Monday, March 25, 2013

Extended Absence

I'm writing again here for the first time in many months, but not because I haven't been thinking about ideophones. I wrote a paper on Pastaza Quechua phonology with my professor and two friends, which we presented at the LSA conference in Boston this January. The paper explores the relationship between prosaic and ideophonic phonology in Quechua, using the metaphor of stretching to describe the systematic differences between the two.

The reason I have not been writing here is more personal than academic; the best way to describe my difficulty is that my brain works on problems in a comprehensive way. By this I mean that I have not been able to focus only on the academic questions involved in ideophone research, because there were so many other huge things to think through involved in doing field research. I have spent a lot of the time between last summer and now processing the issues that arose for me when I immersed myself in another culture and thought about my purpose there and my impact on the people I interacted with.

This led to questions of the purpose (and also the feasibility) of linguistic research in general. How can I do this responsibly? Is there a place for this type of theoretical academic research in a world with so many urgent practical problems? In any case, is it my place to be doing this research or should I be contributing in a more service-oriented way? Have I done everything wrong?

The only one I have an answer for right now is that I did not do everything wrong. I did get some things right and I learned a lot in the process. I'm looking for a way to make my future career more service-oriented. And in the next few weeks/months as I go through my data from last summer more thoroughly, maybe I will post here more often on ideophones. Maybe I will share other big ideas too. I'm sure I will keep working on my own worldview and trying to find solutions to problems (especially those related to communication).

Some examples of readings lately that have been on my mind: Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson; Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, Wittgenstein; Don Quijote, Cervantes; "Prophecy, Process and Plenitude," Givens (and does anyone have secular recommendations for readings about process and idea development? This was from my religion course and I would love other perspectives). More later.