Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Wed Feb 21, 2024 2:46 pm

I have studied some of the printouts I recently made, and basically I got fairly unscathed through cyanobacteria in Ukrainian, Ferdinand II, magnetism and Archaea in Czech and and the famine 1932-33 in Ukraine in Russian (of all languages) etc.etc., but then I hit upon Albanian (Gjuha shqipe) ... ahem. I have spent a fair amount of time on that language earlier in the history of the planet (and even written short texts in it here on Llorg), but by now it seemed that it had all evaporated. I did remember main features of the grammar (syntax and morphologhy), but both the small grey words and their bigger meaningful brethren had to a large extent disappeared. So I had to return to the basics.

My current set of printouts contains three pages about astronomy and one about Moravia and an area named Anamorava in Kosova, and the first text (about the planets of the solar system) is taken from the site keni-albanianpost.com, and I have for some reason added a machine translation into Danish - maybe because I suspected that there might be more problems than usual already when I made those printouts, but then I chose Romanian, Esperanto, Frisian and Greek for the rest of the texts in the collection, which could be a sign that I expected the re-acquaintance periode to be rather short. Time will tell whether I was too optimistic

Anyway I did modify my usual procedure when dealing with that first article. Normally I just copy the text while making a hyperliteral translation in my head (with minimal use of the machine translation), and at the same time I identify the forms of all words and build a model of the syntactical structure. Not so this time: I copied one sentence at a time (or just a part of it) and wrote my own translation between the lines (in pink on the image below). But the passages in the original came in another order than in the translation, and when I checked the individual words in the Danish translation with my dictionaries they weren't always there - or the dictionary contradicted the Danish words from Google. I was listening to music by Klami and Klenau from my laptop so it was switched on, and to get a second opinion I humbly resorted to putting the offending Albanian or Danish terms into Google translate to see what happened - and I don't remember having done that for a very long time.

But I did one thing more: I made it into a half-hearted reverse translation exercise by looking at my pink hyperliteral translation and then use that to write a copy (in violet) of the original Albanian text - and it went surprisingly well. OK, I couldn't totally avoid also looking at the original words (in black), but even the attempt to use the translation to recall the original is worth a try - and in a better world it might even have been possible to cover the original text entirely, but we don't live in that world. Even with those reservations I do believe that this kind of activity will strengthen my hopes to become a little bit active again in Albanian. And even as I worked my way through the first text I could feel that I remembered more and more about the Albanian language, and that I understood more and more of the content without help.

I didn't use my green sheets, but that curious omission will be corrected when I attack the next text in the collection which also tells about the inner planets, but this time in an article taken from astroalbastronomy.wordpress.com, starting with the words "Disa fakte interesante" - and lo and behold, I can understand those words even without looking at the translation!

Planetet_AL.jpg
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby tangleweeds » Thu Feb 22, 2024 11:34 am

Thanks for the openness of this glimpse into your process, especially as it’s in a language where you might be akin to where I stand with Japanese—though it looks like you’re a lot more skilled at being there.

Japanese was my requisite language when double (half?) majoring in linguistics (along with CS) back in the 1990s. And I then failed to touch it for 20 years (for reasons). I retained the general structures, word order, and busy little words, but few meaningful longer ones.

And I must confess my methods of bringing it back have been (literally) far more ADHD. But I think I could hyperfocus on something like this. I need to surprise my fluttery brain into remembering by doing many different things with a language in order to make it stick.
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Thu Feb 22, 2024 1:20 pm

Thank you to Tangleweeds for his empaty for my current fight with Albanian (and it's of course reciprocated: good luck with your Japanese!).

In this case where I know that I once knew more of a language than I could recall a few days ago some might recommend me to get a lot of input - but if I couldn't understand a thing then it would a waste of time and effort. So instead I have chosen to focus on a small piece of text and make it comprehensible with the help of a translation and a couple of dictionaries and Google translate (sometimes it would be a hazzle to find the original dictionary form of something in the text, and then GT can often a give me a hint). Besides I have made my normal proces more explicit by writing down the my hyperliteral translation and using it to reconstruct the original text while I still remember it.

