Caveat: Outside? Play?

I ran across these fascinating videos and blog-entries about a linguist / speech pathologist who is training her dog to use “word buttons.” The dog seems to carry on spontaneous conversations with her owners. She pushes the button “outside” the owner says “not now.” She tries again. The owner says “I’m sorry.” And then the dog pushes the button “play.” The owner says “OK. Let’s play.” This seems very close to toddler-level language use.

Here is the link.

As a linguist, I am slightly skeptical that this can be called “language” in any strict sense. But I have also always thought that Chomsky (et al.) and his notion of a specific “language faculty” in the human brain wasn’t necessary. I have long had an intuition that language is just an “emergent property” of the complex neural networks evolution created for the purpose of “being a mammal.” As such, human language is not qualitatively distinct from the language-like behavior of higher mammals. Rather, it is simply a massive scaling-up. This type of animal behavior feels like a confirmation of that intuition.

Caveat: πoetry

I saw this at a blog I read, called JF Ptak Science Books. The guy is a dealer in old and rare books, with an emphasis on books related to the history of science and ideas. He often posts very interesting things.

He found a text of a poem published in 1905, which has an unusual constraint: each word in the poem has the same number of letters as a digit of the number π (3.141592653589793238462643383279), in order.


The poem’s text:

Sir, - I send a rhyme excelling
 3     1   4  1   5       9
In sacred truth and rigid spelling.
 2    6     5    3    5      8
Numerical sprites elucidate
    9        7        9
For me the lexicon's dull weight.
 3  2   3     8       4     6
   If "Nature" gain,
    2    6      4
   Not you complain,
    3   3     8
Tho' Dr. Johnson fulminate. 
 3    2     7       9

Most definitely a bit of oulipisme-avant-le-lettre.

Caveat: hay montes

Penas (Verso XXXIV)

¡Penas! ¿Quién osa decir
Que tengo yo penas? Luego,
Después del rayo, y del fuego,
Tendré tiempo de sufrir.

Yo sé de un pesar profundo
Entre las penas sin nombres:
¡La esclavitud de los hombres
Es la gran pena del mundo!

Hay montes, y hay que subir
Los montes altos; ¡después
Veremos, alma, quién es
Quien te me ha puesto al morir!

- Jose Marti (poeta cubano, 1853-1895)

This poem was recently brought to my attention because my friend Bob asked if I could provide some insight and translation for the poem, for a choral production he’s working on that includes this text set to music. It seems not that different from other things I’ve blogged, and given how sparse my blog has been intellectually, of late, I thought I might as well post what I gave him here.

It’s important to separate who Martí actually was from the mythical being he’s been made into by subsequent generations of Cubans of all political stripes. He was a classical liberal, and in an aesthetic school called “modernismo” -not exactly the same as “modernism” because of different circumstances. He spent a lot of time in the US during various exiles from Cuba, and was heavily influenced by US poets such as Walt Whitman. He was no communist, but he was aware of Marx and I believe may have interacted some with socialists and communists and anarchists in Europe – you take your allies where you can find them. He did believe in universal human rights as that doctrine emerged from the wake of the abolition movements of the 19th century.

I do believe this poem is political. He was fighting for Cuban independence from Spain, inspired by the liberal fantasies (ideals) exemplified to whatever degree of accuracy by the US, Mexico, Guatemala – all countries where he spent time. So what he’s saying is that the time for self-pity is over. Stop complaining and get up and fight for your freedom, fellow Cubans = fellow humans everywhere. That’s how I interpret it. There are mountains we should be climbing, now, battles to be fought. We’ll let God sort out later who was good and who was bad.

Versos was published in 1891, and Martí died while leading Cuban freedom fighters in Cuba in 1895. His political program was quite mature at that point, and it would be hard to read the poem any more innocently.

Here is my own word-for-word translation.

Problems! Who dares to say
That I have problems? Later,
after the lightning-bolt, and the fire,
I'll have time to suffer.

I know about a deep regret
among the problems without names:
The enslavement of men
is the great regret of the world!

