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May 2006 - Posts

  • What a mess!

    OK, I may have been nervous about starting to do my transcription work on my own, but I was definitely ready and willing. I set all my materials out on the dining room table and got my tape recorder borrowed from my pal Mike. I sharpened my pencil and got out a clean pad of paper. I was ready...I popped in the tape...and it was so filled with interference and white noise that I could barely make out what was being said. So much for my free but gently-used and inexpensive tape recorder. I decided to not become terribly discouraged, so I hopped in the car and ventured across town to Best Buy. In all of Best Buy, there was only a single tape cassette walkman available. It was around thirty-five dollars, so I figured "what the heck" and bought it. I made sure to check about the return policy, because I had a sneaking suspicion that this was not going to work either. I got back home and set things up to work with my new tape player. I decided it would be best to use my iPod earbuds to work since the sound would get closer to my ear. Well, it was a little better, but it was still pretty bad. I was starting to get pretty discouraged, so I decided to visit my good friend the Internet and see what was available for better systems from ebay and amazon.com. I ended up finding a really nice refurbished tape/transcription system from a dealer that appeared pretty reputable. I read six different positive reviews about the dealer, so I decided to give it a go. I ended up with a nearly $600 system for only about $100. Not too shabby. I guess that my fun times with transcription will have to wait until it comes in the mail. I decided to go ahead and splurge for an extra ten dollars for expedited shipping, so I should have it in just a day or two. This new transcription system has a bunch of great features that you would not typically find on a regular tape deck. It has controls for tone, speed, and pitch, as well as a foot pedal to control the stop and go. It's hands-free transcription! I'm pretty excited about my purchase. I know that things are moving into a digital age, but I think that the old-fashioned way of transcription still works out very well, especially for the kind of intricate work that I'm going to need to do. Other types of transcription can be done in a digital format, and I suppose that I can even turn my tapes into a digital format once I'm done with them as well. I'm sure Dr Josserand and Dr Hopkins will also be pretty pleased with my purchase. It will be a great thing to have for when I get up to Indiana. I've read some of the course descriptions for the various classes that I have to take, and several of them involve doing transcriptions. Hopefully I'll learn enough to have a head start on the rest of the class!
    Posted May 31 2006, 08:26 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Walking the walk

    Well here it is, a scary but exciting day where I have to put what I know in my head out on paper. You might think that I know what I'm doing when it comes to phonetics and phonology from the last week's worth of posts on my blog, but I've never had to put all that stuff to practical use. Over the past week, since my phonetics lesson with Dr Hopkins, I've sat down once or twice to mess around with the elicitation recording that I made at that meeting. I was able to get through the first few words on the list, but they were the ones that we had already done together as a group. Today, I will sit down with a keen ear and a fresh mindset and venture into previously uncharted territory. I will be attempting to transcribe all the words on the elicitation recording and analyze them narrowly. I'm sure that I will have bumps along the way, and I'll definitely have a lot of questions for Dr Hopkins at our meeting later this week. I'm ready for the challenge though. I've been doing this linguistics thing for over a year now, and I guess it's time to see what I've learned. I suppose that from my last few posts it seems that I can talk the talk, and now we'll see if I can walk the walk. Wish me luck! I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow...
    Posted May 30 2006, 10:23 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Shortening the school week

    I have grown to be an avid reader of many of the online news sites. Most people out there might decide on just one site, be it MSNBC, CNN, or BBCnews, but I have discovered that each of them has it's own strengths to offer. By perusing through the various sites (those I listed and others) you have a better chance of finding more interesting news. Sometimes, it appears that the best stories are found more at the local level of news. The international news agencies and the larger domestic news agencies (New York Post, Washington Post, etc.) simply do not have the time or the space to cover things other than the really big news. I was looking through the CNN.com Education News page this morning when I came across an article about school districts that are in the process of shortening the school week. Apparently, many school districts (over one thousand of them) in nine different states have decided to go ahead and put forward local legislation permitting the shortening of the school week. These school districts are often in very rural areas where the rising costs of fuel, both for bus transportation and for heating and/or cooling the schools, has created a great number of monetary problems for the districts. The districts have removed Friday from the school week and have instead lengthened the other four school days by just over an hour in order to meet federal guidelines for the amount of school hours attended per year. Friday will now be just another day of the weekend! I just can't believe that I'm actually reading this! Is funding for education in rural areas so bad that students can not continue to go to school in the same capacity as their peers around the rest of the country? Do you suppose that this will have any detrimental effects on the students, the community, or their chances on attending institutions of higher education? How might these students compare to others in neighboring districts that have the "full week" experience after an entire school career? Wow! There are just so many ifs, ands, and buts about the situation.
    Posted May 29 2006, 01:44 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Slow goings

