gusl: (Default)
Yesterday, my girlfriend showed me this video: Boliviano Fashions featuring two Bolivian male characters in their early 20s, with a boastful upper-class attitude: one from La Paz, one from Santa Cruz; making slightly exaggerated accents. The La Paz one (known as a "jailón"; or a guido if we presume he's a wannabe) has a liquid R, roughly ɻ, for "rr" or initial R (i.e. like the stereotypical American "r"):

"perro" = "peɻo", "ratón" = "ɻaton".

... which I hypothesized came from Indigenous languages (which I believe is the origin of the liquid R in Brazil's caipira dialect), but according to my girlfriend this R came from the Americans! Apparently, the American influence on the upper classes of La Paz is much bigger than I imagined.

The fact that many kids who go to the American School of La Paz would speak to each other in English during their off-time and celebrate Thanksgiving makes this theory more plausible. This, of course, makes them the target of other young people, especially those with anti-American sentiment, who see this behavior as pretentious.

In Amsterdam I had a housemate from Colombia who was struggling because he hadn't learned English yet; because when he was younger, he didn't like the idea of being "one of those English speakers", because of its symbolic value. I think this is a pretty common mistake that teens make in Latin America.
gusl: (Default)
Are you ever tempted to pronounce "street" as "shtreet"? When I pronounce "Mercer Street", it almost sounds like "mersher shtreet" or "mersher shchreet" (regarding the palatalization in "Mercer", I'm not sure if the "r" or the "s" in "street" is responsible, or both).

Of course, the palatalization of "s" (and "z") before consonants exists in my coastal Brazilian accent as well as European Portuguese. (Much of NE Brazil has partial palatalization, i.e. before "t" but not before "m" but I, like the Portuguese and the Rio natives, seem to have the full set)

However, saying "shtreet" seems to be common in native speakers of English, regardless of dialect or sobriety. (And somehow the words "sugar" and "pleasure" underwent palatalization, assuming that today's spelling is a fossile of yesterday's pronunciation)

Palatalization of "s" is also common in German (initial "s" before consonants, so e.g. "Kunst" is not palatalized, except perhaps for dialects like Schwäbisch...) and I wonder if Russian's ubiquitous "sh" sounds were once "s"s. I am not aware of palatalization in French or Dutch. In fact, I am tempted to say that Dutch has no "sh" sound at all since words like "school" are pronounced [sxol]1. Speaking of Dutch, there are several Dutch-German pairs like "slapen"(NL)-"schlafen"(DE) where the German spelling caught up with the speech and several more where it hasn't, e.g. "Stern", "Speisen").

I hear there is a European Spanish dialect with strong palatalization of "s", but I don't remember which one. Perhaps Andalusians would find it natural to pronounce my first name the way I do.

Brazilians often perceive palatalization in English, as is evidenced by the fact that most Brazilians pronounce "two" as [tʃu] when the L1 pronunciation is typically [tsu] (with a very weak "s").

Thanks for reading!

-guʃ'tavu la'sɛxda

P.S. does palatalization of "s" count as "lenition"? why or why not?

1 - I would be lying of course, as anyone named Sjoerd would be happy to tell you. However, this is not a Dutch name, but a Frisian one. But the point stands: Dutch people can pronounce "sh", although it's a foreign sound. Italians use a similar spelling pattern: "sh-" (EN) = "sci-" (IT) = "sj-" (NL) = "sch-" (DE).
gusl: (Default)
My housemate's friends from Montreal pronounce "un an" roughly as one would say "urnan", with the standard American rhotic "r". I have no time to do this IPA, but feel free to try.
gusl: (Default)
Here's a linguistic/pragmatic phenomenon: how often one refers to unknown & absent friends by their name. e.g. "One time, my friend Julia ... " vs "One time, my friend from school ...".

Is this related to formality? East Coast vs West Coast?

I usually only refer to someone's name when I expect that it will be recognized. If necessary, I'll introduce them first, before name-dropping. Maybe it's a habit from programming.


