Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Taking stock

Progress on the new book has reached a point that reminds me of a time when I was working for DEC (in the days when it was OK to call it "DEC" – rather than follow HR's instructions and give it the whole nine yards [well ten actually... syllables])
<autobiographical_note>
The biggest thing that happened in the 1990's (in an engineering sense) was a networking system called DECnet/OSI. As an article in the HP Journal says (but don't be misled by the name – in those days HP was just another competitor): 
The DECnet Phase V networking software presented the DECnet-VAX development team with a major challenge. ...[T]he Phase V architecture has substantial differences from Phase IV in many layers. For example, the session control layer now contains a global name service..... In most cases, the existing Phase IV code could not be adapted to the new architecture; it had to be redesigned and rewritten.  
HP Journal PDF (and regular readers will know how I feel about them). 
My one tangible souvenir of "Phase V"
This was a huge enterprise, involving dozens of engineers (and writers) working on both sides of the Atlantic. And there were many interlinking plans, schedules and wall-charts, involving dependencies, critical paths... all that scheduley stuff; and tele-conferences (this was the BS era – Before Skype; I did take part in one videoconference, using some hugely expensive proprietary system). Managers played games of Schedule Chicken (committing their teams to an impossible date, knowing that another team was going to slip first).  
There was a cartoon on a poster at the time. A character (called Antworth, and with a rather formic profile – which suggests that he might have been popular in a Dilbert-like way, although I've had no luck with Google) was pointing at ("talking to" was the MBA-ese) a complex flow-chart detailing many interlinked "deliverables" (more MBA-ese). There was an insignificant little box in one corner, with the words 
then a miracle happens
in very small writing. A manager was saying Nice work, Antworth, but I think it could do with a bit more work just here [pointing at the miracle box]. Some wag in the Reading office had added the words 
Phase V xxx stable
I've cloaked the crucial module in mystery, because the Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed at the time makes it more than my pension's worth to reveal the unstable party
</autobiographical_note>
So much for the preamble. My  "then a miracle happens" moment is nigh. I've collected the data, made the tables (ready for conversion to HTML), written a lot of the text,... I've "just" got to bring it all together in a Sigil  file and add all the links, Table of Contents, Prelims, cover design....As wossname said

'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

For magic read miracle. I just have to find the technology.

Meanwhile, here are  the last few bits of text.

First draft of *AL* linking text

The letters "al" are divided here into seven sections. But counting exceptions – that have pronunciations both with and without the sound /l/ – there are ten. These exceptions are in the sections for /æ/ (shallow and salmon), /ɔ:/ (small and walk), and /ɑ:/ (impala and calm). (In all cases, the variant without an /l/ sound is much the less common.)

The sound /ə/ – 79%
This sound is by far the most common. Even after systematic omissions (as described in the Introduction) there are still well over 300 listed here.

The sound /æ/ – 16%
The sound /eɪ/ – 3%
The sound /ɑ:/ – 0.1%
The sound /ɒ/ – percentage negligible
This sound, when represented by the spelling "al", always follows a /w/ phoneme (as in wall or squall, for example).
The sound /ʌ/ – percentage negligible

First draft of *EL* linking text

The spelling "el" can represent any one of six sounds. The sounds /e/, /ə/, and words with a Magic E (which makes no sound itself but changes the sound that the preceding vowel represents), account between them for 85% of words with the spelling "el".

The sound /e/ – 33%
Magic E – 31%
This (non-)sound's significance is misrepresented by the size of the following table because of systematic omissions as explained in the Introduction – particularly adverbs ending -ely where the e is Magic.
The sound /ə/ – 21%
The sound /ɪ/ – 12%
The sound /i:/ – 2%
The sound /eɪ/ – ½%

First draft of *IL* linking text

This spelling is used to represent only four sounds. One of these predominates.
The sound /ɪ/ – 83%This is by far the most common of the four sounds represented by the spelling "el". The number of words listed here outweighs by far all other *IL* words by about 3:1, even without taking into account the more than 300 words excluded for reasons given in the Introduction.
The sound /aɪ/ – 11%

The sound /ə/ – 5%
The sound /i:/ – 1%.These are predominantly borrowings from languages derived from Latin, particularly French.

Update: 2016.08.24.17:15 – Added picture.

Update: 2016.08.29.10:35 – A handful of typos and other tweaks.


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