Linguistics thread

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Saim » 2019-01-23, 9:16

dEhiN wrote:I think part of it is nationalism and part of it is the fact that they all use the same writing system.


Do they? As far as I can tell, most Chinese languages use no writing system, because they are hardly ever written.

Whereas Western linguists consider them different languages due to differences in pronunciation of the characters


Chinese languages (or dialects of Sinitic, or whatever you want to call them) exist independently of characters. Topolectal character readings of Standard Written Chinese (which is just a written form of Standard Mandarin regardless of how the characters are pronounced) aren't the same thing as the real local languages.

(and maybe the grammar as well? I don't know enough about Chinese grammar...).


Yes, the differences in grammar and usage are substantial.

That's odd because I don't think I even know of any movies from Hong Kong. Are you by any chance thinking of Jackie Chan movies?


Cantonese cinema is one of the big world cinemas, there's much more to it than Jackie Chan. :shock:

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Vlürch » 2019-01-23, 11:34

Prowler wrote:Tbh, I've always noticed a slight similarity between both Korean and Japanese but not to this extent. I've always had this idea that Japanese was pretty much an isolated language, but turns out it shares some features or concepts with Korean to some degree.

There are a lot of similarities between them, but it always confuses me when people can't tell them apart because they just sound so different and have such different vocabularies and all that. That once led to my embarrassing attempt to point out to IpseDixit some "rules of thumb" on how to differentiate them, only for literally not a single one of the differences to actually be waterproof... and I apparently misspelled "tones" as "toes" in the follow-up post about differences between Korean and Mandarin. :oops:

But yeah, it sometimes surprises me how similar Korean seems to Japanese. Like, mostly the false friends. Whenever I hear Korean, I swear I hear some Japanese genitals. :lol:
linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:Japanese grammar is also very similar to Classical Chinese grammar (but much less similar to the grammar of any variety of Chinese that's spoken today).

I've never heard this asserted before and--as someone who's informally studied both varieties--I don't find the grammar similar at all. So I'm wondering what prompts you to say this.

The only similarity I know of is that Classical Chinese had the same kind of topic marking, and I guess in general particles, as Japanese.
Prowler wrote:Tbh I'm not even sure how diverse/varied Chinese is. It seems like a lot of people either describe Mandarin and Cantonese as two different dialects or as two different languages.

I think that's just because the official position in China (and Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. AFAIK) is that they're one language even though they're too different to consider mere dialects of one language by pretty much any standard.
Prowler wrote:A lot of people outside of Japan and Korea listen to pop music from those countries but I never really hear or read anything about Chinese pop music.

Yeah, I've noticed the same and sometimes feel kinda bad about not listening to much Chinese music; I just haven't been able to find much that sounds as enjoyable as Japanese music. There are also only a few Korean artists/bands I've listened to more than once. Japanese music just seems more varied, like there's a lot of Japanese metal, experimental music, jazz, etc. while Korean music seems to be 99% pop and hip hop; pop and hip hop can be nice, but it often feels like Korean pop and hip hop aren't as interesting as Japanese pop and hip hop.

I mean, in all honesty my impression is that with Japanese pop it's possible to suspend disbelief regarding its purely commercial intent and enjoy the music (and there's at least an illusion of musicality), whereas with Korean pop it comes across as so blatantly made for no other purpose than to make money that it's much harder to enjoy (and there isn't even an illusion of musicality, pop stars are just "symbols"). Also, real instruments are still common in Japanese pop while Korean pop seems 99% electronic; when it comes to the electronic stuff, there's more experimentation with different sounds and effects and stuff in Japan. Not to mention influence from genres outside pop (and hip hop and electronic music), which isn't that out of the ordinary in Japanese pop, but I've yet to hear in any Korean pop.

Of course, it's possible that that's only my impression because I've listened to much more Japanese pop than Korean pop and the Korean pop I've listened to has always been the most mainstream stuff possible with like one or two exceptions. I'm also not saying Korean pop is bad, a lot of it is definitely well-made and enjoyable as its own thing in the right mood. And sex sells, so of course the Korean lewdness is a factor in why Korean pop is popular around the world... same as with American pop.

But Chinese music... I don't know, I tried to find some once but just couldn't find much. It was weird. I tried to search on Youtube and VK but only found a couple of songs by random artists; it was really bizarre, since China is so huge and it should be easy to find Chinese music. But apparently it's not. Maybe there's some kind of counter-censorship, or was at the time...? No idea, honestly, and I haven't been arsed enough to try again.
Prowler wrote:And usually when I hear of well-known Chinese movies, 99% of them seem to be from Hong Kong, NOT from Mainland China.

