Caveat: Detroit crashing… Detroit triumphant

GM stock dropped 25% on Monday, as the Space Emperor (or his staff) forced Wagoner out of the CEO slot.  Things are looking grimmer than ever for America's Detroit.  But meanwhile, I also read this bit of news about a Netherlands-based company that seems to have elected to call itself "Detroit Electric" unironically.  They're going to be contracting with the normally Detroitesque (meaning perennially loss-making) Malaysian state-owned carmaker Proton to make all-electric cars for the EU and eventually US markets. 

Wouldn't it be weird and historically ironic if, ultimately, the name "Detroit" became associated not with America's failed car industry but rather a future-oriented European company manufacturing cars in Southeast Asia?  Can you imagine, say, 30 years from now, people saying "Detroit" and forgetting that it used to be a major American city noted for automobiles, and referring instead to the latest model from the Dutch-Malaysian enterprise?

Caveat: 저는 위키백과 ♥

Which is to say, ”I♥Wikipedia” (roughly… seems to me, the heart should go at the end in Korean, since that’s the verb, right? And… what about endings? Should it end in “-♥요”? “-♥해요”?) What exactly does the heart stand for – the whole verb, including endings? Or just the semantic root. These are harder to resolve in Korean, than in English, maybe. Then again, basically, the heart works like Chinese.

Anyway, back to 위키백과 (wikipaekgwa = wiki encyclopedia i.e. wikipedia). There was an awesome review of it by Noam Cohen in the New York Times.

Caveat: Make up a story…

I have the flu.  Bad.  Fever and cough, yesterday.  Argh.

468x60-Facts On a news website, an ad for Bloomberg caught my attention.  It's a riff on the commonplace that things get lost in translation (a la the children's game "telephone").  Still, the specific example was clever (if accurate, and… who knows?).  I will reproduce it, thus giving them some free advertising.  But, whatever.

[Start] English: Get your facts right at the source
[ –> ] Italian: Ricava le tue informazioni vere direttamente dalla fonte
[ –> ] Chinese:  … .. ..
[ –> ] English:  Make up a story and run to the motherland

I didn't really make much effort to copy the Chinese.  I had a hard time copying this.  I don't know Chinese, but I can read fragments, because of my efforts to study Korean hanja.  Notes:
故 = 고 (chinese meaning is "therefore")
故事[story? but korean is 고사 = historical folktale or tradition, fable?] 

Quotes:

"Talent is not the same as intelligence." – Me (and probably someone else, too).

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim." – Edsger W. Dijkstra

"Absentem qui rodit amicum, qui non defendit, alio culpante; hic niger est; hunc tu, Romane, caveto" – Horace

Caveat: 主體

I had this weird dream the other day, right as I was waking up. The dream had this unidentified guru-like person, who was advising me to practice “Juche” as a means to personal growth and salvation. He was pointing to a page with the Chinese characters for it (see title-line).

But then Ken interrupted (Ken is the archetype interrupter, in Jared’s dreamland), and I lost dream-traction… vaguely.

“Juche” (주체) is the Korean name for the official ideology of North Korea, as formulated by Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il.  It’s 2 parts Stalinism, 2 parts fascism, 1 part maoism, and 1 part feudalism.  Well, that’s my own take on it.

Kim’s folly.  Literally, it means something like “corism,” as in, “the ideology of core” or “ideology of the main subject.”  But generally it’s translated as “self-reliance,” as it is strongly autarkic in character.

Interestingly, when I looked in the naver.com dictionary, I discovered that 주체 can also mean “indigestion caused by drinking” and also “a burden.”  Nice bit of homonymy. Courtesy naver.com:

주체(主體) the subject;the main body;【중심】the core;the nucleus;『법』 the main constituent
주체(酒滯) indigestion from[caused by] drinking
주체 a burden;a bother;a handful ―하다 cope with[take care of] one´s burden

It was strange that it was the Chinese hanja that were in the dream, since North Korea no longer uses Chinese characters – their banning was, in fact, part of the culturally self-reliant practice of Juche, as it was developed in the 60’s in reaction to the Sino-Soviet split.

