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Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 01:27:17 +0000


Language Orders.

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 01:27:17 +0000

I don’t know if anyone else took advantage of the free download of Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India by Andrew Ollett, which I mentioned here, but I did, and I’ve gotten to a section that reminds me so much of the passage from Denis Feeney’s Beyond Greek […]

The Script of the Naxi.

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:21:36 +0000

Dr Duncan Poupard of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has a post at the Asian and African Studies blog of the British Library on “some of the most extraordinary, mysterious and visually interesting manuscripts we hold in the Chinese section of the Library”: The British Library holds a modest but important collection of religious […]

Beyond Greek.

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:21:04 +0000

I was intrigued enough by a reference to Denis Feeney’s Beyond Greek: The Beginnings of Latin Literature to investigate it; while it’s not as pricey as I expected, it’s still more than I want to pay for a book. Fortunately, there’s a detailed review by Jackie Elliott in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and I […]

The Political Power of Translation.

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 01:33:01 +0000

Bathrobe sent me this piece by Chenxin Jiang, saying “This is a slight article but it’s wonderful to see someone moved to translation by the chance to contribute something to the world”: It goes without saying that literary translation, too, is a deeply political act, one that makes particular texts accessible to particular readers by […]

Reading the Unreadable.

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 22:11:12 +0000

Sarah Laskow writes for Atlas Obscura about a woman with an unusual specialty: On any given day, from her home on the Isle of Man, Linda Watson might be reading a handwritten letter from one Confederate soldier to another, or a list of convicts transported to Australia. Or perhaps she is reading a will, a […]

A New Source for Shakespeare.

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:19:57 +0000

Michael Blanding reports for the New York Times on an exciting discovery for Shakespeareans: For years scholars have debated what inspired William Shakespeare’s writings. Now, with the help of software typically used by professors to nab cheating students, two writers have discovered an unpublished manuscript they believe the Bard of Avon consulted to write “King […]


Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:55:12 +0000

Three readers have sent me three different links about the discovery of a new language, so I’d better post about it! I’ll lead with the most scholarly source, the Lund University website’s “Unknown language discovered in Southeast Asia“: A previously unknown language has been found in the Malay Peninsula by linguists from Lund University in […]

Fidus amor.

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:51:04 +0000

Thea Thorsen’s OUPBlog post Want to know the Latin for “true love”? is mainly about Ovid, but this paragraph contains what I’m pretty sure is a false assertion: Fidus amor. That’s “true love” in Latin. Historically, such love is often claimed to have emerged with the troubadours of twelfth century Provence. The troubadours used the […]

Juan Latino.

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 21:33:50 +0000

Via this University of North Carolina Library press release I learn about a remarkable individual: A free public celebration on March 20 will mark the acquisition of a book of Latin poetry published in 1573 by Juan Latino. Scholars have described Latino as the first person of sub-Saharan African descent to publish a book of […]

Tranquille Yard.

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 16:04:33 +0000

There was a very famous restaurant Яр [Yar] in Moscow, founded in 1826 in the central city (on Kuznetsky Most) but best known in its later incarnation in Petrovsky Park, just outside of the (nineteenth-century) city on what is now Leningradsky Prospekt (and if anyone knows exactly where, please tell me — I like being […]

Popularity, Grammar, and Vocabulary.

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 22:13:05 +0000

Veronique Greenwood writes for the Atlantic on an ever-interesting topic, A Language’s Popularity Could Influence Its Grammar and Vocabulary: It’s a peculiar observation that the more people speak a language, the simpler its grammar tends to be. English and Mandarin, for instance, have notably straightforward structures. On the other hand, languages spoken in just a […]

Languages of Persia, 500 B.C.

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 15:25:38 +0000

Via Joel at Far Outliers, this quote from A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, by Michael Axworthy: Although Darius established a standard gold coinage, and some payments were made in silver, much of the system operated by payments in kind. These were assessed, allocated, and receipted from the center. […] Couriers were given […]

Two Words.

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 19:59:58 +0000

I’m reading On Beauty, by the wonderful Zadie Smith — I get to read her books after my wife finishes them — and I’m struck, as always, by her love of words, everyday, slang, dialect, recondite, whatever, she loves them all. I learned one of the latter variety in this passage: The fate of the […]

Penang Lawyer.

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:51:16 +0000

This e-mail from Bathrobe is self-explanatory, and he’s given me permission to quote it verbatim, so I will: I started reading the Hound of the Baskervilles (which you no doubt know was written by Arthur Conan Doyle) and came across a curious expression in the very first paragraph: Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very […]

Lost Books.

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 01:34:15 +0000

Lorraine Berry has a Guardian review of what sounds like an interesting book, In Search of Lost Books by Giorgio van Straten: Among these lost works are those by Nikolai Gogol (Parts II and III of Dead Souls, which he burned); Sylvia Plath (a novel called Double Exposure which disappeared after her death); Lord Byron […]

Pasternak’s Noir Spring.

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 22:13:52 +0000

Pasternak’s middle period, between the flashy, often incomprehensible genius of the first books and the classic simplicity of the Zhivago poems, tends to be somewhat overlooked, and the 1941 “Peredelkino” group in particular doesn’t get much respect. But there’s some wonderful poetry in it, and I’m especially struck by Опять весна [Spring again], which begins […]

Singing in Nonsense.

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 01:30:21 +0000

Vittoria Traverso has yet another great Atlas Obscura post: Before children learn how to speak properly, they go through a period of imitating the sounds they hear, with occasionally hilarious results, at least for their parents. Baby talk evolves into proto-words, so that “octopus” might come out as “appah-duece,” or “strawberry” as “store-belly.” But it’s […]


Tue, 06 Feb 2018 01:23:56 +0000

Victor Mair recently had a Log post about a Tangut Workshop at Yale which is full of striking tidbits: The Tangut were a Tibeto-Burman-speaking people whose name first appears in the Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions of 735. Sometime before the 10th century, the Tangut moved to Northwest China where they founded the Western Xia / […]

Aramaic in New Jersey.

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 01:33:18 +0000

Matthew Petti writes for America about an interesting community: A strip mall 15 minutes down the highway from Manhattan is the last place I expected to hear the language spoken by Jesus Christ. But northern New Jersey is one of the places where Syriac Christians, driven from the Middle East by violence and persecution, have […]


Sun, 04 Feb 2018 01:39:58 +0000

I recently ran across a reference to Imbolc, an Irish festival marking the beginning of spring. It will not surprise anyone who has read much of this blog to learn that I care little about the festival but a great deal about the name, to wit: why is it spelled that way? The Wikipedia article […]