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Posted by languagehat

We talked about Sibe (under the alias Xibe) just last year, but this post by Ying Ding and Alan McLean is worth linking to because along with its basic introduction — “The Sibe (锡伯族; Xibozu) are one of China’s officially recognized ethnic minorities, with a populace of nearly 200,000. The Sibe are considered a Tungusic-speaking people, and in essence, the present-day Sibe language is nearly identical to Manchurian, which uses the adapted Mongolian script for writing” — it has samples of the writing, and (what really got me to post) audio samples of the language: four clips, beginning with Geren gucuse, baitakv na? Hosh (i)lahe na? Bi evad gerenofid emudan elhe sian fiansikie [“Hi, everyone, how are you? Greetings from me”]. I love being able to hear snippets of little-known languages. Thanks, Trevor!

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Posted by Victor Mair

Adrian S. Thieret found this sign inside his brand new apartment complex in Shanghai a few days ago:

It reads:

xǐyī fáng zhèngzài zhuāngshì zhōng -ing…… 洗衣房正在装饰中ing……
("the laundry room is being decorated")
jìngqǐng qídài 敬请期待
("coming soon", lit., "respectfully please wait expectantly")

The excess of markers of the present progressive / continuous aspect in the first line is almost mind-boggling.

In Mandarin, you can indicate the present continuous with zài 在, zhèng 正, or zhèngzài 正在 before the verb.  The zhōng 中 ("in [process / midst of]") after the verb is optional.  The final particle ne 呢 can also be used to show that the action of the verb is ongoing.  In certain situations (e.g., doing one thing while something else is being done), you can also tack on the suffix -zhe 着.

The sentence in the first line of the sign already has three indications of the present continuous, and other resources for emphasizing progressive action in Chinese are available, yet the person(s) who wrote this sign chose to add the English verbal ending "-ing" as well.

Melvin Lee comments on the fondness for the English verb ending -ing in current Chinese:

This usage is actually not uncommon among the young generation in China/Taiwan now. My friends and I tend to use qídàiing 期待ing when we want to say "looking forward to it," particularly in emails or text messages. In this picture, it is interesting because 正在…中 has already served the function of Verb-ing. Therefore, the "ing" here looks a little bit redundant. Still, this kind of mixture of Chinese and English has become so common now, which is surely very interesting.

A few relevant posts:

[Thanks to Maiheng Dietrich and Yixue Yang]

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Posted by Andrews & Arnold

Multiple vulnerabilities have been reported in dnsmasq, the service on the ZyXEL routers which provides a DNSresolver, DHCP functions and router advertisement for IPv6.
A list of these can be found here.

The scope of these is relatively broad, and most attack vectors are local. causing the router to fail DNS/DHCP/RA if exploited (DoS condition), one additional vector includes execution of arbitrary code.
As dnsmasq is tightly integrated into the router, it can't just be turned off, however as a workaround you can change the DNS servers the routers serves in it's DHCP server to minimise potential impact from a local attacker should they perform a DNS request in a way which exploits the DoS conditions. This can be performed by going to the Router Settings page on your control pages, and entering our nameservers and into the IPv4 DNS fields, clicking save, then clicking on the DHCP button at the bottom (for B10Ds only) or clicking on Send ZyXEL configuration (B10As or B10Ds, will wipe existing settings on the router)

An official patch from ZyXEL is estimated to be provided during December 2017 for the VMG1312-B10D routers (Firmware V5.13(AAXA.7)), and January 2018 for the the VMG1312-B10A routers.
An update will be made to this post once firmware updates have been released.

"Let's" in Chinese

Oct. 20th, 2017 04:08 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

Advertisement recently spotted by Guy Freeman in the Central, Hong Kong MTR (subway) station:

It's a mixture of Chinese and English, of simplified and traditional characters.  In this post, I will focus on the calligraphically written slogan on the right side of the poster:

Hǎinèi cún 'zhī'jǐ, let's zhīfùbǎo


This slogan is not easy to translate.  Consequently, before attempting to do so, I will explain some of the more elusive aspects of these two clauses / lines.

First of all, the zhī 支 inside single Chinese quotation marks in the first clause has more than two dozen different meanings, including "support, sustain, raise, bear, put up, prop up, draw money, pay, pay money, disburse, check / cheque, defray, protrude, put off, put somebody off, send away, branch, stick, offshoot, twelve earthly branches, a surname, division, subdivision, auxiliary verb, measure word for troops".  For the moment, I'll refrain from attempting to translate it in the present context.

In the second clause, zhī 支 is part of the disyllabic word zhīfù 支付 ("pay [money]; defray"), which, in turn, is part of the trademark Zhīfùbǎo 支付宝 ("Alipay", China's clone of PayPal).  Being the name of a company, Zhīfùbǎo 支付宝 ("Alipay") is a noun.  However, since it here follows "let's" to form a first person plural command, it is acting as a verb:  "let's Zhīfùbǎo 支付宝" ("let's Alipay").

