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Transneptune

beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

I am a teacher, I am a student

August 24th, 2010 by Kit

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.

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