A Novella

I’m moving to Hornstull in October. It’s a very old house, built in the 1750s — from the street it looks like the Shire. It has a garden, and is close to the sea and the “Party Mountain”. Well, it’s just a mountain (by Finnish standards, otherwise a small rocky hill) but my landlords said they soon realised the Södermalm people go party there.

Fragments of Thought, 14.10.2020

It was a stream of random thoughts, drifting (at times logically) from one topic to another. The starting point was that I had a “Word of the Day” screensaver and it showed “quale”, which is the singular form of “qualia”.

And the thought jumps to “linguistic zombies”…

... a few small pages’ worth of text generated from a section of Chomsky’s lecture on the “Cognitive Revolution”. The continuation is incredibly convincing in both style and content. Back then when I listened to interviews and lectures of Chomsky, there was often that feeling of noticing the patterns in his ways of making an argument, it’s a mixture of intellectual nodding-along “yeah, makes sense” and a subtle wariness that the arguments are internally self-referential and circular, and a sense of intrigue and curiosity in deciphering what is to be said, even though the points are not immediately obvious. Well, now when I read the AI-generated text, I have pretty much exactly the same batch of mixture of feelings. …

A review of Finland, the country

The Good Life

There was an ad on Finnish TV, it was probably about coffee. I could not find the ad itself on the internet, so here are the scenes from memory:

A wanderer hikes through the forests, encounters elevated views and the grandeur of nature, sets up by a stream, opens a watercolour kit, paints the landscape, fishes, cooks over a campfire, and makes some coffee. A moment of quiet enjoyment.

The setting was supposed to be in the early 20th century, but it’s could just as well be some time later. One not-so-subtle message would be that it requires very little (naturally coffee is required) to exercise living and to experience the positive qualities of being alive and free, to encapsulate a moment that substantiates the ingredients of human flourishing. …

A place to collect scattered notes


Random thoughts about semantics: to “write” an email means to hit certain keys on a keyboard and cause a copy of the text to be stored as a draft in an email application. With phrasal verbs we talk about “check in code”, “check in at a venue”, “check in on someone“, the meaning is only fully clear when both the situation and the implied actions are described.


Towards the edges of common vocabulary the nature of semantics shifts from lexical to cultural references, consider words such as ‘milquetoast’, ‘pollyannish’, ‘kafkaesque’ – at that point reconstructing the transmission of meaning is almost out of the hands of lexicographers. A similar gradient applies to domain knowledge: the word ‘culvert’ or ‘semiconductor’ in a world without those things would have no meaning, they are phonological and morphologically plausible non-words. In a world where they do exist, one-to-one, you only have to map the concepts onto or shoehorn them into plausible forms. …

The Most Predictive German Noun Endings

Part 1: Introduction and Method Description

Time to unbox some results!


How much can a single letter tell us? In most cases, not a lot…

Image for post
Image for post

The most applicable one is perhaps ‘-e’, a single letter that predicts a 0.88 chance for the noun to be feminine — with many, many exceptions.


Probability, gender, bigram, example words:

An Introspective Monologue feat. the TBL Thought Experiment

What is self-actualisation? To project creative will into the world and express agency (the ability to act and cause an effect). On the high-achieving end of the spectrum, the expression is amplified through the leverage of capital. To put it tritely, the peak of self-actualisation in the area of entrepreneurial expression is Steve Jobs, not Grigori Perelman.

Seizing the Means of Production

The mythology of entrepreneurship is that one has an idea, pursues that idea, and builds a business out of it. These days I’m more than ever convinced that the competence of building a business, getting customers, landing contracts, hiring teams, making things happen an so on, has almost no overlap with the mythical impetus of original ideas. Business is about a capital operations machine. If GOOG wanted to get in to the business of SquareSpace or Wix, it could; if it wanted to get into the business of selling mattresses online, it could. It has the capital, the middle managers, the overhead admin processes, the whole Ops machinery. Reviewing the drawers of brilliant ideas just brings on this tragic sinking feeling about the discrepancy between “what could have been” and the context in which ideas can be executed to create and capture value. Elton John sans piano is not nearly as great. …

An Interplay between Morphemes and the Nature of Things

Academics in social sciences are often bound by the relativist axiom “all languages are exactly equally complex.” A few minutes into a more fact-contingent context like second language acquisition or lexicography, we find out that some languages are more equally complex than others.

Grammatical Complexity

Many questions must be resolved before you can utter a correct sentence in German. Take this example in English:

“I ponder the meaning of life.”

If you think all you need is lexical translations for “ponder” and “meaning of life” to convert the sentence into German, you’re in deep trouble.

Let’s pause and marvel at the German…

Lemmatisation and Frequency Bands

Lemmatisation with Morphy

The same word may take many forms — finding the lemma means reducing an inflected form to its citation form — if we want to look up the meaning of ‘counting ducks’, we read the dictionary entries for ‘count’ and ‘duck’.

For German, ‘Morphy’ is a great database for this task. Here I’m using a simplified mapping file — the complete version is way larger and provides detailed grammatical tagging information. The simplified index just maps a more inflected form to a less inflected form. Note how it’s actually recursive:

süßendster süßend
süßendstes süßend
süßendste süßend
süßend süßen


Bootstrapping Central Coherence

Non-trivial efforts

August 14, 2017

What does it mean to speak a language?

Let’s consider this question in the context that many language learning products claim to help users achieve such a goal. Actually, forget that context for a moment — very often people are just curious about how much effort is involved to reach the “near-native” level.

Basically, some lasting changes in memory and cognition must occur — my inkling is almost everyone on this topic grossly misunderestimates the profoundness of such changes and the amount of “work” entailed.

Obviously, there are established frameworks for assessing the level (e.g. …


David Rosson

A lack of knowledge is more amenable than a lack of inquiry.

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