Friday, January 18, 2013


One of my friends works in a doctor's office here in Central NJ.  You get a lot of Telugu staff speaking English.  Some of the constructions she's noticed over time:

1) repeat words, like the following: "different different"
2) repeating numbers, like the following: "one one" "two two"

I tried to answer this as much as I could using google translate.

1)  different = వివిధ = various.  So adding particles or chaining together these words could imply various or sundry, misc?

2) I have a hypothesis that this may be due to a number being substituted in for an expected measuring word, so things like "a" could be doubling as "one," like someone saying "a one ball" or "two pair balls" or something like that.  Instead, I got the following:

"I threw a ball" = నేను బంతి విసిరిన = "I ball"

weird.  Telugu and back simply drops the entire threw?  Maybe because of 'throw.'  Hmm...

"I throw two balls to you." = నేను మీకు రెండు బంతుల్లో త్రో. = "I'll throw two balls."

"he has two two shots remaining"

= అతను మిగిలిన రెండు రెండు షాట్లు ఉంది = The other two are two shots that he
ఇతర రెండు రెండు సన్నివేశాలు అతను = He and the other two by two shots
అతను మరియు రెండు షాట్ల ఇతర రెండు =

"He and two shots of the other two"*

Now, if we remove the second 'two' (and make the message contain less ambiguity) we have exact resonance between the following two statements:

"he has two shots remaining" = అతను ఇతర రెండు షాట్లు ఉంది = "He is the other two shots"**


Here's an update on the Telugu theory.  I looked this up on Wikipedia:

Number system

Telugu has its own digits, as shown below.
sunna ( distorted form of sanskrit word shoonyam )okatirendumoodunaaluguaidhuaarueiduenimidhithommindhi

So my current theory is that 'two-two' or 'three-three' as spoken in english might be attempting to mimic the number of syllables of the base language's number.  Perhaps the rhythm (and number) of the particles, e.g. ren-du is of a more fundamental layer of understanding and encoding in language than are the sounds of the syllables.

Separately - might this be a reason why some tabla music is based on sequences that don't divide into the same modulus as the rest of Western music (mostly 4s).

* Cycling a message to be encoded and decoded between English and a target language, I think, is a way of simulating how it might be learned by either, for better or for worse

** Who knows why these two phrases resonate.  Maybe "he has two shots remaining" = "He is the other two shots" because "he has X remaining" -> "he only has X remaining" -> "he is composed of X" -> "he is composed of two shots" -> "He is the other two shots"***

*** notice 'is' is italicized, 'the other' is italicized and bolded as denoting the only difference between these two constructions.  I thought this was kind of cool, also because it represents the purest of existential choices - existing as I and existing apart from 'I'.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Throwing your voice into a hidden room

I just read a cool article that experimented with voices coming from a ceiling here.  Here's another experiment I set up recently, in my house, to experiment with voices heard on the other side of a wall.  It's like a magic trick.

1) set up a laptop A against a physical wall.
2) hook up laptop A’s sound output to a bluetooth speaker on the other side of the wall.*

3) set up a google hangout between laptop A and another laptop located in another room B against its wall.

With this setup A looks like a window on the wall, looking into B. It also sounds like the conversations in room B are being overheard by you as if the people in room B are speaking to each other on the other side of the physical wall. The result is the feeling that room B and room A are on opposite sides of a real wall, but the sound tricks you into thinking people are conversing just on the other side of a wall, with the sound spilling into your room from the hallway outside.

n.b. #1: This is more useful for voyeurs than it is for people looking to communicate between the two rooms.

n.b. #2: I came up with this experiment after watching "The Lives of Others" and then setting up this quick experiment to "peer" from my kitchen into my living room, during the NFL playoff game last night.

n.b. #3: I read here that this may be just another configuration of "telepresence."

* or, locate the bluetooth speaker on the other side of the door to the hallway, although this isn't as effective