International Phonetic Alphabet symbols online keyboard

Did you know you can type phonetic symbols without needing to install fonts onto your computer’s operating system or word processor? Simply go to ipa.typeit.org and enter the symbols you cannot get normally. Have fun. ;)

Talk about search engine dominance

Just how dominant is Google as a search engine portal?

Let’s just say of the 221,721 search referrals to my blog over a nine year period 95% are from Google, 2% from Bing, and 1% from Yahoo!. The remaining two percent is made up of various smaller search engines.

Screenshot 2016-08-13 09.26.12

While the true market share of the search engines are 72% for Google, 10% for Bing and 7%  for Yahoo! it just goes to show if you are small fry like me it still pays to be better known in the main search engine.

Screenshot 2016-08-13 09.22.36.png

Either way Google still is dominant beyond belief.

What I have learnt from linguistics

There isn’t a day that each and everyone for us doesn’t use language in some way. We need it to communicate and interact with people. Unless you live by yourself in a remote forest or island we will use language.

Languages are not made equal. What I mean by this is that languages, like everything else, follow patterns. Some language patterns are more common than others. SOV (subject-object-verb) and SVO (subject-verb-object) are the two most common sentence patterns across languages. Together they make up about 90 percent of all language types. The remaining four possible patterns (OVS, OSV, VSO and VOS) make up the other 10 percent.

Having the subject come first makes sense since it is the most important part of the sentence – what the sentence is about. The verb – what the subject is doing – then should come next. I stress should because SOV is actually the slightly more common type. By enclosing the object maybe just as effective, then.

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Frequency is everything

Within the mind we tend to think of things as universal or generic without relating it to the wider world. We say things like, “the sun rises from the east”, without seeing it in context that which it occurs. We probably even have a perfect literally unclouded image of a singular sunrise that represents all sunrises in our heads.

But the sunrises from the east with a frequency and regularity that is often not taken in account when it should be. It rises once a day. Or to be more precise the earth, covered in an protective “lubricating” atmosphere, turns once a day to give the illusion of the sun rising. We are so easily duped and we’re duped on a daily basis by all kinds of illusions.

The reliability of this event like all other events is what gives us our understanding and our rhythm. We often choose to have a rhythm in order to have a regularity to help us through the day. So in this sense frequency is something important. It may be everything.

As I get older things are no longer a singular mental object but repeated objects with a certain frequency. Understanding that frequency is what gives sense to the world. Otherwise there are only perfect mental objects, which is not true at all.

Yes, frequency is everything.

Should it have been called ‘Brexit’?

As someone who works with words and like words I am always scrutinising it wherever I look. So I was curious as to why the referendum in the United Kingdom for whether to stay in the European Union or not was christened as Brexit, a portmanteau for ‘British Exit’ even before the vote had gone ahead. Does not the name assume that the outcome will be an exit? 

Think half empty/half full

Would the outcome have been to stay if the name bandied around was Bremain instead of Brexit?

Names, whether official or not, are important. They can change the perception of the object for not only individuals but entire societies as well. After all, language is a shared event. We used it to communicate firstly, and secondly, to consolidate our thoughts. So a term like Brexit with its posit-ive (as opposed to negat-ion) connotations will likely influence how one leans and then ultimately how one votes. 

A quick introduction to Japanese syntax and particles

The Japanese language is considered syntactically a Subject-Object-Verb or SOV language in contrast to English which is considered a subject-Verb-Object or SVO language, as these two example sentences will show.

(1) Ken wa (S) tama wo (O) uchimashita (V).
(2) Ken (S) hit (V) the ball (O).

While it is not possible to move the syntactical elements around in English without a changing its meaning, it is possible in Japanese. Why this is so is due partly to particles (助詞). Particles mark the syntactic role of the word or phrase before it. By doing so this means the entire phrase including the particle can move to any other position within a sentence without losing its marked role.

The ‘wa’ and ‘wo’ in (1) are particles.