When I work with weak languages from bilingual printouts I often do hyperliteral translations in my head because it helps me to remember the quirks of the target language, but I normally don't write them down. But just as you remember single words better when you copy them by hand it is also more efficient to write down your internal calculations instead of just running them through your mind once - and right now I feel like I'm trying to force my way into a recalcitrant fortress by hammering again and again on the gate with the heaviest tools I can muster. But at some point I get inside, and then I can start to pillage the place.

The trouble it that writing all that takes time, and I don't expect to continue doing it for long with Albanian - but until I feel comfortable again with the language I'll have to carry on doing the heavy stuff. I did a couple of hours more in that way yesterday, and I can definitely feel the effect already now. A recheck of my green sheets and maybe some wordlisting, then I can return to the usual process where I just copy the text and keep the rest in my head.

Yesterday I also spent some time on astronomy in Czech - neutron stars and pulsars and magnetars, things like that. And because I have read a fair amount of texts about similar topics I have now arrived to a stage where I almost can understand those texts with minimal help. But the avalanche of diacritics and accents still baffles me...

After that I watched a number of Youtube videos, starting out with at least one hour in Dutch about various psychological topics. And even though I don't listen to Dutch much (no TV channels) I had no problems understanding the speakers, who spoke about things like metacognition, good sleep habits and "beelddenken". And when a link to Spanish Bea Sanchez speaking about altas capacidades popped up to the right I followed the link - and found several videos about languages which I hadn't expected. The last in the series was one about medieval Spanish pronunciation by Linguriosa - and by golly that lady can speak fast! But she speaks muy clearly so I managed to hang on. Some of her examples came from the famous Cantar del mio Cid - a tale from around 1200 about a somewhat shifty nobleman who was quite active during the early (and somewhat confused) phases of the Reconquista. And it showed me that methinks my Medieval Spanish vocabulary might also profit from a brush-up. But the problem is always how to find time for such detours.

Today I have so far not studied. Instead I have continued to work on my Russian painting - and that also takes time away from my studying. I have made one stupid error along he way: painting so close to the border that I'll have to cover some of a green monster's right claw and maybe also the uttermost right side of the bell Tsar Kolokol. If I had been painting continuously since last century I would definitely not have forgotten about such small, but important considerations! Right now the canvas is drying up so that I can add the cave monastery and a couple of other buildings in Kyiv to the bottom left.

M0316a02_tsarKolokol.jpg
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Sun Feb 25, 2024 7:15 pm

Nothing much to report that doesn't resemble something I have done before...

Today I spent some time adding Petsjerskaja Lavra of Kyiv (the cave monastery) to my political painting, and I guess I can finish it next time I touch it. After that I have watched some more or (mostly) less relevant videos from Youtube and some TV and studied a couple of texts.

UK: Я відвідав Київ у 2001 році по дорозі до Грузії, Вірменії та Азербайджану. Крім того, я був лише у місті Львів. До речі, я знав, що "Georgia" називається 'Грузією' на українській мові (я був там за часів СРСР), але мене здивувало, що "Armenia" називається Вірменією.

PO: Wczoraj oglądałem videofilm Ecolinguista z samym Ecolinguistem i Czechem, który nie zrozumiał słowa "Włochy" – w języku czeskim Włochy nazywają się "Itálie". Przynajmniej jednak "Armenia" nazywa się po polsku 'Armenią", ale "Georgia" nazywa się 'Gruzją'. Ale zarówno w Polsce i Czechach jak i na Ukrainie miesiące mają dziwne nazwy.. ;)

F1909a01_Petsjerskaja Lavra.jpg

OK, language studies. Let's take the videos first. I started out with three videos in Romanian before I made the mistake of following a link to an Anglophone video:

RO: Există câteva canale de Youtube în limba română cu nume care încep cu "Doza de (ceva)", iar videoclipurile despre astronomia se numesc de mod evident "Doza de Spatiu" (și subtitrări nu au). Astăzi am văzut un videoclip despre exoplanete ciudate, dar dar de acolo am urmat un link către un videoclip intitulat "Ce limbă vorbea Ștefan cel Mare?" (canalul 'Corpus Draculianum' - cu referire la Vlad Țepeș sau tatăl său, care era de fapt persoana care a purtat semnul ordinului Dragonului). Erau subtitrări în engleză, dar le-am dezactivat. Apoi un videoclip din aceeași sursă despre critica sursei istorice. Dar apoi lucrurile au mers prost. Am văzut un link către un video în limba engleză despre o carte de neînțeles găsită în Transilvania (un fel de frate mai mic lui Voynich) - codex Rohonc.

... and then I ended up in a morass of Anglophone videos about evil popes and methods to kill people slowly and the impending end of the world in March 2024 according to as trustworthy sources as Padre Pio, saint Malachia and (as usual) Nostradamus. I have bought a trip abroad in April so it it would be quite irritating if the world chose blow to pieces already in March - but time will tell. For some reason some individuals take a delight in posting videos with names like "10 things that will shock you" :o or "17 things that will make your eyes bleed" :shock: or "8 things about language learning which you didn't know yet" :roll:. - and those videos are so numerous that they almost squeeze better stuff out. At least I'm not on Tik-Tok or X or Facenook. Pheuw... just the thought of the time I could have wasted there!

A couple of days ago I published a rule of thumb concerning Youtube videos: clickbait -> don't watch. I feel now tempted to add two rules more: 1) don't watch videos containing a number in the title, 2) don't watch videos that assume you don't know anything. OK, it may be true, but video makers shouldn't assume that I'm an ignorant dumbass.

DA: Og lige nu er der forresten startet en film på TV (DR2) om den excellente malerinde Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann. Mens jeg endnu boede i Århus, var der en udstilling om hende på det stedlige kunstmuseum hvor børn og barnlige sjæle og sådan nogen som mig kunne få lov at tegne en tegning med motiver fra hendes værker. Jeg skrev om det dengang, men nedenfor kan I se resultatet igen: én tegning (som blev på museet) og to malerier (incl forstadier), som læserne af denne log vistnok er de eneste der har set:

Museum_Jerichau_Baumann.jpg

PS: Jeg gider alligevel ikke høre den film på TV - der medvirker skuespillere, så jeg har slået lyden fra og nøjes med billederne.
PS 2: Nu har jeg også droppet at se billedsiden af den der TV-film. Mage til sentimentalt bræk ...

EN: I'll comment on the texts I have studied later - this rant has already become too long.

addendum Monday): I just checked what users of Google Translate would get from my Danish sentences above. And the poor thing clearly doesn't know the expression "Mage til..!" - it thought it had something to do with stomachs and that I just couldn't spell. But the meaning is actually exclamative "What (a).." or "Such..". The funny thing is that GT hasn't got any problems with "en ting mage til en anden ting" - here it translates correctly to "similar to". The "Mage til.." in "Mage til sentimentalt bræk!" could be seen as an abbreviated version of "Jeg har aldrig set mage til ..." (I have never seen anything similar to.."), but with added tinge "anything as abhorrent as".

That was today's lesson about Danish idiomatic expressions. And Jerichau-Baumann is still one of my favorite Danish artists. She travelled to exotic places like Egypt, and in between her private projects she managed to feed six children and a frail husband by making portraits of wealthy people (including the queen). But because some mediocre art critics saw her as not only female, but also half German she was almost wiped out from Danish art history until recently.
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby mick33 » Tue Feb 27, 2024 2:49 am

Iversen wrote: PS 2: Nu har jeg også droppet at se billedsiden af den der TV-film. Mage til sentimentalt bræk ...

EN: I'll comment on the texts I have studied later - this rant has already become too long.

