Pronouncing English

Not only for foreigns speakers, it is impossible to guess the correct pronounciation (i.e. a pronounciation that is considered correct by a group of native speakers) of a given English word just by its spelling. This is a fact and if you don't believe me read the following poem by Gerard Nolst Trenitéout loud:

The Chaos

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

And if you have no clue how to pronounce some of the words, take advise from this video: 

A new kind of knowledge

In an article on Google Translate I mentioned that there is evidence, that the Google Translate artifical intelligence developed an "Interlingua" to translate between languages, i.e. a language not spoken by anybody that serves as a bridge between different langauges - by saving natural language information in a way never done before and impossible to be defined or understood my humans. This is a pretty good example of the new kind of knowledge that appears already and will appear more often on all areas, artifical intelligence is applied on. This is due to the approach, modern AI is using to understand and elaborate on topics: Neural networks. Another popular case was the Go game first one by an AI: It was impossible for human players to predict or even understand in retrospective the "winning move". It was made by an alien intelligence not working similar to our own. The article "Our Machines Have Knowledge We'll Never Understand" by David Weinberger is an inspiring musing on this topic.

"We are increasingly relying on machines that derive conclusions from models that they themselves have created, models that are often beyond human comprehension, models that “think” about the world differently than we do.

But this comes with a price. This infusion of alien intelligence is bringing into question the assumptions embedded in our long Western tradition. We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it." - David Weinberger

What happens in the mind stays in the mind? New evidence on video games and violence

A study by a team around Dr Gregor Szycik from the Hannover Medical School in Germany analyzed possible long term effects of playing violent video games regarding the desensitization hypothesis (mainly based on observes short time effects).

The money quote of the paper is: “We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis and suggest that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.”

The original paper: Gregor R. Szycik, Bahram Mohammadi, Thomas F. Münte and Bert T. te Wildt: Lack of Evidence That Neural Empathic Responses Are Blunted in Excessive Users of Violent Video Games: An fMRI Study

And an article on the topic: iflscience: Study Finds No Long-Term Effects Of Violent Video Games On Empathy


Image: By Nick Stirling - "IF 12: Cultivate"

Beautiful Atari Box Art

I was trying to write a story about my first days of gaming and our low level graphic quality discussions as children ("Mario has a MOUSTACHE and DOTS IN THE EYES, it IS BETTER") but the text went nowhere. So, here is just the link I originally wanted to share: An article with a beautiful gallery of Atari box cover art. 


AVClub: How fantastical Atari box art taught the world what makes video games special


Image: By Mark Hillary - Atari Flashback 5

How many Jedi is or are the last Jedi

On behalf of the German language, I dare to say to my favourite all things sci fi blog io9: You are welcome. 

[...] another Star Wars: Episode VIII mystery has been answered—namely, whether The Last Jedi refers to a single Jedi or a group of Jedi, since both the singular and the plural form are “Jedi.” The solution comes to us via the release of several foreign-language titles for the film.


StarWars: Die letzten Jedi


Thank you, other languages who modify their adjectives to distinguish the quantity (and gender) of the nouns they’re modifying!

Indeed: Otherwise it would be: "Star Wars: Der letzte Jedi", or, if female: "Die letzte Jedi"; unfortunately we do not further separate male and female in groups, so "die letzten Jedi" may be a group of only men, only women or a mixed one. Spanish is e.g. helpful here, as the correct title would be "Las últimas Jedi" in the case there would be only women-Jedi left. As in other european languages, the male form is used as a generic form aswell, so they may only be men but also a mixed group according to the Spanish title. But this, I think, we knew already after seeing Rey and Luke in Episode VII.

Neurosciencing a microprocessor

Now this is a topic that is rather fascinating to me: The scientists Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording are applying the methods of neuroscience to a simulated microprocessor (a MOS-6502-Chip similar to the one used in the Commodore C64) in order to describe the observed behavior. Is it possible to get an idea of functionality? Apperantly, in 2002 there was a former study "Can a biologist fix a radio" (by Juri Lazebnik) with a very similar topic.

Here we will examine three different “behaviors”, that is, three different games: Donkey Kong (1981), Space Invaders (1978), and Pitfall (1981). Obviously these “behaviors” are qualitatively different from those of animals and may seem more complicated. However, even the simple behaviors that are studied in neuroscience still involve a plethora of components, typically including the allocation of attention, cognitive processing, and multiple modalities of inputs and outputs. As such, the breadth of ongoing computation in the processor may actually be simpler than those in the brain.

