Monthly Archives: September 2008

Prepositions from Body Parts

About a dozen years ago, I had a chance to review for Oceanic Linguistics an interesting M.A. thesis by John Bowden (now a professor at ANU) that was published under the title, Behind the preposition: Grammaticalisation of locatives in Oceanic languages (Pacific Linguistics, 1992). The thesis was inspired by a 1989 work by Bernd Heine’s on adpositions (prepositions and postpositions) in African languages. Here are few things that struck me.

Heine examined sources for African locatives in five categories, ON, UNDER, IN, FRONT, BACK, to which Bowden added SEA, LAND, and OUT for Oceanic languages. In both Africa and Oceania, body-part nouns provide the most common sources for locatives in the categories ON, IN, FRONT, and BACK, whereas landmark nouns (‘earth’, ‘soil’, ‘shadow’) predominate for UNDER. As might be expected, landmark nouns also predominate for SEA and LAND locatives in Oceania. The exceptional cases are instructive. For instance, in both Africa and Oceania, ‘head’ is the most common source (‘sky’ is next) for ON, while ‘face’ is the most common source for FRONT. But among some quadruped-herding populations in Africa, FRONT derives from ‘head’, while ON derives from ‘back’. Similarly, the directionals SEA(SIDE) and LAND(SIDE) nearly everywhere in Oceania derive from ‘sea, shore’ and ‘land, earth’, respectively. But among the atoll-dwelling Pukapukans and Rarotongans, the opposition comparable to SEA vs. LAND is rendered more like outside (< ‘back’, a body-part term) vs. inside (< IN, a locative reconstructible for Proto-Polynesian). I should add here that this is not only true of atolls. In two coastal languages of New Guinea, Jabêm (listed in Bowden’s sample) and Numbami, the body-part term ‘backside’ also means the outside, seaside, or windward side of an offshore island (Ja. dêmôê, Nu. dume), while ‘inside’ means the lee side facing the mainland (Ja. lêlôm, Nu. awa). Numbami also has three different words for ‘inside’: lalo, awa (< ‘mouth, hole’), and ketu (< ‘egg’). The last shows a semantic extension unattested in Bowden’s sample. The most common sources for IN are (in order): ‘tooth’, ‘belly’, ‘heart’, ‘liver’, ‘bowels’. Among the few verbal sources for Oceanic locatives are ‘precede’ (> FRONT), ‘follow’ (> BACK), and ‘exceed’ (> ON (TOP) or FRONT), none of them very surprising. Bowden alludes to a more interesting development in a footnote: locatives that come full cycle and yield euphemistic terms for body parts (‘down below’, ‘inside’, ‘backside’, etc.).

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Another Basho, Another Scandal

Japan’s Fall Grand Sumo Basho is underway, and Jack Gallagher, writing in The Japan Times, updates us on the latest scandal to hit the sport.

The resignation of Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi last Monday was just the latest in a litany of black eyes for sumo.

In fact, the 55-year-old former yokozuna illustrates precisely why sumo is in its current state.

He was the head of the JSA for more than six years, but under his tenure things didn’t stay the same, they got progressively worse.

What defies comprehension is his seeming unawareness to what was going on around him and refusal to take responsibility until an incredible amount of harm had been done to sumo’s standing with the public.

So clueless was Kitanoumi that he practically had to be strong-armed out the door. It is precisely this kind of stubbornness and arrogance that has brought sumo to this point.

Kitanoumi should have been forced out last year, following the beating death of Tokitaizan, a young wrestler in the Tokitsukaze stable, but passed the buck and continued on.

When Russian wrestler Wakanoho was expelled by the JSA last month following his arrest for possession of marijuana, Kitanoumi again had a chance to take responsibility but refused. It was a pathetic show of power.

Only after the most recent embarrassment, the failure of Russian wrestlers Roho and Hakurozan (a member of Kitanoumi’s stable) to pass drug tests administered by the JSA, and prodding from his colleagues, did Kitanoumi finally go.

Gallagher also suggests some innovations that might help revitaize the sport.

• Make better geographic use of the six annual tournaments. Having half of them in Tokyo every year makes no sense at all. Hold one in Sapporo and another in Sendai.