The English syntactic elements, however, are not marked whatsoever by particles (particles do not exist in English) and only show their syntactic distinction to other elements within the sentence unit by its relative position to each other. The sentence is therefore the unit. The rearranged syntactic units of (3) below in contrast to (2) has a now a completely different meaning because of the changed positions of the subject (S) and object (O).

(3) The ball (S) hit (V) Ken (O).

So Japanese is considered an SOV language because most often the elements follow this order and not because it is fixed by its position like English. But English learners of Japanese can safely assume this structure for learning purposes.

文法用語の最低限語彙

私の考え方では文法用語は大事なのに十分教えていると思わない。または教えてもただ日本語訳だけ与える。それは教えていると言えない。

全て知るも必要ではない。幾つかの役に立つ用語だけで良いと思う。どれが役に立つだろう?そして幾つの用語が必要だろう?私にとってはたったの13だけで十分と思う。二種類で一つの種類は8、もう一つの種類は5。これです。一種類目は

  • 名詞
  • 動詞
  • 形容詞
  • 副詞
  • 代名詞
  • 冠詞
  • 前置詞
  • 接続詞

と二種類目

  • 主語
  • 動詞
  • 補語
  • 目的語
  • 副詞句

気づいてほしいのは【動詞】が両方の種類に入っていること。その理由は用語では動詞少なくても二つの意味がある。なぜこういう風に種類を二つに分ければとわかってたら動詞の二つの意味も覚えるだろう。

一つ目の種類は「語彙の変化仕方」タイプと考えれば良いだ。もう一つの種類は「文の中の役割」タイプと考えれば良いだ。

語彙を辞書に引くと一つ目の用語しか出てこない。なぜかというと名詞は主語のところでも、目的語のところでも(文の中の役割関係なく)同じ名詞のだ。このワンポイント覚えておきましょう。

Assistant Language Teachers in Japan getting the raw end of the deal

Being an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan used to be a prestigious job. It was government funded with high infrastructure and support. But since the mid-2000s the government had started to source for teachers from the private sector.

During its heyday an ALT would earn a minimum 300,000 yen (USD2,639 as of writing) as the basic minimum wage. Somewhere along the way the government had discovered that it was cheaper to outsource and that people were willing to work even at this low salary.

But what happened then is that the quality of the teachers employed dropped dramatically, leaving schools to pick from a smaller and below average pool. ALTs were from the beginning not good anyway, as they were never qualified to be teachers in the first place. A bachelor’s degree is all you need. In this sense, then, the salary reflects this. I do not think some ALTs are worth the original pay minimum because they were not qualified to even be assistants. Their area of study was not that of English. What qualified them was that they were native speakers and nothing else. Most had zero training and even if they have an interest in the English language their competence is not that high.

Below is a video which explains just how much an ALT can have on a months salary at the current pay level. I feel for them on this one.

Periscope Tip: scope length

I had a great blab with Masashi (@soycamino), Keizo (@kanji_k) and Dave (@DaveinOsaka) yesterday. It was my first time to Blab. It is not as fun as Periscope but then again Blab is for a different purpose altogether. 

One thing I had learned from Dave in the short short time that he was there was that we should judge how long to scope for by the content variety within what we want to show. The more variety the longer you can or should scope. Content could be many things. It could have visual content, verbal content or both. This means you should probably not scope if you have neither visual nor verbal content, unless of course you are out to torture and drive away viewers. 

The single keyword, ‘variety’, made complete sense and seems obvious now but it is not always obvious when you are too busy scoping. 

Periscope, speech and writing

If Saussure and Derrida were alive today they would have loved Periscope (well, maybe not). 

Perhaps currently the most significant live broadcast service Periscope brings interaction to video by combining live streaming with (not so) old-fashion text chat. This is why it made sense for Twitter to invest in Periscope. 

By separating (or rather merging) the medium of speech and writing Periscope was able to solve the problem of authorial voice. Scopers speak. Viewers type. It is such an elegant and simple solution. Skype had tried but was not able to resolve this conundrum with their effort more than ten years ago. Everybody spoke and nobody was heard. Now everybody communicates through two clearly defined mediums and all are happy. 

Well done Periscope.