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Of Interest:
computer-aided linguistics

Turning to Japanese...

The New York Times reports today on recent academic investigations on the origins of Japanese and the Japanese people. The findings suggest a much later arrival of the language than commonly held, and thus that the indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer culture, whose presence has been dated to 30,000 years ago, were not the immediate forebears of the Japanese of today. Instead, the study seems to indicate the Yayoi people brought the language that became Japanese with them when they brought their agricultural “wet rice” culture to the Japanese islands from the Korean peninsula about 2,200 years ago.

We have some reservations concerning the fact that the lead researcher is not an historical linguist, and that the methodology relies on something called
Bayesian phylogeny and computer-generated charts of language relation later sampled for statistical relevance. We can see a lot of potential problems here, but some professionals in the field - with far more knowledge of the actual work done than we have - are lauding the findings and suggesting it fits with previously known facts about the culture and settlement activity in the area.

The internal and sociopolitical repercussions amongst the famously insular Japanese will be something to watch.

Shakespeare, again?

Well, this one doesn’t show any signs of slowing down...

Another scholar seeks to diminish The Bard asserting proof of Shakespeare as “collaborator” - there’s a loaded word - as divined by computer analysis of the text of his 58 (?) plays. The evidence is that a three-word phrase appears once in Henry V, and then nowhere else in Elizabethan plays but a fourth edition of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy.

Perhaps we’re straw-manning it a bit, but that seems a tough one to swallow. The most interesting bit about the story is the
existence of a program built to spot plagiarism in the work of law students. What, do they doubt the ethics of those who seek to enter that noble profession?