There are mountains, and there's need to climb
the high mountains; later
we shall see, soul, who [it] is
that has set you, for me, to die.

The key word, of course, is penas. I prefer the translation “problems” – it feels contemporarily idiomatic. Penas has a very wide semantic field: “pains” “sufferings” “sorrows” “guilt” “sins” “problems” etc. Especially in the context.

We deploy the word “problems” in modern English similarly. Cf rapper Jay-Z, “I got 99 problems ….”

I almost chose to translate it as “complaints” – to emphasize the fact that the tone of the poem (to me) is a bit of “Get off your butts, people, and DO something!”

Other vocabulary worth comment: pesar. Also fairly wide. I prefer “weight” to “regret” but that doesn’t work with the intensifier “deep”. Perhaps “heavy weight” rather than “deep regret.”

As a syntactician, I love the double (in)direct objects in the last line (“… te me …”) – what Spanish grammar is famous for, in stumping linguists and being a fairly famous example of something characteristically difficult about the language.


Caveat: Incademic

The Quechua language, the historical Native American language of the Inca Empire in the prehispanic period and still alive today, has gone academic: a woman wrote and defended her doctoral thesis entirely in Quechua for the first time in history, in Lima, Peru.

Perhaps this is the first time any Western Hemisphere language has claimed the academy? The only other possible example might maybe have arisen with Nahuatl in Mexico, but I can’t find evidence.

Caveat: Wagyaan giina gha naahlingaay da aasgii gwaayaay inggut ll qinsgaayan

Gaaysta ll qayits dluu
haw ising xhitiit ahlaang tsaagudan ghan ll qaattlagan.
Ll sghunsaangan.
Gam tlagw ll naahlingaay qanggaangan,
Stluuttsadang haw suugangan.

Xhitiit ga ghan ll qiingwas
gyaan llaga ttl gwawgangan.
Wadluu llagu ll naahlingaay gaws dluu
gwii tlakkwaan·gan ll xitgwan·gangan.
Wagyaan giina gha naahlingaay da aasgii gwaayaay inggut ll qinsgaayan.

Wadluu hin Yaahl {ll} suudayan,
"Hlaxaayik gha hl xit."
Giina guunaga Hlaxaayit ttaaya gyangan
ahljiiyahlu gha lla ll suudayani.

"Haw giina gunagaay gyans hl kkudii,
dang tsin isis ahla," hin lla ll suudayan.
Wakkyanan llaga ll hlghwagayan.

Llaga ll hlwaagas ghan aa
giina guunagas unsadalan dluu,
"Hahl gwaa ttakkanaay,
dii kkuuk gha hl naa," hin lla ll suudayan.
"Wagyaan dang giidalang gam tsaghagudangghang asga."

Ahljiiyahlu wiid llagha ll naagan
lla ll tsindas ahla.

- Kingagwaaw
When he [the Raven] left that place,
here came another bird with no home of his own.
He was all by himself.
He had no place to live,
the Sapsucker said.

When he perched with other birds,
they drove him away.
And so, having no place to live,
he kept flying all the time.
And he searched the Islands for something to live in.

Then the Raven said,
"Fly to Hlaxaayik."
He said it because
something dead stood at Hlaxaayik.

"Peck the standing dead thing with your beak.
It's alright; it's your grandfather," he said to him.
Nevertheless, he was afraid of it.

When the dead thing understood
that he was afraid of it,
it said to him, "Grandson, come here.
Live in my heart,
and your children will not be left homeless."

That's where he lives even now,
because that is his grandfather.

- Kingagwaaw (Haida storyteller, early 1900s), translated by Robert Bringhurst

The above fragment appears quoted in the footnotes of Bringhurst’s translation of the Qquuna Cycle by the Haida poet Skaay, in Bringhurst’s volume Being in Being.

Caveat: ella me llamó pa tras

What I’m listening to right now.

