HUNAYNNET.

Today I had the great pleasure of a visit from Slavomír Čéplö, known around Blogovia as bulbul of bulbulistan, who’s in Providence for the Eighth North American Syriac Symposium (program) and thought he’d take advantage of the proximity to visit the Hattery. We all went into Amherst for the Taste of Amherst, where we sampled various restaurant offerings and watched the kung fu exhibition put on by my grandson’s class, then returned here to talk and examine my overloaded bookshelves. I asked him what he was presenting at the symposium, and he told me it was “HUNAYNNET: Greek-Syriac-Arabic corpus of scientific texts”; of course I wanted to see the website, and I was very impressed:

This project aims to facilitate a comprehensive comparison of Syriac and Arabic translations through lexicographical analysis by developing an innovative research tool. Drawing on online lexicography and corpus linguistics, we will produce a parallel corpus of Syriac scientific and philosophical translations to facilitate the analysis and comparison of Syriac scientific terminology and translation techniques both with extant Greek originals and with Arabic versions. The lexicographic database will provide definitive data for the study of Syriac and Arabic translations and the connections between them. It will reveal how the Syriac translations along with underlying methods and tools that were put to use for the first time ever by Syriac Christians eventually formed the bedrock for the prosperity of the Islamic sciences. The open-access database thus creates a new instrument for a study of the history of the transmission of Greek scientific literature in antiquity and the middle ages.

If you click on the Texts link at the top you can choose works by Aristotle, Pseudo-Aristotle, Porphyry, Galen, etc.; click on, say, Categoriae, and you’ll get a Greek text on the left and an empty space on the right which you can fill by clicking on the + sign and choosing Aramaic and/or Arabic, which will appear in parallel columns. Furthermore, if you hold your cursor over one of the sentence numbers in parentheses, the corresponding passage will be highlighted in all the versions, and if you click on a word in any of the languages you’ll be offered your choice of lexica to look it up in. There’s a Syriac Dictionary Lookup from Sedra, which has online libraries, and you can get Syriac words analyzed at ElixirFM Resolve Online (e.g., يقال). What a wonderful world, and what a good job they’ve done of putting this valuable material online!

Also, he told me that Syriac is much less well described than you’d think; he wanted to define classes of words for analysis, but it turned out Nöldeke only had a few prepositions, and when Slavo went through text corpora he found a couple dozen. There’s lots of work to be done, and I look forward to his further discoveries; I also look forward to his next visit, because my wife and I both enjoyed his company tremendously (and were impressed by his astonishing command of vernacular American English). Somebody fund this man for another local conference!

Comments

  1. I forgot to mention the story Slavo told me about meeting a guy who was from the Netherlands but didn’t seem Dutch; upon interrogation he turned out to be Aramaic, and Slavo astonished him by addressing him in his own language.

  2. Owlmirror says:

    Is “Aramaic” an ethnonym? Wouldn’t it be “Aramean”?

    I would figure the person could be from somewhere in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, or Syria. Or possibly a few other places.

    I’m interested in Syriac currently because of the Daughter of Greed thread. Would it be possible for bulbul to comment on the use of “yarora” and “bat yarora” in the Peshitta of Micah 1:8, or “na’amah” for ostrich in the Peshitta Leviticus 11:16?

  3. Savalonôs says:

    Whoa, what language is the name Čéplö? I don’t remember seeing Slavic orthographies that make use of the diaeresis.

  4. Amazingly, Nöldeke (1904) is still the best grammar of this important language.

  5. Whoa, what language is the name Čéplö?

    I assume Slovak, though Standard Slovak has ä but not ö. Might be dialectal.

  6. SFReader says:

    Slovak variant of Hungarian word cséplő “thresher”

  7. AJP Crown says:

    Slavo has, I think, a Hungarian father which might partly account for his great linguistic gifts. Like David M’s I always notice his American English is more au courant than mine and have wondered how he does it. I suspect they’re up to date in French too.