    At our weekly Senari meeting, things got off to a bumpy start since it had been several weeks since the last time we got to working on all the grammar-related goodies of the language. The last time that we had actually worked on the tales as a whole was over three weeks ago before Dr Josserand's trip. You might remember that during the time of her trip, Sidiky and I got together to work and got through about five pages of the newest tale. Although we made some progress, we decided to leave the difficult parts that we weren't sure about until Dr Josserand returned. This definitely gave us a false sense of progress as we would find out at a later time. The following week was our phonetics and phonology lesson with Dr Hopkins, so we didn't actually do any work on the tale. So, with three weeks separating us from our last meeting, we decided to delve back into the new tale full on. I don't think that I've actually explained anything about this new tale yet, so it's probably a good time to do so. Sidiky, in addition to being a teacher and scholar, is also a very gifted story teller in the tradition of his people. I have heard a tape recording of his telling of the story that we have been working on, and it is very entertaining just to hear the story and not even see it. The vivid telling of the story combined with the interesting qualities of Nafara make hearing the story very exciting. The original tale that I have discussed in so many of my posts is the one as told by Sidiky. We also have several transcribed versions of the same tale as told by other story-tellers with whom Sidiky has come into contact. Over a month ago, we finished working with the Sidiky-version of the tale and decided to move on to another. A gentleman named Kolo told the same story that Sidiky had but with several differences that we would later notice. One of the main differences that has been most difficult for me is that Kolo uses a lot of different vocabulary, some alternate constructions, and even some unusual forms of the discuss markers and aspects compared to what we have been accustomed to. Sidiky explained that Kolo is likely more influenced by other dialects of Senari, especially Tyebaara. Where these two dialects may be mutually intelligible, they have the ability to throw non-native speakers for a loop. Within Kolo's version of the tale, there is also vocabulary borrowed from both Dyula and French. This only adds to the fun of trying to determine exactly what is going on and why. Our meeting was spent addressing many of the difficulties that Sidiky and I had skipped over in our one-on-one meeting. It made progress appear slow, but it was good that things finally got ironed out.
    Posted May 28 2006, 01:21 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Dealing with new sounds

    Now that we've talked a bit about the different kinds of sounds that we, as humans, are able to produce, we can discuss why not everyone makes the same sounds. I've tried to explain over my past few posts about how it is necessary to categorize and analyze the different sounds that are present in words from a language. What a linguist will find is that there are differences, sometimes apparent and sometimes subtle, in the sounds that speakers of particular languages are able to produce. Some of these sounds differences are present even among speakers of the same language. Subtle differences in vowels and some consontants are the materials that produce dialectival differences in any particular language. Being from upstate New York, I know that my native Syracuse /a/ is going to be different from the New York City /a/ or the Boston /a/. These /a/s will be more similar to one another but maybe rather different from a midwest /a/ or Chicago /a/. These subtle differences are often what we unconsciously use to determine where people are from. There are some people who have more or less of an accent than others. I would like to think that my upstate New York accent is virtually invisible in my regular speech, but I know that when I get tired, upset, or perhaps have a few too many tasty beverages, the accent comes flying out. Other individuals, and I would put myself in this category as well, have the ability to style shift to adopt the dialectival sound patterns of those with whom they are speaking. People may say they have "picked up an accent", but they are merely style shifting. You may be learning a completely new sound when doing this style shifting, or you maybe simply redistributing a particular sound for a different use. Learning or redistributing these unfamiliar sounds is one of the biggest problems with truly learning a new or foreign language. We may be able to learn all the grammar, syntax, and lexicon available for a particular language, but if we can not properly use the sounds of a native speaker, then we are not truly speaking the language. I tried testing myself on this exact point just this morning. I was reading in my book about the phonetics of African languages in which examples are given in both French and English. The authors often contrast the vowel sounds of these two languages to make their point. I was able to use my pronunciation of the two languages to prove their points to myself. I'm not saying that my French is perfect by any means, but I have at least learned the different sounds of the two languages so my French sounds "less American." A difficulty exists as I continue to learn Nafara (and I'm sure it will carry over to Bambara for a while) that many of the sounds (or combinations of sounds) in the language are those that I have never heard or used. My only exposure to many of them comes from my work with Sidiky over the past year, during which time I have tried to practice continually as I hear him. One of the most elusive sounds that I have encountered is the labio-velar stop..../kp/ or /gb/. You may recognize from my last several posts that these sounds differ in only one feature.....what is it???? Come on..../kp/ is unvoiced and /gb/ is voiced. When first learning this complex new sound, it seems that Dr Josserand and I both attempted to Anglicize the sounds by separating them into something like /kahpuh/ or /guhbuh/. As I have read in my African phonetics book, the sounds are actually produced as one. These sounds are known as double stops. The physical side of it is that the tongue contact with the velum creates the first stop, while the lips coming together creates the second. The plosive results from a single release of air at the same time. This creates of deeper sound than the regular bilabial stop. This will be one of those things I'll just have to continue to practice until I can reproduce the sounds without thinking too hard about them.
    Posted May 28 2006, 01:26 AM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Manners of articulation and such