When we realize that the first clause is a literary allusion, it gets even trickier.  The first clause is perfectly homophonous with and echoes the first line of this couplet by the Tang poet, Wang Bo 王勃 (650-676):

hǎinèi cún zhījǐ, tiānyá ruò bǐlín

海内存知己, 天涯若比邻

"When you have a close friend in the world, the far ends of heaven are like next door."

Thus 'zhī'jǐ「支」己 (lit., "pay self") is a pun for zhījǐ 知己 ("bosom / close / intimate friend; confidant[e]; soulmate", lit., "know-self").

I would translate the whole couplet this way:

"You have a bosom friend (pay pal) everywhere, let's Alipay"

Guy notes that the ad "is from Alipay, a subsidiary of Alibaba, a very large Internet company from China. This shows the occasional outbursts from Chinese officials about defeating English to be useless at best."

Last question:  why did they use the English word "let's" instead of the equivalent Mandarin, "ràng wǒmen 让我们" or "ràng wǒmen yīqǐ 让我们一起"?  But that's three or five syllables instead of one, so it sounds clumsy and clunky instead of neat and crisp the way an ad should be.

If they wanted to avoid the English "let's" and use only Chinese, they could have written something like this:

yīqǐ Zhīfùbǎo 一起支付宝 ("together Alipay")

To tell the truth, in terms of rhythm, idiomaticity, and catchiness, that actually sounds better than "let's Zhīfùbǎo 支付宝 ('let's Alipay')" when paired with "Hǎinèi cún 'zhī'jǐ 海内存「支」己" ("You have a bosom friend [pay pal] everywhere").

Bottom line:  they wanted to sound international, since Alipay has global aspirations.

There have been many earlier posts on multiscriptalism and multilingualism involving numerous languages and scripts.  Here are some that specifically feature Chinese:

This is not an exhaustive list.

[Thanks to Fangyi Cheng, Yixue Yang, and Jinyi Cai]

The Primordial Gound.

Oct. 20th, 2017 12:34 am
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Posted by languagehat

Yes, you read it right, that’s “gound.” Justin E. H. Smith’s unsettling… essay? … for The Public Domain Review will explain it. Eventually. It begins (after a brief bit of throat-clearing):

Benno Guerrier von Klopp (1816–1903) was a Baltic German philologist, of French Huguenot origin, who studied at the University of Saint Petersburg and made most of his career as an academician ordinarius, while also spending a good portion of his later career at Jena. Klopp is remembered principally for his contributions to the study of Baltic and Slavic linguistics, not least his 1836 dissertation on the disappearance of the neuter gender in Middle Latvian, and his groundbreaking 1868 study of the morphosyntax of the Old Church Slavonic verbal prefix, vz-.

Significantly less well known is Klopp’s work on the development of the mature philosophical system of Immanuel Kant, a fellow Baltic German who may have been more familiar with the languages and customs of that region than other scholars have detected. In fact, if Klopp is correct, Kant’s first-hand ethnolinguistic researches extend well beyond the Baltic. While Klopp’s 1873 book, Die geheime Sumatrareise Immanuel Kants, is not found in the Library of Congress, or even in the supposedly comprehensive online WorldCat, I have been able to locate a copy of it in at least one place: the library of the faculty of Baltistik at the University of Greifswald in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Don’t miss the footnotes, which include tidbits like “Yakov Brius (also known as Jacob Bruce, 1669-1735), was a Russian statesman and scientist. Like Kant, he was of Scottish ancestry. He conducted astronomical observations from the Sukharev Tower in Moscow. It was rumoured among Muscovites that Brius practiced black magic in the tower.” And hang on to your hat!

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

In the comments to "Easy versus exact" (10/14/17), a discussion of the term "Hànzi 汉子" emerged as a subtheme.  Since it quickly grew too large and complex to fit comfortably within the framework of the o.p., I decided to write this new post focusing on "Hàn 汉 / 漢" and some of the many collocations into which it enters.

To situate Language Log readers with some basic terms they likely already know, we may begin with Hànyǔ 汉语 ("Sinitic", lit., "Han language"), Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic spelling"), and Hànzì 汉字 ("Sinograph, Sinogram", i.e., "Chinese character").  All of these terms incorporate, as their initial element, the morpheme "Hàn 汉 / 漢".  Where does it come from, and what does it mean?

"Hàn 汉 / 漢" is the name of a river that has its source in the mountains of the southwest part of the province of Shaanxi.  It is the longest tributary of the Yangtze River, which it joins at the great city of Wuhan.  The fact that Han is a river name is reflected in the water semantophore on the left side of the character that is used to write it.

The name of the river was adopted by Liu Bang (256-195 BC), the founding emperor, as the designation for his dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) — more specifically, the dynasty was named after Liu Bang's fiefdom Hànzhōng 汉中 / 漢中 (lit. "middle of the Han River").  After the Qin (221-206 BC), from which the name "China" most likely derives, the Han was the second imperial dynasty in Chinese history.  Because the fame of the Han Dynasty resounded far and near, it came to be applied to the main ethnic group of China, as well as the language they spoke and the characters used to write it.  Note that there could have been no Han ethnicity or nation before the Han Dynasty.

