The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

30 Jan 2009

SOUND PARALLELISMS BETWEEN LANGUAGES

In a previous post I wrote something about the use of assimilating the sound of foreign names to English words for mnemonic reasons. In the following sketch by Les Luthiers, a similar strategy (this time relating the sound of English words to Spanish ones) is used with a different purpose: to create humour and make an audience laugh.

29 Jan 2009

VIDEO COURSES ONLINE

Academic Earth website gives access to full video courses and lectures from scholars at various universities, particularly Yale. There are courses on several subjects including English
a section in which we can find talks on The American Novel Since 1945, Milton, and Modern Poetry.

Open Culture
is another interesting site to get video and audio recordings related to English Language and Literature, among other subjects.

26 Jan 2009

SHORT WORDS

I have always found oral understanding in English the hardest skill for a learner, at least for people studying it as a foreign language, i.e. living in a country where English is not spoken and getting knowledge mainly from lessons and books. If I compare a similar situation when learning other languages, I’d say that the difficulty lessens in the case of languages with longer words. I think that speech in languages with a large number of monosyllables goes faster and demands a bigger effort on the part of the non-native speaker.

I remember a mnemonic technique used by a teacher in a summer course I attended in Bournemouth years ago. It was the first day and she asked us, the students, to try to find words in English which sounded close to our names in order to help her remember them. Although it could seem a difficult and silly task, it turned out easy, fun and effective for its goal. In fact, I still remember the answers provided by some of my classmates or my own. These are some examples: ‘each arrow’ (Itxaro), ‘me? well’ (Miguel), ‘car men’ (Carmen), ‘in a key’ (Iñaki), ‘my tea’ (Maite). I cannot imagine doing this kind of exercise in the other languages I know, probably because it is harder to find so many short lexical items.

A different question is that of spelling. Short pronunciation does not always correspond to little writing, as it can be seen when reading about the the longest one-syllable English word. Taking that into account, pollysyllabic items can really stretch along our paper or screen. We ca find some impressive examples when trying to learn about the longest English word.

21 Jan 2009

Edgar Alan Poe and The Alan Parsons Project

Poe has inspired many, many artists. Some of them were the British musicians Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, who long ago from now dedicated a whole album to Poe´s stories: Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Among the songs included in it there was one titled A Dream Within a Dream. Here is this song; listen and dream.



video

EDUCATIONAL VIDEOS

Studio 4 Learning website contains some educational videos aimed at American students so they can use them to revise school contents or prepare their tests. They are sorted out in categories according to subjects. These are links to several examples:

19 Jan 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, POE

José Ángel reminds us that today is the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth and recommends us this website with ideas to host a 'Poe party'. In the first step for the organisation of that type of party, they suggest sending an ivitation for a 'Masque of the Red Death' celebration. This is a 'Youtube window' to the ball for those interested in the party (I'm not attending it, I'd rather re-read the story)



Baltimore, where Poe died, celebrates this event with a different programme and our 'relative' in Blogger, The Edgar Allan Poe Bicentennial includes a list of events in different USA places.

Another way of celebrating the day may be reading one of his poems, for example, this one, 'A Dream Within a Dream'.

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

16 Jan 2009

LITERARY CANON ON A WALL?

Today I was emailed a Power Point presentation with pictures of peculiar buildings. In it a wall displaying a set of 'giant' books could be seen. I could read some titles such as Romeo and Juliet, The Lord of the Rings, The Invisible Man... and wondered who had decided what to place on that architectural shelf.

Browsing through the Internet I learn that it is the south wall of the Central Library's car park in Kansas City and that it shows 22 titles suggested by Kansas City readers and then selected by the Library Board of Trustees.

11 Jan 2009

LIBROS

Terminé de leer Cómo hablar de los libros que no se han leído de Pierre Bayard hace algunas semanas, entero, y ahora tengo entre manos Libros: todo lo que hay que leer, de Christiane Zschirnt, el libro ideal para llevar a la práctica algunas de las estrategias que se exponen en el libro de Bayard.

Libros presenta una selección de obras de la tradición occidental, en especial europea, organizados alrededor de bloques temáticos como 'obras que describen el mundo', 'amor', 'política'... entre las que se encuentra un buen número de representantes de la lengua inglesa (algo más de cuarenta de entre un centenar aproximadamente).

Éstos son algunos de los autores y libros comentados: Herman Melville: “Moby Dick o la ballena blanca” (1851); James Joyce: Ulises (1922); Jane Austen: Orgullo y prejuicio (1813); John Stuart Mill: Sobre la libertad (1859); Robert Louis Stenvenson: El extraño caso del Dr. Jekyll y Mr. Hyde (1886); En el camino (1957) de Jack Kerouac; Joanne K. Rowling: Harry Potter, 1997 en adelante...

Shakespeare logra apartado único con Hamlet; Enrique IV, El rey Lear, Otelo, Sueño de una noche de verano, Noche de Reyes, El mercader de Venecia, Macbeth y La tempestad, además de Romeo y Julieta incluido en la sección dedicada al amor.

7 Jan 2009

HOSTS, GUESTS, HUÉSPEDES, HUESTES, HÔTES...