As it turns out in both cases: No, the methods of neuroscience/biology are not sufficient to understand or describe the behavior of the respective system. Does this mean anything? Yes and no. They are not designed to understand technology. Vice versa, an expert in reverse engineering probably would not understand a specified lifeform by the application of his methods aswell. But on the other hand the study reveals that we do not know for sure if the methods and the results they generate are useful for the purpose of understanding e.g. the brain. Do we have language centers in the brain or is this comparable to the misconception of space invaders centers in the micro processor?

Eric Jonas, Konrad Paul Kording: Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?

Golem: Könnten Hirnforscher einen C64 verstehen?


Image: Image of the circuit board of a Commodore 64 showing some important MOS Technology circuits: the 6510 CPU (long chip, lower left) and the 6581 SID (right). The production week/year (WWYY) of each chip is given below its name. Found on Wikipedia by Jef-Infojef

DeepMind can play it hard aswell

Googles AI DeepMind is an impressive system that was able to master hard tasks as playing Go or generating humand language in the recent time. In a new article, Google scientists describe the way, DeepMind reacts on challenges as competing or cooperating with another player for success in computer games. DeepMind plays those games and learns by doing so. In the end, it shows that it plays aggressive when competing and cooperative when cooperating. This is no surprise and the term aggressive is only used as the game describes colored pixels that are competing for green pixels (apples) that appear randomly on the screen. In order to prevent the other player from reaching an apple, they are able to "fire" "laser beams" to let them skip a round - which could also be dubbed as "send" "love messages" but whatever. I am still in awe about DeepMind and its abilities and long for every new detail - but after playing the apple gathering game it is a bit early for the Terminator references.

Business Insider: Google's new AI has learned to become 'highly aggressive' in stressful situations

Teamplayer, Ego Shooter, First Person Shooter

In German, the word "Ego Shooter" is often used for "first person shooter". This may be due to the fact that "Erste Person" (first person) is not a common forms to describe perspective. Instead, we say "Ego Perspektive" for "first person" and so developed the term "Ego Shooter". Unfortunatley, the word ego may also refer to egoism and it was just a matter of time until "Ego Shooter" is used as a dysphemism, for example here as an opposition to team player:

„Wer wird zum Teamplayer, wer zum Ego-Shooter, wer überwindet seine Ängste, wer wird der neue Dauerpatient von Dr. Bob und wer wird 2017 König oder Königin des Dschungels?“ (TV channel RTL in an announcement)

"Who will become team player [and] who will become Ego Shooter [...]"

Verband für Deutschlands Video- und Computerspieler: Als Dysphemismus verselbständigt


The brain is no computer

Right with its development, the comparision of the computer and our brain started and it goes on till today. If I remember correctly, in the times before, the comparision was between complex mechanical systems as steam machines and the brain as you may see in idioms as "letting of steam". But todays allegories go further - people not only compare the brain with a computer but also think it would indeed work likewise. In the Machine Translation discursus sometimes there would be the argument, that a human brain would not use language e.g. like a statistics based system (and here comes Chomsky who claims it would work with a lexicon and a grammar which is also wrong). The answer often is the comparision with a plane which does not fly as a bird does - but it flies. The attempts to let planes fly like birds were not as successfull as those that used the internal rules (i.e. the laws of thermodynamics) but adapted them to large objects made of steel. So: It does not matter if the brain works like a computer, it matters if we do the right things with brains/computers to make them intelligent. Ok, not quite the discussion I started with. Here is a very interesting article about the brain and how it works and why it is not a computer at all:

Senses, reflexes and learning mechanisms – this is what we start with, and it is quite a lot, when you think about it. If we lacked any of these capabilities at birth, we would probably have trouble surviving.

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

aeon: The empty brain

Der In Der In Der In Der In

Recently I stumbled upon my own blog article on linguistic repetition plays. As I write most of my blog posts mainly to remind myself of things, it was a quite interesting read ;-) In the meantime I have found another German repetition play I really like. It is presented in the form of a riddle: "Bilden Sie mal einen Satz mit viermal 'der in'" ("Build a German sentence that uses four times 'der in'?") The solution ist as easy as it is surprising:

Der Inder in der Inderin.

Translation: The male Indian inside of the female Indian. 

Those "Can you say a sentence" jokes have been pretty popular when my parents were younger so there is quite a number of them:

Sag mal einen Satz mit...

  • Dresden -> Steckst nen Finger in die Nase und dresden (i.e. drehst ihn)
  • Weihnachtsfest -> Der Hirsch hält sein Geweih nachts fest
  • Weihnachtsstern -> Mich würd so ein Geweih nachts stern (störn)

On this page by Michael Schreiner are a lot of other examples