After the Han Dynasty fell, many of the dynasties that ruled in the northern part of the former empire during the following centuries were non-Sinitic peoples (proto-Mongols, proto-Turks, etc.) who actually looked down upon their Han subjects.  During that period, in their mouths, "Hàn 汉 / 漢" became a derogatory term, especially in collocations such as Hàn'er 汉儿 and Hànzi 汉子, which we might think of as meaning something like "Han boy / fellow / guy".  Such terms derived from "Hànrén 汉人 (漢人)" ("Han people"), which generally became a respectable designation again after the collapse of the northern dynasties.  It is remarkable, however, that during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when the Mongols ruled over China, non-Sinitic peoples such as the Khitans, Koreans, and Jurchens were referred to as "Hànrén 汉人 (漢人)" ("Han people").

Here are some terms in Mandarin that are based on the Han ethnonym but refer to different types of people in various ways:

hànzi 汉子    39,300,000 ghits

1. man; fellow

2. husband

3. Historically, as mentioned above, during the Northern Dynasties (386-577), hànzi 汉子 was a derogatory reference for Sinitic persons used by non-Sinitic peoples (who were rulers in the north at that time).

nánzǐhàn 男子汉 ("a real man")    11,600,000 ghits

nǚ hànzi 女汉子 ("tough girl")    7,180,000 ghits

dà nánzǐhàn 大男子汉 ("a big guy; macho man")    53,100 ghits

Comments by native speaker informants:

In terms of nǚ hànzi 女汉子, I think your translation "tough girl" sounds good! But sometimes it conveys a slight derogation to women with traits which are conventionally attributed to men, such as strong physical strength, independent mode of life, and tough personality, etc. In this sense, I would like to say "nǚ hànzi 女汉子" might also be "a masculine woman / female".

I know all these terms and I agree with all your translations. However, I also think that nǚ hànzi 女汉子could mean "tomboy" (girls who can do things that men can do). I once saw a translation of nǚ hànzi 女汉子as wo-man. I think that’s interesting too.

I think the term nǚ hànzi 女汉子 emerged only in the last few years in the Chinese-speaking world. So it is a bit difficult for someone like me who has been living outside for the last forty years to accurately tell its exact meaning. If it applies to young women only, then "tomboy" may not be too far off.

See also:

"What does the Chinese word '女漢子' mean?" (Quara)

"Renewal of the race / nation" (6/24/17)

Joshua A. Fogel, "New Thoughts on an Old Controversy: Shina as a Toponym for China", Sino-Platonic Papers, 229 (August, 2012), 1-25 (free pdf)

Victor H. Mair, "The Classification of Sinitic Languages: What Is 'Chinese'?, in Breaking Down the Barriers:  interdisciplinary studies in Chinese linguistics and beyond (Festschrift for Alain Peyraube), pp. 735-754 (free pdf), esp. pp. 739-741.

[Thanks to Yixue Yang, Jinyi Cai, Sanping Chen, and Jing Wen]

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Posted by Mark Liberman

Rick Rubenstein has nominated this sentence (from Oliver Roeder, "The Supreme Court Is Allergic To Math", FiveThirtyEight 10/17/2017) for the prestigious Trent Reznor Prize for Tricky Embedding:

Justice Neil Gorsuch balked at the multifaceted empirical approach that the Democratic team bringing the suit is proposing be used to calculate when partisan gerrymandering has gone too far, comparing the metric to a secret recipe.

Rick notes that "This passage from 538 took me several readings".

Courtesy of treebanking expert Beatrice Santorini, here's the constituent-structure tree:

Her comment:

The Penn Treebank style would omit the function tags -SBJ for subject and -OB1 for direct object, deducing the functions from the syntactic context.  Current annotation versions may also explicitly indicate compound nouns, which the structure below doesn’t.  The subjunctive on “be” isn’t explicitly indicated.

India’s “Mother Tongues.”

Oct. 19th, 2017 12:31 am
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Posted by languagehat

There’s all sorts of interesting stuff in Parvathy Raveendran’s report for Scroll.in on a recent translation-centred literary festival in Bangalore, from what is meant by “mother tongue” to invented scripts (“as in the case of Santali in eastern India: the Ol Chiki script was invented in 1925 by Pandit Raghunath Murmu to approximate an alphabet which more adequately represented the sounds of the language than the Roman or Devanagari scripts”); I’ll quote a couple of passages that particularly intrigued me and let you discover the rest at the link. The first:

For sociologist, writer and translator Chandan Gowda, the mother tongue is not perforce linked to biological ancestry; rather, it is the language in which you find “the greatest existential ease and pleasure in encountering meaning”. Gowda spoke of the advantages of having been able to learn his native Kannada at the English medium school he went to, not least because he believes reading history, journalism and critical nonfiction in the vernacular gives one a richer sense of immediate contexts and specific pasts, and the literatures (poetry, in particular) one encounters growing up, form the core of one’s ethical and affective self.