Speaking of weapons of mass destruction (we were speaking of weapons of mass destruction?), check out this “fake 404” from the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It made me laugh.

Other notes from studying Korean:

시(時) o´clock;time;hour (I recognized the hanja for this on a sign, recently.  It was a cool feeling.)

Caveat: Goodbye, Ubuntu

If you look back to around 15 months ago in my blog entries, you'd conclude that Linux triumphed on my desktop, and I never looked back.  Yet, last night I logged onto my Linux partition and noted it had been 60 days since my last use of my Linux install.  I've been living in a Windows-only world (Vista on my laptop, XP-Korean at work).

Does that mean I love Windows?  I've always felt OK about XP (which is basically a desktop version of Server 2000/2003), but not a day goes by when I don't mutter "F@##$% Vista" to myself under my breath.  Vista’s Windows Explorer (File Manager app) still crashes sometimes for no apparent reason, on an almost weekly basis, for example.  So why am I not only tolerating Vista on my laptop, but basically committing to it exclusively, now?  I have three main reasons.

First, there is the problem of language support.  Once I started taking my efforts to learn Korean seriously, I found myself having to use Ubuntu Linux's clunky CJK (Chinese-Japanese-Korean) support.  It's an add-on. There are several choices of add-on, but all are terribly integrated to the desktop, and all are completely incompatible with several of the applications I wanted to use.  I couldn't figure out how to name files in Korean unicode, and switching between western (US), western (Spanish) and Korean keyboards seemed unreliable and inconsistent, if not downright difficult.  With at least one application (the game Second Life, Linux version), when I would run the CJK Input engine alongside it, it would lead to a full-blown system crash.  No forum seemed to offer a more reliable alternative to the input engines I found and tried.  In comparison, Microsoft's CJK language support is well-integrated to the operating system, and once I discovered that my right-hand ALT key could function as my Hangeul/Roman switch (since my laptop has a made-for-US keyboard that doesn't have that special Hangeul switch key to the right of the SPACE bar, the way that Korean keyboards do), I was very happy.  Of course, even Microsoft's language support is sometimes weird:  despite now being in service pack who-knows-what, every time Vista pops up that little "please authorize me to scratch my butt" warning, the language bar unlocks from the toolbar, parks itself somewhere near the top of the screen and floats out to foreground for half a second.  That's buggy-looking, the sort of thing you'd think some developer at MS would have noticed before it even got into beta, not to mention two years after going live.  I doubt it impacts functionality, but it's downright unprofessional-looking from a design/aesthetics standpoint.  Overall, though, at least language support is fully integrated and relatively painless, if not always aesthetically pleasing.

Second, there is the issue of media files and media players.  I could never find a media player and media organizer in Ubuntu that worked seemlessly with the materials I had:  my Samsung MP3 player, my 35GB of music files, my downloaded Korean TV shows and movies.  Each media player I tried would end up doing something strange.  Once, one of the players (I forget which) placed all the music files onto my MP3 player with gobbledygook names (probably some freaky interaction with a few of my Korean unicode-named music files).  Another time, I swear another player corrupted a set of 16 episodes of a TV show I'd spent weeks downloading.  I also frequently got frustrated with visiting internet radio sites, where I would allegedly lack the proper codec, etc., to be able to play the stream I was trying to play.  Many online streams are optimized for Windows and Mac environments, and seem to forget the Linux user out there.  In any event, I now alternate between Realplayer and Windows Media Player when using Vista, with zero problems.  Both work fine in the Vista environment.

Lastly, there has been the problem of the fact that Korean internet websites are often incompatible with Firefox (and Opera, to the extent I experimented with that).  This is not, strictly speaking, Ubuntu or Firefox's fault, obviously.  South Korea, more than any other nation on Planet Earth, is married to Microsoft at the hip.  Microsoft has a 98% market share here, which is by far the highest in the world.  Most Korean-national websites are written in non-ISO-compliant extensions to HTML (especially Flash and Silverlight) that seem to work only in Internet Explorer.   I didn't ask for this type of environment, but I must accept the reality of it: that if I want to spend time on Korean websites (and in some cases, such as work-related tasks, I MUST spend time on Korean websites), I have no choice but to be using IE.  And that pushes me into Vista, too.

