May. 23rd, 2017 01:45 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
This weekend I went to another Jewish-Muslim interfaith event. I was not exactly the main target audience, which was mainly people whose actual job is religious education. I did get to meet some Somali Bravanese Muslims, an ethnic minority from Somalia via Kenya whom I hadn't encountered before.

Anyway we had some very interesting discussions, including around the use of language. Some of the Muslim participants said they didn't like what I had thought of as an otherwise neutral older spelling, Moslem. They said they associate that spelling and pronunciation with people like Donald Trump, and I can see that people who haven't bothered to update their language might well be assumed to be hostile. I don't particularly need to change my own language choices since I have been using the modern spelling anyway, but it's useful to note.

Then of course the conversation turned to the Jewish side, and the somewhat fraught issue of what we should be called. is 'Jew' a slur? )


May. 23rd, 2017 11:13 am
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Yesterday’s Dumbing of Age:

In fact Walky is right about homonym. The OED’s overall gloss is “The same name or word used to denote different things”, with the more specific sense “Philol. Applied to words having the same sound, but differing in meaning”.

Billie is right about the etymology — for the verb funk “To blow smoke upon (a person); to annoy with smoke” the OED says

Etymology: perhaps < French dialect funkier = Old French funkier , fungier < Latin *fūmicare (Italian fumicare ), fūmigāre , < fūmus smoke.

and adds that the noun, though apparently from this verb, is recorded earlier.

The Wikipedia article for funk music explains that

The word funk initially referred (and still refers) to a strong odor. It is originally derived from Latin “fumigare” (which means “to smoke”) via Old French “fungiere” and, in this sense, it was first documented in English in 1620. In 1784 “funky” meaning “musty” was first documented, which, in turn, led to a sense of “earthy” that was taken up around 1900 in early jazz slang for something “deeply or strongly felt”.

In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to “get down” by telling one another, “Now, put some stank on it!”. At least as early as 1907, jazz songs carried titles such as Funky. The first example is an unrecorded number by Buddy Bolden, remembered as either “Funky Butt” or “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” with improvised lyrics that were, according to Donald M. Marquis either “comical and light” or “crude and downright obscene” but, in one way or another, referring to the sweaty atmosphere at dances where Bolden’s band played. As late as the 1950s and early 1960s, when “funk” and “funky” were used increasingly in the context of jazz music, the terms still were considered indelicate and inappropriate for use in polite company. According to one source, New Orleans-born drummer Earl Palmer “was the first to use the word ‘funky’ to explain to other musicians that their music should be made more syncopated and danceable.” The style later evolved into a rather hard-driving, insistent rhythm, implying a more carnal quality. This early form of the music set the pattern for later musicians. The music was identified as slow, “sexy”, loose, riff-oriented and danceable.

Of course the exchange is not really about word senses and etymologies.


(no subject)

May. 23rd, 2017 03:32 am
baranduin: (Reading tx sallymn)
[personal profile] baranduin
Books finished:
Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharmaby Daniel Ingram. Much of this is over my head technically but good descriptions and comparisons of differing mind map schools. He is irritating in his posturing but knows a lot of stuff and I like his challenging more conventional strains in western Buddhist circles. Daniel is an ER doctor who set up/runs the Dharma Overground website/forum.

Worldcon 75 Membership Report

May. 23rd, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by Mike Glyer

The latest membership figures were released during Worldcon 75’s staff meeting last weekend. Attending: 4,488 Total membership number: 6,944 This includes 1,141 First Worldcon memberships. The con has gained almost 800 members since the update published in Progress Report #4, … Continue reading

2017 Tomorrow Prize Winners

May. 23rd, 2017 04:05 am
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Posted by Mike Glyer

Sci-Fest LA and The Light Bringer Project presented the winners of The Tomorrow Prize on May 21 at LitFest Pasadena. The contest for short science fiction stories was created by in 2014 “to identify and encourage the next generation of … Continue reading

“Little Man” the eating machine

May. 23rd, 2017 04:45 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

There’s a curious article by Kathy Chu and Menglin Huang in the Wall Street Journal (5/21/17):

How a Toddler Who Loves Eating Transfixed China:  2½-year-old Xiaoman is an online sensation, bringing fame, a Pampers ad and questions about her weight”

If you have difficulty reading the whole article via the embedded link, try this TinyURL, which should lead you to a complete preview.

The article begins with a video of the little girl wolfing down seemingly limitless quantities of food, including the (in)famously smelly durian fruit in an Indonesian restaurant.  See the third paragraph here:

Malaysian Multilingualism” (9/11/09)

If you’d like to watch other videos testifying to Xiaoman’s enormous capacity for gluttony, see here and here.

From the Chinese internet, it’s easy to find that the characters for “Xiaoman” are Xiǎomán 小蛮.  The authors translate her name as “little man”, without further explanation.  That’s terribly misleading, because readers will take that to mean “little male person”, but that she is not.

Xiǎo 小 does mean “little”, and that she certainly is, though she will fast become very big.  Xiǎo 小 (“little”) is indeed often used affectionately for informal personal names, even for grownups.  Mán 蛮, however, is much, much harder to pin down.

I will state frankly that my first reaction was to interpret her name as meaning “Little Barbarian”, since the original meaning of mán 蛮 is “(southern) barbarian”, and it still has that connotation, but it also has many other related meanings:  “rough; reckless; fierce; rude; unreasoning; bullying”.  The most common disyllabic word into which mán 蛮 enters is yěmán 野蛮 (“barbarous; brutal; cruel; uncivilized; rude”), where the first syllable yě 野 conveys the sense of “wild; rough; undomesticated; uncultivated; rude”.

