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The Old Hack

Story Friday July 21, 2017

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1 hour ago, Scotty said:

You know, every now and then I do wonder if archeologist are just reading what they subconsciously want to believe those hieroglyphs say.

I think you can safely put that wonder to rest at least as far as the actual Rosetta Stone goes. It was not the work of a single archeologist. Rather, one archeologist made the find, and then -- brilliantly -- he distributed copies to every interested Orientalist across the continent, and probably to the US as well. All of these kept exchanging letters and theories, and it was on the basis of all this work done by many Orientalists based in different countries that Champollion made his breakthrough.

Mind you, there was an earlier case that worked exactly like you said. Some sort of 'scholar' managed to convince himself that hieroglyphs were a semiotic set of symbols where each one denoted a whole word but could change meaning according to context. The find of the Rosetta stone and solving its riddle put a final end to this balderdash when Champollion definitely proved that hieroglyphs were syllabaric in nature rather than symbolic. (Think an 'alphabet' where each 'letter' represents a syllable rather than a single sound. Also, hieroglyphs did not contain vowel sounds; much like Aramaic, the Egyptian language at the time was rather vowel sound poor and it would normally be easy to work out what vowel was intended from the context. Thus, 'Yahweh' would be rendered as 'YHWH' because everybody knew what vowel sounds it contained.)

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Vowel sounds are one of the most used part of language.  Almost every word has at least one vowel sound, even if the written form of the word does not acknowledge the vowel's presence.

With consonants, the speaker is actively using different parts of the mouth.  There is a distinct sound.  Vowels are just the spacers between consonants.

There are a relatively small number of vowel sounds compared to the consonants.  And this small sample is used repeatedly.

When describing a river, you expect that the listener knows that water is involved and what you want to describe is actually the things in and near the water.  From a certain point of view vowels are the water.  Consonants are the rocks, fish, algae, birds, boats, crocodiles and so on.  Including the vowel sounds in writing would be similar to describing each individual drop of water in the Nile.

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1 hour ago, Pharaoh RutinTutin said:

When describing a river, you expect that the listener knows that water is involved and what you want to describe is actually the things in and near the water.  From a certain point of view vowels are the water.  Consonants are the rocks, fish, algae, birds, boats, crocodiles and so on.  Including the vowel sounds in writing would be similar to describing each individual drop of water in the Nile.

While poetic, this is not quite correct. English is a far more vowel rich language than Aramaic used to be. We cannot simply omit vowels from written English because there are too many of them and all of them may change the meaning of the syllable they are part of. Consider: hat, hot, heat, hut, hit, het, hate, hoot. If you were to write English in a syllabary it would not be sufficient merely to include 'h-t' as it would leave so many possibilities for what it could mean even with context to assist. R, mr smpl, tr t wrt nglsh whl mttng vwls. t bcms nrdbl vr qckl. (Or, more simply, try to write English while omitting vowels. It becomes unreadable very quickly.)

To give a better idea of how this works with modern languages (please note! It is a while since I took my phonetics classes, I may not remember perfectly!) English is extremely rich in vowel sounds and Danish is even worse. In fact, Danish has so many different vowel sounds that we took one look at the English alphabet, said 'bugger THAT', and added three extra letters to the end of it -- Æ, Ø and Å. All three of them vowels.

On top of that, a vowel as it is written isn't just a vowel. In the aforementioned example, we had 'hot' and 'hut'. The way they are enunciated is virtually identical yet they are two distinct words. Or worse, we might have two identically spelled words with the same vowel but it is two different sounds. (This is incredibly common in Danish. I believe it is a plot to drive foreign students of the language insane.)

Danish is a huge mess of finicky vowel variations blended with slurred consonants uttered at high speed. We would never have been able to write our speech down in Hieroglyphs. :icon_eek:

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1 hour ago, The Old Hack said:

Danish is a huge mess of finicky vowel variations blended with slurred consonants uttered at high speed. We would never have been able to write our speech down in Hieroglyphs. :icon_eek:

Couldn't you have written it in cuneiform on the back of all of those Danish Butter Cookies you make?

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Indeed, many of our vowel letters do at least double duty, with a long and short version (hat vs hate), and some have even more than that.  Our actual number of vowel sounds may be comprable.  I suspect it's like colors, where Romans referred to the sky as bronze because they didn't see blue as a distinct color, versus our ability to distinguish cerulean from robin's egg from sapphire from navy.  It was on a radio program (Radiolab, maybe?) a few months ago, one that goes in depth into interesting science like that.  Neurologists and/or linguists find that you just don't distinguish colors which aren't identified as different.

In Language Arts class subfreshman year, we has to listen to a set of words the first day, and tell apart three or four words in an obscure-to-us language which only differed by minor variatons in their vowel sounds.  I couldn't write the distinction, even though I remember one set of words to this day, because English would render them all as Ahon.  Their goal, I think, was to see which of us either had already been exposed to fine distinctions of that sort, or were still flexible enough to pick them up.