Feb. 17th, 2009 05:17 pm
gusl: (Default)
The word "both" has two distinct meanings that I'm aware of:

(a) if you want to express "P(A) and P(B)" for some predicate P, one says "both A and B P" (if A,B are subjects) or "P both A and B" (if A,B are objects).
<< On the third day, both groups successfully recalled the link between the shock and the spider. >>

(b) A ~ B, where ~ is an equivalence relation.
<< On the third day, both groups remembered the link between the shock and the spider equally well >>

I really dislike usage (b), and I'd recommend using "the two" instead. It feels so wrong that I was unable to generate an example myself, and had to find the webpage again.


UPDATE: a curious variant of (b) is "both equally as".
gusl: (Default)
The politics of language acquisition: language learning as social modeling in the northwest Amazon

<< ...
The combined practices of marrying outside the language group, a phenomenon known as linguistic exogamy, and patrilocality, whereby a woman moves to the village of her husband, result in communities composed of a core of men and children who are same-language speakers and differently-speaking in-marrying women. In these communities, married women continue to speak their own languages while living among speakers of their husbands' languages.
... >>
below I mirror the entire except of the book )
gusl: (Default)
(1a) SP: "as folhas secas são colocadas na cesta para serem trituradas."
("the dry leaves are put in the basket to be ground")

I believe that prescriptive, mainstream Portuguese (MPT) says:
(1b) "as folhas secas são colocadas na cesta para ser trituradas."

But even SP speakers probably say "elas foram lá para fazer um serviço." rather than "para fazerem um serviço.", which makes their usage irregular. Maybe they only inflect when the stem is short, like 1 syllable long?

(2a) SP:
"- Para quê você comprou essa vara?"
"- Para mim pescar!"
("- What did you buy this pole for? - For me to fish!")

(2b) MPT:
"- para eu pescar!"

The pattern seems to be that SP speakers inflect in places where MPT doesn't.


Btw, the SP usage would be more natural for English speakers.

I can't tell about other languages though. In Dutch, there is no personal construction as in (2): you would have to say "for fishing!". I think this is also the case in German. (is this related to this phenomenon mentioned by [ profile] easwaran?). What about French, Spanish, and other languages?


In what ways is the subjunctive similar to case-marking?
gusl: (Default)
Uílame [uílãmi] is Recife's counterpart to Butt-head, with a little Kenny McCormick thrown in. He's a metal-head guitar hack and speaks too much slang. He's obsessed with the obscure Blood Avenger and is known for his annoying, self-satisfied rants, and his inconsiderateness. On the recordings, he is described as "mala", which in Recife is short for "maloqueiro" (a classist term for describing uneducated, delinquent people / homeless people) and in SP means "annoying, inconsiderate person whom one can't easily get rid of", i.e. "não se toca" ("does not touch oneself"), which in turn means "clueless, particularly about how one's acts are being perceived". But I really enjoy his thick (if possibly fake) Recife-region accent. (btw, yes, mainstream Brazilian humour is classist, racist, etc)

His name mocks the working-class habit of giving children English names that they can't pronounce (or spell!), in this case "William".


Blood Avenger also has a nice metal rendition of some ringtones.

The following is not interesting unless you know these characters from Brazil:

Mônica's song, by Blood Avenger (lyrics)


Jun. 2nd, 2006 12:37 am
gusl: (Default)
Today I went to an introductory Esperanto lesson. I learned some German words too, as expected.

The people were 50+, seemed rather intelligent, and were quite enthusiastic about me being there, the token youngster... sehr viel freude. Too bad I have to disappoint them.

The room was long and narrow, and we sat around a long table: on one side were the "experts", who sometimes spoke to each other in Esperanto (4 people). There were about 7 people on my side. The speaker, who was naturally on the expert side, was looking at me the entire time as he gave the talk.

The first half of the "lesson" was about the history of Esperanto, and I think they sold it quite well. I met them a few weeks ago, at their booth in Marienplatz: I wonder how much success they have with this.

Anyway, I like the language. It's very easy indeed... Its compositionality makes it so that there is a small number of lexemes (i.e. word stems): this is even more pronounced than German.

