Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sounds - App by Macmillan

Sounds is a phonetic alphabet app by Macmillan publishers, available as an Apple or Android app or as a downloadable stand-alone app for your pc (click on the "Phonetic Chart - full screen version (exe)" link for a flash version).
You can watch a video about Sounds here:
As with the excellent website by Paul Meier (see earlier blog), the user just clicks on a phonetic symbol and the app makes the right sound.
The Macmillan Sounds app comes in two versions: the Free and the "Premium" (£3.99 / $5.99). The free download offers basic sounds for British & American English phonetic symbols, while the paid-for version adds wordlists which can be supplemented or replaced plus various activities and inter-activities.
This can be used by students working on their own to improve their pronunciation, or in class to demonstrate the sounds of English and how words can be pronounced.
Further information on this and similar products can be found at the Language Bits blog.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Saeed Al Mannai who brought this to my attention.

Pause and Effect

An exquisite volume of scholarship. The text combines a history of punctuation in the West, as a narrative based almost entirely on evidence from original manuscripts, with copious notes and samples of manuscripts that come complete with original text, translations into modern English and a commentary on the importance of the manuscript to the development of punctuation.

Parkes reveals the correlation of historical conditions leading to changing functions for written English with the changes in type and function of punctuation marks, identifying where and how historical changes produced the current merging of written-to-be-spoken and written-to-be-read-silently punctuation marks and practices.

Another goodreads.com review.

An original copy of this book, published by Scolar Press, was kindly provided by KUSTAR as a British Library loan. It is also available online from Ashgate.com, who have reprinted and republished it. The new edition is a great improvement: the manuscripts and documents are so much clearer than in the previous edition. Here is what Ashgate have to say about the book:

From its publication in 1992 Pause and Effect has become a cornerstone of the study of punctuation across the world. Described as 'magisterial' by Lynne Truss in her best-selling Eats, Shoots and Leaves, this book has stimulated interest and scholarly debates among writers, literary critics, philosophers, linguists, rhetoricians, palaeographers and all those who study the use of language. To celebrate this extraordinary achievement, Pause and Effect has been republished in September 2008, coinciding with the publication of the author's new work, Their Hands Before Our Eyes.
The first part of Pause and Effect identifies the graphic symbols of punctuation and deals with their history. It covers the antecedents of the repertory of symbols, as well as the ways in which the repertory was refined and augmented with new symbols to meet changing requirements. The second part offers a short general account of the principal influences which have contributed to the ways in which the symbols have been applied in texts, focusing on the evidence of the practice itself rather than on theorists. The treatment enables the reader to compare usages in different periods, and to isolate the principles which underlie the use of punctuation in all periods.
The examples and plates which are at the core of the book provide the reader with an opportunity to test the author's observations. The examples are taken from a wide range of literary texts from different periods and languages. Latin texts are accompanied by English translation intended to illustrate the use of punctuation in the originals in so far as this is possible.

Release Mohammad Ali Salmani Nodoushan

Mohammad Ali Salmani Nodoushan is an Iranian applied linguist. I have read a number of his papers and have great respect for his work. I have been in contact with him on a number of occasions in relation to the International Journal of Language Studies (IJLS). He was very quick to offer me the opportunity to join the Editorial board in 2010, and has sent me a number of papers for review.
However, it would appear that Mohammad has been re-arrested. His personal facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/nodushan) and the facebook page for IJLS (http://www.facebook.com/ijls.ed) have both been de-activated, even though the co-editor for IJLS attempted to re-activate it.
Mohammed was released from Iranian jail a few months ago after facing the death penalty. The Iranian authorities accuse him of converting to Christianity which they consider is worthy of the death penalty. Although it is almost impossible to confirm this information, the following message was sent earlier this week:

I am contacting you on behalf of your friend. 
Please DO NOT reply to this mail. I will delete this address as soon as this email is sent. 
Your friend in C*U*S*T*O*D*Y again since 14:00 hours local time June 13, 2012. 
1.        Conversion 
2.        Persistence on New Faith 
3.        Propaganda against G*O*V*E*R*N*M*E*N*T by placing a footnote on page 1 of the article at: http://www.ijls.net/volumes/volume6issue1/montazeran1.pdf 
4.        Including some J*E*W*S and I*S*R*A*E*L*I*s on I*J*L*S editorial board (i.e., this has resulted in his being charged for E* S* P*I *O *N *A *G *E for that G*O*V*E*R*N*M*E*N*T) 
Items 1 to 4 all automatically entail a D*E*A*T*H sentence. 
Please make sure you go public with this info since our cyber activities are CTRLed here, so we cannot do anything. Things must be done outside of here.   
Please remember that my name must be kept S*E*C*R*E*T.  Please: 
1.        Contact S*A*R, U*N* Human R*I*G*H*T*S W*A*T*C*H, and other related organizations and N*G*Os. 
2.        Open a new P*E*T*I*T*I*O*N on G*O*P*E*T*I*T*I*O*N dot C*O*M 
3.        Go public with all the past info and documents on F*A*C*E*B*O*O*K and other M*E*D*I*A 
4.        Whatever else you think will help. 
Thank you very much. 

