20 September 2007

Terror, Shame, Satisfaction, and Frustration

If there's a noun form of "really startled" that would be more accurate, I suppose. When entering your kitchen in the morning, thinking of nothing more significant than whether to have fig or mango yoghurt, it's quite a shock to see a many-legged, creepy monster in the sink. A centipede. Not those cute little ones, the two inch long flattish kind with a hundred long legs, obviously enjoying the remnants of flower-scented dish water in the sink. Here's a picture I found on Google images (Warning: if you click on it it will be really really big. I don't know what kind of person would want this is their desktop picture, but that's what it is meant to be):

Four paper towels and a lot of resolution were sufficient to kill the thing. I hope it came in through the window when it was open, if there are more living here that would be bad. I'm supposed to have a studio, no roommates.
However, I am pleased to report that when I saw the creepy crawler in the sink, my reaction was to say "Bon Dieu!" rather than anything in English, which made me happy.

When frying an egg, don't forget the oil. It results in an inedible, stuck brown egg, a non-stick pan that's less non-stick, and a very unhappy spatula. Stupid mistake to make, really.
However, once you've successfully cleaned the pan and correctly fried a new egg, put on some mixed herbs as well as salt and pepper, and it's even tastier. I quite like fried eggs now.

I had my first Linguistics class today, and it was great. In France the term "The science of language" is becoming more and more common, which is nice. Here are the two possible conversations. I've had the first about thirty times, and the second, which is a lot longer and more interesting, once.
1) Other Person: So, what do you study?
Me: Linguistics.
Other Person: Really? So you just learn lots of languages?
Me: Um... no. Linguistics is the science of languages, it's more theoretical and historical.
Other Person: [having lost any interest in my interests] Oh, I see.

2) Other Person:
So, what do you study?
Me: Linguistics.
Other Person: Really? Me too!
Me: Really???
[talking, talking talking...]
Other Person: The phonemes are similar to those in Hungarian.
[talking, talking talking...]
Me: I bet that's the root in Proto-Indo-European.
[talking, talking talking...]
Other Person: It's a linguistic isolate, like Korean.
[talking, talking talking...]
Me: Which is why when children make so-called "grammatical mistakes" they're really showing that they understand the grammar, not that they don't.

The class was supposedly lecture based, but was largely discussion, relying heavily on the Socratic method. I think it's going to be really really interesting. We talked for a while about the difference between the ideas of "langue" and "langage," both of which are translated in English as "language." In French there are nuances though: it's kind of like langue is a subset of langage. All langages are langues, but not vice versa. (All languages are tongues but not vice versa? That's the closest we can get.)
One thing I particularly liked were some examples of kids' "errors" when they understand grammar but don't recognize the details.
- Elles sontait dans la maison. [Idea: il est--il était, elles sont--elles sontait; correct form: elles étaient]
- La jupe noirte [Idea: vert, jupe verte--noir, jupe noirte; correct form: jupe noire]
Impossible to translate those, but interesting if you speak French.
The course is essentially a survey, but with emphasis on sociolinguistics and neurolinguistics, which is nice because I haven't had much of either yet.

Italian has had an interesting life in my schedule. First it fit, then I got the linguistics schedule and it didn't fit anymore. Then I found out that the other section fit my schedule, and today I discovered that it's at the same time as Dutch, which I'd rather take. I'll have other chances to take Italian, but I may not have another chance to take Dutch. It starts next week, and I'm excited.

I notice now that three of my four noun headings aren't too cheerful, but don't worry: today was a great day, despite the insects and cooking stupidity and scheduling annoyances!


Kathleen said...

I didn't understand the distinction between "langage" and "langue" very well. Are you talking about dialects? For example, English is a language, but it's spoken differently by Brits, by Southern Blacks, and by Valley Girls. Many prominent Americans are able to shift among styles (Bill Clinton could sound like a Black preacher; a good professor can drop his polysyllables and chat with kids). Is that what you mean?

Kel Miller said...

Nope. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to describe it in English. Essentially, the idea is that langue is the actual, "physical," language. It's the vocabulary and the grammar, the part that anyone could learn. Langage also encompasses the added sense, the part that you learn from speaking the language since birth. An example of one of the extra bits here is gestures and body language, which aren't technically part of the language, but are a big part of communication. I suppose you could say that langue is the language, and langage is the whole system of communication. But that's even over-generalizing it. I think it's impossible to understand that nuance unless you were brought up with two words for "language." Sorry I can't explain it better...