Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Language: the Art of tongue-wagging

What if we could ONLY use thoughts as these to convey our mood. We'd all walk wide-eyed, for sure...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Never be more relevant than now.

I--like most of you probably--have seen this before. But in the context of the class, it seems more interesting... Chomsky/Foucault debate.



Mix the Senses

Want to draw out poetic power in words, influence more people with your written or spoken words? Or would you just like to have a little fun with language? I just discovered an exercise that does all of the above.

By changing the placement of words you can become a linguistical genius.

I call it "Mix the Senses."
It's rather simple, yet challenging. Although this is not original to me, I believe the title works for this fun exercise--that's really more of a game.

Here's how it works. Use a word that requires the use of a "Sense" (i.e. Touch, Smell, Sight, Hearing, Taste) and pair it with another word that uses a different "Sense."

Like This:

Cold Blue (touch, sight)
Screeching Stench (hearing, smell)
Heavy Taste (touch, taste)

"Mix the Senses" can create new thought processes, and as most words have multiple meanings brace yourself for all sorts of new looks at colors, shapes, aches and pains.

Provoke your mind's imagery of what the senses really experience, or what they haven't yet experienced in quite the way that pairing new words together can!

Cross-pollinate those senses until you’re senseless or senseful whichever the case may be.

Have Fun!

QI: Eskimo Pronouns

Stephen Fry negates the widely-held belief that Eskimos have scores of names for snow, and instead asserts that the Aleutian language features 32 demonstrative pronouns, compared to English's four or five.

The relevant part of this clip begins at about 3:38 and terminates at about 5:25.

Quite interesting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

He's a demon

I watched this movie, Black Robe, seven or eight years ago and there is one particular scene that really caught my attention. The scene starts four minutes and forty seconds (4:40) into this youtube clip

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Borges short-story, relating to the Foucault discussion

On Exactitude in Science

. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley Copyright Penguin 1999 .

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sid viciousi and Johnny rotteni

Since we talked about Adam naming creatures in our discussion last week I thought I'd share this. Pretty entertaining. It almost makes me want to discover something just so I can name it. Now that's power!

Click on the image for the link.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What is a number or a symbol?

So, I thought others might be interested in this 10-page excerpt from another of Crowley's works titled 777. I found it to be of a similar, if not identical rationale to our class discussion earlier today. Click each image to enlarge.

Describe yourself in 50 words or less fewer

Describe yourself in 50 words or less fewer.

A humorous image I found that suggests that just maybe it just isn't so sexy to be such a priggish prescriptive.
Image in its original context.

Friday, September 19, 2008

who says language evolves scientifically?

Not me, for sure. I was reading an obituary (morbid, I know) and something that was said there struck me as curious. Read, see if the last sentence of the quote jumps out at you like it did for me.
Martin K. Tytell Obituary at the NY Times

"He made a hieroglyphics typewriter for a museum curator, and typewriters with musical notes for musicians. He adapted keyboards for amputees and other wounded veterans. He invented a reverse-carriage device that enabled him to work in right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew. An error he made on a Burmese typewriter, inserting a character upside down, became a standard, even in Burma."

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Engrish is the term that describes all the mayhem that ensues when other languages are translated into English. I first encountered it on a Japanese package of Dragon Ball Z trading cards, which proudly bore the words "Try to collecting and trading!" And it's been a constant source of hilarity ever since. Something about nonsensical phrases that undermine (or completely change) the intended meaning of a sentence is just a well of funny that never goes dry. Below are some of my favorite examples. Post your favorite Engrish from the internet, video games, t-shirts, menus, slogans, signs, or anywhere else it might pop up.

(from a Chinese Star Wars DVD. If you haven't seen the movie, Vader is saying "NO")

And last, here's a clip from a classic Newsradio episode:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Random (long and sporadic and nonlinear) thought (TURN BACK NOW).

I wonder how much of our language is spent on denial. Before most people can see the meaning behind any symbol or concept they usually meet that symbol concept with resistance or contention. Whether you are looking at the Greek alphabet as jibberish or hearing about how "Language Speaks Us," we spend a remarkable amount of time putting up a fight against something we simply do not understand yet (take African Americans or Homosexuals in America for example).
When I first heard Scott say "Language Speaks Us" I liked the idea but didn't really "eat it up". However, last night I was watching a fascinating video on TED.com (for the second time) about how the agricultural revolution may not have been a technological invention by humans, but rather, that it was actually a co-evolutionary development where things such as grasses evolved to exploit us (humans) into doing their dirty work for them (deforesting the competition, etc.). He got this idea while planting his garden. He saw a bee pollinating a flower and he thought "ha, that bee has no clue that he is compelled by the flower to do what he is doing. But I know that he is." Then he went back to gardening. But then he realized, that he was not much different than the bee. And that maybe gardening was so enjoyable for people because they are also being compelled by the plants to keep them in fruition.
So anyway (these thoughts are not entirely linear), I was thinking about this, and how absurd it seemed, and I was making up reasons to deny it and so forth and while doing so I thought of Language Speaking Us. And I thought, maybe language doesn't necessarily SPEAK US, but maybe language (meaning and symbols) somehow compel us to speak it - Rousseau did say that language grew out of need, right?

