Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today in Language: Feliz Cumpleaños, Señor Pacheco

José Emilio Pacheco (1938) es de la generación de escritores mexicanos que incluye Carlos Fuentes, Carlos Monsiváis y Elena Poniatowska. Tiene la capacidad requisita de un buen escritor: nos hace pensar. Por ejemplo, ¿qué significa el siguiente poema de Pacheco, llamado "Alta traición"? ¿No entendemos todos un poco el conflicto interno que el poeta expresa?
No amo mi Patria, Su fulgor abstracto
es inasible.
Pero (aunque suene mal) daría la vida
por diez lugares suyos, cierta gente,
puertos, bosques de pinos, fortalezas,
una ciudad deshecha, gris, monstruosa,
varias figuras de su historia,
montañas
(y tres o cuatro ríos).
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The Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco was born on this day in 1938.

Creatividad

El chef Ferran Adrià ha dicho, "La creatividad es fácil, lo difícil es tener la idea." 

La palabra creatividad tiene un origen latín: creare, que significa crear o engendrar. Usualmente pienso que la creatividad es una capacidad, un talento, algo que tiene una persona que no tiene otra. Pero también es un proceso. Un proceso que cualquier persona puede seguir. El proceso empieza con una sola idea (pero aún la idea puede venir de un proceso que empieza con una decisión de pensar, de intentar de buscar una nueva idea; a veces se nos ocurre algo innovador, pero muchas veces es nada más después de mucho trabajo mental). Luego la persona sigue con el pensamiento para desarollar la idea. Y el último paso es realizar la idea, actuar. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

独創力

独 = 自ら考える。自分で想像する。一人で行動する。これは個人的なことという意味もあるし、グループとして皆の能力を合わせて一心があるという意味する可能性もある。外の人のアイディアではないということ。

創 = 人が自分で考えて、新しいことを想像して創造できるという意味。

力 = 自ら独創的なことを作ると、このユニークな才能(力)があるのだ。

独。創。力。独創力。多くの人間の独創力は十分ではないでしょうか。多くの分野でとても重要な能力ですね。私は大学生や父やサラリーマンとしていつも独創力が必要です。でも人間が十分考えなければ独創的なことをけして創造しません。

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Creativity

Creativity is hard to have. It is easy to define: the second definition of creativity on dictionary.com is "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc." Here are five loosely related points that attempt to explain this definition a bit more.

1. Creativity requires rethinking what would be an initial reaction to a given situation, perhaps avoiding what would be the "natural" thing to say or the "logical" thing to do.

2. Thus the phrase, "think outside the box."

3. Creativity is important in many areas of life where we tend to have pat, natural, logical reactions.

4. One of these areas is parenting. It takes creativity to know how to apply helpful, important injunctions such as "Train up a child in the way he should go" or "Provoke not your children to wrath."

5.  All of this means that creativity requires much patience, without which humans do resort to the easiest or intuitive or first thing that comes to mind.


Image credit: Despair.com

Créativité

Je trouve que la créativité est quelque chose d'essentiel dans deux de mes rôles dans la vie : celui d'étudiant/rechercheur et celui de père. Selon Trésor, la créativité, c'est la "capacité, pouvoir qu'a un individu de créer, c'est-à-dire d'imaginer et de réaliser quelque chose de nouveau." Cette définition me mène à une question : Pourquoi est-ce que l'ampoule incandescente symbolise la créativité ? C'est un symbole si commun que je refuse d'en afficher une image sur mon blog, surtout maintenant que l'ampoule incandescente est supplantée . . . elle n'est plus créative. Et bien que la créativité se rapporte sur le processus mental, c'est une erreur de penser qu'il s'agit d'une idée tout simplement et que tout le travail qui suit n'est que le développement de l'idée créative. Non, c'est plutôt le travail d'un sculpteur patient : on commence par une idée et c'est la créativité qui la mène à terme.

