Shamelessly I wallow. In my leisure, my retirement leisure. It’s terrible, I enjoy myself so much. Despite family problems, money problems, health problems, I still read! I’ve been blogging on The Story of Ain’t, a wonderful parade of the characters who made up the Language Wars, which are an adjunct to the Culture Wars you can easily predict which side of the Language Wars someone will fall on if you know which side they take on the Culture Wars. And PLEASE don’t tell me there aren’t wars, just nice people who may disagree a tad on certain issues. The social conservatives want to ban books, outlaw interethnic activities, censor literature and the arts, make schools a nest of chauvinistic and religiously dogmatic indoctrination, and keep economic and political power in the hands of people they approve of which is their Achilles’ heel since they can’t agree with each other who to approve of.
I just checked out Amy Chua’s book on the “successful” minorities and what has made them successful. No slick or vapid treatment of Asian genius kids (Chua is the infamous “Tiger Mom”), it speaks of just what success consists of, of the downside of being a model minority, and is ruthless in showing what has kept African-Americans at the bottom in spite of being here far longer than any other group except Native Americans. Africans arrived within a couple of years of the first Europeans.
Many more books…..
but then there’s the language study. I’ve gone through several books on Urdu which give current vocabulary items and I’ve put them in a notebook. Another notebook lists words from an introductory grammar of Greek and one of Kweyol, and I’m doing the same now with one on Norwegian. As I list the words, I divide them into Basic vocabulary and Advanced vocabulary. I’m also working with a list of most frequent English words being added to a bunch of cards I made for vocabulary from another book on Norwegian. By doing this, I will have a Basic vocabulary of around 5000 words, I’m projecting, on 4×6 cards onto which I will write the equivalents in Russian, Spanish, Latin, French, Greek, Norwegian, Urdu, Kweyol, Dutch, and Italian. The equivalents I don’t know already I will retrieve from my reading in those languages (for Norwegian and Greek I’m still in the beginning stages, although for Greek I’m about to launch into a reader which will provide a great deal more vocabulary but with grammar and cultural notes the other languages I either am reading annotated texts or straight texts. I read Medieval Latin out of Wheelock plenty of help there; for Urdu I’m reading Barker’s Urdu Newspaper Reader; for Norwegian I have several more advanced anthologies that are annotated for English-speakers, for Kweyol I’m lost, so any suggestions for further reading would be welcome; and for the others I just read standard literature i.e. Russian, Spanish, French, and Italian).
Part of the enjoyment is seeing how vocabulary lines up among all these languages (NB: all Indo-European with Urdu being the most outside the Standard Average European, to use Whorf’s term) and also culture-specific terms like Kweyol’s gage = cockpit, where cock fights take place. Words like Greek nisi for a sandy island or in Spanish, a word for an island in a river (I can’t access it right now but will put it in this space when I locate it). In addition there are what I call idiomata, like “let alone….” or “once you……”, and boiler plate language like “would you be so good as to”. And then synonyms are very interesting b/c they are close but do not have the same distribution, varying either in register or context or collocation.
Anyway, this is all fun. and I’m off after my nap to my other favorite activity, a workout at the gym.