language and mind

April 21, 2013

The president, the queen, and the dear, one and only head

Filed under: citizenship, grammar, language, language processing, language use — teresapelka @ 7:08 am

My dear head does not give me headaches and this is one of the reasons I literally love it. Should I write, ‘my dear Head…’ ?

Some guys will tell you to spell words with capital letters for respect. You say ‘the Queen’s English’, and you say ‘the Chairman’, the guys would argue. Well, but then you’d have to look respectful about the Nazis and the Jihad …

Human thought has had the human body in view. We humans have heads of sentences and clauses; we have heads of states. And we humans could not live without own heads cozy with own necks. This might be the reason for some singularity in the use of capital letters.

The capital, that is, big letters work along with the way we orient in the reality. There are no proper nouns objectively, proper nouns are nouns as perceived by humans. I do not and would not advocate misspelling family or second names. This is, however, a human idea to spell them with big letters, and not any supernatural endowment.

With heads of states, relevance would matter most. The President would be the relevant president in office. The Queen would be the relevant ruler. Therefore, I would not have it for a mistake, if an American or person of a nationality other than British would write, ‘the queen’ about Elizabeth II. Ms. Windsor is not the head of the U.S.A. or all countries, she is the head of the UK and the Commonwealth. It might be actually un-diplomatic towards other rulers, if to try to nominate the one and only crowned head.

Well, plurality could come naturally cumbersome: one head not giving you headache, no one can tell what would be, should you have two … ;)

What if you’d have two heads of states to write about in one essay, for example? The language matter happens to pool information also on reference. Just as one can write the Flag for the American (or another, relevant) flag, one can write the American president and the English queen, not capitalizing either — again, for diplomacy’s sake. Naturally, the phrases ‘Mr. Obama’ or ‘Ms. Windsor’ could not be taken for terms of offense.

The Queen’s (or King’s) English is a phrase not to refer to any particular person. England has had quite a few queens and kings so far. The phrase denotes the Standard English or Received Pronunciation. Viewing the phrase as belonging with one person only and making a proper noun reference could compare with coining ‘standard terms’ such as ‘Stalin’s Russian’ or ‘Hitler’s German’. The English themselves might go unhappy, however they are experts at splendid isolation. ;)

Feel welcome to see the Word Reference forum,

March 28, 2013

British grammar nazis

ImageDisclaimer: the adjacent — and colored meaningfully yellow — graphic piffle is not intended to mean the Union Jack proper. It is the British grammar nazis logo on Facebook.

BGN Facebook

The logo dubious pulchritude may be seen in its full form on the right. Now, without going into matters of the meaning of life or the spoken lore on WWII and British losses — invaluable for those hard of reading — let me focus on the statistics and implications.

 The site has about 50 K ‘likes’. Taking the British population alone, that would make the maximum of 50 thousand functionally illiterate among about 63 million people. I mean, much has been written about WWII; evidently, mere gathering orthography and other detail does not make you capable of text interpretation.

Some might say it is not so bad, it is not even one percent. Still, you’d better ‘think literacy’, going to the UK.

Keep your profile according to your passport photo; the guys demonstrate attention to picture specifics. ;)

Remember to wave your hand, getting a taxi; try to get a map with statues and other tourist attractions in large icons. It is better to take a walk from the National Museum than end up the Piccadilly owing to a visiting card small print. ;)

In hotels, always tick the boxes; at best, you ask for those straight, should you be provided with a form without boxes to tick. ;)

When it comes to mailing letters, get the recorded: they have ID strips. Seeking directions, approach people with newspapers: there are odds they can read them. Never ever leave your books or papers, especially open: they might be taken for other utilities. ;)


September 10, 2011

No gramma

Filed under: grammar, language, language processing, language use — teresapelka @ 12:25 pm

There is not grammar without a mind. There is no mind without reckoning about ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘how’.

‘Jill is a reedy yet energetic figure, her rebellious and dark, almost black hair flying in the September Paris wind. Jill is a very resolute person, one to walk big steps and breathe deep.’

