Tie Fighters and cultural unconsciousness

tie_fighterI spend a lot of time thinking about language, even when buying presents for my kids.

This year I got the Lego Tie Fighter for my son (deep down the toy is for me but I believe we have kids so that we can continue our childhood into adulthood).

For most of my life I have thought why George Lucas and his cohorts should decide to call it the Tie Fighter instead of the H-wing Fighter. Afterall, the rebel fighter is called the X-wing Fighter because of its shape.

My conclusion is this: the H-wing Fighter just doesn’t sound good. There is nothing unconventional about the letter ‘H’ (X is such a rarely used letter it makes it sound mysterious). But the question is why ‘Tie’? My theory is that is looks like a bow tie and a Bow Tie Fighter will not cut it either. So the shortened form Tie Fighter sounds cool even though it has nothing to do with its function.

If this be the case then the name betrays its twentieth century roots. I mean I don’t see Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker or Yoda sporting one in any scene.

In short, in the very distant future in galaxies far far away bow ties are out.

Body language and changing your behaviour

Body language is known to tell you a lot about a person. In a reversal in thinking Amy Cuddy in this TED presentation talks about how controlling or changing your body language can change your behaviour and frame of mind.

Time for my big stretch … if you get what I mean.

Aris Venetikidis on maps in the brain

Here is a nice talk on how we map out our world in terms of getting from Point A to Point B.

The key to making sense of things is simplification.

Firstly, we represent getting somewhere by a series of landmarks. Secondly, no matter how windy a route is from two points our brains represent it as a straight line.

The classic example of successful mapmaking is the London Underground map better known as Beck’s Tube map. The lines and stations are disproportionate but accurate relative to each other. And it is this way of representing space in our minds which Mr Venetikidis talks about in this video and how he applied it to the bus route for Dublin.

 

Word Grammar

Came across a new-ish theory today – Word Grammar. Its creator and champion is Richard (Dick) Hudson at UCL.

Seems worth exploring as a theory. Considered a minor branch of cognitive linguistics.

Teaching function words: the cognitive and corpus perspectives

I will be giving a presentation on function words, what we can learn from corpora about them, how we understnad them in light of conceptual metaphor theory and what this all means for second language teaching.

The venue and date: PanSIG @ Hiroshima University, 16 June 2012.

The alphabet as object

In a novel study of baboons it has been found it is possible for the animals to recognise ‘words’ (real word letter sequences) as opposed to jumbled letter sequences. This may indicate we may need to rethink our understanding of symbols as abstractions to a simpler concrete interpretation as if they are plain objects.

I do think our belief that we, human beings, are something ‘better’ than animals is complacent. Afterall we still live in a physical world just like any other animal. The ability for abstraction has its limits still confined by the physical.

That’s one point for the theory of embodiment.

Three things Tokyo University students have in common

I was reminded by Stephen Krashen’s post on reading, access to books, and school performance about the three things Tokyo University students have that help them get into the University – bookshelves (with books of course, and the more the better), a globe (to help them see the world differently (or is it correctly)), and a piano (music is softens the mind for original and abstract thinking).

I don’t remember where the source for this is but it was in conversation with my wife and friends.

Language and emotions are separate

Do we really need language to have emotions?

Given some thought it should be apparent that emotions – any sort of feeling – should not depend on language. Babies do not need to know the words ‘It hurts,’ to cry in pain. And we do not need the word ‘disgust’ to be disgusted.

The role of language is therefore first and foremost communication, not thinking. However, we do utilise words for thought. The probable reason for this is because language as an abstract tool is convenient for organizing our thoughts. Labelling things make them easier to manipulate. It could be as simple as that.

I have never been a fan of any innate language faculty that some linguists believe is responsible for our language ability. More likely is that language – a bunch sounds and symbols – is really just an abstraction we as humans are really really good at.