Monday, June 15, 2015


it's time that i blogged about my linguistics class.

it's a 100 level college class. i need it is a prerequisite for my graduate programme in teaching english as a new language.

what do you know, it was being offered as a summer class at IPFW. which is where i'm doing my grad programme.


so i apply. they get my application and send me a cute little folder like "YOU MADE IT TO YOUR DREAM SCHOOL!" and i'm like "lolz i already got a degree from my dream school."

then, when i went to register it was like, "sorry, you don't have enough english classes for this to be a thing."


... they let me in.

the first day of class was may 18th. it was in the same building as the other summer class i took there four years ago, so i knew where to park and where to go.

IPFW is like, really big. compared to alma, anyway. there are like... 20,000 students there and the campus is just really big and scary. i've really only been in one building, the liberal arts building.

i had a notebook, a folder, the number LA116 and the name of my professor in my brain. it was time for introduction to linguistics.

i sat next to a woman covered in tattoos who told me her name was ashley. we're not in the same group for group work but we talk everyday. it turns out she's related to my boss.

when my professor came in i almost had an anxiety attack because it was a middle aged man, and my registration had said that my professor was dr. shannon bischoff, so i was expecting a woman.

me: i'm in the wrong class!
me: oh my god what do i do
me: should i get up and leave
me: should i just sit through the wrong class and then never come back
me: oh my god oh my god oh my god
my professor: yo this is linguistics 103 and i'm dr. bischoff and i could use a stiff drink right about now.

we did later talk about when he was teaching somewhere else that lots of people assumed that he was a woman.

i now, in my short lifetime, have met two men named shannon. does this put me in a club?

right off the bat, dr. bischoff was like, "so this class is gonna be hard. spelling is going to fuck you up and you're going to assume you know things that you really don't know and you're going to know things that you think you don't know. but it's summer and i'm tired and we'll get through it."

he told told us that words didn't exist. his entire dissertation for one of his TWO linguistical PhD's was about the fact that words do not exist.

i was like excuse me what.

as far as i can tell, what i am typing right now are words. these. these are words. i am typing them. when i post this, you will read the words. we speak in words.


but then dr. bischoff was like, "define a word."

and it was like, CRICKET CRICKET. says that a word is a unit of language that holds meaning.

that's cool, but that's actually a morpheme. a free morpheme can be a word in english, but a bound morpheme cannot be what we consider to be a word in english.

i tried explaining this to adam. he got very frustrated with me and we had to leave it alone.

dr. bischoff then began to ask us to describe santa.

santa is a jolly man with a big beard and a red suit. he lives in the north pole and rides in a flying sled pulled by reindeer.

is he real? does he exist?

no. but i just described him, what he does, where he lives, and how he gets around.

our reality is constructed through language and that is something that i am STILL wrapping my mind around.

we jumped right into phonetics, which is the study of speech sounds. they're written in brackets. so [p] isn't p, but the sound that p makes, which is puh. it's a voiceless bilabial plosive because you bring your lips together (bilabial) and stop the airflow and then release it, making it a plosive. your vocal cords don't move, so it's voiceless.

we got an IPA chart, or the international phonetic alphabet, and wrote words phonetically.

my name phonetically is [EmIli]. that [E] should actually be curly. buuuut i don't know to do that on my blog.

we did phonetic problem sets where we wrote words phonetically and we transcribed phonetic spellings into the english spellings. it was like solving a super fun, odd puzzle.

at first i thought the class was going to be boring, but there's one thing that makes it NOT boring, and that's dr. bischoff.

dr. bischoff: ah fuck, what day is it?
dr. bischoff: anybody got any vodka in your water bottles? it's summer. i'm not judging.
dr. bischoff: can we just call it quits and go drink beer?
dr. bischoff: i'm really interested, linguistically, in the word fuck.
dr. bischoff: i don't give a shit about english. i don't study it. whatever.