‘But the large apron knotted on his left hip in a kind of – Jill has never been sure – stevedore or half hitch, you could think he is some athlete, here for a plate of Mussels à la Marinière himself.’

‘ Madame Règle is not a systematic person at all. The only regularity about her would be the two or three books she always carries fastened to her bag with a scarf or, actually, a variety of scarves of many colors and fabrics. That is, the books are not the same books every day, and the choice of the scarf sure depends on some totally unpredictable factor, just like the exact time for lunch, for which you have to assume the broad time frame of about sixty minutes to commence, or not happen altogether.’

‘ There is an anecdote associated with Benjamin Franklin about a man who asked a smith to make his ax especially sharp and ended up turning the grindstone himself. Jill is a grindstone to turn about good food. There is no telling her that good food could be bad and she likes French cuisine.’

‘ Would our egos stay on our cognitive maps for our hearts and minds?’ Travelers Part Two Preview pages 1-34

The work is registered for the ISBN, yet it is still a project.

Feel welcome to visit my grammar web log,

August 27, 2011

In sooth, language would more field spirit

Filed under: books, grammar, language, psycholinguistics — teresapelka @ 11:15 am

Hat tricks take producing objects from hats. With some theories on language, it seems that these objects could be pinballs, odd spoons, or… even God. Everyone may know about the highly unenviable problems that Adam and Eve had with their garment. Looking to Fred Walter Householder ‘God’s truth linguistics’, one may feel like the forbidden fruit might become language – that for the sake of some yet unknown higher authority.

Metaphysics of linguistics may not become the admirable Crichton to me, not only for the Crichton’s ill fame with epigrams. The simple fact is that ideologies to attempt to build beyond language might turn out intellectually unsatisfactory with regard to basics such as the vertical and horizontal planes cognition (please feel welcome to see my ‘Metaphysics as in this real world’).

This unsatisfactory stand happens to be presented in Language and Ideology: Theoretical cognitive approaches by  By René Dirven, Bruce Wayne Hawkins, Esra Sandikcioglu:

‘On the metaphysics of linguistics there are two extreme positions, which may be termed (and have been) the “God’s truth” position and the “hocus pocus” position’. The truth of the “God’s truth” linguists […] is that a language has a structure, and the job of a linguist is (a) to find out what that structure is, and (b) to describe it as clearly, economically, and elegantly as he can, without at any point obscuring the God’s truth structure of the language. The “hocus pocus” linguist believes (or professes to believe – words and behavior are not always in harmony) that language is a mass of incoherent, formless data, and the job of the linguist is somehow to arrange and organize this mass, imposing on it some sort of structure (which must not, of course, be in any striking or obvious conflict with anything in the data).’

You might venture watching a black-and-white television program or movie and arguing that the sky is blue. You’d have to make an assumption, however. I am a linguist and I have specialized in psycholinguistics. I do not have any ‘God’s truth’ approach and I will never care to become a ‘hocus pocus’ dummy. Dualist approaches cannot explain language itself (feel welcome to see my post). Therefore, dualism (‘God’s truth’ or ‘hocus pocus’, just as well, black-or-white) may not provide for any meta-structure to clarify on speech and tongue. I could not be the only person to know this and not mind the Technicolor.

The dualism would be more indicative psychologically and socially. The humanities (and not only the humanities) have had hundreds of years of a more or less behaviorist background. Opposition to it, which psycholinguistics has been, seems to have spurred some to a kind of  ‘warfare by attribution’. Psycholinguistics happens to be really effective in language learning, teaching, and remedial. The unfair competition practice would be to try another area of human activity (religion, in this case) in order to give one trouble. ‘Your language thing works, so you be either some “God’s truth phenomenon” or assume an inferior status of a linguist having language for quagmire or hodgepodge’ – would be actually the message. The so-called ‘God’s syndrome’ may never become my special (why not any other figure, like Hammurabi? ;)). Both the labels – ‘God’s truth’ and ‘hocus pocus’ – would belong with social exclusion. Nope, no love lost. I do not need intimacy with competition. :)

Well then, metaphysical attitudes would be much of trying hat tricks themselves. With two options only, which would be the truth – the pinball or the spoon? :)

The strangest thing I have ever read about psycholinguistics so far would be coming from a presentation as by Professor Dr. Neal R. Norrick from the Saarland University Lecture on history of linguistics. Obviously, the context remains open, taken this world’s peculiarity… ;)

(I have e-mailed the Saarland University about my reference here).