  8. Yvy tyvy says:

    impressed by his astonishing command of vernacular American English

    his American English is more au courant than mine

    I find it depressing that the internet is full of non-native speakers who write English as well as or better than I do, when I can barely speak any language besides English.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Slovak variant of Hungarian word cséplő “thresher”

    From a slightly older version of Hungarian that still allowed word-final short ö. It’s explained somewhere in bulbulistan.

    a Hungarian father

    Yes, that’s part of the story. 🙂

    Like David M’s I always notice his American English is more au courant than mine and have wondered how he does it.

    Being a scientist already gives you a large vocabulary – skewed, but not as skewed as you’d think. And unskewing it is what teh intarwebz will do to you. 🙂

    And then there’s TV, of which it seems bulbul consumes a normal amount, while I don’t. I’ve known another Slovak who learned German to fluency at age 19 just from watching German TV…

    I’ve never met bulbul, but I expect he sounds realistically American, too? I don’t. I never had a consistent model for pronunciation. In school we were exposed to a variety of accents but not taught anything about them; I think even the teacher’s RP or near-RP accent wasn’t completely consistent. The native speakers I meet nowadays, sometimes weekly, have very different accents from each other because they’re from all over the world. As a result, I use an uneasy cross-section through near-RP accents and still don’t glottalize enough for that, even though I’ve consciously made several other improvements in the last 19 years. In short, I don’t sound like any particular native speaker.

    I suspect they’re up to date in French too.

    Vachement, quoi.* 🙂 I, for one, do have a smaller vocabulary in French than in English and stumble over finer points of grammar; but I’ve spent enough time in French-speaking environments to have a much more realistic accent.

    * ~ “Like, totally.”

  10. Stu Clayton says:

    I do not find the internet to be full of any such thing. As a counter-example, IT people for the most part are hardly able to make themselves intelligible in any language, whether natural (their own or not their own) or unnatural. Their slogan, not surprisingly, is: the code speaks for itself. They don’t speak much, and it shows when they do.

    We now have all the clues together. IF it is Should it be true that the internet is full of non-native LINGUISTS who write English as well as etc, then it’s likely due to their paying attention to language details and jawing a lot. It’s their business to put on a good word show. The keyboarder for a band plays keyboards as well or better than I do, because he does it all the time to earn money, whereas I do it only for fun in the privacy of my own home.

  11. Yvy tyvy says:

    IF it is true that the internet is full of non-native LINGUISTS who write English etc,

    Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of random non-linguist and non-native English speakers on Reddit or IRC channels.

  12. Stu Clayton says:

    There you’ve got me. I don’t use Reddit, nor do I know exactly what it is. IRC is to me unknown. The first hit I find by searching “IRC” is a thread titled: “Why IRC is almost dead?” [For extra credit: find *two* unvernacularnesses in the preceeding, and *three* in the entire comment]

  13. Stu Clayton says:

    My experience is drawn from random hits, and from stackexchange – where, to be honest, the unintelligibility seems to be due not to inadequate language skills, but to the contributors being vachement confused in der Birne.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of random non-linguist and non-native English speakers on Reddit or IRC channels.

    Replace “jaw” by “finger”…

    And put that on the base of good teaching. Teaching English to native speakers of German has progressed to the point that all the difficult areas have been identified and can be hammered on for years. It took me two years to grasp such things as the adjective-adverb distinction or the tenses; I got those two years of intense practice.

  15. Is “Aramaic” an ethnonym? Wouldn’t it be “Aramean”?

    Whoops, guilty as charged. Shows you I think more about languages than ethnic groups.

  16. Stu Clayton says:

    It took me two years to grasp such things as the adjective-adverb distinction or the tenses

    The tenses, ok. But adj-adv ? I guess I see what you mean, though. Actually German grammatical structure never caused me much grief – apart from a few to-this-day-lasting uncertainties as to strong/weak plural declination sequences (after einige, welche usw). There remained only the little matters of “gender” and vocab.

    Unfortunately, the languages I speak and read are all-same potato in principle. Mashed, fried, paratactic or hypotactic … Nothing like Chinese or Kusaal.

