Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Books on Postcolonialism

I recently discussed what could be called two primary sources on postcolonialism, both in French, one by the poet and politician Aimé Césaire and the other by the psychoanalyst and revolutionary Frantz Fanon. Let me now recommend two secondary sources, both in English: Postcoloniality: The French Dimension, by Margaret Majumdar, and The End of Empire in French West Africa: France's Successful Decolonization?, by Tony Chafer.

If Césaire and Fanon are essential reading because they began a frank campaign for French decolonization,* Majumdar and Chafer are essential reading because they provide a frank discussion of the ongoing effects of French decolonization. It is a reality largely due to politics that postcolonialism is a mainly Anglophone discipline, and thus French postcolonialism is largely written about in English by non-French writers. More on that in a later post.

Majumdar discusses the reasons for this situation by giving a panoramic view of French imperialism, colonialism, and decolonization. Chafer gives an engaging account of the specific example of decolonization in French West Africa (the AOF, or l'Afrique occidentale française): Dahomey (Benin), French Guinea (Guinea), French Sudan (Mali), the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso).

I am particularly excited about these books because they are both by professors at the University of Portsmouth where I received my master's in Translation Studies. Majumdar is a visiting professor, and Chafer is professor of Contemporary French Area Studies.

*And, especially in the case of Fanon, they pioneered the philosophy of postcolonialism, as they wrote well before Edward Saïd, about whom [ALERT: unproven assertion] we really must remain ambivalent even if he did establish postcolonialism as an academic discipline.

Monday, May 30, 2011

teetotaler - abstemio - 禁酒主義者

Si tú hablas español, ¿entiendes bien la palabra "abstemio"?

My wife and I recently had a debate about how to say "teetotaler" in Spanish for some subtitles we're translating. Which language best expresses the idea?
English: teetotaler (literally, "total" emphasized)
Spanish: abstemio (literally, "one who abstains")
French: abstinent (literally, "one who abstains")
Japanese: (絶対)禁酒主義者 (literally, "one who holds to absolute abstention from alcohol" . . . okay that's not the strictly literal rendering; stop being so picky)

Personally I like the Japanese, especially when the  絶対 is added on for emphasis. Japanese (and Chinese, I suppose, though I don't speak it) is just so descriptive with its use of Chinese characters. But I'm biased.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Romuald Fonkoua sur Aimé Césaire

Romuald Fonkoua, professeur de littérature, vient de publier une biographie sur Aimé Césaire en 2010 pour laquelle il était candidat du Prix du Sénat du livre d'histoire 2010. C'est une biographie remarquable et pour l'instant la seule sur le grand écrivain/poète. Voici un vidéo d'une session avec ce docteur de lettre que je respecte énormément. Je ne suis pas sûr d'avoir bien ancré la vidéo ci-dessous, mais il est aussi disponible sur le site-web de Manioc (onzième vidéo).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An OuLiPo Book

Since we're on the topic of books, let's move from the publishing specifications to the actual content. Wouldn't it be great if every book were written like Exercices de style by Raymond Queneau? In short, highly similar, quickly read chapters.

Queneau was one of the founders of the French literary movement called OuLiPo. "Movement" is not the best word; "group" could work for want of anything better. The group, which still exists today, made its name from an acronym of the French phrase Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, normally translated as "workshop in potential literature," though I prefer "experiment in potential literature." It is an experiment in creating artificial literary constraints in the belief that doing so is the only way to liberate artistic impulses.

Queneau's Exercices could be considered a founding work of OuLiPo, and the constraint it presents, conveniently named exercice de style, is quite easily imitated. He writes a very short, one-page account of an unimportant incident. Then he rewrites the story in 98 different ways, some if which include telling it from the perspectives of different characters involved, putting it in the form of a drama, writing it with anglicisms, writing it as a formal letter, etc.

The implications for meaning are fascinating, because different perspectives give the reader completely different things to think about and even on occasion new information, but the essential elements of the core story do not change. So the book is not at all boring, but just in case you think it does, let me mention that it also has a surprise ending. Plus, it's fast and easy to read because each most of the "chapters" are less than a page.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Must-Read, 2nd ed.

I now own the second edition of A Dictionary of Stylistics! It was an excellent birthday gift and now I can return the library copy of the edition.