Proyecto Uno, “Te dejaron flat.” I like this song so much. I’ve posted it before (about 7 years ago, here). It’s not that I like it in thematic terms, per se – it’s pretty typical of a certain genre of Dominican-American music, called merengue-house. Rather, I like it because of what’s going on in it linguistically. Constant code-switching, not just between Spanish and English, but between different registers and dialects within each language, too, including all kinds of non-standard calques going on, such as in the title of this blog post. It’s the sort of revelatory text that can reveal how new languages suddenly emerge out of the interaction of existing ones.


Primera noche, recibí una llamada, aha
Fue mi exnovia, sorpresa en mi cara, aha
Ella me llamó pa decirme, negrito me haces falta, aha
Yo la quiero sacar a bailar pero yo no tengo plata, a.

So what’s up baby, echa pa acá y yo cocino, aha
Es una mentira, sin embargo es mi estilo, aha
Ella dijo sí, en una hora estoy ahí, aha
Me quedé esperando hasta que me dormí (you tell me)

Uh, ya tú sae, oh, te dejaron flat
Uh, embarcao, he, plantao
Say word, (word…) oh, te dejaron flat
Uh, embarcao, he, bajo ya

Que lo que, que lo que sube
Que lo que, que lo que sube
Que lo que, que lo que sube
Que lo que, que lo que sube

Segunda noche, ella me llamó pa tras, aha
Pero como Robelto Durán, yo dije no más, aha
Ella lloró y me dijo discúlpame por favor, aha
Si vienes a casa te demostraré amor, aha.

Me tardé pero arranqué y yo llegué, aha
Pa la casa de la chama, le toque y timbré, aha
Ella contestó con una cara asustada, aha
Dijo que su novio vino sin decirle nada (damn!)

Uh, ya tú sae, oh, te dejaron flat
Uh, embarcao, he, plantao
Say word, (word…) oh te dejaron flat
Uh, ya tú sae, hey
(Alrigh’, y’all sing wi’ me now)
Eo, eo, eeo, eeo, eieio, eieio
Eo, eo, eeo, eeo, eiooo, eiooo


Think you gonna play me out this time? (this time)
Think you gonna leave me stinkin?
Think you gonna hurt me?
Think I had what you been drinkin?

Hey mami no te cruces porque no soy tu jueguito
No me llames por teléfono si tú no quieres dar
Con mala fama y yo te lo confirmo
No quiero problema, tú así conmigo
No vale la pena, ay negra, ay negra
(ay negra, ay negra)
Por qué me trata así, no me digas que me quieres
Si yo sé que tú no tienes tiempo para mí (you tell me)

Mami menéalo, mami menea, nea
Mami menéalo, mami menea, nea
(Break it down)
Dale pa bajo baby, dale pa bajo así
Dale pa bajo baby (pick it up, pick it up, pick it up)

… con Proyecto… Uno!

Y la gente dice

Uh, ya tú sae, oh, te dejaron flat
Uh, embarcao, he, plantao
Say word, (word…) oh, te dejaron flat
Uh, embarcao, he… (break it down)

Así, así, así, así, así, así
Así, así, así

Que lo que, que lo que sube
Que lo que, que lo que sube
Que lo que, que lo que sube
Que lo que, que lo que sube

Caveat: There, in the calm of some Platonic dream

This poem, below, was not written by a human being, as best I understand. It was written by one of those new “learning algorithm” AIs (Artificial Intelligences), where you give the AI a large pile of “training data” (i.e. in this case, a vast corpus of human-written poetry) and then say, more or less, “OK, give me a new one like that.” It works similarly to the way google-translate manages to make sense out of changing one language to another, without actually understanding a damn thing. It’s statistics, writ large.

Methinks I see her in her blissful dreams:
Or, fancy-like, in some mirage she lies,
Majestic yet majestic, and of seems
The image of the unconquerable skies.

Methinks I see her in her blissful dreams:
—Or, fancy-like, in some majestic cell,
Where lordly seraphs strew their balmy dreams
On the still night, or in their golden shell.

There, in the calm of some Platonic dream,
Sits she, and views the unclouded moon arise
Like a fair lady full of realms divine;

And, all at once, a stony face and bright
Glittering in moonlight, like the noon-tints of a night.

I found it, and other AI-generated poetry, on the slatestarcodex blog.

