Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Film About Native American Languages

Below is the description for this 6 minute trailer:
This is the funding reel for one-hour documentary on John Peabody Harrington, who, from 1907 until his death in 1961 amassed the largest amount of linguistic notes on Native American languages in North America. Some of the languages he recorded have had no speakers in 60 years, but thanks to his notes, these tribes have been able to revive their languages.
HT Mr. Verb

Saturday, May 26, 2012

fun and honorable

Saw "Men In Black 3". I enjoyed the first two films because they were pure fun, roller-coaster-ride sci fi with great actors. Will Smith is always enjoyable and Tommy Lee Jones has never given a bad performance (never!). But also, Rip Torn and a host of gifted comedians made the first two films pure fun. So I expected more-of-the-same bubble gum kitsch and little else.

But this film was not what I expected, and in a good way. Most sci fi series end up exploding in an orgy of one-upmanship where each successive installment devolves into the ridiculous (e.g., Doctor Who. If one episode involves the near extinction of the Earth, the next must involve the near extinction of the universe; the next again must involve the near extinction of "time itself!"; then after that, the near extinction of "reality as we know it!"...sigh).

But MIB3 chose a different path, one less travelled, and ultimately far more satisfying. A joke in the MIB series is Will Smith jokingly asking "What happened to you K?" referring to the deadpan personality of Tommy Lee Jones’s character Agent K.

A daring production team chose to use this third movie to try to answer that question. Only, the answer has nothing to do with saving the universe, reality, or even just little old New York City (though all three of those things occur). The answer has nothing to do with what Agent K has done for his mission, but rather, what he has personally chosen to give up for his duty. And as such, it became a touching and appropriate movie to see on this Memorial Day weekend.

Cynics can mock that this was a cheap marketing ploy to coincide with this particular weekend opening. Yet it met the one and only burden that entertainment and art ever need to truly meet: it worked.

It worked for me as evidenced by this post. And it worked for the packed cinema as evidenced by their spirited clapping at the end (a rarity at movies these days).

This moment comes as a poignant and deeply meaningful realization near the end of the movie. The moral of the story is that Agent K is his deadpan, grouchy self because in 1969 he realized that there is something in this life more important than his personal, selfish needs. The audience and I recognized the choice he faced, and we recognized that he didn’t hesitate to choose the option of service. Aliens, monsters, and time travel aside, this film chose to say something important and found a way to do that without cheesy clichés and I respect that.

It is a testimony to the writers that they managed to introduce a deeply meaningful teachable moment into an otherwise slapstick film, but they succeeded.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Diary of a Preschool Teacher

From the shameless commerce division, I hereby promote my sister's book:
Diary of a Preschool Teacher by Lori Jean Phipps

In this hilarious, non-fiction diatribe, Miss Lori reveals what peculiar daily happenings occur at her private preschool center. This daily journal does not only educate about the reality and unpredictability of teaching, but entertains in a way that makes it hard not to laugh.
Miss Lori has been a pre-school teacher since the early 1990s and has owned her own pre-school for more than 13 years (yet I've still never forgiven her for dropping out of Berkeley simply because they didn't offer early childhood education classes, hurrumph!).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

frish snow peace

Native American English speakers, wanna hear all about frish snow peace, a plastik snak, and shtella's brudder boob? Please take a few moments to judge the foreignness of some audio clips of people speaking a simple English sentence: American English accents.

Welcome to the English accent questionnaire. In this questionnaire we will ask you as a native U.S. English speaker to rate the pronunciation of different speakers, some of whom were born outside the U.S. We ask you to rate how native-like the pronunciations are. While we offer a set of 50 speech fragments, you are free to rate as few or as many as you'd like (of course we'd prefer more, but there is no required minimum). You may modify your answers, if you later (but before submitting your answers) feel you want to rate certain speakers differently than you initially decided. Also note you don't need to listen to the complete audio samples if you feel you are able to rate the nativeness of the speaker earlier. Please also answer the initial demographic questions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blizzard 2012!!!!!

Oh hell yeah, it's on. Blizzard Challenge 2012 ... I dare ya ... I double dog dare ya:

Blizzard Challenge 2012

We'll understand if you ain't got the stones, son. Ain't everyone cut out to face a challenge. The world needs ditch diggers too.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

That's how you Spiele gewinnt.

It's bloody official, after just one day, I love Google Chrome's Language Immersion extension that translates snippets of text into the language of choice helping you learn the language. I used it to review my last post and it was awesome.

I'm one of the many Americans who studied languages in college but never used them regularly enough to be a confident speaker (German and Mandarin) so I'm oft lamenting that I *should* start studying again. But of course, it never happens. But this language extension make sit bloody easy to have little bit of German interspersed into text, helping me remember vocabulary and bit of syntax.

In the 90s, when I was actively taking German courses, I recall thinking about writing a novel that would start all English then gradually mix in German vocabulary, followed by bit of German syntax, slowly adding m ore and more German and by then end, it would be all German. Bloody Google has done something very similar (why didn't I patent my idea!!!).

NLPers: How would you characterize your linguistics background?

That was the poll question my hero Professor Emily Bender posed on Twitter March 30th. 573 tweets later, a truly epic thread had been cre...