You’re welcome to see my grammar project, It is absolutely not any ‘God’s truth’ or ‘hocus pocus’. It is a working idea by a woman – ‘Language and Ideology’ as quoted above would recognize mostly male linguists. Browsing the book gives 70 occurrences for the pronoun ‘he’, 14 for ‘she’, and 4 for ‘he or she’, the only reference for the ‘he or she’ being to a salesperson figure. Again, no love lost. :)

Please feel welcome to see my defended language thesis

my poetry corner

my scribbling site

or my other WordPress posts; they are listed at

July 6, 2011

Datta lie?

Filed under: books, grammar, language, language processing — teresapelka @ 8:00 am

Grammatical and correct, say ye ‘Is this a lie?’ – them scholars tell you at school. You could say ‘Ain’t no real’ after the class. :) The phrase ‘if I were you’ happens to precede advice of worst of qualities. Could be that the one with the counsel knows he or she is not another person. ;) One feels different about saying ‘if I were in your shoes’.

The Conditional has been criticized and disputed. It yet may help in language learning and teaching as a label. More, students usually compare the guidance they can get, and the Conditional is a real chapter title in quite a number of grammar books. Naturally, we do not need to think about conditioning to talk about the Conditional. Like with those Simple things: they happen to be difficult. :)

Well, language is not option-ridden, already if we look at the notions of THE truth and A lie. A truth would be less of THE truth. When we compare A lie, it could be THE lie, as well – the thing being just in the articles, the definite THE and the indefinite A, as for options.

The double negative, like ‘ain’t no real’ does not produce an affirmative. In question tags, asking ‘These are not beautiful flowers, are they?’ – about half-dead daisies? – we might get the answer ‘No, they are not’. Anything like ‘Yes, they are not’ would be harder to catch on.

The ‘subjunctive approaches’ in grammar would require option-making. We would need to ‘decide’ what is real and what is unreal – our grammars depending on our knowledge of the world. I like them grammar gimmicks, but wouldn’t swap shoes with an omniscient on this planet. (After all, it takes some reckoning to keep them shoes real, and I do not need my life too complicated.) ;)

Conditionals can show RELATIVITY in time reference. Some people would say that if something ‘would have happened’, it sure did not. Some would say that the ‘have’ just marks an antecedent reference.

Feel welcome to visit my grammar web log :)

May 3, 2011

The line of Saturn

Filed under: grammar, language, language processing, language use — Tags: , , — teresapelka @ 8:06 am

Language could not become a fast seduction

With varying degrees of success, humans have professed the idea of destiny since the Antiquity. Basically, the notion was used when trying to gain power over others. The tricky part was that trying this, you ended up most often balancing like on a tightrope – attempts to take over individual will tend to have side effects.Cicero himself, although using the term mostly in an oratorial fashion, had to renounce seeing the fortune to find his fate in the hands of Antony’s soldiers. The imagery behind both the close notions of destiny and fate would be that of a way and its end. The notion of a destination might support the picture.

Manifest Destiny as strengthening the sense of nationality made an impressive career in politics – you are here and you have a reason to be, being the message. Humans have always had some predilection for exceptionalism, group and national identities having inexorably stemmed from individual identification.

There are no groups without the individuals to make them – the fact does not need any polemic. A language classroom might promote group life. Language needs the individual most, however. Professing destiny in the context could make only unmotivated behavior of language work. Could a student be destined to learn or not?

Even if very talented and learned, the human needs to rely on his or her individual capacity for their work – or maybe especially then. To me, there always has been something simply and irresistibly pleasurable about being an individual on her own with language :) I’d leave destiny outside the language classroom.

