Turnabout is fair play?

by John Quiggin on October 10, 2006

The Australian reports on the “infiltration” (or maybe “infiltrazione”) of Italian by English words, quoting Michele Cortelazzo, lecturer in linguistics at the University of Padua, who is quoted as saying

Prime recent examples were flop instead of the Italian fiasco, and trend instead of tendenza.

Does anyone notice un problema here?

Given that concern over Franglais, Spanglish and so on has been around for many decades now, I’d be interested to know whether the influence of English on other European languages goes beyond the importation of a relatively modest number of loan words. My very limited observation suggests not, but lots of readers here are in a much better position than me to comment.

Faking da funk and faking the physics

by Daniel on October 10, 2006

A piece up at the Guardian blog which probably belonged over here at CT but I didn’t have my CT login to hand. Basically, Harry Collins, a sociology professor, has been doing the Dian Fossey bit with a subcommunity of physicists. He has been accepted among them to the extent that he can have perfectly sensible conversations with physicists, and even teach them a few new things about physics on occasion (since he puts a lot more effort into networking than they do, he’s usually got some new bits of information from the bleeding edge of research).

The question that interests me is, in what sense can one say that Harry Collins doesn’t “really” understand gravity waves? What is that thing which he is missing, if anything? A lot of people on the Guardian blog seem to want to argue that the particular mathematical manipulations carried out by gravity waves researchers are in some way constitutive of what it is to “understand the physics”, but this seems to me to be obviously wrong. “The current state of research about gravity waves” clearly names a different entity from “gravity waves”, and what I’m interested in is the existence of any sense in which the physicists understand gravity waves and Collins doesn’t. (It’s a common belief among physicists, probably derived from Quine, that there is a particular correspondence between mathematics and physics which might serve to hold a special relation together. Not so, as we’ve known ever since Hartry Field‘s work, managing to derive Newtonian mechanics using only logic).

We don’t want to make “understanding the subject” mean “being able to do calculations about the subject”, unless we have some reason to believe that this is a necessary condition rather than a sufficient one (and to be frank, I don’t believe it’s a sufficient condition; I’ve spent enough time with economists to know that ability to do the maths does not mean that someone understands the economics). Is there anything? Or is Collins’ concept of “interactive expertise” really all there is, in terms of understanding?

Al Franken show

by Henry on October 10, 2006

Unless something changes, I’ll be on the Al Franken show on Air America tomorrow, sometime around 1.30 ET, talking about blogs and politics.

Taboo Avoidance

by Brian on October 10, 2006

Over at “Language Log”:http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/, Arnold Zwicky has been having some fun tracking the various ways in which newspapers avoid printing taboo words. The strangest instance of differing taboo standards I’ve seen was in an article in the SMH this morning. At the end of the article, we see this paragraph.

bq. [Sienna Miller] who is in town shooting the screen adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, called the city a name that sounds like Pittsburgh, but contains an expletive.

That’s not too surprising. In fact this is one of the instances of taboo avoidance that Zwicky mentions. At risk of engaging in my own little piece of taboo avoidance, I will just “link to”:http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/10/10/1160246104961.html the article and note the quote from Miller in its fourth paragraph, rather than reprint it. I’ve worked on publications with several different standards with respect to taboo language. But I’ve never seen standards quite exactly like what the SMH seems to be using.