    When I was first learning about phonetics, one of my favorite parts to read about was how to describe the many different consonants that are possible according to the manner of articulation and place of articulation. Most linguists use a standardized chart to write in the particular phones according to these two main criteria. After you figure out where the manner and place of articulation are then you can worry about other things, such as voicing, nasalization, and palatalization. I guess since I'm going to talk about the different manners and places, we'll start from the very beginning (it's a very good place to start). From my post yesterday, you may recall that I talked about /b/ and /p/. Well, going with place first, these phones are called bilabial because they are pronounced by your two lips being placed together. The places of articulation continue toward the back of the mouth. The next back from bilabials are dentals like /t/ and /d/. These are usually formed by placing your tongue somewhere around the gum line in back of your front teeth. (as Dr Josserand would say, if you're going to learn this, you should try pronouncing these yourself as we go along) The next farthest back is the alveolar area. This area is immediately behind the 'dental' area...mostly considered the space that is the hard part of the roof of your mouth. Trying making an /n/ sound to see where this place of articulation is. Farther back than the alveolar area is the velar area. This equates to the soft palate. Try making a /k/ or a /g/ sound. You will be able to feel where the back of the tongue and the soft palate make contact. If you think velars are fun, try doing a /qu/ sound to demonstrate the post-velar area. You can even go further back with a glottal or even a guttural. Our language doesn't have many of these sounds, but you can demonstrate the glottal by saying 'uh oh'. That back of the throat sound between the syllables is produced by the glottis. Guttural sounds are common in German. Try saying the German word for "I"..."ich"...that will give you a guttural if you pronounce it correctly.

    Now, just for fun...put them all together /p/, /t/, /n/, /k/, /g/, /q/, /uh/. You will feel as the articulation moves from the front to the back of your oral cavity.

    That pretty much covers the places of articulation, but now we need to talk about manner of articulation. This tends to be a little trickier to understand. First are the stops. All the examples that I gave for places of articulation (with the exception of /n/) were stops. In each case, the airstream is stopped by contact with the place of articulation. Try /p/ or /t/ again. Then there are the fricatives (or spirants). These are made by creating friction in the airstream at a particular point. Try /f/ or /s/. There are also combinations of fricative with other sounds, and these are known as affricates. Try /ch/ or /sh/. Then there are a few others like laterals /l/ and resonants /r/ and /w/. Not every language has all these sounds. Some languages have a lot more sounds than English does, and some have a lot fewer. That is why is it important to do a phonetic analysis and learn what sounds exist. Knowing these different points and manners of articulation helps us to categorize the sounds into groups for easier identification.

    Why not try going through the different sounds you know in the English language and figure out where the place and manner of articulation are for each?!