Je dis que la créativité est importante pour moi parce que, en tant que rechercheur, je dois savoir comment choisir des sujets intéressants mais aussi pertinents. Il ne suffit pas de trouver un auteur inconnu. C'est assez facile ; il ne faudrait pas de créativité pour le faire. Mais pour préciser ce qui est important de l'auteur, pour présenter quelque chose au-delà des faits bruts, voilà le rôle de la créativité.

En tant que père aussi, je trouve qu'il faut être créatif. Pour divertir aux enfants. Pour les instruire. Pour leur donner à manger. Pour leur enseigner. Il est vrai qu'on sait tout avant d'avoir un enfant mais lorsqu'on est parent, il semble qu'on ne sache rien ! J'avais beaucoup d'idées de comment élever à mon fils. Mais les appliquer après sa naissance, c'est une autre chose. Il faut de la créativité.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Average American Day

Americans are spending less time at work, but more time sleeping, eating, and studying--and also more time on leisure activities, as reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article. This makes me wonder where I fit in--what is my average American day like?

 

The keyword, of course, is average. That means that this is averaged based on all days, including weekend days, when a lot of people do not have to work. It also means there is a huge range in all of the categories depending on age and socioeconomic status, to state the patently obvious.

To found out where I fall in this average, I am tracking my activities for 7 days, from Sunday, June 26 through Saturday, July 2. This will provide some data to figure out my average American day. I will be tracking myself for a week in all of the categories in the graphic above:

sleeping
eating and drinking
household activities
caring for household members
organizational, civic, and religious activities
working
education
personal care
leisure and sports
watching television
telephone calls, mail, and e-mail
purchasing goods and services
caring for non-household members
other activities

Saturday, June 25, 2011

La fleur de lys

Puisqu'hier était la fête nationale du Québec, j'ai pensé à la fleur de lys, qui ensuite m'a fait penser à mes lys. Bien que ce soit l'ancien symbole des Francs et toujours associé avec la France, je pense toujours au Québec lorsque je vois une fleur de lys. Étant donné que le drapeau québecois en arbore quatre, c'est tout à fait naturel. Le drapeau actuel date de 1948 et symbolise les liens du Québec à la francophonie.

Même si le lys dans la phrase fleur de lys représente Lys (la rivière) plutôt que lys (la fleur), ce symbole ressemble pas mal la fleur aussi. Mais la fleur de lys vient apparemment de l'iris et non pas du lys. De toute façon, je n'ai pas d'iris mais voici des photos de mes lys. Vive le Québec.

 

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Poll: Le Québec, doit-il être indépendant ?

New poll, everyone! Should Quebec be an independent nation?
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En vue de la fête nationale du Québec, célébrée le 24 juin, j'ai commencé un nouveau scrutin (voter à droite) : Le Québec, doit-il être indépendant ?

Ma position est pragmatique : si un peuple veut s'indépentantiser, il a le droit. Mais un tel peuple doit quand même penser à toutes les conséquences possibles pour le(s) pays duquel il pense se séparer. Ce principe applique dans n'importe quelle situation sociale/politique/linguistique, soit le Québec, soit la Martinique, soit une ancienne colonie africaine. Dans tous ces cas, le contexte sociolinguistique est très compliqué, surtout au Québec où la langue se révèle comme quelque chose de tout à fait politique. Dans le cas du Québec, le problème est qu'il y a déjà eu deux plébiscites et les deux fois les Non (à l'indépendance) ont gagné contre les Oui. Jusqu'à quand alors faut-il reconnaître le droit d'être indépendant après deux référendums ? Qu'en pensez-vous ? Le Québec, doit-il être indépendant ? N'oubliez pas de voter !
 