Taking into account the most common meaning of host, i.e. "a person who receives or entertains guests", it is logical to infer the biology concept of host as "an animal or plant on or in which a parasite lives". But, when we switch to its Spanish counterpart expression, we find the term huésped ("Biol. Vegetal o animal en cuyo cuerpo se aloja un parásito"), apparently its opposite idea. The RAE dictionary reflects that use together with those of "Mesonero o amo de posada" and "Persona que hospeda en su casa a otra", besides the most usual sense of "Persona alojada en casa ajena".

It is odd to find two mutually excluding ideas in the same word. The same happens in French with the word hôte. It is also curious to find out that these four terms share etymological roots.

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, both host and guest come from the Proto-Indo- European *ghostis, "stranger", although through different routes.

host < "person who receives guests," c.1290, from Old French hoste "guest, host" (12c.), from Latin hospitem (nom. hospes) "guest, host," lit. "lord of strangers," from PIE *ghostis- "stranger"

guest < Old English gæst, giest (Anglian gest) "guest, enemy," the common notion being "stranger," from Proto-Germanic. *gastiz, from PIE base *ghostis "strange".

The same origin is also evident in the Spanish words huésped or hueste (a parallel to the 'host' meaning of "army", "multitude") among others. Their immediate ancestors are in the Latin words hostis "stranger, enemy," and hospes "host," from hosti-potis "host, guest," originally "lord of strangers."

In the subject HISTORIA DE LA LENGUA INGLESA it was presented the problem of cognates in different languages "when trying to establish whether they are inherited from the same ancestor or if they are a consequence of borrowing" and it was stated that "it is very difficult to establish such a basic set of words that are absolutely immune to substitution by loan. The following example presented by Bynon (1981: 269 - 270) is an illustration of this situation. The German term gast ‘guest’, Latin hostis ‘enemy’, and Russian gost ‘guest’ display the typical phonological features of Indo-European origin. In this case it is not clear whether the presence of this term in these three languages is the result of common inheritance or borrowing".

3 Jan 2009

BLOGS

El curso pasado elegí como optativa la asignatura de NUEVAS TECNOLOGIAS APLICADAS AL APRENDIZAJE DEL INGLES II. El estudio se basaba en el manual Teaching and Researching Computer-assisted Language Learning by Ken Beatty (2003) y la materia de estudio giraba principalmente alrededor de las ideas de aprendizaje cooperativo y métodos de investigación sobre el uso del ordenador en el aula. El libro en sí no estaba mal pero, si algo me sorprendió, fue la ausencia de cualquier referencia a las herramientas de la llamada Web.2.0. que, bien aprovechadas, facilitan el dialogo, el intercambio y la cooperación de manera muy eficiente. Tampoco me pareció que se prestara la suficiente atención al uso del correo electrónico. Curiosamente se incidía en la colaboración para llevar a cabo tareas que podían basarse en un CD-Rom de manera bastante similar a si lo hicieran a partir de un texto impreso.

Creé mi primer blog en junio de 2006, cuando estaba preparando unas sesiones sobre el uso de las Nuevas Tecnologías en la enseñanza del inglés en Primaria y Secundaria. Había dedicado tiempo al tema sobre todo durante el curso 2000/01 pero hacía falta ponerse un poco al día ante las nuevas posibilidades que abría una incipiente Web 2.0. Llamé a aquel blog 'Thinking Aloud' ya que sus entradas no dejaban de ser una serie de reflexiones, apuntes o meros ejercicios lingüísticos sin receptores muy definidos. Las visitas fueron escasas y los comentarios no llegaron a la media docena pero sirvió bien como terreno de pruebas y aquello me llevó a conocer blogs relacionados con la didáctica de las lenguas, interesantes por su contenido y muy vitales por el entusiasmo que manifestaban sus autores. Todavía sigo asiduamente algunos de ellos aunque, en general, percibo un bajón en su actividad, probablemente por la dedicación a otras técnicas como las wikis o las plataformas Moodle.

Sin embargo, este medio de publicación en la Red, no es que haya decaído para nada: unos blogs frenan o desaparecen a la vez que otros se abren. Continuamente surgen ‘gadgets’ y ‘widgets’ que complementan las posibilidades del texto escrito y ayudan a personalizarlos. Los formatos, los puntos de interés y las intenciones son variados pero todos mantienen como base las ganas de comunicar. Otras finalidades añadidas son las de mostrar o la de registrar y ordenar ideas, sin ocupar sitio en casa y a mano desde cualquier ordenador. Normalmente requieren continuidad.

Actualmente escribo en cuatro blogs: tres no dejan de ser una especie de tablón donde coloco referencias a recursos que puedan ser de alguna utilidad a los lectores a quienes están dirigidos (grupos de docentes). Es en este cuarto en el que no se da una finalidad práctica. La idea inicial de su promotor era crear un punto de encuentro, debate e intercambio entre alumnos, ex alumnos, profesores o cualquier persona interesada en temas de filología, en especial filología inglesa y lo difícil está siendo ampliar la participación tanto de lectores como de escritores. El punto de partida de un post puede ser dispar: una frase, una curiosidad léxica, una opinión, una referencia… pero hay días que cuesta pensar que algo pueda tener el mínimo valor para resultar sugerente o interesante a alguien más. Ser bloguero resulta más difícil de lo que parecía.

Leo la cita de estos días: “It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say” (Sholem Asch). Así es. Ahora me falta inspiración. Para compensar, dejo este link a un video de una serie televisiva que me gustaba mucho.