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1 hour ago, CritterKeeper said:

versus our ability to distinguish cerulean from robin's egg from sapphire from navy

Hmmmm ... Cerulean Robin's egg Sapphire Navy ... yes, seems distinct.

Still, I would think they WERE able to distinguish more colors, just didn't have names for them so it was just red, little lighter red, even lighter red ... and you definitely shouldn't judge their ability to see colors based on poet who might be blind and even if he wasn't wouldn't let that detail get into way when writing.

First hit on google (on sky is bronze) has interesting comments about the topic under the article. You may also look at how Greek statues looked when fresh.

1 hour ago, CritterKeeper said:

In Language Arts class subfreshman year, we has to listen to a set of words the first day, and tell apart three or four words in an obscure-to-us language which only differed by minor variatons in their vowel sounds.  I couldn't write the distinction, even though I remember one set of words to this day, because English would render them all as Ahon.  Their goal, I think, was to see which of us either had already been exposed to fine distinctions of that sort, or were still flexible enough to pick them up.

This, however, is true. I found very fascinating that Japanese are unable to distinguish L and R, but I totally believe it.

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1 hour ago, Pharaoh RutinTutin said:

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

This is the attitude that promotes so much drivel with the justification that 'it is a good story.' Helicopters on the Moon (vacuum? what vacuum?), 'historical' fiction where lack of research and basic comprehension are handwaved with 'but in my world, it doesn't work that way' and sparkly vampires that attempt to replace romance and emotion with stalking, abuse and codependency.

I am fully aware of the fact that one can make a good story based on "what if magic worked" or "what if J.F. Kennedy had shot Lee Harvey Oswald first" or the like. But merely because this is possible is not a license to ignore all facts, physical laws and historical events if one considers them inconvenient. The more you do so, the less convincing your work becomes until in the end it is the sheerest idiocy.

Mind you, at times idiocy will sell quite well. That does not make it any less idiotic.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, The Old Hack said:

This is the attitude that promotes so much drivel with the justification that 'it is a good story.' Helicopters on the Moon (vacuum? what vacuum?), 'historical' fiction where lack of research and basic comprehension are handwaved with 'but in my world, it doesn't work that way' and sparkly vampires that attempt to replace romance and emotion with stalking, abuse and codependency.

I am fully aware of the fact that one can make a good story based on "what if magic worked" or "what if J.F. Kennedy had shot Lee Harvey Oswald first" or the like. But merely because this is possible is not a license to ignore all facts, physical laws and historical events if one considers them inconvenient. The more you do so, the less convincing your work becomes until in the end it is the sheerest idiocy.

Mind you, at times idiocy will sell quite well. That does not make it any less idiotic.

Did you see the video I linked too? I watched it awhile back and given that everyone had brought up languages and writing systems I thought it was an appropriate video to link ty. Was it a good choice?

 

EDIT: I quoted you for the purpose of asking you this question. I apologize if there was a better way to do it

Edited by animalia

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9 minutes ago, animalia said:

Did you see the video I linked too? I watched it awhile back and given that everyone had brought up languages and writing systems I thought it was an appropriate video to link ty. Was it a good choice?

I am hardly an expert, only a devoted amateur, but to my eyes it looked good. There is a LOT more to it than that but it served as an excellent overview of various possible ways to write. (I am also very glad that the Korean writing system received a special mention at the end, as well as a whole separate video, as it deserves it.)

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5 minutes ago, The Old Hack said:

I am hardly an expert, only a devoted amateur, but to my eyes it looked good. There is a LOT more to it than that but it served as an excellent overview of various possible ways to write. (I am also very glad that the Korean writing system received a special mention at the end, as well as a whole separate video, as it deserves it.)

Thai ALSO got its own video for the exact opposite reason that the Korean writing system did.

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32 minutes ago, The Old Hack said:

and sparkly vampires that attempt to replace romance and emotion with stalking, abuse and codependency.

I think Dracula did quite a bit of stalking of his own. Also, he wasn't exactly catching fire when on sun. Of course, the difference is that Lucy was NOT supposed to be someone reader will identify with.

32 minutes ago, animalia said:

But merely because this is possible is not a license to ignore all facts, physical laws and historical events if one considers them inconvenient. The more you do so, the less convincing your work becomes until in the end it is the sheerest idiocy.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There ignores quite lot of very basic physical laws and is still great piece of literature. As long as your work is self-consistent and you don't pretend it's happening in our world you can ignore almost anything. But lot of writers basically write story as it would happen in our world until they need to ignore something and don't realize the first part of story wouldn't work if they make that change ...

... also, lot of writers think that making story where they ignore physical laws of our world is easier. No, it's harder.

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Don't get me started on Dracula.  "Dr." Van Helsing gave Lucy Westerna blood transfusions from four different men, nine years before blood types were discovered, and then blamed a vampire when "Surprise!" she died.

Dracula's solicitor's wife's best friend's former suitor's mentor just happens to be a great expert on vampires?