Now, of course, this can't necessarily be; considering that language is not a THING per se, but really a confluence of THINGS... but how are we (humans) any different? We THINK we compel things to do what we want them to. We think we have this power over language and that it can't possibly speak us. WE SPEAK IT, IT'S ABSURD TO SAY IT SPEAKS US, IT'S NOT A THING, IT'S LANGUAGE! But we're no different. We evolved with language. We're more advanced because of language and language is more advanced because of us. And the last I checked a human has never made language cry (aside from those horrible Karaoke songs), but language makes humans cry (and laugh and so on) ever single minute. We are shaped by language and we evolve because language evolves - and vice versa.

Now, of course (once again), I am babbling, and my thoughts are abstract and nonlinear and people will disagree and argue and so on, but we couldn't engage in such activity without it.

So, in conclusion, and since I tie EVERYTHING back to RADIOHEAD (because they created the heavens and the earth)... And this post is no different - as it was inspired by them (in a way). I was listening to their song PARANOID ANDROID. And during the chorus - barely noticable in the background - there is an audio recording of a robot's "voice" saying "I MAY BE PARANOID, BUT NOT AN ANDROID." And with EVERYTHING ELSE (language speaking us, agriculture as a co-evolutionary byproduct, etc.) I thought... try explaning that to this android... that he is not an android. If this thing actually existed - I wish it did - it would be nothing more than a machine that is programmed to feel paranoia and to doubt that it is what it is. I don't think we're much different. Human beings always ascribe their own species as the "BEST" species. I'm sure that penguins would do the same if they had as much denial as we do.

Here's the link to that TED VIDEO I mentioned: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/michael_pollan_gives_a_plant_s_eye_view.html

thefuckingend--sorry if my post is not proper enough to cause the effect of discussion.

PS: I think that people should come here and vent their thoughts more often. Don't use spell-checker and rewrite your thoughts in some WORD filter. Just get these things out of your head, and on to this blog. They're always the most interesting to read. You can recant in class.

...Latin me that, my trinity scholard, our of eure sanscreed into oure eryan!...

I'm currently in the throws of Independent Study of James Joyce's book Finnegans Wake. I just read a particularly entertaining portion and thought I'd share it here. The methods of approaching this book are literally endless, as is the time you could spend studying the book. It is a complete world unto itself made entirely of language (really many languages, forming an entirely unique/universal one [through the sounds]) .

"And there oftafter, jauntyjogging, on an Irish visavis, insteadily with shoulder to shoulder Jehu will tell to Christianier, saint to sage, the humphriad of that fall and rise while daisy winks at her pinker sister among the tussocks and the copoll between the shafts mocks the couple on the car. And as your who may look like how on the owther side of his big belttry your tyrs and cloes your noes and paradigm maymay rererise in eren. Follow we up his whip vindicative. Thurston's! Lo bebold! La arboro, lo petrusu. The augustan peacebetothem oaks, the monolith rising stark from the moonlit pinebarren. In all fortitudinous ajaxious rowdinoisy tenuacity. The angelus hour with ditchers bent upon their farm usetensiles, the soft belling of the fallow deers (doerehmoose genuane!) advertising their milky approach as midnight was striking the hours (letate!), and how brightly the great tribune outed the sharkskin smokewallet (imitation!) from his frock, kippers, and by Joshua, he tips un a topping swank cheroot, none of your swellish soide, quoit the reverse, and how manfally he says, pluk to pluk and lekan for lukan, he was to just pluggy well suck that brown boyo, my son, and spend a whole half hour in Havana. Sorer of the kreeksmen, would not thore be old high gothsprogue! Wherefore he met Master, he mean to say, he do, sire, bester of redpublicans, at Eagle Cock Hostel on Lorenzo Tooley street and how he wished his Honour the bannocks of Gort and Morya and Bri Head and Puddyrick, yore Loudship, and a starchboxsitting in the pit of his St Tomach's, a strange wish for you, my friend, and it would poleaxe your sonson's grandson utterly though your own old sweatandswear floruerunts heaved it hoch many as the times, when they were turrified by the hitz."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Listener Anticipates Speaker's Word Choice: 60 Second Science

60 Second Science from Scientific American

A brief podcast from Scientific American on how we listen to people speak. A transcript exists on the original article page, but I recommend you play the file from here for the full listening effect (for me, it's much too tempting to read along, defeating the purpose of the podcast).

Link to original article

If it isn't working for you here on the blog, I guess you'll have to settle for the above link.

Language 'just happened'

Hopefully this post doesn't loose all credibility based on your perception of my taste in music. I admit it, I am huge fan of Bright Eyes. Conor Oberst is a thoughtful songwriter and I consider him to be quite poetic at times. I was driving the other day and his live album 'Motion Sickness' was swooning me on my drive home. The song 'Scale' on said album [originally on 'Fevers and Mirrors'] had a line that I thought totally relavant to our class and the subject of the origin of language.
"Language just happened, it was never planned. Now it's inadequate to describe where I am..."

