Sunday, March 13, 2005

Intriguing ideas from the depths of the Blogosphere ( though primarily my blogroll)

A big Zenpundit Welcome to the Eide Neurolearning Blog ! ENB is run by Fernette and Brock Eide a husband and wife team of M.D.'s who specialize in working with children with learning disabilities. I first became aware of ENB via BusinessPundit and Corante and came way impressed with the Brock's theories of learning and brain function which strongly correlate with my own experience and research. Check out their latest post on Buddhist meditation and brain wave function!

Stuart Berman has a a typically thoughtful post up on IT security, relationships, politics and culture. A nice synthesis of issues. Lots of links too. I've been trying to cajole a comment out of Stu on quantum encryption issues but without success thus far ;o)

Changes at The Asia Pages. The lovely, world-travelling, founder Jodi has retired from blogging. I was sad to read about her departure as The Asia Pages had really started to come into its own in the last year when Jodi began adding more real-world social observations as a Korean-American expatriate, to the politics and econ of modernizing Asia. Jodi's handpicked successor, " Bluejives" is bringing a new take and visually skillful presentation to The Asia Pages and I encourage you to keep abreast of how the blog evolves under Bluejives direction.

Colonel Austin Bay interviews former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Aside from being a highly intelligent writer, Bay represents the intersection of professional journalism, blogging and active-duty military service ( Bay just completed, I believe, a tour in Iraq).

Flaming Duck on how " do something " drives government growth. Plus, I just like the name
" Flaming Duck".


Cole and Collounsbury: Collounsbury offers his take on Sunni-Shiite violence prompted by Juan Cole's views on the same.

(It also just occurred to me in writing this post that sometime I really should decide on a consistent model of transliteration for Arabic to English. For example, I use " al Qaida" which also pops up in the media as " al Qai'ada", " al Qae'ada" and " al Qaeda". Likewise, I generally, I write " Hezbollah" and not " Hizbullah" or " Hezb' ullah" though not for any reason other than habit and I have no idea of " al Qaida" is consistent in usage style with " Hezbollah" . Collounsbury often uses a Francophone influenced model while Cole does not. Any thoughts here are welcome since Arabic seems to have less of a transliteration consensus among linguists than, say, Chinese, with most MSM outlets using the Pinyin system )
Thanks for the mention. I am not ignoring you - just trying to think this one out a bit - quantum cryptography is not the sort of topic I want to really shoot from the hip so I am mulling this one over in particular the metaphors.

As for the consistency of Arabic transliteration - I understand that the dialects vary so widely between Arabic speaking nations that there is very little agreement about pronunciation let alone spelling. If we didn't have an accepted spelling and typical pronunciation of 'dog' then the use of 'dawg' might be just as acceptable.
Except that if American English varied as much as does spoken Chinese " dog" would also be " Deg", " Dig"," Dug" and
" Ican'tpronounceit" in addition to "Dawg".

Arabic, I understand has that kind of variation. There are some dialects that Col says he just doesn't understand very well. Then again Arabic has a HUGE geographic and latitude range which creates the potential for greater local evolution. Serbo-Croat, my linguist friends tell me, varies every ten miles you go south from the Slovenian border.

Take your time on quantum encryption Stu, I'm not handicapped by having any real knowledge and thus, remain free to speculate ;o) I'll link when you are ready.
On Arabic and Translit

I wish I could be helpful there, but I am afraid there is no helpful, useful standard in place. There are some decent academic systems I see now and again, but being academic they are also unwieldy - relying on diacriticals and the like.

My own translits of course sadly are a mangy Frankenstein monster reflecting my passage to Arabic via French.

I note, however, most transliteration from Arabic is from Modern Standard, which does not vary that much in pronunciation (largely in 'quality' of vowel sounds) and "spelling" in Arabic (Arabic characters) does not vary at all.

The questions for that transliteration are (i) how do you render the short vowels "i" and "a." (Or as easily "e" and "a" or "i" and "e" depending on how the English/Foreign Lang speaker hears them); (ii) does one follow 'pronounced form' or strict letter transliteration, e.g. Abderrahman by formal pronunciation versus Abd al-Rahman by letters; (iii) does one render 'Ain, hamza and the emphatics (I personally don't bother: frustratingly 'Ain and hamza are both often rendered with a "'" although they are utterly unrelated); how does one render Qaf versus Kaf - here at least I clearly favor the Q for the Qaf.