• Change the starting times of the makuuchi bouts. Having them on television between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day makes it very difficult for a large number of viewers to see them live. People are either at work, on their way home, or otherwise occupied.

• Establish a marketing department that knows how to do something besides just pick up the phone. Take a page out of the J. League’s book and be aggressive. Target youngsters and female fans.

• Archive all of the tournaments’ videos on the Internet with commentary in English. With the time difference it is tough for folks outside of Japan to see the bouts live. The one place that sumo has retained its interest is with fans overseas. Give them a better chance to follow the sport and increase the international fan base.

via Japundit‘s Japan News Junkie

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Russians and Georgians in South Bend

The current issue of the NEH journal Humanities has an article about a chain of immigrants from Georgia and Russia, who have formed a vibrant and musically gifted community in South Bend, Indiana. The article is excerpted from a new book, From Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts (HarperCollins, 2008), by Joseph I. Horowitz, who received an NEH fellowship for the project. Here are a few paragraphs.

During the first half of the twentieth century—decades of war and revolution—an “intellectual migration” relocated thousands of artists and thinkers to the United States, including some of Europe’s supreme actors, dancers, composers, and filmmakers. For them, America proved to be both a strange and opportune destination. A “foreign homeland” (Thomas Mann), it would frustrate and confuse, yet afford a clarity of understanding unencumbered by native habit and bias. However inadvertently, the condition of cultural exile would promote acute inquiries into the American experience. What impact did these famous newcomers have on American culture, and how did America affect them?…

My close friends happen to include another Soviet defector: the pianist Alexander Toradze. Lexo is Georgian, born in Tblisi in 1952. His father was a leading Georgian composer. His mother was an actress. Groomed by the Soviet system, he entered Tblisi’s central music school at six and first played with orchestra at nine. He proceeded to the Moscow Conservatory at nineteen to study with Yakov Zak—then one of the great names of Russian pianism, after Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. When Zak proved unsupportive, Toradze left him—for a young Soviet artist, a bold and controversial move—for Boris Zemliansky, then Lev Naumov: intimate and intense relationships. In 1976 he was sent to compete in the Van Cliburn competition in Fort Worth and finished second. A flurry of Western dates ensued, but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan soured cultural exchange with the United States. He festered. His fees were low. He felt suppressed as a Georgian. He was galled by the company of KGB “interpreters.” In 1977, he ran into Mstislav Rostropovich, a family friend, at a Paris airport. “When you go back, kiss the ground of our country,” Rostropovich told him. “But when are you going to do something?” On tour in Madrid with a Moscow orchestra in 1983, Toradze entered the American Embassy and requested refugee status. Within three months, he began a nine-city American tour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic….

In 1990, he married an American girl, a fledgling pianist from Florida. In 1991, he accepted a piano professorship at Indiana University at South Bend—a place best-known for Notre Dame’s football team. Transplanted to northern Indiana, he proceeded to recreate the intense mentoring environment he had known in Moscow, as well as the communal social life he had known in Tblisi. To date, he has recruited more than seventy gifted young pianists, mainly from Russia and Georgia. They bond as a family, with Lexo the stern or soft surrogate father. They make music and party with indistinguishable relish. Lexo’s big house, on a suburban street without sidewalks, is their headquarters.

via A&L Daily

The New York Times review of the book begins, “It is hard to imagine where American culture would be today without the contributions of Hitler and Stalin …”

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Filed under migration, music, Russia, U.S., USSR

Baseball’s 1990s: Steroids and Strike Zones

The latest issue of NINE: A Journal of Baseball and Culture (Project MUSE subscription required) contains an article by Benjamin G. Rader and Kenneth J. Winkle, reexamining the reasons for Baseball’s Great Hitting Barrage of the 1990s (and Beyond).

In an article published in NINE in 2002, we examined what we called “Baseball’s Great Hitting Barrage of the 1990s.” In addition to offering statistical support for the claim that there was an unusual amount of offensive productivity in the 1994 through 1999 seasons, we also considered explanations for why the hitting revolution had occurred. With regard to the latter, we questioned some of the popular theories for the offensive outburst—namely the “juiced-ball” hypothesis, the belief that ballparks were cozier in the late 1990s than they had been earlier, and the role of league expansion in diluting the quality of pitching. But at the same time we lent support to the arguments that lighter bats, physically stronger hitters, and a new style of hitting (with the assistance of a smaller de facto strike zone) contributed significantly to the great hitting barrage of the late 1990s.

