LINGUIST List 5.893

Mon 15 Aug 1994

Qs: Compass points, Generics, Chomsky, Reading sub-titles

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Directory

  1. "Larry Trask", Query: compass points in language
  2. "Larry Trask", Query: High-level generics
  3. , Good intro article on Chomsky?
  4. Dr R Doctor, Query on Time required for Reading Sub-titles.

Message 1: Query: compass points in language

Date: Mon, 15 Aug 1994 10:54:53 Query: compass points in language
From: "Larry Trask" <larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk>
Subject: Query: compass points in language

I am posting the following query for a colleague who is not on the
List. Please direct replies to

 geoffscogs.susx.ac.uk


A puzzle about directions

Geoff Sampson, 12 Aug. 1994

There's something that has been puzzling me about some European languages
for a while and I'm sending this message to try to discover from other
linguistics/natural-language colleagues whether it is a recognized
issue on which there is a literature.

In English, the four compass directions, north south east and west, are
basic vocabulary elements which are common and indispensable to the
formation e.g. of place names. For the only non-Indo-European language
that I know reasonably well -- Chinese -- the same is true. I would
have expected it to be true of any language, unless perhaps for
indigenous languages of geographically unusual territories such as Chile
where "seawards" and "mountainwards" might seem more salient and
useful as ways of indicating direction than words relating to the
movements of the sun.

Yet in French it doesn't seem at all true. The French words appear to
be only semi-naturalized borrowings from Germanic (consonantal "ou" in
"ouest", final -d in two of the others); and so far as I know they never
crop up in established place names -- "North and South Chailey",
"East and West Hoathly" have no French counterparts that I recall seeing.
Latin had cumbersome words for the directions, which I think were not
very common in use and which don't as far as I know have non-learned
reflexes in modern French. I don't speak Italian but I have the impression
that the direction names are even less well-integrated into it than
they are into French.

But I can't see anything about the geography of Romance-speaking Europe
which would explain why these languages haven't felt so much need to
refer to compass directions. Is there a recognized answer to this?

Larry Trask
COGS
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
England

larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk
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Message 2: Query: High-level generics

Date: Mon, 15 Aug 1994 09:22:35 Query: High-level generics
From: "Larry Trask" <larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk>
Subject: Query: High-level generics

Can anyone cite a language which has a single generic term meaning
`flying creature' and covering, say, birds, bats and flying insects?
(Whorf's Hopi example unfortunately excludes birds.) I am also
interested in hearing about any other such generics which have no
counterpart in English.

Larry Trask
COGS
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
England

larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk
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Message 3: Good intro article on Chomsky?

Date: Sun, 14 Aug 1994 19:32:06 Good intro article on Chomsky?
From: <GGALEVAX1.UMKC.EDU>
Subject: Good intro article on Chomsky?

I'm teaching an intro philosophy of language course this semester. It would
be very useful to have my students read something :
1. VERY introductory;
2. historically sensitive;
3. philosophically sensitive;
and, perhaps most important of all,
4. relatively non-partisan,

about Chomsky's role in modern linguistics. A well-reputed encyclopedia article
[I hope there ARE some!] would suffice nicely--that's about the length I would
hope for.
Suggestions to ggalevax1.umkc.edu would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks,
George Gale
Philosophy
UMo-KC
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Message 4: Query on Time required for Reading Sub-titles.

Date: Sun Aug 14 16:48:15 1994 (Query on Time required for Reading Sub-titles.
From: Dr R Doctor <doctorparcom.ernet.in>
Subject: Query on Time required for Reading Sub-titles.

The Gist Group of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing
has worked on a Sub-titling system which allows multi-lingual
sub-titles to be viewed in real time in different Indian languages
thereby ensuring that the same fim beamed on a national network is
seen and enjoyed by a multi-lingual population.
The time-coding that we are using is in relation to the source lan-
guage of the fim. Since, however, different Indian languages and their
corresponding scripts have different lenghts in the sub-titles; the
problem of readability arises.
We are trying to work out a Visual readability Index which could allow
us to compute the time required to read one or two subtitle lines easily
in a given Indian language: the base parameters being the eye-sweep, the
lenght of the sub-title as well as the nature of the script itself.
Has any work been done on this in any other language. Chances are that
there could be work done in Scandinavian countries where a similar problem
is present in the sense that three languages co-ewxist peacefully.
 Please send your suggestions to:
doctorparcome.ernet.in
If sufficient answers come in I promise to put up a summary on
the net.
Thanks a lot in advance.
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