On Grammatical Signals: From Morphology to Syntax

Ok, so as i understand it…

Language is just a bunch of arbitrary sensory cues (unless you use telepathy, i guess) that people have given meaning to.  And not just meaning, but RULES.
Like moving your head up and down to signify consent, approval, or affirmation.  Or like making the sound you make when you read the word “word” to mean… well, word.  All just because.

And if enough people  consciously, or unconsciously start agreeing on these meanings and rules, than you got language.

Now, the thing that makes human language awesome (and the focus of this update) is that it is infinitely productive (meaning you can understand anything i say, no matter how i say it, as long as it follows our agreed upon grammatical rules, or something like that).  And this is because of grammatical signals!

For example:  If i say to you, “It hurts when I walk!”
You understand that I am expressing my feeling of pain and discomfort when I walk.
And if I say, “It hurt when I walked”, you (Amazing English speaking/reading person, you) will understand that the pain I am communicating about happened in the past without me having to tell you every single time, “I am speaking to you of a past reality in which it hurts when I walk.”

Simple, right?

Now a more fun one!

The word “text”, for the longest time, was a noun meaning the symbols we wrote on a book.
But, nowadays, I can say without hesitation “Did you text Jose about the time change?” without having to explain “I will now speak of this noun we use to mean written symbols that we read, and i will speak of it as a VERB instead.”
Because it follows the rules of our grammar!
We have agreed that “ed” is a Grammatical Signal of verbs dealing with the past, and we have agreed that our word order follows some basic rules:
I (subject) Text (Verb) You (Object)!

And of course, you are thinking, but that’s because times are changing and this is a very common form the word.  Of course!  but it wasn’t always, it started somewhere, and we do it with many words, ALL THE TIME!!

An example? If I looked at you and engaged you in an environment in which people had gotten together to enjoy a football game, eat hamburgers, and drink beer, and i said the following words: “Hey, bro, beer me!”
Would you understand the message I’m trying to express?
I hope so.

Now let me give you some vocab words that pretty much describe all human grammar:

Morphology and Syntax (Horribly academic, but simple to understand)

Morphology deals with the actual word, and its formation.
Like in English, we agreed that once you add “ed” to a verb to make it signify a past tense.
Or that adding an ” ‘s ” at the end of a Subject implies possession.
You know, all the things that your teachers yelled to you about.
But these rules also let you make awesome jewels like “the charity I give to also funds anti-gay campaigns, and conversion therapy!  They Chic-Fil-A’ed me!”

Now Syntax deals with the order in which we agreed to put our words.
And these serve as Grammatical Signals, too!
LIke, If you hear me say, “Should we eat”, You know there should be a question mark at the end, because the word order signals a question!
Whereas if I say, “We should eat”, you know a period ends the phrase as a statement.
And just like the examples above, It helps people understand what you mean by “Beer me!”.


Learning to Give Up: The Right Way

While trying my hardest to not give up during my depressive periods is a form of survival, and while trying my hardest not to give up on my education given the challenges…  Not giving up has been twisted in my brain in a very maladaptive way when it comes to academics:

I don’t turn in my work.

I know, it makes no sense, “Doesn’t that mean you DO give up?”
Hear me out.

Somehow i get the idea that i CANNOT, MUST NOT turn in partial work.
Lord knows an unfinished essay with my name has not seen the light of day. Ever.
For some reason, i cannot bring myself to turn in a late assignment without prepping and shielding my shuddering heart from the waves of anxiety.
I either turn in something that is acceptably adequate, or i turn in nothing.

And that has not worked out fine.

I think I must share something happened just minutes ago.
Something that shook my very core.
Something I would have never attempted had somebody paid me.

A friend of mine was not able to do an assignment in which we were required to analyze a myth from any culture through one of the anthropological approaches.
That’s fine.
It’s happened to me.
I could relate… until she, in 2 minutes, googled “American myths”, found one that sounded interesting, and printed it out “for partial credit, at least.”

“At least”.

That struck me.