It would be handy to have such an expressive language as a default even in one's first language, to get around tip-of-the-tongue sorts of problems (something I have a lot). I'm talking about things like morphemes such as "tool for", "one who makes", etc... this way you wouldn't have to ask "what do you call a person who does X?" before using that word in the next sentence. Instead, you would just say the second sentence at once, using the word "X-doer", and this would be perceived as possibly-unusual but acceptable.

I wanted to ask these people more stuff about the Esperanto community, conlanging, etc., but I had to run to meet with Matthias and Magnus.


May. 15th, 2006 12:40 am
gusl: (Default)
unter-sagt = inter-dit


Ironically enough, German, the so-called "case language" of the group, is caseless in this construction.

so klein wie ich / Du (1)
tão pequeno quanto eu / tu (caseless)
as small as me / you (acc.)
zo klein als mij / jou


comigo / contigo / com ele / conosco
para mim / para ti / para ele / para nós
por mim / ti / ele / nós
depois de mim /
para eu / tu / ele / nos fazer(mos)
eu me / te / lhe dei um carro


"Het gaat om ..." (NL)
"Es händelt sich um ..." (DE)
"Se trata de ..." (PT)
"Il s'agit de ..." (FR)

The best English translation seem to be "It's about ...", which is very unsatisfactory. "I am talking about ..." also changes perspective unnecessarily (inadvertently puts the focus on "I").

English is the only language I know where you can say that A "is about" B.
gusl: (Default)
how English is more expressive than Portuguese

For one thing, English, being an S-language, allows for richer adverbial expressions (see Slobin's The many ways to search for a frog: Linguistic typology and the expression of motion events section 2.6)
gusl: (Default) is to be recommended. It's quite detailed and interesting, and most definitely "encyclopedic".
gusl: (Default)
Will a cognitive linguist criticize this, please?


Some dialectal features can be viewed as production rules. Individuals in certain areas tend to have these production rules, while outsiders don't. This account also explains second-language hypercorrection effects.


to be written


/haus/ ("Haus") -plural-> /heuzer/ ("Häuser") -> [hoizer]

Portuguese in Brazil

In Brazil there are two independent, regional phonological phenomena, that interact with each other. This divides the country in 4 parts, providing us with a perfect combinatorial design for testing our hypothesis.

Phonemes in Brazil:

Raising is the dominant rule, in Portugal as well as in Brazil. Raising makes:
/bate/ -> /báti/

Other regions lost raising, due to Italian influence:
/bate/ -> /báte/

Affrication: /ti/ -> [tshi], /di/->/dzhi/
e.g. /tia/ -> [tshia]

Affrication did not come from Africa, but from local Indian languages. The plosives /t/ and /d/ become the affricates [tsh] and [dzh], when followed by an [i]. This is similar to what is observed in Japanese ESL students, and possible something in history of US English (the word "Acadian" somehow became "Cajun").

This rule probably had the majority of Brazil by 1920, despite resistance in the Northeast. The Italian immigration to the South of the country probably erased the affrication rule in some places in São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.

The results I expect:

Looking at different regional pronunciations:

Raising +, Affrication +: [bátshi] (Rio, Salvador, most of SP)
Raising +, Affrication -: [báti] (Recife)
Raising -, Affrication +: [báte] (some speakers in SP, RS)
Raising -, Affrication -: [báte] (some speakers in SP, RS)

When there is no raising, the affrication rule does not apply to the word "bate". We conclude from this that the affrication production only gets executed after the raising production.

Of course, it might be the case that these phonemes are incommensurable. Maybe speakers of different dialects are not thinking of the same phoneme. But I'd like to avoid going too deep into philosophy here.

Dutch meter

Nov. 4th, 2005 03:24 pm
gusl: (Default)
The Dutch word for the verb "to measure" is "meten". The Dutch word for "meter" (in the sense of "measuring device") is "meter", which is nice and regular.

