less mystery, more me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

after the hunt

When I started this picture, Xena was laying at Shasta's feet with her elephant but she rolled off the bed by the time the Treo 700p caught this shot. I can see the attraction of Blogger Mobile, but phone cameras will have to get faster, better, etc.

xena takes down the stuffed elephant

She stalked this elephant out of the goodie box we keep to replace old stuffed toys as they expire, so to speak. We buy stuffed toys as we find them on sale. I took this picture on my Treo 700p and sent in using Blogger Mobile. I had to send it by MMS because the other email account repeatedly failed.

rooms to move into (in to)

I've moved my office back downstairs. The upstairs office became unbearably warm unseasonably early. And, it never had a real good fun-schway for thinking. The room was designed as a meditation room, and we had to move my office into it when we moved the birds into my office during renovation. Hard to think in a meditation room. So the desk and computers are moved down, but we left the books upstairs in the built in bookcases.

We moved me into the parlor downstairs once we realized that my thoughts had stalled. The parlor is half red. We hope the red stimulates thinking, because we are very tired of gradual school. My better half cleaned off my desk as a birthday gift. I've had trouble getting my brain restarted since recovering sufficiently from my arm pain to work at the computer, and nothing excites my thinker more than a clean desk. [The source of the arm pain has finally been diagnosed--cervical stenosis, buldging disks, blah blah, etc. I have a wonderful physical therapist who specializes in neck stuff, and am doing much better since the exercises, blah blah.]

I found a recently released discourse analysis primer from Brian Paltridge, Discourse Analysis, and am happy to say that while it's making me write funny today, the book has provided a good impetus and refresher of many reference texts that I found on my own and used in my research. I've started moving into this new office by bringing some of my books down and making little thinking stacks around me on my newly cleared desk. I've had little stacks of books around me since I learned to read. I think of the stacks as the external hard drive to my brain, and I use them to help organize my thoughts. I'd already adopted this method by the time they taught us outlining in grade school, and still find it handier for quick reference. This is also why I buy most of my important reference texts. I can't very well return part of my brain to the library.

I started bringing the books down because while reading Paltridge's overview, I started thinking of Firth, and wanted Paltridge to go over Firth, and he did not. I had to go upstairs to that hot and still messy meditation room and start looking for the book that introduced me to Firth. I couldn't remember which one it was, and started bringing down all the discourse analysis and corpus linguistics books. I kept thinking it was Biber I was looking for, but it wasn't. I did find that I own two identical copies of Biber's Corpus Linguistics.

I'm always interested to notice the books I wind up purchasing twice. These duplications tell me when different thought paths have lead me to the same book, and identifies books I've used enough to be forced to purchase twice when I've misplaced it. The Biber book actually didn't help me that much. It was Stubbs I was looking for. Stubbs was the last book I found this morning. I couldn't remember the author or title until I saw it. It's heavily pencil marked. This means I really moved into the book, because I hate to mark in my books.

But why Firth? Stubbs (1996) introduced me to Firth, who said that "the complete meaning of a word is always contextual, and no study of meaning apart from a complete context can be taken seriously." Firth said this in 1935. He suggested a "contextual and sociological technique" of semantics based on the "formal scatter" of words across contexts. Stubbs (1996) observed that this approach to study would not be possible for 50 more years, until computational approaches to studying large corpora were developed. Firth essentially suggested studying networks of meaning. According to Stubbs, Firth was trying to "overcome the dualisms of de Saussere," who divided language into langue (which de Saussere said couldn't be studied) and parole (which de Saussere said wasn't important). Nowhere much to go from there, and I was pretty stuck for a while by this logic. I now appreciate the whole problem with dualisms.

Stubbs' reference to Firth broke the spell and gave me the connector between my two seemingly disparate views of language use--discourse analysis of language use as social action, and study of language via computer assisted corpus linguistics. If Firth could have he surely would have wanted to do the same thing.

Stubbs also broke the spell of the great Chomsky, Austin and Searles by pointing out that not one of them used real data in developing their theories. For that matter, neither did de Saussere.

I have data. Lots of data.