Gowda’s formulation of the mother tongue primarily as a source of intellectual pleasure and a multi-pronged way of knowing (inclusive of aesthetic, emotional and moral sense-making) had direct bearing on the discussions that followed, around language and education.

I like that formulation: “the greatest existential ease and pleasure in encountering meaning.” And this, on Tamil:

Dalit scholar and intellectual Stalin Rajangam pointed out there is a similar encoding of the Dalit voice in “classical” Tamil literature. It is a little-known fact that Thiruvalluvar, the philosopher-poet who composed Thirukkural, the monumental Tamil treatise on ethics, was a weaver by profession and a Dalit. So were Avvaiyar, the great woman poet of the Sangam period, and Sekkizhar, the Shaiva saint-poet. Rajangam delved into a fascinating history of subaltern Tamil which goes by the poetic epithet of mozhikkullu mozhi (“language within language”).

It is a history inscribed in the age-old differentiation of spoken and literary Tamil – seri thamizh and senthamizh. The distinction is casteist, rooted in etymologies of purity and pollution: “seri” refers to the slums where Dalit communities live (another early adjective for Dalit speech, kotun, meant “bent, crooked, or twisted”), while the suffix “sen” comes from “cemmai” denoting proportion, elegance and excellence (in other words, a tongue that is straight, clean and beautiful). Rajangam recounted how this binary of the colloquial and the classical was cast in iron by colonial lexicographers in the context of the emergent print culture of Tamil Nadu in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A decisive battle in this regard was the dictionary debate between two missionaries, the Jesuit scholar Joseph Beschi and Lutheran linguist Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg, in the 1700s. With Beschi’s victory, the “High” Tamil he championed became the standard and the Dalit idiom, along with its distinctive lexemes, orthography, rhythms and aesthetic, was excluded from print. The binary persists to this day, Rajangam avers, in forms both obvious and subtle.

I also like the thought of “language within language” very much. Thanks, Trevor!

Linguistic tools for the supervillain

Oct. 18th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

In celebration of Geoff Pullum's 700th LLOG post, "World domination and threats to the public", we'll be meeting for a quiet (virtual) drink this evening. But meanwhile I'll quietly suggest that Geoff has been too hasty in joining Randall Munroe at xkcd in assigning to the field of Linguistics a "low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population".

In fact LLOG posts have described at least two fictional counter-examples  over the years, and I expect that commenters will be able to suggest some others.

There's "La septième fonction du langage" (8/24/2017), describing Laurent Binet's novel of the same name, which imagines that Roman Jakobson extended his six functions of language with a secret seventh function, designated as the “magic or incantatory function,” whose mechanism is described as “the conversion of a third person, absent or inanimate, to whom a conative message is addressed". Instructions for using this seventh function were powerful enough to ensure the election of François Mitterand, and motivated an international police operation to prevent them from falling into more dangerous hands.

And there's also "Digitoneurolinguistic hacking" (2/4/2011) in which I quoted the Wikipedia entry for Neil Stephenson's 2003 novel Snow Crash:

The book explores the controversial concept of neuro-linguistic programming and presents the Sumerian language as the firmware programming language for the brainstem, which is supposedly functioning as the BIOS for the human brain. According to characters in the book, the goddess Asherah is the personification of a linguistic virus, similar to a computer virus. The god Enki created a counter-program which he called a nam-shub that caused all of humanity to speak different languages as a protection against Asherah, supposedly giving rise to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. […]

As Stephenson describes it, one goddess/semi-historical figure, Asherah, took it upon herself to create a dangerous biolinguistic virus and infect all peoples with it; this virus was stopped by Enki, who used his skills as a "neurolinguistic hacker" to create an inoculating "nam-shub" that would protect humanity by destroying its ability to use and respond to the Sumerian tongue. This forced the creation of "acquired languages" and gave rise to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately, Asherah's meta-virus did not disappear entirely, as the "Cult of Asherah" continued to spread it by means of cult prostitutes and infected women breast feeding orphaned infants …

Since these examples belong more to the realm of fantasy than hard science fiction, I have to admit that Geoff is probably right about our field being "a safe thing to work on" — at least if you have a positive opinion of the  various modern commercial and governmental applications of computational linguistics.


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Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

Linguistics is in the most desirable quadrant according to today's xkcd: low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population.

But I'm not at all sure that everything is positioned correctly. Molasses storage should be further to the right (never forget the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919); dentistry should be moved up (remember Marathon Man); robotics in its current state is too highly ranked on both axes; and entomology, right now (October 18, 2017), in addition to being slightly too low, is spelled wrong. Lots to quibble about, I'd say. But not the standing of linguistics as a safe thing to work on.

Randall Munroe did not pick molasses as a random threat, of course; his mouseover alt text reads: "The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster."

And I think the misspelling of entomology must be another case of him toying with us; he knows people confuse etymology with the study of insects: see https://xkcd.com/1012/. I think he's just messing with our heads. As usual.