I wonder if this is by design.
gusl: (Default)
v. con·sumed, con·sum·ing, con·sumes
v. tr.
   1. To take in as food; eat or drink up. See Synonyms at eat.
   2. a. To expend; use up: engines that consume less fuel; a project that consumed most of my time and energy.
      b. To purchase (goods or services) for direct use or ownership.

In order to lose weight, you need to consume [2a] more calories than you consume [1].
gusl: (Default)
B- jahoor/neehoor.

"jahoor" and "neehoor" are alternatives to use when "ja" or "nee" are too short. It can also indicate that B is surprised that A is asking, and thus it can seem more sincere.

It's like "oh yeah" / "oh no". It took me the longest time to figure this out. The difference is not semantic, but pragmatic.


UPDATE: I'm trying to figure out when people use "jahoor" instead of "ja".

A- Bel ik gelegen?
B- Jahoor!

Kom je vanavond? Heb je een aansteker? Wil je wat drinken? Heb je nieuws over X? Ben je ziek? Heb je t boek gelezen? Ben je ervoor bereid?


RS says that "hoor" is meant to reassure. If you say "jahoor" or "neehoor", you signal that you are presupposing the other person is worried about the question they just asked.
gusl: (Default)
The other day, I wrote the following on my PDA:

Why I am no longer a mathematician:
· Tired of working hard just to be clever. Life is short. The real world is more interesting.
· Phenomenology, introspection drove me towards cogsci.
· it's more productive to do meta work: computers will eventually do math much more cheaply than me. (see Zeilberger)


Here's something of an academic autobiography, of my time at Bucknell. It says nothing about my ideas, or what I read. I tell the story of how undergraduate curricula shaped my choice of majors:


The last time I did serious mathematical research was my junior year of college... and even that was very much empirically-aided: it was about counting the number of roots of polynomials over finite fields... my discoveries were made with the aid of a C++ compiler.
Since then, I have proven things about cute games (Nim, thanks to [ profile] agnosticessence), toy theorems (prove that number_of_divisors_of(n) is always even except for when n is a perfect square), and created neat correspondences (e.g. if you represent natural numbers as multisets, GCD is intersection, LCM is union), but nothing that could count as serious mathematics.

Already my senior year, in topology class, I no longer saw the point of doing pure math. The only way I could interpret infinite products of topological spaces was as a game of symbols: it had no real meaning to me.

Not only was I starting to get a formalistic view of mathematics, but I was increasingly bothered by the normal approach to mathematics, the standard mathematical language and the paper medium. This was made much worse by the fact that I had grown intolerant of confusing notation/language and informal proofs. Thankfully, I didn't stay in mathematics. Advanced mathematics requires a lot of effort and things are not always beautiful. The real world has many more interesting things to understand. During this time, I considered going for a PhD in Applied Math, but became disappointed with that idea too. It was still too much like other math.

By my senior year, mathematics was no longer fun. Still not "hard", but I no had motivation left. I had become enthusiastic about statistical modelling... even if I got labelled a Bayesian by our frequentistics department (I think it was meant as a compliment). And it was my interest in AI, by far, that dominated my intellect.


The reason I had liked mathematics before that was that it had been, for me, easy and fun. And its formal structures were much more satisfactory and easier for me to understand than the things people did in physics, my original major. My physics teachers never seemed to explain things clearly, and never gave me good logical reasons for why they were doing what they were doing. It was often unclear which model and assumptions were being used. And even after pressing them, I still had foundational questions that went unanswered. Quantum Mechanics class was extremely frustrating: while "nobody understands quantum mechanics", the theory still has a reason to be, but they didn't give us a chance to try to make sense of the experimental results that motivated the theory, or convince me that the theory was the best we could do.

Although I started out with bad grades in physics, they were steadily improving. Still, my professors saw promise in me, and wanted me to stay. Despite liking and doing well on my last class on Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics, I decided that I was going to focus on math: I was just too different from the physicists, and talking to them took too much effort. Now I want Patrick Suppes to be my next physics teacher. Among the physicists, I was definitely a philosopher.