All very interesting.


Caveat: Anumpa Tosholi

In the morning, Arthur and I took a walk down the road.

Only a half-a-mile down the road, there is the Choctaw Nation Capitol and Museum. This is Native American country, and Dean and Pam’s farm is nestled up against the reservation land.


The museum was pretty good. There were historical exhibits on the genocide, called the “removal” and commonly called the “trail of tears.” Then a lot about the life since settlement in Oklahoma. I most enjoyed the contemporary artworks by tribal members.


In the museum shop, I made the mistake of looking at the books on sale. There were Choctaw language dictionaries. As many know, I have a weakness for dictionaries, especially in languages I don’t know and probably will never learn.

I bought dictionaries.


Arthur was bemused, as he is anytime he directly encounters my odd book-owning habit.

“Anumpa Tosholi” is in the Chahta (Choctaw) language, and means “word translator” which is the expression they use for “dictionary.”

Later in the day I got to “help” Dean feed some hay to his cows. Really mostly I was standing around.


[daily log: walking, 3km]

Caveat: My almost brother

I call Eugene my “almost” brother. He was an exchange student from Kazakhstan in the early 1990s, living with my dad and stepmother in Southern California, at the time when my brother Andrew was a teenager.

Eugene has been a member of my extended family ever since, even though I haven’t seen him much (I mean, the same could apply to many of my actual relatives, too).

His wife and he live in Minnesota, here, and have two amazing children. I was happy to meet them. I drove out to their house for dinner this evening. We took a selfie at the dinner table. It’s not a great photo, but it managed to include all of us, despite its blurriness.


Since Eugene speaks Russian, natively, and his wife Marisol grew up as a native Spanish-speaker in Los Angeles, they made the decision to raise their children trilingually. It’s quite spectacular to see a 4 year old switching seamlessly between English, Spanish and Russian. The fact that I’m fluent in two of those and able to at least vaguely understand the third (from my two years of college Russian), I had fun switching along with her.

All parents who can should give the gift of multilingualism to their children.

Unrelatedly, earlier, I took another long walk at the big park south of Mark and Amy’s house. I took some pictures. They seem a bit monotonous, I’m sure, but I never tire of the winter landscape here.


I saw a frozen stream.


I saw long shadows.


This is Jensen Lake. A good Minnesota name.


The lake has an island.


I found an unexpected shrine beside the trail.


I saw a hillside beetling into the lake.


[daily log: walking, 5km]

Caveat: Rrrr rr rrrrr!

There is a thing called "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" (ITLAP Day), on September 18th each year.

It's not even a new thing – I remember hearing it discussed on the radio when I was still living and working in L.A. in the 2000s.

I saw this image, a while back, and thought – I should post it for ITLAP Day! So here it is.


[daily log: walking, 4km; tromping, 300m]

Caveat: Yáahl


Yáahl uu st'igáalaan, hal st'i'áwyaagaan.
'Wáadluu xíl hal tlaahláayaan.
Gut'iláa k'íit k'uts hal ts'asláangaan.
'Wáadluu sáng kwáan hal néilaan gyaan hal 'lagáalaan
Asgáayst hal xitgwáangaan táawk uu hal diyáangaan.
'Wáadluu, chíin kwáan gándlaay aa hal táagaan.
Hal sk'ísdlaayaan gyaan xitgáay aa hal jagíyaayaan.
'Wáadluu hingáan an sáanjuudaayaan.
Ahljíihl uu tl' hlgúujuu jahlíis gám 'láa'anggang.

This story is in the Haida language, which is the native language of Prince of Wales Island, where my uncle's home is and where I will be moving. Here is a translation from the same website where I found the story.


Raven got sick, he was very sick.
Then he made some medicine.
He boiled different kinds of tree roots.
Then he drank it for many days and got well.
Then he flew around looking for food.
Then he ate a lot of fish in a creek.
He got full and couldn't fly.
So, then, he just rested.
That is why it doesn't pay to be too greedy.

by Erma Lawrence
Original version published in: Xaadas Gyaahláang (1974), Society for the Preservation of Haida Language and Literature.