    Posted May 26 2006, 01:32 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • News Flash

    OK everyone, this is just a newsflash meant solely to clear something up about linguists. And because I am a linguist (well, an aspiring linguist) this is also a newsflash about me. Just because we (as a linguist collective) are linguists does not in any way mean that we know every language or can answer any language related question. We may know more than most people about languages and have a good chance of answering questions about language correctly, but we do not know it all. So where did this come from you ask? Last night at our weekly trivia game, one of the questions was something along the lines of..."weddings gifts are traditionally known as the trousse, coming from the French verb trousser which means to do what?" Well obviously, since I know French and I'm a linguist, I should know this right? Wrong...ong...ong. When I think of the word trousser, I think "to tie up"....like when you truss a chicken or a turkey. Well apparently, somewhere along the way, it meant "to give a dowry". That's all well and good, but I didn't know it. Trousser isn't in my "every day" French vocabulary. I don't often give a dowry or speak of giving one. So seriously, if you know a linguist, don't immediately assume that they know it all. The end.
    Posted May 25 2006, 09:25 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • A lesson in phonetics

    Yesterday we had one of the most exciting linguistics meetings of the year. Sidiky and I had a mini-lecture and a lesson in elicitation and phonetic transcription with Dr. Hopkins. I had such a great time learning how to do these things, and by the end of the session I was ready to do some more. I even got to do the elicitation of a 100-word Swadesh list from Sidiky myself. (In an unrelated note, I already knew a bunch of the words in Nafara that Sidiky was speaking back in the elicitation...woot woot!) Dr. Hopkins started off by explaining to us the different types of transcription and what each of them are used for. He told us that we would be learning narrow phonetic transcription from him since it is extremely useful to see what sounds are actually there without letting the actual orthography get in the way. This is a very skill to have when working with previously unwritten languages (like I will hopefully be doing) that have not yet had an orthography developed for them. By doing a narrow phonetic transcription and finding all the intricate details of the sounds in the language, you can use your data to identify which phones (sounds) are allophones of one another and which are contrasting phonemes. If different phones are allophones of one another, then it is necessary to find their rules of use. For example, two different /i/ sounds may exist in a language, one true and one nasalized, but perhaps the nasalized form only occurs when preceding nasal consonants. This is just one example of a type of 'rule'. At times, the distinctions between sounds and their uses may be a little less obvious. For this reason, it is necessary to construct lists of minimal pairs. These words show us if sounds contrast with one another. For example, in English we had 'bit' and 'pit'...everything is the same with the exception of the initial consonant. Well, /b/ and /p/ are very similar consonants. They are both bilabial stops, but they differ in voicing. /b/ is voiced and /p/ is unvoiced. So discover whether a language differentiates between voiced and unvoiced bilabial stops we would use a minimal pair (like bit and pit) to discover that these two words mean two completely different things when these consonants are used in the same context. We can therefore assert with some confidence that English in fact does differentiate between these voiced and unvoiced consonants. This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, and consonants are far easier to work with than vowels.

    Anyways...so after teaching us about the different types of transcription, we had a brief discussion about the different phonetic alphabets...something that I can't really go into any detail here since I can't use this keyboard font to express any of the ideas. We continued by having Dr Hopkins elicit a few words from a Swadesh list from Sidiky. Dr Josserand also elicited a few simple sentences.

    (side note...a Swadesh list, named for Morris Swadesh, is a list of core vocabulary words that Swadesh felt that every language would have. It contains kinship terms, some animals, colors, pronouns, simple verbs, and a few other things)

    Once Dr Hopkins had finished the elicitation, he walked us through how to properly transcribe, taking into consideration the three different parts of each syllable, as well as stress, intonation, and a few other things. It was just an all around great experience. Dr Josserand decided that I should take what I had learned and elicit and transcribe words from a complete Swadesh list from Sidiky. I'll then use that transcription to move into working out a more detailed phonetic and phonemic analysis. I can't wait to get started!!!