So my interpretation of Xiǎomán 小蛮 is that it means “Little Barbarian” for her impetuous, impulsive eating habits, but affectionately, something like “Little Rascal” or “Little Monster”.

I asked several colleagues for their take on Xiǎomán 小蛮 and received these sensitive responses.

From Maiheng Dietrich:

Mán 蛮 usually refers to actions that are physical, forceful, instinctive. It is the opposite of thoughtful, skillful, or diplomatic. Its meaning also extends to uncivilized, uneducated, and unrefined (thus barbarian). However, it could be a term of endearment if used for people in an intimate relationship.

From Jing Wen:

I don’t think it means little barbarian here. In some southern dialects, mán 蛮 means hěn 很 (“very”), mán hǎo 蛮好 = hěn hǎo 很好 (“very good”). Maybe her parents call her Xiǎomán 小蛮 simply because it sounds like a pretty name.

In partial support of Jing’s interpretation, I can attest that when I was living in Taiwan back at the beginning of the 70s, I often heard expressions like mán hǎokàn 蠻好看 (“quite good looking”) and mán piàoliang 蠻漂亮 (“quite beautiful”).  Yet note that, so far as I can recall, mán 蠻 in this sense (“quite; rather”) also came before an adjective, so it’s hard for me to interpret the mán 蛮 of Xiǎomán 小蛮 in this sense (“Little Quite / Rather / Very”).

Mark Metcalf looked up xiǎomán 小蛮 in the Hànyǔ dà cídiǎn 汉语大词典 (Unabridged Dictionary of Sinitic) and found that it was originally the name of the famous Tang poet Bo Juyi’s 白居易 (772-846) concubine (maybe she came from the south) and eventually became a general word for concubines.

In any event, our present day baby gourmand, Xiǎomán 小蛮, is also often referred to as a “chīhuò 吃貨” (“chowhound; foodie”), a term we have encountered before, e.g.:

Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 2” (10/15/14)

Coarse grains hotel” (6/1/14)

As for the nuances of chīhuò 吃貨” (“chowhound; foodie”), Jing Wen remarks:

I think chīhuò 吃货 is what a gastronome or a food aficionado calls him/herself.  Basically it means people who love eating and know how to eat well. It is not polite to say someone else is a chīhuò 吃货, if they are not close friends or family members. (It is still inappropriate to say “my dad is a chīhuò 吃货”, but it is OK to say “my brother is a chīhuò 吃货”).

Notice that Xiaoman eats with a spoon and fork, not chopsticks.  I’ve seen many college students, monks, and others who prefer to eat with fork and spoon rather than with chopsticks.  I met one Buddhist monk who told me that he never learned how to eat with chopsticks.  But Xiaoman is also good with her hands (she’d do well in India) and even directly with her mouth, down to the last noodle in the bowl.

[Thanks to Mark Metcalf, Maiheng Dietrich, and Jing Wen]

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Posted by Mike Glyer

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”. GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When … Continue reading

[ SECRET POST #3792 ]

May. 22nd, 2017 07:11 pm
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⌈ Secret Post #3792 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.


More! )


Secrets Left to Post: 02 pages, 31 secrets from Secret Submission Post #543.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.

Random observations

May. 22nd, 2017 08:56 pm
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[personal profile] naraht
• I've ordered, from Japan, a tenugui towel with an udon noodle design. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and to be fair the shipping was only £1.50. All the designs are amazing, but I was particularly struck by this. (Tell me that Yuuri Katsuki doesn't take one to the rink with him.)

• I also seem to be buying excessive quantities of culottes. (Well, two pairs, but you know.) For once I'm on trend. I know I have to buy now, before they disappear for another twenty years. I hate the fashion cycle.

Victor isn't the only one who has a phone case of himself

• This weekend I'm going to Belgium, and it's now clear that it's going to be boiling hot, like 28C/83F on Sunday. Currently reconsidering my packing list, plans, life choices, etc. (Don't laugh, people from elsewhere.) I still plan on climbing the Wall of Geraardsbergen but I'll have to do it early in the morning. And, you know, on foot. Needless to say.
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Posted by Eugene Volokh

From Commonwealth v. Kushmanick, which was decided last year by a Pennsylvania appellate court, but which I just came across last week (all quotes are from the opinion):

1. The facts: Kushmanick started dating S.C. when he was 18 or 19, and she was 16 (according to defendant, just a week shy of her 17th birthday). The age of consent for sexual activity generally in Pennsylvania is 16. (There is the possibility that someone may be prosecuted for “corrupting the morals of a minor” when the minor is 16 or 17, but this was not an issue raised in this case.)

As part of their relationship — according to Kushmanick, after S.C. turned 17 — he would photograph S.C. naked. “The photographs depicted S.C. naked in a blatantly sexual way. However, the photographs also graphically establish that S.C. was a willing and voluntary model.” Her face was apparently not visible on the photographs, but she recognized them at trial because of various items of clothing and linens they depicted.

“When the relationship ended between the parties, S.C. asked [Defendant] to delete the photographs from his cell phone.” Kushmanick didn’t do that, but he apparently never displayed the photographs to anyone else.