Some people have said, for these compatibility issues, why don’t I use WINE (a Windows emulator for Linux) to encapsulate the problematic programs so that I can continue to run a Linux desktop?  This is possible, although it doesn’t solve problem number one:  lack of integrated language support.  But furthermore, at least in my limited experimentation, WINE encapsulation is slow.  And clunky.  Ultimately, it seemed more trouble that it was worth, relative to possible benefits.  It leads to a pyrrhic victory over Microsoft, at best.

So, sadly, the vista from here is murky.  Ubuntu has a lot to accomplish before I can feel comfortable adopting it as my primary OS, as much as I would like to.  My plan for this weekend is to delete my Linux partition, so as to be able to use the extra gigabytes this will free up.  Ubuntu, it's been good to know ya.

Caveat: Byron

"She walks in beauty" (first stanza)

She walks in beauty—like the night
  Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
  Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to the tender light
  Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
— Lord Byron, 1814.

I can't sleep.  I'm listening to "The Stone Dance of the Cameleon" by Celtic harpist Phamie Gow (whose wikipedia entry was deleted for being "insignificant").  

 

Caveat: ㅂ2

My students know that it’s fairly to easy to get me to wander off topic. And sometimes, if they find the class content dull they have learned that with a well-placed series of comments and questions, they can get me to go on endlessly on something unrelated to the syllabus. Thus in my Eldorado 3 class yesterday, they managed to get me to talk for almost the entire hour about cold-war geopolitics, and North Korea vs South Korea as proxies for great powers, despite the fact that the official topic of the day was advertising.

Today, in my Eldorado 2 class we covered a lot of territory not really pertinent to our upcoming debate, which is a bit dry, having to do with “Green Industry” policy initiatives of the current South Korean government. I actually love teaching topics like that, but we nevertheless managed to wander off onto something else entirely.

One thing that happens, of course, is that sometimes they teach me things, instead. Today I learned that Korean language text-messaging slang “ㅂ2”  means “bye.” It’s the Korean phonemic jamo ㅂ (which represents a “b” sound IPA [b]) followed by 2 (which is pronounced “ee” IPA [i], the sino-korean “two”).  Sound it out:  buh-ee… it’s actually the English word “bye.” Simple, right?

And then conscientious Anastasia raises her hand and says, in a remonstrating tone, “Teacher. I really think we should be discussing the debate topic. Don’t you?” And with that, the bell rang.

Caveat: Which do you prefer?

I have a small class where I teach students skills for the speaking component of the iBT (internet-based Test of English as Foreign Language, by New Jersey's ETS, the creators of SAT, GRE, and all kinds of other fun tests).  These are 5th and 6th graders, and the weirdness of teaching them to take the TOEFL is immeasurable.

Consider a recent, compelling editorial by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., in the New York Times.  He concludes, "we need to move from teaching to the test to tests that are worth teaching to." I agree with this, and know that it applies not just to the "crisis" in American education but equally to the shortcomings of e.g. Korean English-language education.  Which is to say, quite simply, why are these kids taking this test?

The TOEFL is intended to be a college-enterance exam for non-native speakers of English, to establish ability level appropriate for American University work.  But Koreans love tests, and they love pushing their children hard.  So they figure, the earlier the better, right?

These kids, in terms of basic English ability, are perfectly capable of getting mediocre to good scores on something like the TOEFL.  But the problem is with topic.  Because the test is intended for university-age students, sometimes the kids have no experiential basis for trying to answer the questions put to them. What does it mean to ask a 5th grader if she wants to get married right after college or have a career first? What does it mean to ask a 6th grader if they like having a roommate in the dorms?  How can they say whether they're more interested in going to a small or large university? 

We've been working on "type 2" questions, lately.  Sometimes, they're called "Choice" questions or "preference" questions.  Below is a sampling, which I've compiled and edited from various random sources, or thought up myself based on what I've seen of typical "type 2" content. Imagine trying to coach 5th and 6th graders into making concise little 45-second speeches on these topics.  Whether they're perfect native speakers or Koreans doesn't matter – the problem is that so often, the content just doesn't "work" for that age level.

1. Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which place would you prefer to live in?

2. Would you prefer to do an important college assignment as part of a team with other students, or individually on your own?

3. Some students get their best study done at night. Others prefer to study during the day. Which time do you prefer for getting study done?

4. Would you prefer to run your own private business or work for a large company with many employees?

5. Some people prefer to eat at food stands or restaurants. Other people prefer to prepare and eat food at home. Which do you prefer?

6. Would you prefer to go on a trip overseas to a new country with a companion you know, or just by yourself?

7. Some students go directly to the teacher with questions about their course work. Others prefer to ask their classmates first. Which do you prefer?

8. During your spare time, would you prefer to watch a movie or read a book?

9. Some students try to combine part-time work and study, while others prefer to study only and work later once their courses are finished. Which do you prefer?

10. Would you prefer to go on a long trip by car or by train?

11. Some people like to stick to tasks they know they can do well. Others like to try new things and take risks. Which do you prefer?

12. Which kind of job would you prefer: a job that is uninteresting but has a high salary, or a job you really enjoy with a moderate salary?

13. Some people like to hurry and get things done as quickly as possible. Others prefer to take their time and get things done at a slower pace. Which do you prefer?

14. Do you prefer friends who are intelligent, or friends who are reliable?

15. Some students try to do moderate amounts of homework on a daily basis. Others prefer to get their homework done in one go over 1-2 days. Which do you prefer?

16. If you went to study in a different country with a different culture, would you prefer to adapt yourself to the new culture, or concentrate more on maintaining your own culture?

17. Some people like to keep up with current news by reading newspapers. Others prefer to read about the news online. Which do you prefer?

18. Would you prefer to do a course that involves lectures and tutorials onsite, or a course that is conducted online via distance learning?

19. When shopping, some people use brand names to help them decide what to buy. Other people go only by price. Which do you prefer?

20. Many universities offer intensive courses during the summer and winter periods. Would you prefer to take an intensive course durung the summer or the winter vacation period?

21. Some people like living in the center of cities close to downtown areas. Others prefer to live further out in the suburbs. Which do you prefer?

22. Some people give money as gifts to friends. Others try to give a specific kind of present. Which kind of gift do you prefer giving to a friend?

23. To find out about a course subject, would you prefer to go and ask a teacher about it, or talk to a student who has already taken the subject?

24. Some students like to use the library to do most of their research. Others prefer to do most of their research using the Internet. Which do you prefer?

25. Some people like to spend their leisure time outdoors, while others prefer to spend it indoors. Which do you prefer?

26. Would you prefer to spend your vacation period at home with family, or go on a trip somewhere with close friends?

27. Some students prefer lectures where the teacher does all of the talking. Other students prefer classes where students are more interactive and contribute to the lesson. Which do you prefer?

28. Some students like to buy all their own books and keep them after their courses are finished. Others prefer to borrow course books and return them once the course is finished. Which do you prefer?

29. Some people like to get married and start a family while they are still young (under 30 years of age). Others prefer to wait until they are older to start their own family. Which do/would you prefer?

30. Some students like to listen to music while they are studying. Others prefer a very quiet atmosphere for their study. Which do you prefer?

31. Would you like to spend most of your life living and working only in your own country, or would you prefer to spend some time living and working in a new country?

32. Some people enjoy hobbies or sports that are personal and individual. Others like hobbies or sports that involve groups of people. Which do you prefer?

33. Some people want to have specific instructions or directions when they try something new. Other people like to experiment and work things out for themselves. Which do you prefer?

34. Would you prefer to live in an apartment building, or a private house?

35. Some students like to make a specific study schedule for themselves, while others prefer to do their study only when they feel like doing it. Which do you prefer?

36. During discussions, some people like to lead the conversation and do a lot of the talking. Other people prefer to listen more and talk only when they have to. Which do you prefer?

37. For a group assignment, would you prefer to work with a new group of people whom you don't know all that well, or work with your close friends?