    Posted May 25 2006, 01:31 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Ooga Booga

    Don't be scared away by the title of this post or by the fact that it really defies categorization. "Ooga booga"...yes that's right...I actually witnessed someone, a total stranger at that, use the phrase (if you can call it that) in regular conversation. Last night, my friend and coworker Mike and I went out for our nightly coffee and chat at Starbucks. We find that it's very important to be able to hang out and talk about things as Friend-Mike and Friend-Chris instead of Work-Mike and Work-Chris, so this is usually what happens at Starbucks each evening around nine. It's a time to look forward to minimal hassle and slow-paced conversation. Well, last night was just not the time for that. Things started out allright, but as we sat in an almost eerily empty Starbucks, we were approached by a very (very) odd girl, who we originally thought was going to come up and kill us. Having successfully dodged that, we thought we were home clear...but we were wrong. The emerged from the store to the outside patio where we were sitting looking extremely flustered and immediately asked to borrow Mike's lighter as she dug a crumbled looking cigarette from her bag. Apparently it's in the Unwritten Smoker's Rule Book (the USRB, I've been told) that if someone asks for your lighter, you have to honor their request. Well, as Mike would also tell you, handing over the lighter was the beginning of the end. The moment that the lighter changed hands, the girl (we never learned her name) felt that that was her cue to open up her twisted life to us. We heard about her boyfriend (of almost 1 whole year) who left Tallahassee for college in California where his ex-girlfriend also goes. It just got worse from there. She explained about her sister's gun and how she'd like to borrow it. She talked about sex and teenage pregnancy, religion (from Wicca to Catholicism), and my favorite, primitive language. I honestly don't know where she got into primitive language, but as I was trying to check out from the conversation, I heard

    "I mean, we went from 'ooga booga' to 'hi'."

    Mike and I looked at each other and then at her and we honestly didn't know what to say. She continued with,

    "and then what's with 'hi'? Of course there are three versions of 'hi'...'hi' like the greeting, 'hi' like I'm high in the sky, and 'hi' like wow I've got reefers."

    I was just totally dumbfounded, and thankfully Mike at least had the capacity to utter..."those crazy homonyms..." I knew then and there that it was time to go, no matter how short of a time that we had been there. Usually, coffee time last for at least an hour, but after a short twenty minutes, we were heading out for home. Both of us were just astounded and said few words other than "wow" as we journeyed back home. How ever we got from this girl's boyfriend to ooga booga, I'll never know.

    Posted May 24 2006, 12:32 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Thoughts on the four field method of anthropology

    Many people out there who are involved in anthropology and probably a bunch who are involved solely in linguistics will have heard a lot about the four field method of anthropology. This idea was popularized by Franz Boas (a.k.a. Papa Franz) back in the early twentieth century. The idea was that, in order to study humans, one had to take into consideration many different types of anthropology. Four main fields of anthropology were devised; cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology (physical anthropology), and linguistics anthropology. I would imagine that Boas felt as though any well-rounded anthropologist should be rather well-versed in all four of these areas. Thanks to Boas, there are many anthropology departments around the country (and probably the world) that boast the fact that they offer the four-field approach. This is usually very appealing to graduate students at the beginning as they are searching for great anthropology departments, but they likely curse the idea when having to take core courses in each of the four fields. This was the case this past semester in linguistics core class. Out of sixteen students, all but five of us were archaeology graduate students, who likely cursed having to show up to the class each Monday. Four of the other five students were cultural anthropologist, and then me....the lone linguist of the bunch. I have to admit that the four field approach to anthropology is a great idea in principle...but it's tough to implement. When you become a graduate student, there is simply too much out there to be "an expert" about. I had always thought that as you go on in your studies, you begin to specialize on a specific area of study and even on a specific topic (for your dissertation or thesis). I understand the "core" linguistics courses that I will have to take at Indiana. Everyone in linguistics, no matter what they are doing, will likely be faced with phonetics, historical linguistics, semantics, etc....but will all linguistic anthropologists (just for example) have need to know the ins and outs of biological anthropology in the future. I am sure that knowing a bit about the three other areas would be important, but to spend a year cramming "everything there is to know" about three other areas that you aren't going to specialize in seems a little excessive. Couple this difficulty with the fact that maybe, just maybe, and of course I won't name any departments (ha!)...but what if the anthropology department for which you are taking all these core courses is trying to get rid of one or more of the fields from the curriculum? I mean seriously,...it could be a mess. I suppose that I mean this post to be some sort of a rant to recognize a few different things. I want to recognize my anthropology friends who have their upcoming comprehensive exams to worry about. This post is also to recognize the fact that their are still people out there who are hoping to divorce linguistics from anthropology and to show that doing so would be a true travesty. Humans express themselves through language, and therefore any study of humans should include a consideration of human language along the way. Maybe it won't be analyzing the phonemes or the syntax of the language, but knowing about humans and their language will be important. Why then should we take the study of how humans use language out of the study of humans? It just does not seem logical, yet it continues....
    Posted May 23 2006, 08:14 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Finding good materials...the good and the bad