Today in Language: La fête nationale du Québec


Toutes mes félicitations aux Québecois aujourd'hui ! C'est la 177ème commémoration, si je ne me trompe pas. Vous pouvez vous en renseigner plus sur le site-web officiel. Voici un petit extrait de la page d'accueil, mettant l'accent sur ce qui m'intérresse plus que tout :
Véhicules de la langue française parlée ici d’hier à aujourd’hui, les contes et légendes du Québec recèlent de milliers d’expressions et de tournures qui la colorent. Ils enrichissent la tradition orale comme rien d’autre! Faisons vivre à travers eux la langue qui nous tient tant à cœur!
La seule chose qui me gêne un peu, c'est que cette fête dite « nationale », enfin, il ne s'agit pas d'une nation. Le Québec, c'est une province du Canada. Excusez-moi d'être plus ou moins ignorant du contexte canadien, mais est-ce que c'est une célébration avec une grande importance pour les Québecois, mais qui reste ignorée hors du Québec ? J'aime bien le Québec (je serai à Montréal cet été mais comme je voudrais y être cette semaine !) et j'ai pas mal d'amis québecois, mais je ne sais pas trop de la fête nationale.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Postscript on Diacritics

My basic position on diacritics is that unless they are normally used in a language, it is best to use them minimally in language teaching, perhaps only for the occasional help in pronunciation. Rather than saying that they are completely unnecessary, I would say that they are usually unnecessary.

In Japanese, in which diacritics are not used unless transliterated, they are unnecessary because transliteration (use of romaji) is unnecessary.

In Arabic, in which diacritics are sometimes used, they are generally unnecessary because the goal is to be able to read Arabic the way Arabic speakers do, without vowel markings.

Diacritics are unnecessary if a student has a teacher who can teach pronunciation and writing. But a teacher is no longer a given. Many language learners use online tools and programs such as Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. In those cases, with no teacher, limited use of transliteration and diacritics may be necessary to learn pronunciation. I use some transliteration and diacritics in my Arabic learning because otherwise at times I have no idea how to pronounce a word. But as soon as I learn the pronunciation, I do not allow myself to go back to the transliteration or diacritics.

Though I stand by my comments about Japanese, my comments about Arabic, with which I am much less familiar, may need significant modification.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Diacritics in (Romanized) Japanese

最近編集者の友達が「鯉のぼり」という言葉をどういうふうに英語で書くのと質問がありました。発音区別記号 (いわゆるダイアクリティカルマーク) を使う必要があるかどうか尋ねました。ダイヤクリティカルマークはいらなくて、koinoboriと書いたほうがよいと彼に答えました。

特に日本語については発音を区別するマークが面白いことですね。もちろん日本語には別にありませんが、もしローマ字を使えば日本語の発音を明らかにするためにダイヤクリティカルマークが付される可能性があります。でも英語で日本語の単語を書くとアメリカ人は英語の発音で言いがちだと思います。それよりもローマ字は大嫌いで、日本語を教えるために初めからひらがなとかたかなだけを使ったらよいではないかと思っております。

多くの日本人がカタカナ化という大変化を見て、とても残念なことだと言いますけれども、カタカナ化は普通の言語変化ではないでしょうか。それに比べると、ローマ字は全然関連しません。日本人は普段ローマ字を使っていません。パソコンや携帯電話を使うためにある意味でローマ字を使いますが、読むのはひらがな、かたかな、漢字しかありません。ですから、外国人に日本語を教えるためにローマ字を使わない方がよいです。皆さんはどう思いますか?
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An editor friend recently asked me how to write out a transliterated Japanese word in English and whether to include the diacritics. The word he asked me about was koinobori, and I said he could just write it as one word and skip the diacritics.

Please feel free to disagree in the comments, but I see little point to diacritics. English speakers are going to figure out their own pronunciation for words such as koinobori, karaoke, and kamikaze. Besides, do most people even understand what sound diacritics are supposed to represent? Of course, one might argue that in teaching Japanese diacritics are essential, but that assumes that teaching with romaji, transliterated Japanese, is a good idea. I think it's a terrible idea.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today in Language: Ramón López Velarde y Carlos Monsiváis

Ramón López Velarde
Estos dos escritores mexicanos murieron el 19 de junio, López Velarde en 1921 y Carlos Monsiváis el año pasado, 2010. El aniversario de López Velarde también es en junio, el 15 de este mes.

