Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis studies social interaction. A part of linguistics, it has become increasingly popular since the late 80's.

Discourse analysts often use particular symbols to explain discourse. These may include marks to denote a short pause, a long pause, words spoken at the same time and words which are unclear.

In discourse analysis the two speakers in a conversation are called the speaker and the hearer. Though the word "hearer" may appear to suggest one who is passive or does not wish to participate in the conversation as opposed to the word "listener", this is in fact the word that is commonly used.

Speakers often do not speak directly. For example, the utterance "I haven't played tennis in a long time" may mean "I'd love to play tennis with you". If the speaker feels that he/she has lower status than the hearer, the utterance "When can we play tennis?" may be too direct.

Likewise, if a person pronounces a language incorrectly, the hearer may reply, "Your pronunciation is very good" because the direct "Your pronunciation is incorrect" may hurt his/her feelings. If the reply "Your pronunciation is very good" is said without emotion, it may simply be an attempt to be polite.

Another example of an indirect reply is "Maybe later" to the question "Would you like a cup of coffee?" This is much softer than the reply "No" and is rather common in the Japanese culture. This is particularly true in cases where the speaker has higher status than the hearer.

Discourse analysis is a relatively new and important research area in linguistics. It is important for understanding the ways in which speakers communicate with one another. Based on the relationship between the speaker and hearer, the words which they use can vary significantly.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Castling Can Be An Error

Castling is usually a good move, but not always. If the centre is closed and your opponent can generate strong attacks on the wings, it is better to keep the king in the centre. In a recent game which I played at letsplaychess.com, my opponent castled and I did not. His castled position led to his quick downfall. My opponent was Hillwalker of Scotland who played black. Here are the moves of the game with my commentary.

1. e4 Nc6

Black's move is unusual. The reply Nf6 is far more common.

2. d4 d5
3. e5 a6

I decide to keep my pawn on the board and maintain a strong pawn centre.

4. h3 Bf5
5. Nf3 e6
6. Bd3 Nb4

I challenge black's light-squared bishop. To my surprise, he does not take it but advances his queen knight.

7. Bxf5 exf5

Black has doubled pawns on the f-file.

8. a3 Nc6

Black is forced to retreat the knight.

9. Nc3 g6
10. Bg5 Be7
11. Bxe7 Ngxe7
12. Qd2 0-0

Black's decision to castle gives me a clear strategy. I want to attack on the h-file.

13. h4 b5
14. Ne2 Kg7

I shift my knight towards the h-file. Black's last move is not the best. A better move is h5. Black is weak on the dark squares.

15. h5 a5
16. hxg6 Nxg6
17. Qh6+

Black resigns. I have mate in one. If he plays Kh8 or Kg8, I play Qxh7#.

Castling is usually a good move but in this game it proves fatal for black. The centre is closed so the king is safe there. In this game black attempts to generate counterplay on the queenside but loses because of my strong pawn centre and control of the h-file. Though castling is often a very good defensive manoeuvre, in this game it is much better for black not to castle.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Romanization of Korean Family Names

Korean family names often have a variety of spellings when they are romanized. This is due to a number of reasons. One is the spelling reform which changed the romanization of Korean and another is the inherent difficulties of representing family names with a different writing system. Also, many people prefer to keep the traditional spelling and thus have no desire to change it.

The three most common Korean family names are Kim, Park and Lee. In Korean they are 김, 박 and 이. The surname "Lee" is traditionally spelt with these three letters but in fact, the Korean pronunciation of the name is equivalent to "ee". It consists of a single vowel. However, the spelling "Ee" is never used for the surname.

The surname "Kim" is pronounced with an unaspirated velar plosive. Under the latest spelling reform, unaspirated velar plosives are now represented by a "g". As a result, the revised spelling of this name is "Gim". However, this spelling is not common. Without question, the traditional spelling dominates.

The surname "Park" can be spelt in many ways. The spelling "Park" is closest to the Korean pronunciation when it is pronounced with a non-rhotic accent because there is no liquid in the pronunciation of this name. Other spellings include "Pak", "Bark" and "Bak".

The surname "Lee" also has a variety of spellings. Other possible spellings of this common name are "Rhee" and "Yi". However, the traditional spelling "Lee" remains the most common. In fact, this family name is also very common in Chinese.

Other Korean family names can also be spelt in a number of ways. Here is a list of Korean family names with different possible spellings:

Kwon, Gwon, Kweon, Kwan
Jang, Chang
Jeong, Chung, Jung, Joung, Cheong
Yu, Yoo, You

The latest spelling reform changed the spelling of the "u" with the sound of the "u" in "up" to "eo". Traditionally, this sound was also represented by the letters "ou" as in "young". However, the traditional spelling of Korean family names remains popular.

Korean family names often have a variety of spellings in the Roman alphabet. In many cases a traditional spelling exists alongside a revised spelling. In other cases, the variety is due to the different possible ways of representing Korean pronunciation in Roman letters. However, it appears that the traditional spelling remains more popular than the revised one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quick Victory in Chess

In a recent chess game, I forced a resignation from my opponent on my tenth move. I played this game at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Minoosh from France. In this game I played white. Here I provide the moves of the game along with my commentary.

1. e4 d5

Black chooses to play the Scandinavian Defence which is also known as the Centre-Counter Defence.

2. exd Qxd5

Another possible move for black here is Nf6.

3. Nc3 Qe6+

A more popular move for black here is Qa5.