    I've been recently faced with the good, the bad, and the ugly of finding some materials to work from on Bambara. I'll start with the bad and move on from there...well the good and the bad are nearly the same thing...so it's pretty confusing. The bad part is that I simply can not find any worthwhile materials. I have tried to find books, papers, journal articles, etc. about the language, but the best that I have found is things on the Mande culture. There are a few papers out there, but most of them are overviews on the language and don't give much information (that is the ugly). So, while this is bad, it is also good. The good part stems from the fact that I will be working on a language that has not been extensively studied. There are very few papers about the language, and that's an extra good thing (for me at the moment). It seems that I will be venturing into uncharted territory when it comes to studying this language and others like it. I guess that there is also a scary or anxiety-ridden part of all this too. True to how I've always been, I want to get a head start on things and gain a basic understanding of the language and how it is put together before I actually start the class. It appears, at this point at least, that that is going to be impossible. If I can't find materials to study, and if I don't know any Bambara speakers, I'm sort of stuck without having anything to go with. I do know two speakers of Dyula, which might be helpful...but still...Dyula is not exactly Bambara, just similar. This is what I get for not being a procrastinator for one moment in my life. There is just something a little bit nerve-wracking that I will be stepping into that classroom on the first day of classes knowing very little, if anything, about Bambara besides what I have read in a few "ugly" papers and books.

    Posted May 22 2006, 05:21 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • More about the Linguistics Wars

    Those of you who are regular readers of my blog have likely heard me mention the problems that have existed in the field of linguistics over the past fifty or sixty years. Though most fields have their fair share of opposing scholars yelling and screaming across conference tables, linguistics had undergraduates screaming at seasoned professors across lecture halls at national linguistics meetings. It was not pretty...

    I have been having a great time learning about the "linguistics wars", as they have come to be known, by reading the book of the same title by Randy Allen Harris. The book was useful as background when I was studying for the linguistics core final, as it explained a lot of the historical background stemming back from Sir William Jones, through the NeoGrammarians, the Prague School, and European and American structuralism. The main focus of the book is on what happened to linguistics when Noam Chomsky showed up. Chomsky, nearly single-handedly, changed the face of linguistics as it had been known for a long time. The book looks at how and why the Chomskyans disagreed with the Bloomfieldians on just about every aspect of linguistics. The book also suggests that when Chomsky began to assert his ideas about changes in linguistics from empiricism to rationalism, the followers that he picked up along the way began to treat him as "a God." Interesting commentary is included in the book from former students of Chomsky about this fact...as well as about how courses about Bloomfieldian linguistics were dubbed "Bad Guy Courses" in the halls of MIT where Chomsky taught, and continues to teach. The book also looks into Chomsky as a person, but does not seem to be able to tell much. Chomsky appears to have been a very private person throughout the years, and none of even his closest students can say much of his personal life outside his office at MIT. This is a great and comprehensive book, and I have continued to learn more about this huge and ongoing event in linguistics history. Even though we only touched on the subject for a brief time during linguistics core, I'm sure that I will get much more information about it during my linguistics classes at Indiana.

    Posted May 21 2006, 01:11 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • It's great to be recognized

