June 02, 2006

Name that Tune ('s language)

Reader Sven Godtvisken writes:

I would like to solicit Language Log to help with a problem originally posed to me by a friend. This friend sent me a song, but she lacked the track information, as it came from a copied CD (the creator obviously did not put this information on the CD.) Now, the song is in a language unknown to both of us...

I think this is probably too easy if I give you the whole song (and I don't want to bring down some transnational version of the RIAA on Sven and his friend and her CD supplier -- not to speak of me) so here's the first verse and the refrain.. Extra points if you figure it out by searching on-line dictionaries for transcribed words, but if you just recognize the language, that's great too, and it's even better if you know the band. Send me your answers and I'll post a summary.

[The answer to Sven's question is obviously a matter of contingent fact, but its wording reminds me of a certain genre of logic puzzle. So as a bonus, I'll add a link to Neil Sloane's notes from G4G7, which include a link to Peter Winkler's paper "Seven Puzzles You Think You Must Not Have Heard Correctly". They're all great, but I especially liked "The Dot-Town Suicides":

Each resident of Dot-town carries a red or blue dot on his (or her) forehead, but if he ever figures out what color it is he kills himself. Each day the residents gather; one day a stranger comes and tells them something -- anything -- non-trivial about the number of blue dots. Prove that eventually every resident kills himself.

Comment: "Non-trivial" means here that there is some number of blue dots for which the statement would not have been true. Thus we have a frighteningly general version of classical problems involving knowledge about knowledge.

"Love in Kleptopia" is also special fun, since even quite young children can understand it.]


Posted by Mark Liberman at June 2, 2006 05:07 AM