Monday, August 07, 2006

Stealth learning

I've recently been forced to return to doing some reading in a subfield of linguistics that I have tried to avoid for the last two years because it is just. too. hard.

My memories of reading this stuff in the past are of struggling and struggling to make sense of things and always feeling like I am missing a huge piece of background information -- like I walked into a surrealist play half-way through the final act without any prior knowledge of the subject matter. Worse: the final act of a surrealist play in a language I don't speak.*

But today I was finally forced to look at this area again and it makes perfect sense. It's easy! And it's the missing link for a section of my thesis.

Somehow in the past two years, without actively trying to, I have acquired the necessary background to understand this material.

Hooray for research degree side effects! Hooray for StyleyGeek's brain!


*I had that experience once. It was about as much fun as it sounds.


wolfa said...

Hmm. See, lots of linguistics is just a surrealist play. Maybe all of it.

So perhaps you acquired background, or perhaps the past two years have caused you to go (the right kind of) insane.

But on the good side, you can now read more academic articles. :)

StyleyGeek said...

Nothing wrong with insanity :)

(You really have a bit of a chip on your shoulder, don't you?) :)

shrinkykitten said...

I love it when that happens. I keep waiting, however, for that to occur insofar as it relates to my ability to read psychoanalytic stuff. Can't make sense of it - but I like it when people dumb it down for me.

The reverse has also occurred to me - I used to be able to read Julia Kristeva. Now, I can't make heads nor tails. Sucks.

shrinkykitten said...

I just noticed that it is about 9am your time. So, good morning! I hope you slept well! :) Me, I'm getting ready for dinner.

wolfa said...

No, I just enjoy complaining. I actually love the field (though I have issues with some of the ways its researched -- along the lines of people using their own judgements, and insufficient corpus work/too much asking of sentences/too cut and dried grammatical/not, and a far too heavy reliance on English, Germanic and Romance languages, Chinese, Japanese, Irish -- but for all that, it's a new field still, and a lot of those issues are being worked on, if not by the Big Names.) If I didn't like the field, I wouldn't care about these things.

Mostly, though, it's really cause I love to kvetch.

Miss M. said...

I get that sort of thing with music too - I practiced a particular piece every so often, and then didn't at all for about a year, and it came naturally after that time. And for that year, I didn't play at all, so I can't put it down to just getting better in general.

A psych friend of mine thinks its something to do with the brains desire for conflict resolution, and that unconsciously you're "thinking" about it, off in the background somewhere, and by the time you get back to it, if you've left it long enough, your brain (the wonderfully useful thing that it is) has sorted out all the difficult issues for you whilst you weren't looking.

Though, the psych friend tries to justify not doing his reading based on this principle, and I suspect there may be a flaw in that reasoning.

StyleyGeek said...

I think your friend is probably right, Miss M. Although it doesn't explain why, when I take a week off from the gym, I come back and can lift more than before I stopped. Presumably weight lifting doesn't involve my brain, subconscious or otherwise.

Wolfa, that's okay. I think your complaining is perfectly justified. I'm glad to hear you still like the field, though.

Shrinky, I've experienced that reverse process too, and you're right. It's not fun. And it's evening now, so good evening right back at you.