What I wake up to

This is the most annoying bird ever (you have to listen to the sound and imagine that like ten times louder right beside your head every morning). I think it’s part crow and part velociraptor.

The Bull Flame of Desire

I finished my last exam and bought the new Bjork CD on my walk home. It is a true celebration. I just noticed, too, that iTunes decided that track three is called “The Bull Flame of Desire” a title I especially like, even though on all the other track lists the song is called “The Dull Flame of Desire.” I think it’s a very nice typo. I think maybe Bjork will change the name and re-record the song in honor of it.

The chairs were hard, but they had bagels

Last weekend I went to my first conference in grad school. It had way better coffee than the Wheaton Theological Conference I went to as an undergrad. Anyway, it was MayFest at the University of Maryland and it was a happy little no-stress conference for me because I wasn’t presenting and I’m done with the semester. It was exciting, but frustrating because the presenters would realize they were going to run out of time and so skip introductions and explanations and my little fresh-out-of-finals, not to mention first-year brain had trouble following things. By the second (last) day I was beginning to get the hang of things again and I was all ready for the conference to keep going for another day, but it was over sadly and we all went drinking at a little bar in DC.

The conference was about hierarchy in syntax, so basically whether the structure is flat and each piece is on its own, or whether the structure is made up of pieces made up of other pieces. It was like stepping way back from everything I’ve been studying this year and looking at it from far away, which really made everything hard to recognize. I wanted more context, really. Some of the presentations were intensely opaque. Some were very tense–the question sessions would come around and I was sure someone was going to get physical at any moment. My friend and I translated the questions to each other: “he just said ‘so what the hell are you doing here?'” “then he said ‘everyone who disagrees with me is an asshole.'” Most of the people, though, were really interesting and very friendly. I wanted to go talk to some of the presenters, but I was so afraid that as soon as I asked a question my brain would shut down and I wouldn’t understand the answer.

I realized from the conference that I really am interested in this stuff, which was helpful because I kind of wondered when I decided to specialize in syntax whether I was just responding to my professors’ enthusiasm. And there’s not much scarier than thinking about getting a PhD in something and then realizing that I don’t really love it. But I do love it and I’m starting thesis research this summer and going to the exciting LSA Institute (at Stanford! which I always associate with the comic PhD . . .). But I feel like these blog entries keep coming back to the same topics–me trying to figure out my academic life. What was most exciting about the conference for me was the opportunity to socialize with another department. Maryland is amazing! We stayed with students and talked to other students and they’re all just such cool linguisticy people. Plus, their professors are linguistic rockstars. That was the most fun and most intimidating part of the weekend. I would whisper to my friend “oh man, look, that’s Norbert Hornstein! There’s Howard Lasnik!!” so exciting.

edit: okay, I know I’m confusing. The Medieval Studies conference I attended a few weeks ago was technically my first conference in grad school, but since it was only one day and at my university I guess it didn’t quite register in my head. MayFest was the first conference I had to travel to get to and my first linguistics conference, so it was more momentous in the scheme of things.

I got a camera phone

Went to Chattanooga this weekend. I arrived Friday night, after troubles with Atlanta traffic that only my trusty This American Life podcast could get me through. Ashley, Tuggy, and Hannah gave me French onion soup and wine. It was beautiful. Ashley also gave me this shirt, so I could know my role.

On Saturday I finally got to go to Aretha’s! We tried to go for breakfast, but there were far too many people there. There were people sitting on the roof, hanging off the porch by their fingers. It was crazy busy. But going at night was better because then we got to have Guinness. My cousin Sam hung out with us that night. He enjoyed the Guinness.

After that we went to Parkway and played some pool.

The next day Ashley and I walked to church with croissants and mugs of coffee, like little French children. I found Dr. W there and we chatted a bit among the pews. Sunday night we played Settlers at Earl’s house.

Now that I know that I can get the pictures off the phone I’ll have to take some pictures of my apartment, also my syntax books, you know you want to see them . . . I got the camera phone as an early birthday present from my family. Yay for early birthday presents.