Same, although personally I've tried to watch mainland Chinese films once in a while. Some are actually great (although I can't remember any that were actually great right now off the top of my head), but others... :lol:

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Prowler » 2019-01-23, 20:24

vijayjohn wrote:Japanese and Korean pop culture are probably more well-known worldwide, but that's because Japan and Korea both gained a lot of wealth and foreign investment especially after World War II whereas the People's Republic of China was much more isolated for about forty years if I'm remembering correctly. It's not until relatively recently that the Chinese government started focusing a lot of attention on improving China's image abroad.

True. As for the Chinese government trying to improve Chinas' image abroad, what exactly have they been doing? Only heard about them telling Chinese tourists to behave better or something.


vijayjohn wrote:That's odd because I don't think I even know of any movies from Hong Kong. Are you by any chance thinking of Jackie Chan movies?

Sure, but also Jet Li and Bruce Lee. They made movies in HK before making American movies. Bruce Lee was probably the first big HK movie star to make it abroad.

Also, SHAOLIN SOCCER, man! Granted it's heavily influenced by the anime/manga Captain Tsubasa, but still a very fun movie.

Anyway, Hong Kong was under British control for a long time and thus independent from Mainland China and a democratic territory, so I guess that's part of the reason why its cinematic industry was able to flourish.

Vlürch wrote:Yeah, I've noticed the same and sometimes feel kinda bad about not listening to much Chinese music; I just haven't been able to find much that sounds as enjoyable as Japanese music. There are also only a few Korean artists/bands I've listened to more than once. Japanese music just seems more varied, like there's a lot of Japanese metal, experimental music, jazz, etc. while Korean music seems to be 99% pop and hip hop; pop and hip hop can be nice, but it often feels like Korean pop and hip hop aren't as interesting as Japanese pop and hip hop.

I mean, in all honesty my impression is that with Japanese pop it's possible to suspend disbelief regarding its purely commercial intent and enjoy the music (and there's at least an illusion of musicality), whereas with Korean pop it comes across as so blatantly made for no other purpose than to make money that it's much harder to enjoy (and there isn't even an illusion of musicality, pop stars are just "symbols"). Also, real instruments are still common in Japanese pop while Korean pop seems 99% electronic; when it comes to the electronic stuff, there's more experimentation with different sounds and effects and stuff in Japan. Not to mention influence from genres outside pop (and hip hop and electronic music), which isn't that out of the ordinary in Japanese pop, but I've yet to hear in any Korean pop.

Of course, it's possible that that's only my impression because I've listened to much more Japanese pop than Korean pop and the Korean pop I've listened to has always been the most mainstream stuff possible with like one or two exceptions. I'm also not saying Korean pop is bad, a lot of it is definitely well-made and enjoyable as its own thing in the right mood. And sex sells, so of course the Korean lewdness is a factor in why Korean pop is popular around the world... same as with American pop.

But Chinese music... I don't know, I tried to find some once but just couldn't find much. It was weird. I tried to search on Youtube and VK but only found a couple of songs by random artists; it was really bizarre, since China is so huge and it should be easy to find Chinese music. But apparently it's not. Maybe there's some kind of counter-censorship, or was at the time...? No idea, honestly, and I haven't been arsed enough to try again.

Yes, I agree. In fact, Japan actually has the 2nd biggest domestic music market in the world. The 1st one being USA. This might sound surprising, but a lot of Japanese music doesn't make it outside of the country or just barely. You can find Japanese music in Spotify, but K-pop is easier to find there, just like in stores here at least.

And yes, it seems like most Korean music I run into is K-pop and/or hip-hop. I've run into all sorts of different music coming from Japan. And yes, even when it comes to their pop music, J-pop overall seems more sober and less plastic, and I'm not referring t the surgery procedural the singers had. K-pop is more intense and more commercial.

That's strange. You'd think such a highly populated country would have more of that kind of content, or at least would be easier to find.

Vlürch wrote:Same, although personally I've tried to watch mainland Chinese films once in a while. Some are actually great (although I can't remember any that were actually great right now off the top of my head), but others... :lol:


I don't think I've ever seen a movie from Mainland China. From the top of my head I know there's one that's supposed to be good but also rather disturbing and depressing. I think it's either about Unit 731 or the Nanjing Massacre. Doesn't really sound like the type of movie you watch to relax and have a good laugh.

Also, what about Taiwan? Is Taiwanese cinema and music popular outside of Taiwan or not really?