    With Dr. Josserand back in town after her trip, today we reassumed our weekly Senari meetings but with a slight twist. Since my time with the group is fast approaching an end and Dr Josserand will be gone for six weeks coming up and then again for the spring semester, it was time to sit back and reflect on how far we had come with the project. Dr J and Sidiky had been working on the Senari project for some before I "signed on" to the work, but I have been there since the beginning of the analysis portion. That, in itself, has been going on for over a year. Dr J sat Sidiky and me down to offer a recap of the project, where it has come from, where we are now, and what needs to happen in the future. She seemed to be extremely pleased with the progress that we had made as a group thus far. It appears that she is confident that Sidiky and I have what it takes to keep working while she is gone to Mexico for six weeks since we worked so well together and got so much done during the last period of time that she was gone. I personally think that it is really exciting to be able to work one on one with Sidiky. I've tried to note carefully the techniques that Dr J has used during our meetings to conduct a formal elicitation of responses from Sidiky as we go along. She uses many of the techniques and ideas that we discussed in linguistics core during the meetings. She has an extremely well-developed method of framing questions that she has used many times during our more detail-oriented analysis over the past several months. She is able to use what Sidiky says (as a native speaker of the language) and determine exactly what the function of the specific words, particles, or constructions are. I tried to do that once while Dr J was gone during Sidiky and my last meeting, but I fumbled all over it. I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt though. I did get a chance to realize that I understand more Senari than I had thought, both hearing and reading. After our brief reflection on our progress and intentions for the future, it was time to jump right back into work. We did not even get to looking at the new text since we decided instead to look at the materials that Sidiky and I had prepared from the first tale. Dr J seemed pretty pleased with our materials as well. All in all, it was quite a successful meeting!
    Posted May 20 2006, 01:00 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • English as our national language

    Well, well, well...our wise government has done it again. One of the big headlines from this morning was one reading "National or Common: Senate ponders what to call English". This is huge people! One of the most important things that gets stressed in the language planning and policy arena in the United States is that we have no national language. Many people mistake the fact that English is not our national language here in the United States, but that may not be for much longer. Senate Republicans voted on a bill that would make English the national language yesterday...and it may pass. If this president signs this bill into law, that would mean that English would be the language enforced by law, and used in all federal proceedings. What is more important is that this law has the ability to stifle further the efforts of native language revitalization projects in the US, as well as to discourage multilinguals from using languages other than English. Luckily, the senators weren't being totally ridiculous, and also voted on a bill that would make English the "common and unifying language" of the country, rather than the official language. Common and unifying is something that we can deal with. We can only hope that the "national" bill gets shot down somewhere along the system of checks and balances, and the "common and unifying" bill gets left in. Isn't it amusing that all of this talk of a national language, one that will have a significant affect on minority populations (especially the growing number of Latinos), comes in the wake of weeks of debate and a speech from the president on immigration....not to mention the building of a 370-mile long, triple-layered fence across the US/Mexico border. Ya know, I always hope for things that are related to language and linguistics make it to the national news level...thinking that maybe something positive might be including. This is what happens instead. It's just another way that the conservative government, and therefore the population, can enforce the marginalization of minorities. You would think with the continuous plummeting of the president's approval rating that the republican party would try to rally support any way possible, rather than alienating the large number of Americans who do not wish to have English forced upon them.
    Posted May 19 2006, 01:23 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Making it electronic

    I spent some time this afternoon thinking about the best way to turn my Senari argument structure analysis into a usable format for Dr Josserand and Sidiky (and any others who might be interested in it in the future). I decided to use what I already know and use computer code to turn my penciled scribbles into an electronic format. By using code, even simple HTML and CSS (cascading style sheets), you have the ability to change a lot of things at one time. The main reason that I decided to code the project, rather than using Microsoft Word, is that I am so over the fact that Word tries to format and correct things for you. I end up having so many red and green swiggly lines underlining my work that I can't even see what I'm doing. When I code, good ole Dreamweaver doesn't try to tell me that I'm doing things incorrectly. I also can do things like bracketing and adding superscripts or subscripts to my work with a simple <sup>insert superscripted text here</sup> rather than going back to each individual place and highlighting, doing to the edit menu, format text, superscript, etc etc etc...hundreds of times. I could actually even use CSS to assign a span class to the text where I want it superscripted, but either way it's much easier in code. I decided to place my work in a subdomain on my website so that Dr Josserand and Sidiky can get to it easily as I continue to work. Once the work is completed, I can take the text and put it into Word or even make it a PDF. With the code, I also have the option of placing everything in one table and then adding a second table data <td> to my table row <tr> to add either the English or Senari translations that correspond to my analysis. Ahh, the endless possibilities when using code! I'd like to fit a way to load the Senari keyboard software that Sidiky and I use onto the server so that we can have the actual Senari grammar and analysis show up on the internet. I guess that will be for another day...
    Posted May 18 2006, 10:13 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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