May 23, 2013
May 3, 2013
The “government of the tongue” has had two most prominent treatments: religious and poetic. The two may have stood at even dramatic odds, some preachers seeking consistency with early Christianity, poets cherishing the beauty of language itself. A linguist and a poet a bit, I will try to put consistency and beauty in the focus together.
James 3, Taming the Tongue
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James chapter 3 might be the sternest condemnation of a body part seen and heard of ever. Still, one may compare a sermon by Thomas Boston,
The keeping of the tongue is one of those duties that entitles a man to safety from evil times, and therefore must now be urged as a seasonable duty. The wisest monarch could hardly govern a great part of the world; how difficult then must it be to govern a world, and that a world of iniquity. The tongue is a world of iniquity, a heap of evils; as in the world many things are contained, so in the tongue. This world of iniquity is divided into two parts, undue silence, and sinful speaking. These are the higher and lower parts of this world, yet quickly may men travel from the one to the other.
James’s words are fierce. The apostle yet is determined to appeal to the early Christian, a human being likely to face persecution to involve bodily damage. James’s allusion to fire is strictly metaphorical, and the apostle does not condemn language. He advises considerateness in language use.
The context is not the same with Thomas Boston. The intimation of physical peril is gone; the metaphor of a sear on the conscience is used in the negative. The preacher refers to hierarchical verticality ― the upside of godness and the downside of evil ― again, to counsel on reasonableness in language use. The present day perspective on freedom of speech would not support many of the guidelines.
Both texts may be appreciated for their use of metaphor. Naturally, there would not be any original Christian matter advocating fire to introduce or instill belief. The fact was recognized by John Paul II apologizing for the Inquisition.
We can find the original Christian matter in the Bible. The matter does not imply any necessity of physical restraint on speech; the metaphor shows in the variety of translations:
26 And if any man guesseth himself to be religious, and refraineth not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, the religion of him is vain.
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
26 If anyone deludes himself by thinking he is serving God, when he has not learned to control his tongue, the service he gives is vain.
26 If a person thinks he is religious, but does not keep his tongue from speaking bad things, he is fooling himself. His religion is worth nothing.
26 Wer sich für fromm hält, aber seine Zunge nicht zügeln kann, der macht sich selbst etwas vor. Seine Frömmigkeit ist nichts wert.
26 So sich jemand unter euch läßt dünken, er diene Gott, und hält seine Zunge nicht im Zaum, sondern täuscht sein Herz, des Gottesdienst ist eitel.
Joseph Butler came closer to the literary and linguistic sense of government,
Grammar The influence of a word over the morphological inflection of another word in a phrase or sentence.
Joseph Butler says,
The translation of this text would be more determinate by being more literal, thus: “If any man among you seemeth to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” This determines that the words, “but deceiveth his own heart,” are not put in opposition to, “seemeth to be religious,” but to, “bridleth not his tongue.”
Frugality would be less desirable in literature and poetry, fineness not to denote prolixity.
The thought of the government also happens to bring on awkward re-phrasings,
In the process of doing justice to the events of political violence―and in particular death―poetry could not help but forge a higher consciousness of these events that was political in its ironic detachment from claims as to the necessity of such violence. The achievement of this alternative form of politics, this government in exile, was to establish that identity and belonging are aspects of consciousness and imagination, rather than of territory and power.
I cannot help but disagree on inevitableness of ironic detachment, as well as identity belonging with imagination.
April 21, 2013
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,
April 13, 2013
Martin Buber would envision the human being in a bit of an embryonic role. I can agree that human cognition has its limitations, yet an embryonic status about human minds looks exaggerated. The matter evidently evolves round personal pronouns.
The philosopher, whose earnestness of study I do not mean to question, would yet see humans as entities in incessant ties; he would only differentiate this persistent condition into the I-You and I-It relationship. Simply speaking, every human would be an “I”. And every human would be always in a relationship, to a “You” or to an “It” — like an embryo, incapable of independent living.