2. The prosecution: In late 2013, a police officer got access to defendant’s phone (with a warrant) “as a result of an unrelated investigation” and found the pictures, which led to the prosecution of defendant for creating and possessing child pornography. Defendant was convicted and “sentenced to 18 months of probation” but was also “classified as a Tier III offender … and thus subject to the lifetime registration requirement.” The relevant statutes provide:

(1) Any person who causes or knowingly permits a child under the age of 18 years to engage in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act commits an offense if such person knows, has reason to know or intends that such act may be photographed, videotaped, depicted on computer or filmed.

(2) Any person who knowingly photographs, videotapes, depicts on computer or films a child under the age of 18 years engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act commits an offense…..

… Any person who intentionally views or knowingly possesses or controls any book, magazine, pamphlet, slide, photograph, film, videotape, computer depiction or other material depicting a child under the age of 18 years engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act commits an offense.

“Prohibited sexual act” is defined as various sexual acts or “lewd exhibition of the genitals or nudity if such nudity is depicted for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any person who might view such depiction.” The definition does not include any requirement that the act be criminal independently of its being recorded.

3. The majority decision:

[W]e agree with [Defendant ]that the conduct at issue herein is not of the type which the legislature intended to punish. “The purpose of Section 6312 is plainly to protect children, end the abuse and exploitation of children, and eradicate the production and supply of child pornography.” The facts of this case do not establish abuse or exploitation of S.C., or that Defendant’s actions led to the supply of child pornography. [Footnote: Indeed, the only record evidence of dissemination of the pornography at issue is the Commonwealth’s production of it at trial.]

Here, Defendant and S.C. were permitted by law to engage in sexual activity. Thus, the acts depicted in the photography on Defendant’s phone were not “prohibited sexual acts” between these parties.

In view of these circumstances, and the maxim “Cessante ratione legis cessat et ipsa lex” [“When the reason of the law ceases, the law itself also ceases”], we conclude that the reasons behind subsections 6312(b) and (d) are inapplicable to the photography in this case. Therefore, … we reverse [Defendant]’s convictions.

4. The dissent, by Judge Mundy:

The Majority does not conclude the Commonwealth’s evidence is insufficient for a failure to satisfy any of the elements of sexual abuse of children. Likewise, the Majority does not dispute that neither lack of consent, nor dissemination is an element under [the statute]…. Rather, the Majority deems the Commonwealth’s case legally insufficient because of the maxim cessante ratione legis cessat et ipsa lex. This maxim has never been applied to void an otherwise legally sufficient criminal conviction.

[In the words of the trial court,]

[Defendant]’s argument has equitable and common sense appeal. Unfortunately, his arguments are not legally cognizable. [does not distinguish between consensual photographs taken by two adventurous, experimenting teens and photographs created by sexual predators for the pedophilic gratification of themselves or others. While certainly ironic, the fact that [Defendant] and S.C. were legally permitted to engage in sexual activity is not a defense [under the statute].

… It is not the role of the judiciary to change the law. Rather, any changes to [the statute] must come from the legislature….

[Footnote:] The Majority appears to equate “prohibited sexual act” in [the statute] with a criminal act. However, [the statute] defines the term “prohibited sexual act” as “[s]exual intercourse …, masturbation, sadism, masochism, bestiality, fellatio, cunnilingus, lewd exhibition of the genitals or nudity if such nudity is depicted for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any person who might view such depiction.” The statute therefore does not depend on the legality or illegality of the underlying act, rather it depends on depicting a child under the age of 18 engaging in any of the listed “prohibited sexual acts.”

5. The precedent: Neither the majority nor the dissent cited State v. Kitchen, a similar 2002 Pennsylvania appellate case (which was affirmed without opinion by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2003). Here was the argument of defendant’s lawyer, Elizabeth Judd, distinguishing Kitchen:

The victim in [Kitchen] testified:

[S]he was a sixteen years of age when she moved into Appellant’s apartment where the two lived together for about eighteen months. She testified that during those months, Appellant photographed her over sixty times in sexually explicit poses despite the fact she was under the age of eighteen. She admitted that while they were living together she and Appellant had a child, and Appellant continued to take photographs, before, during and after her pregnancy. A number of photographs were introduced into evidence, which the victim retrieved from the Walmart Store where they had been developed. She also testified that she and the Appellant had argued about other sexually explicit photographs which he had taken, kept and refused to return.

The defendant in Kitchen, whose age was not disclosed, argued his relationship with the minor should preclude a conviction. He focused on the principle that a minor may consent to sexual intercourse with an adult. The Court rejected the argument and affirmed the conviction. [The] circumstances [of the Defendant in this case] are distinguishable. He was a peer of S.C., never allowed the photographs to be seen by any other party and there was never a dispute with the involved minor about the photos. His inexperience of youth prevented him from making a sound moral judgement. His intentions were motived by a sense of sexual experimentation with a peer not a pedophilic desire, which is the activity the Legislature intended to address.

(For another interesting Pennsylvania child porn case, see Miller v. Skumanick, which dealt with a threat to prosecute minors for possessing suggestive photos they took of themselves; but that case was not brought up either in the opinion or in the briefs.)

6. The policy: In my experience, many people have the reaction, “If you can have sex with each other, you should be able to photograph each other having sex (or just naked).” That’s a perfectly sensible reaction; after all, if 16-year-olds are allowed to consent to activities that can cause pregnancy and disease, why not let them consent to mere photography as well? But I thought that I’d also lay out how the policy argument might go in favor of criminalizable photos of under-18-year-old sex partners even if actual sex with the partners is legal, just so readers can consider it:

A. Under-18-year-olds are too immature to consent to actions that could cause them serious long-term harm. That might be a good reason to ban people from having sex with them (which can cause pregnancy, disease and serious emotional pain in the event of a breakup). And it is a good reason to ban people from photographing them naked or in sexual contexts (which can cause humiliation if they are publicized and can be used for purposes of extortion).

