Archives for June 2005


Metrolingua (m j klein’s fine language blog) has an entry on Saikam,

which is “the first online Thai-Japanese/Japanese-Thai dictionary development project initiated by The Association of Thai Professionals in Japan (ATPIJ) and became a research project at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in 1999. Saikam has a unique feature which allows both users and developers to access the database across the Internet. Dictionary data can be accessed and updated at the same time.”
But wait, there’s something there for us non-Thai speakers: a kanji dictionary. And get this–you don’t have to type in hiragana to get the kanji; you can type in the romaji reading for a character, the stroke count, and frequency, and it will give you a selection of corresponding kanji! And it will also give you compounds. This is really helpful if you need to look up something but don’t have the ability to type out hiragana (as seems to be the case on PC’s)…
It seems like they’re hoping to have both English and Thai translations of the compounds, so if you want to provide English translations and have time to kill, you can contact the admins of the site.

A nice find.


Suzanne E. McCarthy has started a blog called abecedaria; in her post ” Why Abecedaria?” she says:

I could have called this The Writing Sytem Blog but it seemed a little too presumptuous. What about the Glyph-based Input Blog – a little too much like a bee in the bonnet.
I want to write about writing systems as concrete realities with a physical organization, something that can be seen, felt, and perceived in the most tangible way… I guess abecedaria is about characters in a writing system being primarily glyphs and secondarily abstract codepoints.

She has a whole range of fascinating posts on Chinese, Tamil, Japanese, Caroline Islands Script, and all manner of script-related topics, even unto Alaric Alexander Watts‘ once well-known hyper-alliterative poem “The Siege of Belgrade” (“An Austrian army, awfully arrayed…”), which she links with a touching memory of her grandfather. Welcome!


Marcel Barang has the noble goal of translating and publicizing modern Thai prose literature via his website (English and French versions). In the preface to his anthology The 20 Best Novels of Thailand, he explains why much Thai literature is not very good by Western standards (“Too many Thai novels, I found, are dripping with honey and rosy beyond belief”) and why there is so little available in translation. And at the bottom of the Menu page, there is a link to the Thai On-Line Library – Bitext Corpus maintained by Doug Cooper, which has parallel translations:

The Thai Bitext Corpus is a collection of Thai and (mostly) English parallel translations or bitexts. The complete library can be searched for usage examples, or individual texts can be read in a variety of layouts. Bitext searches allow either Thai or any available second language (L2), and use an extended AltaVista ‘advanced match’ syntax.

(Via Plep.)


NPR’s All Things Considered has done a show on whistling language in Alaska (you can listen to it at the linked page):

Alaska is home to at least 20 Alaska native languages plus countless individual dialects. It’s also home to whistling as dialogue. The Yupik Eskimos and their Russian cousins have long practiced this form of communication. Alaska Public Radio’s Gabriel Spitzer reports.

I wish they had broadcast some actual St. Lawrence Yupik as well as the whistled versions, but it’s only a four-minute segment, and it’s a lot of fun just the way it is. Thanks for the link go to Songdog, who reminds me I’ve posted about whistling talk in the Canary Islands.


Eddie Kohler has, as one of his many online projects, Indeterminacy. From the About page:

John Cage was an American composer, Zen buddhist, and mushroom eater. He was also a writer: this site is about his paragraph-long stories—anecdotes, thoughts, and jokes. As a lecture, or as an accompaniment to a Merce Cunningham dance, he would read them aloud, speaking quickly or slowly as the stories required so that one story was read per minute.
This site archives 186 of those stories. Each story is spaced out, as if it were being read aloud, to fill a fixed area. If you like, you can also read them aloud at a rate of one a minute.

I got this from wood s lot, and I’m going to quote the same one quoted there, for what should be good and obvious reasons:

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Over at aprendiz de todo, Prentiss Riddle discusses the complex set of pronouns given in Sir Richard Winstedt’s Colloquial Malay (Singapore, 1957):

…there are not only separate sets of pronouns for different combinations of social ranks, but a distinct set reserved just for addressing ethnic Chinese. Shades of John Wilkins! No wonder Winstedt goes on to say that “Malays shun the use of personal pronouns”—although the practice he describes of substituting nouns representing rank, title or metaphorical family relationship seems just as complex.
I’d write this off as a quaint and obsolete colonialism but linguablogger Jordan Macvay reports that the situation today isn’t much simpler. In fact he notes with surprise that many Malays have started borrowing the English I and you so as not to have to commit to one of the social relationships encoded in their own pronouns.

Jordan’s post is long and extremely interesting; an excerpt:

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Geoff Nunberg is the LH house linguist not just because of his scholarship but because he’s able to put it at the service of a wider view of language and the world. His latest Fresh Air commentary is about learning poetry by heart, which he agrees with me in thinking a useful practise that should be revived (as Poetry is trying to do). He ends with the following passionate peroration:

If you think you can understand poems without feeling them in your body, you’re apt to treat them as no more than pretty op-ed pieces—you wind up teaching kids to value “The Road Not Taken” as merely a piece of sage advice about making difficult decisions.
I was about seven or eight years old when I learned Burns’s “Scots wha’ hae’ wi’ Wallace bled” from my dad. I had absolutely no idea what the poem was about or even what half the words meant. But I learned something else—how verse can become a physical presence, in Robert Pinsky’s words, which “operates at the borderland of body and mind.”
That’s an experience that you can only live fully when the poem comes from within rather than from the page in front of you. I like the way the Victorianist Catherine Robson put this: “When we don’t learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes… of its own incessant beat.”

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Following in the footsteps of Ray Davis’s posting of Barbellionblog (not to mention Phil Gyford and Pepys’ Diary), Paul Kerschen of Metameat has begun putting Kafka’s diaries online in blog form (German version here). On the About page he says:

Because many entries cannot be precisely dated, I have forgone the usual convention of placing a date above each entry. Kafka’s dates, when noted, appear in the body of the text. The German text is that provided by the Kafka Project. Entries appear in reverse order on the main page, in their original order on the archive pages. Ideally a new entry will appear every day, although longer entries may take more time.

On his own blog he says:

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Radio station KCRW has a regular feature called “Bookworm” in which authors are interviewed about their work; the half-hour shows are available online, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find something of interest. I was delighted to hear the talk (audio link) with Jonathan Williams (thanks, Andie!), and there’s also a link to excerpts from his new collection Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems. And there are interviews with Ian McEwan, Roberto Calasso, Susan Sontag, August Kleinzahler, Orhan Pamuk, William Gass, Alex Garland, Octavia Butler, Robert Creeley, W. G. Sebald, Walter Mosley… Well, you get the idea. Lots of good stuff.


Pita’s hat blog. It’s nothing but hats… and it’s in French! Need I say more? Check out this 1935 cover—there’s a whole novella in that image. Or this wide-eyed and perhaps a bit complacent gaze from 1900: little does she know what the century to come will bring, the sad retreat from hat-wearing being the least of it. And men are not entirely neglected. (Mille remerciements to Derryl Murphy of Cold Ground!)