When it comes to editions, it is probably almost always best to have the most recent. Three qualifications to that statement: 1) The most recent edition is best unless you are doing a comparison of editions or want to see what the older information was in a previous edition. 2) The most recent edition is best even if an older edition is better (by whatever criteria) simply because the newest edition should have the most current information. 3) Number 2 does not hold in the case of all college textbooks, which can be updated at an annoyingly frequent pace and can also be too expensive.

In regard to printings, however, I'm a bit more ambivalent. I'm not convinced of the necessity to have the first printing of an edition. An amazing professor of mine argued for getting the original printing of a book. The context was fiction, and he was referring to a novel by Patrick Chamoiseau. I suppose in the case of fiction a case could be made.

What do you think? Always update editions? Always go for the first printing?

A Votar: Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 Competition

Lexiophiles ya empezaron su concurso para los blogs de idiomas. El mío está en la categoría "Language Professionals Blogs," así que si te ha gustado tantito este blog, Langue or Parole?, puedes votar por mí. Nada más hay que seleccionar en la página tu blog favorito y hacer click en el botón que dice "Vote" y ya es todo.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

OuLiPo : Les contraintes littéraires

 OuLiPo, c'est l'Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, un atelier littéraire qui vise à inventer des contraintes artificielles pour la littérature. Pour en donner un exemple, l'une de ces contraintes s'appelle S+7 : « La méthode S+7 consiste à remplacer chaque substantif (S) d'un texte préexistant par le septième substantif trouvé après lui dans un dictionnaire (S+7) donné. »*

François Le Lionnais et Raymond Queneau ont été les fondateurs d'OuLiPo, groupe qui existe toujours et qui continue de produire de nouvelles contraintes. Je ne suis pas tellement intéressé par l'élément mathématique des contraintes oulipiennes mais surtout par les fortes implications pour la signification. Et de plus, c'est amusant.

Ce mois je lis plusieurs livres de Georges Perec et Raymond Queneau, les oulipiens les plus connus. W, ou le souvenir d'enfance de Perec est remarquable plutôt comme autobiographie mais présente des éléments oulipiens quand même. Je vais lire La Disparition de Perec aussi. C'est le lipogramme le plus fameux, dont la traduction fait toujours partie des discussions intéressantes dans le monde de la traductologie. Et j'ai presque terminé le livre essentiel de Queneau qui aussi définit une contrainte traditionnelle, Exercices de style.

*Voici le premier paragraphe de ce post en employant la contrainte S+7 (mais qui est en réalité une nouvelle contrainte que je nommerai « S+7 traduit » puisque je n'ai que mon dictionnaire anglais avec moi pour le moment) :

OuLiPo, c'est l'Ouvroir de Lithium Potentiel, une grève du zèle qui vise à inventer des constructivismes artificiels pour le lithium. Pour en donner une excavation, l'un de ces constructivismes s'appelle S+7 : « Le mathusalem S+7 consiste à remplacer chaque substratum (S) d'un thaïlandais préexistant par le septième substratum trouvé après lui dans un néant (S+7) donné. »

投票: Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 Competition

今年のLexiophilesのブログコンテストが始まりました。このブログ(Lanuge or Parole?)がLanguage Professionals Blogsという名簿に載っていて、もしこのブログが少し好きになったら賛成票を投じてください。Langue or Parole?を選択してVoteのボタンをクリックをすると簡単にできます。

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Île flottante

At the suggestion of my wife, who knows better than anyone the significance of food in my life, I am beginning a new blog feature: Recipe of the Month. The recipe for May 2011 is the French dessert called île flottante, or floating island. It is a light, sweet dessert that adds a touch of elegance to your dinner table and is a good alternative to a bowl of ice cream. 

I came across this recipe in my Hugunot research, and I was looking for an authentic Huguenot recipe that is also now a part of American cuisine, especially southern cuisine. My search led me to John Martin Taylor, an authority on Lowcountry cuisine of South Carolina (and a whole lot of other cuisines). Though he gave me a list of French recipes that have also become part of Lowcountry cuisine, he said, "It would be very hard to pinpoint them as specifically Huguenot." So, though the Huguenots have left indelible traces of their influence in South Carolina, cuisine is not one area where that influence can be historically verified. But it is for sure that île flottante (also called œufs à la neige) came from France and is part of Lowcountry cuisine.

