The conscious mind of Emily Dickinson


When we look at poetry by Emily Dickinson today, we get strange big letters and a multitude of dashes which yet cannot give the special Bees, Birds, or Ears any real sense. To blame the reader

— “you know, the author was a mystic, metaphysical, only high minds get it” —

a Mystical Bee remains unappealing on a High Mind as well.


We can read comments over the Internet.


I’ve heard of her my whole life of course, but have never read anything of hers.


A very detailed analysis for those interested in Emily Dickinson.


I have not read Emily Dickinson’s poetry, nor am I inclined to.


Emily Dickinson’s poetry was a tremendous success with the people of her times. It remains in curricula. You learn about Emily Dickinson at school. Serious institutions hold conferences about her. A book of her poetry would be in the bookstore round the corner. Only the verse would look like this:


Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,

Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence —


It did not look so in the first print. Present-day prints rely on a manuscript find.

Safe in their alabaster chambers, Wikisource. Click to enlarge.


Are there really special Bees or Ears, and Birds as Sweet as to shy away the bitter species, in Emily Dickinson’s poetry? Not only Wikisource would insist there are, indeed.


Safe in their alabaster chambers; click to enlarge.


Let us consider the manuscript, for the em-dash. I do believe this is an autograph.


The manuscript has “low dashes”. The markings belong well with the habit of the hand. This habit also has an open e that closes for sibilant clusters, for example. We can compare diadems, Doges, and soundless. Spoken language mattered in Emily Dickinson’s notation. The habit of the hand was strong.


The strength of the habit is not in calligraphy. It is in grasping language. We can see the “low dash” also around the name of the addressee, Suz, and Emily Dickinson deserves praise for linguistic prowess on some grounds.


Let us think about language and inspiration, reading the poetry. Emily Dickinson consciously used Latin and Greek, to write fancy pieces. The occurrence is beyond mere coincidence or unaware habit.


(Time and Eternity, XVIII, Playmates) Latin: collusor, companion at play; condiscipulus, school-mate; angelus, a messenger, an angel; lapillus, small stone, pebble (marble?); lusus, a game;  Greek: ὁμηλυσία, omelusia, companionship.


God permits industrious angels

Afternoons to play.

I met one, — forgot my school-mates,

All, for him, straightway.


God calls home the angels promptly

At the setting sun;

I missed mine. How dreary marbles,

After playing Crown!


The inspiration is morpho-phonemic. Let us now analyze the big letters for natural phonology.


Mine (Love, I, p. 91) suggests me of a rare book, possibly on Greek poetry or philosophy, and an ex libiris. The white vote was that of approval in ancient Greece, which in matters of the state yet had to be affirmed by officials named the prytaneis, hence prawem głosu prytejskim, in my translation. Feel welcome to the First Series afterword.



Mine by the Right of the white election!

Mine by the Royal seal!

Mine by the sign in the sCaRlet pRison

BaRs Cannot Conceal!


Mine, here in Vision and in Veto!

Mine, by the GRave’s Repeal

Titled, confiRMed,-— deliRious chaRteR!

Mine, while the ages steal!


Mine, Wikisource. Click to enlarge.

I made the markings above, to translate the poem into Polish. Everyone is individual in phonology; Polish and American English differ much in sound and structure, yet not being as distanced as American and Chinese, for example. Standard, human mouths are born the same, world round. There are “more difficult” and “easier” speech sounds, and you do not get some language patterns, as *spin spun span. In short, it is natural to mark the words, when you work phonemics.


Co KRaty go nie ujarzmią!

Mój,  z poglądem tu i KontRą!

Mój, ponad uMieRanie

Tytułem, afiRMowany, — niepoMiaRkowaną KaRtą!


You can mark speech sounds within words, or write the words with big letters. If we click the Wikisource, we find there even is an overlap, in phonemic marking.