  17. It’s clearly time you took up Kusaal. I’m sure DE’s fees are reasonable.

  18. Stu Clayton says:

    The Welsh illuminati connection would be useful too. But it might be more politic to start with Welsh. pa ffordd i Lundain, syr?

  19. David Marjanović says:

    But adj-adv ? I guess I see what you mean, though.

    is good
    well done
    does well
    is great
    greatly reduced
    is doing great
    smells good
    (smells well would, if anything, mean “has a good sense of smell”)

    That’s as different from German as the Chinese approaches to “and” or “is” or “the one who”. As it happens, German (except Highest Alemannic) is the big outlier in Europe on how it organizes adj & adv.

  20. Stu Clayton says:

    Then I have no idea why I took to German so easily. Maybe I was channeling Germaine Necker.

    I’m not suggesting that a little flame of pre-fab fluency appeared above my head. I merely didn’t think about it that much. I just got up at 4 every morning to milk those Kühe.

  21. Owlmirror says:

    Wicipedia says that “Illuminati” is “Goleuedigion”.

  22. Whoa, what language is the name Čéplö?
    There was a terrible typewrite accident at the public registry office just after I was born. We don’t speak of it.

  23. Y,
    Amazingly, Nöldeke (1904) is still the best grammar of this important language.
    That is very true. And it speaks volumes about the state of Syriac scholarship that it is not a very good grammar even from the point of view of its times. Compare it to, say, Brockelmann’s grammar of Arabic, you’ll see what I mean.

  24. David,

    I’ve never met bulbul, but I expect he sounds realistically American, too?
    That is what people keep telling me. Or, to quote a young English lady I once met:
    “You sound American, you look American and you are an arrogant arsehole, so please forgive my confusion.”

  25. Owlmirror,
    Would it be possible for bulbul to comment on the use of “yarora” and “bat yarora” in the Peshitta of Micah 1:8, or “na’amah” for ostrich in the Peshitta Leviticus 11:16?
    I have a few ideas, but I will soon be in company of experts, so I will consult with them and get back to you ASAP.

  26. Only on LH can you get questions of Syriac usage answered by an international symposium of experts!

  27. Bulbul, I took a look at Duval’s 1881 Traité de grammaire syriaque. He has a long section on prepositions. How well does it cover your recent catch? How does Duval compare to Nöldeke?

  28. John Cowan says:

    The ethnic use of the terms Aramean, Syriac, Chald(a)ean (to say nothing of Phoenician and Christian Arab) is very contentious in the various communities: see WP’s “Terms for Syriac Christians” article.

    What Americans look like.

    bulbul: Where’s that Eszterhazy review?

  29. ə de vivre says:

    Could you say more about the word-class headaches you encountered, bulbul? It seems like all Syriac grammars distinguish between the usual word classes of noun, adjective, verb, etc. – i.e., not any less rigorous than most philologically informed grammars.

    I get the impression that, while NENA languages are sexy to people in linguistics departments, the study of Syriac grammar is mostly done in Biblical studies or theology departments. Is that a factor in the quality of grammatical writing on Syriac?

  30. David Eddyshaw says:

    Wicipedia says that “Illuminati” is “Goleuedigion”

    That’s ffnord what we want you to think.

  31. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stu:

    Why would you even want to go there, when you could be going to Splott?

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    it is not a very good grammar even from the point of view of its times

    The English translation of Nöldeke’s Syriac grammar by Crichton is surprisingly poor, too.

  33. Stu Clayton says:

    But Y Sblot is Chapel country, it seems ! I thought we were talking rosy crosses ? In that movie with Forest Gump there were lots of secret entrances in Lundain.

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ah. You need the online correspondence course for that.

    We move with the times. Secret world domination is a rapidly evolving and challenging field.

  35. Stu Clayton says:

    Subtle clues ! I had expected “Secret world domination is rapidly evolving and challenging field”, but the added “a” changes everything. Kusaal also has an extra “a”.

    But these overweening attempts at understanding have not increased my worthiness, I fear. I find myself back in the Pißpott of hypotaxis where I started.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    You noticed that … you may have potential. Ha’at knows how to communicate with me securely, without the interference of Akismet, the Enemy.

