Saturday, October 22, 2011

Polyliteracy?

And of course there are still chauvinists around us, who, even though they SEEM interested in diversity and multiculturalism, are in reality only interested in it as a way of educating "the foreigners" about the amazing, wonderful and superior world.

You know, like missionaries all over the invention of Christianity. They have been leadning forces in the study of foreign languages, with only one purpose - to translate the Bible in as many languages as possible, "to make the whole world Christian".

(You know the Chinese cultural revolution when tons of culture was destroyed? Well, the Christians did that in Europe since 3rd century c.e. Luckily for us, we now can save at least some of what was destroyed. Of course, the burned scriptures, artefacts and people who might have invented something cannot be saved...  Archimedes' palimpsest. Yay!)

Of course I appreciate this, because the missionaries HAVE saved hundreds of languages, by writing grammars, dictionaries, phrasebooks and fairytale collections, and the work they have done translating the Genesis to all the languages they have encountered is the base of Rosetta project.

But they are also responsible of killing thousands of languages, by forcing the people to change their lifestyles to "fit" the Western, Christian one which is EXTREMELY limited and chauvinist. (Frankly, Christianity is a Greek invention, developed and spread by Romans, and carries the Indo-European view on life and people, which fits to Indo-Europeans and no-one else. One can even question if it fits to anyone but Greeks and Romans. The Germanic languages have changed Christianity quite strongly, by creating Protestantism with all its forms... I'm sorry to point this out, but Germanic people - English included - are pretty imperialistic and chauvinist themselves, and a bit differently than the Greek and Roman peoples.)

Now we have this idiot who believes "comparative linguistics" is "dead", because the "Indo-European languages" are quite thoroughly studied.

Well... he's an American. Why doesn't he throw out his Indo-European chauvinism and start doing comparative philology in America? The Native Americans have an amazing collection of languages that are practically unresearched - as the European invaders and occupiers haven't been in any way interested in them, with all their chauvinism. They also have their own Great Literature, which is even less studied.
You see, "literature" doesn't need to be written down. It is believed the Tanakh is a collection of stories, laws, beliefs and so on, not originating from those people who wrote it down, they just recorded it, turned the oral literature into written form. Probably Homer also just wrote down what he had heard, just like Elias Lönnrot did when he wrote the Kalevala, or what brothers Grimm did with the fairytales.
This is the sort of "comparative linguistics" and old fashioned linguistics Alexander should be focusing on, and not the Indo-European languages and such.

"As a product of Western civilization, I cannot help but draw a fundamental line between the way I can relate to European Indo-European languages on the one hand and all other "Exotica" on the other."
As a product of Western civilization, BUT a native from one of the few Western "non-Indo-European" countries, I am free of that attitude. Now, I don't think it's because of that, but because I am not an imperialistic chauvinist... but perhaps I'm not because my native language is NOT Indo-European.

He explains long and hard about how he has always wanted to be a polyglot and how he loves languages and blah blah blah, but:

- he gave up studying Persian, because his advisor was stupid enough to not understand that an undergraduate doesn't really know what he will be doing when he's done, and the advisor's job is to take what the undergraduate is interested in - like Persian - and make it fit his curriculum, and not the other way around, and Alexander wasn't smart enough to realize that studying Persian was - what? a couple of hours in a week, and he could figure out what to do with it later.

"Today, although the term "Linguistics" sounds as if it has to do with languages, it most often does not concern the actual study of foreign languages."

I suppose it was the same reason to why he doesn't understand that linguistics is a study of LANGUAGE, not languageS, and if you study LANGUAGE, ALL individual languages in the world are valuable to you as your subject... Which is something I understood already when I was a teenager and found the books about philology and linguistics in our library...

Nevertheless, he gave up the study of Persian, because someone told him he shouldn't. Your advisor cannot FORCE you to stop studying something you want to study. A man with more spine would have insisted. If Alexander had been a girl, and her study advisor had told her to quit University studies and leave that to men, she would have. Not so Joyce Brothers, and SHE is old enough to be Alexander's mother!

Okay, did he take up the Persian studies after he graduated? Well... he says he has 98% knowledge of the language, but mostly of "traditional tales"... and what he tells about his language studies and knowledge makes me suspect he wouldn't survive a day on the streets of Tehran. So, practically, he doesn't know Persian. He's twice as old as when someone told him not to study Persian, and he still seems to obey. *sigh*

Now he has had 15 years to "turn himself into the polyglot he always wanted to be".
Is he a polyglot? Sure... in Indo-European Classical languages, mostly dead, unused languages... Like ancient Norse and Swedish.
Of the 38 languages he lists on his page, only three are not Indo-European. His wife is Korean, he lived in Korea for 5-10 years, and YET HE KNOWS MORE OLD NORSE AND OLD SWEDISH THAN KOREAN... And he claims to be passionate about knowing languages?