Buber’s famous essay on existence, Ich und Du, has been about as famously translated into I and Thou. Arguments on philosophical intricacies have not convinced me on the alleged non-existence of an English word for the German ‘du’. It would not be just me, looking to the translation for Bist du bei mir — If you are with me.
There a few more unconvincing “details” about Buber philosophy and its followers. Let us think about the word “being”. It is construed with the third person singular, “it”. However, if we modify this word with the adjective “human”, we refer to the “human being” as “him” or “her”.
According to Buber, the world would be an It. We yet may think about a world as by a man or by a woman, in which case the semantics would play its good trick and add male or female attributes to the notion of the world. Naturally, everyone may try own perception on The World According to Garp.
Semantics is the language matter about meaning. This meaning may be not bound by singular, isolated lexical items. A “human being” may be a male or a female. A “world” can be a male or female world.
Languages also happen to have arbitrary, grammatical gender. In French or Spanish, a “book” is going to be a “him”. In Russian, a book is going to be a “her”. Ancient Romans had a day-book or diary for an “ephemeris”, a “her”. This arbitrary gender has had nothing to do with recognizing sex, since the beginning of time: mostly males were literate in ancient Rome.
Let us think about reference to countries: English would speak about a country as an “it”. French or Spanish would have their “pays” or “pais” for “males”. As regards home countries, the legitimate Italian “she”, “patria”, would keep company to the legal French “patrie”, Germans remaining unpersuadable on their “Vaterland” : there would be “Muttersprache”, but “Mutterland” would mean the country of origin, not the home country. American English would allow both fatherland and motherland, the home country or homeland prevailing.
Importantly, whether fatherland or motherland, when we go back in our thoughts, we use the third person singular again, “it”. We would say, “My fatherland, it …” We would not say, “My fatherland, he …” We also can say, and the vast majority would say, “America in its time …”
Well, America is a name of a country, same as Germany, France, Italy, or any other name of a country, fair and square. Concluding, human thought is not reducible to three pronouns, “I”, “you”, and “it”. Already the pronouns may have and often do have connotations to other pronouns, which — though potentially arbitrary — is a real factor to influence the way we formulate our thoughts.
March 28, 2013
The disclaimer: the adjacent — colored meaningfully yellow — graphic piffle is not intended to mean the Union Jack proper. It is the British grammar nazis logo on Facebook.
Now, I can go on about meaning generally, like the meaning of life. Some guys would be as void of any semantics, as to be afraid of living without a kink. This inherent emptiness, which might be related to the inner speech deficiency characteristic in people of severe literacy impediments, would result in abreaction on the computer screen. The Facebook grammar nazis meet all the criteria for the deep intellective handicap sketched on here.
Naturally, for the functionally illiterate, there is still the verbal tradition, and the spoken lore has a lot on British losses in WWII, Hitler’s miserable linguistic stand, as well as his crude intonation many people would not pay a cent to hear. There is no sense to bring these up, therefore. In case, one can go BBC archives and mind to have the subtitles off, should they suggest the frustrating written language reality.
The literate may agree that Hitler does not deserve admiration as a strategist. Germany might have gotten away — as long as the various Chamberlains of Europe stayed at power — with the invasions on the Austrian, the Czech, as well as Poland and Alsace. Arguments that he had to turn the military power somewhere cannot stand a look at a map of Europe. Attacking Russia and England, as well as getting America involved, Hitler made way for the ruin, poverty, and partition that Germany had to face after the war. The madness of the WWII genocide obviously could not get along with any literary pursuit, either. So much for Hitler, the meaning of life, and intellect. Let me focus on the statistics for the handicap.
The site has about 50 K ‘likes’. Taking the British population alone — and the ‘likes’ could have come from various sympathizers, empathizers and other similars — that would make the maximum of 50 thousand functionally illiterate among about 63 million people. Some might say it’s not so bad, it’s not even 1 per cent. This is fundamentally not my business, as I am not staying in England or planning to go there. Whoever yet would, you’d better think when literacy might be necessary.
