Equal representation in the halls of quackery

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(Not?) Including myself

Jonah Markowitz, "Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Manhattan May Never Be the Same.", NYT 3/29/2021:

“I could find few people, including myself, who think we are going to go back to the way it was,” said Joseph J. Palermo, the firm’s chief operating officer.

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The 17th annual Blizzard Challenge

In today's email, an announcement for the 17th annual Blizzard Challenge:

We are delighted to call for participation in the Blizzard Challenge 2021. This is an open evaluation of corpus-based speech synthesis systems using common datasets and a large listening test.

This year, the challenge will provide a European Spanish speech dataset from one native speaker. The dataset was offered by iFLYTEK Co. Ltd. and is now available for downloading after registration and completing the license.
The two tasks involve building voices from this data to synthesise texts containing only Spanish words and to synthesise Spanish texts containing a small number of English words in each sentence.
Please read the full announcement and the rules at:

http://www.synsig.org/index.php/Blizzard_Challenge_2021

Please register by following the instructions on the web page, then wait for your registration to be accepted before completing the data license.

Important: please send all communications about Blizzard to the official address blizzard@festvox.org and not to our personal addresses.

Please feel free to distribute this announcement to other relevant mailing lists.

Regards,
Zhenhua Ling & Simon King

steering committee: Alan Black, Keiichi Tokuda, Simon King

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The birth of modern Japanese language and literature in the Literary Sinitic context

Just out, a stimulating new book from Brill (2020):

Mareshi Saito.  Kanbunmyaku:  The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature.  Series:  Language, Writing and Literary Culture in the Sinographic Cosmopolis, Volume: 2.  Editors:  Ross King and Christina Laffin; translators:  Alexey Lushchenko, Mattieu Felt, Si Nae Park, and Sean Bussell

From the author's Introduction, p. 1:

The chief aim of this book is to consider the language space of modern Japan from the perspective of what I am calling kanbunmyaku 漢文脈 in Japanese, translated here as “Literary Sinitic Context.”  I use  the term “Literary  Sinitic”* to designate what is often referred to as “Classical Chinese” or “Literary Chinese” in English, wenyan 文言 in Mandarin Chinese, kanbun 漢文 in Japanese (sometimes referred to as “Sino-Japanese” in English), and hanmun 漢文 in Korean.  The Context in Literary Sinitic Context translates the -myaku of kanbunmyaku, and usually implies a pulse, vein, flow, or path, but is also the second constituent element of the Sino-Japanese term bunmyaku 文脈 meaning “(textual, literary) context.”  I use the term Literary Sinitic Context to encompass both Literary Sinitic proper, as well as orthographic and literary styles (buntai 文体) derived from Literary Sinitic, such as glossed reading (kundoku 訓読) or Literary Japanese (bungobun 文語文), which mix sinographs (kanji 漢字, i.e., “Chinese” characters) and katakana.  In addition to styles I also consider Literary Sinitic thought and sensibility at the core of which lie Literary Sinitic poetry (kanshi 漢詩) and prose (kanbun 漢文), collectively termed kanshibun 漢詩文.

*For  the  term  “Literary  Sinitic,”  see  Victor H. Mair,  “Buddhism and the Rise of the Written Vernacular,” Journal of Asian Studies, 53.3 (August, 1994), 707-751.

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New directions in deception detection?

Jessica Seigel, "The truth about lying", Knowable Magazine 3/25/2021

You can’t spot a liar just by looking — but psychologists are zeroing in on methods that might actually work

The featured research is a review by Aldert Vrij, Maria Hartwig, and Pär Anders Granhag, "Reading Lies: Nonverbal Communication and Deception", Annual Review of Psychology 2019:

The relationship between nonverbal communication and deception continues to attract much interest, but there are many misconceptions about it. In this review, we present a scientific view on this relationship. We describe theories explaining why liars would behave differently from truth tellers, followed by research on how liars actually behave and individuals’ ability to detect lies. We show that the nonverbal cues to deceit discovered to date are faint and unreliable and that people are mediocre lie catchers when they pay attention to behavior. We also discuss why individuals hold misbeliefs about the relationship between nonverbal behavior and deception—beliefs that appear very hard to debunk. We further discuss the ways in which researchers could improve the state of affairs by examining nonverbal behaviors in different ways and in different settings than they currently do.

That review focuses on why peoples' ideas about clues to deception are mostly wrong, and why nobody is very good at detecting deception from behavioral cues.

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The review mirror

From a recent spam email:


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"Take off your pants and fart"

British actress "Rosamund Pike’s RUDE Mandarin lessons!" | The Graham Norton Show – BBC

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"'White left' — a Chinese calque in English", part 2

A little less than four years ago, I wrote a post about the subject of báizuǒ 白左 ("white left").  It was a difficult post to write, because the topic was sensitive, controversial, and recherché.  The post provoked an enthusiastic discussion, with much of the emotional investment being about whether the term would stick in English a year or two later.

I filed it away far in the back of my mind, thinking that I might never have to deal with it again because, in truth, it had given me a lot of headaches, trying to make sense of its ideological and political implications in China and in the West (which are by no means the same), its relationship to SJW (Social Justice Warriors), and so forth.  I was happy enough not to have to think about báizuǒ 白左 ("white left") for four years.

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Election misnegation

Here's another example for our long list of cases where smart people are either losing track of multiple negations, or applying a high-status form of negative concord in English. This one is from Jeremy Peters, "In Restricting Early Voting, the Right Sees a New ‘Center of Gravity’", NYT 3/19/2021:

“We also took a look at the election results, and we don’t believe that it was stolen. But that doesn’t mean we don’t think there aren’t things that can be improved,” said Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project.

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Annual wave of Anti-English sentiment in the PRC

Article in official CCP media source:

"Chinese lawmaker proposes removing English as core subject"

Liu Caiyu, Global Times (3/5/21)

Coming from GT, the hyper-nationalistic tabloid, this attack on English is not unexpected, and similar anti-English proposals come up every year around the time of the national meetings of the Liǎnghuì 兩會 (Two Sessions), annual plenary meetings of the national People's Congress and the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference that have just concluded in Beijing (March 4-11).

Here we go again:

Is English really that important? A Chinese lawmaker at the two sessions has proposed removing English as a core subject for Chinese students receiving compulsory education, triggering heated discussion on Chinese social media.

The proposal was made by Xu Jin, a member of the Central Committee of the Jiusan Society and also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). It has also been proposed by other lawmakers in previous years.

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"Chinese people don't eat this condom!"

China's netizens are taking the recent diplomatic contretemps in Anchorage, Alaska in an extremely lighthearted spirit:

Photo: Weibo

(Source:  Weibo)

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An American with native fluency in Taiwanese Mandarin

Here's a video clip of a young American businessman named Ben Metcalf (Mai Banda 麥班達) in Taiwan making a presentation for his company's first public launch as part of their IPO process.

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New trends in Chinese naming practices

A few days ago, a new M.A. student from the PRC named Lisite Deng wrote to me asking about a course of mine that he wanted to audit and another one that he wanted to take in the fall.  Upon seeing his name, I did a double take and stopped breathing for a few moments, because trisyllabic Chinese given names are extremely rare.  Chinese given names are mostly disyllabic, though a considerable number are also monosyllabic.  As most people know, Chinese surnames are mainly monosyllabic, though a few are disyllabic. 

Seeing the name "Lisite Deng" was perplexing, to say the least, so I asked him how he got it, and whether the government and all of its bureaus could tolerate such an irregularity.  The student gladly told me the story of his unusual personal name.  Here is how it goes: 

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