On top of that he talks about Chinese and all that, and then he found himself in Chinese, heard people actually using the language, and now he is not the least interested in it. Oh... Barry Farber talks about dating and marrying languages... Alexander Arguelles is a language necrophile. He's only interested in a language for as long the language is dead, or pretends to be dead, as in written form. He wouldn't read a modern Russian novel, he chooses Dostoyevski. He wouldn't study contemporary Korean even to be able to communicate with his Korean wife, he studies ancient Buddhist texts. He probably speaks fluently all Scandinavian languages, in both modern and old forms, but would use that to be able to read the old books and scriptures, not to discuss with Scandinavian philologists.

Another thing that irritates me extremely with this guy is that he goes on and on about his "beloved Lebanon"... which he left because Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006. He didn't even wait for the first day of that conflict to end before he took his family and ran. He says he waited for the situation to calm down - which happened only a month later - but that never happened... he says... He says he asked the Lebanese to send him his language library, and they did, and it arrived "intact" - but does he draw the conclusion that if his library was intact, and in such degree intact that his Lebanese friends could gather all the pieces and ship them to him, his home was also intact, and if he had only stayed put, he'd be still happily living in Lebanon... No. That doesn't accur to him. He is still whining about having been forced to leave Lebanon (no, you weren't forced. You quitted and you ran, just like you do with everything in your life the second there's any problems. You left your "beloved" Lebanon just as you left your "beloved" Persian 20 years earlier, and now you whine and blame everyone else.) and wanting to go back... I suppose the Lebanese don't want him back, and are telling him how "bad" the situation is still, how volatile it is in Middle East, and how he should stay away to keep his family safe.

He has two sons, born 2002 in Korea and 2004 in Lebanon, and a Korean wife, and not even once does he mention their wishes, or what they think about moving around the world. The elder was 2 when he took the family to Lebanon, two years later it was USA, three years later Shanghai, and all the time he's dreaming about being back in Lebanon.

Now, this guy - a professor in language and foreign language studies - does not understand that comparative philology is not "study of the relations and origins of Indo-European languages".

"However, whereas Comparative Philology had a tendency to focus inwards upon the origins of the Indo-European family in a nationalistic sense, Polyliteracy faces outwards towards expanding the individual scholar’s horizons by imparting the ability to read classic texts of Great Books in the tongues of other civilizations."

Classic texts of Great Books in the tongues of other civilizations? You mean, reading Indo-European literature in non-Indo-European languages? I hope not.

He says that what started as something has changed during the times and has lost its significance... so in stead of reviving the existing science, he creates a new one, and calls it "polyliteracy"... Literacy is the ability to read and write. One could expand it to mean "being wellread", that is appreciating of literature. Okay... I suppose that name could be used of people reading books in different languages. But it is not in any way descriptive of comparative linguistics or a better way of describing what comparative linguistics is. Now, Alexander says it's better, because
a) "the work of the great nineteenth century scholars was so thorough that there is little left uninvestigated in the traditional areas of European Indo-European language families, and the grammars and dictionaries that they produced stand still today as standard reference works"
Now it's just for someone to do that for the rest of the world's languages.

b) "while it is most instructive to employ the comparative method when studying phenomena that share many commonalities, given that this has been done and the results can be used as a foundational point of reference, the time is ripe for the study of Language itself as a commonality"
Yeah... that's called linguistics, Alexander. Perhaps you have heard of that?

c) "philologists... ...not only studied grammar but also folklore, the history of religions, and literature"
Yes... and that's called linguistics too. There is really no need to give it a shiny new name, just because you and your teachers 20 years ago were too stupid to understand what linguistics was, so that you would have understood to study that in stead of what you studied.

I don't like the idea I get about this person according to his own homepage. Sounds incredibly stupid and ignorant, and he's supposed to be a PROFESSOR OF LANGUAGES. Oh dear. Well... that only supports my idea of universities as dumbening institutions where people are made into mindless followers of a cult of science, where the professor is the High Priest whose words, opinion, ideas and theories are The Law... brr.

But, I suppose we know now why he doesn't throw away his chauvinism and start doing comparative linguistics and philology and studying the American languages and literature...

He can't. Simply because he is a chauvinist. He can only see that the Native Americans don't have any Library of Alexandria. He hasn't realized that EVERY human being is a library. Every dying elderly person is the library of Alexandria in flames... and the Indo-Europeans have been burning the libraries of Americas for 500 years.

P.S. Here's about the "shadowing" and here's some reviews of the method. Sure, sounds like it has some benefits. I have noticed that I notice my own mistakes as I read the text together with a recorded voice. I don't think walking swiftly and "loudly articulating" repeating what a voice on recording says would work too well... I think it's better to do it my way, so that you can see the words and you'd know what is actually being said. Especially French is a rather muddled language where it is easy to stupid foreigners mistake and misunderstand what is being said. I mean, the misread lyrics in popular songs is a rather common phenomenon in YouTube.

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