Most importantly, Emily Dickinson was aware of capitalization as in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights


The documents did not invent standards. They continue to show capitalization as part preserved also today. In the light, the markings and big letters belong with drafts of her pieces, not the final forms. Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd knew the draft features and ignored them with print. Well, we do not follow Jefferson’s “rough draught” for the Declaration of Independence, either. ;)


Why I stay by Emily Dickinson’s first print

We may fancy a look at a few more pieces.  (Life, XXIII, Unreturning) ἀνάπλυσις, anaplusis, washing or rinsing out; ἀνήλυσις, anelusis, going up, return; ἤλυσις, elusis, step, gait; lenunculus, a small sailing-vessel, bark, skiff (the toddling little boat).


‘T was such a little, little boat

That toddled down the bay!

‘T was such a gallant, gallant sea

That beckoned it away!


‘T was such a greedy, greedy wave

That licked it from the coast;

Nor ever guessed the stately sails

My little craft was lost!


We can compare the Greek -upo/ypo- for I asked no other thing (Life, XII, p. 213): ἰσότυπος, isotypos, shaped alike, συνυπόπτωσις, synypoptosis, simultaneous presentation to the senses; Latin cauponarius, a male shopkeeper, tradesman, ποπτερνίς, upopternis, a knob (a kind of a button that can twirl, in the modern use), and πo, below, looking a picture up and down (as Brazil on a map).


I asked no other thing,

No other was denied.

I offered Being for it;

The mighty merchant smiled.


Brazil? He twirled a button,

Without a glance my way:

“But, madam, is there nothing else

That we can show to-day?”


You may be interested in the Uncouth love theme (the “suspicious” love of language) or the thematic stanza in Emily Dickinson’s poetry, too. :)


No men, women, children, or houses with the pie


William JonesWilliam Jones was a reported hyperpolyglot. He learned Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and basic Chinese, says Wikipedia to add he knew thirteen languages thoroughly, and another twenty-eight reasonably well.

Mr. Jones wrote The Sanscrit Language to tell that Greek and Latin had a common root, Sanskrit. This Proto-Indo-European “language”, PIE in short, was to originate contemporary European tongues.

Altogether, Mr. Jones remains described as having had at least reasonably good knowledge of 41 tongues. Such a reasonably good acquaintance should have encompassed the words woman, man, child, and house. Let us compare these words in Latin, Greek, English, Russian, Polish, German, French, and Sanskrit.

Is there a root PIE vocabulary?


Woman silhouetteWOMAN

Latin: femina; Greek: gyne; English: woman; Russian: zenshchina; Polish: kobieta; German: Weib; French: femme; Sanskrit: nari.

Man silhouetteMAN

Latin: vir; Greek: andros; English: man; Russian: muzshtschina; Polish: mężczyzna; German: Mann; French: homme; Sanskrit: naro.

I do not know Sanskrit. I can only compare resources. The morpheme man, as quoted by supporters of the PIE, yet seems to refer to thinking, not sex. It is common lore that masculinity is not strictly synonymous with pensiveness. ;)


Child silhouetteCHILD

Latin: putillus; Greek: pais; English: child; Russian: rebionok; Polish: dziecko; German: Kind; French: enfant; Sanskrit: sutah.

Words for children would have varied in Sanskrit. The culture has been publicized as rigidly stratified, in status and ancestry. “Children of men” made another name, napraja. The notion is unlikely to have regarded speciate or sexual differentiation.

House silhouetteHOUSE

Latin: domus; Greek: do; English: house; Russian: dom; Polish: dom; German: Haus; French: maison; Sanskrit: vasati.

Vir or andros, child or rebionok, woman or kobieta ― the words do not resemble one another, and they are the basic vocabulary. In all languages, these are the words hardly ever to change. Polish and Russian could make a group. We may compare the words muzshtschina and mężczyzna. There is not much point deriving Polish from Russian or Russian from Polish, however. We can compare rebionok and dziecko.

Domus, do, and dom, or house and Haus, show geographic affinity. The similarities in form are characteristic of urban or other developments and do not decide on language grouping.

Language groups or families

Language groups work better than language families. “Families” derive languages, one from another. This might not work, as in the Polish and Russian examples above. Proto-languages are mostly constructs: there is no written evidence for them.

