31 March 2012

World Backup Day

March 31st is World Backup Day, an annual opportunity for humans around the globe to think about the importance of backing up any computer files which would be hard to replace. You can read more about it at worldbackupday.com or enjoy the snarky and technical discussion at Slashdot.

Many Mac users are satisfied with the built-in Time Machine app but I feel it’s important to have some backup copies located somewhere other than home. Personally I have become a fan of online services such as Dropbox and Mozy.

Something I wonder about (but haven’t reached any conclusions about) is how to back up creative stuff that only exists on paper. I guess maybe I should photograph or scan all that stuff and add the images to my online backups.

26 March 2012

Barbara Newhall Follett's artlang

(cross-posted from the Conlang mailing list, with a few additions)

Barbara Newhall Follett was a brilliant young woman who had a couple of novels published at a very young age early in the 20th century. In 1939, at the age of 25, she vanished.

There is a wonderful, haunting article about her life by Paul Collins: Vanishing Act in Lapham’s Quarterly. NPR did a five-minute story about her which you can listen to here: www.npr.org/2010/12/18/

Miss Follett created a conworld called Farksolia which had its own language. Some fragments of the writing, including a page of glossary, can be found here: www.farksolia.org/category/farksolia


The webmaster over there has posted more information about the language.

The text is heartbreakingly short, but here are a couple of excerpts:

light, jir; dark, fune; these words represent day and night, happiness and
[sadness], clearness and vagueness-- however, fune stands neither for sadness or vagueness in a sad sense-- rather seriousness and quiet dimness.

there is a tense of wishing a thing might be, a sort of subjunctive, but untranslatable in English-- an elusive, ideal consummation, a dream, highly improbabl[e] or even impossible of realization. That tense is formed by the suffix -ril to a verb. "The dream of my life would be to go there"-- na oparil.

14 March 2012

articles related to Babel No More

The release of Michael Erard’s book Babel No More has resulted in several news articles about “hyperpolyglots,” people who enjoy learning many languages. Here are links to two of the articles:

The Cult of the Hyperpolyglot (BBC).

Are You a Hyperpolyglot? The Secrets of Language Superlearners (Time).

Some of you will recall surveys taken in the Conlang mailing list in years past revealing that many inventors of new languages are left-handed, gay and have beards. Mr Erard says hyperpolyglots are more likely to be introverted, gay or left-handed.

An audio recording of an interview with the author is available here.

12 March 2012

Google Translate adds Esperanto

Google Translate has added Esperanto to its list of supported languages. It will be interesting to watch this and see if the quality of the translations improves as time goes by. (The software supposedly trains itself to get better and better.) As you can see in my simple test above, two of the three short sentences were translated correctly; the final one was botched.

If you're not terribly busy, check out the article How Google Translate Works by David Bellos.

05 March 2012

a few new scripts for natlangs

I just stumbled across a blog that mentions some newly invented writing systems that have been proposed for minority and endangered natural languages. The blog is called Anshuman Pandey (apparently named after its author). If you enjoy encounters with new writing systems or you are browsing for special glyphs to inspire your own work, this is a blog worth watching.

Interesting articles include a script for the Tani languages of Arunachal Pradesh and a script for the Dhimal language of Nepal.

03 March 2012

Unicode 6.1 released

Version 6.1 of Unicode, the ultimate system for computerized encoding of all the world’s writing systems, has been released. A summary of the changes made from version 6.0 to 6.1 is available.

Here are some of my personal favorites among the new glyphs (aren’t they cute?):

Yes, there are a lot of glyphs similar to 11137 scattered throughout Unicode, including 10463 from the Shavian alphabet, but I like the proportions in the published sample of 11137 much better. (Different strokes for different folks.)