[daily log: walking, 3km]

Caveat: 스무th

Today at work I saw a student (I’m not sure who) had added a comment to one of my whiteboard alligators.

They gave the “annoyed alligator” something to say, with a speech bubble. What he was saying was, “스무th” [seumu-th] which is a transliteration of “smooth”, I suppose. I think there’s some kind of meme going around Korean tweenagerdom using this English word. But what I found surprising was that the transcription into the Korean alphabet (hangul) shows a certain phonological sophistication, in that the “th” sound is un-transcribed, which in turn indicates an awareness that the “th” sound doesn’t exist Korean. Normally, the “th” sound is alternately transcribed as either “ㅅ/ㅆ” [s/ss] or as “ㄷ/ㄸ” [d/tt]. And most Koreans seem singularly unaware that in fact it is not either of these sounds but rather something else. So this unusual non-transcription event makes me feel happy that at least one junior whiteboard vandal at Karma has got the concept. Here’s a picture.


[daily log: walking, 8.5km; carrying heavy box to post office, 0.5km]

Caveat: nosostres…

This video (in the embedded tweet, below) is interesting to me, not because I necessarily would want to make any kind of linguistic prescription vis-a-vis the Spanish language, but rather because it represents a spontaneous, "folk-linguistic" solution to the the perceived need for truly gender-neutral language in Spanish, which makes the non-gender-neutral aspects of English look pretty minor by comparison. 

I think the substitution of "-e" for "-o/a" is perfect, and much more natural than the annoying, text-based substitutions I've seen before, like -@ or -x, which are unpronounceable and unnatural.

As a linguist, I retain my skepticism about the need for these kinds of solutions, but I nevertheless understand why people want them. I would only point out, by way of semantic counter-example, that the Korean language has a complete lack of gender markers (nouns, pronouns, etc.): it is literally impossible to know the gender of someone out of context, on linguistic cues alone. Yet this fact has hardly managed to create or support a gender-neutral culture. The belief that such is true (or necessary) is just a sort of naive and unscientific Sapirwhorfism.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Foki Afa Galande

What I'm listening to right now.

Heilung, "Krigsgaldr." This looks like part of some weird Scandinavian neo-Paganist thing. But it is interesting. I find these "back-to-roots" European nativist movements culturally intriguing, but feel it's regrettable the way they get coopted by various racist and authoritarianist ideologues. I have no idea what specific ideologies are associated with this Danish group, but if they turn out to be offensive, I offer my apologies in advance. I mostly just find it linguistically and culturally interesting, and would remark on the interesting coincidences with ancient cultures all over the world – these performers are not that different from e.g. efforts to recover or reconstruct Native American pre-contact cultures. I think the non-English parts, below, are no variety of modern Scandinavian, but rather intended to be some kind of "proto-Nordic" as recovered from some ancient runic inscriptions – that's what is linguistically interesting to me.


Min Warb Naseu
Wilr Made Thaim
I Bormotha Hauni

Hu War
Hu War Opkam Har a Hit Lot

Got Nafiskr Orf
Auim Suimade
Foki Afa Galande

What am I supposed to do
If I want to talk about peace and understanding
But you only understand the language of the sword
What if I want to make you understand that the path you chose leads to downfall
But you only understand the language of the sword
What if I want to tell you to leave me and my beloved ones in peace
But you only understand the language of the sword

I let the blade do the talking…
So my tongue shall become iron
And my words the mighty roar of war
Revealing my divine anger´s arrow shall strike

All action for the good of all
I see my reflection in your eyes
But my new age has just begun

The sword is soft
In the fire of the furnace
It hungers to be hit
And wants to have a hundred sisters
In the coldest state of their existence
They may dance the maddest
In the morass of the red rain

Beloved brother enemy
I sing my sword song for you
The lullaby of obliteration
So I can wake up with a smile
And bliss in my heart
And bliss in my heart
And bliss in my heart

Coexistence, Conflict, combat
Devastation, regeneration, transformation
That is the best I can do for you

I see a grey gloom on the horizon
That promises a powerful sun to rise
To melt away all moons
It will make the old fires of purification
Look like dying embers
Look like dying embers
Look like dying embers

Min Warb Naseu
Wilr Made Thaim
I Bormotha Hauni

Hu War
Hu War Opkam Har a Hit Lot

Got Nafiskr Orf
Auim Suimade
Foki Afa Galande

Hu War
Hu War Opkam Har a Hit Lot

Ylir Men Aero Their
Era Mela Os

I found some vague gestures at translation, and will only offer that the part I used as this blog post's title, "Foki Afa Galande", seems to correspond to a meaning "land of shining meadows".

