2004-10-31

Good News for Witches!

Holtzinger admits it's getting easier to be a witch, but the practice is still misunderstood and feared.


"As soon as you tell people you're a witch, the curtain goes down," he said. "We want to reclaim the word and remove its negative connotation. It's a matter of education."

I for one am glad to see that witches are getting their fair due...and connotations! Although, I should say by now that the idea of "reclaiming" a word seems very passé. I don't understand why the witches don't simply enjoy their notoriety. Next we'll have neo-cons reclaiming their word and left wing radicals reclaiming theirs too. I wonder if the German and French language-spelling police could just do away with negative connotations in their respective languages all together? Now that would be an accomplishment.

2004-10-30

ON the club or IN the club?

quoting Curt Schilling concerning Red Sox politics:

``There are guys on this club who are Bush supporters. There are guys on this club who are Kerry supporters, it's a good mix,'' he said.

This is an interesting preposition usage by pitcher Schilling. I would've thought being "IN" a club and "ON" a team (Google supports this). Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, as a club can be a team and a team can be a club, but it seems far more natural to me to be IN a club rather than ON one--even in cases like professional baseball where there is a certain amount of overlap in the meanings. However, as Schilling knows far more about baseball than I ever will, I will gladly take his word on/for/about it!

2004-10-24

Foreign branding --gaijin--

Being called a 'gaijin' is not unusual or harmful, says Cai Evans

The best reason for not blowing your gasket when you hear yourself called a gaijin, however, is to remember that it's your word now -- if you have the guts to claim it. Think of it this way: The longer we stay offended by this tag, the longer it will be used by some as a tool to keep us in our place, as it were. Yet the sooner we embrace it as a badge of honor, the sooner it will lose its power to denigrate and oppress.

A quite interesting article about the term "gaijin" and its application to "outsiders" living in Japan, and the manner in which the outsiders can or are forcing the term's connotations. Taking the power back.

2004-10-22

Folksy Kerry on the Trail

from The NYT:

But after these formal sessions in front of the teleprompter, Mr. Kerry has been doing what he can to seem more down to earth. He uses more contractions and drops G's, T's, and N's, making "does not" sound like "dudnt," and "government" come out, as it might have in the Old West, "guvmint."

And from the Columbus Dispatch, Kerry weighs in with his very own personal dative:

In Buchanan, a tiny Pike County village, Kerry stopped at the Village Grocery and asked owners Paul and Debra McKnight, "Can I get me a hunting license here?"

2004-10-13

IPA in 7 bits

Phonetics students are always plagued with this. How to insert properly IPA symbols on your problem set. The most common way is to use SIL IPA fonts, which are really nice and complete. The backdrop is the pain to insert one by one, as most people do not know the mapping for the non-Roman characters. But it works ibn the end, until someone who has not an IPA font opens it. Weird symbols. Or a different version of the font. These last two problems can be avoided by transforming your document in PDF (use Open Office, preferrably from scratch). But it is still a pain to insert the symbols. Using LaTeX is a bit better in the sense that you just need to have your table and enter the commands, but in the end, probably it requires more keystrokes. What about when you just want to send a phonetic transcription by e-mail.

Most people would agree that Unicode is the ultimate solution, as a standard to encode most characters of world's languages and phonetic fonts. To some degree it already works in the internet, as the folks in Language Log usually do. But Unicode is still far from being THE standard (some say the nice thing about standards is that there are so many...). But hopefully Unicode will be more popular eventually.

An obvious way to make easy the task of representing IPA symbols is to use your good old ASCII. It is already partially overlapping with IPA symbols, but you still need a many more and the obvious solution is to use two ASCII symbols for a single IPA symbol. Not perfect, but it works as long as you have an escape character. Of course, people thought about that long ago. One option is called SAMPA and in its last incarnation X-SAMPA. It is not something to be used in any serious scholar work or to replace IPA, but to make IPA machine readable, and to some point human readable. Of course, you need to learn the mapping. But its universality appeal is undeniable and lies in the fact of using exclusively ASCII characters, which are truly universal. If you are like me, which still writes e-mail in plain, good, old, virus free, ASCII text e-mails, you should give X-SAMPA a try. And here is the table for X-SAMPA with IPA.


2004-10-11

Bardford College Doctor of Linguistics Degree

It appears as if Bardford College is now putting out linguistics Phd's. Bardford appears to be embracing a quite non-traditional educational model, as degrees are completed quite rapidly, even moreso than was customary in many linguistics departments of the 1960s and 70s.

2004-10-10

German language reforms in crisis

The grand plan to simplify the German language is turning into an embarrassing and expensive national nightmare. An estimated €50 billion spent, and five years down the road of using the “new German” spelling and grammar, the plan has gone awry with the country’s top newspaper publishers opting to swing back to the old way. ... Going with public opinion which shows that 64% of Germans don’t want the changes, the Springer group’s other papers, including Bild Zeitung and the Berliner Morgenpost, will follow Die Welt from tomorrow.

