Notes on Learning, part 6 (beta version ./appendix -[burst])

As an appendix (there's a lovely English metaphorical word) to yesterday's post, I present a couple of the synonyms I'm studying now:

Who needs two words for:

Oneself: can be Jibun or Watashi

to close: Shimeru (to close a book) Tojiru (to close a door) and no, they don't include the idea of "door" or "book" you just have to use the different ones in different contexts.

Rice: Kome is raw, uncooked rice. Gohan is cooked rice, or, by extension, a meal.

I love you, Japan, but seriously, WTF?


Notes on Learning, part 5 (beta version .0001)

I've read several places (most notably in the wonderful "Book of Common Ignorance") that the longer a language is around, the more it looses grammatical complexity and gains vocabulary size and density.

One good measure of this is the number and complexity of synonyms, since many of our words focus around the same thoughts (side-note, if any of you tell me the popular lie about certain Eskimos having many words for snow, I'll hit you over the head with a dictionary).

Japanese is a good example, it's been around a long, long time, and I wouldn't say it's a grammatically complex language at all, however, its vocabulary is pretty big, and it has lots and lots of synonyms, enough to garner its own wiki, here: Japanese Synonym Wiki

Some shining examples include:

The fact that there is actually a specific word (maitsuda) that one would only use to verbally tell an uncle something is not good, and this is only one note of aggravation in a symphony. Self-disappointed missing out gets its own word, as in "I slept late and missed out on ______" as does a word (haibaku) specifically for loosing a game or war.

other good examples from the website:

Many words for annoying.

Many words for investigating.

I am also fascinated by the fact that "image" has several different words, moving image (reflection, mirror, tv screen,cartoon), still image (picture), painted still image, and a sculpture. This would make art criticism rather interesting in some ways, and could make parts of the philosophy of semiotics very different. Please note that these aren't just equivalent to our words "painting" and "drawing" as these refer specifically to their operation as images, not just as their presence as works of art.

Also interesting from this philosophical perspective is a difference of borders.

Notes on learning, part 4 (1001 apologies, or not)

Yea, so coming up with insightful, non-generalized, researched things to say about a whole language is difficult. Who knew?


For those of you politically minded...

Through my subscription to the often enjoyable very short list service (veryshortlist.com) I found http://www.nixontapes.org/ this morning. It's certainly an interesting resource for those of us that like to peek behind the curtain of political history, and see just how political our history is.

One particular moment of note, for example, is a tape of Nixon, Kissinger and Reagan. The highlight of the tape is really the awkwardness that comes of Regan inquiring into the Vietnam war, but listening to them plan the shipyards in San Diego smells highly of guilt by association, and makes one suspect that the true evil of pork-barrel projects is the way they serve the ends of whoever is in power.


Video Game Gets Banking License! Eruptions in the Blogosphere!

Some are frightened, some are angry. Some, like me, are just amused.

BBC story here


Thinking about the Auto Companies

It seems like every time I turn around someone is saying that the problem with car companies is that they haven't been building cars people want to buy. Has it occurred to anyone that they're maybe just pumping out too many cars - that we may have reached and even exceeded the saturation point. I speak as someone who lives near LA, doesn't have a car, and doesn't want to have a car. If I had my way, I'd never own a car. If I was wealthy enough, I might, however, buy into a car pool, because cars can be a lot of fun, but not every day, and not the sort you (probably) drive to work.


Notes on Learning, part 3 (beta version .0101)

A less happy thought on Japanese:

What mad, topsy-turvy people come up with three different systems of writing, and then use them all? For that matter, what sort of mad exclusivists create a whole system of writing just for foreign words - who needs to know every time they use a foreign word in writing? At that, why do that when so much of their "original" language is "borrowed" from Chinese to begin with?

I like learning Japanese, but honestly...

Notes on Learning, part 2 (beta version .011)

The Japanese word for "good" or "pleasure" is literally just "ii."

This reminds me of the Kiki and Bouba experiements, and makes me think about the possibilities of vocal representation and automatic exclamation at the roots of language.

Notes on Learning, part 1 (beta version .001)

Okay, to try to give this dying blog a shot of whatever it is they give those people who are dying with a whimper, I'm going to try out a new series. As some of you may know I've been working on learning Japanese. Sometimes, learning Japanese allows some interesting insights into a completely foreign culture and language, some wonderful, some strangely familiar, and some incredibly distant. A friend suggested I write about them. So, without further ado, two ponderings on learning Japanese for today follow above, and hopefully, there are more to come.