[color=#700040]addendum Monday): I just checked what users of Google Translate would get from my Danish sentences above. And the poor thing clearly doesn't know the expression "Mage til..!" - it thought it had something to do with stomachs and that I just couldn't spell. But the meaning is actually exclamative "What (a).." or "Such..". The funny thing is that GT hasn't got any problems with "en ting mage til en anden ting" - here it translates correctly to "similar to". The "Mage til.." in "Mage til sentimentalt bræk!" could be seen as an abbreviated version of "Jeg har aldrig set mage til ..." (I have never seen anything similar to.."), but with added tinge "anything as abhorrent as".


AF: Dit is hoekom jy kan nie altyd die GT vertalinge vertrou nie, maar jy mag dié slag een DeepL vertaling vertrou. DeepL het die Deense frase "Mage til sentimentalt bræk" as in Engels "Such sentimental vomit" vertaal. Ek dink nie dat die DeepL vertaling is perfek nie, maar dit is inderdaad beter as die GT vertaling.
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Tue Feb 27, 2024 9:55 pm

AF: Deepl se vertaling is so na aan die korrektheid as wat jy kan kom. Ek het eenkeer hierdie program probeer, maar dit het ongelukkig nie die tale gehad wat ek nodig gehad het nie - destyds. Miskien is dit sedertdien uitgebrei.

I wrote a couple of days ago that I would comment on the texts I had perused (back then). However now two days have passed where I have run through a number of bilingual texts in different languages, so now it will be a different assortment of texts I'll refer to. It should be said that I only filled one half A4 sheet per language, so the number of texts does not mean that I have been scribbling all day long - I haven't.

So let's take them in chronological order:

Albanian: oh yes. Same procedure as last time, but with a small, but important difference. Last time I wrote a hyperliteral translation after each sentence (or half sentence), and after one or two sentences I used the translation to produce a copy of the original text. But already now I could write the translation after several sentences, which meant that I was less tempted to cheat-peek at the original. The text (from astroalbastonomy) told about the planet Venus, and the machine translation was in Romanian (last time I used my native Danish for assistance).

Irish: another sorely neglected backburner language, but I actually felt less intimidated by it than I did with Albanian a week ago, so I dropped the re-translation phase and just wrote a hyperliteral translation. The text was the continuation of a long one about the mythical Thuatha de Danaan with a Swedish machine translation. The funny thing is that it told about a king Nuada who lost a hand in combat, and then a doctor (the "lia" Dian Céacht) made a silver hand to him. But the smartass son of the doctor found out how to let meat and skin grow over the prosthesis, which infuriated the father so much that he killed his boy. I wonder whether this tale could be interpreted as early science fiction, but I know a couple of dubious TV channels where the lia and the mac an lia would be identified as aliens from outer space.

Indonesian: Also a somewhat neglected language, but the text told about the silurean era, and I have studied so many articles about paleontology that I hardly needed to look at the machine translation (in French). And therefore I just wrote a copy of the original text. The main reason to add a complete hyperliteral translation would have been to do a retranslation, and this might still have been a good idea - but without this last phase I don't see any reason to write a complete hyperliteral translation down. And just copying the original text is how I normally work.

Modern Greek: I finished an article about the first geological period in the history of the Earth, the Hadean (named after the Greek god Hades), and after that I went through an article about the Ordovician. Machine translations in resp. Catalan and Castilian.

Slovak: Here I used a Wikipedia text about the hormone noradrenaline followed by one about dopamine (machine translations into Swedish). Curiously some sections weren't translated at all but just repeated the Slovak texts - and curiously those passages were those with most incomprehensible chemical terms. Maybe GT just gave up because it couldn't understand the bulk of the original texts.

Russian: An article about megalomania with a machine translation into Esperanto.

Polish: I finished the text about the excellent zoo in Katowice's extensive Park Śląski, which I have visited twice (machine translation into Romanian), and after that I worked on a short text about Śląsk (called Schlesien by the Germans before they were pushed out) - machine translation into Greek.