NOTE: The Huguenot torte is neither Huguenot nor a torte, according to Taylor.

Rather than post a recipe, I will direct you to recipes on several websites, which may be lazy but is also honest because my recipe was an amalgamation of these. I did not use the vanilla pods that a lot of them call for, just plain ol' vanilla extract. I also didn't make the caramel to drizzle on top. But to show you that I really did make île flottante and that it turned out all right for my first try, I will post a photo.

My wife said she liked it. I did too, but being a harsher critic of my own cooking, I also thought that my crème anglaise was a bit lumpy, not as smooth as John Martin Taylor could have made it, I'm sure.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Honesty: An Intellectual Standard(s)

Intellectual standards are important, so much so that they are taken for granted. There are some that I know I take for granted (The Critical Thinking Community has a good list for starters), but there are others that I think should be spelled out, oh, every few weeks or so, especially for the benefit of academics, intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and the like--those who tend to be the ones speaking and publishing the most often and thereby forming climates and cultures of opinion and thought.

The following standards could all be included under the superordinate standard of intellectual honesty. This is the most important intellectual standard, the violation of which may be the only mortal academic sin. Love can cover a multitude of sins when it comes to clarity, accuracy, precision, etc. But dishonesty in academic work is unpardonable. So, four intellectual standards relating to honesty:

1) I must be forthright about my biases and perspectives, my blik. NOTE: Objectivity is a bias, but "bias" does not equal "bad."

2) I must try to understand those with whom I disagree before beginning a critique and then must state their views in a way they would agree with.

3) I must not write about things I know I do not understand. NOTE: This is different from writing about things on which I am not an expert, which is not objectionable in the least but should nonetheless be policed...

Turkish MPs reach a compromise.
4) I must be up front when writing about things on which I am not an expert or fields in which I have not earned a degree but nonetheless understand and want to comment on.

It must of course be noted that all standards for intellectual debate and interaction may be summarily dismissed if one has either a sturdy walking cane or a jarring right hook. Upon reflection, it would seem that the real unpardonable sin in academia is an under-appreciation of the physical.

Preston Brooks reasons with Charles Sumner.
political cartoon by J.L. Magee

Votre droit de vote: Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 Competition

Saviez-vous que vous avez un droit de vote qui dépasse toute limite nationale et gouvernementale ? Il s'agit de la compétition chez Lexiophiles pour les meilleurs blogs qui portent sur les langues. Si vous aimez Langue or Parole?, ce blog fait partie de la catégorie Language Professionals Blogs. Votez donc pour moi ! Mais bien sûr, votez pour quelqu'un d'autre si vous avez un autre blog préféré. (Vous pouvez également cliquer sur le bouton Top 100 à droite.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jesus, Fanon, and Huston on Childhood

I recently read the following quotations on children/childhood:
Le malheur de l’homme est d’avoir été enfant. (Peau noire, masques blancs, 188)
Translation: "Man's misfortune is having been a child" (Frantz Fanon).
Après tout, au fond, notre « vrai » moi est bien celui, rabougri et ridicule, de l’enfance…, n’est-ce pas ? (Lettres parisiennes, 60).
Translation: "After all, deep down, our 'true' self is really the shriveled, ridiculous one of our childhood, isn't it?" (Nancy Huston).
Fanon and Huston both made me think of Christ's words about the little children: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).

Certainly all three of these quotations are removed from their context (which is probably only unfair to the original meaning in the case of Fanon). But they pack a whole lot of philosophy into short sentences. Fanon and Huston are both onto something, though they may not realize what (sinful human nature, which goes back to childhood, or birth to be precise). They understand that all human problems (particularly, for them, injustice, racism, psychological exile, loneliness) go back to childhood, in other words to our humanness. Unfortunately they miss the solution, which is contained in Christ's simple invitation to all children. If we realize and accept that Christ is always ready to forgive us (if we repent and become like little children again, if we no longer are), then we can begin to work toward Christ-likeness in all areas of life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

La pédagogie jésuite

The Jesuits, founded by Ignatius, have a venerable pedagogical tradition, and I have been interested in finding out more about it for about a year.

