Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Towards a Christian sociopolitical ethic

Vincent Rougeau, in his work Christians in the American Empire: Faith and Citizenship in the New World Order, states precisely what I have been thinking for several years but have not been able to express nearly as clearly and winsomely as he does here:
Christians can and should continue to draw personal and group identity from history, language, and experience in a specific geographical place, but we cannot forget our moral obligations to the human community, both at home and abroad. (22)
That is about as good a statement of a Christian social and political ethic as I have ever read.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Discourse AnalysisLinguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis by David Alan Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a helpful book in both understanding discourse analysis and moving beyond the level of word and clause study. The essays, however, do not all employ techniques of discourse analysis. In some cases, it appears that the authors simply included the term "discourse analysis" in their titles and then proceeded to use typical literary analysis, etymological studies, and background investigation to produce condensed commentaries of passages or books in the Bible. In other cases, however, normally the chapters written by linguists and translators rather than NT scholars, the techniques of discourse analysis are definitely observable. The first chapter, "Reading a Text as Discourse" by J.P. Louw, actually makes the book worthwhile all on its own.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Today in Language: Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott, a master of the English language and incisive commentator on questions of postcoloniality, died today, March 17, 2017. He was comfortable in just about any literary genre, even the epic, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

Walcott differed from fellow Caribbean writers and theorists like Edward Kamau Brathwaite in that he wanted to appropriate the traditions of the English language and European literature for his Caribbean context, rather than oppose them outright. In this regard he is parallel to his deceased French counterpart, Aimé Césaire, but both men recognized and decried the historical situation that put created their social contexts.

In What the Twilight Says, for example, Walcott could write, "The common experience of the New World, even for its patrician writers whose veneration of the Old is read as the idolatry of the mestizo, is colonialism" (36). But he could also insist on the need not to be entirely defined by that history. He identifies writers who transcend the history of colonialism, a tradition of writers of which he was luminary:
The truly tough aesthetic of the New World neither explains nor forgives history. It refuses to recognize it as a creative or culpable force. This shame and awe of history possess poets of the Third World who think of language as enslavement and who, in a rage for identity, respect only incoherence or nostalgia. The great poets of the New World, from Whitman to Neruda, reject this sense of history. (37)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Most of the linguistic problems that we discover in translations result from mismatches between the source and receptor languages. Some translators will preserve the forms of the source language even when they make no sense in their home language. For mother-tongue translators, perhaps the most important benefit of studying texts in the source and receptor languages is when we discover mismatches between them. We can then replace literal renderings that make the translation unnatural or worse with correct and natural alternatives."
--Stephen H. Levinsohn, Self-Instruction Materials on Narrative Discourse Analysis, p. 10

Friday, December 18, 2015

International Migrants Day

December 18 -- International Migrants Day, Día international del migrante, Journée internationale des migrants.

The best things to do on this day, rather than bringing up a controversial topic that people do not want to discuss honestly, or showing a photo that people want to dismiss as an anomaly, would be to ask 1) do you know what migrants are doing around the world right now, as most of us are staying cozy at home and preparing to relax with family? And 2) have you done an Internet search for photos of migrants (who happen to be reaching a record number in 2015)? If one does the latter, one will not have much left to discuss or be able to dismiss migrant crises around the world.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Le Symbole, les symboles

veuillez m'aider à comprendre les usages et les distinctions entre ces définitions (générale, saussurienne, et freudienne) :

Il faut dire tout d'abord que le mot "symbole" a beaucoup de définitions. Si nous considérons le dictionnaire Trésor, il'y a deux catégories principales avec plusieurs définitions dans chaque catégorie. Mais prenons-en une assez générale et compréhensible pour nous fixer un point de départ :  "Signe, objet matériel ou formule, servant de marque de reconnaissance entre initiés."

Tournons ensuite au symbole saussurien. 

Et le symbole freudien ? Voilà le problème. Il y'en a plusieurs, puisque Freud emploie ses mots, même les termes techniques, très librement.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


"If structuralism divided the sign from the referent, [...] [post-structuralism] goes a step further: it divides the signifier from the signified" (Eagleton, Literary Theory, p. 111).

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Branches of Linguistics

So how do you categorize the multitudinous subcategories of linguistics? I am going to go with the following five divisions (a.k.a., categories, domains, fields, specializations):

1. Foundational Linguistics
2. Theoretical Linguistics
3. Descriptive Linguistics
4. Applied Linguistics
5. Mathematical Linguistics

Please feel free to quibble with this organizational schema. Feel free to entirely overthrow it, for that matter. It is just what makes the most sense to me for now.

These are all generally accepted categories except for the term "Foundational Linguistics." I could call that category "General Linguistics" but the other gets more at what I mean. Plus, I am already using the tag/label "general linguistics" on this blog to refer to general (non-technical, non-domain-specific, I-don't-want-to-worry-about-classifying) discussions of linguistics and language.

So "Foundational Linguistics" refers to what a linguist cannot not know (and must know in the following alphabetical order, or else it simply won't work): discourse analysis, grammar, lexis (a term I prefer to lexicology, and under which I'm going to go ahead and include etymology), morphology, orthography (let's include graphemics here for the time being), phonetics, phonology, pragmatics, semantics, stylistics, and syntax (I will cover semiotics somewhere along the way too, probably in relation to pragmatics, semantics, and syntax). I would wonder about a linguist who didn't have at least passing familiarity with all of these fields--thus foundational. But I would not expect a linguist to be well-versed in both, say, psycholinguistics and systemic functional linguistics (though one could be).

"Theoretical Linguistics" refers to specific linguistic theories or systems (including schools of thought and movements): cognitive linguistics, structuralist linguistics, generative linguistics, relevance theory, speech-act theory, systemic functional linguistics. Two unrelated comments: 1) I may eventually also post about the Danish School, the Geneva School, the Prague School, etc., and 2) I am parting from the standard schema that would include morphology, phonology, etc., under Theoretical Linguistics.

"Descriptive Linguistics" is fairly self-descriptive as a label. It comprises anthropological, comparative, evolutionary, and historical (diachronic) linguistics, as well as sociolinguistics. I think evolutionary linguistics fits better here than under Applied Linguistics.

"Applied Linguistics" is all kinds of fun. It includes forensic linguistics, internet linguistics, neurolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. It also includes all of the linguistic subcategories that contain the word "language" or the suffix "ism": bilingualism, language acquisition (including second language acquisition), language development, language pedagogy, and multilingualism. I could include Translation Studies here but will not (nor under any other linguistic category), for some very important reasons that I will develop later. There will be a parallel universe of blog posts on Translation Studies, separate from this series on linguistics.

"Mathematical Linguistics" is not making me entirely happy as its own category, but I think it makes sense because under it I can include computational, corpus, and quantitative linguistics. I am also interested in stylometrics (which I prefer to "stylometry" for the sole reason that it strikes my ears as more linguistic-sounding). Perhaps all four of these fields could be put under Descriptive or Applied Linguistics, but I think their mathematical rigors warrant a separate category. For me, Descriptive Linguistics focuses more on historical and social factors and Applied Linguistics is concerned with studying the brain, development, and teaching/learning, while Mathematical Linguistics is inherently concerned with intensive mathematical models.

Are biolinguistics, ecolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, linguistic geography, and linguistic typology other categories that I should have included somewhere?

Descriptive vs. prescriptive linguistics

Let me reiterate that I will not be covering Translation Studies in this series on linguistics. I think TS deserves its own series, as linguistics relies on TS and TS relies on linguistics. To be continued . . .