I have a question for you all. What’s your favourite poem, and what’s your favourite line from that poem? If your favourite line of poetry is from a different poem, tell me that as well!
You’ve all been such absolute bbs lately and I have an idea for some COOL POETRY FUN that I want to do for you all as a little lexical thank you!
My favourite poem is probably Fragment 4 of Sappho:
I simply want to be dead.
Weeping she left me.
with many tears and said this:
Oh how badly things have turned out for us.
Sappho, I swear, against my will I leave you.
And I answered her:
Rejoice, go and
remember me. For you know how we cherished you.
But if not, I want
to remind you
]and beautiful times we had.
For many crowns of violets
[…] at my side you put on
and many woven garlands
made of flowers
around your soft throat.
And with sweet oil
you anointed yourself
and on a soft bed
you would let loose your longing
(tr. Anne Carson)
but my favourite line of poetry is ‘Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun’, from Funeral Blues by WH Auden. It just absolutely encapsulates the dull ache of grief for me. I remember when my grandad died. I was 18, and the pervading emotion for the first few weeks wasn’t really sadness, but emptiness. It was an experience more than a feeling, like living on a different plane from everyone else, walking through the world and wondering ‘why hasn’t everybody stopped? Don’t they know that the world has ended?’ and feeling absolutely isolated and numb. So, that’s my favourite line. Cheery.
醉过才知酒浓，爱过才知情重。你不能做我的诗，正如我不能做你的梦。Only having been drunk does one learn the strength of alcohol, only having loved does one learn the weight of emotion. You cannot be my poem, just as I cannot be your dream.
胡适 (Hu Shi)， 梦与诗 (Dream and Poetry)
Philosopher, writer, and diplomat Hu Shi was born in 1891 in Anhui Province (安徽), and one of the most influential thinkers in China’s earliest stages of modernization. Hu was sent to study at Cornell University in 1910, initially focusing on agriculture but later changing his major to philosophy and literature. He went on to obtain his postgraduate degree in philosophy at Columbia University under the guidance of John Dewey whom Hu was deeply influenced by, later becoming a translator for Dewey in his lecture tours across China. Hu played a significant role in the promotion of vernacular Chinese in replacement of classical Chinese in literature, in a drive to make writing more accessible to the masses. However, the lexical and syntax reforms Hu proposed were rooted in traditional Chinese culture rather than mimicking existing European styles. From 1938-1942, Hu served as the Taiwan Ambassador to the US. Throughout his literary and political career, Hu was a vocal advocate for pragmatism (实验主义), championing a scientific and results-oriented approach to solving social and political issues.
My favourite part of that Buzzfeed shit was about ‘nigga’. Like 'Ugh, other Black people are so stupid and horrible for wanting to use that word.’
Well, lemme tell yall, I’m a sociolinguist specialising in AAVE and writing my Master’s Thesis on why nigga happened and its social implication.
AAVE is known for semantic bleaching of obscene words so that they can be reappropriated for different purposes. This is why, for example, we add -ass to the end of things, including adjectives and gerunds, to make them more emphatic (e.g. Her long hair havin-ass took 20 minutes to get ready). This is also why we have certain social contexts where it’s okay to use 'bitch’ and 'ho’ and some where it isn’t (à la @katblaque, I thought about this from your video). This has its roots in West Africa, where obscenity is more context based and less lexically linked (a word isn’t always intrinsically a cuss word, but who, how and when someone says it may make it offensive).
It wasn’t until the post-Civil War era when assimilationist Black people decided that using words the white man found offensive was not going to help the cause. Sadly, this ideology persists today.