Heard (my NPR life)

Whistling speech, I heard about this at SIL last summer, but I forgot about it till I heard a story about it on NPR tonight.  In Mazatec, and I could be wrong, but I think in Mazatec the combination and length of tones is often enough to understand what phrase is being said.  Which is where the whistles come in.  Our phonetics prof last summer, an older lady who had spent a lot of time in the field, got great pleasure from “humming” us sentences and then telling us what they meant.

Also, while I’m on the “what I heard on NPR today” track, I listened to the podcast of this week’s This American Life episode today, and I came to the conclusion that Ira Glass doespronounce his /l/s as uvular nasals (commonly refered to as “swallowing your l’s”). It was a really good episode.  It was called “By Proxy” and it was about people who have had to do things in the place of others.  Davy Rothbart, the creator of Found Magazine, tells a story about a childhood friend who often asks him to make decisions for her, which of course leads down strange (and because it’s This American Life) ultimately bittersweet roads.  I liked that story the best, but there was also a story about an Iraqi translator and some elementary school kids in New York.  These podcasts really brighten up my wanderings around campus, but I always get self-conscious everytime I laugh out loud.

Things could be different, but they’re not

Trying to get work done and not being able to is the most depressing thing on earth. I’m trying to come up with something I can possibly put in the abstract I have to turn in for my syntax paper on Monday and my brain is all fuzzy and I’m trying to read articles, but I just keep feeling like they’re not getting at the heart of the matter, but I can’t remember what the heart of the matter is. Whenever I go to get an idea from my head, I lose the idea I was trying to connect it to.

I had a crazy night last night. Okay, so I went to the Of Montreal concert by myself because Suzanne was hanging out with some friends of hers who are only in town this week and I get to the concert way too early because I was worried about it selling out (I need to realize that in Columbia the opening band never goes on before ten, concerts in Boston are over at ten, that’s because they are crazy about sleep in Boston). So I ended up talking to this guy who works at the deli downstairs from my house. He was talking to me more, but I kept answering him because I didn’t want to be rude, and also because I have trouble holding my opinions back sometimes. We were talking about “indie cred” and how you could lose it (i.e. having your song in a Target commercial) and then he was talking about how sometimes at a concert the band stops singing so the audience can sing the words instead and what happens when the audience doesn’t know the words and what about that moment in the band’s career when, for the first time, the audience does know the words. And what if it was my favorite band? And what if it was your favorite band before that, but what if it was your favorite band because of that? Then you lose cred.

The opening band went on late and came off relatively soon. Then there was the hugest wait for Of Montreal. Here’s how long it was, about twenty minutes into the wait they started playing Guero, and they played all the way through Guero before Of Montreal got up there. I was getting annoyed because the local indie theater was showing The Beaver Trilogy at midnight, the only showing, and I really wanted to see it. I was also getting really annooyed at all of the eighteen-year-olds and the drunk thirty-something women who thought they were eighteen-year-olds. So Of Montreal came out and of course they were amazing and Kevin Barnes was not wearing any pants! That man is crazy, no, beyond crazy! But very few people were dancing and I was just so sad that I wasn’t seeing them at Lamar’s with all of the Covenant dancing people and last time I saw them there was glitter all over and Bill was there and last night was just damned depressing in comparison, so I danced like a mad fiend for half an hour (the pinnacle being Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse, oh my goodness amazing) and then I dashed out of there to see The Beaver Trilogy, which was completely different from any other movie, mainly because it’s three movies, put together, and one of them is real and the other two are just like that one, except not real, and because it has Sean Penn and Crispin Glover, playing the same character. And the people there reminded me that even though the concert kids were obnoxious, I still love the people in Columbia. Well, there are still cool people in Columbia, let’s put it that way.

They eat hipsters too

Went to see the Decemberists in Atlanta last night and now I am wondering, what am I doing with my life? Why don’t I spend all of my time watching the Decemberists play? Why am I in school instead of following them around the country? Alas.