Para recordar la obra de Monsiváis y López Velarde, recomiendo "Suave Patria" de éste, un poema corto y lindo sobre México. Hablando de López Velarde entre otros, dice Monsiváis en Las tradiciones de la imagen, "Para Placencia, González León y López Velarde, la poesía es la emoción que diviniza el mundo e induce a las sensaciones profundas ante pueblos y templos y amaneceres" (21).

Uno encuentra esta emoción divinizando (verbo desmasiado fuerte; prefiero embellecer) en las siguientes lineas del poema: 
patria: tu superficie es el maíz,
tus minas el palacio del rey de oros,
y tu cielo, las garzas en desliz
y el relámpago verde de los loros.

Citando Monsiváis otra vez: Este poema "es, sí, la cima artística del respeto a las tradiciones y, en un nivel profundo, la autobiografía de un momento de la sensibilidad nacional, aquel en donde la costumbre reaparece como imaginación" (39).

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The Mexican poet Ramón López Velarde died on June 19, 1921, 89 years before the Mexican critic Carlos Monsiváis, who died on the same day last year.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Le cœur d'un père

En vue de la fête des pères demain (à moins que vous habitiez un pays où la fête des pères est célébrée un autre dimanche du mois ou même dans un autre mois), voici une pensée de l'Abbé Prévost, de son chef-d'œuvre Manon Lescaut :
Un cœur de père est le chef-d’œuvre de la nature ; elle y règne, pour ainsi parler, avec complaisance, et elle en règle elle-même tous les ressorts.



Friday, June 17, 2011

夏の夜

写真がなくても、次の和歌を心に描くことができますか。小倉百人一首の36首(清原深養父)の和歌。

夏の夜は まだ宵ながら 明けぬるを 雲のいづこに 月宿るらむ。

 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Poll: Intellectual Standards

The results are in for the first Langue or Parole? poll! It was not a failure--there was a staggering total of five votes (1 for Dutch, 2 for Portuguese, 0 for Serbian, and 2 for Spanish). The right answer to the question (Which language uses the word kermés?) is Spanish. The word is written quermesse in Portuguese, and in all uses it can be traced to the Dutch kermesse.

The second Langue or Parole? poll begins today and is a different type from the first. The kermés poll was factual--participants either got the answer right or they didn't. This second poll is subjective. It solicits your opinion on an issue. The issue is intellectual standards. The question is, which of the five intellectual standards in the poll do you think is the most important: clarity, creativity, honesty, humility, or relevance?

I have blogged about only one of these (honesty), but all are very important to me, especially as a doctoral student who does a lot of research and thus has ample evidence that one or more of these standards is often lacking in scholarly writing and debate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Hilarious Video, or the Difficulties of Translating Humor

Humor is notoriously hard to translate. In fact, I would say that [ALERT: unproven assertion] humor is the only aspect of language that gives any credibility whatsoever to the idea of untranslatability. For an illustration of why, watch this sidesplitting video--but ONLY if you are very familiar with the English language, as well as somewhat familiar with Buddhism and American- or Australian-style pizza and pizza restaurants. Otherwise, you will be as lost as the Dalai Lama.


Learning Arabic

تعلم اللغة العربية

A friend and I decided to make learning Arabic our summer project. I speak more languages than he does, but he knows biblical Hebrew, so particularly with the grammar and alphabet he has a much better start than I do. I would summarize my goals (which do not include learning Arabic fluently in a summer due to time) as two-fold: 1) to be able to read Arabic fluidly and 2) to have a beginner's vocabulary. These rather modest goals are due to the fact that we meet only once a week and the rest of the time have our own methods for learning more vocabulary.

My own sources include a variety of websites and other teaching aids. Our primary source, what we study together in our weekly one-hour sessions, was actually the catalyst to the summer Arabic project. A few years ago a friend gave me an Arabic course developed by the U.S. Army, given to her by a former Arabic instructor.