Recently a blogger friend sent me an article about a pedagogical concept from the Jesuits that I had not heard of before: eloquentia perfecta. According to the article, "The phrase evokes an elegance and erudition in learning and communication, whether in public speaking or writing, that is directed not toward the mere perfection of these skills but toward service to the common good."

Loyola University Maryland, part of what the article portrays as a rediscovery of eloquentia perfecta at Jesuit universities, gives three goals of the pedagogical method:

  • the ability to use speech and writing effectively, logically, gracefully, persuasively, and responsibly
  • critical understanding of and competence in a broad range of communications media
  • competence in a language other than one's own
Igantius of Loyola
This list and the statement above from the article sound like what all teachers want their students to achieve, but the $1 million pedagogical question is, How do you achieve it?  Again from the article: "Students devote a higher percentage of class time to preparing and presenting oral reports; they must complete more writing requirements; and each assignment is more thoroughly reviewed and revised by instructors and often by fellow classmates as well."

As with anything in education, of course, there is no "best" methodology (the French phrase la bonne pratique is helpful since it does not contain the superlative but focuses teachers on finding out what works). I think the more important challenge for any teacher, and the resolution of which is the most rewarding, is making the chosen methodology both effective and interesting for students. One Jesuit professor is quoted in the article saying, “These are just skills that you really have to learn, and you learn them by doing them. . . . With any core curriculum, . . . most people hate [it] while they do it, and they fall in love with it 10 years later at alumni reunions.” The challenge is to transform that initial hate into love.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Universal Grammar Possible?

So maybe Noam Chomsky was right after all? This news is about a week old now, but Science Daily reported that a new study indicates there may indeed be some basic grammar rules built into the human brain. The study's methodology is actually just as interesting as the results. I won't give everything away before you read the article, but it has to do with green aliens and made-up languages.

In regard to the results, one of the authors of the study, Jennifer Culbertson, said, "What this study suggests is that the problem of acquisition is made simpler by the fact that learners already know some important things about human languages--in this case, that certain words [sic] orders are likely to occur and others are not."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today in Language: Elena Poniatowska

Elena Poniatowska nació el 19 de mayo, 1932. Ella es frecuentemente mencionada con Carlos Monsiváis, José Emilio Pacheco y Carlos Fuentes, una generación venerable de cuatro escritores mexicanos. Todos vivieron los años 50 y 60, y Poniatowska fue especialmente afectada por los eventos en el año 1968. Escribió en 1971 su historia oral famosa La Noche de Tlatelolco. Tlatelolco es un vecindario en la Ciudad de México. La noche fue el 2 de octubre de 1968 cuando el ejército mató a más de 300 estudiantes que estaban protestando. El libro de Poniatowska entonces es un reportaje muy detallado de testimonios personales del masacre, historia importante y fascinante sobre aquella época de mucha turbación en todas partes del mundo.
The Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska was born on May 19, 1932.

Homi on the Humanities

Homi Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, has some helpful (and lucid) remarks on his director's welcome page in regard to the nature of and need for the humanities. Check out the website for his center and watch this short video where he articulates similar ideas:


Bhabha makes several statements in the video that are central to his understanding of the humanities and, I think, key in expanding what our view of the humanities can be. He says for example (the following quotations from the movie are "cleaned-up" and not verbatim transcripts):
We need to make a distinction between the humanities as a certain set of disciplines which have always been associated with the humanities--literature, religion, philosophy, classics of various cultures, language--these are the disciplines we usually recognize as the humanities disciplines. But the humanities also provide a climate of opinion or a culture of knowledge, something wider than these disciplines.
Reread that last line and you will see what Bhabha is driving at. I am not sure that I would limit the creation of a "climate of opinion" or a "culture of knowledge" to the humanities. But the humanities certainly are central and perhaps even the key area of academic knowledge and investigation in the creation of the academic climate/culture. Bhabha goes on to give three reasons for this; I have noted a keyword for each reason in bold.

First, "The humanities focus very much on interpretation, how we take information and through interpretation create what we call knowledge."

Second, it is particularly through the humanities that we find ourselves "reflecting on moral values, social values, cultural values in times of transition."

Third, "The humanities are extremely important in making connections between the human sciences, the social sciences, and the hard sciences. Why? Because it features interpretation and transition so centrally."