    The membership fee is not unreasonable, given the prize at stake. And I am prepared to include the Kusaaal introductory course as a free gift.

  37. Stu Clayton says:

    I have encoded a -> grim <- addition to my last comment.

  38. Klaatu approves.

  39. Father Jape says:

    Huh, I don’t know why but for some reason I thought Stu Clayton’s L1 was German.

  40. No, Stu’s a Texan born and bred.

  41. Stu Clayton says:

    German is the only subject I can hold my ground on here. Nobody wants to know about Luhmann or my cattle.

  42. Stu is all cattle and no hat.

  43. Stu Clayton says:

    <* blushes prettily *> I’m assuming you don’t mean bull.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    I just got up at 4 every morning to milk those Kühe.

    Eine Kuh macht muh
    viele Kühe machen Mühe!

  45. Y
    Duval’s 1881 Traité de grammaire syriaque.
    Oh yes, that one is much better in this regard, thpugh he still missed a few.

    ə de vivre,
    1. The question of how to divide the lexicon based on morphosyntactic criteria is complex AF; suffice it to say that when it comes to Syriac, the impression I get is that the classification of parts of speech is an afterthought, done just because it is done, without considering the syntactic properties.
    2. You are quite right, NENA is sexy as hell to everyone, by its own right as well as because of the cultural and historical aspects. kthobonoyo (written classical Syriac) then kinda gets ignore in terms of linguistic analysis.

  46. ə de vivre says:

    Re. word classes. Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply that establishing word classes in Syriac was simple or already settled, the situation just didn’t strike me as any worse than in other classical/dead languages. Like, if you wanted to work on word classes in Coptic or Ge’ez, would the state of the art be any more sophisticated?

    Any areas where coming up with tests for Syriac word classes turns up bizarre or counter-intuitive results?

    I kinda love Syriac as a language, but I’ve been disappointed trying to find discussions of the coolest parts of the grammar.

  47. Speaking of cows and mooing…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=regVOpVH43Q

  48. And put that on the base of good teaching

    With all due respect to many fine English teachers in Austria, Germany, and elsewhere, I suspect the number of proficient non-natives on the Internet has a lot more to do with ubiquity of English popular culture and the very strong economic and social incentives for learning English.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    Of course all that helps. Normal people (i.e. not me) sing along to English song lyrics long before they understand them.

    Speaking of cows and mooing…

    Awesome!!!

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    Like, if you wanted to work on word classes in Coptic or Ge’ez, would the state of the art be any more sophisticated?

    Bentley Layton’s Coptic grammar certainly presents an appearance of considerable sophistication in this regard (along with what seems to me to be some gratuitously opaque terminology.)

    Egyptian grammar description has always been heavily into fairly abstruse syntactic issues, though in a somewhat idiosyncratic way. Whatever one thinks of the results, it can’t be described as unsophisticated.

  51. January First-of-May says:

    Normal people (i.e. not me) sing along to English song lyrics long before they understand them.

    Not me either… kind of. (And it’s possible that I did but no longer remember it.)

    I wasn’t particularly well exposed (that I know of) to English songs as a child or teenager (and in many of the cases that did show up, the exposure included the lyrics – in fact, probably more often only the lyrics), and I was (comparatively) fairly good at English since… basically as far back as I can remember – and significantly better after 2010 or so (I’m still not quite sure why).

    On the other hand, my competence in English falters significantly (…is that the correct word?) when presented with speech, especially rapid speech, which, yes, includes songs. So when I encounter a new-to-me English song, I prefer to look up the lyrics, either in advance or (preferably) to read along.

    In the now-uncommon cases where this is not an option (essentially, when I encounter an English song in places other than the internet), I can end up with ridiculous mishearings. In the time when I was born, lived the man who sold the sea…

     
    Meanwhile, my brother’s case is funnier – he’s happily singing along to songs in seemingly dozens of languages* (even more so than I do**), many of which he doesn’t understand at all, but when it comes to English, he usually understands what’s going on – and when he doesn’t, I’m happy to explain.