Thanks to Joan Maling and Meredith Warshaw.

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Posted by languagehat

Another of those intriguing-if-true reports, this one by Natasha Frost for Atlas Obscura:

A limestone slab, 31 yards long, may have related the story of the end of the Bronze Age. An interdisciplinary team of Swiss and Dutch archaeologists have now deciphered the symbols thought to have adorned the frieze, almost 150 years after it was discovered and summarily destroyed. In 1878, villagers in Beyköy, a tiny hamlet in western Turkey, found the large, mysterious artifact in pieces in the ground, and saw that it was engraved with seemingly illegible pictograms and scribbles. It would be 70 years before that language, now known to be millennia-old Luwian, could be read by scholars.

According to Eberhard Zangger, the president of a nonprofit foundation called Luwian Studies, the symbols tell stories of wars, invasions, and battles waged by a great prince, Muksus. Muksus hailed from the kingdom of Mira, which controlled Troy 3,200 years ago. The inscription describes his military advance all the way through the Levant to the borders of Egypt, and how his armies invaded cities and built fortresses as they went. Such invasions from the east are thought to be among the causes of the collapse of the Late Bronze Age. […]

The work has sparked concerns from scholars not involved in the research, who suggest that the frieze and, in turn, stories it is thought to have contained, could be a forgery, reports Live Science. Until records of the inscription are found outside of Mellaart’s notes, some say, it will be hard to confirm the age and authenticity of its contents. That said, an inscription that length (31 yards!) would be near-impossible to forge, say Zangger and Woudhuizen, especially given that Mellaart could neither read nor write the ancient script. In the meantime, this poorly understood corner of ancient history is finally getting a moment in the sun.

Anybody know anything about this?

"Artist=President Barack Obama"

Oct. 17th, 2017 04:00 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Alex Jones, contact LLOG immediately! Never mind Pizzagate, never mind Sandy Hook, never mind the FEMA concentration camps, never mind the fake moon landings. This morning I stumbled on evidence, lying around in plain sight, for a systematic program of deception so huge — and yet so improbable — that even InfoWars listeners will find it hard to believe: Donald Trump is actually Barack Obama in disguise.

For years, I've been collecting and analyzing the weekly addresses of various American presidents — see e.g. "Political sound and silence", 2/8/2016; "Some speech style dimensions", 6/27/2016; "Trends in presidential pitch", 5/19/2017; "Trends in presidential pitch II", 6/21/2017.

Today I was catching up with Donald Trump's weekly addresses, downloading the .mp3 files from whitehouse.gov. The most recent weekly address is available at


with the mp3 download link


After downloading the mp3 file, in order to check its characteristics, I ran soxi. I've done this before, but in the past I just looked at the things I cared about, namely the sampling frequency and number of channels. But this time, I happened to look at the ID3 metadata fields as well:

Input File : '20171013_Weekly_Address.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:03:26.17 = 3298752 samples ~ 15462.9 CDDA sectors
File Size : 3.45M
Bit Rate : 134k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=Weekly Address
Artist=President Barack Obama
Album=The White House

I wondered whether this was a one-time glitch, so I checked the history. The first of President "Trump"'s weekly addresses is available at


with the mp3 download link


And the metadata is the same:

Input File : '20170203_Weekly_Address.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:04:20.24 = 4163904 samples ~ 19518.3 CDDA sectors
File Size : 4.27M
Bit Rate : 131k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=Weekly Address
Artist=President Barack Obama
Album=The White House

In fact this is consistent in all of the Weekly Addresses from Donald Trump's White House.

It's not an issue in all mp3 encodings from the White House — thus Melania Trump's 10/17/2017 "Hurricane Relief PSA" is attributed to "Artist=The White House", even if the year is still given as 2016:

Input File : '20171011_FLOTUS_DTC.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:00:31.50 = 504000 samples ~ 2362.5 CDDA sectors
File Size : 696k
Bit Rate : 177k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Artist=The White House
Album=The White House

And the same is true for the president's joint news conference with PM Theresa May back in January:

Input File : '20170127_POTUS_and_PM_May_JPA.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:18:19.20 = 17587168 samples ~ 82439.9 CDDA sectors
File Size : 17.8M
Bit Rate : 130k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=POTUS and PM May JPA
Artist=The White House
Album=The White House

It's just the weekly addresses that are attributed to "President Barack Obama"

By the way, you may be as disappointed as I was to learn that the "Genre=12" just means "Other" — I was hoping for maybe "[23] => Pranks" or "[58] => Cult" or "[136] => Christian Gangsta".

Jokes aside, what this means is presumably that the Trump White House inherited a recording and web-distribution set-up from the Obama White House, and neglected to change the ID3 metadata information for various categories of material.


Invitational spam from a junk journal

Oct. 17th, 2017 03:04 pm
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Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

I continue to be astonished by the sheer volume of the junk email I get from spam journals and organizers of spamferences, and by the utter linguistic ineptitude of the unprincipled hucksters responsible for the spam. Every month I get dozens of new-journal announcements, calls for papers, requests for conference attendance, subscription offers, and so on. Today I got a prestige invitation based flatteringly on my published work. It began thus:

After careful evaluation and reading your article published in Journal of Logic, Language and Information entitled "On the Mathematical Foundations of", we decided to send you this invitation.

