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beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

Archive for August, 2010

I am a teacher, I am a student

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

I think those are the truest self-identifications ever applied to me. Everything else about me is relatively ancillary.

Yesterday, I got to take the first steps on actually being a teacher. Today, I got to resume being a student. I’m taking two classes this semester: Syntactic Theory with Barbara Fox, and History of Linguistics in the 20th Century with David Rood.

Both classes have a historical bent, the latter obviously, but the former in that it is taking us through the development of discourse-functional syntax from the seventies (when people began to think that Chomsky’s approach might have some weaknesses) up to now, decade by decade.

Barbara was giving an overview of some of the ideas in discourse-functional syntax, and one really interesting idea stood out: some people have described syntax as being fossilized discourse. I find this idea wonderful—it opens, potentially, a mechanism for answering some of the “why”s that have, in my experience, always been dismissed or hand-waved as part of the set of arbitrary systems in language. Of course, as Barbara warned us, in this field, there are many more questions and notions than answers. That’s OK by me.

History of Linguistics was interesting, too. We had occasion to read some in French, and I am looking forward to reading de Saussure in French. Sadly, no one in the class speaks German—David was thrown for a bit of a loop there, and is gonna try to find some translations or workarounds for all the Prague-school stuff he was going to have us read in German.

This should be good.

First Day

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I’ve never understood the Quaker use of First Day for Sunday. It makes sense only if Saturday is your sabbath—He rested on the seventh day, right?

However, that’s utterly irrelevant to what I intend to write. Today was the first day of my real graduate student career. I had a TA meeting and attended the lecture for the course I’m TAing. Bhuvana gave a nice lecture, for introductory linguistics, and I observed it, I realized, with a different eye.

The material is all well-known to me. So rather than being focused on ideas and concepts, I focused on the structure of the lecture, and the projected structure of the semester. I began to have thoughts about how I might, someday, teach an introductory linguistics lecture. I began to see this as an apprenticeship. I have had four (well, more than that—seven?) years of seeing college teaching from the student’s point of view. Now, I get to see it from a semi-teacher’s point of view.

So, I’m inaugurating a new category for posts: teaching. Linguistics, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


Friday, August 20th, 2010

So, I’ve met some nice other grad students—an Aerospace PhD student named Sibylle, a Ling Masters named Iris, and then … then I bumped into a friend from Swarthmore who’s also starting here, Fletcher. So there are at least five Swatties in town, including him and his girlfriend. The circle widens, or the world gets smaller. Depending.

The Gradge, take II

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

So, classes, and thus TAing, begin Monday. I’ve been going to some How to TA meetings, and it’s been good. I’ve realized that I have some relevant experience, from explaining ling to my friends all the time, to wrangling classes of 4th graders, to GMing games. As to classes, I remembered that I took a ling grad seminar at Princeton while I was in highschool. I can do this. It’ll be great.

Boulder is the Delaware Valley

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

We went to Boulder Meeting today, and it was good. It was full of people from the homefront, it seemed: people who’d lived in Bucks County, Montclair, and even someone who was a fellow Buckingham Friends School alumnus. The world is small and weird.

There were some new people in town, as well, so we all chatted. I sense impending community.

New Apartment: GET!

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I’m in Boulder, now. The server is, as you can see, back up. There may be some issues with the new networking setup to iron out; if so, email me and let me know.

Boulder is as great as ever. Tonight, we had a celebratory dinner at Himalayas, the best restaurant in town. I’m full of the best chai and yak momos. Life is profoundly good.

Weird news day

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Billionaires are pledging massive giveaways. Google is canceling work on Wave. California’s absurd Prop 8 has been found unconstitutional.

All of these bits of news today made me double-check the date. The Wave one is the only bad one, and it’s offset by promises to open-source a lot of the work so far.

And I leave for Boulder in mere days.