Serbian: I fairly long text about hyperlexia, i.e. the state of small kids who read a lot - and typically things you wouldn't expect them to read at their age. Texts about this phenomenon are cautious not to characterize it as a aberrant condition somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but you sometimes sense that this is what their authors really think - for instance when they discuss the problems these kids have to be interested in discussions with their peers. But quite frankly: if you are five or seven years old and want to discuss ancient philosophy or astronomy or the current political situation then other kids at your age may not be your most obvious conversation partners.

Croatian: Actually not one of my target languages, but close to at least one of them (Serbian) - and not terribly difficult to understand. A text about Asperger's syndrome with a machine translation into Italian.

Ukrainian: The second half of a text about the cyanobacteria who invented photosynthesis about 2.400.000.000 years ago and almost killed everybody on the planet off with a poisonous waste product: oxygene (кисень). Machine translation into Castilian.

... and now you may wonder why I didn't include Bulgarian (an old target language) and Czech (the latest official nominee) in the run? Well, to fill the Bulgarian lacune I used the beginning of a long article about a very special knife found in Tut's grave. The special thing about Tut's dagger was that its blade was made of iron, and Tut lived during the bronze age - at least 100 years before anybody started to produce iron from ore on a great scale. The explanation: the metal in Tut's dagger has turned out to come from a meteorite - and it has been suggested that it was produced abroad, for instance in the kingdom Mitanni. But I haven't read the whole article yet - and it will take some time to do so since I found it in a monolingual magazine called Космос (I bought two issues of that magazine in Sofia last year).

And what about Czech? Well, last evening I first reread an article about neutron stars, then a shorter one about magnetic fields and after that an article about gravitation, all from Wikipedia. When I read something as a goodnight treat I get through much more text in shorter time because I don't write anything down. But I don't learn much either - it's more a question of training and entertainment, and therefore I have started to reuse old dusty bilingual printouts for the purpose.

I also was awake long enough to read two articles about neutrinos in Serbian with just a few peeks in the machine translation. They were quite easy to get through, but I still can't speak the language because I only work on the written language. I haven't yet chosen a goodnight text for the upcoming night, but maybe I should run through one of my old texts in Afrikaans. Or do a repetition of one of the recently used study texts.

But there is one problem with such a 'text study campaign': I may soon have to produce a series of new bilingual printouts if I continue to devour them at this speed, and printer ink is rather expensive.

Tut´s iron knife.jpg
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Thu Feb 29, 2024 10:31 am

This morning I woke up early - not early enough to take one 1½ hour round more, but too early to get up. So I thought that it would be fun to read a real paper book again, and I chose Oliver Sacks' "Muzicofilia". It was written in English, but I bought its translation into Romanian in Cluj in 2017 (together with a book about the emergence of life). I read it during my trip and then once again soon after, but by now I have forgotten enough to make it worth rereading it. I have read two other books by mr. Sacks, one about his damaged left leg and the other about a variety of weird mental symptoms. I probably read both in Danish translations because I borrowed them from the local library, but frankly I don't remember. The second one ("The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat") was by far the most interesting. It takes its name from a person who lacked the part of the brain which is there to recognize faces, so for him a face was not different from the hat on top of it. The book also tells about lost memory and lacking proprioception and about autistic savants and people who wonder where the heck one of their limbs came from (and whom it belongs to). One angry detractor named Shakespeare called Sacks "the man who mistook his patients for a literary career", but if Sacks hadn't told the rest of us about patients and non-patients alike we would never have known about the vast spread of human behaviours and mindsets. And I'm am definitely going to reread the hat book at some point, but only if I can find it in English or a translation into something interesting - not Danish (I already know that language)..

I painted a painting over the wife-hat book (se below) in the late 80s, but only saw the one about music far later. However since I'm reading it in Romanian I'll write the rest of this rant in the relevant language. It should however be said that so far I have just got through the first 52 pages (in one hour with 4 or 5 dictionary lookups), but I vaguely remember that the rest of the book is equally interesting and informative.

