Jun. 27th, 2010 09:43 pm
trochee: (Default)
An /r/ at the right of the syllable
May not always in practice be trillable
  some rhyme Goebbels with gerbils
  (in orals and verbals):
the rhotics are frequently nillable.
trochee: (study)
In search of le bon mot or "zinger"
(the crushing conclusions that linger)
there's nothing as lexical
as that rude indexical:
salutation with one's middle finger.
trochee: (linguistics)
[ profile] caracola starts a discussion that includes the statement "ASL has no sign for tact". This statement struck me as suspiciously snowclone-ish, and I'm curious if anybody might know about such a sign in ASL.

Some of my friends here might have resources that have more information. Any ideas of where to look? Anybody know the sign?

To complete my jargon and topic list: social networks (how), sign language (what), and snowclones (why)!


Dec. 30th, 2005 03:02 pm
trochee: (angry)
yanked from [ profile] tsenft and [ profile] debunkingwhite: [ profile] wespeakenglish.

aaaaaaaa. as [ profile] tsenft said: "this is why they hate us."

I want to smack every single person on that community.
trochee: (Default)
I've spotted n the use of "shoulder on" vs. "soldier on". Spotted in a preview blurb for "Wolverine #8": "Wolverine must shoulder on after having his mind tampered with."

"Shoulder on" (in place of "soldier on") is an interesting mixup, because it involves swapping the palatalization from the second onset (in "soldier") to the first (in "shoulder"), at some distance, and because of a reasonable folk etymology: "shoulder" like "shoulder a burden" already has a meaning of "effort, strain".

The original term is definitely "soldier on": the OED cites "to soldier on" (to persevere, to carry on doggedly) as going back to 1954 (I would have thought it was older). It also includes a number of verbal uses of "shoulder" but none with that meaning.

Googling "soldier on" (910 kGhits) vs. "shoulder on" (375 kGhits) suggests I'm onto something. However, there is some interference from a spelling mistake with "solder" vs. "shoulder", possibly also related to an ironworking use of "shouldering" (to bend [metal] like a shoulder?). Also, it's difficult to separate out the genuine uses from the accidental ("Soldier on, escalate, or get out?" -- a Pat Buchanan headline, a genuine use, vs. "Christian Soldier on the High Court" -- a Molly Ivins headline).

If we look at modals, though, we can restrict to verbal uses. However, we still need to be aware that "shoulder t on ..." isn't the same use: "a burden that she can shoulder t on her own" is not the same (the t is intended to represent a trace -- the "embedded" location of "a burden" in the previous sentence).

"can soldier on": 901, unfiltered
"can shoulder on": 1, after removing the "shoulder t on" from the 8 returned by google.

"ought to soldier on": 6
"ought to shoulder on": 0, after removing accidentals.

"should shoulder on": 49 (though it appears that only 2 of the first 10 are true eggcorn hits, so this number is probably lower)
"should soldier on": 627 (10 for the first 10)

Other unfiltered results with modals:

"must shoulder on": 119
"must soldier on": 586

Crossposted to the Eggcorn Database on this thread.
trochee: (wholeness)
Suppose [hypothetically] I just received an email with the subject line "This is not an interesting email".

Would I read it?
trochee: (linguistics)
arrived at jointly with clever coworker:

The Library of Babel demonstrates the flaws in targeting recall in information retrieval systems.
trochee: (linguistics)
"Bonjour," says [French guy, we'll call him Jean], upon arriving in the office, to the South Indian [we'll call him Prakash] with whom he shares a cubicle wall.

Prakash looks back, blankly.

"Buenos dias," Jean tries again, gamely.

Another stare.

"Guten Tag, bon giorno," Jean tries, with a tiny note of desperation along with his accent. "Nii hao, hello!"

"Namaste," I add, perhaps unhelpfully.