Now is an especially opportune time to reexamine and update our earlier findings. Not only do we presently enjoy the benefit of a longer historical perspective on the 1990s, but we are also able to extend our analysis from the 2000 through the 2007 seasons. Furthermore, recent disclosures of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by the players and Major League Baseball’s implementation of a drug-testing program in 2003 make it possible to employ statistics to better speculate about the effects of drugs on the great offensive barrage. Equally important to a reconsideration of the recent offensive outburst was the decision of Major League Baseball (beginning in 2001) to enlarge the de facto strike zone, determined by the umpires, and impose a more uniform strike zone on the umpires.

We reach three major conclusions. First, the great hitting barrage peaked during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. While remaining far above the two-divisional era in offensive productivity, the 2001 through 2007 seasons fell below the peak achieved in 1999 and 2000. Based on batting averages, runs per game, home runs per game, and on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, we posit three eras of offense in recent baseball history: (1) the two-divisional era of low productivity (1969–1993), (2) the great offensive barrage (1994–2000 seasons), and (3) the new equilibrium (2001–2007 seasons). Second, while it is impossible to offer quantifiably direct evidence of the relationship between drug use and the offensive explosion, we conclude that player use of performance-enhancing drugs did contribute to the hitting barrage. As the threat of exposure and then drug testing increased, some measures of offensive productivity began to decline, though not approaching the depths of the two-divisional era. Third, it is possible to offer more quantifiably direct evidence of the relationship between the strike zone and the offensive explosion than it is the relationship between drugs and offense. We conclude that the size of the de facto strike zone was an equal, and perhaps even more important, variable in explaining the hitting revolution as well as its modest decline after the 2000 season. When Major League Baseball decided to try to impose a more uniform strike zone on the umpires in the 2001 season, seasonal batting averages and runs per game (but not home runs) fell, though not back to earlier levels.

The same issue also contains a poem by Mary Herbert that Language Hat is sure to appreciate, Only Peggy Lee Could Sing of My Mets Misery.

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The Jackie Robinson of 1905?

Ten years ago in Harvard Magazine, Karl Lindholm briefly profiled Harvard graduate William Clarence Matthews, who some people at the time thought might be capable of breaking the color barrier in professional baseball by playing with the Boston Nationals.

Born in Selma, Alabama, and trained at Tuskegee Institute from 1893 to 1897, Matthews was a promising student and outstanding athlete who was sent north for further education, first to Phillips Andover and then to Harvard. From 1901 to 1905, he played shortstop on perhaps the best college team in the country (75 wins, 18 losses in his four years) at a time when baseball enjoyed singular appeal in the United States. It was not uncommon for players to walk off a college campus onto a major-league diamond: Christy Matthewson left Bucknell for John McGraw’s Giants, and two of Matthews’s teammates, Walter Clarkson and “Harvard Eddie” Grant, went on to play in the big leagues….

Unlike many other black players, he had options off the diamond. He had taken courses at Harvard Law School as a senior; now he earned an LL.B. at Boston University while working as an athletic instructor at Boston high schools. He passed the bar in 1908 and embarked on a legal and political career; in 1913, with the help of Booker T. Washington, he was appointed special assistant to the U.S. district attorney in Boston. From 1920 to 1923, he served as legal counsel to the black separatist Marcus Garvey.

Even while working with Garvey, he remained involved in Republican politics, and he played a major role in the 1924 presidential campaign. When Calvin Coolidge was elected with the help of a million black votes, Matthews was rewarded with a post in the Justice Department–but a list of “demands” for the “recognition of colored Republicans” that he presented to party leaders was ignored. Whatever else he might have accomplished was thwarted when he died of a perforated ulcer at 51. His death was reported in all the major East Coast newspapers: the Boston Globe called him “one of the most prominent Negro members of the bar in America.” The black press ran front-page headlines.

Matthews said in 1905, “A Negro is just as good as a white man and has just as much right to play ball.”