Nigga has also undergone semantic bleaching, but in a much different way. Black people calling each other nigga is not new, and in fact may even date to slavery. However, in the Africanist way, rarely have Black people as a group taken offence to intragroup usage of the word. There have been individuals who have (and sometimes, these individuals are the most outspoken), but generally it has had a very neutral tone in the AAVE and Black world. However, as recently as the late 80’s and early 90’s the usage of nigga has been politicised, especially through the use of early hip hop, where it was again given new meaning. While nigga had always had nuances of negative, neutral and positive lexical meanings, this was when it was explicity stated on a mainstream stage that Black people can say nigga, white people cannot, and it is because of the usurpation of power. Black power does not entail antiwhiteness, but it does include usurping power from the institution of whiteness. This happens at the linguistic level as much as anywhere else. And in the same way that the LGBTQIA community decided to reclaim 'Queer’, so did the Black community choose to reclaim 'nigga’. Neither. Of course, was a unanimous decision, but they were both generally accepted decisions. What’s more, Black people added an African twist to their reclamation: just as in Africa words are vulgarised by context, so was nigga. In this case, nigga is vulgarised when spoken by a non-Black person.
The social implication then is an anti-assimilationist and Africanist approach to intragroup semantics. It demonstrated unity, power and linguistic pride in the African American speech tradition.
So, @buzzfeed, if you don’t want to participate, that’s fine. Every Black person is allowed to be individual and have their own opinions. But I and many other Black linguists have been pro- (or at least neutral-)nigga for some time. Just wanted to clear it all up for yall.
The Psychology of Language: Which Words Matter the Most When We Talk
Recently, a lot of the longstanding paradigms in how our brain processes language were overthrown. New and cutting edge studies that produced quite startling and different results. The one study I found most interesting is UCL’s findings on how we can separate words from intonation. Whenever we listen to words, this is what happens:
“Words are then shunted over to the left temporal lobe [of our brain] for processing, while the melody is channelled to the right side of the brain, a region more stimulated by music.”
So our brain uses two different areas to identify the mood and then the actual meaning of the words. On second thought, what still doesn’t quite make sense is why we can even distinguish “language” so distinctly from any other sounds.
The UCL team tried to find out about exactly this. They played speech sounds and then non-speech sounds, that still sounded similar to speech to people. While measuring their brain activity, they found something fascinating:
“Speech was singled out for special treatment near the primary auditory cortex.”
In short, our brains can magically single out language from any other sounds and port it to the right “department” in our brain to give it meaning.
Facial expression, brevity and avoiding adjectives in speech
Smiling – the highest positive emotional gesture
Talk no longer than 30 seconds in a given conversation
Avoid adverbs in speech and writing
3 of the most important ideas when we use words every day
The skill of asking questions: “What would you do?”
He points out that any questions that start with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” or “why” are likely to get great responses.
To be avoided are “would,” “should,” “is,” “are,” and “do you think,” as they can limit how people respond to you a lot.
Removing “is” from your language
You, Because, Free , Instantly, New – The 5 Most persuasive words in English
Quick last fact: Make three positive comments for every negative statement
Every now and again academics who work on similar matters have to get together and decide what the big questions in the field are. Then for the next few years they work to find the answers.
We’re not part of the proverbial Ivory Tower, so what exactly Japanese linguists are fussing over at the moment is unknown to us. But here’s what’s bugging us: the abundance of ending particles.
Ending Particles are equivalents are too many for comfort.
There are a set of lexical items we all agree are ending particles:
よ、ね、か、かい、な、わ、ぞ、ぜ [Thus far 8]
And they make sense in that they’re monosyllabic and don’t seem to share any meaning with anything else.
But the plot thickens:
Then there are a few items that seems to just show up at the end sometimes:
って、さ、さあ [Thus far 11]
But these items can actually be elsewhere in the sentence. って is a quotative; and さ and さあ are filler words (so they’re a little bit like “eh?” in some North American English dialects)
We can resolve さ and さあ easily, because they’re filler words and we can consider them interjections and thus we don’t have to pay too much attention to them for syntactic purposes.
But って, we can’t ignore. Essentially if it’s at the end of a sentence then we want to say that the speaker is quoting something and the verb (be it 言う or 聞く or whatever) is being omitted. And that’d be fine… if it was a quote of some sort. But it seems that often when someone does end a sentence in って, it isn’t a quote. So this isn’t a thought, or something one heard or something one said.