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There could be a practical reason for that diagnosis.

Would listing the cause-of-death as "Vampire" be sufficient to ward off the undying hordes of malpractice attorneys?

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6 hours ago, CritterKeeper said:

Don't get me started on Dracula.  "Dr." Van Helsing gave Lucy Westerna blood transfusions from four different men, nine years before blood types were discovered, and then blamed a vampire when "Surprise!" she died.

At least he didn't make her drink it. *sigh*

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10 hours ago, CritterKeeper said:

Don't get me started on Dracula.  "Dr." Van Helsing gave Lucy Westerna blood transfusions from four different men, nine years before blood types were discovered, and then blamed a vampire when "Surprise!" she died.

Dracula's solicitor's wife's best friend's former suitor's mentor just happens to be a great expert on vampires?

To be fair to Dr Van Helsing, I believe medical knowledge of his time knew that blood transfusions could save lives but didn't know how to make them safe and reliable. Basically a situation of "this could save her life, or it could lead to a painful death, but if we don't do this then she's definitely going to die a painful death." And blaming the death on a vampire would be building off of the earlier diagnosis of a vampire attack. A more modern cause of death might be "complications from treatment of a vampire attack," pending autopsy findings of course.

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7 hours ago, Drasvin said:

To be fair to Dr Van Helsing, I believe medical knowledge of his time knew that blood transfusions could save lives but didn't know how to make them safe and reliable. Basically a situation of "this could save her life, or it could lead to a painful death, but if we don't do this then she's definitely going to die a painful death." And blaming the death on a vampire would be building off of the earlier diagnosis of a vampire attack. A more modern cause of death might be "complications from treatment of a vampire attack," pending autopsy findings of course.

I would think that her attacking whoever would try to do the autopsy would confirm vampire attack as cause of death.

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8 hours ago, Pharaoh RutinTutin said:

No, that was how they treated Pope Innocent VIII in 1492.

I was thinking of a more modern disaster of literature. In Meyer's atrocious Breaking Dawn, that was how they gave Bella a blood transfusion when they decided that her unborn... child, I suppose... needed blood. They made her drink blood through a straw.

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1 hour ago, The Old Hack said:

I was thinking of a more modern disaster of literature. In Meyer's atrocious Breaking Dawn, that was how they gave Bella a blood transfusion when they decided that her unborn... child, I suppose... needed blood. They made her drink blood through a straw.

I don't think it was supposed to be transfusion ... but in any case, making the mother drink it would definitely accomplish nothing. It's not like blood contains some valuable component which could be digested and then transferred to child ... well, maybe except iron, but I doubt drinking blood would be that effective in curing iron deficiency.

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The iron in hemoglobin (which is where the iron is in blood) is easily broken down and recycled in the body, and presumably in the digestive tract as well. That would at least sidestep any difficulty in absorbing iron.

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8 hours ago, Haylo said:

The iron in hemoglobin (which is where the iron is in blood) is easily broken down and recycled in the body, and presumably in the digestive tract as well. That would at least sidestep any difficulty in absorbing iron.

I fail to see how it would sidestep the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of administering blood orally to a patient. By a doctor with supposedly up-to-date 21st Century training.

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3 hours ago, The Old Hack said:

I fail to see how it would sidestep the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of administering blood orally to a patient. By a doctor with supposedly up-to-date 21st Century training.

The mere thought that Vampires might exist in those books throws science out the window. If we are to accept that vampires are real, then we have to accept that there is some "magic" at work and that we doesn't know how it works. Why blood? Why the blood of sentients, or human blood, or in some versions only the blood of virgin humans?

To be able to read a story involving vampires we have to ignore all of these things, so what makes it so hard to accept the idea that you could give blood orally to a woman pregnant with a vampire baby when we doesn't even know why they need blood in the first place?

Yes it's stupid, but it's only marginally more stupid than the entire genre as a whole. Now I can't really comment on the Twilight books as I've never read them and all I know about them comes from internet haters, most of who I suspect never read them either.

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3 hours ago, Cpt. Obvious said:

To be able to read a story involving vampires we have to ignore all of these things, so what makes it so hard to accept the idea that you could give blood orally to a woman pregnant with a vampire baby when we doesn't even know why they need blood in the first place?

Read my post above about breaking rules. You can break ONE rule while establishing your setting and your readers will happily go along. Or, at least break a genre-defined set of rules. But for every rule you break BEYOND that, you weaken your story because the readers will start to realise that you haven't done your work and that you are just pulling stuff out of your rectal orifice. Do it enough -- and Twilight has done it to an immense degree -- and all you have left is drivel.

3 hours ago, Cpt. Obvious said:

Yes it's stupid, but it's only marginally more stupid than the entire genre as a whole.

To each their own. I merely feel resigned and sad whenever someone condemns a genre whole cloth without considering the fact that quality varies everywhere, that each and every genre contains some good works, some bad ones and a vast amount that merely falls in between the two.

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