Archive for the ‘linguistics’ Category

Bourdieu

Last summer at CAIS in Fredericton we heard a very interesting paper about multi-lingual subject headings. As it happens, the French version of LCSH and the original headings in LCSH often are quite different conceptually. The author made reference to Pierre Bourdieu’s Language & Symbolic Power and I dutifully ordered a copy. I have to say it was a bit of a tough slog initially, but once I got well into it I found an immense trove of useful sociological fodder, enough that I’ve just used a tiny bit as a lens for a visualization paper (that’s all I’m going to say about that until I find out how that paper has fared). The book is definitely worth a read for folks in knowledge organization. I’d have added it to my seminar’s reading list but the students were already blanching at the length of that list. Sorry friends, reading is one of the scholars’ burdens.

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Posted January 15, 2012 by lazykoblog in linguistics

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Literally, really ….

I gave a paper at CAIS/ACSI in June in which I related some of the variability in tag clouds to cogntive scanning; in particular, to something called fictive scanning, in which a speaker tells a literal lie that has socially acceptable meaning.

I can never think of an example when someone asks me, and in my slides I have an example of “my teacher’s books keep getting longer” in which I show some books stretching in length.

So, last week, I was treated to a veritable festival of fictive scanning. My flight on US Airways was late (“NO,” you’re thinking, how could it have been!), four hours to be exact. The reason was because the airline screws around and screws around and doesn’t take its business seriously. The plane was four hours late arriving in Philadelphia, so we were four hours late departing, and four hours late arriving in Milwaukee.

When we got there it was snowing, in fact had been all day. First thing that happened was a chorus of idio … oh, I mean, fellow passengers, talking into their cell phones “We’re late because it’s snowing.” Well, friends, we weren’t late because of the snow. We were late because US Airways doesn’t take you seriously as a customer.

But be that as it may. The best was still to come.

“I just landed.”

Oh, now how many times have you said that? Did it hurt, did you scrape your butt on the runway? No, the fact is, the plane on which you are sitting just landed. But it got better.

“I’m literally right now taxiing to the gate.”

…..

I rest my case.

Posted January 25, 2011 by lazykoblog in linguistics

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language (originally posted 7-20-2010)

I’ve been reading a lot about languages, because my work with Otlet and the recent conference at the Mundaneum raised a lot of linguistic issues, and also because artificial language is closely related to classification, particularly in the identification of concepts and the constriction or expansion of their expression.

I want to recommend a new book by Arika Okrent, In the Land of Invented Languages: A Celebration of Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius. (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2010). Learn why Klingon is the only succesful invented language, and on the way to that revelation, watch what she has to say about concepts.

I’m reading now another book by John McWhorter, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language. (New York: Perennial, 2001). Look at the gem I just found on p. 53-54:

Atoms are not the irreducible entities that scientists once supposed; instead, atoms are complexes of subatomic particles. In the same way, viewed up close, most “languages” are actually bundles of variations on a general theme, dialects.

By this I do not mean that there is “a language” that is surrounded by variations called “dialects.” As will end up being a kind of mantra for this chapter, “dialects is all there is.”

A Martian, presented with [German and Schwaebish], would find no way of designating one as “the real one” and the other one as “a variation;” they would just look like two similar systems, just as a Burmese and a Siamese cat are to us different but equal versions of the same basic entity.

And in fact there is no “default” cat; there are only types of cat. Language change parallels biological evolution not only in creating different “languages” equivalent to species, but in that most languages consist of an array of dialects equivalent to subspecies.

This goes to the problem of mutual exclusivity, doesn’t it?

Now I really am going to go make a cup of tea. By the way, since I know nobody actually reads this, I feel liberated about going completely off into tangents. So: for the first time in over 20 years, today I have been home for more than a month! Okay, I drove to Cherry Hill to get the car worked on but I was only gone an hour. No overnights anywhere. And, while I’m at it, today I’m finally through teaching! Hurray. No more papers to grade for at least six weeks.

Posted November 17, 2010 by lazykoblog in linguistics

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