Whatever the finds, the fact will remain that people speak languages as the tongues are, without looking up to any “parent languages”. Within evolutionary approaches, languages may have emerged independently, owing to human cognitive advancement. Much language knowledge has become shared among humans, also owing to intellectual progress, as in terms on architecture.

Why derive European vocabularies from Sanskrit, while Sanskrit might have absorbed loan words?

There is no evidence for the Proto-Indo-European. The Rosetta Stone was absolutely unique for Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Demotic, and Ancient Greek. It yet allowed translation, not an etymological study to provide for a PIE. Finally, Marco Polo was probably not the first visitor to the Far East. 

Carbon dating

Whenever possible, written resources should be carbon-dated. There is no philological method to affirm the original beyond evidence. Writings were copied in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and later, hand style and pen craft.

Radiocarbon results happen to be misunderstood. A website shares a story about a find from 9.5 thousands of years ago. It is … a piece of wood from an underwater site, without written matter. The picture on the left shows an archaeological find dated with pollen. Palynology is less likely to work for written resources.

Oldest does not mean wisest

Able to appraise linguistic craft and inspiration ― see The conscious mind of Emily Dickinson ―  I appreciate modern languages as some progress since the Antiquity. I would not have a share in the enthusiasm about deriving language roots. In ancient times, people were mostly illiterate, lived without running water, and had many health problems. The lifestyle diseases of the present day are those the Ancients could have never gotten as … they could never live that long. Intellectually, people were not more sophisticated than today. One needs to be very selective, seeking wisdom in olden times.

Compare A New People Come.

However, supporters of the Proto-Indo-European “family” have gone into making out religion, too. There is not a PIE root for the name “Earth”.

Earth silhouetteEARTH

Latin: terra or tellus; Greek: Gaia or Aia; English: Earth; Russian: Ziemlia; Polish: Ziemia; German: Erde; French: Terre; Sanskrit: vasudha.

It seems there was a pie more than the PIE, Mr. Jones time, and that pie was India. The colonial era began about 1500, and there was much competition.

Deriving the humanity from the outer space, again, would not make much difference on contemporary standards of living. Space 1999 would show reading Proto-Sanskrit accurately … ;)

My YouTube: Sanskrit Readout

The holocaust in the clip is not the Holocaust.

British grammar nazis

GrammerDisclaimer: 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.

British grammar nazis header




The logo dubious pulchritude may be seen in its full form on the right here, also with a click.


Much has been written about WWII. Evidently, mere gathering orthography and other detail does not make one capable of text interpretation. The Daily Mash got misread, same as Thomas Weber: some guys focus on the words “rhetoric” and “confirmed” too much. 


Without going into matters like the meaning of life, or the spoken lore on WWII and British losses — invaluable for those hard of reading — let me think text, statistics, and implications.

Daily mash

Daily Mash

British grammar nazis shares

GN (Grammar Nazis) Facebook



The Daily Mash article appears full size, when clicked.



The GN (Grammar Nazis) reactions page does the same. Should there be visiting GNs,   I promise a brief primer on irony after this indispensable piece of advice on living with them on the same planet.



The site has about 50 thousand “likes”. Taking the British population alone, that would make about 50 thousand functionally illiterate, among about 63 million people. Some might say it is not so bad, it is not even one percent. Still, you’d better think literacy, going to the UK: the guys wouldn’t have had the UK flag their capriccio, if it were not permitted. More, such odd types tend to occupy big towns.



Try for a plain passport photo, that is, without brooches, scarves, ties, anything you do not always carry. The piffle shows the guys’ attention to picture specifics. ;)


Remember to wave your hand, getting a taxi. It is a simple, therefore legible gesture. 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 small print. ;)


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


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 open: they might be taken for other utilities. ;)


Now, the primer on irony. The basics are in the affirmative and the negative. You do not take them for a yes or no merely. Let me quote the Mash:


In no way are any of these people vain, arsey pedants.


A GN, do not take this for a refutation, as Wikipedia explains.