38. Some people like to keep a private diary which they don't show to other people. Other people like to start things like online blogs, where other people can read the posts and make comments about them. Which would you prefer to start – a private diary or an online blog?

39. Some students choose courses in order to get good jobs in the future. Other students choose courses that are very interesting to them, even if they don't always lead to good jobs. Which do you prefer?

40. Some universities are small and have only a couple of thousand students on campus. Other universities are very large and have many thousands of students enrolled. Which kind of university do you prefer?

Caveat: Already Torn

The weather is very springlike.  As I walked to work today, following my random, right-angled, zig-zag path among the apartment highrises and playgrounds and plazas and shopping streets of my neighborhood, Natalie Imbruglia's cover of "Torn" shuffled onto my MP3 player.  I hadn't heard that in a while.  It was popular on the radio in the summer of 1998, and so it sort of gave me a flashback to a very bad period.

I think it was what was playing on the radio as I drove away from the apartment in Lansdale that Michelle, Jeffrey and I shared, that August.  That was the last time I saw Michelle.  We'd argued all weekend.  On Sunday afternoon, I vividly recall Michelle and I sat down and agreed we would be separating.  I think she used the word "trial separation," but all I said was "we need to be apart."

But that night, I was angry, frustrated, depressed, restless.  And after she'd left for work the next morning, and Jeffrey had gone to school, I made a snap decision.  It was a cruel, selfish decision, but I felt trapped and helpless, and my reaction so often in such situations is to simply run away.  So I packed a few things into a bag, got into the car, and began to drive.

And this song "Torn" was on the radio as I got onto the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed toward King of Prussia.  I had no plan whatsoever, except I wanted to go away.

By sunset, I was in northern Virginia, and the sun rose over Memphis the next morning.  Two days later I was in Mexicali, a week after that, I was at my dad's in Los Angeles.  By the middle of September I was in Craig, Alaska.  That was a bad move, in retrospect.  But… I'd escaped. Such as escaping is.

And now, when I hear that song, it's a very difficult thing to remember.  Michelle is gone.  Jeffrey's an adult, independent, functional.  The damage – so much damage, I'm sure – is long done. 

…I'm already torn…

What I'm listening to right now.

[youtube embed added 2011 as part of background noise.  The video is dumb.  But I like the song.]

Caveat: Sad?

I've been feeling down today.  Not sure why. It could have to do with the spring equinox. I almost always seem to get down at the equinoxes, both fall and spring versions.   I don't know why, but I've been noticing it long enough that I think it's a real pattern.  Maybe it's a weird variant of that seasonal affective disorder some people struggle with.

So I don't have much to say.

Funny / Interesting quote:
"Technology has the shelf life of a banana." – Scott McNealy (founder of Sun Microsystems)

Relatedly, Sun may be swallowed up by IBM, soon.  Apparently a deal is in the works, if it passes due diligence and the antitrust regulators.

Caveat: Retail in Wabasha

Sometimes I have strange little "commercials" in my dreams, esthetically influenced by the quick edits and banal content of television advertising.  I've had them as long as I can remember, though I suspect they originated during my early teenage years when I had a habit of falling asleep while listening to top 40 radio.  Somehow, the periodic commercial breaks of that radio format, with the additional influence of 1970's network television, percolated into my subconscious and entrenched itself there permanently, so that, even now, decades later, sometimes my dreams have commercial breaks.  Call them dreammercials.

Last night's (or rather, this early morning's) dreammercial was for a children's board game called "Retail in Wabasha."  I think this is the consequence of reading some newspaper article about the desperate state of small-town America retail during the current economic downturn.  But where did Wabasha come from?  That's an Arcata-sized town on the Mississippi Rivier in Minnesota, a few hours southeast from Minneapolis.  But Wabasha wasn't specifically in the article I read. 

The dreammercial begins with an aerial view pan moving up the Mississippi at dusk.  The lights of the little houses below are coming on.  It's a Wintery landscape, everything thickly blanketed in snow.  An announcer's voices proclaims:  "Imagine you're trying to run your own retail establishment somewhere in America's heartland!"

