Sunday, November 20, 2005


Here is a picture of some of UNE campus, which is quite nice..
In some strange way I want to feel always plugged in to uni at the moment, since I am riding to and from uni it frustrates me some how to not have contact with the library internet all my books and various readings that I have lying around. Sometimes I wake up and really want to write and read and work, but I couldnt be bothered riding all the way to uni to do it. It is the first time I have really felt that there would be advantages of living on campus. I think the other problem is the two hills that divide my house form the uni. But I am here now happily, on a Sunday , enjoying it even more because I don't feel that I have to do work- just that I could at any time if I want to. Whenever I am at uni I feel like this is a great place to live and such a fantastic life, but then when I get home and look around at things and find myself trying to think of things to do... In some ways i just want to plunge my head into all this information from the library and it soak into my brain by osmosis- but I think like most people, I find the most interesting thing is talking to people about ideas and having some dynamic interaction. I have spent the last few days doing some research assistant work editing a dictionary or a language from Wadeye ( Port Keats) in the NT of Australia, called Ngan'gi. I am up to 'ng' ( which is a single letter) and I am really enjoying it! It is great to look through a dictionary of such a different language and see how different languages 'parse their conceptual reality' into words. Things like 'giving birth' are translated as lit. 'fall to the ground', and verbs that mean to have 'loose droopy lips' as well as common idioms and insults, some of which ( despite being in Language) are the same as English, for example being a'tight arse', means an 'ungenerous person' etc.

It is also satisfying work because it is easy to feel like you are ploughing through it and 'fixing it'. Other than that I spend mosy of my time reading about things like 'Conversational styles and intercultural communication' there is not all that much stuff around to read about it, usually a researcher who has another area of expertise gets so sick of the same problems cropping up while doing fieldwork or other research they end up writing something about it. But it is a fairly hazy area on its own, probably best called 'anthropological linguistics' or 'linguistic anthropology'. I think researchers in general find it a bit scary to research something ( on scientific grounds) so 'human' and retreat to the safer ground of something more empirical and 'objective'. But I suppose the point is that anything that anybody thinks about is going come served with various assumptions, and once you identify those assumptions you can study ( say) whatever you like!

I suppose science kind of makes things such that you have to set up a situation whereby someone else could come to the same conclusions as you if they did roughly the same thing. Which in turn suggests that everything you write about is the result of culmination of many of your lifes experiences and that you have to work hard to identify your own prejudices and assumptions so that what you are researching becomes transparent and reproducible.

It is hard not to think of your own cultural world as 'unmarked' or normal or the default, or at least to have some idea that there is a 'normal' way of living and then make comparisons to this 'normal' way of living and thinking and speaking without identifying all the aspects that make up that 'normal' way of being. The danger of not identifying this is when people start to classify other langauge and cultural practices as 'wrong' or 'better' or 'worse'. any kind of value judgement a person makes exposes that a person hasnt yet realised that their own language and culture are specifically tailored into a cultural worldview that is relevant only to their cultural world, so it is not a good basis for intepreting or really even investigating another culture (and certainly not for making value judgements of it). So the only way to research the speech practices of another cultural group is first to identify your own and then talk about them both as existing on maybe different places on a spectrum of human communication. So you dont end up with a one language being 'normal' and the other 'exotic'...anyone with any interesting stories of references for me please let me know, I am in an absorbing stage!


Blogger Catalin said...

I want to quote a passage for you from Robyn Davidson's short story/essay called "Marrying Eddie." Unfortunately, I'm feeling too rushed and/or lazy to actually find the book, the story and the passage. Anyway, she talks very eloquently about realising that there is no "normal" or unmarked reality.

Your current job of just researching on your own seems very difficult and lonely to me. I liked the structure of going to classes, getting reading lists, listening to lectures and discussing those readings and those lectures with other grad students. It seems like asking a lot for you to work those ideas out on your own. DI you have any kind of regular contact with other doctoral students or with lecturers?