When Mohammad was arrested previously there was a campaign to raise his case in international media and with the concerned charities and NGOs, such as Scholars At Risk and Amnesty International. As you can see, there is a call to do the same this time in order to save the life of a fellow academic whose only crime is to profess to a belief that the governing political regime consider hostile. 

Please help in any way you can. There is an online petition that you can sign here:
Release Mohammad Ali Salmani Nodoushan Petition | GoPetition
If you know any other way, please share with the IJLS co-editor Professor Randall Gess.
(Another unusual post for this blog.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Year of the iPhone

Okay, I admit that this is not exactly a typical post for this blog, but with all the hype about how iPad and iPhone can revolutionise education I feel that I am justified (see a small sample of the hype here). I have just given away my iPhone 4. I am incredibly relieved that I will no longer have to put up with the stupid way it does everything.
Give a few examples you say? Okay, then. Let's start with iTunes. First of all, why do I have to use an iTunes account at all? I do, because without it Apple does not let me start the phone I just paid much too much money for.
Then why do I have to give Apple Inc. my credit card & billing details when I just want free stuff? Imagine that you went to a "regular store" (i.e. one without an i added to the beginning for no reason) & as soon as you step inside, they take your credit card from you. As you walk around the shop, you suddenly realise that the store has taken money from your credit card. When you query them, they kindly inform you that their very special products cannot remain in your shopping trolley for more than 5 minutes without you being charged. Would you go back there again? Ever? So why do we allow Apple Inc. to treat us this way?
Next, back to iTunes. It is rubbish. It is designed to make you use it exclusively. When I try to back up my terrible photos from my phone,  iTunes tries to copy all of my photos from the computer to the already full memory on the phone. The memory cannot be increased, and why would I want that anyway? Without asking me? With almost no control over where it places anything? Can't I have photos that exist independently of the rubbish images that iPhone produces? I have a VERY extensive music collection - far bigger than will fit on any Apple device and none of which I bought from iTunes. Most of the music is from my own collection of CDs. iTunes works on the principle that I have a music library that I must have bought from iTunes that 'synchs' with my phone, and so I can only have as much music as will fit on my iPhone, unless I want to copy everything that I want to transfer to the phone into a separate directory on my computer. Waste of space - waste of time.
Then there are all those pointless apps (e.g. Newsstand, Stocks, Weather, Gamecenter etc.) that I have no use for, but which take up the insufficient memory and cannot be removed. Ever. For no reason.
Then there's the micro SIM card. Because of this (exclusively) Apple innovation, it is next to impossible to transfer your contact information to and from your iPhone. I had to manually enter my contacts. Twice. The first time on buying the phone, and the second when the wonderful update lost half my contacts details despite supposedly backing up first.
I should stop. But I won't. Welcome back all those websites that still use the Flash animation format in preference to Quicktime. Wow, there's a lot of you out there!
Apple may have reinvented the mobile phone business with its AppStore, but it is no longer alone, no matter what it may wish for through absurd legal disputes. And in most cases Android apps are free - for life (although there are hints that Apple is teaching Google bad habits). There are almost no apps that are exclusive to Apple, so why would you pay up to three times as much for your device to be over-charged again?
Finally, back to that question of iPads and iPhones in education. While these devices may seduce you with their smooth, easy touch, it must be remembered that they are both primarily devices for electronic media consumption, not production (see here, here and here for more comments). You can watch, listen, view and surf with ease, but writing on one without cumbersome accessories quickly becomes tiresome - as does carrying around self-defeating cumbersome accessories. This makes them suitable only for passive inactivity. They are unlikely to engage thinking and so can have little effect on learning.
Wake up people. Apple are NOT the "good guys" of the software industry. Just because their advertising image is whiter than white, it does not mean the company is. Apple must be guilty of far more anti-competitive practices than any other software company (again, why do I have to go through the Apple AppStore or iTunes? Why can I not delete Apps? Why should websites be forced into using Quicktime instead of Flash?), so why aren't they in court already? If people did not like the way Bill Gates & Microsoft went about their business, through anti-competitive bundling of products and bullying acquisitions of competitors, how blind do you have to be to not see Apple Inc. doing just the same things? At least Bill Gates knows how to spend his money. Apple users stop making excuses for the company because they have made you think you have bought into a California-cool lifestyle. Wake up & smell the Jobbies, people!!