Sure you anyway need to resemble your passport photo, and you can get a taxi waving your hand. Shopping, you needn’t worry about anyone’s ability to read labels, as products have bar codes. In hotels, you always remember to tick all relevant boxes and, at least theoretically, you can try hanging your jogging hat on the doorknob to get some peace and quiet. However, when it comes to mailing letters, get the recorded: they have ID strips. If seeking directions with a map, 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.
So much for the handicap statistics. The human ‘specimens’ exhibiting the symptoms are not of my interest as lacking individuality by choice. Important: a search for ‘American grammar nazis’ threw up more or less nothing, and there ain’t the piffle — cheered me up.
Feel welcome to visit my grammar grapevine
and my grammar web log
March 27, 2013
June 28, 2012
‘Magic mirror on the wall,
who is the fairest of them all?’
Snow White in her glass coffin
I know not what the younger dreams -
Some vague Utopia – and she seems,
When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,
An image of such politics.
Many a time I think to seek
One or the other out and speak
Of that old Georgian mansion, mix
pictures of the mind, recall
That table and the talk of youth,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
William Butler Yeats remains consistently rumored to have had a weakness about Eva Gore Booth and Constance Markievicz. Looking to the contour of the ‘politics’, ‘seek’, ‘speak’, and ‘mix’, one might think that things were so, indeed. Overcoming is part human life.
Yeats wrote about the women’s aging in unfavorable terms. He put himself to distrust with occult empathies and automatic writing. The overtly suffering semantics of ‘The Second Coming’ could not explain the discredit to human intellect that Yeats gave, praising Mussolini. Still, he wrote in an autonomous variety of English, that is, Irish English.
Let me think about the language matter and Dante.
A faithful witness. Thou shalt leave each thing
Beloved most dearly: this is the first shaft
Shot from the bow of exile. Thou shalt prove
How salt the savor is of other’s bread;
How hard the passage, to descend and climb
By other’s stairs.
(Paradiso, XVII; The Harvard Classics series edited by Charles W. Eliot, translation by Henry F. Cary, Grolier Enterprises, Danbury, Connecticut, 1980.)
Would there be the better and prettier, or the uglier and worse — varieties of English? Could we say there is one English language, THE English language? To me, implying a superior status about any of the contemporary Englishes is like putting the Snow White in her glass coffin.
A language variety can be an independent language within a group of languages of the same kind. American English is a variety of English coequal with British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, Scottish, Irish, and other recognized Englishes of the world; none is superior or inferior (Travelers in Grammar 2).
Not only does the beauty I beheld
Transcend our lives, but truly I believe
Its Maker only may enjoy it all.
(Paradiso XXX, Project Gutenberg, translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, e-text prepared by Dennis McCarthy, Atlanta, GA).
June 10, 2012
Kids may take language tasks easy. Adults might need some time. The New Scientist of May 5th, 2012 provides an article by Catherine de Lange, ‘Mon espirit paratage – My two minds’, that proves it.
“Speaking a second language can change everything from problem-solving skills to personality. It is almost as if you are two people”, she says (or they say). The author quotes an experiment to compare the cognitive progression in monolingual and bilingual children.
“Both monolinguals and bilinguals could see the mistake in phrases such as ‘apples growed on trees’, but differences arose when they considered nonsensical sentences such as ‘apples grow on noses’. The monolinguals, flummoxed by the silliness of the phrase, incorrectly reported an error, whereas the bilinguals gave the right answer”.
I am bilingual and I am completely flummoxed. Monolingual kids can hear or read fairy tales. If you told a monolingual kid that long, long time ago, there was a kingdom where apples grew on noses and roses flew to the sea, you wouldn’t hear anything like, ‘gramma is amphigo-ree’, unless the kid would be poking you. Bilingual kids, on the other hand, do not have their vocabularies for lexicons of empty items.
A kid speaking English and French will not have pain for bread, whatever you’d feel like saying about his or her syntactic capacities. More, any attempts at negotiation could look only sick. Seriously sick. Mal a l’oreille.
