One

1.
There is something to be said about linguistic determinism, and in particular relativity. Linguistic relativity says that the form or structure of a language influences the way people think, or world-view. The often quoted example is the Inuit people and the words for “snow”. Whereas in English we have snow (and perhaps sleet and slush) the Inuit have at least nine different words for different types of snow. Because of this the Inuits have a “greater” understanding and knowledge of snow and their conditions.

But is this absolutely necessarily true?

The idea that language reflects your thought is better described as relative rather than absolute. If the relationship is absolute then all people of a language will think in exactly the same way.  But this is not true. A talk to two people from the same culture will quickly reveal that people do think differently. And you would be hard pushed to even say there are two people who are exactly identical in their way of thought. Even biological twins who are genetically the same are different in their thoughts and likes. Experience from a first-person or one-person point-of-view will guarantee that we will be different no matter what.

2.
English is a language which takes pains to highlight “one over many”. It is one of the languages which have difference morphological form for the singular and the plural (or not-singular). Is it natural to give the singular priority? Arabic has forms for “one”, “two” and “plural”. And Japanese does not differentiate between singular and plural at all.  Nor does Chinese for that matter. So grammar is really a creation of the mind, of people, to make communication possible. The rules are not set in stone or in the mind as some would like you to believe. As humans we make do with what we have – the physical world – to do things like communication.

In fact all we can do is ‘make do’. But it is important to see that making do with something does not mean it is the only way to the same thing. There is no reason for ‘one’ to be given priority over not ‘one’ … except for may be it is the first thing in an order.

Grammar or experience?

What is wrong with the idea of “universal” in the Universal Grammar of Chomsky? It is that what is taken as being universal is wrong. It is not the grammar in the brain that is universal, but rather it is the human experience that is universal. We all have the same set of senses and mental faculty. We all input the same kinds of sensory and perceptive experience. But we also have the same kinds of choices and decisions to make about language which do not necessarily need to be a brain-module specific to operate. 

“Language is transformational” is partly correct, but it is probably at a more a general rather than being a specific mechanism that uses the properties of reality, sound and image to produce what is language. Certainly we are creatures who like to express themselves and to communicate with other creatures. We are undoubtedly social creatures. 

heaviness of rain

more than white noise
the drone continues
through the night

in dark sleep
the overflow gutters
my one exposed ear
until light reveals
the heaviness
of the rain

frogs frolic wetly
green suits shining
and birds shelter
in the eaves
leaving reluctantly 
at my presence
as warnings come
over the air waves

midnight

peak of darkness
the largest hour

the sun
is at its lowest
hidden beneath
the earth
seemingly
under ground

the stars
pinhole the sky wall
the half-moon
noticeably crawls
across the black

and the air
falls upon me –
my ominous blanket
that keeps me cold

Why syntax over morphology

Over the years of teaching and writing I have noticed how much more emphasis had been given to words (morphology) over sentences (syntax). Perhaps it is because sentences are mistakenly thought of as so much harder to pin down. When people see a sentence of twenty words they think of twenty things. Rarely do they think of the sentence as one thing. In my opinion, a sentence is a unit of complete communication. It is not the only unit to be considered complete. Words, of course, are considered (and taught as) complete units. Fair enough. We can use words out of sentence-context and still get some kind of meaning across, but just not very well. But because of the inaccuracy, it seems logical to work with the unit which best gives a “complete” meaning, instead of working with units which do not make a unit of communication. It is for this reason that I believe that syntax should be given priority in teaching and learning.

Beyond dialogue

With post-Periscope here we now have what can be considered not dialogue but what I shall call plura-logue

Conversations no longer static or deferred but dynamic and immediate. It is also dialogue with one and many simultaneously. 

How to set up and use iPhone VoiceOver for Periscope

Do you want to drive and Periscope at the same time but feel it is unsafe (let alone it being illegal in some places)? Well, there is a solution. It is called VoiceOver.


1. Set up VoiceOver
Firstly, go to
Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut
and check VoiceOver


2. Start a broadcast
Now start a Periscope broadcast as you normally do. Once you have set the orientation triple-click the Home Button. Tap once where the comments usually appear on the screen. All comments should now be read aloud as they appear.


3. To stop a broadcast
When you want a broadcast, stop VoiceOver by triple-clicking the Home Button. Then exit as you normally do.


Bonus – To tweak VoiceOver
You can change the voice and speed of the VoiceOver in
Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver

Ben Crystal lectures in Japan

I heard Shakespearean actor, Ben Crystal, talk today. My interest in Shakespeare – which had wained with my miscomprehension or un-comprehension of it in my youth – had returned with the revelation that what I had been watching until now had been inauthentic. Ben had pointed out that modern performances had tended towards Received Pronunciation (RP) even though most of The United Kingdom (98% in fact) do not speak like the Queen. English is not the English of Lawrence Olivier. It is the English of ordinary folk. So watching Shakespeare done in RP is like watching it in another language altogether.

Modelled performances by Ben during the talk in the more natural pronunciation of English in Shakespeare’s time according to Ben meant a return to rhyme (lost in modern pronunciation of words), in a more natural tempo and rhythm (sounding more like the vernacular we recognise as native speakers), and engagement (actors spoke directly to the audience).

Some recent productions I have seen online have tried to return to these values (probably due to Ben and the Globe’s performances from 2005 onwards). These values, though, have always been there. You can still see it in the ordinary non-Shakespearean theatre of English. But the values were taken away (stolen as it were) by a small group some time in the history of the English stage performance. This revision and return is absolutely necessary if we are to appreciate Shakespeare on this day of all appropriate days – Shakespeare Day (23rd April) – once more. Bravo and thank you, Ben.

Published international research low by Japanese

Compared to the world growth in publishing at eighty-percent Japan is falling behind at just 14%. 

Figures given this morning showed exchange to America has fallen from the peak of over 47,000 students to under 19,000. Furthermore, money put into research has dropped dramatically. 

If Japan is to compete academically it will need to increase spending in exchange and research

A glossary of corpus types

There are many types of corpus depending on their use. Below is a list some of the main types.


diachronic – a corpus which looks at changes across a timeframe.

learner – a corpus of L2 learner writing of speech.

monitor – a type of diachronic corpus which may continue to grow with new texts added over time.

monolingual – includes only one language.

multilingual – a corpus with two or more languages.

parallel – a corpus with both a target language (L2) and first language (L1).

reference – a corpus to which other corpora are used to compare with, usually through statistical data analysis.

synchronic – a corpus that has been constructed at a certain time (like a snapshot) to represent a language.

raw – a corpus with no annotation.

tagged – a corpus with annotation (for example, Parts-Of-Speech tags).

target – a corpus that is compared to a reference corpus.