The official video of the same song released by the group is interesting, too.

Heilung, "Krigsgaldr."

[daily log: walking, 7km; children herded, ~∞]

Caveat: 吉降下

"Teacher, what's your name in Korean?"

…One possible answer, but not the most easily explained or accepted (though it does, by chance, conform to the two-syllable requirement), would be to look to the Biblical passage where the name "Jared" makes an appearance:

(15)마할랄렐은 육십 오세에 야렛을 낳았고(16)야렛을 낳은 후 팔백 삼십년을 지내며 자녀를 낳았으며(17)그가 팔백 구십 오세를 향수하고 죽었더라(18)야렛은 일백 육십 이세에 에녹을 낳았고(19)에녹을 낳은 후 팔백년을 지내며 자녀를 낳았으며(20)그가 구백 육십 이세를 향수하고 죽었더라 — 창세기5장15-20

The standard Korean transcription of the Hebrew trilateral YRD is 야렛 [ya.ret], while in English Bibles it's "Jared". The Hebrew trilateral has been proposed to be related to the meaning "descended" (i.e. God descends upon him [?]). 

In fact, though, the use of "Biblical names" is not typical in Korea, even among the many hardcore Pentecostals. The Catholics, at least, generally baptize their kids with saints' names, but even these baptismal names are not the ones used legally or day-to-day. Instead, most everyone follows the traditional naming practices (which are essentially Chinese in origin). The use of non-hanja names (i.e. non-Chinese ones) is on the rise, but in most instances these non-Chinese names are still not Biblical in origin, but rather vaguely nationalistic "Pure Korean" names (e.g. common nouns, like the popular 이슬 [i.seul] for girls, meaning "dew").

Slightly less problematically, I generally translate my family name as simply 길 [gil]. This is an actual used family name in Korea [hanja: 吉]. I use it as translating the English common noun "way". This is not etymologically accurate in English, since my surname is in fact Welsh, not English. Nor is it etymologically accurate in Korean, since the family name "Gil" is not related to the Korean common noun "gil" = "way", but rather the term 길하다 [gil.ha.da = to be auspicious, to be fortunate]. Perhaps the double etymological inaccuracy cancels out, and it ends up being appropriate?

Hence, my "Korean name" might be: 길야렛 [gil.ya.ret]. Doesn't actually sound Korean, though.

Perhaps returning to the Hebrew trilateral, YRD [ירד], we could look for a hanja equivalent, and make that my name? There is 강하 [gang.ha, hanja 降下, meaning "fall down, descend"]. That sounds much more like a typical Korean name, 길강하 [Gil Gangha], and furthermore offers a parsable hanja form: 吉降下.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: touched by His Boolean Appendage

The Speculative Grammarian site has this very clever and utterly wrathful satire of the crypto-creationists' "Intelligent Design theory", here. Given the site it's on, bear in mind that it's a rewrite of the ID theory transferred from biology to linguistics, and called "Wrathful Dispersion" theory, alluding to the Tower of Babel tale in Genesis.

I particularly liked:

One cynical observer has likened WD ["Wrathful Dispersion" theory] to Scientology, which “is a religion for purposes of tax assessment, a science for purposes of propaganda, and a work of fiction for purposes of copyright.”


In particular, a satirical Web-based grassroots pseudo-cult has grown up around the theory that all modern languages were in fact “shat out of the arse of the Flying Stratificational Grammar Monster,” with adherents claiming to have achieved enlightenment upon being “touched by His Boolean Appendage” or “washed in the blood of Sydney Lamb.”

