Short Cuts

Another short cuts instalment for your pleasure.

  • The economic case for open access in academic publishing is an interesting piece on exactly what it says. A little heavy on the economics, but the conclusion is interesting:

    Ultimately, I believe the academic publishing world will, and should, slowly shift toward open access, but the transition will be ugly. The issue boils down to a classic problem in economics: the tragedy of the commons. While the publishing industry and researchers continue to act in their own short-term self-interest by continuing the status quo, we are slowly heading toward an untenable situation where the people producing research papers will not be able to afford to access them.

  • When you work with nerds, you find out about the most amazing things. One of my colleagues recently made an off-hand remark about a term’s rime in relation to its syllable. Being relatively new to the atomic structures of language, I found it fascinating to know that syllables had been broken down – the onset and the rime, the rime being made up of a nucleus and optionally, a coda:

    The term rime covers the nucleus plus coda. In the one-syllable English word cat, the nucleus is a (the sound that can be shouted or sung on its own), the onset c, the coda t, and the rime at. This syllable can be abstracted as a consonant-vowel-consonant syllable, abbreviated CVC.

    I also had the pleasure of learning from Dr John McWhorter that the English languages use of ‘a’ and ‘the’ is almost unique and considered quite odd by other cultures.

  • I’ve also only recently discovered that there is a language called Lojban (“The Logical Language“) that has been created to be non-ambiguous:

    Lojban has a number of features which make it unique:

    – Lojban is designed to be used by people in communication with each other, and possibly in the future with computers.
    – Lojban is designed to be culturally neutral.
    – Lojban has an unambiguous grammar, which is based on the principles of logic.
    – Lojban has phonetic spelling, and unambiguous resolution of sounds into words.
    – Lojban is simple compared to natural languages; it is easy to learn.
    – Lojban’s 1300 root words can be easily combined to form a vocabulary of millions of words.
    – Lojban is regular; the rules of the language are without exception.
    – Lojban attempts to remove restrictions on creative and clear thought and communication.
    – Lojban has a variety of uses, ranging from the creative to the scientific, from the theoretical to the practical.

    While interesting in concept, since it’s been “built over five decades by dozens of workers and hundreds of supporters” and is yet to gain widespread in usage leads me to believe that it will remain an intellectual curiosity like Esperanto for a while to come.

  • Although it may potentially be useful in the Swiss village of Bivio – the 200 residents speak 3 languages and several dialects of each, with classes in the local school alternating languages on other days and each of the local churches sermonising in a different language.
  • The Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon is looking for funding and contributors in general. They use Creative Commons images in language learning situations:

    Images do improve vocabulary acquisition and are essential for the instruction of culture. Simply put, access to good media is limited for teachers. Sure, we all have MS Clipart, but how do you explain a ticket cancelling machine in the unit on public transit with clipart? Or how do you convey what a Döner is? An image is a good place to start. Simply taking images from search engines doesn’t always work. There can be too many and finding the right image is often hard when you want to convey a specific cultural idea in a different language.

    My long term hope is that at some point there will be a truly authentic visual dictionary that is multi-lingual and authentic. Current search engines don’t have an elegant way to sift through visual content with a cultural filter. Perhaps it could be done with geo-tagging in combination with meta-data, but for now our project does it by hand. We are trudging along with our group of volunteer experts who edit the images we have in our database. It is a type of “slow media” project. As you can see in our database list, there are some starter projects just getting off the ground with less than 1000 unique entries, and we have other languages that have many more images in the database.

  • This link is more like a bookmark if anything, but I thought other’s might appreciate it. My current employer Monash University is going to be moving it’s inhouse class content delivery system from the woeful Blackboard system (woeful) now in place to Moodle in 2012. I found an interesting review of a book that looks at using Moodle to teach a second language – and from all accounts, it can be used quite successfully.
  • I have also learnt this week that the line of numbers on a book’s copyright page is called the Printers key and actually has a purpose – it’s used to indicate the print run of a book.