Thursday, March 15, 2018

Just saying: English lacks a grammatical category for Evidentiality

In Nettle and Romaine's book _Vanishing Voices_, a point is made about  Tuyuca, a language in Brazil and Colombia with fewer than 1000 speakers: five degrees of distinction of evidentiality are evidenced, such that the source of information is required to be specified.

  1. I saw this ...
  2. I (heard) but did not see this ...
  3. I have seen evidence of this ...
  4. I got the information from someone else about this ...
  5. It is reasonable to assume that ...
From WikiPedia:

Some languages have a distinct grammatical category of evidentiality that is required to be expressed at all times. The elements in European languages indicating the information source are optional and usually do not indicate evidentiality as their primary function — thus they do not form a grammatical category. The obligatory elements of grammatical evidentiality systems may be translated into English, variously, as I hear that, I see that, I think that, as I hear, as I can see, as far as I understand, they say, it is said, it seems, it seems to me that, it looks like, it appears that, it turns out that, alleged, stated, allegedly, reportedly, obviously, etc.

Again from Nettle and Romaine:
 Languages like Turkish, Kwakiutl, Navajo, and Hopi have different conjugations of the verb which distinguish heasay from what is the speaker's own knowledge.
Nettle and Romaine  quote the following by "a European explorer" about the languages of Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea.

Any that we heard were scarcely like human speech in sound, and were evidently very poor and restricted in expression.  Noises like sneezes, snarls and the preliminary stages of choking---impossible to reproduce on paper---represented the names of villages, people, and things. 

Does one need to explain the point of view expressed here?

Japanese in Micronesia implemented education of native peoples in the Japanese Language.  My son's grandparents were proud of their knowledge of Japanese.  The apparent prevailing point of view was that the natives, not being Japanese, could not be human, but by learning the Japanese language to some rudimentary level some level of humanity could be bestowed upon them.

Nettle and Romaine point out that the Aztec term Nahuatl, referring to their language means "pleasant sounding".  The word "barbarian" derives from Greek barbarus, "one who babbles".

The point of evidentiality would be lost on many Americans in 2018.  One would hope that globalization might engender not only tolerance, but mutual understanding and Love.  Nettle and Romaine also emphasize the signficant similarities among European languages, a fact pressed upon me by learning two languages with only slight taint of colonizers' influence.

This book came to my view because of the discussion of fish names and marine lore among Pacific Islanders.

For further reflection.

North American languages at the time of colonization.

This map on Wikimedia is incomplete:

From Wikipedia:
Chumashan (meaning "Santa Cruz Islander") is a family of languages that were spoken on the southern California coast by Native American Chumash people, from the Coastal plains and valleys of San Luis Obispo to Malibu, neighboring inland and Transverse Ranges valleys and canyons east to bordering the San Joaquin Valley, to three adjacent Channel Islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz.[2]

The Chumashan languages may be, along with Yukian and perhaps languages of southern Baja such as Waikuri, one of the oldest language families established in California, before the arrival of speakers of Penutian, Uto-Aztecan, and perhaps even Hokan languages. Chumashan, Yukian, and southern Baja languages are spoken in areas with long-established populations of a distinct physical type. The population in the core Chumashan area has been stable for the past 10,000 years. However, the attested range of Chumashan is recent (within a couple thousand years). There is internal evidence that Obispeño replaced a Hokan language and that Island Chumash mixed with a language very different from Chumashan; the islands were not in contact with the mainland until the introduction of plank canoes in the first millennium AD.[3]

I was born and came of age in Chumash country.  I was 20 years of age before I knowingly met a Chumash American.  It was not under auspicious circumstances.

Corrected map of distribution of Chumash at colonization:

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Japanese Meteorological Corporation Cherry Blossom Forecasts for 2018

 From a report on the starting of the Tokyo cherry blossom season on March 21, 2017:

                    Although the JMA still officially declares the start of cherry blossom blooming, it stopped its forecasts in 2010, due in part to the increased accuracy of the private companies.

                 One of those companies, Tokyo-based Weather Map Co., has updated its forecasts twice a week in March, based on an analysis of the official somei-yoshino cherry trees used by the JMA at 53 locations around Japan.