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Poem #600

my nam yu no
i want tu ete
a mungki, shur,
or stoodents, yum,
in ther nise haus
but meenwile tho
i lik the maus

– This poem is in a completely new form, recently emergent from internet memedom, called "bredlik." In fact it's a pretty structured form, with requirements of rhyme, meter, theme and even a kind of anti-spelling convention. You can read about it here - linguists have been observing its development. As that summary notes, the misspellings are not meant to seem illiterate or childish, rather, they in fact somewhat emulate the fluid orthographies of Middle English. I would add that the deliberate misspelling also successfully conveys the orality of the poem in the context of the overwhelmingly textual medium of internet-based forums and chats. So I decided to make my own, about my classroom ubiquitous alligator character.

Caveat: Non lo sbagli più

So these guys made a pop song in Italian complaining about people's failure to use the subjunctive properly. On the one hand, this is grammar peevery, and thus a linguist (such as I pretend to be on occasion) can't really be expected to approve. Grammar peevery is in fact diametrically opposed to rational, descriptive linguistics. Nevertheless, peevery can be entertaining, and it's funny to see Italians singing about grammar.

Cosa sto ascoltando al momento.

Lorenzo Baglioni, "Il Congiuntivo."


Che io sia
Che io fossi
Che io sia stato

[Strofa 1]
Oggigiorno chi corteggia incontra sempre più difficoltà
Coi verbi al congiuntivo
Quindi è tempo di riaprire il manuale di grammatica, che è
Che è molto educativo
Gerundio, imperativo
Infinito, indicativo
Molti tempi e molte coniugazioni, ma

Il congiuntivo ha un ruolo distintivo
E si usa per eventi che non sono reali
È relativo a ciò che è soggettivo
A differenza di altri modi verbali
E adesso che lo sai anche tu
Non lo sbagli più

[Strofa 2]
Nel caso che il periodo sia della tipologia dell’irrealtà (si sa)
Ci vuole il congiuntivo
Tipo “Se tu avessi usato il congiuntivo trapassato
Con lei non sarebbe andata poi male”
Segui la consecutio temporum

Il congiuntivo ha un ruolo distintivo
E si usa per eventi che non sono reali
È relativo a ciò che è soggettivo
A differenza di altri modi verbali
E adesso che lo sai anche tu
Non lo sbagli più

E adesso ripassiamo un po' di verbi al congiuntivo:
Che io sia (presente)
Che io fossi (imperfetto)
Che io sia stato (passato)
Che fossi stato (trapassato)
Che io abbia (presente)
Che io avessi (imperfetto)
Che abbia avuto (passato)
Che avessi avuto (trapassato)
Che io sarei…

Il congiuntivo come ti dicevo
Si usa in questo tipo di costrutto sintattico
Dubitativo, quasi riflessivo
Descritto dal seguente esempio didattico
E adesso che lo sai anche tu
Non lo sbagli più

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 카롱마

My student Jiwon emailed her homework to me with the following subject line: 카롱마 [karongma].

This is evidently a play on the name of the hagwon (afterschool academy) where I work: 카르마 [kareuma], which is itself a Korean representation of the English word Karma, in turn borrowed from Sanskrit, I suppose. I have always assumed this name serves as a kind of oblique reference to the underlying Buddhist ideological stance of the business’s owner, just as another hagwon down the street goes by 시온 [sion = Zion] to indicate its being run by Christians.

As far as Jiwon’s alteration of the name, I’m not quite sure what all the semantic valances are, but off the top of my head I think there’s at least two things going on.

The first is the substitution of the syllable “rong”, which is a possible reference to the English word “wrong”, which has wider semantics in Konglish than in English (i.e. it can mean a mistake, or general badness – I suppose American slang takes the word in a similar directions, cf. an American teenager snarking “that’s so wrong”).

