habagat

When I press the button at the bottom of my mobile phone, the first screen has the time and date at the top and the instruction ‘Swipe screen to unlock’ at the bottom. In the middle are various bits of information, including notifications of missed calls or voice messages, and news from Google. Earlier today, the new was “New LPA to boost rains from habagat”. I have no idea what that means and equally no idea why Google would think I was interested. Some research was necessary.

Searching Google found the article on Inquirer.net, the headline of which had one extra, even more baffling word “New LPA to boost rains from habagat, ‘Falcon’”. The first paragraph makes almost everything clear:

MANILA, Philippines — A new low pressure area west of the Philippines will further enhance the southwest monsoon and Tropical Storm “Falcon” (international name: Danas).

So an LPA is a low pressure area (is this really commonly used in Filipino news headlines?), a/the/- habagat is the south-west monsoon (“characterized by hot and humid weather, frequent heavy rainfall, and a prevailing wind from the west” and lasting May/June to Nov/Dec – Wikipedia), and “Falcon” is an officially named tropical storm. (For the rest of the year, the prevailing weather is the amihan – “moderate temperatures, little or no rainfall, and a prevailing wind from the east”.)

What it doesn’t make clear is why Google thinks I would be interested.

PS I can imagine an Australian news source using “low” and “high” in a headline, but not LPA or HPA.

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Languages of Nepal

(Note: I am not an expert on the languages Nepal. The following has been gleaned from teaching Nepalese students, especially recently, and Wikipedia.)

I have mentioned that Nepali is an Indo-European language (here and here), and therefore has some words which are cognate (or might be) with English. Yesterday a Nepalese student said that he and another Nepalese student speak different first languages (alongside standard Nepali as a second language), but don’t understand the other’s language. I caught what one said his language is, made easier by the fact that he uses the ethnic group/language name as his surname. For privacy I won’t tell you which one. I looked at Wikipedia’s list of languages of Nepal and found that that language is actually Sino-Tibetan, and thus more closely related to the languages of China.

Today I asked the other what his first language is, and it is the name of his his ethnic group, but he doesn’t use it as his surname. It is Sino-Tibetan as well, but saying that two Nepalese languages are both Sino-Tibetan says as much about their mutual intelligibility as saying that Romanian and Bulgarian are both Indo-European does (they are from different branches of Indo-European – Romance and Slavic respectively). There is comparatively less information about Sino-Tibetan languages on the internet, and what there is is dominated by Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese, being three national-level languages. (Possibly the two students’ languages are from the same branch (Wikipedia’s article on Sino-Tibetan languages colour-codes them as ‘other’), which might make them as mutually intelligible as Norwegian and Swedish, or Serbian and Croatian, but this seems not to be the case.)

So, three of my current students (an Indian student in another class), speak an ethnic or regional language, their national language (Hindi and Nepali) and their current level of English. And I speak approximately 1.1 languages. Luckily, people want to learn my language, otherwise I’d be out of a job.

Wikipedia’s article on the languages of Nepal states that the 2011 census lists 123 languages spoken in Nepal, but some of those are Indian and others are completely foreign (for example, 8 speakers of Arabic, 16 of Spanish and 34 of French). Slightly fewer than half are Indo-European, but they have larger numbers of speakers each, including the top four, accounting for over 66% of Nepalese between them (adding second language speakers of Nepali totals more than 100%, because many speakers of languages 2-4 also speaker Nepalese as a second language (it is a compulsory subject at school, and the medium of instruction in most)). Slightly more than half are Sino-Tibetan, but they have fewer speakers each, under 10,000 in most cases and under 100 in some others. Wikipedia’s article on the demographics of Nepal lists 26 ethnic groups with more than 100,000 members, then combines the rest as ‘more than 100 caste/ethnic groups’, so in effect each caste/ethnic group has its own language.

National characteristics, according to Google Ngram Viewer

For no particular reason I started wondering what Google Ngram Viewer might reveal about countries, at least as recorded in the form ‘Australian (something)’. The results for 17 well-known nationalities are:

English … language translation law literature people history Church government army nation
Welsh … language people border Church mountains princes coal coast prince bards
Scottish … Parliament history parliament army Church people nation king nobles queen
Irish … people Catholics Sea history parliament Free Parliament nation Church members
British … Columbia government Museum Empire Government Isles troops army India subjects

French … Revolution government army troops people language king Government nation fleet
German … people government army troops language states Empire literature princes Government
Italian … Renaissance opera cities art language people style Government literature states
Spanish … America government troops fleet army colonies ambassador ships monarchy Government
Russian … Revolution government people Empire army troops empire Government armies fleet

American … Journal Society Association Revolution history Indians people colonies army war
Canadian … Journal government Pacific border National provinces history Government side people
Australian … National Journal Government government Museum aborigines colonies continent ballot Colonies
New Zealand … Journal Herald Government Division Institute Company Association troops Parliament flax

Chinese … government people characters history language Communists authorities troops Government Empire
Japanese … government War people occupation language troops Government forces army war
Korean … War government peninsula Peninsula economy people war conflict People Government

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Equinox

Today’s Google Doodle acknowledges the equinox , which actually falls tomorrow, Australian time. One mark to Google for knowing that the seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed (this doodle appears in Australia, New Zealand and southern South America). One mark from Google for calling the doodle “Fall 2019”. In Australian English (and as far as I know, New Zealand English) it’s always “Autumn”.

Country, country

Today is Saint David’s Day. He was an early Welsh bishop and is the patron saint of Wales. No doubt many renditions of Mae hen wlad fy nhadau will be rendered from Cardiff to Holyhead. I am not an expert in Welsh, so I will keep this to my own experience.

When I was young, one of my piano tutor books had many songs from many countries, including this one. I remember that the title was given as O land of my fathers and the words entirely in English. The first line was O land of my fathers, O land dear to me, but I can’t remember enough of the rest of it to attempt to reproduce it, and the internet doesn’t seem to have it.

The first two words of the chorus were Great land. I now know that the original is Gwlad, gwlad, meaning country, countryside, nation.

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‘The Little Piano Piece’ by Debussy

Wikipedia informed me that today is the birthday of the French composer Claude Debussy (the hundredth anniversary of his death in March this year seems to have passed without too much observance in the music world).

The first piano piece of his I played was titled by him The Little Nigar (performance). I remember that the book I used placed the last word in inverted commas. Debussy wrote it in 1909 for a piano tuition book. In 1934, it was published as an individual piece, now titled The Little Negro and subtitled Le petit nègre. (strong language warning) Continue reading

entertaining cheeses

Today I sub-edited an article about “entertaining cheeses”. My first thought was of them singing and dancing for us. My second thought was of us singing and dancing for them. My third thought was of us chatting together, while eating the cheeses and drinking a nice bottle of red.

And I didn’t know until today that Camembert and Brie are towns in France.