Friday, February 23, 2018

Charles Darwin and earlier observers noticed "red water"

 March 18th. — We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, when not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my attention was called to a reddish-brown appearance in the sea. The whole surface of the water, as it appeared under a weak lens, seemed as if covered by chopped bits of hay, with their ends jagged.
—Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle

 He credited a number of observers with earlier reports.  In his notes he mentions:

M. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, tom. i., p. 255) mentions red water off Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. Peron, the distinguished naturalist, in the Voyage aux Terres Australes, gives no less than twelve references to voyagers who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea (vol. ii. p. 239). To the references given by Peron may be added, Humboldt's Pers. Narr., vol. vi. p. 804; Flinder's Voyage, vol. i. p. 92; Labillardiere, vol. i. p. 287; Ulloa's Voyage; Voyage of the Astrolabe and of the Coquille; Captain King's Survey of Australia, etc.

In January 1915,  "Sea Sawdust" was reported by Earth Observatory:

Another image from Landsat 8, taken on 11 September 2017 is featured here:

From that site:

The blooms are likely to be Trichodesmium spp., a microscopic, photosynthetic cyanobacteria that aggregates into long strands on the sea surface. They are ubiquitous around the world, and they tend to bloom off the coast of Queensland between August and December as the water warms. Some evidence suggests that Trichodesmium blooms here are happening earlier and more often in recent years.

From a ship or the shoreline, these blooms look like dirty brown or green stripes on the water and like an oil slick when they hit the beach. Such blooms off the Australian coast were reported two centuries ago by Captain James Cook and by Charles Darwin.

Up Close and In Person 

It was not possible to easily link the following site, with photos of Trichodesmium sp.  

 See the University of New Hampshire Phycokey.  

Monday, February 5, 2018

Behavior of Tides of San Francisco Bay

I'm not going to not write much about these graphs.  I had assumed that as one moves into the Bay, tide range would be attenuated.  So I was surprized to read the following bit from An Introduction to the San Francisco Estuary by Andrew Cohen and Jack Laws:

In the northern reach the tidal range (the difference in height between high water and low water) drops with distance from the ocean, from a mean range of about five-and-a-half feet at the Golden Gate to only three feet at Sacramento.    In contrast, in the southern reach’s more enclosed basin the tides cause the water to slosh back and forth like water in a bathtub, amplifying the range at the southern end to eight-and-one-half feet.

I wanted to explore this, so I graphed several sites in the Northern Reach, and five in the Southern Reach.  These are a work in progress.

The predictions that are graphed here are from Xtide:

In the legend, stations are listed  in order from the Entrance  to the most distant. 

"San Francisco" is the Fort Point station. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Inconcievably heavy snowfall" in Alaska's Banana Belt

 During my short time in Cordova, AK, I learned that Southern Alaska is "The Banana Belt" of Alaska.  It rained much, hardly ever did the sun shine, but if it snowed, it wasn't a great amount.  Our recent experience with climate/weather on the West Coast prompted this comment on the California Weather Blog:

"...  recently, the bigger & stronger West Coast ridge has pushed the Pacific storm track even further north. Remarkably, this powerful ridge has forced several very moist atmospheric river storms over the mid-Pacific to make a hard “left turn” over the open ocean–veering directly northward and bringing almost inconceivably heavy snowfall to the coastal mountains of southern Alaska."
The link it to an Anchorage Times article.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Seasons: 23.44° Solstice "Sun Standing Still"

"Solstice" comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning "sun standing still".

Wikipedia: "Solstice"

 The seasons occur because the Earth's axis of rotation is not perpendicular to its orbital plane (the “plane of the ecliptic”) but currently makes an angle of about 23.44° (called the "obliquity of the ecliptic"), and because the axis keeps its orientation with respect to an inertial frame of reference. As a consequence, for half the year the Northern Hemisphere is inclined toward the Sun while for the other half year the Southern Hemisphere has this distinction. The two moments when the inclination of Earth's rotational axis has maximum effect are the solstices.

 Wikipedia: Season

 In tropical and subtropical regions there is little annual fluctuation of sunlight. However, there are seasonal shifts of a rainy global-scale low pressure belt called the Intertropical convergence zone. As a result, the amount of precipitation tends to vary more dramatically than the average temperature. When the convergence zone is north of the equator, the tropical areas of the northern hemisphere experience their wet season while the tropics south of the equator have their dry season. This pattern reverses when the convergence zone migrates to a position south of the equator.