journalist asked me for an interview about Donald Trump's rhetoric, "to discuss the style of his campaign events, the role his rhetoric plays in them, and why they’ve been an effective tool for him". In preparation, I made a list of past LLOG posts about Trump's rhetorical style,, and I'll post the whole (shockingly long) list later on, with the attempt at a summary that I prepared for the interview. Clearly I've joined the rest of the world in being drawn in by Trump's attention-seeking techniques — but that's not the point of this post.

One of the hundreds of posts in my list was "Q. Pheevr's Law", 5/17/2016. The background was an earlier post about modificational anxiety, "Adjectives and Adverbs", where Q.Pheevr had suggested in the comments that

it looks as if there could be some kind of correlation between the ADV:ADJ ratio and the V:N ratio (as might be expected given that adjectives canonically modify nouns and adverbs canonically modify verbs)

I tested this idea, and found a striking relationship — with an interesting stylistic footnote about the debate transcripts of some politicians, including Donald Trump.

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Retrospective censorship of Uyghur texts

From a memoir by Uyghur poet Tamir Hamut Izgil, Waiting to Be Arrested at Night, Bruce Humes posted on his Ethnic ChinaLit blog (12/30/23) this brief excerpt about how content, once commissioned and approved by the Chinese state, became grounds for incarceration of researchers, writers and editors:

Huítóu kàn gōngchéng 回头看工程 — Xinjiang’s Ominous “Looking Back Project”

Uyghur poet’s memoir recalls the Xinjiang administration’s retroactive hunt for unPC content in textbooks once commissioned, edited and published by the state:

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The consequences of interpreting: the Qianlong Emperor, Lord Macartney, George Staunton, and Li Zibiao

I'm led to this topic by a consideration of one of the six books that made the short list for the Wolfson History Prize, which is the UK's most prestigious history book prize, as introduced by Sudhir Hazareesingh, who is interviewed by Sophie Roell, in "The Best History Books of 2023", Five Books (11/12/23).

Because this is Language Log, we skip directly to Henrietta Harrison’s The Perils of Interpreting, which is about a key episode in Chinese history when, in 1793, the British envoy Lord Macartney (1737-1806) was rebuffed by the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799). Roell prompts Hazareesingh to tell her about this book, what it’s about, and why the judges liked it.

Hazareesingh responds (with slight amplifications and modifications):

In a narrow sense, this is a twin biography. It’s about two translators who are actors in this big drama of the encounter between the British and Chinese empires in the late 18th and early 19th century—from the 1790s through to the Opium Wars in the late 1830s.

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Quadriscriptal "You Are My Sunshine"

From Emma Knightley:

Sent by my boomer parents – according to the caption how a Taiwanese village is teaching seniors how to sing "You Are My Sunshine" in English, which requires them to know a combination of Mandarin, Taiwanese ("阿粿"), English ("B"), and Japanese ("の")! (I think the calligraphy is wonderful, to boot.)

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"Made from 100% VERBed X Y"?

As discussed in "this post" from 9/5/2017, the label "100% grated Parmesan cheese" means only that the product's Parmesan cheese is 100% grated, or maybe that the cheese in it is 100% Parmesan — never mind the cellulose powder that's also in the mix.

So I wondered about the grocery bags that are labeled


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The linguistic plenitude of Papua New Guinea

There are many things about Papua New Guinea (PNG) that make it unique (the abundance of its flora and fauna, its ritualistic cannibalism, its political complexity, etc.), but above all for me is the huge number of its languages, especially considering its relatively small population on such a large amount of land (see below for some details).

Papua New Guinea (abbreviated PNG; /ˈpæp(j)uə …ˈɡɪni, ˈpɑː-/ , also US: /ˈpɑːpwə-, ˈpɑːp(j)ə-/[12]) is a country in Oceania that comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia (a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia). Officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (Tok Pisin: Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini; Hiri Motu: Independen Stet bilong Papua Niu Gini), it shares its only land border with Indonesia to the west and it is directly adjacent to Australia to the south and the Solomon Islands to the east. Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The country is the world's third largest island country, with an area of 462,840 km2 (178,700 sq mi).

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The living language of the Chinese people

The following buzzwords from social media show that, when they get out from under the thumb / heel of the CCP, the Chinese people have a lot of lively spunk and clever wit.  Contrast "Chinese buzzwords for 2023" (12/6/23), the official ones — mostly deadly dull.

The Language of Now: China’s Best Internet Slang in 2023
Sixth Tone lists the buzzwords that shaped conversations on Chinese social media.

By Sixth Tone
Dec 28, 2023

The netizens have to keep one step ahead of the internet police to get these fun words out there.

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Reincarnation machine

From the Engrish in Japan Facebook page, posted by Yukie Masumoto:

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Shimao, graphic arts, and long distance connections, part 2

Intercultural connections imply crosscultural communications.

In my estimation, Shimao is the most important archeological site in the EEAH (Extended East Asian Heartland) from B.C. times, with enormous implications for the origins of Sinitic civilization.  Shimao is a recently discovered archeological site, brought to light roughly a dozen years ago, but still very much under excavation.  Its coordinates are 38.5657°N 110.3252°E, which put it on the mid-eastern edge of the Ordos Desert that lies within the great, rectangular bend of the Yellow River called the Ordos Loop in English or Hétào 河套 ("Yellow River Sheath") in Chinese.  I often think of the Ordos as the omphalos of the EEAH, ecologically a part of the Eastern Gobi desert steppe that has been lassoed ("lasso" is another meaning of tào 套) into the cultural orbit of the Yellow River Valley, which is the center of the East Asian Heartland (EAH) proper.

For the concept of East Asian Heartland (EAH) and Extended East Asian Heartland (EEAH), see Victor H. Mair, "The North(west)ern Peoples and the Recurrent Origins of the 'Chinese' State", in Joshua A. Fogel, The Teleology of the Modern Nation-State:  Japan and China (Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), pp. 46-84.

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