Prakash pulls the tiny tiny earphones out of his ears and looks at us both. "What?"
trochee: (Default)
The Chinese project manager two desks over is on the phone, talking about a project I'm working on. He mis-spells my surname, scrambling the coda consonants. He notices me flinching at the mis-spelling, and corrects himself. He then compares it to "uh, a Persian king yah", hears me laugh, and looks up at me: "what -- no?"

"It's just a name," I said. I don't want to go into the extended history of the consonant sequence, which derives from an old name for one of the Hebrew tribes. It's anglo-homophonous, but not anglo-orthographically identical to the name he's thinking of, nor is it ortho-identical to a certain even-numbered science-fiction sequel. He turns back to the phone. I turn back to my terminal.

"No, I don't think so," he says after a moment. I turn back. He looks up -- "No, I don't think he's Vietnamese," he says to the phone. I sip some coffee, and go back to work.
trochee: (silly)
According to the New York Times, Gonzales is Seeking to Stem Light Sentences.

geeky explanation behind the cut )
I owe this one to a transitive-closure labmate (he's not my labmate, but he's a former labmate of some of my labmates) who's now on the East Coast.


Jun. 1st, 2005 08:20 pm
trochee: (Default)
The OED defines triage as "The action of assorting according to quality", and that its etymology is "F. triage ..., n. of action f. trier to pick, cull: see TRY v. and -AGE."

Until just now, when I looked it up, I had its meaning right -- more or less -- but its etymology wrong: I thought that its etymon was L. tri- or G. τρι- and -AGE, having more to do with "dividing into three", probably because I first heard it in a medical context (thanks, [ profile] trombo2 and [ profile] lapartera): incoming patients are (I think) triaged in busy ERs into three considerations: (1) won't die on our hands, (2) will die unless we act now and (3) will die anyway. Groups 1 and 3 are often ignored, and the middle group is where the ER tries to focus its energy, when resources are scarce.

Nevertheless, triage in either sense is a useful descriptor for my work right now. I was trying to get not one but two papers together for EMNLP, but the work going on the second one has been hitting irritating roadblock after irritating roadblock. The ideas are good, the strategy is sound, but the systems it's built on are so rickety that nothing holds together. It's like being a time traveler trying to build an electric car from steam era technology -- you might have the principle completely sound, but the materials you're working with are unreliable in ways that are very difficult to control. To do such a thing properly, our putative timetraveler would have to set up her own foundry, electrical power generation systems, smelters, plastics manufacturing, re-invent computer chip design, and do it all in her own lifetime.

While my tasks are somewhat less daunting (sticks tongue out), the frustration of not having quality materials is similar. As a result, I talked it over with Advisor and we've decided to bail on the second paper. Thus, submitting it to EMNLP won't happen [it probably falls into group 3], and I'll focus on the first paper, and on finishing out the quarter elegantly.

The good news is that the temporarily-abandoned paper -- after talking with Advisor -- has become an "Invited Talk", to be given some weeks later. In fact, this is more prestigious than the paper -- which hadn't been accepted yet! Somehow, by dropping it into group 3, it's taken itself around and shoved itself into group 1. I couldn't be happier. (I could be a little less tired, but I couldn't be happier.)

Just more evidence that letting go sometimes makes things go better.

I bet you didn't think I was going to put anything about my life in this, did you? yeah, I know most of you tuned out once I said "OED" and the stragglers left at "etymon". Ah, ye of little faith. Academics is my life; why would I deprive you loyal readers of either one?

trochee: (linguistics)
I can't remember if I've mentioned this before on Livejournal, but [ profile] solri's recent complaints about "Theory" rang a bell for me, and I thought I'd spread a useful metalinguistic concept around a little.

A-bleaching: the process by which an acronym or abbreviation moves from full compositionality to -- at the extreme end -- complete lexicalization.

