Saturday, October 15, 2005

Phonology course materials

For a long time, I've wished phonologists of the world could unite via some computerized database of problem sets and the like for use in course materials. I'm not alone in having this desideratum: check out this useful posting on phonoloblog.

I imagine linguists in other sub-areas (phonetics, syntax, etc.) would find something like this useful if it existed in their fields, too. In my phonology classes, I use a workbook developed by the kind folks at the UC Santa Cruz linguistics department, which contains a wealth of problems as well as many reference-type materials. Something like this could be a proto-version of the phonology problem set database of the future, perhaps.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Great Simpsons Line

In a Simpsons rerun this evening, in an episode featuring medical marijuana, one of my favorite lines, by Otto (the schoolbus driver): "They call 'em fingers, but you never see 'em fing."

"The thing is is..."

Have any of you noticed this construction lately? Sentence beginning with "The thing is is that ..." with the repetition of the word "is". I've noticed a huge surge in the use of this collocation, over the last five years, replacing what to me would be a more expected version: "The thing is..." with only one "is". OK, so I am obviously not the first one to notice this, and in fact there's a nice discussion of it at the Language Log from a little over a year ago. Any further thoughts?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What the heck is this thing for, anyway?

OK, so this is day 2 of the life of this so-called blog. Hopefully, the name thing is clear by now. So perhaps readers want to know what this blog will focus on, and that's what I'd like to attempt to clarify now. Before I proceed, two noteworthy points:

(1) comments are always welcome - be supportive or be hostile, but please give me feedback.

(2) no promises are made about timely upkeep of this blog. Weeks, even months, may pass between postings.

Back to the point of this thing: now that you understand the name (see previous posting), it might make sense that this blog will be concerned with things related to linguistics and language, as well as things related to my neighborhood in Tucson. Examples follow:

- language-related example: did you know that in order to do OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the Maltese language you have to buy special OCR software, even though Maltese is written with the Latin alphabet? Yup, despite its being a Semitic language, Maltese is written in pretty much the same alphabet that you are reading right now! So why should an OCR program have difficulty recognizing Maltese characters? It's because Maltesehas several alphabetic characters that are unusual, including these: ġ, ċ, ż, ħ. Because one of my current research projects involves scanning a large amount of Maltese text for use as an electronic resource, I've had to contend with various programs that claim to successfully recognize these characters but that in reality can't tell ħ from l. Thank goodness I eventually discovered Read Iris v. 10, which so far seems to be doing a mostly bang-up job. Sometime soon I'll check in with my research assistant to find out if the bang-up trend is significant.

- neighborhood-related example: the city of Tucson has had a plan for awhile now (let's say at least 2 years, to be conservative) to renovate the underpass connecting North 4th Avenue to South 4th Avenue and to build a new overpass adjacent to it, the idea being that the existing underpass will become pedestrian-only while the new underpass will be for cars, bikes, and a new streetcar that might get built. Every couple of months, the city is presented with a new reason to delay construction. What should have begun in November, 2004 got delayed until May, 2005, then June, 2005, then Fall, 2005 (how nice and vague, especially in the desert southwest!). Current city projection: possibly May, 2006. Don't hold your breath, at least not without a forced-air ventilator attached, and a good book. And welcome to our fair city and its downtown revitalization.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Why the funny name?

"Armory Park Utterologist" refers to several things:

(1) It has the same initials as my name (A.P.U.).

(2) It refers to where I live (Armory Park, a historic neighborhood in downtown Tucson, Arizona) and to my profession ("utterologist" being a newly-coined word for "professional linguist").