As I thought about the discussions we have had about Rosseau's theory, as well as Herder's, I thought Mr. Oberst's definition was also a nice addition. Language seems to be so innate, yet often times, words are imperfect.
A friend of mine once stopped listening to all music that contained words. He thought words ruined the natural beauty of music. He only listened to classical composers and orchestral works. He took it even further to stop watching movies because there was undoubtedly going to be a soundtrack that was not in line with his standard for music.
During his 'fast,' if you will, we had many discussions about music. I realized that the reason I care so much for music is because of the words. I love poetry set to a gentle melody that for me creates an even more meaningful experience than if I were to merely read it.
As my friend simply stated it, "You love words too damn much."
But I'll admit, I am pretty guilty of that.

Hopefully Chomsky will reply to this?

Bonobos May Have Greater Linguistic Skills Than
Previously Thought

According to this article (link below), when linguistic tools used to analyze human language are applied to language-competent bonobos, they show much more potential for linguistic skill - as opposed to when researchers would observe bonobos in more controlled settings.

In a sense, if you give them the human linguistic tools to work with, they show more potential than previously ever thought possible. (Think language speaking bonobos?)

Read this article, it is worth your time (if you haven't already).


Dr. Doolittle...

I am writing this in the hope that it will keep me from experiencing such intense fury during every class discussion. Perhaps it isn’t a bad thing that I get so worked up about language and its meaning, but the frustration I feel is keeping me from moving forward in trying to understand more about what we are studying.
I admit that I’m at fault, in at least one instance, but the conversation keeps heading this direction and I feel like it has to be addressed. I can’t contain my thoughts on this issue any further. We cannot prove that animals have language, and attempts to prove such by any logical argument will be futile.
I’m sure I’m pissing off a myriad of people. That’s okay. I will accept my role as pariah. This is something that people obviously feel passionately about from many perspectives, but for the sake of my sanity, I must say something about it.
I said in class on Friday that when humans say “ow!” in instances of pain it is no different than a dog whimpering when it is hurting. This was in no way intended to show that animals have language, but rather that our utterances in pain are primal in nature and can thus be void of content and convention. Our understanding of them as anything more, as a mode of communication for instance, is an assertion of our captivity in language and society. The fact that we view an animal’s vocal responses to painful stimuli as a type of language is too an instance of us placing the rules of our language games onto a situation where they are unnecessary. Basically, the noises made by any animal (human or otherwise) are not language or communication until we assign meaning to them, which we are prone to do, given language’s governance over the human experience as we know it.
Human beings are fascinating in the sense that we are wholly dependent on one another for our existence. The length of time that the human infant is reliant on another for its well-being seems to be exceedingly long (wherein we are not only reliant on another source for food, but also for mobility). I would argue that in this critical period we become so entrenched in language that there is no way for us to ever escape it. I say this because the moment we exit the womb we are bombarded with stimuli imbued with meaning, and we slowly learn how to respond in ways that others understand. We cannot help but learn how to speak the language in at least some way, to ease our own burdens as well as those of others. The minute a baby can learn to sign or say milk there is much less room for pangs of hunger that would result in a visceral, primal cry. I can concede the point that humans and other animals alike emit sounds in times of pain, or even pleasure; however, in humans those sounds are quickly responded to by another’s care at infancy so we quickly learn that we can make sounds to indicate need/desire. It is in humans and domestic animals that we see a quick response to noises that could be nothing more than a reflex in the nervous system. It can certainly be the case that an animal could make sounds in response to stimuli with never an answer.
It’s not that I don’t want to see animals communicating with humans or one another, I’m the first to talk to my dogs, or a horse I see; I imagine that they are communicating with me, too. However, I recognize this as an indulgence I allow myself in taking the rules and cues that govern language, perception and understanding and applying them to the world around me. I yearn to anthropomorphize the things I come in contact with, and I think we all do. By what other means are we to understand other creatures that seem so like us?
I know the response. Well, what about the way my dog gets excited whenever I say “walk” or “treat”? Why then does my horse come to me when I call its name? Why can a monkey learn sign language? To me, the response is fairly clear. It would be foolish for me to argue that an animal is unable to learn to respond to stimuli in a very specific way. For the same reasons that birds fly away when a predator pounces at them or animals seek shelter during thunderstorms, our animals learn that doing certain actions in the presence of certain beings increases the probability of food. Complex stimuli yielding complex responses does not language make, as there are physical, biological and chemical responses, even at the atomic level, that will respond in complex ways to complex stimuli.
We must recognize that as humans, bound in language, we are always going to describe and understand things by way of language. There is not a way for us to express the world around us, especially the actions of creatures that seem so like us, without using language at least as a referent, beyond its role as the means by which we make our stamp upon the world.
I say all of this not because I want people to stop conversing with their puppies or houseplants even. By all means, continue this if it provides you with a pleasing psychological effect, I know it does me. But let us not be so egotistical, so anthropocentric to think that because we as humans function in such a way, so too must the rest of the world mirror our motives and actions. Rather, let us move from the question of whether or not animals can and do talk to each other and us, and instead focus on the effect language has and can have on other humans and the world itself as its consequences far outweigh the importance of its origin.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rap Battle Gone Bad Translated

I found this video while Stumbling the other day. It's a video of a rap battle that has been translated into proper English. Very funny when put this way, but also makes you realize how language can be changed so much by different demographics and cultures to fit their own purposes.
Rap Battle Gone Bad Translated - Watch more free videos

Cause of Death

A painting done by Bruno S., the man who played Kaspar Hauser in Herzog's film. It's called "Todesursache," or Cause of Death.