B. At the same time, trying to shield under-18-year-olds from such harms also interferes with their liberty; we might therefore allow them to engage in dangerous behavior at some age below 18, in order to diminish this interference. We might let them use deadly devices (such as cars), which may be important for work and education. We might let them engage in deadly activities (such as sex), and free others to be partners in such activities, when such activities may be very emotionally important to them.

But when an activity is dangerous but less important (such as sexual photography), we can reasonably tell them (and their prospective partners), “Want to have your boyfriend take sexual pictures of you? Fine, but just wait until 18, when you might have a more mature judgment on the matter.” Indeed, maybe this might help the under-18-year-olds avoid pressure to engage in such behavior when (as often happens) they would consent but against their better judgment.

C. Likewise, trying to ban behavior that is extremely common, especially when experience shows that total bans are extremely likely to be regularly flouted (perhaps because under-18-year-olds might so want to engage in such behavior), can cause various problems — disrespect for the legal system more generally, wrongly selective prosecution, overcriminalization and so on. That may be good reason to set the age of consent at some age below 18 (as indeed three-fourths of all states do). But sexual photography isn’t likely to be as common, or as resistant to regulation, as sex itself, so a ban on sexual photography of under-18-year-olds may still be sensible.

So I think it’s not outright irrational to set up a higher age of consent for sexual photography than for sex (even though the potential harms of sex are indeed greater than the potential harms of sexual photography). Query, though, whether this still makes sense — and what the right punishment for such sexual photography ought to be. (I do think it makes no sense to require registration as a sex offender for this behavior, especially if the defendant is close in age to the partner; the point of registration is to better monitor people who may commit serious sex crimes in the future, and that just doesn’t seem likely as to such close-in-age sexual photographers.)

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Posted by Hojun Lee

The chapters in our new book, Eminent Domain: A Comparative Perspective are based on papers that were originally presented at an international conference on eminent domain entitled “Shifting the Paradigm for Sustainable Development: Eminent Domain and Property Rights.” The event was hosted by the Korea Development Institute (KDI) in Seoul in March 2015. The conference was inspired by ongoing observations of the Korean editors – Iljoong Kim and myself – that takings were causing serious conflict between condemners and owners of condemned property in Korea.
Even worse, the tension has been increasing fast in recent years. Although much research was conducted worldwide on identifying the causes behind the past astounding economic growth of Korea since the 1970s, we thought that, to break the current impasse and to secure sustainable development for the future, at least an equal amount of endeavor would be necessary to improve the relevant laws associated with eminent domain and its impact on development.
In the process of searching for reasonable solutions over several years, we became increasingly convinced that it would be tremendously beneficial to provide a forum where researchers from around the world could gather and share their views. That way, we can learn faster and better from the experience of others. Therefore, in early 2014, the final decision was made to hold the KDI international conference . One of its key objectives was to help map out an agenda for reform, by scrutinizing the eminent domain systems of various countries.

Around the world, consciousness about protecting property rights against the abuse of takings power has grown in both advanced and developing countries recently. It increased very rapidly since 2005, when the backlash against the Kelo decision began in the U.S. Nevertheless, many developing countries, in particular, have still shown a strong tendency toward prioritizing the seizure of property for economic growth rather over protecting private property rights. This has been a primary reason why comparative studies, which encompass both advanced and developing countries, have been very scarce.

In this regard, this volume is unique as we examine a wide range of countries. They include advanced economies such as the United States, Germany, and the European Union, emerging economies including Korea and Taiwan, and various developing economies selected by contributors affiliated with the World Bank.

Another distinctive feature of this volume is that all contributors used a common set of criteria for analyzing the eminent domain systems they covered. For this goal, we chose, among others, the six most critical components generally constituting any system of taking laws before officially launching this ambitious project. We called these components the “Six Pillars” of takings law:: (1) Public Interest Criteria (limitations on the purposes for which property can be condemned, (2) Subjects of Takings (entities empowered to condemn property), (3) Just Compensation, (4) Due Process (for owners of condemned land), (5) the Distribution of Development Surplus from Takings, and (6) the Dispute Resolution System. We chose this approach to maximize the comparative value of this volume even if we were well aware that that certain components would be relatively more in some countries than others.

Readers can easily compare the core characteristics of eminent domain systems across countries and understand their implications. We hope that this book will be a useful reference to economists, legal scholars, and student, particularly in the field of the law and economics, constitutional law, property law, and comparative law. It can also be helpful to public officials, judges, legislators, and interested laypeople.

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Two Highlander fanfic archives, Daire’s Fanfic Refuge and HL Raven’s Nest, are being imported to AO3:

Siri can you hear me?

May. 22nd, 2017 04:37 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Seidenberg has some perfect linguaphile clickbait: “Watch People With Accents Confuse the Hell Out of AI Assistants.”  By “accents” they mean, non-American ones (e.g., Irish English). The AI Assistants were Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Home. I’m curious about how well the voice recognition systems in these devices work with varieties of spoken English, so I clicked. Sucker! Can’t tell anything from the video except that it’s fun to say “Add Worcestershire sauce to my shopping list” to a machine.  This definitely beats asking Siri “What is the meaning of life?”