Quick cut to children and parents clustered cozily around a kitchen table.  Pure stereotypes:  Mom, Dad, 2.1 children, the cute dog grinning up from below.  They're playing a board game.  There's one of those clear plastic bubbles that "rolls dice" for you without releasing the dice into the environment — a gimick that allows them to charge more for dice.  And one of the children rolls and excitedly moves a token on the board.  The details of the board are not clear.  It looks a bit like Snakes n Ladders.  Hmm… maybe it should look like Monopoly.

Quick cut to a woman in a small shop at a desolate-looking mall.  She's counting inventory with a clipboard.  1, 2, 3 green dresses.  1, 2 yellow dresses.  She's slightly overweight, and looks chipper.  A customer comes in.  The announcer drones on about something.

Quick cut to the family playing the game at the table.  The Dad says, "Thank goodness for the women's clothing sector!"  He grins triumphantly, and moves his token on the board.  The boy frowns, clearly having lost a turn in some way.

Cheerful music swells.  The announcer says some more.  Quick cut to a reverse aerial pan away from wintery Wabasha.  Second cut to a picture of the game in its box on a shelf in a big-box store, and the same family choosing the game and putting it into their shopping cart.

"So much fun!" suggests the announcer.  "Enjoy it today," or something like that.  The title of the game, on the box, as the camera comes in for a close-up: "Retail in Wabasha."

Really?  I have dreams like that?  Disturbing.  And… even more disturbing, I'm not embarrassed to share them with the world?  Heh.  What does the dream mean?

Maybe it was the homemade kimchibokkeumbap I had for dinner last night.  It was delicious.

Caveat: Good to feel welcome

200903_IlsanKR_elliep090317203946 I found this on the board coming into the Thursday iBT class yesterday (on right).  That's Ellie in the picture.  She's the closest thing to a native English speaking student that we have at LBridge.  She lived in Germany for many years, and attended an International school, there.  So, she's a Korean girl who speaks English with a German accent, although a coworker who knows quite a bit of German reported to me that Ellie's German is much worse than her English.  I guess just being there rubbed off on her pronunciation.

A while back, the following dialogue took place, in a different class:
Jenny:  Monday is my birthday!
Jared:  How old will you be?
Jenny:  I don't know exactly.  Maybe I'm 13?

A note about Korean ages:  you should subtract at least one year from Korean ages, because when babies are born, they are one year old.  Also, typically, despite the fact that they DO celebrate birthdays, they will state their ages as if they changed on January first.  The net result is that there is a 1 to 2 year difference between a Korean's stated age and an American's stated age.  Perhaps Jenny is confused about her age because she is aware of this.  But I doubt it.   It's just kind of her personality. 

Caveat: Freaky Ergativity Fetish

What's ergativity?  In the field of linguistics, ergativity is a way for languages' syntactical systems (i.e. grammars) to organize themselves.   It is one of several ways, and contrasts mostly with what might be termed accusativity.  Which is to say, there are ergative features of syntactic systems, and accusative features.   Most languages exhibit a strong leaning toward one system or the other, and to most Westerners, ergativity seems exotic because most European languages are markedly accusative.  One popular counter-example is Basque, which is broadly ergative.  But that's not exactly a widely-spoken European language. 

Ergativity is very hard to explain to people without a lot of background in comparing the grammars of different languages and linguistic features, but here's an effort at an example, drawn from English.

English is mostly accusative.  This means that the subjects of transitive and intransitive verbs are grammatically "the same," while the objects of transitive verbs are "different" from those subjects.   In grammar, in English, subjects come "in front" and objects come "behind."  For example:

The alligator dances the charleston.
The alligator dances.

The alligator, in both examples, is the subject, and, when the verb "dance" is intransitive (the second example), the subject, "The alligator" still shows up in front of the verb, showing it is a subject, not an object.  We cannot give an intransitive verb "only" an object, e.g.  neither of these below make sense (though for basically opposite reasons, one because of syntactic accusativity and one because of semantic accusativity):

*Dances the alligator.
*The charleston dances.

This is "normal" accusative behavior.  But English does have some special verbs, which are "ergative" in terms of how they work.  Consider this:

The alligator broke my pencil.
My pencil broke.