Peter Nadas, "Fire and Knowledge"

In July, Deborah Eisenberg published a review of the Hungarian writer's newly translated book of fiction and essays. One of the essays, "Homecoming," includes musings by the author after early successes as a writer:

These torments increased to the point where after the execution of a few polished short stories, not only did I become dissatisfied with my sentences, but I also felt the punctuation of my sentences was invalid and false. Commas and periods, dashes and question marks: they were all false. I found paragraphs even more repulsive. . . .

I felt I was putting punctuation marks here or there because that's how others were doing it, without comprehending their relation to me; so my marks had only a global meaning but no personal value. And the more faithfully I served this consensually accepted global sense, the more I distanced myself from my personal requirements.

In other words, language was speaking him.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cna yuo raed tihs?

Fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too!

Suteids sohw taht olny aoubt 55 prcenet of plepoe cna (atculley trheer is no scuh sudty). I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. Tihs sohws us the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are in, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pclae. The rset of the txet cna be a taotl mses adn you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but isntaed raeds the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and we awlyas tghuhot slpelnig was ipmorantt!

I looked into it far enough to confirm that there is absolutely no such study on this topic at an English university.

Oaky, nwo erveoyne, qciukly sned tihs to yuor fvaortie Eginslh tahceer.

Boycotts Through Barcodes

While discussing Kaspar Hauser the other day, the comment was made that language was "embedded" in his surroundings. This comment seems to fit with an experience I had while living and studying in Prishtina, Kosovo in 2006.

By the time I began studying at the University of Prishtina, seven years had elapsed since the Kosovo War of 1999. Seven years may seem like a long time to an outsider, but it is taking Kosovo a long time to recover from the conflict, and feelings of animosity toward Serbia are very apparent in everyday life.

When I first moved to Kosovo, one of the first things I noticed were posters like this one plastered all over the city:
The text translates as "Boycott Serbian products/ Boycott this barcode/ Hurt Serbia, help Kosova." I discovered that the first three digits of any barcode, or universal product code (UPC), indicate where a product was manufactured (or, as is the case for many American products, it indicates what country the item was produced for). This numerical code, which is often ignored by consumers, has become an item of major interest for Kosovars. In the interest of "hurting Serbia and helping Kosova," many Kosovars actively avoid any product whose UPC begins with "860." I still remember standing in the aisle of Ben-Af supermarket with a Serbian bag of flour in one hand (860) and a Croatian bag in the other (385) and wondering what kind of difference my selection would actually make.

To this day, I find that I still check the UPC on many products, trying to ascertain more information on the item. I learned that we really are surrounded by language in all forms, whether it be in speech, text, or somehow "embedded" in code or symbols. It's just a matter of how much attention we want to devote to these embedded forms.

A language dies on planet Earth every two weeks.

There are about 7,000 languages existing in the world today. Eighty percent of people living in the world today speak the widely-spread 83 languages, and only 0,2 percent interact in rare 3,500 languages.

Languages die quicker than Red Book animals. There are five disastrous areas for languages in the world: North Australia (153 languages), Central and South America (113), including Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, North Pacific Plateau (54), including British Columbia in Canada, Washington and Oregon in the USA, North American Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, Russian Eastern Siberia, China and Japan (23). To put it in a nutshell, 383 languages are in danger of disappearing for good.

A language may at time disappear immediately when the last person speaking it passes away. For example, there is only one person left speaking Siletz Dee-ni – the last language of 27 used by Indians residing in Siletz reservation. This language has practically died. As a rule, the youngest of those speaking rare languages are aged over 60. Only five elderly individuals speak Yuchi language in Oklahoma, for instance.

Rare languages mostly disappear being unable to compete with other tongues. In North and South America aboriginal dialects were ousted by European languages – Spanish, English and French. In Australia, numerous conflicts between aboriginal tribes and white settlers caused a precarious situation of many languages.

A similar situation was formed in Soviet Siberia, were authorities contributed to the extinction of a number of local languages, making local residents speak dialects of various Siberian regions.

About a half of all world languages have never been written down. When the last person speaking this language dies, the language disappears. The death of a language means the disappearance of everything else, that a nation had: their own world, their knowledge of time, biology, mathematics, etc.

Professor Sergei Arutyunov, the head of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, considers the process to be the natural aging of languages. “This is a matter of the natural aging of languages. On the other hand, if 20 languages disappear every year, then it means than 2,000 languages will vanish in a hundred years. This could be a cultural tragedy for the human civilization. In Russia, for example, one language disappears every year. About 20 languages died in the USSR during the last 20 years of its existence. I at least know two of those languages,” the professor said.

Arutyumov sees no connection between the extinction of languages and globalization. “A language dies only when a small group of elderly people speaking it is left, whereas younger people refuse to use this language. Globalization and language is a different story,” the scientist said.

This data was published by David Harrison, a linguist and deputy director of Living Tongues Institute, USA.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Date to Remember

Last fall for an anthropology paper I read a book entitled Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Confrontational Times by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg. The book is a series of short essays about language and is a really fun read. Under the section SYMBOLS is an essay about how we talk about/represent/symbolize important historical events and why. He mentions 9/11 and I thought today would be a good day to share it.
Nunberg is insightful, clever and quite entertaining. I highly recommend this book and it's fairly inexpensive on Amazon. You'll probably hear more about Nunberg from me as the semester progresses so I thought this would be a good place to start. Click on the pages to view them full size.


