Cinema and academic research

I have a love-hate relationship with movies. Some days I hate it to the max. The pointlessness and waste-of-time productions that consists of most films. Then some days I love it when I come across a great piece of cinema.

One of my favourite films Kinema no Tenchi (The World of Cinema) is directed by Yoji Yamada of Torasan fame. The film revolves around the Shochiku Film Studios, the largest of the Japanese film studios, at the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’ in the 1930s. This was also a period in world and Japanese history when Nationalism was at its peak before the onset of Second World War. In it is a scene which Shimada, an assistant director, is talking to Odagiri, an old high school buddy, who is part of the anti-National ist movement. The latter is on the run from police for revolutionary activities. In the house scene, Odagiri, is telling Shimada about how reinvigorated he becomes when he sees a movie particularly ones Shimada had helped made. In those troubled times going watching a film is his one comfort. But Shimada still young and naive of the ways of the world cannot grasp the significance of Odagiri’s words.

Hope is what is all we need. Without hope there is no looking forward to a brighter future.

Ironically Shimada, in his open-hearted generosity to his friend, is implicated as a anti-Nationalist and thrown in jail. It is here that he learns of the suffering and the fight of the people who are branded as anti-Nationalist. But the most important lesson he learns  is that it is the films that give people hope.

In a way when I write my papers, put forward my theories, I am trying to make the world a better place, trying to make a positive difference to the world. If I didn’t have this thought in my mind I could not proceed. The little knowledge that I add to the world I hope will make a contribution to our understanding. I may not see the fruits of my labour but that the knowledge of the seeds of my efforts will make a difference is all that I need to continue in my research. The struggles of writing a PhD are struggles not unlike Shimada’s or the world of cinema.

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.

Two new books on corpus linguistics

(Update: this paperback edition is new) I have just acquired two of the latest titles on corpus linguistics. Contemporary Corpus Linguistics is edited Paul Baker, a collection of seventeen essays on the latest (hence ‘contemporary’ in the title) techniques used utilizing corpus linguistics. Three chapters are of relevance to my research: the Alice Deignan chapter (Ch. 2) on metaphors; the Yukio Tono chapter on second language acquisition (Ch. 11) and; the Randi Reppen chapter on English language teaching (Ch. 12).

And Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice by Tony McEnery and Andrew Hardie is a textbook. Here also are references to SLA, ELT and metaphors and Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT). More theoretical in content than practical as indicated by the chapters. The chapters are not on particular corpus linguistic concepts (not your frequency, collocation, etc) but on wider historical developments (neo-Firthian, psycholinguistics, etc) instead.

Will have a more thorough read later.

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A lesson from running

I ran into a retired professor who had taught me during my Masters degree recently. He had taught me about the difference between study and research (let’s leave that one for another post).

Being the teacher that he is he told me about his chance meeting of an old coach of the ekiden (Japanese style marathon) in the famous local high school. The coach said that one should not worry about the final goal when running but focus on the goal he can literally see. He said to focus on the goal of reaching that telegraph post at the top of the hill or the bend in the road, not on the final goal which is a concept in one’s head far beyond the place where you are on your run.

Like running then academic research is similar in that if you think only of the end goal the task will seem overwhelming.

Make your goals small and achievable. This is true not only of research but of everything we do. In some ways it is to focus on immediate tasks rather than long term ones even though we need the over picture, the roadmap so to speak, to get anything big like a thesis done.

Praat

Praat is “a free scientific computer software program for the analysis of speech in phonetics”.