Examples are fairly easy to find in technical work -- acronyms and abbreviations tend to be most obviously A-bleached when they are used in ways that are "redundant"; these are usually considered "anacronyms", a cutesy word describing accidental A-bleaching:

  • laser radiation
  • scuba apparatus
  • the NATO organization
However, the new term "A-bleaching" is particularly interesting in the case of deliberate A-bleaching:

Deliberate A-bleaching: In particular, this term should be used to describe cases where the acronym is still obviously an acronym, but the community-of-use deliberately refuses (for "theoretical" reasons) to allow spell-out. Canonical examples of deliberate bleaching could be "move-alpha", "D-structure", and "PF", where "alpha" is (intra-discipline historically) derived from "A-structure" < "Argument structure", and "D-structure" < "Deep structure" and "PF" < "Phonetic form" --- and yet in all three cases, much contemporary theory denies any relationship of these terms to "deep"ness, "argument"s or "phonetics". The original, compositional meaning has been deliberately bleached.

Possible causes of deliberate A-bleaching:

  1. Physics envy: by using things with obscure and technical-sounding names (like "a-bar movement" or "little v"), the field gains an aura of mathematical-seeming precision.
  2. Attempts to retain results while changing theory: by retaining the conceptual slots of the older theories, the new theory may be trying to maintain the relevance of the older work, while proposing a new interpretation of that work.
  3. Abstraction of two similar concepts: It's possible that (under some circumstances) two different phenomena can be unified together into a single concept. Assigning this concept an abstract name has worked for physics and math. But see #1 above.
  4. Exclusion of outsiders: like any field, jargon serves two purposes. It can be used as a shorthand for useful packages of information, and it can be used as a shibboleth to exclude those who have not been inducted into the secret wisdoms. What better shibboleth than a collection of explicitly opaque symbols?

PS: yes, the term "A-bleaching" is my own invention.
PPS: yes, I am aware that the term "deliberate A-bleaching" is autological [as is my username], because it attempts to unify "acronym bleaching" and "abbreviation bleaching" (type #3 above).

trochee: (Default)
I went to the Microsoft/UW computational linguistics colloquium today. One very good talk, one very hand-wavey and vague talk that managed to actually use the expression "as for 'introspection', some people might call it 'navel-gazing', but we won't go there." This piece of disingenuousness inspired a little WordNet research during the talk (MS doesn't allow people onto their wireless network, but I have wordnet on my [gasp] Debian laptop). The word of the day is thus:

apophasis: mentioning something by saying it will not be mentioned.

from Wordnet: other hyponyms of rhetorical device

trochee: (Default)
A lab mate sent me the following question, passed on from a friend:
So, he's got a sentence "I like the book Gone with the Wind" and he's assuming he can figure out that Gone with the Wind is a title, so he can treat that as kind of a single blob. We're not sure how to parse the sentence, though. If it were something like "I like the red book", it would be easy - "the red book" is a noun phrase. We're not sure if Gone with the Wind would be considered some variant of a noun, though, or how the phrase "the book Gone with the Wind" works. The best idea we have is that Gone with the Wind is an appositive, or maybe even that "the book" is an appositive.
Well, dear readers, never hesitate to ask your friendly neighborhood Language Computeer. Neither rain nor snow nor thesis deadlines looming shall stop the mail. I wrote back as fast as I could, responding to the oddball wireloom projected on the cloudbank overhead:
yeah, the word "appositive" jumped into my head too.

Wikipedia seems to confirm this. The third example seems like a very close match to this case, which is described there as a "restrictive" appositive.

An interesting note here: there are in fact two classes of appositive phrases:

I like Vivien Leigh, the actress.   [non-restrictive]
I like the actress Vivien Leigh.    [restrictive]
note that non-restrictives always have commas and restrictives seem to disprefer them:
*? I like the actress, Vivien Leigh.
*? I like Vivien Leigh the actress.