    So more often than not, if he’s singing along in English, he usually knows what it means. (And lately he also discovered the usefulness of online lyrics, which seriously helps with, for example, Sabaton.) But he’s more into anthems, anyway.

    *) just offhand: Russian (duh), English, German, Polish, Slovak, Serbian, Hebrew, Arabic, Nepali, and Finnish. I think there are several others that I can’t recall offhand. Most of those are national anthems, though at least the Russian, English, German, and Finnish songs aren’t.
    **) again, offhand: Russian (duh), Ukrainian, English, French (several varieties), Polish (only the anthem), Czech, Hebrew, Finnish, and Japanese. Again, probably several others. Admittedly, a few of those are snippets only a few lines long, and some are songs I hadn’t tried in a while.

  52. AJP Crown says:

    Both moos are convincing. The language the man is speaking, what is it?

  53. along with what seems to me to be some gratuitously opaque terminology

    This is one of my pet peeves. I realize there is a cast of mind which cannot be satisfied with normal terminology that does not exactly (to their mind) suit the facts they’re trying to describe, and which is not concerned with the burden on the reader of having to absorb an entirely new set of terms, but that cast of mind is not mine, and I always want to kick those people.

  54. SFReader says:

    January First-of-May:

    I am willing to bet the Arabic anthem is Palestinian – no Russian can resist its lyrics…

  55. January First-of-May says:

    I am willing to bet the Arabic anthem is Palestinian – no Russian can resist its lyrics…

    No – in fact it is Saudi Arabian. I don’t think he has discovered the Palestinian anthem yet.

  56. Meanwhile, I looked up the Palestinian national anthem and now I can’t get it out of my head. (That Wikipedia page has the lyrics and an “Audio sample” which plays the whole thing, with words.)

  57. AJP Crown says:

    Opening wiki-sentence:

    The Palestinian national anthem is the national anthem of Palestine.

  58. I was going to say “You can’t argue with that,” but of course you can. You can argue with anything. (See: Internet.)

  59. SFReader says:

    The opening line of the Palestinian national anthem which makes every Russian go crazy is

    Bilādī bilādī
    Bilādī yā arḍī yā arḍ al-judūd

  60. Alas, it’s now:

    Fidā’ī fidā’ī
    Fidā’ī yā ardī yā arḍ al-judūd

  61. SFReader says:

    Ah, figures.

    Plenty of Palestinians do know Russian, so that’s probably why they changed it.

  62. SFReader says:

    For those who are wondering. Biladi (my country) sounds very similar to the plural of one of the most common Russian cuss words.

    https://www.dictionary.com/e/translations/cyka-blyat/

  63. Probably. (For those following along at home, blyad’ ‘whore’ is one of the most common Russian curse words.)

  64. Heh. Simultaneous epithet-explication!

  65. The Palestinian national anthem, which is Palestine’s, is the national anthem of Palestine.

    I think that would make it a little less ambiguous.

  66. AJP Crown says:

    It’s no accident that the Palestinian national anthem is the national anthem of Palestine.

  67. Wikipedia, edited by Anne Elk.

  68. Owlmirror says:

    You can argue with anything.

    No, you can’t.

    (. . . that’s just contradiction!)

  69. January First-of-May says:

    For those who are wondering. Biladi (my country) sounds very similar to the plural of one of the most common Russian cuss words.

    Thus the infamous Mokhnatye blyadi (the link goes to a version with the actual translation – the “misheard lyrics” version is far more common).

    For the record, “mokhnatye” is the plural form of the adjective meaning “fuzzy”, so the result is “fuzzy whores”.
    And no, it doesn’t make very much sense in Russian either, but it still sounds funny.