€50 billion! That's some cash. Reminds me of that old song about pissing in the wind, or up a rope, or whatever it was. I can just see the German publishers and the public after spelling/language reform number 29. Talk about having a nose full, or ein Nase voll. Actually, it sounds like a quagmire to me, and if I were the Germans, I would just pull out completely. Obviously no exit strategy was prepared.

Another option might be to take to the streets in protest, as apparently did the French in the 1990s when their silly government had nothing better to do than try and foist some similar expletive on them.

2004-10-06

Davidson Poetry Reading

A quick note to note a tres cool poetry reading by poetico Chad Davidson--taking place Thursday, October 7, 6:30 p.m, at Linsly-Chittenden 211, as part of the English Department's Grad Poet Colloquium. (basically, the English Department's version of our Friday Lunch Talks, except I think our food is better!). Anyway, make it out if you can, Chad's a hell of a fine reader and writer.

2004-10-05

Ratings of voice attractiveness predict sexual behavior and body configuration

This one seems at a first glance n the same line as the previous vowel sexyness stuff, but not quite. Here goes the abstract:

We investigated the relationship between ratings of voice attractiveness and sexually dimorphic differences in shoulder-to-hip ratios (SHR) and waist-to-hip ratios (WHR), as well as different features of sexual behavior. Opposite-sex voice attractiveness ratings were positively correlated with SHR in males and negatively correlated with WHR in females. For both sexes, ratings of opposite-sex voice attractiveness also predicted reported age of first sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners, number of extra-pair copulation (EPC) partners, and number of partners that they had intercourse with that were involved in another relationship (i.e., were themselves chosen as an EPC partner). Coupled with previous findings showing a relationship between voice attractiveness and bilateral symmetry, these results provide additional evidence that the sound of a person's voice may serve as an important multidimensional fitness indicator.

So, it seems that it is possible to correlate people's voices with physical and behavioral measurements. Tosome degree people can infer these shoulder-to-hip and waist-to-hip ratios. Even this extra-pair copulation partners (how many lovers do you have at the same time?). It seems a lot, but these are just correlations. I never even tried to imagine most of these things only by someone's voice, maybe its size. It is a mismatch to see a big guy with a high pitched voice for sure, and maybe I could create expectations with a woman's voice, but this EPC?

Well, the results are there anyway. The problem is that the authors have no clue of what are the parameters that make these voices more attractive or not. A potentially big market. You wanna sound sexy? Change your name to have a high fronted vowel and imitate one of these sexy/masculine/feminine/cheat voices.

To get access the full article click here (you need to have an individual or institutional subscription to the journal Evolution and Human Behavior).

2004-10-03

Further Evidence for "Language as a Virus from Space"

...After abstractly pondering these facts for several years in the early 1990's, Professor Viril Ustanov began to see mounting evidence that perhaps Human Language was, in fact, a symptom of an infectious agent. Since no likely agent could be found on Earth, Professor Ustanov turned toward the heavens in search of an answer. ..

Professor Ustanov and a not incredibly not plausible theory of language origins. Maybe worth checking out for anyone in search of a new 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, language acquisition theory.

2004-10-02

Mount St. Helens Erupts After 18 Years (it's not lava-y though)

MOUNT ST. HELENS, Wash. (AP) - Mount St. Helens, the volcano that blew its top with cataclysmic force in 1980, erupted for the first time in 18 years Friday, belching a huge column of white steam and ash after days of rumblings under the mountain.

"It wasn't lava-y, so I wasn't scared," said Lorain Weatherby, who was working a snack bar down the road from St. Helens. "It was like a big white cloud."

In case any ExpLing readers are from the St. Helens area, not to worry, the eruption wasn't lava-y. This is both a relief and a concern. On the one hand, the fact that the blast wasn't lava-y is good as it probably means less danger for the surrounding area. It's a concern though because the adjective construction lava-y itself seems to fly right into the face of all aspects of phonological naturalness and morality. It's damn hard to say. Most of my attempts come out sounding more like "lavee" or if I confuse my stress (which happens too often) like "la vie" as in "C'est la vie".

2004-10-01

Invisible Gorilla Steals Ig Noble Prize

The strange case of an invisible gorilla has scooped the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for Psychology, with dropped food and country music being honoured in other categories. The prizes, for achievements that "make you laugh, then think", were handed out on Thursday at Harvard University, Massachusetts.

While this article doesn't seem immediately relevant to linguistics per se, it does contain a link to a fascinating video of a bunch of guys passing around a basketball and the perambulation of an invisible gorilla. More to the point, Ned Block showed this clip in a talk of his I attended last spring. Fun stuff.