Archive for April, 2024

Roman dodecahedra between Southeast Asia and England

"They are known as one of archaeology’s great enigmas – hollow 12-sided objects from the Roman era with no known purpose or use."

So begins this article by Jessica Murray in The Guardian (4/29/24):

Mysterious Roman dodecahedron to go on display in Lincoln

There are no known descriptions or drawings of object in Roman literature, making its purpose unclear

Roman bronze dodecahedron found in Tongeren, Gallo-Roman Museum, Tongeren

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Zoe Greenberg, "Are we saying 'Passyunk' wrong?", The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/23/2024:

In this time of widespread division and chaos, The Inquirer decided to unite all Philadelphians by documenting the definitive way we pronounce “Passyunk.” Were we motivated to act by a random New Yorker article confidently declaring this word is pronounced “‘passion’ with a ‘k’”? Absolutely. But our quest grew far beyond that.

The effort left some of us, and those we interviewed, questioning who we were and what we know on a fundamental level. One woman interviewed by The Inquirer, for example, claimed to pronounce the word exactly the same as her husband, who proceeded to pronounce it completely differently.

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Tianjin topolect: linguistic diversity in China (and India)

In our perennial discussions on the supposed mutual intelligibility of the countless, so-called "Chinese dialects" of the allegedly monolithic / monolingual Hànyǔ 漢語 ("Sinitic"; my colleague IA calls it "Hannic"), we seldom take into account the actuality of what these innumerable lects sound like on the ground / street.  Let's take a listen to this 4-year-old kid from Tianjin, which is close (70 miles) to Beijing, singing in the local Muttersprache, here.

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Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 5

Serious questions about "religion" in Sinitic

Below the fold is for advanced specialists in Chinese philology, theology, and lexicography.  Even for them, it is recommended that readers prepare themselves by reviewing "Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s, pt. 4" (7/4/16).

[This is a guest post by IA]

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Thou shalt be trespassed, as it were

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Every individual's speech is variable. And when we look beyond the individual, we see variation across space, time, style, and social structure — among other dimensions. And these variations are generally gradient rather than abrupt, although standardization efforts by national or regional governments may try to eliminate the variation.

For millennia, scholars have noted and catalogued these patterns of variation — and for the past couple of hundred years, this study has been called dialectology. But until 1970 or so,  people interested in this topic faced an uncomfortable choice: you can either pretend (falsely) that the variation can be put into a few well-defined boxes; or else you can limit your research to compiling very large lists of who said what where, when, and why.

About 50 years ago, some European researchers began trying to get past this dichotomous barrier, under the banner of "dialectometry". For a recent survey, see Martijn Wieling and John Nerbonne, "Advances in dialectometry", 2015 (from which I'll quote a long explanation):

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The call / name of the gecko

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Non-defined flower

This is a recent instagram post of the Vietnamese singer Suni Ha Linh.

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Despite their faces…

Jennifer Rubin, "Has Trump’s family abandoned him? I’m answering your questions", WaPo 4/24/2024:

Q: Are Republicans the party of no? Why can't Republicans say yes? Instead of getting a border deal in exchange for Ukraine funding, they got nothing.

A (Jennifer Rubin, Opinion Columnist):
Yup. They are the masters at cutting off their noses despite their faces. Remember that they really do not want to solve the problem. They want an ongoing crisis they can use against Biden. This is all to deny Biden a "win." Their obligations to their constituents and to their oaths evaporate in the face of performance politics.

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AI and real-time translation in Korea

Speaking of Korean translation and AI, as we did in recent posts (see "Selected readings"), let us take a look at the latest developments in Korea:

New AI-based translation tools make their way into everyday life in Korea

AI equipped with natural language processing software, which allows it to interpret human language in various contexts, is gaining the most attraction among mainstream users among all AI services

Jung Yu-gyung, Hankyoreh (2024-04-23)

More and more, AI is becoming a part of daily life:

On Monday, SK Telecom unveiled its AI-based translation program “TransTalker,” which offers real-time interpretation for 13 languages, including Arabic, Russian, Vietnamese and Indonesian. Lotte began testing the translation service on Friday through its information desks on the first floor of Lotte Department Store's Avenuel Jamsil and on the first floor of Lotte World Mall. Both locations receive over a thousand visits from foreign tourists every day. Lotte has reported that the majority of users are surprised at the effectiveness and clarity of the interpretative service.

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Korean oralization of Literary Sinitic

Si Nae Park came to Penn last Thursday (4/18/24) to talk about kugyŏl / gugyeol / kwukyel 구결 口訣 ("oral glossing").

Gugyeol, or kwukyel, is a system for rendering texts written in Classical Chinese into understandable Korean. It was used chiefly during the Joseon dynasty, when readings of the Chinese classics were of paramount social importance. Thus, in gugyeol, the original text in Classical Chinese was not modified, and the additional markers were simply inserted between phrases.

The parts of the Chinese sentence would then be read in Korean out of sequence to approximate Korean (SOV) rather than Chinese (SVO) word order. A similar system for reading Classical Chinese is still used in Japan and is known as kanbun kundoku.


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Macroeconomics of AI?

Daron Acemoglu, "The Simple Macroeconomics of AI":

ABSTRACT: This paper evaluates claims about the large macroeconomic implications of new advances in AI. It starts from a task-based model of AI’s effects, working through automation and task complementarities. It establishes that, so long as AI’s microeconomic effects are driven by cost savings/productivity improvements at the task level, its macroeconomic consequences will be given by a version of Hulten’s theorem: GDP and aggregate productivity gains can be estimated by what fraction of tasks are impacted and average task-level cost savings. Using existing estimates on exposure to AI and productivity improvements at the task level, these macroeconomic effects appear nontrivial but modest—no more than a 0.71% increase in total factor productivity over 10 years. The paper then argues that even these estimates could be exaggerated, because early evidence is from easy-to-learn tasks, whereas some of the future effects will come from hard-to-learn tasks, where there are many context-dependent factors affecting decision-making and no objective outcome measures from which to learn successful performance. Consequently, predicted TFP gains over the next 10 years are even more modest and are predicted to be less than 0.55%. I also explore AI’s wage and inequality effects. I show theoretically that even when AI improves the productivity of low-skill workers in certain tasks (without creating new tasks for them), this may increase rather than reduce inequality. Empirically, I find that AI advances are unlikely to increase inequality as much as previous automation technologies because their impact is more equally distributed across demographic groups, but there is also no evidence that AI will reduce labor income inequality. AI is also predicted to widen the gap between capital and labor income. Finally, some of the new tasks created by AI may have negative social value (such as design of algorithms for online manipulation), and I discuss how to incorporate the macroeconomic effects of new tasks that may have negative social value.

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Hendiadys and sleeping in parks

Samuel Bray, "Cruel AND Unusual?", Reason 4/21/2024:

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear argument in an Eighth Amendment case, City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson. One thing I will be watching for is whether the justices in their questions treat "cruel and unusual" as two separate requirements, or as one.

The Eighth Amendment (to the U.S. Consitution) says that "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

And the issue in the cited Supreme Court case is "Whether the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment." (More here, here, and elsewhere…)

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