Here are some other websites and resources I am using:
Madinah Arabic's Reading Course (helpful)
Search Truth (for learning the alphabet)
Pimsleur's Quick & Simple Eastern Arabic (fun)
Arabic blog (for general information as opposed to learning Arabic) 

Do you recommend any sources if you are learning Arabic or if you are an Arabic teacher? I'm hoping that, if nothing else, learning Arabic will improve my brain. But maybe it's too late for that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Today in Language: Manuel José Othón

El poeta mexicano Manuel José Othón nació en este día en el año 1858. El único libro de Othón que tengo es una antología poética que compré en un museo en la ciudad de San Luis Potosí. El museo es la antigua casa del poeta, estilo colonial con un patio en el centro rodeado de pequeños cuartos, la cocina, el comedor, recámaras y el estudio de Othón.

Othón es un escritor mexicano muy especial para mí porque además de ser mexicano es también potosino como mi esposa. La antología que tengo es parte de una serie que se llama "Potosinos Emeritos," que "tiene el proposito de difundir, a nivel popular, el conocimiento de la vida y de la obra de quienes han hecho la historia y la cultura potosinas." No es todos los días que uno encuentra un libro así en el mismo lugar donde escribió un poeta. Hasta las páginas de la antología huelen bien bonitas y no son de esa textura muy artificial de los libros producidos en masa.

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The Mexican poet Manuel José Othón was born on June 14, 1858.

About Polls

Polls are really easy to design for a blog, I recently found out. Plus, they are a fun, non-scientific way to find out who is reading your blog and what your readers know. Polls here at Langue or Parole? will appear in the right sidebar and generally be about some word or language trivia.

A few self-evident points about polls...

1) You are anonymous when you vote.
2) So guess the answer rather than looking it up if you do not already know the answer. This way we'll see how people do and you don't have to worry if you got it wrong.
3) If you want to throw off my polls, vote several times by using different computers.
4) It won't matter because these polls are not for the purpose of obtaining accurate statistics for social science reports or dissertations.
5) Andrew Lang, a Scottish novelist, must be credited for the all-time best quotation about statistics: 

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts,
for support rather than illumination.


Check out the new (and first!) poll at the top of the sidebar about the word kermés. What language uses that word (written that way)? Cast your vote!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kale Apple Juice

Kale is one of those ingredients that is really, really good for you but also very, very hard to eat. At least for me. It has  rough texture and not a very good taste. But...

My wife and I have been enjoying our new Vitamix 5200 blender. It is an expensive, high-powered blender. You can save a whole lot of money buying a run-of-the-mill blender. But you cannot replace several other kitchen appliances with a normal blender (appliances we are selling include two blenders, food processor, coffee grinder, and bread machine; it also replaces a juicer, which we don't have). You also cannot blend just about anything you want in a normal blender. You also cannot get your 19-month-old son to eat kale and spinach.

So we have had fun making smoothies, juices, frappucinos, and ice cream in the Vitamix blender. I am most excited that I am now regularly eating kale, thanks to several great juice and smoothie recipes that include the cruciferous, cancer-annihilating vegetable. Just throw a handful or two of the stuff in your Vitamix and add a little water and any fruit ranging from mangos to apples to strawberries, and you will have something that is at least more palatable than the kale leaves themselves. Here is a recipe I have modified from a few sources:

Kale Apple Juice

Ingredients
1/2 cup of water
1-2 cups of kale
1 apple, quartered
1/2 Tbsp of lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp of ground flax seed 

Preparation
Put the ingredients in order into the Vitamix.
Turn on the Vitamix and quickly turn to High.
Blend for about a minute, or until smooth.

Mobile Settings for Blog

Mobile settings are now activated for this blog, so you should be able to read blog entries more easily on your mobile device, thanks to Google.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Limitations

So to recap this week, as well as the previous week, blogging here has mostly focused on Google Translate and intellectual standards, especially in regard to honesty and engagement beyond one's specific area of specialization. In regard to the latter, Michel Arrivé kindly summarized his thoughts in Thursday's guest post, pointing out that while one should be knowledgeable, one does not have to be an expert to discuss a given domain (specifically psychoanalysis in his case).