Clearly the careful evaluation and reading did not enable them to get to the end of my title (it does not end in of). And what was the invitation?

In light of your remarkable achievements in Critical Care, we would like to invite you to join the Editorial Board of Journal of Nursing.

Nursing. I'm an expert in critical care nursing, apparently. If the email were not so clearly machine-generated, I could almost have seen it as a cruel allusion to my year of looking after my wife Tricia before she died last year. But no, it's not that. They claim to have ascertained my distinction in critical care from their careful reading of a paper of which the full title is "On the mathematical foundations of Syntactic Structures." It's a technical examination of the formalism of Noam Chomsky's first book on syntactic theory (Journal of Logic, Language and Information 20: 277-296, 2011).

Almost all of the hundreds and hundreds of new rip-off journals who send me this sort of spam are based in China. This one "is supported and partially financed by the hosting organization, Beijing Spring City Educational Publications Research Center."

The support of this research center has allowed the publishers "to reduce the OA article publishing charges from $800 to $150 (additional $50 applied if print version is required)." So if you want to see your article about nursing in print, you send them $200. And I suspect that when choosing whether to publish your paper they will exercise all the care they showed in reading my syntax paper and confirming my credentials in critical care.

There are many things to worry about in connection with the birth of flocks of spam journals, scores at a time: confusion for students, pollution of the scientific literature, degrading of the concept of a refereed journal, publication of ill-reviewed junk science, and (if even a few libraries occasionally take out misguided subscriptions to these crap journals) waste of library budgets.

Gross syntactic errors in promotional material provide an almost infallible indicator of spamhood in a journal. Not many journals send unsolicited email to advertise themselves, but the few promotional emails I occasionally get from proper journals are always at least literate. Whereas this one says:

Our journal, Journal of Nursing, is a new journal which urgently needs professional like you to join our editorial board and help and support the journal to a healthy grow.

I hope none of you professional will support it to a healthy grow. You don't need to be much of a sleu to know they are not telling the tru; their journal is not wor one twelf of the paper that it costs an extra $50 to be printed on.

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Bilibili (bīlībīlī 哔哩哔哩; B zhàn B站 ("B site / station") "is a video sharing website themed around anime, manga, and game fandom based in China, where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos" (Wikpedia).  When you register for this site, you're supposed to declare whether you're M(ale) or F(emale), in which case your posts will be referred to respectively as "tā de 他的" ("his") and "tā de 她的" ("hers").  If you do not specify your gender, your posts will be referred to as "ta的" or "TA的", i.e., neither M(ale) (tā de 他的) nor F(emale) (tā de 她的).

Here's a screenshot of a friend's bilibili page showing this usage:

Cf. also:

What seems to have happened over the long haul during the last century has been first a gendering of the third person pronoun, then a degendering, then a regendering accompanied by another degendering….  It's enough to make your head spin.  But all of that is in the written language: 他她它 ("he, she, it"), etc.  In the spoken language, they remain constant: tā.

[Thanks to Alex Wang]

Richard Wilbur, RIP.

Oct. 16th, 2017 01:02 pm
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

The man whom I called “perhaps my favorite living poet” is, alas, no longer living. Richard Wilbur is dead at 96. I refer you to that fine NY Times obituary by Daniel Lewis for details of his life and career (as well as some poetry); I’ll quote a couple of poems here (for more, see the first link as well as this post from 2008). First, “Praise In Summer,” from his first book, The Beautiful Changes (1947):

Obscurely yet most surely called to praise,
As sometimes summer calls us all, I said
The hills are heavens full of branching ways
Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;
I said the trees are mines in air, I said
See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!
And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savour’s in this wrenching things awry.
Does sense so stale that it must needs derange
The world to know it? To a praiseful eye
Should it not be enough of fresh and strange
That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay,
And sparrows sweep the ceiling of our day?

Wilbur took his own suggestion and spent his life playing a tune upon the blue guitar of things exactly as they are. And here is the last stanza of “Mayflies,” from his 2000 collection of the same name (you can read the whole thing, and hear him reading it, here):

Watching those lifelong dancers of a day
As night closed in, I felt myself alone
        In a life too much my own,
More mortal in my separateness than they —
Unless, I thought, I had been called to be
        Not fly or star
But one whose task is joyfully to see
How fair the fiats of the caller are.


Oct. 16th, 2017 12:51 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Does Spanish paramilitar have a different meaning than English paramilitary, or at least stronger negative connotations? This question has recently become the focus of reaction to a New Yorker article by Jon Lee Anderson, "The increasingly tense standoff over Catalonia's independence referendum", 10/4/2017.