Kunst196.JPG

RO: Sachs vorbește mai întâi despre unele cazuri în care oamenii au devenit dintr-o dată muzicali - inclusiv un bărbat care a fost lovit de fulger și a devenit deodata obsedat de muzica de pian și chiar a învățat să cânte la acest instrument. Un altul a devenit interesat de muzica clasică după o operație la lobul temporal. Apoi vorbește despre persoanele care au crize epileptice dacă aud anumite tipuri de sunet - și poate fi orice, de la muzică la zgomot mecanic. Un pacient a avut o criză de fiecare dată când auzea clopotele bisericii, iar altul nu a putut tolera nota Do diez într-o anumită octavă. Alții octave - nici o reacție. Un cunoscut critic muzical a fost nevoit să renunțe la profesie sa din cauza acestui sindrom. Există și cazuri de halucinații auditive care sunt aproape mai reale decât un concert live.

Cu toate acestea, există mulți oameni, încluind muzicieni profesioniști, care pot juca concerte în capul lor ori de câte ori au chef - asta mă includ și pe mine. Desigur, acest lucru este posibil doar cu muzica pe care o cunoști bine, dar unii genii au putut o face după o singură ascultare. Compozitorul rus Glazunov a finalizat a treia simfonie Borodina după ce l-a auzit o singură dată pe compozitorul cântând o ciornă la pian (verificați opțiunile de asta: neverificabile - ar fi aparut o notă critică în WIkipedia). Mai bine controlabil: un compozitor Italian Allegri a scris o miserere care ar putea fi interpretat NUMAI în biserică - și a fost amenințat cu pedeapsă cu moartea pentru scoaterea ilegală de partiturile. Dar tânărul Mozart a auzit musica o singură dată și a plecat acasă și a notat toate cele opt voci din memorie. Iar păzitorii zeloși ai bisericii au suportat cazul și s-au abținut să-l execute.

Acest lucru este legat de un fenomen cu care probabil cei mai mulți oameni sunt familiarizați: muzica insistentă cunoscută sub numele de "earhanger" în engleză - iar capitolul de la Sacks îl numește "muzica insistente" și "cântece care 'prind'". Este următorul capitol după pagina 52, dar conținutul o să fie familiar: se aude o melodie și apoi nu mai poți scăpa de ea, se repeta zile după zile în sir. Antidotul meu este să o înlocuieste cu o altă melodie care este mai puțin 'lipicioasă'.

În unele dintre capitolele următoare, Sacks va vorbi și despre oameni care sunt total lipsiți de muzicalitate - oameni care nu pot auzi diferența dintre „Hells Bells” și „Eine kleine Nachtmusik”. Dar mai mult despre asta mai târziu. Deocamdată, citesc cu numai 50 de pagini pe oră și sunt 364 de pagini în carte.

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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Fri Mar 01, 2024 9:23 am

Yesterday morning I had reached page 52 in my Romanian book (Muzicofilia by Oliver Sacks), and today I have reached page 153. FIrst there was a large chapter about earworms and musical hallucinations, in the evening I read one about amuzia (the inability to understand what music is all about) and this morning I read a chapter about perfect pitch and ahem, one about not so perfect pitch.

Some famous names were mentioned along the way. In the chapter about earhanger/worms there was a reference to a short story by Mark Twain which I have read many years ago. From memory, it told about a melody that was so infectious that every who heard it got raving bimmelim and committed suicide. As for the hallucinations, Sacks mentions a number of medicines that might have an influence, but it seems that most cases are incurable. Among the persons mentioned in the chapter about amuzia there was one Frenchman who only knew two tunes: the Marseillaise and the other one was everything else. SImilarly US president Ulysses S.Grant just knew two melodies: one was Yankee Doddle and the other one wasn't. But still better than the famous author Nabokov who apparently didn't know even one single melody, let alone what a melody was (as corroborated by his own son). A lady L was living in a family where everybody was immensely musical - except her. And nothing her worried family tried out could ever change that situation - 'music' to her remained an unorganized series of irrelevant noises. Poor kid! Sacks notes that all these persons had learned to speak, so apparently the decoding of speech isn't done in the same brain centers as the decoding of music.