Naturally, life cannot be about statements only. Let me continue with the Mash.


The way they selflessly dedicate themselves to correct punctuation, for example by pointing out to the staff of a chip shop why the term ‘chip’s’ is a sloppy obfuscation, confirms they are bold and righteous individuals.


Apply antonymy, to grasp the gist. The rest becomes plain with the close synonymy nobody would use for a complimentary note.


Laying all that out in detail to a GN looks discouragingly big a task, hence the handful of thoughts and the primary color, yellow (adjective, reference 3).


Grammar Nazis evidently do not have the courage to admit that picking on people’s works has no chance to bring in anything creative, sophisticated. They do not offer own blogs or websites, especially with serious language work, for evaluation.

Apples grow on noses: two languages – two minds?

Two minds_Speaking a second language can change everything from problem-solving skills to personality. It is almost as if you are two people, says Catherine de Lange.


We can read “Mon espirit paratage — My two minds”, in The New Scientist of May 5th, 2012. Ms. de Lange compares monolingual and bilingual children. Washington Post has her article.


Ms. De Lange reports she tested children on syntax. 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, says Ms. de Lange. 



Picture 1. Is there even one nose in the picture, if we do not know what noses count?

Monolingual or multilingual, children get fairy tales. It does not matter, if the kid speaks one or more languages. It it important that the child comprehends the language in which he or she can hear, there was a fairy land, a long time ago, where apples grew on noses.



Picture 2. Do apples grow square, if we have Big Apple Corners?



No matter if in one or many languages ― but dependent on pragmatics ― we could or could not count any noses in picture 1; the Big Apple Corner in picture 2 only might have apples. 




Talking the science, the task was deictically misconstrued, if the account is accurate. The children evidently did not know if they were to tell the syntax or the pragmatics. Further, we can doubt nonsense for a good test on syntax.



Ms. de Lange says she speaks English and French. All languages have spellings. What we write as bread in English is un pain in French.


To a boy as in the picture below, eating bread, a test to neglect semantics might be un mal a l’oreille, seriously sick, you know. This would influence results, as a test during which you would not say a word could be only awfully awkward. You cannot expect to find many boys ― as well as girls ― who do not eat bread, never went shopping with parents or carers, and have no idea how to spell the word.


I believe there is such a “language interface” among many languages. Either the spoken or the written forms happen to have some similarity. It is a natural reaction to distance oneself from ambiguities and “surf” the language form, which seems to be the case with Ms. de Lange results. Multilingual persons are well able to be pragmatic in language use. Monolingual persons are well capable of abstract thinking. The “surfing” is not a linguistic developmental stage: it is enough you are showed how to do this and you can, whether you speak one language or many.


Boy eating bread


To work on syntax, we can use virtual or invented words ― regardless of age. Students might not show if they are monolingual or multilingual, on task.


Phimos can bimo.

A car rolls, a doll dances, a troll hops, and a ball bounces. Toys are things. They can be phimos. Every phimo can bimo. Before long, a kid may tell easy if we are correct saying, The phimo bimo now. :)


Not only syntax, also speaking rewards a degree of autonomy. If we make our virtual words with speech sounds which learners need to exercise, we avoid the flummoxing that verbal associations might bring.

[th] is the sound in mother;

[th] is the sound in father

[th] is the sound in brother;

[th] is the sound in … pother ;)

Virtual words do not have meaning. They can help exercise form.

Bread is always bread; there are many languages.

Multilingualism is becoming an everyday thing in more and more countries and cultures. I like that. I do not like bias about an ability to comprehend, speak, write, read, and communicate in more than one language. It is not true that multilingualism makes one prone for nonsense. Multilingualism does not require any unusual wit, on the other hand. 


The bias in Ms. de Lange’s experiment implies that multilingual kids do not mind if something is real or true, and look to syntax only. Monolingual children would be presented as literal in all language use. Another ethical and linguistic concern comes with Ms. de Lange reporting infant brain scans for experimental purposes.  There is no way to obtain informed consent from an infant. Washington Post has more.