Now, ten years later, Karl Lindholm has published a fuller analysis of the public speculation at the time in the latest issue of NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture (Project MUSE subscription required). His article title, Rumors and Facts: William Clarence Matthews’s 1905 Challenge to Major League Baseball’s Color Barrier, indicates that the newspapers of that era, in particular the Boston Traveler, were often no more reliable than those of our day.

Rumors sometimes have a basis in fact, and sometimes rumors are pure fiction, made up, irresponsible, serving commercial, political, or personal ends. In 1905, one of baseball’s most compelling rumors involved the imminent entry into the major leagues of William Clarence Matthews, “Harvard’s famous colored shortstop.” This rumor, reported in the Boston Traveler in July 1905, was repeated in Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball (1907) and passed on to contemporary audiences by Robert Peterson in his seminal Only the Ball was White (1970).

There are inevitable questions about the rumor’s veracity. Is it possible that forty years before Jackie Robinson signed a contract with Brooklyn, someone in organized baseball was seriously considering adding a black man to a major league roster?

This essay addresses that question by examining the major players—the Boston Nationals’ player-manager Fred Tenney in particular—as well as the primary documents associated with the rumor of Matthews’s breakthrough, demonstrating the reasons Matthews might plausibly be considered for this role, while also raising the possibility that the Traveler conjured a patently false story in Boston’s overheated journalistic environment during the first decade of the twentieth century.

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What China Taught India, 1962

From India: The Rise of an Asian Giant, by Dietmar Rothermund (Yale U. Press, 2008), pp. 46-48:

The big blow to [Afro-Asian] solidarity came in 1962 when China invaded India in order to settle a border dispute. Nehru had assumed that China was an anti-imperialist power just like India and that such powers would live in peace with each other. Moreover, he had supported China’s control over Tibet, which was supposed to be an autonomous region. Unfortunately, he had failed to get from China a definitive statement concerning the India-China border in return for this support. The treaty which Nehru concluded with China in 1954 only mentioned some passes through which the trade between the two countries might flow. It also contained the five principles (panchshila) relating to mutual benefit and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs which Nehru henceforth regarded as the cornerstone of his foreign policy. However, none of this could prevent a clash with China. In 1959, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s priestly ruler, fled to India and Nehru granted asylum to him but did not permit him to establish a Tibetan government in exile. In the following months border clashes increased and notes were exchanged which Nehru did not publish until he was forced to do so by the Indian parliament. In 1961, the Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai visited India for border negotiations. Nehru had collected all relevant maps and was surprised that Chou En-lai did not wish to look at them but immediately proposed a deal: China would recognize India’s eastern border as delineated by the McMahon Line of 1914 if India would leave the Karakoram Pass and Aksai Chin (northeast Kashmir) to China. China had secretly occupied most of Aksai Chin in the 1950s, so India would simply have to acquiesce in this loss. The access to the Karakoram highway was of great strategic importance to China for the control of its western provinces. However, Nehru as head of a democratic government could not deal with national territory as easily as Chou En-lai had expected. The deal was not accepted and border clashes continued. Finally, China forced the deal on an unwilling India by means of a well-planned military offensive. When the USA and the Soviet Union were busy with the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a division of Chinese troops crossed the McMahon Line in the east and soon reached the Assamese plains. But this was a diversionary move. These troops withdrew before their supply lines could be cut. In the meantime the Chinese also launched a massive offensive in the west to capture the Karakorum highway – and they did not withdraw as this was the area which really interested them. Subsequently, there was a conspiracy of silence between India and China as to what had happened there. India was not willing to admit its losses and China would not reveal its illegitimate gains. China has adopted an attitude of superiority ever since and sometimes this has even been expressed quite openly. When China invaded Vietnam in 1979, Deng Xiao-ping compared this to what China had done to India in 1962. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who visited China at that time as India’s Minister of External Affairs in order to ‘normalize’ relations with China, got this message and immediately returned home. ‘Normalization’ had to wait for a long time.