I like how he ties together the essence of the humanities (interpretation and transition)--an essence that remains whether one is studying literature, language, philosophy, or theology--with the ability to relate the humanities to other areas of knowledge. Of course, as Sokal and Bricmont reminded us, we must be extremely careful when trying to draw such connections, especially between the humanities or social sciences and the hard sciences. This is something that critics tend to say Bhabha has not done well in his own work on postcolonialism and cultural studies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Call for Votes: Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 Competition

It's time to cast your vote for your favorite language blog. Actually, you can vote four times because Lexiophiles have four different categories this year, including Twitter accounts and Facebook pages focused on languages. Langue or Parole? is in the Language Professionals Blogs category.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Today in Language: Alfonso Reyes

El escritor y político Alfonso Reyes nació el 17 de mayo, 1889. Escribió su poema "Apenas" en 1927 en la ciudad de Buenos Aires: 

A veces, hecho de nada,
sube un efluvio del suelo.
De repente, a la callada,
suspira de aroma el cedro.

Como somos la delgada
disolución de un secreto,
a poco que cede el alma
desborda la fuente un sueño.

¡Mísera cosa la vaga
razón cuando, en el silencio,
una como resolana
me baja, de tu recuerdo!

The Mexican writer Alfonso Reyes was born on May 17, 1889.

Deux tomes sur le postcolonialisme

Je viens de terminer Peau noire, masques blancs par Frantz Fanon. C'était en fait la thèse de doctorat que Fanon a vue rejetée mais qui est un texte principal de ce qu'on appelle le postcolonialisme. On peut comprendre pourquoi la thèse a été rejetée : c'est trop personnelle, pas du tout une analyse objective/scientifique/compréhensive, soit d'un point de vue littéraire soit d'un point de vue psychanalytique (puisqu'il s'agit des observations tantôt littéraires tantôt psychanalytiques). Pour ne pas paraître négatif, il faut avouer que c'est un récit personnel, touchant, lyrique, très important pour comprendre "l'expérience vécue" de Fanon. Voici un de ses passages sur la condition humaine :
Nous avons dit dans notre introduction que l’homme était un oui. Nous ne cesserons de le répéter. Oui à la vie. Oui à l’amour. Oui à la générosité. Mais l’homme est aussi un non. Non au mépris de l’homme. Non à l’indignité de l’homme. À l’exploitation de l’homme. Au meurtre de ce qu’il y a de plus humain dans l’homme : la liberté. (180)
Il y a deux ou trois mois, j'avais lu l'ouvrage de Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme, un autre livre que je peux recommander et qui est essentiel pour comprendre l'anti- et le post-colonialisme dans le contexte français/francophone. Peau noire est aussi vigoureux que Discours quant à l'argumentation contre le racisme et le colonialisme mais celui-ci est certainement plus strident.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today in Language: Juan Rulfo

El escritor mexicano Juan Rulfo nació en este día en el año 1918. Publicó una novela, Pedro Páramo, y una colleción de cuentos, El llano en llamas. De los cuentos, uno muy sencillo que se llama "Acuérdate" nos hace acordar a la gente que hemos conocido en el pasado, personas que hace años que no las vemos. Y nos recuerda también que a veces esas personas han tenido gran éxito en la vida, o a veces han experimentado tragedias inimaginables. Lo triste es que a veces estas tragedias son debidas a los errores de otros; lo trágico es que a veces son debidas a nuestros propios pecados.

Al leer esta historia, me puse a pensar en dos hombres que salen en las noticias en estos días. Uno de ellos, Osama bin Laden, hizo mucha maldad en este mundo, sin duda. Y aún él era un niño pequeño e inocente un día, como mi niñito que veo y oro que no sea una persona de maldad. ¿Conozco yo personas que, en cierta situación, actuarían como bin Laden? Pues sí, porque todos tenemos maldad en el corazón.

En cuanto al otro hombre, aún no sabemos nada de su culpabilidad o inocencia: Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Si es culpable, si realmente violó a una mujer en su hotel, hay que tener mucha compasión por la mujer y orar que pueda continuar en la vida sin mucho dolor psicológico o memorias aterradoras, y que a Strauss-Kahn lo pongan en la cárcel sin tardar. Por el otro lado, si Strauss-Kahn es inocente, hay que esperar que pueda continuar en su carrera política sin muchos efectos malos (y mucha sospecha ajena) y que los que han querido tenerle una trampa sean descubiertos y castigados. Por lo pronto, hay que esperar y ver la evidencia.