My interest in all of this has been the issues of authority (conferred by a mere degree or title?), honesty, and specialization. I think this can be summed up in one word: limitations. We must recognize our limitations: no one person can know everything. But we can be knowledgeable in areas beyond our specialization and, if knowledgeable, should be admitted to discussions.

So to round out the week, and to tie in Google Translate with this more serious discussion, here is a demotivational poster, which I will put through GT and see what happens.



Google Translate
Until you spread your wings, you'll have no idea how far you can walk.
あなたが翼を広げてまで、あなた歩くことができるどの程度までは考えているでしょう
Tant que vous déployez vos ailes, jusqu'à quel point vous pouvez vous promener serait considérée.
Hasta que extendió sus alas, hasta qué punto se puede caminar sería considerado.
Until you spread your wings, how far you can walk would be considered.

Image credit: Despair.com (used with permission)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

La connaissance et l'autorité : Post invité de Michel Arrivé

Il y a plus de deux semaines que j'ai écrit sur l'idée de l'honnêteté académique. Ensuite, j'ai cité deux linguistes (Michel Arrivé et Noam Chomsky) qui m'ont inspiré avec une idée centrale aux débats académiques : personne ne doit être exclu d'une discussion pour la seule raison de ne pas être spécialiste du domaine, mais il faut quand même que le non-spécialiste se reconnaisse comme tel. Cette semaine j'ai eu un peu de correspondance avec M. Arrivé qui a très gentiment accepté d'écrire le texte suivant pour expliquer ses idées sur ces questions.--JP

Il est toujours très satisfaisant d'apprendre qu'on est « honnête ». Je remercie vivement Jeremy Patterson de clamer à haute voix que « Arrivé est honnête ». Il va sans dire que je ne prendrai pas position sur ce qu'il dit, ou laisse entendre, de Chomsky. 

Pour voir les choses de façon générale, je pense qu'il est indispensable de connaître de façon approfondie les domaines sur lesquels on se hasarde à prendre position. Mais il n'est pas pour cela indispensable de disposer de titres universitaires ou professionnels. Je ne suis pas psychanalyste. Les psychanalystes me font souvent le reproche de prendre position, dans mes livres et mes articles, sur des problèmes qui « sont de la seule compétence des analystes ». Ils ont tort: il n'y a pas de domaine réservé de la connaissance. Sartre, Ricœur, Althusser, pour ne citer que des Français, n'étaient pas analystes. Cela condamne-t-il les positions qu'ils ont prises sur l'analyse?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Putting Google and Hillary Clinton through Google Translate

I am almost done having fun with Google Translate. I will stop soon, since I am beholden to Google for a free blog. (In my defense, I will point out that I also defended Google Translate.) But I ran one more sentence through GT from an article about Google and its recent row with China, which has the U.S. government and Secretary of State involved. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Times article says, "referred reporters to Google for details." I ran this through GT in the following order: English-Japanese-Spanish-French-English.

   She referred reporters to Google for details.
   彼女は、詳細については、Google記者呼ばれます。
   Tiene más información, Google es conocido por la prensa.
   Certaines informations, Google est connu pour la presse.
   Certain information, Google is known to the press.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Putting a News Headline through Google Translate

I am still having fun with Google Translate. Fox News had an interesting headline about the recent Twitter scandal of U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner: "Do Lawmakers and Social Media Mix?" I put this through Google Translate in the following order: English-Spanish-French-Japanese-English. The results:

   Do Lawmakers and Social Media Mix?
   No legisladores y mezcla de medios sociales?
   Aucun législateurs et la mixité sociale des médias?
   いいえ議員メディアの社会的多様性
   Social diversity of members and no media?

Though the Spanish, French, and Japanese are either nonsensical or non-grammatical, the English end-product is a suggestion/question that actually might make a lot of sense.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Defense of Google Translate (Sort of)

I have been aided and amused by Google Translate in the past. Recently, a Wall Street Journal article about the comic results of Google Translate (among other things) and a blog post (not about Google Translate) led me back to this wonderful tool of the 21st century.