So we have to create a work around: we say that って is an expression. We say that Japanese has a Foghorn Leghorn expression. So sometimes the Japanese are just saying “I say, I say” a bit randomly and for the sake of semantics we can ignore it. Fine. So we say we have an Inflexional Phrase, that it’s being quoted, and that the main verb dropped off. That’ll work.
But there is another set of ending particle-esque things that are kind of like って:
の、 なの [Thus far 13]
So の is that substantivizing suffix we continuously talk about. な is semi-copula that nouns (not all, but many) take. So they’re functionally different and we know what they are. That’s wonderful.
But here’s the problem: just like って, you don’t need it. Nothing “needs” to be a noun phrase. It’s just there as an expression. It seems to be a feminine thing to do.
So we can essentially ignore it for the sake of semantics since nouns and verbs in Japanese inasmuch as they are parts of speech, are more functional than semantic anyway.
But wait, there are verbal expressions too that are ending particle-esque:
でしょう、だろう [Thus far 15]
These two are equivalent. One is more polite than the other. We have reason to believe they’re contractions of ですよ and であるよ. Okay, so they’re verbs, fine.
But the problem is this: you can actually end your main component of the Inflexional Phrase in a verb and then add だろう or でしょう to the end.
So syntactically you can’t really call it a verb. It won’t work out. It has to be in the position of the ending particle.
But wait, there are even at least one topical-verbal-ending particle-esque lexical item:
じゃない [Thus far 16]
This is a contraction of ではない. That we know. We also know that では is the topical particle and that ない is the indicative, negative, present conjugation of the copula ある. So we know what it is.
But the problem is this: topical particles follow noun phrases, not verb phrases. So, like with でしょう and だろう, we cannot think of them as topical-verbal in our syntactic analysis.
But wait, there are compound ending particles!
でしょうか、だろうか、じゃないか、よね、よな、なのよ、のよ、かね [Thus far 24]
And it’s at this point that someone stops us and tells us “Okay, some we don’t have to consider ending particles, and the others don’t exactly have new meanings. They’re just the meaning conveyed by one ending particle along with another. Like か, which just makes everything a question.”
And to that, we say, yes! And this makes us very happy in the sense that one can reason one’s way to the meaning of the compound ending particles.
But here’s the totally insane thing: There’s an order in which the ending particles appear. よ appears before ね. か always appears in the end (except in one or two cases, which seem to be expressions in themselves), and all the expressions appear before ね, よ, and か.
What does this imply? That very possibly, there exist three classes of ending particles that go in a specific order. That idea freaks us out. We need to look at more data before making an assertion, but it is something to look into and consider very seriously.
(Note: We do handle things very differently from conventional Japanese grammar. We are aware of that. Every now and again someone will ask why we make a big deal out of things that the Japanese don’t make a big deal of. It’s part of the job of a linguist. :) )
On “True Synonyms” and why a thesaurus isn’t always your best friend.
There’s a writing tip I’ve heard a lot over the years claiming that a thesaurus can be your best friend because it can expand your vocabulary and help you avoid repetition. There are also posts floating around promoting the whole “said is dead” idea, bringing attention to the fact that there are many other words that could be used in place of “said.” While I think this is great and having an extended vocabulary is important, especially being a writer, this can also get you into trouble.
In lexical semantics (i.e. the study of word meanings), synonymy and antonymy are things that come up kind of a lot. One of the most basic ways that we humans conceptualize the world around us is by comparison–saying something is like something else, or the opposite of something. The same is true when ascertaining meaning. For example:
Person 1: So, what is a wolf? Person 2: Well, it’s like a dog, but has x, y, and z features.
Person 1: What exactly does “day” mean? Person 2: It’s not night, for one thing.
And so on.
One of the main features of language in general is that it’s efficient, or at least it tries to be. Taking this into account, it’s hard to believe that there would be two single words that express the same exact meaning. Even words that appear to have the same exact meaning, upon closer inspection, have subtle differences which makes them two separate words. They may belong in the same semantic field, but there’s still some tiny difference in meaning that warrants the existence of both.
