Archive for May, 2003


May 31, 2003

Back home, and very satisfied indeed with the course. Not only did we get a grounding in rhetorical analysis, various definitions and theories on pragmatics and how to interpret Aussie speech patterns; we also learnt about the rhetorical kiss and increased our stock of political jokes.

So it was both fun and inspiring, but as I said also seriously exhausting and I’m feeling more than a bit wrung out. I think at least part of today must be spent in the sun with a book.


May 26, 2003

So I should have made it clear: the NSM is not devised or intended to serve as a descriptor of culture, it does not claim to describe national characters or anything like that. What it is created for, and what I believe it does, is to describe cultural key concepts in a non-ethnocentric way. It’s intended for the use of linguists, to describe speech acts.

So maybe my observations about the freedom script in the previous posting were not quite relevant; the concept is quite correctly described I believe, and I am not sure how much it matters that it’s not realised in many people’s realisation of the concept.

And I think I should stop talking shop in this blog. It’s impossible for me to do it without falling into jargon, it seems. Possibly because I’m not entirely sure of what I’m writing about.


May 25, 2003

Örebro University Library has a very nice and flexible computer usage policy, which allows me to blog at least occasionally; the computers themselves leave something to be desired, being rather slow and with uncooperative keyboards, but I’m not going to look gift access in the mouth.

The course is good but exhausting, the other participants a frighteningly clever bunch of people and the lectures and seminars very interesting. I’m particularly fascinated by the NSM — natural semantic metalanguage — concept, which seems to be an extremely sensible way to analyse language; the problem is getting the explications exact and objective enough. Take the example of freedom in the Anglo-American sense, where one of the NSM cultural scripts used to explicate the concept is

People think:

no-one can say to someone else:

“I think like this about something

you have to think the same”

this is good

Now, this is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of the American concept of freedom, which in turn is a key concept in the Anglo-American culture and way of thinking. And it seems very reasonable, and every Westerner can recognise it — yet it is the absolute opposite of what the reality is in America, from the reports from various different sources. I am talking again of the recent war, of course, but I think that is only one example (war being after all an extreme situation) : the “If you do not support this you are against us”, “If you do not wear a pin with a flag you are anti-American”, “This is how we think in America”. The whole concept of “anti-American ways of thinking” is such an oxymoron; surely freedom, being after all the corner stone of America, means (as the NSM script says) that people are allowed their thoughts and opinions!

I could go on about this for a long time, but I shan’t. I’ve always seen myself as a pretty broad-minded kind of person, but I think this course is making me more so, and that can only be a good thing. The group is diverse and six nationalities are represented, so the opportunity for reflections about one’s own presuppositions, culturally induced or not, are almost endless. And NSM is a good way to try and do away with them, insofar as they are false. I’m going to try and tackle the three Swedish verbs for “to think” and see if they can be explicated; we almost did it with tycka during yesterday’s lunch; tänka is simple but tro poses a real challenge.


May 21, 2003

My postings may well be more sporadic than usual, or even nonexistent, for the next 8 days or so. When I return, there is some risk that my entries will be in NSM — won’t that be fun!


May 21, 2003

Last night, something extraordinary happened. I renewed a friendship that’s been dormant for nine years, and it happened quite effortlessly, without even the slightest hesitation or awkwardness. It’s as if we were back where we were nine years ago; not to say that either one of us is anything like what we were then, we are both different people and our lives are very different now from what they were then, but the conversation was as relaxed as if we’d never stopped hanging out at all. And I’m not somebody who easily relaxes in company unless I know the company very well.

So that was good; above all, it was fun. I like being around people who laugh at the same weird things I do.


May 20, 2003

Am ridiculously nervous about the course, now. Not just about the reading — I think I have that reasonably under control — but from fear I’ll make a fool of myself. The participant list shows a pretty distinguished crowd, whereas I am not. Distinguished, I mean.

Well, we’ll see — I have done most of the reading anyway.


May 18, 2003

I imagine that my readers may be growing tired of my obsessions with various online games. Nevertheless, here is another one: Buttonmen, an online version of a Cheapass game. Unfortunately, I’m not quite convinced I’ve got the right kind of brain for it — I do enjoy playing but I feel that I’m not doing the game justice. Anyway, for mathematically-inclined people it’s a nice pastime, and one that doesn’t have to occupy many minutes of any given day.