Sobre todo, hay que acordarnos, como dice Rulfo, de la gente que conocimos años atrás y preguntarnos, ¿que les habrá pasado?

The Mexican writer Juan Rulfo was born on May 16, 1918 (many online sources have him wrongly listed as born in 1917).

La sentimentalité : Une deuxième réponse

Une autre idée sur la sentimentalité de Lettres parisiennes. Cette fois c'est Leïla Sebbar, dans la lettre XXI, qui parle de la sentimentalité. Elle parle des livres de Virginia Woolf et Gertrude Stein :
Contrairement au roman traditionnel féminin, les livres de l'une et de l'autre ne sont pas des romans sentimentaux. Le sentiment amoureux y est diffus, flou, ambigu. Et pourtant je les ai lus chaque fois comme des livres de femme.
Traduction: Unlike the traditional feminine novel, the books that Woolf and Stein wrote are not sentimental novels. Any romantic feeling is vague, problematic, and ambiguous. And yet I have always read them as women's literature.
Ce qui constituterait la sentimentalité pour Sebbar, me semble-t-il, c'est une démonstration des sentiments amoureux sans ambiguïté, sans démonstration des problèmes et des contradictions des sentiments amoureux, reconnus par tous qui ont éprouvé de tels sentiments. Qu'en pensez-vous ?

五月病? May Sickness?

五月病か? 五月になってある人が本当に憂うつな気分になるのか? もちろん文化的なことだと思います。なぜなら西洋学期は大抵5月か6月に終わりますが、日本でゴールデンウィークのすぐ後に学期が始まってちょっと大変か もしれません。それにもかかわらず、5月は素晴らしい月ですよ。理由を申し上げます:

  • もし温帯に住めば(少なくとも中部地方)、5月になるととてもうららかな天気です。
  • 3月か4月が花見の一番繁盛 する季節であっても、5月になると夏の暖かさでもっと桜を楽しめるのです。
  • 花見があまり好きではなくて も、5月に咲く花は美しいです。
  • 5月は起源の月です。夏の始 まりです。そして日本では、新しい学期が始まったばかり、また仕事に戻ったばかりでこれから成功できると考えるべきではないでしょうか。
  • 私の誕生日は5月にありま す。

The so-called "May Sickness" (go-gatsu-byo) is a uniquely Japanese "disorder"--one from which I have never suffered. It is interesting how you can attach the word "byo" (病; sickness) to anything to make it into a disorder. But I love May. Having always lived in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere (Nagoya City in Japan and South Carolina in the U.S.), I see May as the month when things just start to warm up, and I love the summer, even more so now that my Mexican wife, who prefers the tropics, has to suffer through the 20- to 35-degree winters of the Carolinas. May is a month of beginnings, warmth, excitement, summer, and even birth (my birthday, at least).

La sentimentalité : Une réponse partielle

Lorsque j'ai posé une question sur la sentimentalité, je n'attendais pas une réponse des années '80. Mais Nancy Huston, dont je lis Lettres parisiennes (correspondance avec Leïla Sebbar), m'a donné un exemple de la sentimentalité, ce qui n'est pas définition mais avance quand même un peu mes recherches sur la sentimentalité. Voici un extrait de la lettre XVIII de Huston :
 Je suis très sentimentale. Chaque fois que j'ai eu l'occasion, comme en ce moment, de me sentir vivre seule, j'ai été incapable de résister à la tentation nostalgique. Souvent cela a voulu dire : relire des journaux intimes, parcourir de vieilles lettres d'amis, d'amants et de parents ; rêvasser sur des photos.
Traduction: I am very sentimental. Every time I have had the chance, like right now, to feel like I am alone, I have been incapable of resisting the temptation of nostalgia. That often means rereading diaries, perusing old letters from friends, lovers, and relatives, daydreaming over photos.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Must-Read

Or perhaps a must-peruse/must-reference. I have not and probably never will read in its entirety the excellent Dictionary of Stylistics by Katie Wales. When I first heard of it, it didn't sound particularly interesting or useful, as stylistics is not one of my principal interests. But despite having perhaps more stylistics-related terms than a general linguistics glossary might, the volume is more a dictionary of linguistics, and a most thorough one at that. It is the result of Wales' "becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the proliferation of terms that has inevitably accompanied the development of stylistics and other disciplines of relevance to textual analysis since the 1960s" (vii). The result was that she sat down and wrote up a dictionary of terms, and is currently working on the third edition.