Hi everyone. I have been involved with the touchstones Literary journal for almost two years now and this semester i am Editor-in-chief. Each semester i am so excited to see the talent of UVU's students in the form of Poetry, prose and Art and this semester is no different.

The word "Touchstone" was coined by the english poet and critic, Matthew Arnold, in his essay "The Study of Poetry" (1880). Arnold refers to a touchstone as a quotation from a recognized poetic masterpiece employed as a standard of instant comparison for judging the value of other works. Literally a touchstone is a hard stone of the kind once used for testing the quality of Gold or Silver.- Dr. Laura Hamblin

Just from the posts and comments on this blog i have been impressed with others writing and so i wanted to extend the invitation for you all to submit to this fall issue.

Touchstones Literary Journal wants to publish your work. We are looking for fresh and innovative poetry, prose, art, photography, and drama from students of all disciplines. This is a great opportunity to receive recognition for your art or creative writing and will look fantastic on resumes and graduate school applications. Those chosen for publication will receive a free copy of the Fall 2008 issue of Touchstones and could have a chance to read their piece (if they so choose) at the My Word release party this December. So submit and make history by having your work printed in the first University publication of Touchstones. Forms are available in LA 114 or or online at http://research.uvsc.edu/touchstones/entryform.html Submissions must be turned in to the English Department (LA 114) by October 3rd at 5pm.

Thank you,Touchstones Editorial Staff

"ODE?" TO THE DAY of 9/11

The symbolism of mathematics within our experience:

9/10 = 9+10=19=Teenager

9/11=9.1.1=HELP!!!= Life changes forever

9/12=9+12=21= Now we are adults.?!

Evolutionary Identity Language Mutation Syndrome

I m A iMAL
I m A iMAL
I m a iMAL
I m a iMAL
I m a iMAN
I m a iMAN
I m a iMAN
I m a iMAN
I m a iMAN
I m a iMAN
Im a iMAN
I’m a iMAN
I’m a iMAN
I’m a iMAN
I’m a iMaN
I’m a iMaN
I’m a iMan
I’m a iMan
I’m a iMan
I’m a iMan
I’m a iMan
I’m a Man
I’m a Man
I’m a Man
I’m a Man
I’m a Man
I’m a Man
I’m aMan
I’m Man
I’m Man
I’m Man
I’m Mam
I’m Mam
Im Mam
Im Mam
Im Mam
Im am
Im am
Im am
I am

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That explains it

As I was walking after class, recovering from my tearful episode in the bathroom,
moved to tears by language,
by Alex,
by how Alex uses language,
I was reminded of a letter recently received from a friend--
and it actually wasn't a letter, but an email,
and it actually wasn't a friend, but an unrequited love.
And like they dissected Kaspar Hauser, I dissected his words of apology,
dissected them until there was no meaning left,
only letters,
only insignificant letters--
trying to figure him out,
trying with all my broken heart to find some explanation,
to find the abnormal brain and liver,
to explain it.
It was then I understood that life is a riddle--not all can or should be explained.
There is no absolute knowledge.
And in that I found beauty.
And in that I found peace.

Vow of Silence

I wouldn't call it a "vow" really, but maybe a brief experimentation with silence. This Friday - from midnight until 11:59pm - I will not say one word all day (hopefully). I am just going to listen to everything, without ever worrying what I am going to say in response.

AND just so my post isn't so bland. I always enjoy watching this:

Excuse this interruption

But this is what is being said:
Language Scraps

word cloud made by wordle.net

Bruno S. Rocks the Squeezebox...


On Kaspar Hauser

This is a clip of the Wikipedia entry for Bruno Schleinstein, the actor that played the part of Kaspar Hauser in the Werner Herzog film of the same name. His acting style to me, was that of inhabiting the character instead of affecting a character (Prof. Caldiero also pointed this out in class)

quote follows:

"Bruno Schleinstein (born 2nd June 1932) is a German film actor, artist, and musician.

The illegitimate son of a prostitute, he was often beaten as a child, and spent much of his life in mental institutions. He is a largely self-taught musician, who, over the years developed considerable skill on the piano, accordion and glockenspiel. He would play in back gardens performing 18th and 19th century style ballads at the weekends, while sustaining himself financially working as a forklift driver at a car plant.

Schleinstein was spotted by director Werner Herzog in the documentary Bruno der Schwarze - Es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (1970). Herzog promptly cast Schleinstein (under the name Bruno S.) as his lead actor in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), even though he had no acting experience.

Schleinstein also starred in Stroszek (1977), which Herzog wrote especially for him in four days. Stroszek has a number of biographical details from Schleinstein's life, including the use of his own flat as the home of Bruno Stroszek. He also plays his own instruments.

Herzog has claimed that Schleinstein was deeply suspicious of the director, and nervous of performing in front of the cameras — so had to be "listened to" for several hours on set in order to build his self-esteem.

