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Archeology and the recovery of ancient writing: bamboo strip manuscripts of seminal classics

My entire career as a Sinologist has been based on the study of archeologically recovered materials.  I'm talking particularly about the medieval Dunhuang manuscripts, but also the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Tarim mummies and their associated artifacts.  It's no wonder, therefore, that I have featured the importance of archeology for the study of […]

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Nasty toponyms

Below is a guest post by Corey Miller: In the third volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, la duchesse de Guermantes mentions she fortunately doesn’t know any Jews. It’s the middle of the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the nineteenth century. She goes on to mention some tedious ladies who put the […]

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Trends in French sentence length?

"Memoirs of a Woman of Long Sentences" (5/21/2022) reproduced a plot from my 5/20/2022 talk at SHEL 12: In the talk's slides, I used that plot (without the outlier-marking arrow) as a way of  illustrating the obvious point that "Older texts in English tend to have longer sentences". And in my final slide, I suggested […]

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"Let it rot"

Another new term for expressing lack of interest in the present and future in China: The rise of ‘bai lan’: why China’s frustrated youth are ready to ‘let it rot’ Phrase bai lan gains popularity as severe competition and social expectations leave many young people despondent Vincent Ni, The Guardian (5/25/22) This one is borrowed […]

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Isaac Newton on spectrums

In "Spectrums", 2/24/2022, I described a struggle with magazine editors, long ago, over whether the plural of spectrum should be "spectrums" (which they wanted) or "spectra" (which was then the norm in technical discussions of acoustics, and remains so). In a comment, rpsms noted that Newton arguably "revived" the word spectrum (at least in scientific […]

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Japanese periodic table versus Chinese periodic table

[This is a guest post by Conal Boyce.] As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Here are two pictures, copy/pasted from Google Images: First, the Japanese periodic table, then the Chinese periodic table. I apologize for the tiny font, but notice how, in the Japanese periodic table, the symbol 'S' has the word for sulfur […]

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Spectrums

Reading the comments on Sunday's post about verb agreement with data ("Scientist spotting",5/22/2022), I was reminded of a long-ago tussle about a different aspect of Latin morphology in English borrowings. What's the plural of spectrum? Is is "spectra" or "spectrums"?

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Scientist spotting

Today's SMBC:

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Further mystification of the Japanese writing system

"Baby Pikachu? Japan panel weighs accepting unconventional readings of kanji for names" KYODO, STAFF REPORT The Japan Times (May 19, 2022) What’s in a name? In Japanese, that’s complicated.  [VHM:  You can say that again!  One of the hardest tasks in my graduate training as a Sinologist was learning how to pronounce Japanese proper nouns […]

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Tarim harps; pitch, tones, scales, modes, instruments, and their names

[This is a guest post by Sara de Rose, responding to requests for more information on the subject prompted by her previous post.] This post discusses a possible connection between the Mesopotamian tonal system, documented on cuneiform tablets that span over 1000 years (from 1800 BC to 500 BC), and the musical system of ancient China. […]

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Chief Executive to be

"John Lee: What do you call the prospective Hong Kong leader who has everything?", by Tim Hamlett, Hong Kong Free Press (5/7/22) The current status of John Lee Ka-chiu has presented one of those linguistic problems which delight retired sub editors: how do you describe a man who is clearly going to win a predetermined […]

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Memoirs of a Woman of Long Sentences

In the question period after my virtual talk yesterday at SHEL 12, an alert audience member asked about the outlier in a graph that I showed of average sentence length over the centuries. The outlier is marked with an arrow in the plot below, though no such arrow singled it out in the presentation: I […]

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"Please resume to your normal activities"

I'm staying for a couple of days in a hotel in NYC, in an incredibly expensive tiny room. Last night, a few minutes past midnight, alarms went off in the hallway outside the room: very loud blats and whoops, in somewhat irregular sequences and intervals. It wasn't exactly what I expect for a fire alarm, […]

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