Mainly I was impressed by how poorly I understood the speakers.  I have a bad time understanding other people’s accents  but that’s only one data point.  How well do people understand speech that is in the same language as their own but spoken with a different accent?

Here Siri responds correctly: “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that.”

The research literature on listeners’ processing of accent is huge, but surprisingly little of it focuses on the comprehension of naturalistic speech.  Most studies have examined listeners’ responses to individual elements of accented speech: alternative pronunciations of vowels, consonants, or words; phonemic substitutions (what a non-native speaker says in place of a phoneme that doesn’t occur in their language); cross-linguistic differences in phoneme boundaries (e.g., when we were on sabbatical in France our then-8 year old son heard the name of the playground game tag as douche instead of touche); atypical syllabic stress; the other stuff that “sounds different.”  The accented speech might be produced by someone from a different region of the US or another country, or by a non-native speaker, under noisy or clear conditions. (Studies are also conducted in other countries and languages, of course.) How well listeners can adapt to such features and learn to produce them are major topics.

But my question is more like the one in the Wired video: how well do people comprehend meaningful sentences, or better, extended discourse spoken with an accent that differs from one’s own?

There’s fun to be had on this site, which has recordings of a single passage spoken in many English accents. This is not a research-quality archive, and whether the speaker is representative of the designated area is unclear. The speaker’s age, race/ethnicity, gender, and education seem to affect intelligibility, as does quality of the recording. Plus, all bets are off once you’ve listened to the passage a few times and can top-down the hard parts.   This accent’s hard for me, though maybe I’d adapt to it with sufficient exposure.

There’s an informal comprehension exercise here, which suggests that accent might be an issue, sometimes. But consider just the narrower range of North American variants (other good examples here). Are any of them sufficiently different from each other to affect comprehension?

We (Lynn Perry, Emily Mech, Maryellen MacDonald and I) did one modest study that doesn’t settle anything but raises some interesting questions.  The subjects (college students from the Wisconsin area) listened to passages that had been recorded by two speakers.  One spoke with a Midwestern accent similar to the subjects’ own speech. The other, a native of southeast Georgia, spoke with a markedly different regional accent. For half the passages subjects performed a shadowing task: they repeated the passages as quickly and accurately as they could. In some famous research from long ago, William Marslen-Wilson showed that even close shadowers (who lag only a syllable or so behind) comprehend as they go along, allowing them to override anomalies embedded in the stimuli (e.g., the word “company” pronounced “compsiny”). For the other half of the passages, our subjects performed a standard comprehension task: listen to the entire passage, then answer questions about it. (See the article for detailed methods and results.)

The shadowing task reflects subjects’ performance as they are listening; the comprehension task reflects how well they understood a passage having heard the whole thing. The question was whether performance would be affected by the similarity of the recordings to the subjects’ own speech.

The main findings were simple:  shadowing performance was affected by the familiarity of the accent, whereas performance on the comprehension test was not.  Subjects shadowed more slowly and made more errors on the Southern-accented passages, but answered comprehension questions as well as on the Midwestern-accented ones.

This study is clearly limited (we had only one Northern and one Southern speaker; we ran Northern subjects but not Southern ones; comprehension might have been affected if the texts were more difficult, etc. etc.), but it’s a decent opening gambit.  Looking at the comprehension results one would conclude that listeners easily coped with speech that was heavily accented (to them), but the shadowing data show that they were having more difficulty keeping up with it.

We think both results are likely to be meaningful.  In the limit—mostly middle class, mostly well-educated college students listening to quality recordings of complete passages in a quiet laboratory setting—people can comprehend speech with a markedly unfamiliar accent pretty well. One might then conclude that differences among American accents don’t pose much of a problem. Speech rarely conforms to those laboratory conditions, however. The signal is not as clear as in our experiment and other events compete for attention. The shadowing results suggest that mishearings occur and are more likely with unfamiliar-sounding speech. Asking comprehension questions at the end gives the listener time to recover.  The fact that we manage to understand each other pretty well suggests that something similar may occur in many real-world situations—but not always.  I am thinking of cases in which the participants are a police officer and a suspect. Or a judge and jury listening to a witness.  Or a teacher listening to one of the 30-some children in their noisy classroom. Differences in accent probably do affect comprehension under some conditions, including consequential ones.

Like most research in this area, our study was about accent: the two speakers read aloud identical texts written in standard English.   Now take this accented speech and mix in some alternative lexical items, collocations, morphosyntactic features, syntactic structures, and pragmatic conventions, as spoken by an identifiable community of speakers, and you might call the result a dialect. How well do people understand different dialects of English?  I’ll take that up in a future post.


Cambridge North

May. 22nd, 2017 04:53 pm
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[personal profile] jack
We went to visit the new north cambridge station, and had a lovely trip to Ely. I hadn't realised we'd actually got to the opening so it was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, it looked really nice, clean, modern, a little artistic, if it works out practically I'd really enjoy using it.

In many ways well provided, like having a lift fairly central and not buried off somewhere, despite a few flaws.

There were some nice touches, like mains and usb charge points in the waiting room, although I did feel, if you're going to add any, why add only four, why not put them round the room? And why not put them next to a shelf?

I wasn't sure quite what trains I was hoping for, there aren't the ones Liv and ghoti had hoped would exist, and for now the connections seem annoyingly inconsistent, but any trains at all from North Cambridge is really nice. I think as I get used to having it available I will find it's really handy; ambling there on the bike puts a train trip in the "why not" category not the "sigh, I suppose so" category even if it doesn't save that much time overall.