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2019-01-23, 20:54

Prowler wrote:Also, what about Taiwan? Is Taiwanese cinema and music popular outside of Taiwan or not really?

In Japan there was talk of a "Taiwanese Wave" (台流) and Taiwanese pop music in Mandarin once rivaled K-pop in popularity, but I haven't really heard of any Taiwanese artists getting popular outside of East Asia.

In cinema, the big breakthrough director is Ang Lee, but he only really hit it big after making blockbuster movies in English. Like HK cinema, Taiwanese cinema took a huge nosedive in the 90s due to piracy and is only recently showing signs of recovery.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-01-24, 6:46

The reasons why Chinese people tend to consider Chinese a single language are ultimately historical and are associated with cultural unity.
Prowler wrote:As for the Chinese government trying to improve Chinas' image abroad, what exactly have they been doing?

Doing business more with other countries, hosting the Olympics, buying up foreign businesses, setting up Confucius Institutes...

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby eskandar » 2019-06-06, 21:59

Probably naive question: why is the Latin American Spanish j described as a voiceless velar fricative ([x]) when to my ear it sounds completely distinct from the voiceless velar fricative in languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu, or Hebrew?
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-06-06, 22:12

My understanding is that it's uvular in all of those languages but velar in Spanish.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby eskandar » 2019-06-06, 22:17

That makes sense, but then the question is why خ , if uvular, is so often described as velar. Maybe there isn't a good answer for that...
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-06-06, 22:21

Maybe it's just because there isn't a velar fricative to contrast with (in languages that have خ)? Like how some stops in some European languages are variously described as either dental or alveolar.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2019-06-07, 14:44

vijayjohn wrote:Maybe it's just because there isn't a velar fricative to contrast with (in languages that have خ)? Like how some stops in some European languages are variously described as either dental or alveolar.

Not only is there no contrast, but several of these languages have a velar series of stops but no uvulars. So from a phonological point of view, it's just neater to call it "velar" even if that's not strictly true. (Cf. the way /h/ is treated in some phonologies.)

There's probably some allophony going on as well. (Cf. German /x/, which is uvular after /a(˸)/ for most speakers.)
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby razlem » 2019-07-02, 6:19

Presented at a ling conference for the first time last weekend. I was a little worried because the research topics is a little unconventional, but a senior researcher in the field liked it and we chatted about it afterwards :)

It's the Native American language project that I've been helping with. It's unconventional in that it's partly internal reconstruction but also part planning, and the planning is based on developing a distinct linguistic identity. It's fascinating stuff.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-08-16, 0:02

A friend of mine is trying to get people to help transcribe some decades-old field notes about documenting several varieties of Mixtec, so I tried to transcribe a few lines for him. Hopefully, I can do some more later. I've also been discussing similarities and differences between Malayalam and Tamil with a Tamil amateur linguist on Twitter.

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Chomsky sez :

Postby schnaz » 2019-08-17, 18:12

I would appreciate a discussion of what Chomsky was getting at when he juxtaposed the following three sentences:

1. " Colorless green ideas sleep furiously"

2. "Revolutionary new ideas appear infrequently. "

3. " Furiously sleep ideas green colorless."

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Re: Chomsky sez :

Postby Linguaphile » 2019-08-17, 20:01

schnaz wrote:I would appreciate a discussion of what Chomsky was getting at when he juxtaposed the following three sentences:


I am going to start with sentence #2:
schnaz wrote:2. "Revolutionary new ideas appear infrequently."

This is a good sentence, and makes sense. The order of words is a natural one for English (adjectives before the noun, then the verb, then an adverb).

schnaz wrote:1. "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously"

This sentence does not make sense, but it sounds like a "possible" or "correct" English sentence because it is written with correct syntax. The sentence structure is a natural one for English, and just the same as sentence #2 above (adjectives before the noun, then the verb, then an adverb).
The problem with it is that the meaning is illogical: nothing can be be both colorless and green; ideas can't have color (or be colorless) and can't sleep; sleeping can't be done "furiously" and so on. In other words, it makes no sense but it seems to be grammatically correct - good syntax but confusingly weird semantics. It is acceptable as an English sentence even though it's an odd thing to say.

schnaz wrote:3. "Furiously sleep ideas green colorless."

Again this sentence does not make sense, but it doesn't even sound like a "possible" English sentence because the sentence structure is incorrect (an adverb before a verb, the subject after the verb, the adjectives after the noun). It is therefore obvious to most native English-speakers that this sentence is not correct English. It has poor sentence structure and confusing semantics... and since sentence #1 above (colorless green ideas sleep furiously) is perceived as an "acceptable but strange" English sentence, this shows that it is the sentence structure (not the meaning) that makes #3 unacceptable and incorrect. I believe this is the point Chomsky was making (that if sentence structure doesn't follow the expected rules, the sentence will not be considered acceptable; while if it is the semantics that don't follow expectations, the sentence will be considered odd but nevertheless acceptable).

