About those grilled fevers…

From Steve Kass:

My brother is traveling in Portugal and posted this on Instagram. That’s all I know.


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Firestorm over Chinese characters

It began with a one page think piece by Ted Chiang in the New Yorker (5/16/16) that we describe and discuss here:

"Ted Chiang uninvents Chinese characters" (5/13/16)

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Stone Service

I'm in Portorož, Slovenia, for LREC2016; and so far the most interesting linguistic aspect of the place is the sometimes-surprising mixture of languages on signs. For example:

The longer explanation of the side of the van is in Slovenian — Restavriranje, brušenje, čiščenje in impregnacije naravnega kamna = "Restoration, grinding, cleaning and impregnation of natural stone". But the short version is in English: STONE SERVICE.

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The uses of Hanyu pinyin

Hànyǔ pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic Spelling") is the official romanization of the PRC.  It also comes with an official orthography which provides guidelines for word separation, punctuation, and how to deal with grammatical constructions.  An English translation of the basic orthographical rules by John Rohsenow can be found at the back of the various editions of the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from the University of Hawai'i Press.

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Tudors

Today's Pearls Before Swine explores the consequences of flapping and voicing in American English:

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Grammatical error of the week

According to the 2016 Texas Republican Party platform (or more exactly, the "Report of the Permanent Committee on Platform and Resolutions as Amended and Adopted by the 2016 State Convention of the Republican Party of Texas"),

Homosexuality is a chosen behavior […] that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

Restoring the elided material:

Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

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Name chains in literature?

Barbara Phillips Long sent in a link to Cari Romm, "Why You Sometimes Mix Up Your Friend’s Name With Your Dog’s Name", New York Magazine 5/19/2016:

Every so often, my mother, in a mental search for my name, will run through what seems like the entire family tree — she’ll say the names of my brother, her sisters, her parents, our family dog, in rapid succession before finally landing on Cari. Most of these names, it may be worth noting, sound nothing alike; also, the dog has been dead for six years.

Romm's article was occasioned by Samantha Deffler et al., "All my children: The roles of semantic category and phonetic similarity in the misnaming of familiar individuals", Memory & Cognition April 2016:

Despite knowing a familiar individual (such as a daughter) well, anecdotal evidence suggests that naming errors can occur among very familiar individuals. Here, we investigate the conditions surrounding these types of errors, or misnamings, in which a person (the misnamer) incorrectly calls a familiar individual (the misnamed) by someone else’s name (the named).

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The 2016 Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge needs you!

Every year since 2005, an ad hoc group of speech technology researchers has held a "Blizzard Challenge", under the aegis of the Speech Synthesis Special Interest Group (SYNSIG) of the International Speech Communication Association.

The general idea is simple:  Competitors take a released speech database, build a synthetic voice from the data and synthesize a prescribed set of test sentences. The sentences from each synthesizer are then evaluated through listening tests.

Why "Blizzard"? Because the early competitions used the CMU ARCTIC datasets, which began with a set of sentences read from James Oliver Curwood's novel Flower of the North.

Anyhow, if you have an hour of your time to donate towards making speech synthesis better, sign up and be a listener!

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Writing Sinitic languages with phonetic scripts

This morning I was awakened by a bird calling outside my window, "m*ll*n*y m*l*rk*y", or maybe it was some squirrel chattering (I was half asleep and couldn't be sure which it was).  Since I was unable to distinguish the vowels clearly, I couldn't tell exactly what the call / chatter was, but the bird / squirrel kept repeating it over and over, so at least I was able to transcribe the general lineaments: "m*ll*n*y m*l*rk*y m*ll*n*y m*l*rk*y m*ll*n*y m*l*rk*y".

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Needless words

I know I've been a long-time critic of everything in The Elements of Style, not least William Strunk's platitude that you should omit needless words. "Needless" is not defined even vaguely; nobody really writes in a way that sticks to the absolute minimum word count; and if neophyte writers could tell what was needless they wouldn't have to be handed this platitude (which they don't really know how to use anyway). But every now and then one really does see a case of a word that screams at you that it should have been left out. The University of Oxford has an official form on which this is the heading:

CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF ALLOWABLE EXPENSES

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Political TV Ad Archive

The Political TV Ad Archive:

The Political TV Ad Archive is a project of the Internet Archive. This site provides a searchable, viewable, and shareable online archive of 2016 political TV ads, married with fact-checking and reporting citizens can trust.  Political TV ad spending is expected to be in the billions. Yet the same local stations that air the ads provide very little solid reporting on politics. Even fewer correct political misinformation. In partnership with trusted journalistic organizations, the new Political TV Ad Archive provides a free service for journalists, civic organizations, academics and the general public to track these ads in context.  The project is open source and available on github: this site and the Duplitron.

For an introduction to the Political TV Ad Archive and how to use it, check out this video.

As of March 23, 2016, the Political TV Ad Archive is wrapping up the first phase of the project, where we tracked 20 markets in nine key primary states. The project will continue to track ads playing in the New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco television market areas. Project staff are gathering lessons learned, which will inform planning and fundraising for the second phase of the project: tracking political ads in key 2016 general election battleground states.

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Wikipedia article length

For various reasons I recently downloaded snapshots of Wikipedia in various languages, and I'd like to share with you some discoveries, starting with article length in the English Wikipedia.

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Too like the gender

Is this the future of English pronouns? Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning takes place in a world where he/she is as quaintly obsolete as thee/thou. From the book's opening:

You will criticize me, reader, for writing in a style six hundred years removed from the events I describe, but you came to me for explanation of those days of transformation which left your world the world it is, and since it was the philosophy of the Eighteenth Century, heavy with optimism and ambition, whose abrupt revival birthed the recent revolution, so it is only in the language of the Enlightenment, rich with opinion and sentiment, that those days can be described. You must forgive me my ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and ‘he’s and ‘she’s, my lack of modern words and modern objectivity. It will be hard at first, but whether you are my contemporary still awed by the new order, or an historian gazing back at my Twenty-Fifth Century as remotely as I gaze back on the Eighteenth, you will find yourself more fluent in the language of the past than you imagined; we all are.

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