To appreciate kids’ syntactic abilities, you need to use empty lexical items. For example, ‘Phimos bimoes’, right or wrong? Kids knowing the singular, ‘Phimo’, and the infinitive, ‘to bimo’, would not be likely to show differences, monolingual or bilingual. Bilingualism is not a dissociative disorder.
Bias flaws also another experiment quoted in Catherine de Lange’s article. Mexicans were asked to rate their personalities in Spanish and English. She says, “Modesty is valued more highly in Mexico than it is in the US, where assertiveness gains respect, and the language of the questions seemed to trigger these differences. (…) When questioned in Spanish, volunteers were more humble than when questioned in English”.
Languages, Spanish included, are spoken worldwide, in various cultures and by people of different social standings. Never try to tell a Spaniard that humility would come from his or her language (!)
Feel welcome to visit my grammar blog, travelingrammar.com. My project uses virtual lexical items to encourage syntactic progression. Virtual items do not deny sense: Form can’t be empty. You bet. A todas luces.
Important: the project is not an experiment.
April 28, 2012
Having earned a legal badge with the EzineArticles should not make one overconfident, I realize. The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the right to firmly deliberate. The linguist I am, I yet can venture a few observations on speech – and this has been quoting freedom of speech to have invalidated prohibitions on desecrating the American flag.
United States versus Eichman, United States versus Haggerty, Texas versus Johnson: all case disputes argued violation of free speech under the First Amendment. Haggerty’s case would have the implication to make the Flag necessarily your piece of cloth before burning. If the Flag belongs to an institution like Seattle’s Capitol Hill Post Office, you can be fined.
Let me think. I do not need to burn the Flag to think. I imagine a human being burns something. Is there a speech sound produced, should the human just silently sit by, let us say, a campfire, warming his or her hands? Is there any written or printed stretch of language to emerge from the flame? Should one try to interpret the wood or coal crackling and hissing as stanzas, quatrains, epodes? Can you hear the anacrusis?
I could not, and there is nothing wrong with my hearing. Non-verbal acts such as burning do not produce language. The facts are exactly the same with tools such as hammers, saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, and whatever a handyman’s bag might contain: there is no speech produced with the use, unless the guy happens to be eloquent, interesting, and whatsoever handsome (I have to admit I’m not really talkative).
Non-verbal acts are not proper means or tools to convey speech and language. The Flag itself – the many the people, the many the answers; ask someone what the Flag looks like and what it symbolizes: the many answers you get, none will be identical, each with specific and individual language.
The First Amendment does not allow abridgment of free speech. Should burning the Flag be a speech act, what do you do if the Flag would be burning on a barrel saying ‘TNT’ – would putting it out be against the law? The First Amendment forbids reducing free speech.
Some psychologists would have the tendency to ascribe language to non-verbal phenomena. They would call it a ‘body language’. Let us think about the Anders Behring Breivik trial. The shrinks in the courtroom spent some time interpreting his ‘body language’. One of the shrinks said in an interview that a single, particular gesture of whisking the shoulder could have meant Breivik’s want to ‘put things in order or to shake off guilt’.
The fact is that the shrink ascribed her linguistic structuring to a gesture of no syntax. More, the structuring could produce non-specific results real-life. For example, ask the recycling guys what message they get if you whisk your shoulder and not say a word. Would they take it for a clear message that you want your trash removed (shaking off guilt has collocations with purification and therefore cleanliness), or you want something fancy heaped (order has collocations with arrangement and that could be random, without any notion of removal from a place). Anyway, it’s your backyard.
A flag of a country obviously is worth more concern than trash you might take the care to express verbally about.
Language requires syntax, lexemes, and grammar. Seeing the American flag displayed against a wall over a poster of an overt female offering erotic dances – which is not a figment of my imagination – I do not get a thing. There is no language logic. And I do not believe the regard would require any improving my brains. Someone has got an expressive disorder.
Propagating expressive disorders is not of my interest. I enclose photographs of the improper display of the flag under separate links. They might be considered parental advisory.
The Flag Code may be found here,
http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf, and many other places.
I have put the American flag on my grammar book cover. My grammar project is not a napkin and it is not a sarong, regarding the US Code.