Click to enlarge

Read why I cannot see sense in such scans.

Burning the Flag – where is the language?

Themis and the Flag


The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the expertise firmly to deliberate. The linguist I am, I yet cannot yield on a few principles.


Freedom of speech has been quoted to justify burning the American flag.

United States versus Eichman, United States versus Haggerty, Texas versus Johnson: all cases argued freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Haggerty’s case would have had the implication to make the Flag necessarily your piece of cloth before burning. It is when the Flag belongs to an institution like Seattle Capitol Hill Post Office that you get fined. ;)

Let us analyze the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We can paraphrase, to exercise comprehension. We can say the First Amendment

forbids the Congress to regulate the matters of religion, to inhibit legal  linguistic behavior by individuals as well as groups or in the media, to delimitate people’s right to convene, or to prevent people’s formally requesting the authorities for reparation of damages.

We could not quote the Amendment to justify slander. The original says, the freedom of speech. Is there a speech sound produced, if the human just sits silently by 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? Could we hear an anacrusis?

The Supreme Court holding on Eichman says:

The government’s interest in preserving the flag as a symbol did not outweigh the individual right to disparage that symbol through expressive conduct.

Let us analyze linguistic terms. Symbols and icons may be exact same objects, without language. For example, we work with a computer. We click an icon and it takes us to a website. The icon symbolizes the website. If we associate the content, it is only when we know the website. The icon is an arbitrary symbol. It does not express the content.

If we want to use the word “symbol” with reference to speech and language, we make a lexical item, a unit of meaning. We can say we use letter symbols, or even letter-symbols. There are many alphabets, and graphemes may be arbitrary.

Wikiepdia octagon

Wikipedia illustration

Wikipedia implies that a red octagon means “stop”, even without language.

Stop__roundWith flags or road signs, we can talk about referential codes only. The codes are not linguistic. Without reference, nobody gets any meaning.




Let us compare graphetics. Without patterns for written language, how could we interpret Hello? There is no linguistic patterning in the American flag.HelloFlag associations 1

What is the meaning of a national flag?   

It referentially  symbolizes the country, the people, and the language. The Flag does not correlate with the authorities only. By design, it does not contain a spoken or written message, either.

Even if you don’t like everybody round, would rather live in a tent, make own clothes  and hunt for food to liberate yourself of American capitalism, the nonsense of burning the Flag remains appalling, if to think about cause and effect.

Flag associations 3

The Constitution would not have come to existence without the people fighting for American freedom, also in Fort McHenry, about which The Star Spangled Banner tells. The First Amendment would never have been passed, without the Constitution.


As for symbolizing language: it is a human faculty to consist of grammar, phonology, and a lexicon. As in all areas of human activity, there is no uniform definition of language. Some researchers will say syntax, phonology, and vocabulary can make a language. To me, syntax belongs well within grammar.

There yet is considerable agreement that a language needs to be spoken or written. Braille belongs with writing, and sign languages with spoken forms of language. “Body language” is a figure of speech. I cannot agree with Wikipedia on counting languages. Wikipedia does not tell language as such. It tells a language or particular languages: as if we could not count the apples, because there are varieties of apples. No linguist would have a dialect for a sign code. :)

Any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects.

Language logo


Despite such differences, the Flag may and very often does symbolize American English. It is yet not American English itself, just as just it is not an actual country or people. The First Amendment says the people have the right to the freedom of speech. The Amendment does not say,

Congress shall make no law abridging expressive conduct in association with speech and language …

Fortunately: human expressive behaviors are a very wide spectrum. Part of this spectrum belongs under parental guidance and does not meet the criteria for language at all.


I do not support the Supreme Court verdict. It is not because I would uphold the notion of Flag desecration. The word desecration suggests abuse on sanctity. I think flags are for people, and I have put images of the American flag on my grammar books, which are absolutely my human work.

Flag burning or malicious damage are not speech acts. I hope time will bring the change necessary for legislation to rule out physically abusive behaviors from the category of speech acts.