Disappearing Spaces in Lion

I just realized that if you have your Dock on the left edge of the screen you cannot create a Space in Mission Control, the option disappears. Move it to the botton or right and you will be fine.


May 2, 2012: update, the Space tab appears on the opposite side from the dock, so don’t go looking for it on the left side if your dock is on the left. :)

A special lecture by: Dr. Adam Ussishkin at WFU, Thursday March 1st @ 4pm in Greene Hall 162

Our WFU Interdisciplinary Linguistics Minor
announces a special lecture by

Dr. Adam Ussishkin
University of Arizona

Assoc. Professor of Linguistics & Cognitive Science

Psycholinguistics of under-studied languages: the case of subliminal speech priming in Maltese

Early and automatic processing of linguistic stimuli is fairly well-studied for resource-heavy languages such as English (cf. work on visual masked priming by Forster and Davis 1984, Forster et al. 2003, among many others), whereas psycholinguistic studies on languages with few resources are much rarer. In this talk, I first describe the creation of the first online language corpus of Maltese, a Semitic languages for which few electronic resources exist. Next, I discuss the application of the corpus to a psycholinguistic question and investigate the psycholinguistic reality of the consonantal root, a building block of Semitic languages. This investigation is carried out using the relatively novel subliminal speech priming technique.

Thursday March 1st @ 4pm in Greene Hall 162

Overcoming an IMDbPY installation issue on Ubuntu 11.04

IMDbPY is a Python module to enable backend search and retrieval of information from the IMDB. To install IMDby on Ubuntu you’ll need to download the module here. Then you’ll need to extract the module and run (as root):

$ sudo python setup.py install

You may get an error complaining about a ‘gcc’ compiler, I did, even though a quick:

$ which gcc

returns a live ‘gcc’ compiler on my box. The trick I found here is to install ‘python-dev’ through your Ubuntu package manager.

$ sudo apt-get install python-dev

Then you should be able to run the earlier module installation without errors. Fire up python and check it out to make sure.

$ python
>>> import imdb

Things should be fine!

Science without journals: More evidence that journal rank is a poor predictor of citations

Science without journals: More evidence that journal rank is a poor predictor of citations


I’ve found myself being drawn into Python recently. First, with what seems to be an experimental software dream, IBEX (Webspr), and now I’ve returned to take a look at the Natural Language ToolKit (NLTK). Both are Python-based and both underline the wide support that Python is getting in language research.

I’ve just completed the NLTK install, including some of the optional packages. It took a little poking around on the net to find the right process to get things up and running on my system: OSX 10.7.2 MacBook Air.

If you are an academic it’s much easier, here’s what I did:

1. Get a worthy Python instance: download Enthought Python by adding your .edu email address here. Once downloaded follow the installer instructions.

2. Get the latest versions of the following NLTK packages: PyYAML and NLTK (note: pick up the source code, when I downloaded the .dmg package Enthought could not find the NLTK package.)

3. Install PyYAML. Extract the compressed file, start up Terminal and cd into the PyYAML directory. Then run:

sudo python setup.py install

3. Install NLTK. Extract the compressed file, start up Terminal and cd into the NLTK directory. Then run:

sudo python setup.py install

4. Enjoy!

Pianobar on Mac OSX

I stumbled across a great post on how to install pianobar, the command-line interface to Pandora, on OSX. http://happygastropod.com/2011/01/pianobar-on-mac-osx

The basic rundown and few notes:

1. Install Homebrew
2. Install pianobar (Note: I had to use use the –HEAD flag in order to get the dependencies to update)

brew install pianobar --HEAD

If you want to trick-out your installation, you can go on to add automatic login and growl support in a configuration file (that you’ll need to create in ~/.config/pianobar/config). Make sure you are running the latest version of Growl (or the correct version for your OS), if not you will meet a series of errors!

You can even go beyond, and add a custom image to your Growl notification using the growlnotify –image flag. For more on that just run

growlnotify --help

Differences among languages: True untranslatability

via Differences among languages: True untranslatability.

ROMAN JAKOBSON, a linguist, is credited with the notion that languages differ not so much in what they can express as what they must express. The common trope that language X has no word for Y is usually useless (it usually means language X uses several words instead of one for Y). But languages do differ significantly in what they force speakers to express, something Lera Boroditsky talks about often in support of the “linguistic relativity” hypothesis.

I was thinking of this today when on the subway, I saw a young man whose shoulder bag bore six red buttons, with “I am loved” written in white, identical except that each was in a different language. They look like this. (I later learned that this is an old campaign that began with the Helzberg Diamond company.)

What struck me was that three of the buttons identified him as female: soy amada (Spanish), io sono amata (Italian) and sou amada (Portuguese). In each, the past participle of “to love” (amar/amare) must agree with the loved thing, and the -a is a feminine ending. The young chap should have had soy amado etc. The poor button-makers had to pick one or the other, and chose feminine.

The German forced no such choice: a man or a woman can say Ich bin geliebt, as the young commuter’s pin did. And Russian doesn’t require it either, but the translation is menya lyubyat, “they love me”.  

And Russian (more than most languages) forces a bunch of other distinctions on English speakers. The average verb of motion requires you to express whether you’re going by vehicle or foot, one-direction or multidirectionally, and in the past tense, makes you include an ending for your own gender. So “I went” would, in one Russian word (khodila, say), express “I [a female] went [by foot] [and I came back].” If you don’t want to express all of that, tough luck. You have to. Jakobson himself was Russian. Perhaps his native language led him to the insight above; learning the English verb go might have had the Russian wondering “that’s it? By what means? There and back, or what? We would never put up with this in Russian.” 

When most people tell you some very unusual word “can’t be translated”, they usually mean words like these “Relationship words that aren’t translatable into English”: shockingly specific single words in other languages like mamihlapinatapei, which is apparently Yagan for “the wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.” But of course mamihlapinatapei is translatable into English. It’s ”the wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.” Needing several words for one isn’t the same as untranslatability. 

What really can’t be translated properly is “go” into Russian, or “loved” into Spanish, not because the English words are too specific but because they’re too vague. Those languages force you to say much more, meaning the poor Helzberg Diamond people can’t make a single button reading “I am loved” in Spanish for both men and women.  The traditional idea of “can’t be translated” has the facts exactly backwards. Who knew that the truly untranslatable words were those that say the least?

Peers, review your actions (timeshighereducation.co.uk)

"It’s a well-rehearsed truth that the government funds research; academics do the work, write the papers and give them to a publisher (often paying the publisher for the privilege); other researchers edit the papers, usually for no fee; other researchers provide peer review gratis; yet somehow the publisher ends up owning the result of the whole process – only to sell copies back to the researchers who did the work and the citizens who funded it."

That about sums it up.

Peers, review your actions


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