I had never even tried to THINK of this idea, and it was there, in my face.

I need to learn to do that.
Maybe not in that degree, but something!

Now, I’m not here to debate on the standard of the United Statian educational system.
I’m not here to argue for or against academic ethics.
I’m here to study and learn how to live in a system, because believe it or not, i want to survive.

So i need to learn to give up (within reason) on my idea of perfection.
I don’t mean, let go, try the minimum amount of work required (No, ma’am, I want to learn my craft and enjoy it).  I’m saying, i need to learn to try my hardest, and if my hardest is not enough in my eyes… it’s ok.  Let it go, turn it in, for partial credit, at least.

Religion, Magic, and witchcraft first day!

Although, i have had this teacher before, and had heard the speech before.

Again, another class in which there will be no testing.
Barely any assignments, really.  I don’t mind this one so much, actually.

I like discussion.  And i do well in presentations.  I will be fine.
Nothing to learn: We will be looking at different religions and deconstructing the structure of belief systems, and why we like them so much.  Should be interesting.

It sounds as if most of the class is a bunch of atheists, but the teacher promises it’s not always so.
Of course, because it is anthropology, one must always go in with level of respect for others’ beliefs and realities.
That is not something i forget.  That is not something i can forget.
I want to go into the field, haha.

Linguistics: first day!

My first class was Language and Culture.

All intros, today, of course.

Right off the bat, i was scared.
“I don’t believe is memorization.”

That’s my one forte.
Testing and i go together like a dolphin in a sea.  I can test.
That’s what i’m darned sure of.
If testing is not an emphasis, i will be left with very little to work on my grade.
I’m hoping my essays are good.  I think i write well.  But my academic writing is not the sharpest as of late.  So maybe this semester i can start polishing it again!
That’s one thing i’m excited about in this class.  Essays.  She knows language, and she’s very willing to help a student.  I have never had a teacher so openly state the degree to which she is willing to help.
“You are my responsibility and what you practice in the world because of me is my business.”  And i am falling in love with her pedagogy.
We can completely rewrite any written assignment because to her, everything is practice and only the finished product is the one that counts.
I know what you’re thinking.
I thought that, too.
“Pfft, what an easy teacher.  That’s pretty much cheating, i can’t believe she allows this.”
But it made sense.
I mean,  know it would help me a lot, not just to get a passing grade, but more importantly, to actually learn something in one class.
That doesn’t happen in many.
Quick, tell what you learned today, and how you can apply it to life.
Very few can say what.
And she’s just so gosh darned awesome!
I finally meet somebody who loves Spanglish more than i do.
I must admit i used to hate it, but over the years i learned to love it.
just like i ❤ txt text, and L337 59e4k.
Language is a wonderfully, ever evolving, living, breathing, awesomeness.
Let’s keep it that way.

So i’m excited for this class, and i’m excited to share what i learn next time.

First day of school!

And already tired…
But it’s not like that!!

Yesterday just turned out to be an exhausting day.

We woke up early to travel to LA for a 4 hour meeting regarding policy.
Fun people, nice laughs, awesome job done: tiring.

Drove straight back to a Know Your Rights presentation in which we teach community members about what to do in case stopped by the police, immigration, and in the case of detention.  Everything from stating you will use your right to remain silent, to creating a plan of action among family members, and co-workers.  Never lie to an immigration officer!  And never admit anything or sign anything!  You don’t have to! Just stay quiet until you can see a lawyer. 
From there we drove home for a half hour nap and straight into a fundraiser we were hosting with another community org.  I had volunteered to MC, so i had to.  Event ended at 11:30, but i dropped off sooner.  Couldn’t go to sleep anyway.
I’m tired, but the teachers totally re-energized me!  I will posting what i learned today in upcoming blogs, no worries =]

Biggest little step: Waking up

I’ve been reflecting on these past few years. After a depressive slump, and a slew of following episodes that incapacitated me for years, i went into self care mode. I worked hard at being happy.  I worked hard at going … Continue reading