Another observation: you may be able to 'think' music, but unable to listen to it. One musician could read a score, but not follow a live performance. And the sad case of opera singer Foster Jenkins was also mentioned: she allegedly heard wonderful music in her head, but was totally unable to realize that her own singing was grotesquely terrible. And precisely because of that audiences loved her and bought all her records.

I have written about perfect pitch before, but of course Sacks also mentions it - he simply had to. It is normally defined as the ability to tell immediately and without reference to earlier played notes what note a single isolated sound represents. And sometimes it's said that only one in 10.000 has got this ability. The grand old lady in this field, Deutsch, did some research and found that among those who got music training between the ages 4 to 5 years around 60% of Chinese and Vietnamese kids developed perfect pitch against just 14% of Anglophone kids (from New York). For those who had got their first musical training between 6 and 7 years the percentages fell to 55% resp. 6%. And above that age span 42% of the Vietnamese and Chinese youngsters managed to develop it, but NOT ONE SINGLE Anglophone person. So it seems undeniable that speaking a tonal language makes a difference. My own personal tale is slightly anormal: I played the recorder from around age 7 or 8, switched soon after the violin and later the cello and even later a little bit of piano, and I composed music from around the age 8 or 9. I was tested by a qualified music teacher when I was around 15 (plus/minus one year) and I didn't have it, but after many years of composing music and writing themes down from my music collection and playing a number of instruments I now have a reasonable trustworthy perfect pitch. So it can be learnt (like nativelike pronunciation), but it takes some special kinds of training which few people are aware of.

However there is a conceptual problem in all this. How do you prove that you have identified and localized a certain tone? The standard test is to play a note on a piano and then ask the testee to name it. But this only functions if the tested person has learned the scale of a piano and the names of the notes on that instrument. And again a personal note: last time I got my piano tuned I struck a couple of keys afterwards and noticed that something was wrong - and the piano tuner confessed that he had tuned it to 442 hz instead of 440 hz without even asking me. I could have demanded that he retune the whole thing, but I don't play it very often so we just put a inside note to the next tuner that I damn it want to have it tuned to 440 Hz next time :evil: . If I had played it every day my conception of the note A (chamber tune) would have been pushed up, and if I then was presented with a true 440Hz I would have said it was slightly below the A in my head - but luckily I mostly hear music via my computers. Even worse: in former times the chamber tune was not only lower, but also less standardized (the differences in tuning in old organs can be shocking!). Many renaissance bands therefore use a tuning that is roughly half a note lower than our current standard tuning, and that means that when I try to write down a melody I don't hear their 'A's as A, but as something like an A flat (Mozart would also have heard that A flat, but called it A). So without a piano tuned to 440 HZ (or a digital tone generator) you can't really expect a person with perfect pitch to name the tone he/she just heard. The next best thing is to test whether the tone levels in the head of such a person are stable - I.e. if you ask him/her to sing Yankee Doodle today then he/she will sing it in exactly the same key one year later. How about that??

So nobody can actually prove that only one in 10.000 has perfect pitch, but it's fairly certain that many more have relative pitch - i.e. if they hear two notes they can say which interval there is between them. And If you hear a note and is told that it is a C# then you can try to remember the level of that note and use it as a reference to position subsequent notes - but this is a poor substitute for perfect pitch. The good thing is that you don't have to bother about some orchestras being systematically out of tune - like the Berlin Philharmonic who for some time insisted on using a higher chamber tone than 440Hz in order to make their music sound more brillant (I wonder whether it was Karajan's idea).

