Monday, November 26, 2012

Jotting Down Some Stuff

Not a lot is happening. I have so many thoughts that I feel like might lead to interesting projects or papers every day -- they're just not dissertation-related! Dag.


- The Confucius Institute's slogan "Teach You Pure Chinese." Some say it sounds like Chinglish, but the point is that reactions to it show how we confer legitimacy on nonstandard usages. It only sounds Chinglishy because we know it's Chinese.

- The ever-warping amorphous theological/ethical/moral/Christian framework for understanding language, which is now threatening to engulf the venerable Walter Ong along with previous conscripts Wendell Berry, George Steiner, and M.M. Bakhtin. The more I think about this the more excited and scared I get about it, which could be a good thing.


A submission to a new small-time but very cool journal is under review -- English Teaching in China. Would love to see more of these publications, and see professionals around the world looking at them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Failing miserably at #acwrimo

After days of no work, finally spent some time doing interview transcription today. Need more of this.

Monday, November 19, 2012

George Steiner on Language

Central to everything I am and believe and have written is my astonishment, naive as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to bless, to love, to build, to forgive and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate. In the gospel we read: ''In the beginning was the word.'' And I am asking: Could there be a word at the end? If there is a divine word, a word of creation and forgiveness, is there by the same token a word of final destruction, a word which un-mans man? 

-- "Talk with George Steiner," 1982

Friday, November 16, 2012

Language: material, structural, social, spiritual

What do we do with theories or explanations of language which take material/biological descriptions of things related to language as ultimate -- that is, as explaining all that needs to be explained about language?

The nice thing about these explanations is that we don't need to do away with them. What we can do, though, is show why they don't adequately address important questions about language. I can imagine four related approaches to big questions about what language is, what it does, what it means, etc: material, structural, social, and spiritual. (Although maybe the spiritual is close enough to the social.) Material would be stuff like how we physically are able to make words, how our brains know how to make language, etc. Structural would be a detailed descriptions of what languages or language actually is -- all its components like words and sounds and stuff. Social (obviously primary for me) would be communication, discourse, and all the things people do with language. Spiritual would be a kind of bottom-line basis for language from a theistic view of the world -- language/meaning/logos as something uniquely given to humans by our Creator for certain reasons, and implications for that.

I don't mean to keep running into these ultimate questions about language, but I keep seeing these books and articles about neo-Darwinian materialism (not related to language specifically, though occasionally), and I feel like I want language people to have a thicker and deeper understanding of why that kind of thing probably won't work for "explaining" everything about language.

PS: Related, sort of: brainstorming a paper/presentation on Wendell Berry and language. 

Coming soon: re-focusing on dissertation! Come on!

Monday, November 12, 2012

AcWriMo update #1

Today is November 12, the beginning of what I'm calling "week 2" of Academic Writing Month. Time to check in on how I've been doing.

My stated goal has been 750 words a day, 5 days a week. I've definitely failed that, but I've also kind of failed to prioritize what I'm working on.

TWE = Teaching World Englishes article
C-E = Chinese-English interface article draft
RK = Pluralizing English, lexical/grammatical variation & high-stakes academic writing article

Week 0 (Thurs/Fri)
1 - 768 (C-E)
2 - 850 (TWE)

Week 1
5 - 700 (RK) (estimated - I wasn't keeping track)
6 - 0
7 - 860 (TWE)
8 - 0
9 - 250 (TWE)

Week 2
12 - 775 (dissertation stuff) + 230 (RK)

TWE = 1960 (current article count: 5205
RK = 930 (current article count: 3398, plus about 1000 w of cut-and-pasted 'data')
C-E = 768
diss = 775

Obviously, I completely missed two days and had a day where I didn't meet a goal last week. I blame travelling, but I need a system in place to get things done even on travelling days. Waking up early (Probably 6ish at least!), while I often deem it impossible, seems like the best candidate.

In terms of progress, I'm really happy that the TWE and RK are starting to look like real articles. The lack of work on CE suggests to me that it's not as big a priority, but I think it's too far away from my everyday work (TWE is directly related to my teaching, RK to my dissertation) for me to want to work on it. And since I'm the one setting my goals, I think it's reasonable to put CE on the back burner at least for this week.

Two other papers that I had on the list of strong contenders for this month haven't been started, but I think they could be started (though not finished) at the end of the month.

The real issue so far is the lack of dissertation stuff. I've been wondering if I can include data analysis goals as well as writing goals for the diss, but I feel like actually setting word-count goals at this point makes me more anxious and worried than productive. What I need to be doing a lot the next two months is being submerged in the data: listening to it, reading it, transcribing it, writing notes about it, and coding it. This is what will become the chapters I intended to be "working on" this month. That might mean the chapters don't get done this month. If so, so be it. Anything that's working toward the goal of finishing is worthwhile.

To sum up: there are two viable papers going, but dissertation needs to take more priority.


So with that said, let's try to plan some more specific goals for this week not based on word counts.

Overall for the week:
-TWE: get it shape for writing group to read.  (do some rewriting/editing)
- RK: not a big priority, but revisit Lillis & Curry section, rewrite, and send to RK. I think giving her a chance to give some input now will help.
- Diss: interview transcriptions, memos, and coding work.


I have some ideas for breaking each day down individually but won't post it here because I'm not sure how it will shake out. More next week!