Daniel Dennett, known for having previously explained thinking, religion, and consciousness, recently spoke at the Royal Institution where he did a most excellent job of explaining memes [1-hour video].
Translating technological terms throws up some peculiar challenges
Ibrahima Sarr, a Senegalese coder, led the translation of Firefox into Fulah, which is spoken by 20m people from Senegal to Nigeria. “Crash” became hookii (a cow falling over but not dying); “timeout” became a honaama (your fish has got away). “Aspect ratio” became jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven. In Malawi’s Chichewa language, which has 10m speakers, “cached pages” became mfutso wa tsamba, or bits of leftover food. The windowless houses of the 440,000 speakers of Zapotec, a family of indigenous languages in Mexico, meant that computer “windows” became “eyes”.
When did our plainest punctuation mark become so aggressive? (New Republic) “In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,” Liberman wrote me. “In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.’”
As lexicographers revel in the capabilities of online dictionaries, one person notes the death of print encyclopedias.
Recent technologies developed at American universities are making communication easier for the sight and hearing impaired. Last summer a Stanford undergrad developed a touchscreen Braille writer that stands to revolutionize how the blind negotiate an unseen world by replacing devices costing up to 10 times more. Thanks to a group of University of Houston students, the hearing impaired may soon have an easier time communicating with those who do not understand sign language. During the past semester, students in UH’s engineering technology and industrial design programs teamed up to develop the concept and prototype for MyVoice, a device that reads sign language and translates its motions into audible words, and vice versa.
As you can see, the [Chinese] typewriter is extremely complicated and cumbersome. The main tray — which is like a typesetter's font of lead type — has about two thousand of the most frequent characters. Two thousand characters are not nearly enough for literary and scholarly purposes, so there are also a number of supplementary trays from which less frequent characters may be retrieved when necessary. What is even more intimidating about a Chinese typewriter is that the characters as seen by the typist are backwards and upside down! [more inside]
Everyone Speaks Text Message: [NYTimes] "Is technology killing indigenous languages or saving them? Well, you may soon be able to text in N’Ko."
The Image Culture - a discussion of the history, manipulation, desensitization and supplanting of language skills by the ubiquity of images. And no, there are no pretty pictures.
Login, check out a link, post a comment, find out what gender you are... By noting the subtle differences in the words used by men and women, a new computer programme identifies the sex of an author. By implementing this new software, MetaFilter could potentially become even more informative than it already is.
A handheld device that translates simple spoken phrases. "American troops in Afghanistan are using a revolutionary device that instantly translates soldiers' voices into native languages.
. . . The soldier speaks into the machine, which recognizes the words and translates them into another language." Simple phrases only — and a long way from a Star Trek universal translator — but kindling for the science-fiction-addled imagination nonetheless.
Not Dubbing the Simpsons The Office de la langue française and others are up in arms (ils capotent) about anglicisms in Internet discourse. Business 2.0 talked about it. Branchez-Vous writes a short, cutting article, giving those who pepper their French with English enough rope to hang themselves. («Dans la catégorie "Un mot français, un mot anglais et hop!," le prix revient à Rational Software France, the e-development company, qui a annoncé la nomination d'André Arich au poste de Partner Manager pour sa filiale française, ainsi que le lancement en France du programme de partenariat Rational Unified Partner Program (RUPP).») ¶ Strangely, French has a nicer word for E-mail than English does: courriel. (Grand Dictionnaire is the OLF's official bilingual tech dictionary.)
Jargon Scout - In this age of web-building and domains of all sorts coming out the wazoo and email and new jargon all the time, there seems to be a lack of good jargon for emotional states. Two states that I think desperately need a word coined for them are: the anticipation for the propagation of and reticence to tell anyone about a newly registered domain; and the state where you get so starved for contact of any kind that you post your undisguised email to a half-dozen newsgroups and fanzines just so that there is something in your inbox. Anyone have any ideas for what these states should be called?