and his favourite phrase: isn't that weird? DOESN'T THAT FREAK YOU OUT?

his kids dance at the ballet school that i work at. i see him outside of class. it's great.

today we spent twenty minutes on breaking up the word ridiculous into morphemes. this dudebro in my class was like, "i thought the root word of ridiculous was diculous and i got all confused about it, man. i cried to my girlfriend about it."

in reality, it's the root word ridicule with a suffixation of -ous. but we decided, using reanalysis (a type of morphological process), that the root word was diculous and that re was a prefix. rediculous.

that then meant that something was diculous if it was crazy and it was rediculous if it was crazy twice.

then we got into prediculous and postdiculous and whether or not being diculous meant that you were being a dick.

dudebro in my class: this is a diculous conversation.
other kid in class: is it rerediculous because you had this conversation with two other people beforehand?
me: or would it be one re? it depends on if we classify the re prefix as happening simply one more time or multiple times.

this whole entire thing took twenty minutes and our lecture was completely forgotten.

when we're not taking notes on lectures that are actually really interesting (i'm a giant nerd) and hilarious because dr. bischoff is the realest dude, we're working in groups solving linguistical problems. i blogged earlier about lexical gaps and morphological trees. we also solved problems in other languages to find phonemes.

english has a lot of phonemes. some languages only have like, ten, which allows their languages to be hummed or yelled or whistled and still have complete words and sentences and grammatical meaning.

(i've always wanted to use this picture.)

we're reading a book about this dude named dan that lived with these awesome people in the amazon. nobody has ever been able to learn their language and he's like "i'll learn it and then write the bible in it!"

i'm almost done with the book and as far as i can tell, he's not gonna write the bible in it. like, he's lived with them for almost fifteen years and he's still not fluent.

languages are cool, man.

the more things we talk about in class, the more language freaks me out. we haven't even gotten to full SENTENCES yet. we're still on WORDS. (but words aren't real. which means that nouns aren't either. we talked about nouns in class today. AGH.)

like, we have four types of grammar in english. what is grammar? it's not really anything. it's how we order words to make them sound nice.

if somebody has bad grammar and you call them out on it, you're actually kind of being a pretentious douche because all grammar is good grammar, you just don't like the way it sounds.

i am guilty of this. i call people out on grammar all the time. but if you know what the person said, they've conveyed their meaning to you, the prophecy of language has been fulfilled, and everyone is happy. you just don't find their way of speaking aesthetically pleasing.

there's actually a whole entire study about children who speak english differently and how it links to poverty and is inherently racist, but i won't get into that.

we had a lecture on syntax today, and it was a little hard to digest. i just finished wrapping my head around the idea of inflectional morphemes and i don't know if i can remember all the ways to syntatically and mophologically see if a word is a noun.

linguists run tests on words in languages to figure out what they are. some dude sat around, wrote a bunch of boring papers, and said "if a word passes all these different tests in english, it's a noun."

what a fun job.

i talk about my class all the time. i come home and i do that cute thing where i'm like "OMG WE LEARNED THIS COOL THING IN LINGUISTICS TODAY" and i try to explain to my parents and they're like, "yes dear, that's quite nice."


it's also like, really effin' hard. but that's what makes it fun, right?

every single day i don't know what we're going to be talking about. will we be breaking down words? how can we do that if words don't exist?

i'm beginning to agree with dr. bischoff and think that they don't. if a bunch of linguists with PhDs can't find a foolproof way of defining a word in ANY language (OF THE 7,000 IN THE WORLD), i'm inclined to agree with them and think that they don't exist.

but we use them.


i'm so stoked that i have two linguistics classes at the grad level. if this 100 level undergrad class is hard, these grad ones are gonna kick my butt.


... i just discovered the linguistics llama.

probably nobody finds this funny or understands it but I AM DYING.

i also hate memes? generally? and i have two of them in my blog today? what is the world coming to?



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