‘Travelers in Grammar – The Whole Journey’


April 26, 2011

‘And they were happier than I am’ – ‘Whoever you are’

Filed under: grammar, language, language use — Tags: , , — teresapelka @ 11:50 am

The potentially most distant and closest of denotations – the pronoun ‘you’

‘And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am’, wrote Ezra Pound in his ‘Salutation’.

‘Whoever you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless’, said Walt Whitman in his ‘Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand’.

The pronoun ‘you’ happens to give readers trouble. The ‘common sense’ reader might try to dismiss Pound, Whitman, or Eliot – all ‘like talking to someone they don’t know’. Well, common sense, Whitman sure wasn’t perorating to a King Kong. The poets use the pronoun ‘you’ – and what does it actually mean?

‘You’ may mean a single person as well as many persons. Basically, a ‘YOU’ is a ‘NOT ME’ – ‘stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven’, says Marlowe.

‘Let us go then, YOU and I’, wrote T.S. Eliot. Again, I have to quash my spellchecker. :)

Let us now imagine we are telling someone the way, ‘then YOU go left and turn right by the corner, I’ve been there many times myself’. ‘You’ becomes close to ‘one’ and ‘me‘: ‘then one goes left and turns right by the corner; I remember me gone there’.

The pronoun ‘you’ is potentially the most distant and closest of denotations in English. No wonder it became an object of the wordsmiths’ observations. :)

Feel welcome to visit my language wellspring

and my grammar blog,

April 16, 2011

My travel – grammar without riot acts

Moving about and being aware of it naturally belong with this ‘gear’ in the human head known as the brain. The ‘gear’ stores information about motion in cognitive variables. It starts quite early – telling the horizontal from the vertical begins already in infancy. The variables are sets of values that can correlate to other brain activities – importantly, also to language.

Reading riot acts might be not necessary to teach grammar. The thing is in teaching a way to allow learning – for this, you need to take the ‘gear’ into account. Nope, you don’t attempt to influence anyone trying to tell them your way is the only way and it is the way things sure are or should be (like prescriptive grammarians do). There isn’t such an only way on this Earth. Yet, there might be ways more agreeable to the ‘gear’.

Let us think about a correlate to the cognitive variables as they naturally could be. The prepositions on, in, to, and at could correlate with tense aspects. Importantly, with the correlate, the ‘gear’ does not need to operate verbose definitions for the spatio-temporal orientation in language and can save its working capacity. The prepositional correlate would reflect on natural language acquisition – children tend to comprehend ‘on’ before ‘in’, etc. The cognitive variables have those options.

With language, human brains part rely on reflexes – again, to save the working capacity. If you offer your students an incentive to operate the prepositions like parameters – I gave them the choice to volunteer for points – they begin to form reflexes. Importantly, the students know why they do a thing. Still more importantly, they know that you are trying to teach them something you do yourself  :)

‘Travelers in Grammar – The Whole Journey’

The journey consists of four parts. Two parts can be seen at

Please feel welcome to see my scribbling site

my poetry corner

or my other WordPress posts; they are listed at

April 13, 2011

Language as a program – natural language processing versus ‘neurolinguistic programming’

People have the tendency to put things in order and keep them neat tidy. Categories, labels, tags, and markers are to give objects some structured arrangement – sometimes mistaken for meaning.

I do not mean that keeping things regular and straight makes no sense. Already my files on my computer would become unmanageable without folders. Parallels and comparisons may help see things – myself I’d be ‘guilty’ of using the parallel between language and a program. Yet I’m not really a criminal. Actually, I’m about to plead innocent of considering language any programming device.

Why compare language and a program? Imagine you would like to discuss something like feedback phenomena. You don’t like the label ‘feedback phenomena’, let’s name them the Chinese pear. You’d like to write your thesis about your Chinese pear – and your master’s degree is a Buick convertible kind of a feeling to you, that is, really, really good. What do you do? You think about your Chinese pear and apples. There are some similarities and there are some differences. Telling the pear from the apple gives you your fancy.