The clash between India and China had sounded the death knell of Afro-Asian Solidarity even before 1962, but anti-colonial solidarity still motivated Nehru, who was sensitive to appeals from leaders of countries which were involved in their freedom struggle. In September 1961, Kenneth Kaunda, the future President of Zambia who had attended the Belgrade Conference of the Nonaligned Nations, visited New Delhi and gave a lecture in which he blamed Nehru for tolerating Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. He argued that rather than setting an encouraging example which the Africans could follow Nehru obviously wanted to wait until the Africans had overcome Portuguese colonial rule, whereupon Goa would then fall into his lap like a ripe fruit. Kaunda was clearly quite right in assessing Nehru’s motives and his speech stung him into action. Goa was liberated by the Indian army in December 1961; it proved to be a walkover but this could not have been predicted. As a member of NATO, Portugal was well armed and had a strong garrison in Goa. It could also rely on support from Pakistan. If the Portuguese Governor-General had decided to defend Goa seriously, the liberation could have ended in a bloodbath. Fortunately, he only blew up a few bridges and surrendered gracefully as he was aware of the far superior power of the Indian army. This was Nehru’s last great triumph, but he experienced it with mixed feelings. He lost his reputation as an apostle of peace and was berated by every Western power. This he could live with, but the humiliating defeat he suffered at the hands of the Chinese in 1962 broke his heart. He must have felt very deeply that he had failed as architect of India’s foreign policy.

Nehru’s successors adopted a more realistic approach: India’s regional position was more important to them than its role in world affairs. The twin challenges of China and Pakistan converted India with a vengeance into a self-conscious territorial state concerned with its defence. A retired Indian general had once said that the colonial legacy of a huge army embarrassed India’s political leaders as much as inheriting a brewery would embarrass a teetotaller. Nehru did not invest much money in armaments; however, this changed after India’s defeat by the Chinese in 1962. Defence expenditure was stepped up, which alarmed Pakistan. The Chinese had shown that India could be beaten and had thus set Pakistan an example, but due to India’s rapid armament, the window of opportunity for Pakistan seemed to be closing fast. Pakistan’s military dictator Ayub Khan was pushed by his young Foreign Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, to attack India in Kashmir. Bhutto had forged a military alliance with China in 1963 and Pakistan had yielded a large part of territory to the west of the Karakoram Pass to China at that time. Nehru’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, was considered weak and inexperienced. Pakistan tested his reaction to a border intrusion in the Rann of Katch in the summer of 1965. Shastri requested the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to arbitrate in this matter, which only served to encourage Ayub Khan to launch his Operation Grand Slam in September 1965 and he sent his tanks to cut the only connection between India and Kashmir. If Shastri had again called for arbitration, Ayub Khan could have finished his business in Kashmir and then negotiated from a position of strength. But this time Shastri ordered his troops to launch a counter-attack on Lahore. He also refused to listen to a Chinese ultimatum which referred to their threat to cross the border of Sikkim. Pakistan had hoped that China would open a second front in the east, but the Chinese did not follow up their ultimatum and bitterly disappointed their Pakistani allies. China had encouraged Pakistan in the hope that it would do some damage to India, but it was not interested in investing anything in this war as it had reached its aims in 1962. The same Chinese stratagem was repeated in 1971 when Pakistan lost its eastern half and the Chinese supported Pakistan, but did not give the Pakistanis help when they needed it.

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Filed under China, India, Pakistan, war

Registan’s Foust on Citizen Propagandists

I’ve been distracted by other projects lately (no, not watching the major-party infomercials in the U.S.) and by reading hard-to-blog chapters in books (but a good long excerpt will follow), so I’ve neglected to post a link to a blogpost by Joshua Foust on Registan (the first blog to link to mine, back in 2003) about the rise of citizen propagandists. I’ll cite just one paragraph from the full article, which is online at Columbia Journalism Review.

Non-official propaganda matters greatly, because while most bloggers issued shallow and predictable jeremiads about either the horrors of the “new Cold War” or the horrors of American-supported client states, there were some out there who were largely getting things right. Unfortunately, these sober voices were often drowned out by the overwhelming amount of citizen propagandists flooding the blogosphere. Nevertheless, they bear mentioning.

Foust’s article concerns the role of citizen propagandists in the current war between Russia and Georgia, since Registan’s regional focus is the Russian Near Abroad in Central Asia. But Foust’s thesis also applies to political blog spinmeisters, comment-thread propagators, and the lazy professional journalists who rely on their favorite blogs both to determine the newsworthiness and to frame the narratives of the “news” stories they bother to report (or not).

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