Opera Glasses vs. Cannons

There are many who pretend that canon are aimed at them when in reality they are the target merely of opera glasses. They shout their generalized demands to a world of friends and harmless persons. They insist upon a generalized justice for which they have never done anything; they ask for a generalized freedom and demand a share of the booty which they have long since enjoyed. They think that truth is only what sounds nice. If truth should prove to be something statistical, dry, or factual, something difficult to find and requiring study, they do not recognize it as truth; it does not intoxicate them. They possess only the external demeanor of truth-tellers. The trouble with them is: They do not know the truth.

- Bertolt Brecht, Appendix A to Galileo

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Brecht on Violence

The headlong stream is termed violent
But the river bed hemming it in is
Termed violent by no one.

- Bertolt Brecht, On Violence

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Multiple copying of superlative suffix in English for degree effect?

Conversation I just recorded.

Person 1: Is “Compton” a common name?
Person 2: I dunno. It’s not like the superest commonest-est-est name.

Neither person heard this until it was pointed out.

In theory, you’re not supposed to be able to double or quadruple suffixes like that in English, but I suspect it happens quite a lot more in natural speech than people are aware. Another interesting aspect is that both the main adjective is marked with -est (three times?) and its adverbial modifier (super). This kind of agreement in constituents is actually a lot more common for English than I think any of us linguists are really aware. For example:

I didn’t see all four passers-bys.

There are some complicated limits on that plural doubling, however. You can’t say:

* I didn’t see all four do-its-yourselfers.

You find something similar to the degree copying of -est in Cree, where speakers can double-triple-quadruple the diminutive suffix for similar effect.

minôs ‘cat’
minôsis ‘kitten’
minôsisîs ‘tiny kitten’
minôsisîsis ‘itty tiny teeny kitten’

Notice that the diminutive will also show up on relevant verbs associated. (-si-). As well as modifiers.

mihcêsisak acoskêsiw nâpêsisak.
The few boys worked a little bit.

Here, the diminutives do not all seem to be indicating the same thing (each is indicating smallness for their relevant lexical item). But they do sometimes seem to chain together to indicate just one ‘smallness.’

acawâkêsiw nâpêsis.
The little boy sold a little bit.

Here, speakers often seem to say that the diminutive on the verb is just sort of “there” to tell you that it’s a “little action” of the kind “little boys” do.

On verbs, I’ve never ever been able to get a speaker to double or triple the diminutive. This probably means that the verbal parallel is some kind of head (or ‘final’ in the Algonquian terminology) whereas this suffix in nouns is freely added as a kind of modifier.

Thanks to a Cree friend from Thunderchild, SK for the Cree examples, and to two crazy Wisconsin-English speakers for the English ones.

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In Praise of Diversity (in a time of fundamentalism)

Once upon a time, I decided to be a linguist. As I sit here, no job, PTSD all over the place, wondering what to do with my life, I ask myself: Why did I do that? Why did I want to be a linguist? No, wait, more specifically – why did I want to work with aboriginal languages AS a linguist?

The answer to that is complicated, of course, but a lot of it boils down to my concept of “diversity.” However (and here’s where it gets complicated again) I don’t mean what most people mean by that word. In fact, I don’t think most people actually like diversity. In fact, I don’t think most people qualify as anything more than brutish fundamentalists. And no, I don’t find any pleasure in thinking that. I wish I could – being a psychopath would save me a lot on wine!

So, I became a linguist, who worked with Menominee and Cree, because of “diversity.” I became a linguist because I think the world’s got plenty of fundamentalists, plenty of narrow roads. I wanted to go the other way – take the broad path. Heh. And here I am – right in my own destruction!

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That time that I had to fire a Jewish man for being Jewish

About ten years ago, I was working on Plains Cree in Vancouver, and I was working with a Cree woman who came from one of the bigger Plains Cree families in Saskatchewan. She had had a tumultuous life and sort of flickered in and out of consciousness. She was the person who taught me the terrible burden of being an “indian” in mainstream Canada. But that’s another story.

I’d been helping her with some projects for awhile, and she suddenly said that she needed my help with a big mess involving the Haida. And Robert Bringhurst. I knew nothing about either of these things, honestly, but I’d already spent hours pouring over her son’s memorial website with her so why not? Sure. Sure. What do you need?

Back then, you see, I was still pretty optimistic about life. How interesting! Haida. Some guy named Robert Bringhurst? Bring it on.

And that’s how I started a mess that got me a good look at the fundamental racism, groupthink, and mobbing that aboriginal activism functions with – and that academia accepts and promotes (often doing it even better than the aboriginal activists). And the best part is – they made ME act it all out. Like the mafia, I was made to not just be a witness, but a participant. I had to stab the body, too.

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Gamergate? Sexism? kâ-pimwêwêhahk has an answer for me on most things

Paula Wright is a smart and funny “Egalitarian Feminist” who specializes in “Darwinian Gender Studies.” I ran across her post by accidentally clicking on the hellish #Gamergate hashtag on Twitter. Here’s her post:

http://porlawright.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/gamergate-the-players-and-the-played/#comments

Believe it or not, I think kâ-pimwêwêhahk has something useful to say about this. He helped me take the “compassionate” approach to these issues. He said some sane things about conflicts between the sexes. Compassion, I think, is what’s sorely lacking here – especially from the “Feminists” in this context.

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A nice essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity and Where it Comes From

And he unintentionally explains why Academia, as it is structured today, is perhaps the most elegant idea-killer ever invented.

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/531911/isaac-asimov-mulls-how-do-people-get-new-ideas/

Some choice quotes and comment after the break.

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