This is less of a technical blog treatise on computational linguistics and more of an attempt to explain when Google Translate can be helpful (and hilarious). So let's begin with a studious frown on our faces and consider a few serious points before turning to the humor.

The Serious Points 
1. Machine translation is improving rapidly.
2. Machine translation is still incredibly limited.
3. Machine translation [ALERT: unproven assertion] is most befuddled by syntax and multilingual translation, both areas in which competent human translators still have a huge advantage.
4. I am nonetheless surprised at what a good job Google Translate can do.
5. If you stick with short, syntactically uncomplicated sentences, Google Translate has no problems. Take, for example, the following sentence: "My name is Jeremy." I put it into GT in the following order: English-Spanish-Japanese-French-English. The results were fine:
    
   My name is Jeremy.
   Mi nombre es Jeremy.
   私の名前はジェレミーです
   Mon nom est Jeremy.
   My name is Jeremy.

6. Given that "short, syntactically uncomplicated sentences" is not the way we always communicate, only competent human translators should use Google Translate. Seriously, it can help a translator. If you asked me to translate one of my blog posts (for no reason that I can immediately imagine) and it had to be ready in 10 minutes (for no reason that I can immediately imagine), I would throw it into Google Translate. Then I would go back through and edit it. But GT would have done the grunt work of typing out most of the necessary words in the other language and of getting the text at least in the grammatical and syntactical ballpark.
7. If you pay any attention to these people, it is only a matter of years, or at most decades, before computers leave us pathetic humans in the dust in translation and every other application of language, not to mention existence.
8. I tend not to pay attention to those people. Perhaps I am a fool. 

The Humor
Now let us take a longer, more grammatically complicated sentence and see what we get, going from English to French to Spanish to Japanese to English. The sentence comes from a fascinating article on research about depression published on ScienceDaily last Thursday (June 2, 2011). (Try the same thing with the first sentence of the article for another good laugh.)
    
   People with depression had trouble re-ordering the words in their head. 
   Les gens souffrant de dépression avaient de la difficulté réorganisation des mots dans leur tête.
   Las personas que sufren de depresión había reorganización dificultad de las palabras en sus cabezas.
   うつ病を患っている人々は、自分の頭のの単語の難易度再編成を持っていた
   People suffering from depression, had difficulty reorganizing the words in my head.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Value Formation in Children

I have been reading an excellent little book titled Scripture by Heart by Joshua Choonmin Kang. More than techniques for memorizing, it provides an overall strategy or philosophy for memorizing the Bible. Chapter 3 of the 30-chapter book is based on Proverbs 22:6. In his discussion of "Forming a Biblical Value System," Kang writes, "When it comes to value formation in children, educational psychologists tell us, the earlier, the better. The first five years are critical."

Unfortunately, Kang does not give any sources for the statement about value formation in children. One could Google it or check out a book on child or educational psychology. The main thing I wonder about is the specific "first five years" aspect. I know children are impressionable, and the younger they are the more impressionable they are. And having a 19-month-old son as well as another baby due this year, I am highly interested in value formation in children.

I also wonder, being interested not only in this Bible verse and child training but also language, whether the verse applies not only to value formation in children but also to psycholinguistics and how/whether/when we raise children bi- or multilingual?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chomsky, Authority, and Specialization: A Final Quotation

It would give context if you went back to yesterday's post to read the paragraph preceding the following quotation from Noam Chomsky:
But on the other hand, in discussion or debate concerning social issues or American foreign policy, Vietnam or the Middle East, for example, the issue [of one's credentials to speak on a topic] is constantly raised, often with considerable venom. I've repeatedly been challenged on grounds of credentials, or asked, what special training do you have that entitles you to speak of these matters. The assumption is that people like me, who are outsiders from a professional viewpoint, are not entitled to speak on such things.
Compare mathematics and the political sciences--it's quite striking. In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content. One might even argue that to deal with substantive issues in the ideological disciplines may be a dangerous thing, because these disciplines are not simply concerned with discovering and explaining the facts as they are; rather, they tend to present these facts and interpret them in a manner that conforms to certain ideological requirements, and to become dangerous to established interests if they do not do so.
I see a lot of unproven assertions (which is not a criticism) in the second paragraph especially, but the overriding point still holds that credentials do not inherently determine one's ability or authority to become involved in a discussion. Thoughts?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chomsky, Authority, and Specialization: Another Quotation