  70. I can’t hear that chorus as anything but “бляди, бляди, бляди”!

  71. SFReader says:

    And no, it doesn’t make very much sense in Russian either, but it still sounds funny.

    it makes perfect sense, if you substitute “fuzzy” with “unshaved” or “hairy”

  72. David Eddyshaw says:

    I once knew (slightly) a Peter Mokhnaty, who was of Ukrainian origin if I remember right. Am I to understand that he was in fact Peter Fuzzy? I wish I’d known …

  73. Or Peter Shaggy or Peter Hairy.

  74. AJP Crown says:

    The Englishspeakers have 137 words for hirsute.

  75. The Englishspeaker is an hairy man.

  76. Bathrobe says:

    Damn! I don’t know Greek, don’t know Arabic, and my computer gives me blocks for Aramaic. But the project looks absolutely amazing.

    There would have been huge issues of terminology here — how to decide on Aramaic terms to render the Greek, and then Arabic for the Aramaic (I assume the second step would have been easier than the first) — and the crosslinguistic aspects are mindblowing.

    The sentence-by-sentence nature of the translation is interesting. I assume there was a lot of literal fidelity and not much ‘dynamic equivalence’. How intelligible would such texts have been to Aramaic and Arabic speakers of the time? Did these works have an esoteric aspect that meant they were mainly consumed by the initiated rather than the ‘layman’ (if such a term is justified)?

    And finally, who came up with the software that made this possible? I cannot begin to express my amazement and admiration for the people who did all this work. Make no mistake, those cool effects are the result of a LOT of grinding work.

  77. David Marjanović says:

    (. . . that’s just contradiction!)

    No, i tisn’t!

    No, i tisn’t!!

    Mokhnatye blyadi

    Most delightful.

  78. John Cowan says:

    “Behold, my brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man.”

    The Jargon File s.v. hairy.

  79. The starting point for an inane sermon from Beyond the Fringe. (What accent is that?)

  80. Stu Clayton says:

    The Jargon File s.v. hairy

    # There is a theorem in simplicial homology theory which states that any continuous tangent field on a 2-sphere is null at least in a point #

    Simplicial homology per se knows nothing of tangent fields. The author can just say “algebraic topology”. But if one insists on hair-raising exposition, might as well make that “non-null up to a point”.

  81. John Cowan says:

    The only thing I know about algebraic topology is that Chomsky implied that in a parallel universe he might have been one.

  82. Stu Clayton says:

    The grass is always greener in a parallel universe. He clearly has had second thoughts about himself.

  83. Colorlessly greener.

  84. I have completely unsuppored believe that talent for language is on par with talent for math or music. You can educate almost anybody to a reasonable level with good pedagogy and a willing subject, but there is a ceiling and the path to this reasonable level will be harder for some than the others.

  85. @D.O.: I don’t think talent for mathematics or music have much in common. Math is a purely mental activity, while music (performance, not necessarily composition) requires physical coordination. I would suspect that talent for languages is probably more similar to mathematical talent than either has to musical performance ability.

    The physical aspect of musical skill was what limited my own musical progress. I developed an excellent musical ear (although apparently not a typical one, as I did not hear interference patterns in the way that they are normally described as sounding), and I could have made a career as a replacement-level classical musician. However, my slow reaction times placed a pretty hard upper limit on my ability; I was never going to play at a virtuoso level (even on the viola).

    This is definitely in contrast to what I experienced with mathematics, where with sufficient effort I could master essentially any topic. In some areas (like commutative algebra, and the related algebraic topology), I never really got good intuitions for how things were operating, but that was more a product of my lack of any intense particular interest in those subject areas.

  86. John Cowan says:

    I think the results, shaky as they are, are that musical training is correlated with mathematical ability. Of course, that may be explained by common underlying factors rather than any sort of causality either way. It’s been noted that musical training is about improvement rather than teaching ab initio: when kids in school are being taught to sing, they are lined up and told “Sing!” Those who sing can be helped; those who don’t seem to be beyond our reach.

  87. Stu Clayton says:

    Brett: In some areas (like commutative algebra, and the related algebraic topology), I never really got good intuitions for how things were operating

    That’s great, I’m going to use it as a template for high-class self-congratulation (although you didn’t mean it that way). It’s like saying “I never got the hang of steel spoons”, with the implication “mine was silver from the start”.

