Archive for the 'linguistics' Category

26
Jan
11

N-ary X-bar Conjunction Trees

I recently saw something… odd on YouTube. However, something good came out of this. See, back in Syntax class (and French Syntax, and even Semantics), when making a basic Principles and Parameters style tree of a sentence, based on X-bar theory, we were always told that everything needed to be formed in binary trees… except conjunctions for some reason. This always struck me as odd.

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29
Nov
10

Als Konig Abi-Esuh Gerechte Ordnung Hergestellt Hat

Last week, my friend, Jad, who is studying Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Toronto, contacted me, asking if I could translate something from German for him. This wasn’t exactly a surprising turn, since materials on the ancient Near East and Classical world are fairly evenly split between French, English, and German, and while he speaks English just fine and his French is good enough to slog his way through what he needs to, his German is completely nonexistent. (Lest you think I’m insulting him, he’s also native bilingual in Arabic, can read Syriac, and is as good as me in Latin and Imperial Aramaic, and his French is awesome considering the late start he got on it.) My response was that I could do it, but it’d be pretty slow because of my relative inexperience in German. Still, it was only six pages long, so I got crackin’ and, although it took longer than it should have because I kept second-guessing myself, I got it back to him in time for his presentation on the material, and I think I did a fairly good job on it. Good enough, in fact, that I feel like publishing my translation here. The original article is entitled “Als König Abi-ešuh Gerechte Ordnung Hergestellt Hat” Eine Bemerkenswerte Altbabylonische Prozessurkunde by Michael Jursa, published in the Revue d’Assyriologie et d’Archéologie Orientale volume 91 issue 2 © 1997 Presses Universitaires de France, translated and reprinted for reference and educational purposes, used without permission.

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10
Oct
10

Subtitling

Subtitling can be a tricky issue. I’ve tried my hand at subtitling before, so I know how hard it can be, getting the right words to show up in just the right place. You have all the problems of an accurate, idiomatic translation, amplified by the need to break it up into one- or two-line blocks in the right places and make it show up in the right place, down to the hundredth of a second. (Most subtitle formats allow for thousandths of a second, but rare is the case where that makes much difference.)

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21
Aug
10

Gospel of Matthew 3

And here we go again. A whole chapter this time! Well, it’s a short chapter, but the Bible is inconsistent about these things.

This time we leave Jesus for a bit to meet John the Baptist, a holy man very like Jesus who lived a little earlier, and whom early Christians coopted as a prophet of the coming of Jesus in order to take his followers into the fold. He is most famous for dunking people in water (βαπτίζω: to baptize; from βάπτω: to dip) in the process of confessing of sins (ἐξομολογέομαι τάς ἁμαρτίας), quite possibly related to the Jewish tradition of throwing one’s sins into the water on Yom Kippur. As part of the (frankly, weird to anyone who knows anything about Judea in the early Roman Empire) New Testament theme of Pharisee and Sadducee bashing, some of the aforementioned show up and, rather than thinking that maybe they want to be better people, John calls them names and tells them that someone is coming who will baptize them in fire (ouch!) In order to be sure everyone knows Jesus is better than John, Jesus goes for a baptism, and John says he should be the one getting baptized (see, in those days, only messianic figures could baptize someone), and of course there’s that reference to baptism in fire. Coincidentally, very John (The Divine. That’s a Revelation reference. Of St. John the Divine.)

There’s some other interesting things here. For one, verse 16 has a very odd construction (I’d translate it literally as “Jesus being baptized immediately, he came up from the water,” which is fine as it goes, but very odd in context, especially temporally). Also, “ἡ τροφὴ ἦν αὐτοῦ ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον” (emphasis mine): “his food was locusts and wild honey.” That the author felt the need to specify suggests that there may have been domestic honey, harvested not by foresters but beekeepers. I’m sure there’s literature on that somewhere, but not having quick access to it at the moment I’m just going to say that I think that’s pretty cool, beekeepers in the days before bee suits and epinephrine.

There’s also a quote from Isaiah. There’s a lot of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament to “prove” that Jesus is the messiah (a lot of them merely force his life into a timeline that cannot be possible, of course). This one is meant to show that John is a prophet who will pave the way (see what I did there?) for Jesus.

Translation followed by original text (still using A Reader’s Greek New Testament: 2nd Edition, footnotes excised and numerals changed to Greek by me) below the cut.

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07
Jul
10

Real Life Phonology

Linguistics is a relatively young science, so it’s still got a few kinks to work out. One I just recently noticed is that the definition of “phoneme” needs a little work. The official definition is a little hard to pin down, but let’s go with the great Wiki’s “the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances.” That’s a good enough definition for most purposes. However, phonemes are referred to by their base allophones, so I suppose that’s really what I have a problem with.

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11
Nov
09

Orthography Is Not Speech

First of all, I’ve got my logo up; not too bad for an amatueur, I think. Now, on to actual content!


Let me just say that I read a lot of amateur fiction. I know, the whole world is laughing at me now, but just hear me out. A lot of it is really good, and some of it I wish could get published professionally. Now, a lot of it can’t be because it’s fanfiction (copyright laws and all, although I think some people who write in collective universes like the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which is essentially professional fanfiction, should be able to get some of their ideas out there), or because the medium precludes such considerations (Stefan Gagne’s Sailor Nothing is one example: most of it might work if the publisher were willing to spend enough on formatting, but chapter 7 wouldn’t work at all). However, I’ve noticed some things that people are doing that have become pet peeves for me.

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09
Nov
09

Diachronic or Synchronic?

I love my linguistics classes, I really do. They’re fun and informative, and I’m convinced that having a grounding in modern linguistics will enable me to make connections the old guard never could in ancient languages. (I already have some arguments with some of my textbooks based upon what we now know about language in general as opposed to what a native speaker of English can guess based upon ancient evidence.) My only complaint is that modern linguists seem to think of historical linguistics as a quaint curiosity at best, and utter rubbish at worst. Even that wouldn’t be so bad if their concern was people’s tendency to think of historical linguistics when they think of linguistics at all (because it’s entirely true that historical linguistics is a discipline of the humanities, whereas modern linguistics is a burgeoning science), but they attempt to impose their methods upon historical languages, which is problematic at best. As my Linguistics of Signed Languages teacher was wont to say, “Linguistics is not the study of language, but of how the mind processes and produces language;” however, we don’t have any ancient minds to study, besides which we are more interested in figuring out how languages came to be as they are, since that is the only way we have to reconstruct even older, less complete languages.

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