Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Catalan, not French

by • October 8th, 2007

I made a faux paux the other day, responding to Martí Cabré. S/he (as I plunge headlong into another one!) copied a photo I took of an art installation in Istanbul last summer. I was curious. The photo is evocative and in fact reminded me of the struggle some of my juniors are having letting go of being told in order to risk reaching out on their own terms. When I clicked through to see Martí’s post, I discovered text in a foreign language and – for some reason – assumed the language was French. I am not sure why, as I do have a passing familiarity with Spanish; had I looked I would probably have made that (just as egregious an) error. At least, my good friend the Wanokip tells me, French and Catalan are both Latin languages.
What I realized, heart-in-mouth, was that I did not “look.” My eyes glanced over the unfamiliar script and bounced off, catching no friction. What would have held me was not (in this instance) any quality inherent to the language or the medium (internet computer screen). I was in a hurry. My mind

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no mother tongue?

by • October 5th, 2007

“My best language is my third…”

Rhona Trauvitch complicates the usual equation that the first language learned establishes cultural ways of thought. Her spoken English rarely evinces signs indicative of a non-native user, although the trace of an accent suggests she did not learn English in the U.S. or United Kingdom.
We spoke after our professor promised to make her famous. Stephen introduced us to the thought of Matteo Bartoli, the figural teacher of Antonio Gramsci.

“Bartoli says all languages are the result of sociocultural conflict. Words are in competition with one another; words and languages are grammatical structures in competition with each other and cannot coexist: language is a battleground. There is always conflict between languages, and conflict within languages. Conflict conflict conflict, that’s what language is and what language is about. Words are always vying for position in language. [Bartoli] does not mean disembodied words, but that what we are doing in language is deciding ‘what will be the word for this? what will resonate?’” {From notes typed during lecture.]

Bartoli called his work neolinguistics, and then spatial linguistics. His phrase, “pattern of irradiations” caught my attention. Whatever the limitations of mathematical

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i think contiguously

by • September 18th, 2007

Seriously! Roman Jakobson (Prague School Linguist, functionalist), describes a kind of aphasia that brings the distinctions between metaphoric and metonymic speech. Metaphoric speech operates by substitution – you say something, I say something about another thing that reminds me of that thing you said – it “re-fills” the same space by replacement of an equivalent. Metonymic speech jumps levels, instead of substitution, you say something, and I say something related in terms of meaning but operating at a different position within a realist hierarchy.
While reading The metaphoric and metonymic poles today (subsequent to a few other articles, too) I became convinced that simultaneous interpreters can orient themselves to the performance of interpretation as verbal art, possibly even a kind of poetry. Some already do, but I think these are possibly a minority? Or, perhaps the dominant paradigm prevents full admission of the poetic latitude often exercised. 🙂

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Backdrop

by • January 8th, 2007

As I’m going about formulating a frame for my dissertation research, it becomes clearer that it matters where I draw the line between what will be “in” the project and what must remain “outside” of it. I always knew this, but the difference now, perhaps, is a better sense (?) of what is do-able, particularly in terms of promising an outcome. I don’t mean predicting a particular or specific result, because I do not know, now, the answers to my research problem. I do mean guaranteeing with some assurance that the problem is significant and the results of rigorous examination will be worthwhile and beneficial to the narrow field of language and interpretation studies as well as to (I hope) a broader social science. But I cannot say how the leap from the subfield of interpretation to larger fields will occur. Probably there are several possibilities. I don’t want to foreclose some by too close an interest in others. I cannot see any of them; I only intuit that the connections will become evident.
That penultimate goal must wait. I have been learning a different kind of trust the past few years and I

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Blink

by • January 7th, 2007

I wrote a while back about thin-slicing. I have nearly finished Gladwell’s book on rapid cognition. He spends a chapter discussing the face, linking the ability to discern emotional expression as akin to mind-reading: in his words, “the physiological basis of how we thin-slice other people” (213). Face recognition and object recognition are usually handled by two different parts of the brain, respectively the fusiform gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (219), but more interesting to me are two things: the interplay between voluntary and involuntary facial muscle responses, and the evidence that simply making certain facial expressions generates corresponding physiological states.
All of us can control our expressions to varying degrees, but people exert this control only after our faces have involuntarily displayed our emotional reaction. He describes several examples, including a slow-motion microexpressions of Kato Kaelin looking like “a snarling dog” during the O.J. Simpson trial (211), the smirking double-agent, Harold “Kim” Philby (211-212), “I’m a bad guy” Bill Clinton (205-206), and a psychiatric patient, Mary (208-209), citing research from Paul Ekman, Silvan Tomkins, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson (singly and in various combinations). “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary

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Language and Me

by • October 24th, 2006

Disability comes in all shapes, sizes, modes, and effects. There are legally-recognized versions and emotional varieties. These, or any number of indeterminate cognitive and psychiatric peculiarities, can interfere with intimate relationships and social interactions. For instance, people look at me and see a woman with a mullet who appears physically fit. What do they know? No, I don’t meet the federal criteria of “impairment of a major life function” (Americans with Disabilities Act 1990). I can breathe, walk, grasp, talk, feel, think, and otherwise function within the range of physicality deemed normal. Who decided to limit “normal” and impose such a measure for judging character or the potential worth of one’s contributions to society? Individuals will not claim responsibility, of course. Such boundaries and markers of difference are established ‘out there’ by impersonal forces of culture. The representations are propagated through the media, religion, and a disturbing range of incidental, informal taboos and negative sanctions. Questioning these norms is often considered problematic, disruptive, or unpleasant. When I do wonder about the so-called normal, people situate me clearly: I am deviant.
Fitting few standard stereotypes, I have learned to live through language. Sentiments not spoken affected me first.

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Language as Motion

by • October 10th, 2006

I wrote this piece, Language as Motion, as an example of the “Self-in-Contradiction” essay that is one of the options for the “personal/identity narrative” assigned to students in the introductory level writing course I’m currently teaching. There are a couple of friends who will recognize themselves in this piece (thank you), and I have to give some credit to Just-in-Time, who got us lost in traffic yesterday in Boston. While we were discussing writing as a craft, another part of my brain was mulling this attempt.
I am also conscious of the timing. Language set-in-motion through the last several semesters of blogging and constructing public writing environments for students is coming to some kind of turning point. The theory of language-as-action meets with (a) practical reality of language-in-use.

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“Be hard by being tender!” [When Nietzsche Wept (part 2)]

by • August 22nd, 2006

So Dr. Breuer challenges Nietzsche. I wrote about the first six chapters a few days ago: my enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed. 🙂
“We are each composed of many parts, each clamoring for expression. We can be held responsible only for the final compromise, not for the wayward impulses of each of the parts” (300).
“’One must have chaos and frenzy within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.’” (179-180). [oft-quoted, even by the Deaf community!]
“The key to living well is
first to will that which is necessary
and then to love that which is willed
” (282).
“A tree requires stormy weather if it is to attain a proud height…creativity and discovery are begotten in pain” (179).
The notion of eternal recurrence (249-251) deserves its own post in the phenomenology thread (good section in wikipedia on Nietzsche’s view, emphasizing the thought rather than the physical reality of an eternal return). There’s something of the dialectic/dialogic in there (see p. 84, too). It has convinced me that it is time to read the copy of Thus Spake Zarathurstra that I picked up in Berlin last summer.
More on interpretation (I extrapolate): “ a series of meanings folded into” [an object, fill in the

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voices and home

by • August 11th, 2006

sea reaches.JPG.jpg

“A voice belongs first to a body, then to a language” (52).
Negar told me about an Iranian saying, that learning another language adds a new person to your self. Yes, new capacities, new zones of expression and perception, yet what Berger says is also true, the voice &emdash; in its emotion-inducing physicality [my qualification] &emdash; remains the same. This use of the word “voice” is different than Blommaert’s conceptualization of “voice” as the operationalization of intersubjective, discursive power. The intersubjective part is the part between real individuals engaged in real time (face-to-face synchronic time or asynchronous technologically-mediated time &emdash; as in the turn-taking among myself, Yasser, Jeff, Amanda, and . . . you? wink! Why not?!!)
The discursive part is the larger framework of relationships in which each of us is embedded and all of us partake. Every time we speak (via our physically-embodied voice or through written text), each utterance spins forward along a dialectical trajectory as an outgrowth of previous exposure and knowledge. Simultaneously, each utterance opens onto a potential new vista, an unknown dark zone. “Dark” because not yet lived: unexperienced, and therefore unknown. (Thanks Negar; and original thanks to

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Comps (Question #4: “dissertaton area”)

by • July 13th, 2006

“Community interpreting,” said one interpreter educator, “is a condensed form of all the communication problems that can happen between people. It can teach you a lot about what it means to be a human being.”
Amitav Ghosh on interpreting (excerpts from The Hungry Tide).

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