There are several cases where people have had strange aberrations in their perception of tone levels - and one may surmise that some cases of amuzia just are the result of extreme cases of this. Sacks tells about one musician and conductor who suddenly heard all high notes as lower than they should be. So where people normally can hear a certain note (let's say C) as 'the same' note across many octaves this poor fellow would hear all the C's above a certain treshold as too low. Luckily for him he could still hear the low notes correctly so he could write his music too low and then transpose it up to where it should be - but listening to ordinary performances had suddenly become a nightmare. The happy ending to this story was that his brain after some time found a way to reorganize the input signals from the ears in such a way that he again could hear the high notes at the level where they should be - which shows that the brain sometimes can prove to be more adaptable than claimed by the learned ones.

The next chapter will tell me about stereo, and I can guess that Sacks has found patients/corespondents who hear different tone heights with their two ears. But here the real mystery is how our brain originally got organized to hear the 'same 'tone heights' with both ears.

PS: in Romanian playing the piano is "cântând la pian" - i.e. 'singing' the piano. That's weird!

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guyome
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby guyome » Fri Mar 01, 2024 11:47 am

Iversen wrote:PS: in Romanian playing the piano is "cântând la pian" - i.e. 'singing' the piano. That's weird!
It's the same in Latin (cano + ablative, "I produce-melodious-sounds by means of"). That could be where Romanian got it from.
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Iversen
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Re: Iversen's second multiconfused log thread

Postby Iversen » Fri Mar 01, 2024 7:04 pm

Goyome is right - Romanian uses the Latin verb "cano" for both singing and playing an instrument. But even Latin would (as far as I remember) use "ludere" for playing an instrument AND playing around like children and gamers do, and every single language on my agenda uses a word for playing an instrument which also is the word for 'to play' OR 'to gamble' in that language - with one or two exceptions including Romanian.

In Danish we use the word "at spille", which also is used for gambling or for board or card games. It is also used about theater or for imitating behaviours like playing dead. It is NOT used about playing with trains or dolls or generically - there has to be an element of gambling or pretending. And singing is "at synge". The same word stem is used in German and Dutch and Afrikaans and Swedish and Norwegian. However Icelandic still has "tefla" for board games and "leika" for theatrical roles - but they do "spila á píanó" like the rest of us Nordic ones.

English has of course "to play", which has another root, but the same meanings now (its etymology is however very different).

French has "jouer" from Latin "iocare", which is attested in Plautus - and it has evidently replaced 'ludere' on vulgar Latin at an early time because the same root has delivered the words for playing an instrument in Portuguese, Castilian, Catalan, Italian and Occitan. Even in Romanian if you refer to football or dead or counterstrike - but you sing the cello or piano.

In the Slavic languages the root to look for is '(i)grat': "grać" in Polish, "hrat" in Czech, "грати" in Ukrainian, 'играть' in Russian ('гуляць' in Belarussian?!), 'играј" in Serbian, "igrati" in Croatian ... but in Bulgarian you "свириш на пиано" :shock: . But the kids "си играят", and the clever oners among them also "играят шах" (play chess). And then I checked Macedonian through Google translate (because I don't have a dictionary) - and lo and behold, this language has the same pattern as Bulgarian.

OK, could it be a heritage from Tyrkish? In Türkiye "people play the piano" -> insanlar piyano çalıyor, but they "satranç oynuyorlar" (chess). However Serbian adopted the "igrat" stem, so the Turkish shadow didn't change the Western Balkan. By the way: Albanian uses "luaj" all over the place, from chess over counterstrike and football and Romeo and Juliet to musical instruments, and Greek uses "παίζ.." in the same situations.

I couldn't resist the temptation to check another exotic language: Irish. In that language you can "imirt" both piano and football according to GT, but people "seinneann an pianó" and "imríonn siad fichille" (chess). So I checked my trusty Collins dictionary, and it claims that you have to use "seinn ar" for playing musical instruments, but "imir" for playing football. And according to GT the kids are at-playing ("Tá na páistí ag súgradh"), which is a totally different root, which according to Collins is used when you play with 'something'. But apparently musical instruments don't count as just 'something'.

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