4. Ne2 Nc6
5. Nb5 Qe5

I decide to threaten Nxc7+. Black replies by attacking my knight with his queen but this move is a mistake because he cannot keep his queen on the diagonal. Qd7 and Kd8 are better alternatives.

6. a4 a6

I push my queen rook pawn to support my knight and black immediately attacks my knight.

7. d4 Qf6

I attack black's queen and black moves his queen to the best square for his king knight. In this position black's best move is to take my pawn with his knight. In fact, d4 is not my best move because black can take my pawn with his knight. A stronger move is f4.

8. Nxc7+ Kd8

Black is forced to move the king.

9. Nxa8 e5

Black plays a very bad move. It is difficult to find a good move for black, but e6 is clearly better.

10. dxe+

Black cannot capture the pawn because he is in check. He resigns because on my next move I will capture his queen.

In this game black chooses to play the Scandinavian Defence. On his second move he brings out his queen and later moves her three more times. He does so at the expense of the development of his other pieces. I am able to attack his queen and take advantage of his exposed king. This is my key to victory.

Famous Quotes

Many quotes have been a source of inspiration or wisdom throughout history. For this reason, they have become famous. I wish to share ten famous quotes which are among my favourites.

Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

John F. Kennedy is the source of two of my favourite quotes. The first is undoubtedly one of his most famous: "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

He also said, "Change is the law of life. And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

I love this quote by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

Albert Einstein said, "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."

Winston Churchill is responsible for this inspiring quote: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

This beautiful quote is from Mother Teresa: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

Mahatma Gandhi is the source of many famous quotes. One of my favourites is "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

I now quote George Bernard Shaw: "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

My last quote is from Helen Keller. She said, "The best and most beautiful things in the world can not be seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart."

I hope these quotes are as inspirational and memorable for you as they are for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Exciting Chess Game

I recently played one of the most exciting chess games I have every played. The game took place at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Stagli of Croatia. He made a knight sacrifice that made me very nervous because my king was relatively exposed, but I was able to survive. In this game I played black. Now I will provide the moves along with my commentary.

1. e4 c5
2.Bc4 e6

I play e6 so that the white bishop cannot target f7.

3. Nc3 a6
4. a4 Bd6
5. Nf3 Nc6
6. 0-0 Nge7
7. d3 Qc7

My queen and bishop are a powerful force on the h2-b8 diagonal.

8. Be3 b6
9. Ng5 0-0

White's move seems premature to me because the knight has little support. Now that the h2 pawn is undefended, it is possible to play Bxh2+ and in fact, I wish I had played this move here!

10. f4 f6

White is playing aggressively.

11. Nh3 Kh8

I play Kh8 so that white's bishop will not be able to put my king in check at a later stage of the game.

12. Qh5 g6
13. Qh6 Ng8
14. Qh4 Bb7
15. f5 Bxh2+
16. Kh1 Bg3
17. Qg4 exf5
18. exf5 g5
19. Ne4 Bd6
20. Nhxg5 Ne5

Rather than play the immediate capture fxg5, I decide to fork white's queen and bishop with my knight.

21. Qh5 fxg5
22. Qxg5 Nxc4

White's move surprises me because I expect Nxg5 with the threat of mate on h7. I am prepared to play either h6 or Nf6 in defence but white's move demands a different move. I suspect his strategy is to push his f-pawn to f6 and mate with his queen on g7.

23. dxc4 Bxe4
24. f6 Rf7

My rook prevents mate.

25. Rae1 Raf8
26. Bd4 Bxg2+

White wants me to capture his bishop in order to exchange bishops and free space for his e-rook but I do not cooperate. I sacrifice my bishop to expose the white king and gain a pawn.

27. Qxg2 cxd4
28. b3 Nxf6

I finally move my knight but this move is not the best. Here it is better to play Rxf6 and offer an exchange of rooks.

29. Re2 Qb8
30. Ref2 Bc5
31. Qg5 Ne4
32. Rxf7 Nxg5
33. Rxf8 Bxf8

Down two pieces and one pawn, white decides to resign. Fortunately for me, his knight sacrifice does not succeed. This game is undoubtedly one of the most exciting I have ever played.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Foreign Words in Chess

Chess has a number of foreign words that players can use to make the game sound sophisticated. It is not surprising because chess is played all around the world but is undoubtedly most popular in western countries. Nevertheless, it is believed that the game first originated in India. Many of the foreign words used are from European languages.

The word "fianchetto" is derived from Italian and means "little wing". If white places the bishop on b2 or g2 and black places the bishop on b7 or g7, this is a fianchetto. If the bishop gains full control of the diagonal, it can turn into a big advantage.

The world "luft" is derived from German and means "air". If one of the three pawns in front of the king is pushed forward one square, the king has a little breathing room. It prevents the threat of a back rank mate because the king has a square to escape to.

The word "en passant" is derived from French and means "in passing". Pawns can only move one square forward at a time but when they have not yet moved there is the two-square option. They may move forward either one or two squares. Unlike bishops, knights, rooks, queens and kings, they move differently from the way they capture. They move vertically down the chessboard but capture diagonally.

The en passant move is only possible when a pawn is on its original square and moves two squares. If white has a pawn on e2 and pushes it to e4, black can capture if there is a black pawn on d4 or f4. Black captures as if the white pawn had moved to e3. However, this move must be played immediately after white's move. The black pawn captures the white pawn in passing because it captures on a square behind the white pawn.

Chess is a game which uses a number of words from languages other than English. These include the words "fianchetto", "en passant" and "luft". They give the game of chess both a sophisticated and international flavour.