The first paragraph of Anderson's article (emphasis added):

Voting rights have been under siege in the U.S. in recent years, with charges of attempted electoral interference, legislation that seeks to make access to the polls more difficult, and gerrymandering, in a case that reached the Supreme Court this week. But no citizens here or in any democracy expect that they may be attacked by the police if they try to vote. Yet that is what happened on Sunday in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where thousands of members of the Guardia Civil paramilitary force, and riot police, were deployed by the central government in Madrid to prevent the Catalans from holding an “illegal” referendum on independence from Spain.

In El País, Antonio Muñoz Molina accused Anderson of lying ("En Francoland: En Europa o América, les gusta tanto el pintoresquismo de nuestro atraso que se ofenden si les explicamos todo lo que hemos cambiado"):

Pocas cosas pueden dar más felicidad a un corresponsal extranjero en España que la oportunidad de confirmar con casi cualquier pretexto nuestro exotismo y nuestra barbarie. Hasta el reputado Jon Lee Anderson, que vive o ha vivido entre nosotros, miente a conciencia, sin ningún escrúpulo, sabiendo que miente, con perfecta deliberación, sabiendo cuál será el efecto de su mentira, cuando escribe en The New Yorker que la Guardia Civil es un cuerpo “paramilitar”.

("In Francoland: Both Europe and the US love what they see as Spain’s quaint backwardness so much that they feel insulted when we explain to them how much we have changed"):

Few things make a foreign correspondent in Spain happier than the opportunity to corroborate our exoticism and our brutality. Even the renowned Jon Lee Anderson, who lives or has lived among us, is deliberately lying, with no qualms he is aware that he is lying and aware of the effect his lies will have, when he writes in The New Yorker that the Civil Guard is a “paramilitary” force. [translation from the El País web site]

This has resulted in an energetic discussion on Twitter (Twitzkrieg?), in which Anderson's position is that many English-language sources call the Guardia Civil "a paramilitary police force" or something similar, e.g.

and that Antonio Muñoz Molina is using a meaning difference between English and Spanish in a disingenuous way, e.g.

Before looking into it, my understanding of the English word paramilitary aligned with Anderson's, namely that it means "organized along military lines", whether in reference to governmental organizations that are not part of the military, or to civilian militia-like entities. It's easy to find examples in English where paramilitary is applied to non-military governmental organizations, e.g. these examples from Google Books:

Correctional officers (C.O.s) were organized in accordance with a rigid paramilitary chain of command.

There is an obvious need to change the bureaucratic paramilitary structure of police organizations, so prevalent in the majority of police organizations around the world.

But on looking into it, I found that things are more complex. I was surprised to find that the OED's only relevant gloss would specifically NOT apply to a police organization like Spain's Guardia Civil:

Designating, of, or relating to a force or unit whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which is not regarded as having professional or legitimate status.

The OED's earliest citation is from 1935, but seems to originate in the 1934 "Reply of the United Kingdom Government" at a League of Nations "Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments". The OED citation is the first sentence of the following:

A difficult problem has been raised in regard to the so-called " paramilitary training" — i.e., the military training outside the army of men of military age. His Majesty's Government suggested that such training outside the army should be prohibited, this prohibition being checked by a system of permanent and automatic supervision, in which the supervising organisation should be guided less by a strict definition of the term " military training" than by the military knowledge and experience of its experts. They are particularly glad to be informed that the German Government have freely promised to provide proof, through the medium of control, that the S.A. and the S.S. are not of a military character, and have added that similar proof will be furnished in respect of the Labour Corps. It is essential to a settlement that any doubts and suspicions in regard to these matters should be set and kept
at rest.

The earliest use of the term in the New York Times is in a report about the same discussions —

"Simon to the Commons", 4/9/1935: (Following is the text of the account given to the House of Commons today by Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon of conversations recently held by him and Anthony Eden, Lord Privy Seal, with leading officials in Berlin, Moscow, Prague and Warsaw)

Regarding land armaments, Herr Hitler stated that Germany required thirty-six divisions, representing a maximum of 550,000 soldiers of all arms, including a division of Schutzstaffel and militarized police troops. He asserted that there were no paramilitary formations in Germany.

The next example has the same negative connotations and the same association with fascist groups — "France suspects Klan counterpart", NYT 11/17/1937:

The question or whether a French counterpart to the Ku Klux Klan really exists was again raised today through the arrest of a wealthy Lille contractor, Rene Anceaux, M. Vosselm, one of his employes, and Gerard de ia Motte-Saint Pierre on charges which remain unspecified, but are in the case of M. Anceaux plotting against the security of the State and for the others possessing weapons of war and "association with wrongdoers." […]

M. Anceaux served as an officer during the World War and was wounded. He was the president of the Lille branch of the dissolved Rightist "Paramilitary League."

The 1939 New Jersey statutes contain a law using the term in a similar way:

Any 2 or more persons who assemble as a paramilitary organization for the purpose of practicing with weapons are disorderly persons.