Take, for example, the word scared. If you were to look this up in a thesaurus, you’d probably find words like afraid, terrified, and frightened. Sure, they all have the same general meaning of a feeling inflicted by fear, but they’re not all the same. Each word is a varying degree of fear. Even afraid, despite being almost the same as scared, can’t always be used interchangeably without slightly changing the meaning of the entire clause it’s a part of.
It’s really important to take this into account when writing. Take those advice posts with a grain of salt. Sure, those posts can give you a hundred different substitutes for the word “walk,” but if you really mean walk, don’t say amble or saunter because they’re entirely different types of walking. True synonyms don’t actually exist. Write exactly what you mean, and don’t try to flower it up by plugging in a bunch of words you found in a thesaurus.
So we all know that Lexa has an obsession over her candles. I wondered how far it actually went. I did the math to find out how many candles there quite possibly are in Polis tower.
Polis tower = 1 hectalexa
1 hectalexa = 10 decalexas
1 decalexa has 4 floors. So a total of 40 floors.
40 floors X about 34 rooms/floor (looking at the image) = 1360 rooms
So we all know that Lexa loves a shit ton of candles in every room. If she had every room in the tower filled with an average of 32 candles (which is a typical amount for her) it would come to somewhere around 43,520 candles. God. Damn. Lexa.
An illustrated note card collection of untranslatable words from around the world
Lost in Translation Note Cards: Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
2016, 12 cards, 6.1 x 1.7 x 4.9 inches, Note cards
$16 Buy on Amazon
Like many, I’ve found myself at a loss for words lately. Luckily, Ella Frances Sanders has swooped in, like lexical brooming shooing away the cat that caught my tongue. She’s actually done one better, because she replaced the words of disbelief and disgust that I had been clawing for with words of comfort and joy. The Lost in Translation Note Cards set is based on her 2014 book by the same name. Both book and cards are an illustrated collection of “untranslatable words from around the world,” and feature both written and drawn translations of each sentiment on the front and, on the back, the country of origin, part of speech, and a sweet, brief elaboration of the word by Sanders.
The 12 words chosen for the note card set are best for sending to “friends and lovers.” There is something in here for the full spectrum of those relationships. For the romantics, there’s the Brazilian Portuguese noun, cafuné, “the act of tenderly running your fingers through the hair of someone you love.” For a deeply appreciated friend, the Korean noun, nunchi, “the subtle, often unnoticed art of listening and gauging another’s mood.” The set includes standard mailing sized envelopes and each card is blank inside, so with just a stamp and whatever words the sender might find, they are ready to be sent. Now seems the perfect time to share a small gesture of love and a piece of art that celebrates the beauty of language around the world.
Naalala ko pa yung usapan namin tungkol sa lovekagabi ng kaibigan ko.
9:00 PM na kami lumabas ng PUP kasi tinapos pa namin yung Lexical Analyzer sa PL tapos nagkwentuhan pa kami. Nagantay lang kami doon sa bench hanggang 9 kagabi kasi inaantay namin yung kapatid ng kaibigan. Naguusap kami tungkol sa subjects sa next sem tapos pumunta yung kwento sa lovelife dahil sinumlan ko ng hugot. Sumakto pa na malamig kasi mahangin sa oc nun kaya feel namin yung Cold Presence jk hahaha. Sinumalan ko nang sabihin kong
“Sinasabi na pinaasa tayo. Sinisisi natin siya na pinaasa tayo pero kung iisipin mo in the first place tayo yung umasa. Wala namang title pero inisip natin na meron. Inisip nating pinaasa pero tayo talaga umasa dahil binagyan natin lahat ng meaning.”
Natawa at nagulat yung kaibigan ko sa mga sinabi ko kasi bakit daw ganun
“Kung sino pa nga raw ang nagmamahal siya pa ang nasasaktan at siya pa ang madalas na iniiwanan.”
Nagkahugutan na kami magdamag kabgabi tapos nagtapos kami ng usapan ng umagree siya sa sinabi kong,
“Parang ang hirap na magmahal ulit dahil nasaktan ka na at ang hirap magmahal ulit kung marerealize mong Acads is more important.”
Tapos naisip namin na ang studious namin hahahaha. Pero wala ganun talaga