right-hook v

Via Bridget Samuels at ilani ilani: The IPA council has adopted the first new phonetic symbol in twelve years. SIL explains that the “right hook v” will symbolise a labiodental flap, and how to produce this sound. It is a phoneme in several African languages, among which Mono.

The latest beta versions of the Doulos SIL and Charis SIL fonts include the right hook v in their “private use area” (code U+F25F). If you have one of them installed, you might see it here: . (Otherwise, you’ll see some nonsense or nothing at all.)

Interesting article by Michael Erard in today’s New York Times (reg. req’d), on the book and the database The Ethnologue, which are published by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (S.I.L.).

This is an absolutely amazing source of information for everyone who is interested in the languages of the world.

Erard does not avoid to touch upon the curious origins of the project as a help for Christian missionaries and a guide to languages that lack a bible translation. They give rise to valid arguments against…

Denny Moore, a linguist with the Goeldi Museum in Belém, Brazil, said via e-mail: “It is absurd to think of S.I.L. as an agency of preservation, when they do just the opposite. Note that along with the extermination of native religion, all the ceremonial speech forms, songs, music and art associated with the religion disappear too.”

… and for the project as a whole:

Most linguists are unfazed at S.I.L.’s affiliations. “If you took away all the literature done by the S.I.L. people done in the last 60 years,” said Dr. Ruhlen of Stanford, “you’d be taking away a lot of language documentation for a lot of languages for which there’s nothing at all.”


Collection de petits riens relatifs, pour la plupart, à la date que nous sommes aujourd’hui. Certains des liens sont en français.

  • 2005-04-01
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If this had been posted on about any other day of the year, I’d have loved to check out the C++ version of The Mill on the Floss. (Yet another Victorian novel I never finished. Not yet anyway. Don’t take me wrong, I am very fond of Jude the Obscure and liked Wuthering Heights quite a lot. It’s a concentration issue, most likely).

But lacking this, at least there’s are real, existing translation of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky into ActionScript. An excerpt (six lines’ worth, to be precise) goes thusly:

son.beware (jabberwocky);
son.beware (bird.jubjub);
son.shun (bandersnatch['frumious']);
var time = getTimer();
with (sword in hand) {
  while (getTimer() < = time + 100000000) {
    for (var i = 0; i <= foe.length; i++ ) {
      if (foe[i] == 'manxome') {

(Here is a collection of translations of the poem into human languages.)

In the French blogospheric segment, Jean Véronis treats us to a prime example of the genre, starting out with something so reasonable that it sure not to happen, and finishing on the topic of … “digitising”, or scanning, historical Google screenshots. Digitising, mon œil, as they say here. (I really should comment on Mark Liberman’s coverage (start here and follow the links backwards) of storm in that particular tea cup — a very small tea cup, I might say, but since it contains the French president, there may be some lasting effects.)

On the absolutely serious side, Eolas, a French law blogger (and ruthless capitalist, which is a tautology), prepares us for what is to come by explaining point for point how new popes are elected, as usual with a keen eye for the legal side of the matter. Truly a fo(u)nt of knowledge. His article reminds me of one of the best history books I’ve ever read, Mario Biagioli’s Galileo, Courtier. One point of maybe mostly anectotal interest, but which has stuck with me, was that even as late as in Galileo’s time, the time that the cardinals spent tucked away in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope used to be enough of a physical strain that several of them could be expected not to survive the ordeal. Which, in turn, gave the new pope the occasion to strengthen his own political faction.

Eolas, who professes himself a Catholic, deals with matters of religion in a refreshingly incisive tone. I particularly enjoyed his account of the lawsuit that recently got an advert censored in France because it supposedly insulted Catholic sensibilities (the imagery alludes to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and beyond that to the biblical passage, of course). Eolas first speaks as a lawyer (the judgement was slightly unusual in that it went against the prosecution’s opinion, which was that there was nothing wrong with the image), then as a Catholic. (For the record, while I am no great friend of advertising and don’t think that the ad’s ban is certainly no great loss for the art scene, I find it disturbing that a non-profit, which is affiliated with the official church hierarchy, succeeded in having it censored; and disappointed that they tried in the first place — but I’ve said before that I’m getting cynical about that.)

Update: On the topic of the first part of this post, I came across this post on linguaphiles, about an Austronesian relative of Basque. Much, much better than Google Gulp.

Via Language Hat, a Cajun French-English glossary for the students at Louisiana State University. I only regret that they don’t use IPA for the phonetic transcription. The system they do use is, frankly, unusable (except maybe for speakers of a particular variety of American English, which they don’t further specify).

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Transcribing another unknown language

Un autre quiz sur Language Log. On les adore.

Mark Liberman at Language Log has posted a second transcribe-and-guess-the-language quiz. I believe most readers of this blog interested in this sort of question, so you probably know this already. As one of those who got the first one right, I couldn’t resist of course. (More seriously, though, it’s an excellent exercise.) I have followed my […]

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More on dealing with unknown languages

Une autre livraison concernant le mystère des langues mystères.

First of all, I was right, and so was caelestis at (or le?) sauvage noble: the mystery language is Romansh. It is interesting to look at the differences between our approaches. Caelestis writes in his comment section: For the record, I should state that all I went on was the MP3, the exercise having […]

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Transcribing an unknown language

Ma réponse à un défi de déviner une langue à partir d’un enregistrement, et de le transcrire en phonétique.

This is a reply to Mark Liberman’s challenge to a) guess the language on a recording and b) transcribe it. I’ve never transcribed anything but English, and this more often into phonemes than phonetically (ie, writing down actual heard sounds, which is much more difficult). Even though I’m not a card-carrying linguist (but seriously thinking […]

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