My biggest worry was that it would instantly become as busy as the old station, taking a lot of the traffic from north cambridge, and making chesterton into more london commuter belt, and not be able to handle that traffic, but other people seem to think that wouldn't happen. Presumably there is *some* plan for expansion if necessary by people who know (there is still something to be built next to the station judging by the empty lot).


May. 22nd, 2017 04:08 pm
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (_support)
[personal profile] liv
I note in passing that it's 14 years to the day since I started this blog, 6 years on LJ and 8 years on DW. That's a lot of writing and a lot of conversations. I've made just over 2000 posts in 14 years, and I think the average length is only a little under a thousand words, so somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million words and that's not even counting comments. I was really not expecting either the site or my interest in blogging to last as long as 14 years, but I'm really glad you're all still here.

I still don't have a good way of making an offline archive of DW; the program LJArchive is timing out because, I think, my DW is just too huge, and it doesn't have a way of downloading one bit at a time. Does anyone have any recs?

It's also coming up to the end of my 7th year of working at Keele – I've finished teaching and only have exams to go through before this academic year is over. It's a pretty awesome job in lots of ways. Our senior people like to point out that there have been over a million consultations when patients have been treated by Keele-trained doctors in the ten year history of the medical school, and I've contributed to the education of quite a high proportion of those doctors.

And it's the 20th anniversary, give or take, of my leaving school. I have signed up to attend the reunion next month; I'm not entirely sure that was a good idea, but I am at least somewhat curious to see if I can pick up some gossip from anyone who isn't on Facebook. I don't think anyone is going to be surprised that I'm an academic, that's what everybody was predicting when I was going around convinced I was going into school teaching. But they might well be surprised that I'm married and poly.

Anyway, now I'm going to catch a train from the new exciting local to my house station.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
I keep trying to write up my response to Castle in the Air but basically I really liked it a lot and it was great, also there was a very angry kitten, and the things I want to talk about it end up being complicated structural/worldbuilding questions that go beyond just this book. So I think I will just do a short three things capsule and save the drafts for more pondering:

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones )

Contrast this to the other YA series I finished in the last couple weeks, Laurence Yep's Dragon of the Lost Sea series, which has been my nemesis since I was about nine because the library had ONLY THE THIRD BOOK, which BEGAN AND ENDED AT CLIFFHANGERS, and twenty-five years later I had still only managed to find one of the others, plus Yep kept publishing books with "Dragon" in the title that were super-realistic stories about the Asian-American experience and I am sure they were great and all but they did not have actual DRAGONS in them so that was a terrible bait-and-switch, Mr. Yep. Anyway I finally went wait, I am a grown-up and a librarian now so I can just ILL them if I want.

Dragon of the Lost Sea by Laurence Yep )

I also read Captain Blood for FMK yesterday! It is another one that I really liked, and tbh I liked it too much to want to think about it in a critical way as opposed to a squee way. So here are three things for it too:

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini )

Also despite 1922 Captain Blood was way better on both race and gender than the community theater production of Peter Pan I went to see a friend in yesterday, so, you know, that was a thing where they had elementary school kids wear feather headbands and say "ugh" lot, it definitely was.

Last weekend I also saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Dr. Strange, because I have the best friends.

Guardians of the Galaxy )

Dr. Strange )

Also I now really really need the story where Thor is fucking his way though all the Infinity Stone bearers. I may possibly even need to write it myself. ;_;

Let's see, what else have I been meaning to post about here? Oh! I did read Makt Myrkranna and Pale Guardian, did I post about them?

Makt Myrkranna, the early Icelandic Dracula translation, managed to be a better Dracula story than Dracula, I think. Vilma was great. Also possibly helped by the fact that Iceland has much more of a living tradition of revenants, maybe, so it felt more like it was part of a vampire tradition? IDK. Also I apparently now know enough Icelandic that I could immediately tell when the translation footnotes were screwed up and referenced to the wrong part of the text.

Pale Guardian was the new Ashers novel. 1) That continues to have the best vampire worldbuilding I have ever encountered, and she always follows it to the logical conclusion and makes it work, and she made it work on the front in WWI too; 2) The way James just accepts the fact that the London vampires basically treat him as one of their own at this point was really good character development? 3) He REALLY needs to catch up with the other two and realize he is in a poly triad not a poly V already.

...and that is probably enough.

Before I leave for Iceland on Sunday I still have both Becky Chambers books and two FMK to read and also to decide whether to actually read that Falco book I checked out right before I read the last one and she made it weird, or return it unread.
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Posted by Ilya Somin

Jeffrey Rosen, President of the National Constitution Center.

In an excellent recent Wall Street Journal op ed, National Constitution Center President and leading left of center legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen explains how both left and right can benefit from strengthening constitutional federalism:

Many of the issues that recent presidents have tried to decide at the national level through executive orders are best resolved at the state or local levels instead. In an era of fierce partisan divisions, all sides are beginning to see the virtues of our federal system in accommodating differences—and encouraging experimentation—on issues such as immigration, law enforcement and education.

Federalism has long been a cause on the right, but now it’s just as likely to be a rallying cry on the left. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary’s immigration and border-security subcommittee, recently said: “The Constitution, specifically the Tenth Amendment, protects states’ rights, and it prohibits federal actions that commandeer state and local officials. When it comes to immigration, these principles seem to be overlooked”

The framers of the Constitution would be pleased with this emerging consensus. By creating a national government with limited powers, they intended to allow the states and local governments to pursue a range of different policies on matters within what used to be called their “police powers”—that is, their authority to regulate behavior, maintain order and promote the public good within their own territory. The founders considered this arrangement the best way to protect liberty and diversity of opinion, as well as to defend political minorities from nationalist tyranny and concentrated power….

