Notes From All Over (14/5/2013) – Historical Linguistics, Guanxi, and Scary Government Data Bases

A collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit.

This one is a bit smaller than normal; there are a few other posts or essays that deserve to go here, but I hope to devote entire posts to them at a later date. 


An Introduction to Historical Linguistics’ – Terry Crowley and Claire Bowern. Part 1: Introduction” and “Part Two: Types of Sound Change: Lenition and Fortition
Al West. West’s Meditations. 13 May and 15 May 2013.

The reason historical linguistics is so important is because it is a well-established population science, meaning that we can infer historical relationships and activities from linguistic data. If two groups of people speak languages that are clearly related, we can infer that they share some kind of history. That’s a very useful thing. In fact, linguistics is such a reliable indicator of shared history that some archaeologists and other non-linguists use language families (more about these later) as hooks on which to hang their theories – ‘Austronesian’ migration into southeast Asia with rice farming, etc. They’re generally pretty reliable hooks.

I really want anthropologists, archaeologists, and geneticists to be conversant with this branch of the human sciences…. so what I’m going to do here is to re-read Crowley and Bowern’s book and write about it for you. I’m using the fourth edition, published by OUP in 2010, for this series. I’m going to go through it chapter-by-chapter, noting the important ideas and key terms in each section. As this is an introductory text, and a summary of an introductory text at that, you shouldn’t expect it to be in-depth, but it should be comprehensive, in that all relevant topics will be covered. It should serve as a mini-introduction to an introduction. An amuse-bouche for historical linguistics.

This is a fantastic introduction to a poorly understood topic. I eagerly await Mr. West’s next installment.


Biometric Databas of All American Adults Hidden in Immigration Reform Package
David Kravets. Wired‘s Threat Level. 10 May 2013.

Are all Telephone Calls Recorded and Accessible to U.S. Government?
Genn Greenwald. The Guardian. 4 May 2013.

Mark Safranski. Zenpundit. 14 May 2013.


Long Battle of Over China’s ‘White Pollution’ 
Shi Yunhan. Tea Leaf Nation. 26 April 2013.

In the past weeks, Chinese citizens have learnt that the styrofoam boxes from which they eat their lunches will soon be legal. On February 16, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s highest economic policy-making body, changed the Industrial Restructuring Catalog (2011) and removed disposable foam plastic tableware from the list of banned products. On May 1, the fourteen-year ban will be formally removed. 

Ban? What ban? 

The fact that it had ever been illegal came as a surprise. Many Chinese did not know the widely prevalent tableware has in fact been banned.

Please read this whole article. The topic seems a bit pedestrian, but it reveals a lot about how the Chinese government deals with its people and how the people perceive the government.

China’s Unhealthy Elites
Elanah Urestky. The National Interest. 30 April 2013.

See also: Book Review: China’s Economy, in Thrall to the Underworld.” David Carligiano. Tea Leaf Nation. 13 May 2013.


New England vs. Midwest Culture
George Mattel. The Urbanophile. 6 November 2012.

I have lived in both regions, and I affirm that everything Mr. Mattel writes is spot-on.

The Split Personality of America
“Steffan.” Steffan’s Personality Blog. 29 April 2013.


The New Sick Man of Europe: The European Union
Pew Global Attitude Project. 13 May 2013.

Support for European economic integration – the 1957 raison d’etre for creating the European Economic Community, the European Union’s predecessor – is down over last year in five of the eight European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2013. Positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most EU nations, even among the young, the hope for the EU’s future. The favorability of the EU has fallen from a median of 60% in 2012 to 45% in 2013. And only in Germany does at least half the public back giving more power to Brussels to deal with the current economic crisis.

War Nerd: Our Ringer vs Your Ringers
Gary Brecher. nsfwcorp. 8 May 2013.

Easily the best thing I have read on Syria all year.

The Beginning of the End for Hezbollah
Michael J. Totten. World Affairs Journal. 22 April 2013.

When I read anything by Mr. Totten I come away with the thought that this is how investigative reporting should read. Stunning piece.  

Back to Reality: Why Land Power Trumps in the Rebalance Towards Asia
Maj. Robert Chamberlin. Armed Forces Journal. May 2013. h/t Information Dissemination. 

Chinese Manufacturers Survive by Moving to Asian Neighbors
Kathy Chu. Wall Street Journal. 1 May 2013.


Provoked Scientists Explain Gap in Global Warming
Paul Voosen. E&E Publishing. 25 October 2011.

Sulfate Aerosols Cool Climate Less than Assumed
Science Daily. 14 May 2013.

Leave a Comment

No Comments Yet