Thursday, July 28, 2005

second-language dialect?

I was reading Nathan Bierma's On Language column today (he also blogs about language on the Calvin Linguistics blog), and I have a question. The article is about the dialect that is developing in China called China English. This is a grammatical dialect of English which is becoming a standard english in China. What I am wondering, though, is can you have a standard dialect that has no native speakers? It just seems a little odd to me. What is the purpose of learning a second language that you can speak with other people who share your first language? Perhaps it is easier to all speak China English when conversing with people who speak different dialects of Chinese. Does anyone have insight on this topic?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

thoughts on place

As I prepare to move to Georgia for graduate studies in about a week, it seems that the universe is banging me over the head with the significance of place. At COCE I heard a paper about how Georgian author Janisse Ray’s work is uniquely grounded in the south – in the land and the culture. Kathi passed me a note during the presentation asking if the Midwest, like the south, had a narrative. And that got me thinking. How has spending the last 16 years in West Michigan formed me? What does it mean to live in this place, and to spend time away from it?

Matt posted recently about people in our generation having a sense of home that is much more based in relationships than in place, and to a certain extent I agree with him. I define myself first as a part of these relationships. Relationships that began in a specific place, but can (and in some cases already have) continue across distance. I still feel rather attached, though, to specific places. Many of them are important to me because of the events that happened there, but also because of the familiarity. I know the best beaches, the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and some of the quirky history in Holland.

In the seminar on Friday one of the participants asked “how do we exegete a place?” And that discussion reminded me that our places - the land, the city, the weather, the predominant culture - all do still influence who we are, how we think, and even the way we relate to God. I’m not sure what this will mean when I really move AWAY for the first time. I know it means I will grow up and change some. I think it means, too, that I’ll bring some of that as-yet-undefined West Michigan sensibility to a new place and a new community. I imagine my life sometimes like a post-modern novel, where the not-clearly-related experiences of my life are placed unexpectedly next to each other and forced into conversation. I’m excited to hear what they say.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Types of Blogs Revisited

My previous three categories of blogs have been useful to me and to others in talking about the function and style of blogs. After some discussion with my dad, I’ve decided to refine my original categories and present this still incomplete but more complex schema. Some of the categories are the same, some are new, and some are just renamed. So here are five common types of blogs:

  • Diary blogs: these weblogs function like a personal journal for writers to air all their dirty laundry. They post to vent, celebrate, whine and swoon. These are frequently marked by disregard to conventions of spelling and grammar, use of internet abbreviations and emoticons, dramatic, personal, sometimes gossipy content. Reading this sort of blog feels deceptively like one has an actual relationship with the blogger. Some of the most scandalous blogs fall into this category.

  • Christmas Card blogs: These bloggers use blogs primarily as a way to keep up with friends they might not corresond with personally very often. These are like the annual christmas letter my family sends to people, just a generic response to the question "what's going on with you?" As such, these bloggers are more aware of the public-ness of a blog, and are not as personal as diary bloggers. My xanga site most often belongs in this category.

  • Commentary Blogs: Formerly called “literary blogs” these are similar to an editorial column or essay series. The writer writes about whatever he or she is thinking about or interested in. The quality of writing is often higher, and posts are often well-thought-out and sometimes even revised before posting. It’s more about the writer’s intellectual life than personal life, but it is still very related to the identity of the writer. I aim for this kind of blog with my blogspot.

  • Single-topic blogs: These are blogs that cover one writer’s (or several collaborators’) opinions or observations about a focused subject. This could be a number of things – politics, worship, language, entertainment, etc. They sometimes follow a specific subcategory of their topic (instances of unnecessary quotation marks or the phrase “a whole nother” for example). They are often unabashedly biased; in fact, it’s part of their charm.

  • News blogs: These are blogs that are used primarily to post updates and/or links about specific topics, with little or no commentary. Professional groups and entertainers’ websites often use this style.
Of course there is more in the blogosphere to consider, so this schema isn’t comprehensive. For example, what about blogs of artistic expression? How are blogs with multiple contributors different? What is the effect of comments? More to come later, perhaps.

