Exploring W. Tecumseh Fitch’s The Evolution of Language

2019 July image of book cover The Evolution of Language

As part of my professional training as a tutor and tutor supervisor, I’m taking an online course called the Isakson Literacy Program. The purpose of the program is to teach students how to break into the seemingly locked language vault of any textbook, but especially a complex textbook. I have an assignment to apply a “Launch” and “Met Purpose” practice to a textbook I’m reading. Truth: I don’t really know if the book I’m reading is a textbook. It’s certainly set up like one, and I can imagine its use in an advanced linguistics classroom. The name of the book is The Evolution of Language, by W. Tecumseh Fitch. It is truly a complex book. But it’s growing on me.

The last step of this part of the literacy practice is to take action(s) to confirm to myself that in the course of reading I met my purposes. Writing about a new idea is the best practice I have for confirming I’m approaching understanding of a topic.

Before I “launched” into Section 1 of the book, I laid out my purposes as questions. I wrote down 11 questions I had, based on an earlier practice that required I skim the chapter and “snatch” what I supposed would be predictably important questions, explanations, terms, goals of the book, etc. One of the ways the course suggests I confirm to my satisfaction that I’d met my purposes (or answered my questions) was to participate in a study group. But I’m not in a course, so I have no cohort or study group. I’m on my own journey to explore the nature of language and its effects upon the quality of human cognition and human life and answer the question, Is human language a man-made environment?

So, will you, dear readers, those of you who are interested in language and have such patience with my fixation on the subject, be my study group? Continue reading “Exploring W. Tecumseh Fitch’s The Evolution of Language”

Treading water in a sea of seeming

Sea_storms_in_Catanzaro_02-1 by Nicholas Gemini
Sea Storms in Cantanzaro by Nicholas Gemini

This post may seem out of step with this site’s “wilderness” or “environmental” character. But it’s a post urging more responsible behavior in the sphere of language, especially on the internet, where rhetorical global climate change seems to be raising the temperature of social media sites to the level of frog-boiling. To my mind, the quality of a language environment and the condition of the natural world connect intimately. Successful changes in environmental policy result from carefully designed language that takes into account past, present, and future well being. Conversely, poor behavior toward the physical world only succeeds through unsustainable reasoning and often bullying rhetoric–that is, it forces itself on its audience, because it can’t otherwise connect with them. So here we go.

The title of this post comes from the novel 2666 by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. The full quote is, “Metaphors are our way of losing ourselves in semblances or treading water in a sea of seeming.” It’s a complex metaphor that…well, kinda expresses something a lot of us do when, in conversation, we plunge into the fluid realm of metaphor–especially in our online conversations, where anonymity and the here/not-here nature of virtual presence make many of us bold.

But metaphors. Metaphors are great, right? And all-purpose. A clever metaphor can carry the battle in an argument, thus proving the supremacy of razor wit over club-tongued lunacy. The winner takes home the Truth Booty, cuz, you know, booty is truth, truth booty. Agreed?

Continue reading “Treading water in a sea of seeming”

STAND WITH BEARS EARS: RDT’s New Concert Dance Inspired by the New National Monument & the Tribal Coalition That Helped Make It Happen

Erosion, by Zvi Gotheiner
Erosion, by Zvi Gotheiner

By David Pace

Earlier this year Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) and Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB) sat across from each other trying to figure out if together they could offer to be some kind of steadying order to the growing imbroglio of the recently announced Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah. What does concert dance have to do with preserving federal lands considered sacred by Native Americans?

It turns out quite a lot. At the meeting Navajo (Diné) representatives from the tribal coalition that had midwifed the Monument, including Willie Grey Eyes, Jonah Yellowman, and Mary Benally, related how to them the Bear Ears not only represented the sacred lands of 5 tribes, but also the healing between those tribes after hundreds of years of mutual suspicion and mistrust. Whatever artistic work issued from our collaboration would be motivated by the notion of how the land, and in this case the preservation of the land, can heal divisions. Continue reading “STAND WITH BEARS EARS: RDT’s New Concert Dance Inspired by the New National Monument & the Tribal Coalition That Helped Make It Happen”

Autumn 2014 haiku chain by Patricia K.

369px-Francesco_del_Cossa_001 Der Herbst

While I’ll take life in any season, the transition from summer to fall is bumpy for me. This year, the melancholy I often feel during these pre-winter months has been accented by various family crises. Still, as the song goes, How can I keep from singing? Continue reading “Autumn 2014 haiku chain by Patricia K.”