Some time ago, Kevin Marks told me about a strange little OS X application that comes with Apple Macs. It is called “Speak After Me”, and takes a bit of text, records the user speaking the text, cuts it up (the speech, not the user) into phonemes — at least that’s what the program calls them — and then maps a pitch contour to the transcription.

Here is a screenshot of Kevin saying “Coco is the queen of the space monkeys” (click on the image to enlarge). Highlighted in yellow is the transcription it generates, using a very odd phonemic (phonetic?) notation:

Mac OS X: Speak After Me

Not having a Mac, I don’t know if the program works for other languages than English. But even in English, it is clear that its phoneme inventory must be a weak point of the system: Written language to phoneme mapping just doesn’t work across all varieties of English. On the other hand, you apparently can edit the speech recording/transcription/pitch contour set, and the program also lets you export the data as a plain text file. It might be nice to play around with for a class of advanced ESL learners, or even in native-language education at the high school or post-secondary level.

According to Kevin, this is mainly a OS X demo application and part of the “developers’ install”, which is accessible to all Mac OS X users. Does anyone know more about it?

What’s wrong with CAPTCHAs, apart from the accessibility problem they create? This:

unreadable CAPTCHA

Note the snowclone in Erinn’s article title Unreadable captchas considered useless. This is a variant of the “X considered harmful” snowclone — clearly more widespread in the coder community than elsewhere — whose inventor is not Edsger Dijkstra, even though it does go back to his famous article of 1968 entitled Go To Statement Considered Harmful (Communications of the ACM, Vol. 11, No. 3, March 1968, pp. 147-148).

Via Erinn Clark.

You wouldn’t mind taking another look at this, would you?

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Avibase is a multilingual bird database with 1.9 million entries on 10,000 species and 22,000 sub-species. In case you need to know that the Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark is called Saharanvarpuskiuru in Finnish. The French version of the home page makes me smile. When they ask you to enter a “nom d’oiseau”, this is meant literally (scroll […]

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Merriam-Webster offers a collection of five search tools for download to access their free online dictionary and thesaurus directly from inside Firefox. There is even a “Get Firefox” button for those who still haven’t tried it. They have a solution for every taste: bookmarklet, the Firefox search field, a M-W toolbar, right-click search… Excellent! Dictionary publishers […]

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Language power-games

The question of whether there will be a linguistic and, ultimately, intellectual dominance of English and English-language research and culture is a vast one. A small contribution to a transatlantic (virtual) dialogue between Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the directer of the French National Library and Mark Liberman, professor of linguistics, at Language Log.

This post (in French) is partly based on the way this issue is framed on the European side of the Atlantic. Re-reading the English commentaries on the web, it occurs to me that the mistranslation of défi(er) by defy (instead of challenge) in the article title has rather wide-ranging consequences. Mr Jeanneney’s goals are by no means in conflict with Google’s indexing of anglophone libraries. His article draws on the presuppositions that characterise the current state of this debate in France, and are not at all directed at or against anyone but French public and political opinion.

Il est légèrement embarrassant d’être aiguillée vers un article du Monde (un point de vue de Jean-Noël Jeanneney) en lisant un blog anglophone. Indépendamment de l’opinion exprimée par Mark Liberman, je le trouve plutôt rassurant de constater que le sujet n’intéresse pas que les français ou autres européens. La question du multilinguisme sur la toile […]

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What’s your MP up to?

Je fais écho en anglais à un billet en français, que vous pouvez lire en VO vous-mêmes.

  • 2005-02-03
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In his post De la démocratie au Palais-Bourbon#[1] on his blog at Ceteris Paribus, Emmanuel offers some thoughts on the role of French members of parliament and how the voting public keeps an eye on their work and votes — or rather, doesn’t. As a political blog, Ceteris Paribus has several things going for it: […]

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Still on multilingual blogging, I have recently met (thanks to IRC) Patrick and Luke, who are both interested in the linguistic and multilingual aspect of blogging and have good ideas to contribute. Luke, in particular, has an proposal for “distributed translation” of blog content by bloggers who typically blog about related topics in a different […]

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With Morgan Doocy — who, unlike me, actually knows how to code in PHP — I am working on a plugin to make WordPress comprehensively suitable for multilingual blogging. Of course, we have a lot of ideas what we expect from a mulitlingual blogging tool (you may have noticed that this blog is already bilingual-and-a-half). […]

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L’écriture est un art difficile. C’est pourquoi j’ai installé un Wiki local, à la maison : Instiki. Une joie.

Bloggers, this seems to be an emerging tradition, do some navel-gazing once in a while. Why do I blog? What do I blog? Where does blogging lead me? Who reads me? I have tried to avoid this, which I find difficult because I tend to do a lot of this sort of introspection. Still, I […]

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