Schleinstein remains somewhat enigmatic and has not acted since. Instead, he took up painting and music. Some of his artwork was shown at the 2004 Outsider Art Fair in New York City. He has now stopped smoking and drinking, and performs nightly. Recently, he released a CD of his music and songs."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Werner Herzog Eats a Shoe

Thanks to my friend Grabbo and now this class, I'm becoming a huge fan of Werner Herzog. I recently watched "Even Dwarfs Started Small" and was again blown away by Herzog's craft. I find his films to have the most compelling little tidbits of dialogue. From EDSS: "When we behave, no one cares. When we are bad, no one forgets us."

Anyway, I happened across this fantastic clip of Werner Herzog eating a shoe. Apparently he does a lot of crazy things on bets lost, and always follows through (When 2 actors were injured in Even Dwarfs Started Small, he promised that if they could make it through finishing the film he would jump into a patch of cacti, and he did, to be left pulling needles out of his skin for 6 months). Here, he had said, if Errol Morris finishes the film Gates of Heaven, then I will eat my shoe. Enjoy.

More non-verbal communication

As I have been taking ASL for my language requirement for Integrated studies, i have been extremely fascinated with this whole new world of communication to me. I've been lucky enough to have had 4 different teachers so far, each giving a whole new view on Deaf culture and a whole slew of nuances and social practices and interesting actions and even rules of conduct. Even the humour is fantastic.
One instance was one of the Deaf teachers walking by a couple of friends and I in the hall. As she passed she made the sign for "Hi" to each of us one by one. Smiling jovially, she made the sign for "H" which is formed like you are making a gun shape with your index finger and middle finger extended, palm facing yourself, and angled horizontally. This is followed swiftly by the Letter "I." This flows from the "H" raising your hand to a vertical position and all fingers but your pinky, folded down into your palm which is still facing you. "H+I= HI."

Well the last of us sitting in the hall recieved the "H" but then was shocked when instead of the raised pinky, she recieved the extended Middle finger and a devilish smile. There was a moment of disbelief that a teacher had flipped her off but then we were all laughing. Now, every time we see that teacher, we give her the "HI-middle finger salute."
This is just one of the many fascinating exchanges i have had while exposing myself to a new language.

Word order?

I heard this story on the radio the other morning at 5 am as I was driving to teach yoga. The word play in the last line struck my funny bone, so I got on the internet to look up the text of the article. The website is http://www.komonews.com/news/offbeat/27091779.html, but here is the text!

By Associated Press
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Life can get a little lonely for bachelors in the Australian Outback mining town of Mount Isa. So the mayor has offered up a solution: recruit ugly women.Mayor John Molony found himself under attack Monday over comments he made to a local newspaper that read: "May I suggest if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa."The mayor added that many women who already live in the remote Queensland state town seem quite happy."Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face," he continued. "Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness."The quotes, published Saturday in the Townsville Bulletin, sparked outrage among the town's female population, led to furious online debates and drew criticism from the local chamber of commerce."There's a lot of anger circulating among the community at the moment - a lot of passionate anger," Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce manager Patricia O'Callaghan said Monday. "There's a lot of women voicing their opinions."Molony declined to elaborate on his comments Monday except to say they were "twisted and warped" by the newspaper."I've been shredded," he added, before hanging up the phone.The situation may not be quite as dire as Molony noted. According to the 2006 census, males made up 52.6 percent of the town's population of nearly 20,000.

And several local women said there aren't a lot of gems to be found among Mount Isa's men, either."We've got a saying up here that the odds are good, but the goods are odd," 27-year-old Anna Warrick told The Brisbane Times.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"Understanding is secondary......"

In the final episode of the movie Kaspar Hauser today, this line jumped out at me:
"understanding is secondary, reasoning is the thing."
This led me to ponder the issue - do we use a language to model reasoning or do we use language to deliver understanding. It reminded me of a "contextual" study I learned about a few years ago. Written language has the ability to deliver its message regardless of its order, if we are familiar with the words. As long as the first and last letter are in the right place, all the other letters can be jumbled and our brain can decipher the meaning. Aren't we amazing creatures! Here is the text - see if you can read it.

The phenomenal power of the human mind

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdaniegThe phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid! Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer inwaht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.

NOTE: I read this somewhere and I just had to pass it around. I do not know the origins of the text

Sunday, September 7, 2008

30 Days: "F Word" free...

If there were a twelve step program for habitual cursers, I'd be in it. I am addicted to swear words. I don't know what it is about these words that society has marked "bad", but, they are the driving force behind most of my conversation.

I'm not afraid to admit that I get a little thrill from the shocked look on someone's face when I drop those higher echelon swears. You can take your bullshits and sonuvabitches, I prefer to take it all the way, the motherf*ckers, the c*nts.

Now normally in writing, I wouldn't have bothered to "censor" (as if replacing a letter with another symbol is somehow less offensive) the above words, but you see, I'm on a quest. Starting on Saturday I started my journey toward being 30 days "F word" free.

I have a theory that I want to test, and figure that with all the thought and discussion about language itself I'll be encountering over the next few months, now is the best possible time to put my hypothesis to work.

I have never thought that words themselves carry any inherent offense, so the fact that people get riled up over a particular arrangement of letters has always seemed to be a bit absurd to me. I have never wanted to limit my expression based on the fact that I might offend, so I haven't. I'm a workplace curser, a teacher who cusses, a foul-mouthed gal, and I'm ok with that, in fact, I really like it. I like pushing peoples buttons with a few well-placed utterances.