In this case, the "object" of the breaking in the intransitive usage of the verb "promotes" to the subject position, which is now not called the subject position but the ergative position, because in ergative systems, there's not a contrast between subject and object (nominative vs accusative) but rather a contrast between ergative and absolutive. 

I'm sure this seems really strange and hard to understand.  I didn't understand it at all in my intro to linguistics class, and didn't really figure it out until my second semester of syntax (for linguistic majors).  Actually, it's possible I still don't really have it figured out.

Anyway, why am I thinking about this?  I want to know, is Korean ergative?

I know Japanese is largely accusative.   And I'm guessing that Chinese is what's called "split ergative," meaning it can't decide if it's ergative or not.  But what's Korean?  My current guess is that, like along so many other linguistic parameters, it's some kind of outlier… its "own damn thing."   Korean strikes its own path through the linguistic wilderness.  That's part of what draws me to the language.

But what path is that?  Korean has noun case markers (just like, say, Finnish or Latin), but they are clitic (meaning they stand alone as word-particles, much as case markers do in Japanese).  But, unlike anywhere else I've experienced, these case markers can be "stacked."  Which is cool.  You can attach a locative case marker to a noun phrase, and then attach a topic case marker to that.  I saw one like that, earlier today.

In other words, you can make noun phrases play multiple syntactic roles in the sentence simultaneously.  Which is cool.  Worse, of course… all case marking of all sorts in Korean is entirely optional.  You show case when you feel like it.  Mostly, in higher registers and during careful speech, and in writing, of course.   But… with all these case particles floating around like so much syntactic dust, are things ergative or accustive?

 I'm going to investigate….

…그사이에 저는 떡볶이를 먹어요.

(=meanwhile+[DATIVE MARKER] I+[TOPIC MARKER] tteokbokki+[OBJECT MARKER] eat+[POLITENESS MARKER])

Caveat: Corned Beef Hash

My friend Basil showed me a curious little hole-in-the wall place only a block from where I live that serves American-style "brunch" on Sundays – eggs, hash browns, pancakes, bacon.  All those very American breakfast foods that are so bad for you, but so comforting, too.  "Denny's food," is how I always think of it.

For about 8 dollars (which is very expensive for low-end restaurant food, here), I got corned beef hash, french toast, eggs over easy, two cups of coffee.  It was a nice nostalgia trip, but, for health reasons, not good to make into a habit.  It's a good thing I'm not into going to restaurants alone – that place is too close to be entirely safe.  "LOL."  And… so much for incidental meat, eh?

Anyway, it was cool.  And then he and I spent some time trying to study our Korean.  He's not as far along as I am, which of course is good for my ego, because I get to be knowledgeable and erudite about it, which in fact I'm not.  But, exploiting relative differences, and all that. 

나는 콘비프 해시를 점심 먹었어요.   맛있었어요.  그래서, 지금 행복해요.  잘 지내세요… ^_^ 내일 보겠읍니다.

Caveat: Wobow! Thebey ubuse ubbi dubbi hebere!

Ubbi dubbi is a language game (or "language") apparently popularized by the PBS TV program ZOOM.  Which must be how I learned it – I remember practicing it with my friend Bob (or was it Mark or Ken?) on a number 6 Grand Ave bus in St Paul in the 1980's, while fellow passengers looked on in bemusement.

Writing it down kind of loses the effect, mostly because of the unphonetic nature of English.  Here is a video sample I found on youtube:

I also found an Ubbi Dubbi translator.

Well, I heard my students Amy and Sally using it with each other, the other day.  In Korean!  And this is actually documented… I found a brief reference to something called 도깨비말 ("ogre language") in the English wikipedia article on language games.

What was so interesting and amazing to me about hearing it done in Korean is that, stunningly, I found the Korean easier to understand.  I think it was because they have to slow down to do it, and it reduplicates the vowels, which are mostly fairly "pure" in Korean (unlike the messy diphthongs so common in English) which makes it easier to pick out which vowel is being used.  How did it sound?  Hmm… very briefly, I heard Amy say, for example, 그브래배? (keubeuraebae <= keurae = "is that right?").   Totally cool.