    In basic growing-up mathematics, everything is commutative. Non-commutative algebras are miles away up the Great Chain of Grokking. They might as well be inaccessible cardinals, for me they don’t compute. Of course I understand that they are important, but for Pete’s sake !!

    The closest encounter I had was with the non-commutativity of ordinal arithmetic. That’s cute, but cardinal arithmetic is more satisfying. Already-present intuition can be trained if you keep to your gym practice, the other kinds of tuition are just too expensive.

  88. Stu Clayton says:

    Although I have to admit that working at home is non-commutertive, and yet very easy. It also reduces greenhouse emissions.

  89. Brett, obviously in both of the mentioned activities you are in a very high percentile. I was thinking more about relatively normal people. And didn’t mean performative part of music as well, just like I didn’t have in mind specific requirements for professional mathematicians.

  90. @D.O.: My musical abilities were actually at a very normal level, it always seemed. One of my teachers claimed that the evidence showed that just about anybody could reach the professional level if they practiced four hours each day for just six months or a year. I could have done this, but I would have made a middling professional musician, and it was not my primarily interest. It did pain me, however, to see some friends who had only marginally more talent than myself, but who really, really wanted to be professional musicians. Thinking about this, I was just now moved to check up on the career of one such friend, who I find is now playing somewhere in the middle of the Bad Reichenhaller Philharmonic.

  91. Stu Clayton says:

    Flute or second violin ? Or casual condescension ?

  92. Poor chap couldn’t make the Good Reichenhaller Philharmonic.

  93. Everyone is obviously entitled to set their own goals and measure one’s success against whatever group they want, but there are plenty of people (of non-tonal language speaking variety) out there who have trouble carrying even a simple tune and who cannot tell which of the two played notes is higher. Both of those conditions can be remedied, but the need of remediation is exactly my point.

    Bad Reichenhaller Philharmonic

    This has a whiff of ein Berliner. The town is Bad Reichenhall and Bad Reichenhaller, Wikipedia informs me, is some salt-related brand name.

  94. John Cowan says:

    Well, the official name of the organization is “Bad Reichenhaller Philharmoniker” according to their web page.

  95. David L says:

    …who have trouble carrying even a simple tune and who cannot tell which of the two played notes is higher. Both of those conditions can be remedied…

    Is that true? Having perfect pitch seems to be an innate condition and I always thought the opposite condition, tin ear, was part of a person’s physiology, like color blindness.

  96. Trond Engen says:

    Having perfect pitch seems to be an innate condition and I always thought the opposite condition, tin ear, was part of a person’s physiology, like color blindness.

    When I was in elementary school and playing the flute was part of the music lessons, I remember being able to identify notes by mentally comparing them to the dialling tone. But I’ve never been a good singer. My wife says that I can sing tolerably for a few notes and then I fall out of key and grab onto another if it suits me.

  97. There is some kind of qualitative difference between what we think of as “perfect pitch” and the “pitch memory” that you can teach, although I think that, in practice, it does not matter much which one a working musician has. I can’t describe what differentiates them though, because, as I have said, my musical perception is not normal. I would also hesitate to say that perfect pitch is “innate,” since that suggests “inborn.” There are lots of psychological traits that are probably malleable in infancy and early childhood, but become almost immutable later on. By the time you care whether you have perfect pitch or not, it may be too late to change things, but that does not mean that you either possessed it or not from birth.

  98. David L says:

    There’s some evidence for perfect pitch being innate — but as you say it’s hard to separate out other factors, such as being raised in a musical family or not.

  99. Bathrobe says:

    It also reduces greenhouse emissions.

    Despite warnings over the energy demands of the Internet?

  100. Lars (the original one) says:

    I’m sure that Stu does his bitcoin mining on a 24/7 basis regardless of his actual location.

    And in practice, using a VPN adds very little to the energy spent on computing resources to support an office worker for a day, much less than transporting said worker between home and office consumes.

  101. John Cowan says:

    Speaking a tonal language is also correlated (poorly) with perfect pitch.

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