Monthly Archives: April 2013

Words and Experience

“We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.”

— Vladimir Nabokov

What is research?

“If you ask a group of graphologists to study the same piece of handwriting, they all come out with different interpretations. It’s no different from astrology or numerology.” From an article on the science of Graphology

One of the most important things about research is that it should repeatable or be open to replication. So when different people come up with different results from the same data it can only be seen as opinion based not on fact.

But even careful use of hard data we may not be right. There is a certain amount  of interpretation as to how to approach the data you have in front of you. So the question is how good is that interpretation, because if the data is all you need then a computer can give you the answer and that is certainly never the case.

What is agreed upon is that certain sets of techniques and interpretations are worth pursuing at any one time (and I must stress at a time). They are not always correct. Read Thomas S Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and you will understand even groups of people can get things wrong. We are more manipulated by our language and culture than we would like to believe even in our age of post-Kuhn-ism.


Of lexis
Repetitive, regular,
Becomes you.

Well proportioned
Law abiding
Zip(f) in nature
Nothing above ‘the’.

Is everywhere.
Typical of you,
Token, your words.

long time know sea

no time 

passes between 

the coma 

of friendship

The more I study language the more I find the emptiness of words.

I do not mean words are empty but that words are now containers to me than I had once thought. No longer do words hold a power over me. I have stripped it of its special place. It is not a mystery anymore.

The poem above hinges on the word ‘coma’. Like a coma victim coming out of his or her long slumber no time passes. Before the sleep the world was a certain time and place. After the sleep the it could be that months, years or decades have passed. For the victim time is lost. For the awake much has happened in that time.

Friendship just seems like this where time has been forgotten people still seem to be the same after the period of separation.

This is not true, of course. People change. You just don’t notice it. Like the mind, words can deceive.

Cool Chinese character tattoo or lifetime laughing stock?

As a language person I know all too well how difficult it is to translate perfectly from one language to another. This is why for many Westerners who are getting Chinese characters tattooed I will advise they should be careful. For one, those doing the tattoo may not be telling you the truth. Secondly, what seems fine in standalone translation may backfire when put in some kind of context. This article is a good introduction to this topic. I have seen some pretty funny tattoos and t-shirt meanings.

The moral of the story is if you don’t fully know what it means you should not let it go near your skin.

Hideo Kageyama Rocks

According to The Japan News (formerly The Daily Yomiuri) renowned Japanese educator Hideo Kageyama (homepage in Japanese) will be release a rock song entitled ‘Benkyo Shiyoze’ (Let’s Study!) on 8 May.

You have to hand it to Prof. Kageyama who is now advisor to the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education. His techniques for motivating students are fun and simple, making you wonder why we didn’t think of that in the first place.

Original Pronunciation of Shakespearean Plays

This is a fascinating introduction to the differences in pronunciation of Modern English and Early Modern English (Shakespeare’s time). Explanations and examples are very clear by linguist David Crystal and his son Ben, an actor.