More Imaganitive Reading for Creative Preaching

I've posted more about that seminar I'm blogging over at the CICW blog. They can be found there by looking or by following these links:

A River Runs Through It
Children's Literature

Monday, July 11, 2005

Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching

By some unforseen stroke of providence, I was asked to visit and blog about Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching (one of the Seminars in Christian Scholarship) for the Institute. The following post will also appear on their blog:

Today was the first day of the seminar on Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching, hosted by Neil Plantinga Jr with Hulitt Gloer and Scott Hoezee. As a stealth blogger for CICW, I sat in on their opening hour.

“Welcome,” Professor Plantinga opened the session saying, “to three weeks of bliss.”

I sensed the anticipation among the participants, who introduced themselves and expressed their hopes for the seminar. Many participants are excited about an opportunity to unite two loves: reading and preaching. They are hoping to improve their preaching, to broaden their reading, and, as one participant put it, to receive “an infusion of prophetic imagination.”

As I perused the reading list, my own anticipation grew. I saw a few unfamiliar names surrounded by some of my favorites: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, Otherwise by Jane Kenyon, a number of young-adult books including Gary Schmidt’s Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Silence by Shusako Endo, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, among others.

The central question of this seminar, Professor Plantinga explained, is “what is the preacher getting from this literature?” He hoped these works would “tune our ears” to exceptional use of language. They would also be looking for “statable insights into the human condition.” It seems that they will be looking for ways to bring the richness from literature more often into sermons; to add to the artfulness, accessibility, and concreteness of sermons by infusing them with literature.

There is much to anticipate in this seminar – with a great reading list, and thoughtful participants, I can’t wait to see what more I can overhear of what is sure to be exciting and thought-provoking discussion. Perhaps “three weeks of bliss” is only mild hyperbole, with such an enriching task ahead.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

cell phone etiquette

After reading about the explosions in London, I was intrigued by a NY Times article about Cell Phone Etiquette. The article is generally well-written, and addresses workplaces as the new battleground over what is and isn't appropriate use of a cell phone. I found it shocking the number of places people were willing to take calls - during meetings, while being treated at a doctor's office, while lecturing a class or leading a seminar. I agree that there are borderline situations, like driving in a car, or waiting for a table at a restaurant, but it seems to me these are situations where it is blatantly rude to ignore the immediate context for a phone call - isn't that why they come with voicemail?

I've avoided having a cell phone so far, mainly because of the expense, and free access to landlines most of the time. There have been times, though, that a cell phone would have been useful. Cell phones make it easier to contact people when you're en route to see them, going to be a little late, or even when you just have a few moments in between activities. They make it easier to check messages when it is convenient, and eliminate the need to take messages for others on a shared landline - a sometimes difficult responsibility. I appreciate the accessibility that cell phones give my often-transient friends.

But I wish people would be more responsible in their cell-phone use. I wish people would remember to turn their phones off at inapropriate times (I'm reminded of Kent's suggestion at the passport worship service that we all prepare ourselves for the cell phone that will inevitably go off. One did). It seems that there are a lot of times when the person in front of you should take priority over the person calling. As I look ahead one month I realize I'll have to turn my own aversion to poor cell etiquette into personal fastidiousness when I purchase my first cell phone plan. I'm still hashing out what is and isn't acceptable behavior. I know that nextel 2-way is almost always the most obnoxious thing I have ever heard, and answering a cell in class (especially one you are teaching) is almost never apropriate. Perhaps my readers (and maybe my callers) can help me determine what is and isn't good use of a new media.

Friday, July 01, 2005

"innapropriate quotation marks"

Kent and I were talking about linguistics blogs yesterday, and I've decided to start my own, cataloguing the innapropriate use of quotation marks. I'm sure all five people who enjoy playing the whole nother game will also appreciate the quotation marks game.