They played all of their epics. It was quite the show, starting with a nice Russian song, sounding national anthem-ish, but I don’t know if it was. After the heroic music died out the Decemberists strode onto the stage, clad in white suits and glory. They started with The Crane Wife parts I-III in order, then The Island. They took a bit of a break from epic and played Grace Cathedral Hill (after some discussion of cities and rats), Billy Liar, Eli the Barrow Boy, 16 Military Wives, and Valencia. Of course during 16 Military Wives we had to have the civil war of the audience members, Mr. Meloy dividing us down the middle and then having fun yelling at people to get out of the no man’s land in the middle, claiming it was full of lava-spewing snakes with fangs who “especially like hipsters,” then he made the two sides of the audience growl and each other and shake their fists, then he made everyone sing louder and louder and then he was done with that. They ended the show with The Mariner’s Revenge Song, which I like so much more in concert, and of course there was the screaming at the whale (who also had fangs, according to Colin). They left the audience stomping on the floor for an encore and came back out to play “one more song.” It was The Tain, oh yes, amazing (for those who don’t know The Decemberists, The Tain is their 20 minute one-song EP, which exceeds their other single-song song-set The Island by a good six minutes). Made me think that the Decemberists could do one mean cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. And oh my goodness, it was great to see The Crane Wife in concert, not to mention The Island, made me realize how much I love them, The Crane Wife for its story and The Island for its rocking prog organ. It was a breathless concert, even with a couple small and slow songs thrown in. The audience was great, I love Decemberists audiences, they yell requests like crazy, but only to show how much they love the band, and really, you gotta appreciate that.

After the show we (Suzanne and I and Eb and Ashley, who I called on Thursday and convinced to come down for the show) went to Waffle House and tried to get enough caffeine to get us back to our respective homes that night. There was cuddling in Waffle House booths and eating of hashbrowns as well. The drive back was uneventful, but nice, I like driving at night. We got back at five, though, and I am feeling a little deprived of sleep right now, but full of love.

I met Ferdinand de Saussure on a night like this

Linguistics and I are having good times this semester. I was going to post the finely crafted handout I made for my class presentation on Monday, which was a beautiful example of syntactic argumentation, but alas, the darn computer lost it. Thankfully it was after I had printed it out for everyone in class, though. I love syntax, it makes me so happy. It’s like chocolate. Hopefully I will continue to love it for a good many years so I can become a great syntactician, which is kind of like a magician, but with more magic.

I am also taking History of the English Language (which the prof keeps abbreviating as “HEL”) and American Dialects, both of which are rocking awesome. I am also drinking coffee in Ashley Saturday’s room right now.

Identify the dialect

I have a grammatical construction, and I know that it is part of some dialect of American English, but I don’t know which one and I need to find out. The construction is like this:

“The team beat.”

That’s it, “beat” used like “won.” Now I know I’ve heard something like this before, but I don’t know where. Right now I am thinking it is from a Southern possibly Appalachian dialect, but until I figure out which it is I can’t elicit more such verbs from the native speakers via a finely crafted linguistic survey. And I can’t write my paper.

Beat it

So tired, but making progress. “Beat” isn’t even listed as a verb in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), but I found the Dictionary of Smoky Mountains English, co-authored by a professor from our own linguistics department and it was there: “beat: intransitive verb To win.” Ha. Now I have to find similar verbs. What other verbs would work this way:

I beat them so I won.
I beat.

It’s like using a verb referring to the process as a verb referring to the result. And when I think of it, most result verbs can be used transitively and intransitively: I burn it, it burns, but that’s different because there the object is becoming a subject. In this they both have the same subject. Uuugh. Man, it’s driving me crazy, got to do more research.

Also, I found another amazing linguistics blog today: literalminded.wordpress.com. It’s by a man who has a degree in linguistics, but he’s writing about linguistic ideas in everyday life, in the way his two sons talk, in things people say on the news and at the doctor’s office. It’s like all the everyday stuff from Language Log, only more personal and with only one author.

1 2 3 4 25