A respect for federalism and state autonomy is perhaps the only way that all sides can peacefully coexist in today’s political environment. With dysfunction now reigning on Capitol Hill and federal courts increasingly ready to strike down the unilateral action of presidents, Americans will at least be able to take some comfort in local autonomy and control. In these polarized times, citizens who strongly disagree with each other may be able to unite around the goal of making federal power less intrusive and national politics less of a contest where the winner takes all.

Later in the article, Rosen explains how reinvigorating federalism can help curb federal government overreaching and enhance state autonomy in such fields as education, immigration, and law enforcement.

I don’t agree with every single point Rosen makes. But I certainly agree with the bottom line. Like Rosen, I have long argued that both left and right can potentially benefit from stronger cross-ideological support of federalism, and that stronger enforcement of constitutional limits on federal power can help defuse the partisan hatred that is helping to poison our politics. I also agree with his view that the recent federal court ruling against Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities is a notable example of how the left can benefit from constitutional federalism as well as the right.

Going beyond specific issues, decentralization of power can give people greater opportunity to “vote with their feet,” which often leads to better decision-making than when we have to decide issues at the ballot box, at the federal government level. There is much we can do to make foot voting easier for all Americans, particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

[syndicated profile] volokh_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Ilya Somin

I am pleased to announce that several contributors to my new book Eminent Domain: A Comparative Perspective (co-edited with Iljoong Kim and Hojun Lee) will be guest-blogging here at the Volokh Conspiracy this week.

The book was just published by Cambridge University Press. It analyzes the use and abuse of eminent domain in a number of nations around the world, including the United States, Germany, Taiwan, a variety of developing nations, and South Korea. This project arose from a conference sponsored by the Korea Development Institute (one of Korea’s leading research institutes), and includes several chapters devoted to the use of eminent domain in South Korea, whose record has attracted interest from policymakers in many other nations.

The guest-bloggers will be Hojun Lee of the Korea Development Institute (one of the book’s co-editors, and author of a chapter on eminent domain in South Korea), Hans-Bernd Schäfer (Bucerius University, one of Europe’s leading law and economics scholars and author of the chapter on Germany), and Yun-chien Chiang (Academia Sinica, one of the world’s leading experts on takings, and author of the chapter on eminent domain in Taiwan). I reviewed Yun-Chien’s excellent book on takings compensation here.

Here is a summary of the book:

The taking of private property for development projects has caused controversy in many nations, where it has often been used to benefit powerful interests at the expense of the general public. This edited collection is the first to use a common framework to analyze the law and economics of eminent domain around the world. The authors show that seemingly disparate nations face a common set of problems in seeking to regulate the condemnation of private property by the state. They include the tendency to forcibly displace the poor and politically weak for the benefit of those with greater influence, disputes over compensation, and resort to condemnation in cases where it destroys more economic value than it creates. With contributions from leading scholars in the fields of property law and economics, the book offers a comparative perspective and considers a wide range of possible solutions to these problems.

In this post about the book at the Cambridge University Press blog, I described the origins of the book, and how I gradually came to realize the global dimension of the debate over eminent domain:

For what purposes should the government be able to take private property? When I first started writing about that question, I thought there was little chance anyone outside the United States would ever be interested in my work. Most of my scholarship in that area focused on the Fifth Amendment requirement that takings must be for a “public use,” and the ways in which American courts have often neglected it. In 2005, the US Supreme Court decided Kelo v. City of New London, a controversial 5-4 ruling in which the majority concluded that a “public use” could be almost anything the government says it is, and upheld the taking of fifteen homes in order to transfer them to a new private owner, so as to enhance “economic development.” Kelo generated widespread outrage in the United States, and rekindled a debate over the law and policy of takings, which I chronicled in my book The Grasping Hand.

But, to my surprise, the American debate over Kelo generated widespread interest abroad, as well. I was contacted by scholars and journalists as far away as China, France, and South Korea. The Kelo case struck a chord in these and other countries because they have been grappling with many of the same issues as we had….

I was not the first scholar to notice these similarities….

Although there is considerable variation between the nations covered in the book, we also found some important commonalities. In a variety of nations, eminent domain is often used in ways that benefit politically influential groups at the expense of the poor and the politically weak. The pattern familiar from the sad history of “blight” and economic development takings in the United States also recurs in many other countries. Similarly, in many countries, the compensation paid to property owners whose land is condemned is often inadequate, falling well below the true magnitude of their losses. Not surprisingly, political controversy over takings and public revulsion against abuses has arisen in a variety of countries….

In addition to co-editing the book, I also wrote the chapter on eminent domain in the United States, which I will blog about later in the week.

[syndicated profile] volokh_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Will Baude

Balkinization is hosting a small symposium on James Pfander’s new book, “Constitutional Torts and the War on Terror.” Posted below is the description of the book, and then my contribution.

First, the book:

Constitutional Torts and the War on Terror examines the judicial response to human rights claims arising from the Bush Administration’s war on terror. Despite widespread agreement that the Administration’s program of extraordinary rendition, prolonged detention, and “enhanced” interrogation was torture by another name, not a single federal appellate court has confirmed an award of damages to the program’s victims. The silence of the federal courts leaves victims without redress and the constitutional limits on government action undefined.