You can talk to us about your ideas and research all you want!

10:36 pm  
Blogger Sophie said...

Unfortunately no, little to no interaction with other people interested in the same thing. There are plenty of linguists around but they are mostly doing there own thing. That is why I am so looking forward to going to the States and doing some postgrad coursework. It will be good.
I think the upside of this lonely research is that you are entirely free to determine your own specific areas of research...

Actually you showed me that article on Marrying Eddie, and I really enjoyed it! So thanks already!

10:15 am  
Anonymous Bulanjdjan said...

Soph! you're going to the states for postgrad coursework?! Wow, cool, would love to do some myself! Where? When?

And I'm so inspired by your post: am trying to work up to that state of absorption and joy you describe!

Keep it up.

10:27 am  
Anonymous Bulanjdjan said...

Further to your comments about trawling through dictionary files and the classificatory systems of another language and its speakers, I just found evidence for why speakers of Kriol seem to use 'bed kol' to refer to both the condition of having a cold and the mucousy products of it.

I'm working my way through the Dalabon dictionary at the moment and found that djalak-no means both 'snot' and 'mucously illness'. Yay for substrate influence! I'd long suspected it, but never did any research to invesigate it. So many answers, so little time to find them all...

Happy lexcial touring!

12:12 pm  
Anonymous bulanjdjan said...

My use of html, however, is crap.

Djalak-no is the Dalabon term, which I had tried to set in italics. No fancy-schmancy html this time though!

12:14 pm  
Blogger lizard said...

my sossie. I love you and your beautiful head filled up with all this goodness! life sounds good soph. remember not to take it too serious, i dont think we are ment to,well thats at least what "they" tell me!....
Elands is beautiful almose time for a swim. Amy is coming over to visit with her belly full of baby!
I love you.

12:14 pm  
Blogger Wamut said...

haha... 'yay for substrate influence!'... that sentence could only be uttered by a 'passionate' (some may read 'dorky') linguist. :-)

i'm running the kriol course here at ngukurr at the moment and we're covering grammar. it seems like at the start of the course, while doing phonology, people were noting how the vast majority of words were of English origin, but now that we've covered family/skin and are on to grammar, the contrasts between English and Kriol are becoming plain to see. it's hard to see just just how deep the substrate influence goes, but it goes pretty deep alright, especially when you reach the discourse level, which linguists generally overlook in research in favour of more salient features of language.

so good work main dubala mami.

1:09 pm  
Anonymous bulanjdjan said...

who are you *teaching* Kriol to Greg? Munanga? or Biy?

3:54 pm  
Blogger Wamut said...

munanga. im det seimwan kriol course yu bin oldei duim.

9:49 pm  
Anonymous bulanjdjan said...

I have another fantastic bit of Dalabon lexicography to report:

'dje-narrûn' means to 'see the reflection of one's face' and is a polite expression for 'going to the toilet'! It's like English 'I'm off to powder my nose'!!! So cool.

Give that one to your munanga students, me!

10:13 am  
Anonymous Laraba said...

Wow and yeah for languages!
Thanks for posting exciting linguistic findings, Bulanjdjan!
I just saw that there will be a new IPA sign out soon, for labiodental flaps! I thought that was exciting.
Sorry Sophie, this doesn't really have anything to do with your original posting, although, vaguely it does. It's turned out to be a forum for linguists...

I love your posts, keep on blogging, all of you!

12:23 pm  
Blogger Sophie said...

Maybe we should start a linguists ( and all other interestedes) blog!! ( Now that would be 'dorky' wamut!!) there cant be more than 10 0f us Young Gantastic groovey linguists ( or students) who find lexicography so fascinating, along with substrate influences etc.....

Laraba: who are you (!!!) more clues please.

5:11 pm  
Anonymous Laraba said...

Sophie, I'm gonna come visit you soon! That's me! (c:

10:03 pm  

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