Please remember that the above is just an illustration, I had to do some hard work for that (my thesis). The work I’ve done has given me ground to go about my another Chinese pear, my grammar book – definitely serious work I am doing at the present.

Back to languages and programs, there is a misunderstanding about the alleged use of IT terms in linguistics. The word ‘program’ comes from Greek. Centuries ago, it meant ‘to set forth’, ‘write before’ – right, it’s a ‘we-were-here-before’ type of a case[1]. IT happens to be used in some, but not all branches of linguistics.

The purpose of those IT models is to try to reflect on how brain cells might be working really when processing language. The reason is the fact that live neurons tend to remain active; they are like a lit structure – the lights being on everywhere, you can’t tell anything by the light. You have to try to make a model to see how things might be working.

Back to humans and their language skills, your language capacity could not be anywhere outside your head. You could not need to ‘connect to a server’ in order to speak. Your language knowledge has to be stored physically in your brain – the brain is a physical structure. This is how language happens to be compared with a program. This is your language knowledge to tell your brain how to work when you want to say something. These are neurons to tell your lungs and tongue how to function in producing speech sounds.

A program may be defined as a formal system to part determine the work of a physical structure. Your language knowledge would be the formal system and your brain the physical structure. Why should your language knowledge be formal? ‘Formal’ relates to form here. People can speak many languages. The brain of a speaker of American English will have language forms different from those in a speaker of French, for example. Obviously, the example does not include American speakers of French and French speakers of American. Your language use can be very colloquial; still, it is going to have a language form.

The parallel might be useful when telling apples (for example, programs) from pears (feedback phenomena)[2]. It would not mandate projections, however. Human brains could not be programmed – ‘the pears would not allow it’. The so-called ‘neurolinguistic programming’ would be a projection on natural language processing, in which there is some role of reflex. However, this deserves a separate consideration, in another post (‘Not a lonely reflex‘).

Please feel welcome to see my scribbling site

my poetry corner

or my other WordPress posts; they are listed at

[1] The case is the same with the word ‘cybernetics’.

[2] I know I say that my grammar idea is my another Chinese pear. Grammar would be a program therefore an apple, someone might say. Well, there is no need to build referential systems for all comparisons. It’s just my Chinese Pear :) Please see ‘Grammar – why think about space?‘ or ‘My travel‘ for more details about my grammar project.

April 10, 2011

Inner speech – the ‘inner voice’?

The archiphoneme or not the archiphoneme – that is the question.

Please try a very simple exercise. Fix your gaze on anything – your morning cup of tea or coffee, your bookcase trinket, or whatnot. The thing you’d be looking at would not matter much. The stunt would be to look at something and think absolutely nothing.

‘I could do that stunt regular’, you might say. ‘It’s starting in the right chapter I’d be less enthusiastic about’.

Hardly anyone would dispute the possibility of the right chapter’s being a different thing. Yet, thinking about literally nothing is more difficult than it might seem. You can keep a wristwatch to see how long you actually think nothing. Sooner than later, something’s sure to pop up in your head. ‘Sooner than later’ meaning seconds.

What is thinking? ‘The action of using one’s mind to produce thoughts; action marked by use of the intellect, cogitation, cerebration’, the dictionary says[1]. Greek philosophers sculpted in pensive body positions could be the picture. However, the fact is that live human brains have a continual tendency to produce a process. The processes could remain ‘in the background’. If you try to focus on them, you notice they involve trace speech qualities. You notice your inner speech.

‘What are those guys with the inner speech about?’ you might ask. ‘Anyone to tell me I got voices in my head? I only notice them and they grab my attention?’

Whatsoever. Inner speech is not a voice and it is not voices. It involves trace speech qualities. This means there aren’t whole phrases, words, or even speech sounds. Inner speech uses only traces, minute aspects of speech sounds. You don’t hear them – you can’t produce a speech sound without using your mouth. Those traces are how you remember your own language ability.


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