To give just a small sample, and in honor of the title of the book, let me post the definition/explanation of stylistics that Wales gives (this from the first edition, as I don't yet have the second):

The study of style; yet just as style can be viewed in several ways, so there are several different stylistic approaches. . . . Stylistics in the twentieth century replaces and expands on the earlier study of elocutio in rhetoric.
One can then go on to look up the entries on style and elocutio in rhetoric as well. Don't you just love dictionaries, categorizations, definitions? I live for such books that give me structure, framework, lists. And that puts me in good, or at least heady, company.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lamoura dans Jura

Dans la lettre XIV à Leïla Sebbar dans Lettres parisiennes, Nancy Huston commence par un calembour intérressant : « Je ne Jura que par Lamoura. » Mais comment traduire ça ? Je pense toujours à l'anglais, mais dans n'importe quelle langue il y a du moins deux éléments à garder : la rime (c'est-à-dire préserver quelque forme de rime, pas forcément la rime française qui est masculine et pauvre) et bien sûr les mots à double sens, ce qui fait le calembour (des noms géographiques qui représentent en même temps des abstractions).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Call for Nominations: Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 Competition

Lexiophiles have tweaked their blog competition that used to be called the Top 100 Language Blogs to include Facebook pages and Twitter accounts this year. If you like Langue or Parole?, nominate me! But only if you seriously do like the blog. Nominate someone else if their blog is better.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Today in Language: Gustave Flaubert

Flaubert est mort le 8 mai 1880. On dit qu'il a écrit le seul roman « parfait » dans un sens technique. Si vous n'avez pas lu Madame Bovary, eh bien, vous ne connaissez pas la littérature. Même si ce n'est pas un roman préféré, c'est un roman essentiel. Si vous connaissez déjà Emma l'infidèle, je recommande la biographie par Henri Troyat, un ouvrage aussi essentiel et fascinant en ce qui concerne les petits détails de la vie et les habitudes quotidiennes d'un grand écrivain.


Gustave Flaubert, author of the renowned Madame Bovary, died on May 8, 1880.

Saturday, May 7, 2011



Friday, May 6, 2011

Today in Language: Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau, who died on May 6, 1862, has the following quote commonly attributed to him: 
The language of friendship is not words, but meanings. 
Translation: Le langage de l'amitié ne réside pas dans les mots, mais dans les sens.
What did Thoreau mean?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Word "Linguist": A Prescriptivist Approach

Both in my profile and my underwhelming inaugural blog post, I note that I have not found many good linguistics blogs. I stand by that but want to explain what I mean. There are a whole lot of blogs about languages and language learning out there--as there should be, for language learning is the most practical aspect of linguistics, something that virtually all humans engage in even if they never hear the word "linguistics." But for the most part I don't consider these blogs linguistics blogs.

The reason is tied to why I don't consider myself or most of the people who maintain language blogs to be linguists in a formal sense. The word is commonly used to mean "multilingual" (or "polyglot"). And far be it from me, of course, to decry that usage. I would not want to have the descriptivist crowd on my case. And more importantly, the word has a venerable history being used as, and therefore meaning, "someone who speaks several languages." This history goes back at least to 1593, if the OED is to be trusted.

But in looking for linguistics blogs, I was not looking for blogs by mere multilinguals or polyglots. I was looking for blogs about the study of linguistics, preferably by people who are linguists in another usage/meaning of the term, people who study or preferably specialize in linguistics. In this sense, speaking two or more languages doesn't make anyone a linguist, and in this sense I don't consider myself a linguist because I don't have formal training in linguistics and therefore don't understand linguistic terminology and theories as well as someone who does have formal training.