Those who have studied Chomsky's work more recently and more in-depth than I have might have a different answer or explain it better, but that's how I understand it. :wink:

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby schnaz » 2019-08-18, 8:10

Thank you Linguaphile, that helped.
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Re: Chomsky sez :

Postby Vlürch » 2019-08-18, 14:43

Linguaphile wrote:The problem with it is that the meaning is illogical: nothing can be be both colorless and green; ideas can't have color (or be colorless) and can't sleep; sleeping can't be done "furiously" and so on.

Well, even though that may have been Chomsky's intent, ideas could be argued to have colours the same way certain colours can be associated with certain political/religious/whatever values, even if it depends on the culture and context. For example, any ideas concerning the protection of the environment would likely be green, as would ideas related to Islam, and ideas related to socialism would likely be red. Then, the idea that "people should try to stop climate change through Islamic socialism" would be green and green-red.

A colourless idea would probably be one that's so obvious that it has no value on its own, like a statement of a fact presented as an idea, so "we live on the Earth". An idea could then be simultaneously colourless and green if it was something like "we live on the Earth, so we need to respect it" or "Islam is a religion, and it's good".

Ideas could also be argued to sleep if they're not thought of or influential at the moment but remain alive. So, to continue with the previous example, if an environmentally-minded nondenominational Muslim began lobbying for an oil company and came to the conclusion that God probably doesn't exist, but didn't explicitly embrace atheism or reject environmentalism, then the colourless green ideas "we live on the Earth, so we need to protect it" and "Islam is a religion, and it's good" would sleep.

As for sleeping furiously, maybe the ideas are trying hard to wake up. Maybe the hypothetical person struggles with the oil company's destruction of nature and wonders if returning to their faith could help them quit the job even though it pays well. Maybe they're dreaming of a different life, and maybe in the process the colourless parts of the ideas begin to gain some colour; they begin to transition from "we live on the Earth" to "people are ruining the Earth" and "Islam is a religion" to "Islamic socialism is possible" but the person doesn't (yet) mentally commit to the "so we need to protect it" or "and it's good" parts of the ideas, but also questions them harder than ever before (maybe because of the money they're getting from lobbying for the oil company), weighing the pros and cons. Thus, the colourless green ideas sleep furiously because they're either about to wake up or die, but either way they won't be colourless anymore.

...sorry, I couldn't help myself. :P Obviously I'm just being a little shit, and if anyone is offended by this post, that's not my intent. I think Chomsky seems like a pretty cool guy regardless of whether he's right about everything or not (probably not), and I don't know if Islamic socialism is the only way to save the Earth or not (probably not). I hope this isn't too off-topic, either.

~

Random question: are there any (predominantly) VSO or VOS languages with topic markers (or focus particles or whatever), and if so, how does that work? Would verbs be topicalised all the time, and/or prepositional topic markers be used? Or would they be used only when the verb-initial word order is deviated from?

And maybe more generally, what kind of focus particles are there in languages other than topic markers?

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Re: Chomsky sez :

Postby linguoboy » 2019-08-19, 14:22

Vlürch wrote:And maybe more generally, what kind of focus particles are there in languages other than topic markers?

I suppose the Korean particles -만 /man/ "only", -도 /to/ "also; even", and -이야 /iya/ "of course" would all qualify. E.g.:

아이폰이야 인기가 많아요.
/aiphon iya inki ka manh.a.yo/
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Re: Chomsky sez :

Postby Linguaphile » 2019-08-20, 1:29

Vlürch wrote:And maybe more generally, what kind of focus particles are there in languages other than topic markers?


