Archive for the 'Meta' Category

Default for now

You may have noticed a theme change around here. Basically it’s because the theme I was using (and which I still do like very much) didn’t support some recent wordpress features. I’ve temporarily gone back to the WP default theme until I have time to figure out what actually to do.

Feeds and feed readers

Apologies to anyone who may have found a dead feed over the past few days. Issues with wordpress updates and plugins required a reset of the feed configuration, but all should be working now.

I’ll also take a moment to sing the praises of the GreatNews RSS reader. It really helps in finding the various new articles in all of the feeds you subscribe to (and it’s enormously helpful if you’ve spent a few days without checking any of your feeds, since you can view short summaries all at once, newspaper-style, rather than guessing from each title whether the short summary is worth reading at all).

A little bit of candy

Well, my apologies to anyone who tried to access this blog’s feed over the past couple of days and found nothing. I forgot to update a couple of settings after upgrading to the latest version of Wordpress. Anyway, everything should be fixed now.

In return for the error, a small, hopefully amusing item.

Observe this photograph. This is the spine of a book that I found in a local used bookstore which, as you can see, is well-stocked with linguistics books (I’d say there are usually over a hundred different titles there at any given time). As I recall, the actual book is not by the shown author, though the content is lainguistics-related. Unfortunately, it has since been purchased, so I cannot investigate further.

Shaky servers and shifty names

My apologies to anyone who’s had trouble accessing the site over the past few days – the server that is hosting it has been going off- and online several times per day. Hopefully it will be all over soon.

And for a small bit of actual content: I was reading through an introductory Mandarin Chinese textbook today (basically to review all that I learned in high school before I start summer classes — I’ll have some things to say about the textbook itself at a later date), and found something interesting. It seems that as of January 18, 2005, the (South) Korean “Committee on the New Chinese Name (‘notation’) for Seoul” decided that the name of its capital city should be written 首爾 (Shǒu’ěr), rather than 漢城 (Hànchéng). This is of course old news in the blogging community, and I recommend this entry on Hunjangûi karûch’im for details and links to earlier progress reports on the matter, and a post on languagehat on a related matter involving the same committee.

I don’t want to comment directly on the political or ideological reasons behind the decision or any potential (or actual) controversy. However, I did find this line in the Japanese Wikipedia entry for Seoul intriguing:


Which means, ‘On the other hand, China was initially negative regarding the use of 首爾, as “Chinese writing is to be determined by China.”‘ No reference is given to the quote, which may not even be a direct quotation. I’ve been trying to find a Japanese paper that actually has a line like this, or similar to it, but so far no luck. I’m not convinced that Chinese officials would actually say that all uses of Chinese characters must be approved by China, and the quote leaves open the possibility that it just refers to China-internal matters (which would not an unreasonable thing to say, I think).

Another point of interest: the Korean committee did not decide to do what Japan has been doing for a long time: invent kun-yomi for Chinese characters. As far as I know, the only way Chinese characters are/were used in Korean is to write actual Chinese loan words from. In contrast, Japanese makes use of characters for their meanings alone. Thus in Japanese a verb like ‘read’ is written 読む /yomu/, where the character is pronounced /yo/, with no connection to its Chinese-derived reading, /doku/. In Korean the verb for ‘read,’ /ilk-/, is always written with hangul, rather than using 読. That character does exist in borrowed words, though, and it is pronounced /du/. For more details see Hanja on everyone’s favorite site.

But getting back to the committee: it would have been interesting if they decided to take the meaning of “Seoul,” which is ‘capital city,’ and just chose characters that mean that, regardless of their Chinese pronunciations. I’m not sure what would happen if they asked China to start writing 首都 ‘capital city’ for Seoul. It could get confusing. On the other hand, as a (non-native, fluent) speaker of Chinese pointed out to me, if they wanted to go that route they could have chosen a nonexistent compound like 首城 or 首市, both of which clearly mean ‘capital city’ but don’t actually exist as words, AFAIK. It could have been a renaissance of hanja in Korea! Okay, probably not.

Just a wee change

I’ve added a feedburner feed link to the list of feeds down there on the sidebar, though there should be no need to switch if you’re already subscribed, as a redirect should be in effect. If something breaks, try changing the feed link or just give a ring.

I’ll also use this opportunity to plug my sister’s new website, Eyeburst, showcasing her art and writing, which I highly recommend.

I have an idea why

My apologies to those who happened upon the site today and were met with a database error message. The problem has miraculously resolved itself and will hopefully not come back (though I’m fairly sure what the cause is, and if it does come back it may be a few hours after I notice it before it is fixed).

Until next time, consider why preposition-deletion should be licenced in the same locations as NPIs are:

Do you have the faintest / any idea who that guy was? I have no idea who that guy was. *I’ve got an idea who that guy was. I’ve got an idea of who that guy was. ?I’ve got some idea who that guy was.

(Before anyone tries to give me counterexamples: don’t worry, I’ve already found about 30 of them in the BNC. This, however, dwarfs the 1000 or so that are under negation or in otherwise nonveridical contexts (or however you like to talk about NPI licensing.))

What you see

No linguistics here, just some griping regarding wordpress’s new WYSIWYG post editor. First, it’s annoying, as many such editors are, with strange spacing and line-inserting properties that make you format paragraphs in ways you might not want to. What’s really interesting is how it interacts with a firefox extention that does spell-checking. The extension, when activated, will highlight in red all words in text fields that are misspelled. Clicking on the words will give a list of alternatives. When you’re done checking, you deactivate the checker and the red highlighting goes away. Interestingly, when you are using the WYSIWYG editor and use the spell-checker, you get the red highlighting, but the list of alternatives doesn’t show up. And then, the highlighting stays around after the checker is deactivated. What does this mean? It means that if you post the entry with the red highlighting, the actual post will have red text (with some really messy HTML). Never mind that the editor itself doesn’t let you change text color: somehow the spellchecker does it for you. That’s some weird stuff. (It should be obvious that I no longer use the new version of the post editor)

Orthography and (literary) point of view

First, sorry for the small feed hiccup that some of you may have experienced. I’m still working out the transition to Wordpress 2.0. (and if anyone out there is getting this weird error message on the draft preview panel about page redirects, and knows why, I’d be glad to hear about it)

As I mentioned last post, I’ve been (re-)reading GRRM’s fantasy series A song of ice and fire. Now, Martin’s books take an interesting format, eschewing traditional chapters, which might normally be around 20 pages each in a comparable novel, in place of somewhat shorter (10 to 15 pages) sections. These are unnumbered and headed simply by the name of the character whose POV the section is written from. This makes for a somewhat faster-paced story, and also leads the reader to consider why each section is important to a particular character, rather than just the next section of plot. (Of course, this does not mean that every section from character X’s POV is primarily about X – there are some characters who seem as though they will never get a POV, so sometimes a section will be from the POV of someone who is near X, but most of the text is devoted to the actions and dialogue of X)

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