This is a bit long, but it is a great quote from Noam Chomsky following up on two previous posts about what really matters in academic discussions. It is from pages 6 and 7 of Language and Responsibility. Chomsky says:
In my own professional work I have touched on a variety of different fields. I've done work in mathematical linguistics, for example, without any professional credentials in mathematics; in this subject I am completely self-taught, and not very well taught. But I've often been invited by universities to speak on mathematical linguistics at mathematics seminars and colloquia. No one has ever asked me whether I have the appropriate credentials to speak on these subjects; the mathematicians couldn't care less. What they want to know is what I have to say. No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor's degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in this subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible--the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it.
Think about that, and tomorrow I will post the next two paragraphs.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sources for the Intellectual Standard of Honesty

Inspiration for reflections on the intellectual standard(s) of honesty came principally from Michel Arrivé and Noam Chomsky.

Michel Arrivé
Arrivé is a linguist who specializes in French linguistics and the writings of Alfred Jarry. He has also published work based on his significant side interest in psychoanalysis. What inspired me from his work Linguistique et psychanalyse (also available in English) was his opening qualification about his knowledge of psychoanalytic literature. (I do not own the book and no longer have it checked out from the library so what follows is an exercise in memory.) He is forthright in pointing out that, while he is a trained linguist and quite familiar with Saussure and Hjelmslev, among other linguists, he is not at all trained in psychoanalysis. Nonetheless, he considers himself a careful reader of Freud and others and believes he has something to offer in trying to bring together the meanings of symbole in linguistics and psychoanalysis. This is honest evaluation of one's own limitations and also legitimate willingness to engage in an academic discipline that is not one's area of specialization. Arrivé is honest.

This in turn reminds me of something Chomsky has pointed out. Because he has for the last few decades been much more vocal in the areas of politics and foreign policy than in linguistics, his critics have at times [ALERT: unproven assertion] made ad hominem attacks that consist solely of pointing out that he is not an expert in those areas. To which Chomsky responds, "[The intelligentsia] pretend to be engaged in an esoteric enterprise, inaccessible to simple people. But that's nonsense. The social sciences generally, and above all the analysis of contemporary affairs, are quite accessible to anyone who wants to take an interest in these matters."

Noam Chomsky
Chomsky thus takes the admirable position that anyone who tries can understand most subjects. It is therefore entirely unfair to rule out someone's views simply because the person is not trained in the area of debate, be that politics or linguistics or psychoanalysis. Together, Arrivé and Chomsky are inspiration particularly for my points 3 and 4 regarding the intellectual standard of honesty.

The Chomsky quote comes from Language and Responsibility, a 1979 (partial) translation of the 1977 publication of conversations between Chomsky and Mitsou Ronat. Here is the context immediately preceding what is quoted above:
With a little industry and application, anyone who is willing to extricate himself from the system of shared ideology and propaganda will readily see through the modes of distortion developed by substantial segments of the intelligentsia. Everybody is capable of doing that. If such analysis is often carried out poorly, that is because, quite commonly, social and political analysis is produced to defend special interests rather than to account for the actual events. Precisely because of this tendency one must be careful not to give the impression, which in any event is false, that only intellectuals equipped with special training are capable of such analytic work. (4)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Top 100 Language Lovers 2011

Lexiophiles published the competition results today! I am now starting to get some ideas about good linguistics blogs. A couple of my favorites from the Lexiophiles competition are Language Log and the Arabophile, though I don't think either of these got voted into the top 25 (neither did my blog).