However, I have realized of late that I am losing control of my language. I notice it in my writing, and I certainly notice it as I speak. I feel at times like I suffer from Tourette's, all based on my relationship with this single four-letter word, that mother of all American swears...F*CK.

I can't control it coming out of my mouth. From "F*ck you!" to "Motherf*cker" to "What the f*ck?" it peppers nearly every conversation I have. There's something so satisfying about that ffffff sound countered by that hard CK. That word means business. It's hard for me to not use it to describe the feeling, that uttering the word feels just so f*cking great. And that's part of the problem, right? I was always told when I was younger that swearing was a feeble mind's attempt to express itself. Knowing myself to not be feeble, it seemed alright for these words to stand in for others, because I knew those other words, and swears fit better. I'm not a swearer by ignorance, but rather a curser by choice...at least I once was. Now, in conversation my mind reels to find the word that fits in that slot, and admittedly, that list feels much shorter than it ought be, and the hole seems to be shaped in such a way that only the so-called f word fits well.

This makes me incredibly anxious. For countless reasons, I am a control-freak, and become overwhelmed with panic when I can't regulate a situation that should be in my realm of control. Hence, the 30 day challenge.

I don't want to give this word up forever. I love this word, but, I realize that it needs to be taken out of the rotation for awhile. It needs a rest. I need a rest. So for 30 days, I will be without it, and its shoddy substitutes. When I want to say f*ck, I will not say "eff" or "freak", I will find another word to suit my needs. I realize that for awhile I will be at a loss (I've already noticed it over the weekend) but am hoping that other words will make their way back into my vocabulary so that when I actually need the f-word it will be relevant and not just a filler.

I'm also hoping that the emotional/psychological consequences will manifest themselves in a positive way. I'm beginning to think that while we might be able to speak a taboo word and recognize the fact that its nature as something taboo is societally imposed, and thus not essentially that way, we are still impacted by using it. Because a word can carry the baggage of rage and hate and misanthropy, I'm hoping that by taking it out of my arsenal I can eliminate some of these emotions from running rampant in my own experience.

I'll be keeping record of this experience at my other blog and think that the whole process could prove to be interesting (if not maddening).

Interdisciplinarity, Language Evolution, and a Fascinating Blog

Yesterday, on my blog The Goalie's Anxiety, I posted the following:

Near the end of her book "The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language," Christine Kenneally writes the following:

"It's clear by now that the problem of language evolution is completely intractable when you approach it from the perspective of a single discipline. For all the salient questions to be answered, the multidisciplinary nature of the field will have to become even more so. So far, it has taken years for individuals in different departments to start talking, to develop research questions that make sense for more than one narrow line of inquiry, and to start talking, to develop research questions that make sense for more than one narrow line of inquiry, and to start to understand one another's points of view. The field of language evolution needs students who can synthesize information from neuroscience, psychology, computer modeling, genetics and linguistics. The more this happens, the richer and wider the field will become, instead of devolving around one or two theoretical issues."

The book as a whole is a fascinating exercise in just this kind of synthesizing, and the author is a prime example of someone who understands and relays information from a variety of fields.

In response, a blogger from Germany posted this, and I think he's right on:

I think you are precisely right in stressing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration regarding the questions of language evolution and language origins given that it may very well be one of the "Hardest Problem[s] in Science" which requires the integration of data from at least "“psycholinguistics, linguistics, psychology, primatology, philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, biology, neuroscience, neuropsychology, neurophysiology, cognitive science, and computational linguistics” (Christiansen/Kirby 2003b: 2).

The most important thing is making students aware that the topic can be tackled by them but that they need to collaborate with other people to get further.

If you're interested in the topic, you might want to check out Edmund Blair Bolles' excellent blog "about the origins of speech", Babel's Dawn,

and the work of linguist Ray Jackendoff. 


Take a look at his own blog, Shared Symbolic Storage, at

What does it mean to be bilingual?

Bilingualism is the ability to use two languages with equal fluency, and to sound like a native in both. Young children are naturally designed to acquire what ever language(s) they are regularly exposed to. Although adults can study a second language to a high, even fluent, standard, they rarely manage to avoid a foreign accent. That's why true bilingualism has to start early in life - and why you don't need to be 'good at languages' to be bilingual.

The language you speak is closely bound up with your sense of identity, and how you view the world: being bilingual can make you feel at home in a wider set of social situations, and can give you two slightly different ways of looking at things.
Even where two languages are quite similar and you can function perfectly in either of them, things feel different in different languages. Robin puts it like this: "I feel a slightly different person speaking (or thinking) German than English - like everything's slightly more focussed."
It's rare to come across people who are not glad to be bilingual. Letizia in West London says that her children "are very proud to be half English and half Mexican and to be able to speak two languages."
Web reader Sandra sees practical benefits too: "I'm quite proud of being able to speak and understand Polish, as I know it will help in the future - now that Poland are part of the EU, maybe more people will learn it."
Speaking two languages is thought to increase cognitive abilities. In other words, bilingual children often get better mark! Bilinguals are more employable, and earn more on average than monolinguals. They're even healthier in old age! A study at the University of York in Canada in 2004 suggested that speaking two languages can help keep you mentally agile. Bilingual volunteers had faster reaction times than their monolingual counterparts and were less likely to suffer from mental decline in old age.
Bethan from Llanrug believes that bilingualism for its own sake is positive: "Children who are raised in a bilingual household are proven to do better at school as well as being more tolerant of diversity and minorities. In today's climate this can only be a good thing."
New parents who are considering bringing their offspring up to be bilingual will find plenty of information and advice on the internet. The excellent Nethelp site contains a wealth of invaluable personal experience and handbag.com has a guide to the different approaches.
If you're only fluent in one language and are feeling jealous, don't despair. You don't have to be fully bilingual to feel the benefits of a second language. Harpal Singh from Glasgow was inspired to learn Gaelic by the late Radio Scotland presenter, Ali Abbasi: "Learning Gaelic makes me feel more Scottish and I recommend that everybody at least tries to pick up a few words. Tapadh leibh!"

