Arabic: A language with too many armies and navies?

June 24, 2013

Seen on Language Log: a piece in the Economist about Arabic:

Today, the Arab world is sometimes compared to medieval Europe, when classical Latin was still the only "real" language most people wrote and studied in—but "Latin" in the mouths of its speakers had become early French, Spanish, Portuguese and so on. Today, we recognize that French and Portuguese are different languages—but Arabs are not often sure (and are sometimes at odds) about how to describe "Arabic" today. The plain fact is that a rural Moroccan and a rural Iraqi cannot have a conversation and reliably understand each other. An urban Algerian and an urban Jordanian would struggle to speak to each other, but would usually find ways to cope, with a heavy dose of formal standard Arabic used to smooth out misunderstandings. They will sometimes use well-known dialects, especially Egyptian (spread through television and radio), to fill in gaps.

Short read, well worth your time. Also related: the ongoing discussion of whether Chinese is a language with dialects, or a language group with languages.

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The Brain, as explained by John Cleese

February 7, 2010

Seen on Language Log: "John Cleese’s doubletalk neuroscience lecture".

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The Pleco iPhone App

November 16, 2009

A neat review of the Pleco iPhone App on Sinosplice.

This is a big one. Pleco for iPhone has very impressive handwriting recognition. You really need to watch the video to see how it works, but the two-finger swipe is genius. Pleco has definitely improved upon Apple’s handwriting input, and it’s at least as good as nciku’s, as well.

There are also images of "having fun with it":

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Please be careful

August 25, 2009

Seen on Language Log: some humorous Japanese signage. Do you ultraviolet rays countermeasure? 666 know your rights!

Not only are the stereotypical Japanese fastidiously clean,  they are also extraordinarily polite.  They will not just tell you to be careful not to endanger yourself.  They will be sure to preface the warning with a “please” (actually the word for “please” in Japanese, KUDASAI, comes at the end of the sentence).

In today’s Japan mail (from Kathryn Hemmann) come two signs, one warning, “Please Be Careful to Strong Sunlight” and the other, “Please be careful to traffic.”

The first example utilizes the intriguing device of a sign within a sign, and it is all in English.


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Is free the new pay? (BBC News)

August 4, 2009

Seen on LWN: Is free the new pay?

Watching the “X is the new Y” meme jump the shark. What does it mean for free to be the new pay? Does saying it provide or convey any information? Is it analogous to saying “free has displaced pay”?

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Not All of Confucius’s Sayings Are Gems

July 24, 2009

From Overheard in New York.

Girl shopping for vegetables: What’s the difference between these two kinds of broccoli rabe?
Asian farmer: One is Chinese broccoli rabe. It’s more sweet. The other kind is bitter.
Girl: Why are some of them yellow and some of them green?
Asian farmer: That’s just different names, like how some mens is short and some mens is tall.

And all wimmenz be crazy.

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Steve Kemp: Not even if you let me video tape it

July 10, 2009

Use of “un-fuck” in the wild. The original post.

I think in terms of features that I’m done. I just need to wire up creation of accounts, and the submission of tasks via email. Then un-fuck my actual code.

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Chinese-English Bilingual Ambigrams

June 30, 2009

Amazing fun for the lingo-nerd in your life. Seen on Sinosplice.

These have been around a while on Dr. David Moser’s website, Cognitive China.

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