Friday, July 29, 2011

Unexpected observation.

The stylistic qualities and hidden messages of a text are never more obvious and easily described as when the description is in another language.

I ought to write an article about that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Languages, Linguistics and Plans.

The more language systems you have installed in your mind - a.k.a., the more languages you know well - and the more diverse these languages are, the deeper is your understanding of language. I've got native-speaker competence in Russian and English, along with some leftovers of German and rudiments of Latin; that's better than nothing, but still only good enough to begin to understand what General Linguistics is all about. I wish I knew French, too, but the real breakthrough means stepping outside the Indo-European family. My long-term plans are to learn a language from every major family: Chinese or Japanese, Hebrew or Arabic, an American Indian language, Hungarian, Swahili – in no particular order. And, when I’ve got four or five language families covered, I want to learn Ancient Greek – to read Iliad in the original, that's why - or maybe another dead language, like Sanskrit. And some really primitive language, of the ones that require travelling to exotic places and learning by talking to native speakers. People in my family die in their 80’s or later, so I think I have a good chance to complete the plans and still have time left to put this knowlenge to use J

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Wrong Kind of Chocolate Factory.

The tragedy of general linguistics is that the object of your study – the language – is right there, readily available for research, in your own head. You can feel the working of the Langue, sense the relations between sounds and meanings, you can observe the Parole, the process of using these relations for retrieving and sharing information, you can see how texts are perceived and composed. Inside your head, without any laboratories, equipment, personnel, you can do anything. The only thing you can’t do is take it out. As soon as you put it down, it turns into text, and, in a way, it’s dead. The relations that make the Langue are broken, the processes that make the Parole no longer run, the only thing that is left is the set of symbols, which might or might not be interpreted or misinterpreted by another person. But in the process of interpretation it’s going to be the reader’s Langue and Parole, not yours, the reader doesn’t have a chance to connect to your mind, and thus cannot repeat the experiment, cannot really verify the results, and, you know, if results can’t be verified, it’s not a science. It’s like working at a chocolate factory, where you can eat all chocolate you want, but you can’t take it home to the kids.