For further reading:
Growing up with two languages by Una Cunningham-Andersson and Staffan Andersson.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Language and Identity

In class we are speaking about how language contributes largely to our identity (or how Language Speaks Us). While thinking about this I drew (with my lack of artistic talent) a picture of Elliott Smith (Born 1969 - Died 2003: from the portrait of him standing in a black shirt, holding an umbrella - picture below), but instead of drawing with lines, I used only lyrics from his songs, album titles, or quotes of his (and once I used his name). I'm positive it won't show up in the picture with how small it will be displayed, but I put a bigger copy up on a link (at the bottom) so hopefully you can click that and zoom up to see some of the letters/words/lyrics/language.

I'm obviously not "showing off" any type of talent in drawing ability - I rarely draw - just a fun idea that I enjoyed bringing to life. I call it: "Elliott Smith, A Man of Many Words"

I will turn in the original drawing with my Notes & Scraps.

Link to a (hopefully) larger image of it: http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f16/JorgensPhotography/elliottsmithletter.jpg

Here is the original picture:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Do we keep track of what our words mean

One of my professors LOVES the word "sophistication" and tells us that we aren't "sophisticated" enough if we don't agree with his views. This led me to track down the origins of the word and here they are:

Word Origin:
c.1400, "use or employment of sophistry," from M.L. sophisticationem (nom. sophisticatio), from sophisticare "adulterate, cheat quibble," from L. sophisticus "of sophists," from Gk. sophistikos "of or pertaining to a sophist," from sophistes "a wise man, master, teacher" (see sophist). Meaning "wordly wisdom, refinement, discrimination" is attested from 1850; sophisticated (of persons) "worldly wise, discriminating, refined" is attested from 1895.

Sophistry: 1340, from O.Fr. sophistrie, from M.L. sophistria, from L. sophista, sophistes (see sophist).

Sophist: 1542, earlier sophister (c.1380), from L. sophista, sophistes, from Gk. sophistes, from sophizesthai "to become wise or learned," from sophos "wise, clever," of unknown origin. Gk. sophistes came to mean "one who gives intellectual instruction for pay," and, contrasted with "philosopher," it became a term of contempt. Ancient sophists were famous for their clever, specious arguments.

Current Dictionary Meaning:

1. sophisticated character, ideas, tastes, or ways as the result of education, worldly experience, etc.: the sophistication of the wealthy.
2. change from the natural character or simplicity, or the resulting condition.
3. complexity, as in design or organization.
4. impairment or debasement, as of purity or genuineness.
5. the use of sophistry; a sophism, quibble, or fallacious argument.

1. a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
2. a false argument; sophism.

Sophist: (often initial capital letter ) Greek History.
1. any of a class of professional teachers in ancient Greece who gave instruction in various fields, as in general culture, rhetoric, politics, or disputation.
2. a person belonging to this class at a later period who, while professing to teach skill in reasoning, concerned himself with ingenuity and specious effectiveness rather than soundness of argument.
3. a person who reasons adroitly and speciously rather than soundly.
4. a philosopher.

My point? If we use a word to symbolize and define ourselves, watch out for alternate meanings which might also be appropriately attributable!!!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nonverbal communication

What I've found interesting in this class isn't the value of verbal or even written language, but rather body language. At the beginning of the class during the discussion in two different languages, I honestly felt that more communication was achieved through gestures than words.

Nonverbal communication adds yet another facet to determining our identity, if we assume that how we communicate with others includes our clothing, hairstyle, etc. And, since it’s more superficial than our verbal communication (is it?), it adds a new perspective to consider when we ask ourselves how much our identity depends on how we use language to present ourselves to our world.

Experience and commonality

We all use language to connect with each other. In fact, that seems to be the only method we have. When initiating conversations, we often start by comparing experiences. This is a way of determining whether we have anything in common with the other person, attempting to forge a bond and deciding whether the interaction is worth continuing.

But everyone's life is different. And if that's true, then no two people can ever have the exact same experience. No matter how much we have in common with another person, we can never experience life the same way they do because their background is 100% different from ours. Therefore, all experiences are inherently unique.

Almost all of human interaction is us trying to convince each other we share any kind of common ground. But how can I say I know what anyone else is talking about when I'm still trying to interpret the implications of my own life's events? Not that it's all down to people's backgrounds, but I wonder if empathy is just a way to pretend that everybody experiences life the same way we do. That there are any universals. We might speak the same language, but we all experience a subjective dialect.