Thursday, May 26, 2011

On 'Spying On Linguistics'

The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan recently had this. You might surprised, this concept is major research within linguistics as wells. Some of the more interesting 'policy-related' ones are:
"Love is war/violence.", oft illustrated by "She deflected his advances.", which has enormous implications for how people think about and talk about both rape and domestic violence. After all, if we live in a culture where we speak of love as a man 'occupying' a woman, it suddenly makes more sense that rape and domestic violence would be such a major problem. This also says something about the seemingly massive tolerance for Violence that is unique to the United States.
"Immigration is flood.", which can be demonstrated in "There seems to be an endless tide of Mexicans coming into the United States." Obviously, using the terminology of a natural disaster has massive effects on how people view immigration. There's another "Immigration is invasion." in lines such as "A horde of illegal immigrants descended on the city." which continues the serious negative connection in people's minds. In my own linguistics courses, we came to the conclusion that these 'cognitive metaphors' were a major part of the massive opposition to any immigration whatsoever.
Other interesting aspects of cognitive metaphors are their effects on literature and advertising. One way to make a major point stick in your readers mind is thinking of a new cognitive metaphor and deploying it throughout a work. In advertising, using the right cognitive metaphor can get your customers into just the right frame of mind to make the sale.
I should point out that the massive effects that these metaphors may have on daily life are part of the basis behind being 'politically correct'. It may seem annoying and pointless, but eradicating cognitive metaphors like "African Americans are Animals" seems like a needed step before equality can be achieved.

If you'd like to read more about the concept, there's a wiki article here (under an odd name) and you can also ask linguists about it here.

Liars for Jesus - Chapter One - Congress and the Bible

As I read these stories, I was reminded of the stories of German almost becoming the official language of the US instead of English, in that it seems that there are many false stories about the early congress. However, in every case, it seems, the problem is, as Rodda puts it, “It tells half of the real story, includes a quote from an actual committee report, but ends with a fabricated resolution.”
I conject that these lies persist because they point to real documents (“Surely no-one would lie about something so checkable?”) that are rather dense and difficult to read. (Just take a look, here is page 334 of the Continental Congress's papers.) The language is closer to the Early Modern English of Shakespeare than it is to the way we speak today (A fact that is highlighted by the issues surrounding saturday next.), and the written style is a kind of script that is never used any more. You can take classes in how to read this kind of stuff at a university's history, linguistics, and English departments, or you can slog through it, but the liars know that most people will not bother to do so. And of course, the lies of record omission can be bolstered if there are people like Aitken who were willing to stretch the truth even at that time. All you have to do is use a couple of careful official quotes and then let Aitken's lies come through to today.
Unfortunately, this type of lie can remain very effective even if someone does go back and look up what's going on. Reading the committee report without the surrounding information, it seems to back up that congress was worried about a lack of bibles; reading the redacted resolution on the Aitken bible, it is easy to be mislead and think that congress was supporting religion (and not the book industry); and if you look at the title, and not the content, of the various post-constitution acts, it is easy to think that congress was enamoured of religion when in fact it was simply assisting people. Given the difficulty in getting through the source material, who is going to go around in the other papers looking for evidence that what they've seen is not the full story? (Well, a historian would, but let us be realistic about how much time the average person has to devote to something like this.) This is the scary thing about quote-mined, carefully reworded lies. These lies take time and effort to debunk and destroy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Liars for Jesus - Volume One, by Chris Rodda

I recently picked up this snazzy little book, and I was thinking that, since it's free now, it might be interesting to get a commentary going on it. So go grab yourself a copy and lets read it together, hmm? I'm thinking of doing a chapter a week, every Thursday (starting on Thursday, 26 May 2011) posting a blog post where I'll put my thoughts and invite commentary on that chapter. (Edit: Moved from Monday to Thursday)

Real Academics watch My Little Pony

So, I must say that this new show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is quite enthralling. It's had an odd popularity amongst millennials, even the guys (such as myself). Now, personally, I never was 'manly' enough to have a problem liking this, but it's surprising that even some hyper-manly fellows have been entranced by the show. I place the blame on either the subliminal messages or a desire to protect Fluttershy from the mean, mean world.

It's strange, too, since it's not like it's action based (like Powerpuff Girls) innuendo based (like Animaniacs) or insanity based (like Freakazoid). No, it's exactly what you'd expect. 6 female ponies have day-to-day problems that they overcome using friendship and love.

In fact, as best I can tell, the show has only one flaw. Is it just me, or does Equestria seem to be a bit like Plato's Republic? That's an eerie thought.

Welcome to the new ALEIS Blog!

If you happen to have read the old ALEIS blog and wish it would come back, I'm happy ro report that it has!

Welcome to the new blog!