Computer Science

I had to overcome my initial prejudice against CS. I only started it because of my father's argument that it would be a good idea if I wanted to make money. As a freshman, I had thought that it was just going to be about programming techniques, and similar boring-sounding things. The sort of person who did CS at my school was not far from the "typical management major": financially ambitious, if not particularly mathematically-talented. When I joined the group, I learned that there were exceptions... so now, I realized that there were also "computer geeks", as well as the former type. I was never a "computer geek". Programming geek, yes, for a long time... but one who couldn't get Linux installed, and who would call a technician to troubleshoot my network. Among them, I was solidly seen as a math geek. It bothered me that their AI class assumed neither knowledge of basic probability or basic logic, and that the computer graphics class couldn't do a simple linear projection.
But I really liked ProgLan. Also, designing algorithms was fun. Algorithmic reductions even more. And I learned some useful programming techniques.


I've always been a philosopher. But I did not like the prospect of reading shelffuls of philosophy books, learning the ins and outs of useless arguments (for instance, about metaphysics), and rereading & struggling to understand what exactly writers mean. Philosophy is great for breaking people out of their epistemological vices: questioning their prejudices, intuitions, etc., but some things are just overanalyzed. I think this is because they talk past each other. Case in point: the Monty Hall problem. Why are they still writing papers about it?? I think that philosophers should benefit the most from computational aids to reasoning, argumentation maps and such. At least, they already know logic.


It was fascinating. But it wasn't rigorous enough for me. If they had offered cognitive science, I probably would have taken lots of it.

Economics & Linguistics

I also flirted with economics, although never for credit. It was interesting, but they were too slow on the math. Like CS, only worse. I also took a class in linguistics (the only one offered!), but as I wasn't about to start doing NLP, it remained a mere curiosity.
gusl: (Default)
'Foreign accent syndrome' explained . Do you know anyone who sounds foreign even though they're completely local?
I knew a girl in college who sounded like she was from the South, despite the fact that she had spent her whole life in Connecticut. It annoyed her when even the foreign guy (me) noticed. I am of course *not* implying that people in the South are brain-damaged.

It would be very interesting to make cognitive models of speech production (which is harder than perception) for second-language speakers. Why do Indians render [w] as [v], while Brazilians render it as [u]? (both languages have both phonemes)
This research might even help actors.


By the way, some knowledge is neither declarative nor procedural: for instance the knowledge that recognize a face.
It's not declarative because you don't know how you do it, and you can't pass it on to someone else.
But it's not procedural because it's about perception, not action.
gusl: (Default)
Today I read a nice article about the Silent Disco (half a page of newspaper: 19 unknown words, 14 of which I couldn't infer from context.

Dutch word order can be *very* difficult sometimes:
Read more... )


here's a simple translation algorithm:
* translate word-by-word
* rearrange words to be grammatical, preserving intended meaning
* translate expressions

I wish we had names for these different levels of translation. The deeper down, the more interpretation this kind of translation requires.


Today a recruiter gave me a spelling test in Dutch:
Read more... )


My English spelling:
you may have noticed that I deviate from both American and British standards. I'm closer to the Canadian standard, but that's still not.

Words taken from here. I invite all persons with ambiguous dialects to fill this out as well

Here are my spelling preferences:
Read more... )

and my vocabulary:
Read more... )
gusl: (Default)
Pirahã is quite a remarkable language
* no grammatical recursion
* one of the smallest known phonological system: between 10 and 13 phonemes
* the simplest known kinship system (the only family words are "parent" and "sibling")
* 3 numbers: "a few", "some", and "many", and an inability to distinguish 4 from 5, and apparent inability to learn numeracy skills.
* it can be whistled, hummed, or encoded in music
* it has grammatical "evidentiality" (indicates whether the speaker saw the event happening), which English lacks.
* their culture has no history beyond living memory
As the expressivity of whistled speech is limited compared to spoken speech, whistled messages typically consist of stereotyped or otherwise standardized or set expressions, are elaborately descriptive, and often have to be repeated. However, in languages which are heavily tonal, and therefore convey much of their information through pitch even when spoken, such as Mazatec and Yoruba, extensive conversations may be whistled.


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