As used in this act, “paramilitary organization” means an organization which is not an agency of the United States Government or of the State of New Jersey, or which is not a private school […]

So in English as well as in Spanish (and French and presumably other languages), the term paramilitary and its cognates seem to have originated in the 1930s in reference to fascist groups "whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which [are] not regarded as having professional or legitimate status", as the OED put it.

At some point, the "not regarded as having professional or legitimate status" clause seems to have faded away — though perhaps without being totally lost, since the term continues to be used to refer to non-governmental as well as governmental but non-military organizations. Thus "Charlottesville Joins Suit Against Paramilitary Groups Connected to August 12", NBC News 10/12/2017:

Charlottesville is joining a suit to prevent what it calls unauthorized paramilitary groups from returning to the city.

Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed a complain Thursday, October 12, asking Charlottesville Circuit Court to, "prohibit key Unite the Right organizers and an array of participating private paramilitary groups and their commanders from coming back to Virginia to conduct illegal paramilitary activity."

And my impression is that when someone uses the word "paramilitary" in connection with police forces, their attitude is often a critical one. Thus "Paramilitary police: Cops or soldiers?", The Economist 3/20/2014, begins with the subhed "America's police have become too militarised", and notes that

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams (ie, paramilitary police units) were first formed to deal with violent civil unrest and life-threatening situations: shoot-outs, rescuing hostages, serving high-risk warrants and entering barricaded buildings, for instance. Their mission has crept. […]

Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarisation, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.

This is no doubt sexier than showing them poring over paperwork or attending a neighbourhood-watch meeting. But does it attract the right sort of recruit, or foster the right attitude among serving officers? Mr Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”).

Anyhow, there can be little question that Spain's Guardia Civil is a "paramilitary police force" in the current English-language sense of the word.

And it's not clear to me that the current Spanish usage is actually different. Thus the Real Academia's Diccionario de la lengua española defines paramilitar as

1. adj. Dicho de una organización civil: Dotada de estructura o disciplina de tipo militar.

without any stipulation of illegitimacy. And since the same dictionary defines civil in the relevant sense as "Que no es militar ni eclesiástico o religioso", and since the Guardia Civil is self-defined as "civil", it seems that paramilitar ought to apply to that organization without any untruthful intent or effect.

[h/t David Lobina]



[syndicated profile] aaisp_feed

Posted by Andrews & Arnold

Started: 2017-10-16 10:00:00

There are lots of news articles and discussions about the 'KRACK' attack vulnerability affecting WiFi client devices.

In summary, this affects WPA2 (and WPA3) (as well as being an additional insecurity with TKIP) And is actually a bug in the WiFi spec - ie the design wasn't thought out properly. So any implementation which follows the spec is vulnerable. There is more technical information about this in the links below.

From an customer of AAISP point of view, we do sell DSL routers with WiFI as well as WiFi access points but, this is a vulnerability in WiFi clients rather than the routers themselves.

Generally, the fix for this vulnerability is on the client side - ie the computer or mobile device connecting to a WiFi network, and so customers should look for software updates for their devices and operating systems. There are links below regarding devices we are involved with which contain further information.

We'll add further information to this post as we receive it.

Update 16 Oct 2017 14:04:01

For more information see: https://www.krackattacks.com/ and all the gory details are in the paper: https://papers.mathyvanhoef.com/ccs2017.pdf

WiFi device specific information:

  • ZyXELs response: http://www.zyxel.com/support/announcement_wpa2_key_management.shtml (Our DSL routers are not affected)
  • Ubiquiti have updated software, upgrade through the Controller, https://community.ubnt.com/t5/UniFi-Updates-Blog/FIRMWARE-3-9-3-7537-for-UAP-USW-has-been-released/ba-p/2099365
  • Aruba have updated software, upgrade through the Controller, http://www.arubanetworks.com/assets/alert/ARUBA-PSA-2017-007.txt and http://www.arubanetworks.com/assets/alert/ARUBA-PSA-2017-007_FAQ_Rev-1.pdf
Remember the main devices to patch are your devices such as computers, phones, tablets etc - once updates have been released and many devices will already have been patched if they are up to date. Updates to Routers and access points will will address the problem when they are acting as a WiFi client themselves and so won't really help if your devices are still unfixed.

  • Linux has a patch and Debian & Redhat have updates: https://www.debian.org/security/2017/dsa-3999 https://access.redhat.com/errata/RHSA-2017:2907 We expect other distributions will have updates shortly
  • Microsoft Windows is already patched, apparently: https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/16/16481818/wi-fi-attack-response-security-patches
  • Apple iOS, tvOS, watchOS and macOS betas are already patched apparently (unsure on non-beta macOS though) https://www.macrumors.com/2017/10/16/krack-wifi-vulnerabilities-patched-apple-ios-macos/

[Info] Broadband: Update texts/emails

Oct. 16th, 2017 01:33 pm
[syndicated profile] aaisp_feed

Posted by Andrews & Arnold

Started: 2017-10-16 13:00:00
Texts and emails reporting lines up/down, engineer visits and some other information have been broken over the weekend. This means some delayed messages are being sent out. Sorry for any confusion, it should all be sorted shortly.
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