I think that this comma distinction actually mirrors a prosodic difference between the two: the non-restrictive appositives seem to allow phrasal closure (a L- prosody break, to use ToBI annotations). But my opinions may be biased by years of literacy. Has anybody studied the prosody of appositives? oh, yes.
trochee: (Default)
a bunch of MIT smartypants go and pull the wool over the eyes of a fairly dumb conference (seriously -- go look for the word "metaphor" on their web page).

See their software and the whole story from the grad students' point of view.
trochee: (Default)

Your Linguistic Profile:

40% General American English
30% Yankee
25% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern
I'm skeptical. But the numbers are reasonable enough. Somebody asked "what's 'General American' mean?" and my guess is some combination of Western Coasts (with California cities as the canonical example) and "CNN/NPR" English (Eastern city-dwellers (New York, Boston, Atlanta, DC) who haven't lived in those cities their whole lives.
trochee: (smiling)
In a conversation that included [ profile] chr0me_kitten earlier today, she brought up apophenia*. [Edit: Also, earlier this week, [ profile] imtboo and [ profile] blackwingedboy have both been talking about Mercury in retrograde, which, initially, frustrated the heck out of me. But [ profile] imtboo and I talked about it. Now bear with me, here, 'cause I'm coming back to that thought.]

An old professor of mine [at least, I think it was him! it was about the same time I was reading Daniel Dennett for the first time, and it mighta been him] used to rant about how the apparent inner voice of consciousness, and indeed the useful mental processing that goes on as a cognitive tool, is "merely" a short-circuit to the mouth-ear loop. He didn't go into much detail, but I've adopted the idea fairly firmly as I continue to study language, computation and communication.
self-speech as a pack/unpack approximator... )

My point, if it wasn't already clear [i'm getting to it, I promise!]

analysis of the world into any arbitrary system is itself a creative act. Sometimes, the truth is in the data, and sometimes the truth is in the learner. When we have mental "ruts", we often need to reorganize what we already know and look at it all from a new perspective. Have you ever packed a suitcase only to find that not everything fit, and then found that if you unpack it all and start over, it all fits without trouble? That sort of "serialize, then restore" seems to be useful.

other discussion )

notes along the way )
trochee: (Default)
I've just bought a new dining room table and matching chairs. I feel so gentrified. It was a bit of an ordeal, because the total was really astonishingly high.

anyway, I'm only writing about it because of the interesting locution that the gentleman who took my credit card had:
Hello, Macy's furniture, this is Rogelio! How may I provide you outstanding service today?
I can't tell what pragmatics rule this violates, but it seems to be startlingly off somehow.

Perhaps it's some kind of double-ironic Griceian toe-pick, intended to encode the phrase fuck you, I don't even know you, strictly by the mechanism of superfluity.
trochee: (Default)
contrèpetrie (also possibly: contrèpeterie, since google has many more hits for "contrepeterie", also possibly without accent grave): "spoonerism", at least according to my recent dictionary purchase.

This word is thanks to [ profile] imtboo, who explained that the pair toutes mes felicitations and toutes mes ficelles de caleçon are a contrèpetrie.

Interestingly, Babelfish attempts to translate contrèpeterie as contrepetery (but not contrèpetrie, which it leaves as is), but Google doesn't think "contrepetery" exists, and I am inclined to agree. This suggests that there is some hand-coded morphology rule in the Fr->En SYSTRAN engine that maps -erie to -ery regardless of whether the word is lexically available.

In other (related) news, I have worked out how to use the "Compose" key under SCIM and KDE to get accented characters.

nerd humor

Feb. 22nd, 2005 11:10 pm
trochee: (linguistics)
in a discussion of the nuances of the comparative lexical semantics of pet and pat, colleague writes:
The construction of jokes about non-paradigmatic dog touching is left as an exercise for the reader.
and, I might add, the construction of the appropriate context for that joke is left as an exercise for the reader.

okay, I'll shut up and let someone else use your friends-list now. Thanks for tolerating me.

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