Archives for July 2003


Via Plep, the Native American Religions section of the Internet Sacred Text Archive includes a fair number of cultures; most are only in translation, but there are originals included in texts for Cherokee, Navajo (both Washington Matthews books), and Haida. (There may be others; I didn’t try every link.)


Via Desbladet, an extremely interesting LINGUIST List discussion of the popular idea that various phonological changes in languages (notably the Castilian ceceo /thetheo/ and the French uvular r) were the result of a royal speech impediment that spread throughout the population. I was rather surprised that this (to me, clearly ludicrous) idea was taken so seriously, but the discussion that followed is full of great details about the history of uvular r (written R in linguistic usage) in French and German, as well as tidbits about Soviet officials imitating Brezhnev’s and Gorbachov’s southern-dialect fricative pronunciation of [g], Indonesian government officials imitating Suharto’s Javanese-influenced pronunciation of the verbal suffix {kan} with schwa instead of [a], and the like. A sample:

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A reader’s e-mail got me digging around for an online version of the Tao Te Ching (or, if you prefer, Dao De Jing), and I wound up at an amazing site, Chinese Characters and Culture. Its primary focus is on the characters:

Alone among modern languages, Chinese integrates both meaning and pronunciation information in its characters. deciphers this rich information to help students understand, appreciate and remember Chinese characters, one of humanity’s greatest and most enduring cultural achievements…
Click to see its definition, etymology, and relation to other characters.
Click on “+” to hear it, see it drawn, and see its entry in other dictionaries.

But along with the dictionary and the lists of dynasties, surnames, names of Chinese-Americans (if you’ve ever wondered about the characters for Connie Chung, Michelle Kwan, I.M. Pei, or Yo-Yo Ma, here’s where you can find them), and the like, it has a Readings section with not only the Dao De Jing but the Analects of Confucius, the 300 Tang Poems, Lu Xun’s Diary of a Madman, and other classic texts (not to mention speeches by Deng Xiaoping and Bill Clinton [!]). A tremendous amount of work has obviously gone into this site, which is a treasure-trove to set alongside the Russian ones I blogged yesterday; it’s been quite a weekend for foreign literature here at Languagehat.


William Safire’s column today is neither so idiotic as to require yet another Safire-flogging nor so informative as to be cited for its own sake (it’s a routine investigation into the history of the phrase “tipping point”), but it uses a spelling variant that leapt out at me and sent me running to the dictionaries. In the course of trying to find a replacement for the now overused phrase, he says: “Turning point? Not a lot of bezazz, and it does not express the idea of the straw that breaks the camel’s back…” Bezazz! I knew the word “pizzazz” had variants, as befits such an irrepressibly slangy term, but I hadn’t seen this one. Merriam-Webster gives only “pizazz” as an alternate, while American Heritage allows you to simplify either of the z clusters, but neither offers a version in b-. Then I tried the OED, and bingo: “Also bezaz, bezazz, bizzazz, pazazz, pazzazz, pezazz, pizazz, pizzaz.” Now there’s generosity for you; in fact, I wonder whether there is any entry for which they offer more variants. The curious thing, though, is that all the citations with initial b– seem to be British:

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I have occasionally made offhand remarks indicating my dislike for Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theories and, still worse, his effect on the field, but I have not had the heart to go into detail; I’m worn out from all the arguing I did about him back when I was an actual linguist (now, I just play one on the internet). Fortunately, my procrastination has paid off (as it so often does), and Scott Martens has done the job for me. I direct anyone who wants to know exactly how wrong and destructive Chomsky has been to go forthwith to Pedantry and scroll down to “Friday, July 25, 2003: My carefully considered and well earned aversion to Noam Chomsky” (I won’t even try to provide a permalink, Blogger being what it is). Quick summary: “His principles ultimately produced nothing, and may well have set linguistics back decades. The day will come when his legacy is compared to Skinner’s, and when historians of the social sciences will debate which one ultimately caused the most damage.” But there’s much, much more.
Addendum. Scott expands on the subject in the comments to this entry.

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Again via Avva, an online corpus of transcribed French conversations:

The French corpus is currently comprised of 51 hours of spoken French recorded in Paris, Grenoble, Monpellier and Avignon. We are in the process of transcribing this data and so far we have five texts available on-line. Soon we hope to post more texts as well as ethnographic information about the speakers and the speech situations. The twenty-seven texts below are comprised of approximately 119,000 words total.

Invaluable for anyone wanting to research French as she is actually spoke.


I mean, sure there’s a lot of Pushkin online, but I just discovered (via a comment in Avva) the mother lode: the entire 10-volume edition, with bad language supplied in angle brackets (it’s never printed in Russian editions, thanks to lingering prudery), the originals of things he wrote in French (linked to Russian translations), very reader-friendly format… bless this newfangled internet!
And I’ve just hit the “rvb” link and discovered it’s only part of an online library that includes full editions of Dostoevsky (15 volumes), Derzhavin, and Khlebnikov, not to mention works by Bely, Remizov, and others, as well as Gnedich’s 1829 translation of the Iliad. It may well be that every other Russian-reading person in the universe has long known of this resource—it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been behind the curve—but I’m very glad I finally caught up.
Addendum. Anatoly, in the comments, sent me to another Russsian literature site that has more material, including the 16-volume edition of Pushkin used by scholars. Unfortunately, it uses an annoying frames interface, so I can only link to the main Pushkin page; to get to the edition you have to click on the + next to Произведения Пушкина on the left, then on the + by Собрания сочинений Пушкина, then on the one by Полное собрание сочинений в шестнадцати томах. — 1937—1959, at which point you get the list of volumes. Furthermore, the alphabetical index is a text file, so if you’re looking for a particular poem you have to go to the index, find the page number, then go back to (say) Volume Two and estimate where that page number would be in the list of entries. Contrast with the RVB site above, where the index has links that take you right to the desired work. But it’s still good to have all this stuff online.
Further addendum. This site has all of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, &c. in transcription. Most useful.


There’s a fascinating discussion at the site I Love Everything (with which I was previously unfamiliar, but whose name definitely appeals to me) that began with the question “How do the deaf interpret rhyme?” Along with some understandable defensiveness from deaf people interpreting it as implying they should value rhyme in some way, it became a very interesting exchange of ideas; this in particular brings up things I had never thought about and would like to know more about:

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A useful little article by Michele A. Berdy from the Moscow Times (once again via the excellent Taccuino di traduzione).


Via Taccuino di traduzione, a multilingual online course for translators; here‘s the English version. From Translation studies – part one:

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