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Showing posts from October, 2011

Today in Language: Journée internationale de la langue et de la culture créoles

C'est aujourd'hui, le 28 octobre, la journée internationale de la langue et de la culture créoles. Cela vient de Sainte-Lucie mais c'est aussi une célébration sur d'autres îles antillaises* ainsi que partout dans le monde créole, qui se trouve un peu partout.
Ce sont Jean Bernabé, Patrick Chamoiseau et Raphaël Confiant, les créolistes martiniquais, qui ont écrit une Éloge de la créolité où ils définissent la créolité (plutôt que créole) comme l’agrégat interactionnel ou transactionnel, des éléments culturels caraïbes, européens, africains, asiatiques, et levantins, que le joug de l’Histoire a réunis sur le même sol » (26).
En vue de cette conscience chez eux qui sont de vrais créoles, la définition de référence pour créole n'est pas du tout acceptable : « (Personne) qui est de race blanche, d'ascendance européenne, originaire des plus anciennes colonies d'outre-mer ».
*Autant que je sache étant états-unien et non-créole, et quelqu'un qui n'ai jamais …

A Great Quotation and a Half-Hearted Book Review

Consider this great quotation from a less-than-great book:
A great variety of scriptural texts say very many different things indirectly, directly, cumulatively, and in different genres precisely in order to do with their various locutions only thing illocutionarily: to confront all people with the reality of the living Jesus Christ. Why? So that they will understand God’s love and forgiveness, repent of their sin, and live in the truth.
Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible Smith's book is basically against biblicism, which he defines as a very narrow, literalistic, straight-jacket approach to the Bible that ends up bordering on a straw-man definition but that he nonetheless insists characterizes the way the vast majority of American (evangelical) Christians approach the Scripture. The book argues against this "biblicism" primarily because of pervasive interpretive pluralism, or the fact that "American evangelicals" arrive at a bewildering variety of c…

On Articles, Artificial Grammar, and Language Change

My half job is teaching writing to teenagers. I love telling them that it is not wrong to split an infinitive in English. I also love telling them it is not "wrong" (the quotation marks here are an important contrast to their absence in the previous sentence) to use pronoun-antecedent disagreement (Example: "Every student takes their own notes").
I love telling my students such things because at some base level it is always fun to say something that seems subversive (even if it really is not). But I also love saying such things because it actually helps the students and liberates them from bad notions (coming from bad teaching) about language, grammar, and usage.
In my teaching, I distinguish between artificial and natural grammar to help my students understand that grammar is natural and would always exist, even if we had no orthographic system or grammar books. Artificial grammar is artificial because it tries to create and impose a system that will inevitably, u…

On the Myth of Multitasking - Argument

My argument that multitasking (as I define it) is a myth, apart from being based on research by people who know a lot more than I do about the human brain and such, is not a watertight argument. It is merely an experiential argument.

I believe true multitasking is a myth because I have never observed it. Sure, I have heard many women (and men) claim that (usually) women are able to multitask but (usually) not men. But I have never observed it or heard an example from anyone else observing it, even in women. Circumstantial evidence never convinces me that even women can consciously carry out two or more tasks at the same time. Sure, certain women (or men) may be able to 1) have one or more tasks going on subconsciously or 2) quickly switch back and forth between two or more tasks that all require conscious attention. But I remain unconvinced (only due to lack of evidence) that anyone can consciously carry out more than one task at a time.

To explain myself a bit more, consider a common e…

On the Myth of Multitasking - Source

My claim that multitasking (as I defined it) is a myth is based on a popular work by a brain scientist. Brain Rules, by John Medina, is a great little book (it now has a companion book about baby brains).

Read all of Medina's chapter 4 (rule number 4: We don't pay attention to boring things) for yourself. But to sum up, let me give a brief quotation from Medina's Brain Rules website page about the rule:
The brain is not capable of multi-tasking. We can talk and breathe, but when it comes to higher level tasks, we just can’t do it.

On the Myth of Multitasking - Another Definition

The definition I gave in the previous post is important, because any another definition for multitasking could hardly be controversial and would definitely not challenge the conventional wisdom.

For example, to say that multitasking is simply doing more than one thing at once is so vague that we would all say we can multitask (breathing + another activity). It could also be interpreted to mean we have more than one thing going on at a time in our lives--which is always true. I currently have two and a half jobs (soon to be one and a half, once my wife finishes her maternity leave). I also have several books that are at various stages of completion. I have home projects. I have life goals.

So a vague definition simply will not do.