Though I'm not 100% certain about which particles should count as focus particles, I believe languages like Quechua and Aymara have quite a few of them.
For example, Aymara: besides at least two common topic-based particles (more or less as -xa for marking familiar topics and -wa for marking new topics, although that's a bit of an oversimplification), there's also -ki "only", -sa "even," -raki "also" (and its opposite -janiraki "neither"), -puni "always", etc. There is also -ipana as a switch-reference marker (indicating that the focus or actor of the sentence is not the same as the previously-identified subject) and -sina (indicating that the focus or actor of the sentence is the same as the one previously identified). I'm not sure which particles can be considered focus particles though, so I'm not sure whether this is answering your question.
Estonian has -ki/-gi as a focus particle which emphasizes whatever it is attached to (usually translated as either "even" or "also"). I think that this is the same as -kin in Finnish; if so, you have it in Finnish too. :D
Also, in English, the words "also, "only" and "even" are focus particles. Their equivalents in other languages would be, too.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Vlürch » 2019-08-20, 15:05

linguoboy wrote:I suppose the Korean particles -만 /man/ "only", -도 /to/ "also; even", and -이야 /iya/ "of course" would all qualify. E.g.:

아이폰이야 인기가 많아요.
/aiphon iya inki ka manh.a.yo/
iPhone FOC popularity SUB much-INF-POL
"Of course iPhones are popular."

That's cool, thanks. I knew Korean has some because of this post on Reddit, but there weren't any examples of what they are or how they work. It seems pretty straightforward and easy to understand if it's like that, and kind of similar to some things in Finnish (like Linguaphile mentioned), but what I still don't get is what makes them a unified category and why they're also grouped together with things like the Japanese ... :oops:
Linguaphile wrote:For example, Aymara: besides at least two common topic-based particles (more or less as -xa for marking familiar topics and -wa for marking new topics, although that's a bit of an oversimplification), there's also -ki "only", -sa "even," -raki "also" (and its opposite -janiraki "neither"), -puni "always", etc. There is also -ipana as a switch-reference marker (indicating that the focus or actor of the sentence is not the same as the previously-identified subject) and -sina (indicating that the focus or actor of the sentence is the same as the one previously identified).

Interesting, so is it always obligatory to have one if there are so many different kinds?
Linguaphile wrote:I'm not sure which particles can be considered focus particles though, so I'm not sure whether this is answering your question.

Well, part of my question was/is about the definition, haha. The concept of particles (and articles (except definite and indefinite ones) and adverbs and other similar stuff) is something I struggle with, like, how the "categories" are different from one another and all that. But then again, I struggle with everything that has to do with languages... which is annoying, since I'd really like to learn all kinds of languages and it's obviously too late to learn the same way I learned English, without all the "technical" things. And of course, for high-quality conlanging, getting all the technical stuff down would be necessary...
Linguaphile wrote:Estonian has -ki/-gi as a focus particle which emphasizes whatever it is attached to (usually translated as either "even" or "also"). I think that this is the same as -kin in Finnish; if so, you have it in Finnish too. :D

Huh... I thought part of the definition was that they're not suffixes but are considered a separate category of words that can't be used on their own? Although I guess that could be just an orthographic thing, and maybe languages don't care about neat categories... I know sometimes the lines are blurry, so... I just suck at understanding anything without having it hammered into my head, I guess. :oops: Would the Finnish suffixes like -han/hän and -kaan/kään count, too, then?
Linguaphile wrote:Also, in English, the words "also, "only" and "even" are focus particles. Their equivalents in other languages would be, too.

Hmm, interesting. I thought "focus particles" were universally considered something "exotic" that exists only in non-Indo-European languages, or at least it's always stressed about Japanese how the very concept of its particles doesn't exist in English, and since I as a Finnish-speaker have struggled with them, I figured they might only exist in the languages of Asia as a kind of geographical feature. But your post is making me realise it's probably not true, and just an artificial technical distinction intentionally made in learning materials for no reason except "ooo~ this language is HARD to learn, ooo~" or something? Or maybe I'm just stupid.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2019-08-20, 15:19

Vlürch wrote:
linguoboy wrote:I suppose the Korean particles -만 /man/ "only", -도 /to/ "also; even", and -이야 /iya/ "of course" would all qualify. E.g.:

아이폰이야 인기가 많아요.
/aiphon iya inki ka manh.a.yo/
iPhone FOC popularity SUB much-INF-POL
"Of course iPhones are popular."

That's cool, thanks. I knew Korean has some because of this post on Reddit, but there weren't any examples of what they are or how they work. It seems pretty straightforward and easy to understand if it's like that, and kind of similar to some things in Finnish (like Linguaphile mentioned), but what I still don't get is what makes them a unified category and why they're also grouped together with things like the Japanese ... :oops:

The Korean equivalent of is -은/. There's a pretty thorough description of the difference between -은/ and -이야 in Lee & Ramsey's The Korean language. ("Of course" is only a rough description of its meaning and not very accurate.)

I feel like a lot of what is expressed by these sorts of particles in Korean would be handled by sentence adverbs in European languages, at least Germanic ones. In at least some situations, I would translate a Korean sentence with -이야 into a German one with ja.
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