On the other hand, a lot of translit is also from renditions of dialect, and there you are all over the map. Q to G, J to G, etc.

Remember, dialects are (in general) only spoken, not written so here one is out in the wilderness.

I should note that there are dialects I can't follow at all (Hassaniyah would be a good example). Of course Hassaniyah is as much Berber as Arabic to my ears.

Oh finally on this:
For example, I use " al Qaida" which also pops up in the media as " al Qai'ada", " al Qae'ada" and " al Qaeda". Likewise, I generally, I write " Hezbollah" and not " Hizbullah" or " Hezb' ullah" though not for any reason other than habit and I have no idea of " al Qaida" is consistent in usage style with " Hezbollah"

al Qai'ada and al Qae'ada are plainly "wrong" insofar as they are putting in too many vowels. Hezb' ullah strikes me as wrong as well insofar as it puts a ' to represent, well I have no idea what. Liason?

Usage style: I venture that it's impossible to impose one on yourself, other than consistently writing al-Qaeda or al-Qaida (consistency in choice for the short i/e sound). I choose Hezbullah because it, to my ear, renders the sound better, but that is idiosyncratic.

There, that was one long unhelpful note.
Another thought, for style.

Always use the al "prefix" (as in al-Qaeda). The NYT in its own precious style has taken to dropping it on some logic saying that 'the al-Qaeda organization' is redundant, but this strikes me as silly for while "al-" is "the" in Arabic, the grammatical meaning changes in Arabic if one removes the al- ; so the mixed "correctness" ends up being both confusing to the English reader (why Qaeda now?) and incorrect in Arabic.
Thanks much for the link. I like the name "Flaming Duck" too!

As to the transliteration question, I dealt witht the issue in a Geography of the Former Soviet Union class (looooong time ago) and the recommendation was to chjoose a dialect and stick with that convention. I don't know anything about Arabic (or Russian for that matter) so I can't help with the choice.
The dialect choice is non-obvious in Arabic because dialects are not written and variation is high. Modern Standard would be the standard referant point, as the written form. Oral pronunciation, however, varies.
Hey Col-

Thanks for the extended commentary. I had wondered why the NYT had dropped the "al-" recently and it hadn't seemed to make sense. I'll stick with my past practice and try to keep things in that vein.

( Curiously, I just noticed that some periodicals which write "Hezbollah" for Lebanon or Iran's Ansar Hezbollah start doing Hezb-i- for Pakistani Islamist groups)
On al and the Like
The NYT logic is too precious by far. You're right. Stick with al-Qaeda or something similar.

As an aside, in general I prefer the "e" over the "i" because for the short "e/i" vowel in Arabic because I think it comes closer to "generic" pronunciation, and I use "a" for the short "a/e" vowel.

In that context, I write, in general, al-Qaeda. Easily it can be al-Qaida of course. I suppose a rule of thumb for yourself - for Arabic translits, when you see the "e" and the "i" you can usually assume it's the same sound. Usually.

Another side note, one sometimes sees words like al-Qaeda written with a final h. That is trying to represent something called "taa marbutah" (tied t roughly); a generally short open a final vowel (a) marking feminine gender, which goes liason with linked words.

Finally the Hizbullah, Hizbollah and Hizb-i.... The Hizb-i- thing is non-Arabic. That's a Farsi / Indo language possessive structure I guess. I should note the Hizb Allah written as Hizbullah or Hizbollah reflects a liaison in spoken Arabic (formal and dialect), and the word is really two in written form. Hizb Allah.

Well, enough Arabic blather for today, eh?
hi there,

i have been googling as if forever trying to find Hizbullah written in Arabic characters. If you or a colleague could find the name in Arabic printing, I would be easily able to transliterate it for you. Just a foretaste: MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) writers and speakers have already made the deep 'u' into an 'oh' sound. It's more difficult to say 'u' rather than 'oh.' Also, I know that under the first letter will be a 'kazrah', a small diagonal (NE to SW) that you can pronounce as 'ih' or 'eh'. I think that in the Levant the pronunciation is 'ih.'

I'd be grateful if you could help me find 'Hizbullah' written in Arabic characters.

I am, by the way, a semiotician, if one still uses the word.

Marshall Blonsky
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