To sum up, there are good blogs out there by multilinguals giving good ideas for language learning. But these blogs do not generally delve linguistically into how humans (best) learn languages or display knowledge of the research that has gone into the question. This is not a criticism. Simply an observation that when I searched for "linguistics blogs" or "blogs by linguists," I didn't find what I was looking for and, for myself, will be using the word "linguist" to refer to someone who understands linguistics well and "multilingual" for someone who has the awesome capacity to learn a bunch of languages.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Today in Language: Carlos Monsiváis

Hace dos o tres años, mi esposa me enseño un artículo en inglés sobre México. Se trataba sobre todo de la política, pero lo que nos llamó la atención fue una cita (que ahora cuento de memoria) sobre la actitud extranjera hacia México. Decía el periodista que todos quieren visitar a México o ayudar a México o aprender el idioma de México, que los extranjeros quieren hacer algo a condición de que no sea leer de México. Bueno, yo no he leído mucho sobre México pero uno de mis propósitos este año es corregir esta carencia literaria y para empezar leí un ensayo del gran escritor mexicano Carlos Monsiváis, quién nació el 4 de mayo, 1938.

Sobre todo ensayista, Monsiváis publicó varias colleciones con diferentes temas de la sociedad, la literature, la política. Una colleción fechada en 2000 se titula Aires de familia: Cultura y sociedad en América Latina. En el primer ensayo, "De las versiones de lo popular," Monsiváis habla del problema de que la gente no lee, pero aquí es la gente latinoamericana. Él empieza con una cita de Amado Nuevo: "En general, en México se escribe para los que escriben." El comentario de Monsiváis sobre esta situación:
Los escritores proceden, a sabiendas de que les rodean el atraso, la inhumanidad de los caudillos, la indiferencia de la sociedad. . . . Al precisar el carácter de quienes no los leen, los escritores suelen identificar tres núcleos fundamentales: sus semejantes (que otros llaman la élite), el Pueblo (en el siglo XIX, lo que hoy sería sinónimo de clases medias) y la gleba, "el gran obstáculo para el Progreso," en su versión de indígenas remotos o de parias urbanos.
Pero Monsiváis continúa hablando del Pueblo, de lo popular, dando una perspectiva general de la literature mexicana, especialmente de los siglos XIV y XX, para abogar por una literatura que intente de alcanzar a las masas: "O la novela es popular o no es nada, porque ése es el único paisaje humano a la vista."


Carlos Monsiváis, born May 4, 1938, was part of a venerable generation of Mexican writers. Unfortunately, like many great Mexican writers he is not as well-known as he could be simply because 1) Mexicans, very generally speaking, do not tend to read a lot (the emphasis in Hispanic countries generally is more on social interaction, which has very definite advantages and benefits), and 2) non-Mexicans tend not to read about Mexico. Oh, we might visit Mexico for vacation, but how many people really know that much about Mexico's history and literature?

This year I have decided to begin working on this gaping hole in my literary and cultural knowledge and Monsiváis is just the first in a series of writers that I plan to read and recommend over the summer months.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Les Huguenots et l'Amérique du Nord: Lecture

Voici quelques ouvrages sur les Huguenots et l'Amérique du Nord. Ce n'est pas une liste exhaustive mais simplement des livres en français (il y'en a beaucoup plus en anglais sur l'Amérique du Nord) que j'utilise pour préparer une présentation à la conférence de l'AATF à Montréal au mois de juillet. Le sujet, c'est les Huguenots en Amérique du Nord. Malheureusement la majorité d'ouvrages sur le diaspora huguenot aux Etats-Unis est en anglais (naturellement, je suppose) mais il y a ces livres quand même qui donnent un aperçu important sur le contexte eureopéen qui a défini l'expérience huguenote dans tous les pays où ils se sont retrouvés.


Lestringant, Frank. Le Huguenot et le sauvage : L'Amérique et la controverse coloniale, en France, au temps des guerres de Religion. 3rd ed. Geneva: Librairie Droz S.A., 2004. 

- - -. L’Expérience huguenote au nouveau monde (XVIe siècle). Geneva: Libraire Droz S.A., 1996. 

Crouzet, Denis. Dieu en ses royaumes : Une histoire des guerres de Religion. Époques, ed. Joël Cornette. Paris: Champ Vallon, 2008.

Delumeau, Jean. Naissance et affirmation de la Réforme. L’histoire et ses problèmes, ed. Robert Boutruche & Paul Lemerle. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1973.

Wanegffelen, Thierry. L’Édit de Nantes : Une histoire européenne de la tolérance (XVIe—XXe siècle). Paris: Librairie Générale Française, 1998.