The second is that syllable final “-ng” on the substituted syllable. In Korean script, this sound is represented by the circles (“ㅇ”) at the bottoms of the glyphs: 롱 [rong], 잉 [ing], 강 [gang], etc. – which is the letter called “ieung”. This sound suffix is used on open syllables (those ending in a vowel) in informal talk, especially by women and girls, to sound “cute”, e.g. “안녕하세용” [annyeonghaseyong = “hello”, said cutely] versus standard “안녕하세요” [annyeonghaseyo = “hello”].

So you have the negative valance of “wrong” but the positive one of “cute”, mixed together.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: en es ko

Well, it took me more than six months to get around to it, but over this past weekend I finally resurrected my Linux desktop. I had managed to break it while trying to expand the size of the linux OS partition on my hard drive, and had been too lazy to go in and rescue all the old files and resurrect it. Instead, all this time have been unhappily limping along with the Windows 7 "Korea" edition that was native to my home desktop PC. I guess from a day-to-day "surf the internet" functionality, it was fine, but lately I've been wanting to get back to doing something more productive with some programming (er…  really just hacking around with things) in support of my moribund geofiction hobby. As such, having a functional Ubuntu Linux desktop is pretty much indispensable.

In fact, once I'd backed up all my files to an external drive, which was merely tedious, the re-install was mostly painless. As before, the most painful thing for me with Linux is language and keyboard support issues. I cannot function, now, without having Korean and Spanish language keyboard options – I still do some writing in Spanish, of course, and although my Korean remains lousy in qualitative terms, it's nevertheless a ubiquitous aspect of my daily existence, and being able to type it comfortably is essential.

Each time I try to get the Korean keyboard and language options to work on a Linux install, it goes differently. It feels like a kind of hit-or-miss affair, where I keep trying various gadgets and settings in all possible combinations until I get one that works. This inevitable confusion was not helped by the fact that unlike last time, where I used Ubuntu's native "Unity" desktop, I opted this time to try the so-called Cinnamon desktop (part of the "Mint" distro, a fork of Ubuntu). This was because I'd heard that Unity was not much longer for this world, and that Canonical (the creators of Ubuntu) intended to go out of the desktop-making biz.

Linux (at least these Ubuntu distros) make a distinction between "language setting" (which is fundamentally useless for controlling how the system reads the keyboard, as far as I can tell) and "input method" – which is what you need. But these two subsystems don't seem to talk to each other very well.

The peculiar result I achieved after a few hours of dinking around, this time, is possibly unique in the entire world. I have my Ubuntu 16.04 with Cinnamon desktop, where the "system language" is English, the "regionalization" is Korean, the "keyboard" is Spanish, and the "input method" is Korean. This is pretty weird, because my physical keyboard is, of course, Korean. So for my regular day-to-day typing, the keys (except the letters proper) don't match, since all the diacritics and symbols and such are arranged quite differently on a Spanish keyboard. But I've always been adept at touch typing, and I know the Spanish layout mostly by heart. Then when I want to type Korean, I hit the "hangul" key (which the "Spanish keyboard" can't "see" since Spanish keyboards don't have "hangul" keys) and that triggers the Korean part of the IBus input widget, and I can type Korean. It sounds bizarre, but it's the most comfortable arrangement of keyboard settings I've ever managed, since there's never any need to use a "super" shortcut of some kind to toggle between languages – they're all running more-or-less on top of each other in a big jumble instead of being segregated out.

I hate to say it, but I didn't take notes as to how I got here – so I can't even tell you. I just kept trying different combinations of settings until one worked. I messed with the "Language Support", the "IBus Preferences", the "Keyboard" (under "System Settings), and the System Tray.

Anyway, I took a screenshot of my system tray, where you can see the whole resultant mess in a single summary snapshot.


I now have a full-fledged Mediawiki instance up-and-running on the desktop (you can visualize a sort of "empty" wikipedia – all the software, but no information added into it). I've even configured the OGF-customized "slippy map" embeds for it (I managed that once on this here blog, too). I'm currently trying to get a PostgreSQL database instance working – MySQL is running but PostgreSQL has better GIS support, which is something I'm interested in having.

So there, you see a sometime hobby of mine, in action once again after a sort of winter hibernation, I guess.

[daily log: walking, 7km]