Many of the suits seeking redress have been based on the landmark 1971 Supreme Court decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. This book traces the history of common law accountability, the rise of Bivens claims, and the post-Bivens history of constitutional tort litigation. After evaluating the failure of Bivens litigation arising from the war on terror, the book considers and rejects the arguments that have been put forward to explain and justify judicial silence.

The book provides the Supreme Court with the tools needed to rethink its Bivens jurisprudence. Rather than treating the overseas national security context as disabling, modern federal courts should take a page from the nineteenth century, presume the viability of tort litigation, and proceed to the merits. Only by doing so can the federal courts ensure redress for victims and prevent future Administrations from using torture as an instrument of official policy.

And my post, titled “Beyond the War on Terror“:

Federal courts today are not eager to enforce constitutional rights against individual government officials who are alleged to violate them. Indeed, federal courts frequently dismiss such claims on various technicalities without ever confronting the substance of the rights invoked. That is notably true in 21st-Century litigation over the war on terror, where federal courts have expressed skepticism (or more) about implied causes of action, extraterritorial constitutional rights, and the damages remedy.

But was it always thus, and must it be thus, should it be thus, today? Constitutional Torts and the War on Terror, by James Pfander, sets out to answer these questions. (To all three: “No.”) Pfander frames the book by showing us that legal rights were originally enforced against government officials in a quite different way. Government action was assumed to be regulated by generally applicable law. Ordinary citizens could challenge the legality of that government action through ordinary suits at common law. And judges saw their primary duty as simply applying the law to the cases before them, leaving for lawmakers the task of indemnifying officials or changing the law where its consequences were undesirable.

This 19th-Century model of government legality may seem quaint, but it teaches important lessons today. Pfander argues that our constitutional tort regime fails to live up the structure or benefits of the old regime, and fails to justify its replacement. The common law has worked itself foul. Pfander may be right or wrong about the consequences, but I think his more important critique sounds in legal process: The federal courts might have you believe that today’s limits on constitutional torts are the result of an admirable judicial restraint – a hesitation to step into domains where judges have no commission. But the restraints are of the judiciary’s own devising, and thus in deep tension with the original judicial duty – to apply the law rather than make it.

I may be taking this point further than Pfander would, but I emphasize it because it amounts to my only real disagreement with the book – that it does not take the original model of government legality nearly far enough. Consider two points.

First, the problems with today’s doctrines of constitutional torts are not limited to the war on terror. You don’t need to look to Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, or the CIA torture report to see government lawlessness gone unchecked. Alas, unchecked constitutional violations happen every day on America’s streets, as police officers exceed their discretion to search or to use force, against both the guilty and the innocent. Constantly expanding exceptions to both civil liability and the criminal exclusionary rule make those violations difficult to remedy. And beyond the police — schoolteachers, prosecutors, and nearly every government official is insulated from accountability by judicially-devised restraints unknown to the common law.

To see the full scope of this problem, we ought not limit our focus narrowly to the war on terror, but rather consider the broader sweep of constitutional remedies. Once upon a time, we had common-law and self-help remedies for government lawlessness. Then for a time, the judiciary oversaw the replacement of the original remedies with substitute remedies such as the Bivens action and the exclusionary rule. But in more recent years, the courts have begun to roll back the substitute remedies, yet without being willing to revive the original remedies. There are valid and hard questions about the role of common law evolution in constitutional remedies – to what extent should we return to the original remedies and to what extent should we accept sensible modern substitutes? – but we already have too few remedies and might be on a path to even fewer. That is a real problem. The war on terror cases that Pfander writes about are simply a symptom of that broader problem.

Of course it is true that the law proceeds by halves, and so we can reform one area of doctrine without meaning to approve of what happens in a related area. But if we must prioritize, I would put domestic lawlessness against ordinary U.S. citizens at the core, and some of the abuses of the war on terror closer to the periphery. A full accounting of the original law of the war on terror may also raise technicalities that Pfander does not address – such as the allegedly reciprocal relationship between “allegiance” and “protection” in 19th-Century legal theory.

Second, and more specifically, there is the problem of qualified immunity, a judge-made doctrine which insulates government officials from suits for damages unless they violated “clearly established law.” While that formulation might seem somewhat innocuous, in practice it amounts to a super-duper rule of lenity protecting only government officials. Ambiguities in prior precedent are assumed in the officer’s favor, and a plaintiff must point to a remarkably specific precedent already adjudicating the issue or a really egregious set of facts.

Pfander provides an intriguing reform, which is to hold qualified immunity inapplicable to claims for nominal damages. This would allow plaintiffs to achieve symbolic victories and establish law for future cases, without unduly burdening or deterring government officials who are sued.

But in my view, this is not enough. The fundamental problem with qualified immunity – or so I argue in a recent article – is that it is contrary to law, and has neither a statutory nor common-law warrant. (This argument also owes a debt to Pfander’s historical approach.) But Pfander’s nominal damages solution is less than half a solution to this problem. It exalts a secondary duty of the judiciary – to write judicial opinions that can be cited as precedent in future cases – while neglecting the more fundamental one to enforce the law in the case at hand.

At bottom, these divergences are not really about disagreement. Rather, they reflect the fact that Pfander is on to a theory of federal courts that is more consequential than even his own conclusions suggest. Pfander repeatedly notes that many issues in the war on terror are questions of ordinary law, appropriate to our ordinary procedures for vindicating legal rights. But the point also implies a reverse diagnosis: The problem with constitutional torts and the war on terror is really the broader problem of constitutional torts in our ordinary legal system.


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