Friday, March 02, 2007

Five Questions

Wolfangel was kind enough to send me five questions so that I could pretend to be the sort of famous person that gets interviewed. This way I can kid myself that I blog about stuff that my readers really want to know.

1. What country that you have never lived in would you choose to live in next?

Sweden. Canada.

Do I have to pick just one? Then Sweden. It's a lot like Denmark, which has probably been my favourite place I've lived so far, but Sweden is not as anti-immigrant, so I wouldn't have to cringe with shame at my good fortune every time one of my immigrant friends gets hassled by the police or, you know, deported. Sweden has lots going for it: good health system, good schools, other good social services, not too much poverty. Fun language. Geekman's family is there, so we'd have people to go hunt moose with. And it has pretty scenery:

Oops. I mean:

2. What single food item would you be unwilling to give up?

Last year I would have said cake. And biscuits. And lollies. And chocolate. (I'm not very good at counting to "single"). But I'm doing quite well without any of those so far in my little experiment. I don't know if I could give them up forever, though.

What else? Maybe the food of the Versatility Gods (glingleglingleglingle) otherwise known as potatoes?

3. If you could change one thing in your field, what would that change be? (Not a change in the culture of academia generally -- specific to the field.)

Ooh, that's a fun question.

I think a change that might just fix all my gripes with my field would be to make a broad undergrad education in a whole bunch of different theories of linguistics compulsory before students were allowed to toddle off and do research. Currently, at most universities I know, undergrad teaching is very polarised. If your institution is a hotbed of Chomsky-flavoured syntacticians, like mine was, you will wind up believing that that is the only way to do linguistics and that everyone else is misguided and out-of-date. If it is any other flavour of department, you will come out believing that Chomsky and his merry band of Minimalists are the Antichrist. (Collectively.)

The linguists whose work impresses me the most are those who aren't firmly in any particular camp, but who do heavily data-driven studies (using real! human! speech! Or, in the case of historical linguistics, actual attested texts). They then explore these using theory as a tool to try to work out what is going on with language, rather than using language data (all too often straight out of their heads) to try to work out what is going on with the theory.

It's always nice when people remember that theories are human constructs for visualising and talking about data, rather than absolute truths with independent existence. And when they remember that language is something created by and spoken by people, and that language doesn't do stuff or know stuff; people do.


4. What song have you most recently listened to obsessively (many times in a day, even in a row)?

M├ętisse: Boom boom ba. Lisa Ekdahl: Olyckssyster. Carla Bruni: Quelqu'un m'a dit. (Looks like I still can't count to one.) I have had these in a 3-song playlist playing repeatedly for the last two days.

Before that it was Sarah McLachlan's Adia and Galileo by the Indigo Girls.

(Help, I can't stop linking Wikipedia!)

5. Mulled wine or hot apple cider?

Mulled wine. I'm not even sure if we are on the same page with regard to apple cider. I've heard rumoured that when Americans use the term "cider", they mean something like apple juice rather than the fizzy alcoholic stuff. I don't know if that applies to Canadians too.

I once got drunk enough to experiment with heating up (alcoholic, fizzy) apple cider, but it wasn't one of my best ideas.

If anyone else would like me to come up with five questions for them, I'd be glad to.


wolfa said...

When I am less exhausted, I have a comment on your question 3, but:

apple cider, usually unpasteurised apple juice, sometimes fermented
hard apple cider, always fizzy
hot apple cider, never fizzy, usually with random spices in it, occasionally with alcohol in it.

I like mulled wine, too. I'd have to go with the other just cause I drink non-alcoholic things more often.

I really like Boom Boom Ba.

Anonymous said...

i love carla bruni!
and i'll take some questions please!

Jana said...

iTunes tells me that Quelqu'un m'a dit is my most frequently-heard song of all the songs in my library. Carla Bruni has a new CD out, but unfortunately it's in English.

I like Olyckssyster, too, but the one that really gets me from that album is Dom band som binder mig. Have you listened to any of her jazz discs?

P.S. I would like five questions as well, please.

StyleyGeek said...

justme: what's your email address?

StyleyGeek said...

Wolfa, you are making me nervous about what you will say about #3. I should probably clarify that obviously there is a place for research that tests a theoretical model against data in order to improve the theory, but the people who do a lot of that sort of research and only that sort, especially if just within one particular framework, tend to be the ones who start talking and writing as though language (and the theory) has a mind of its own.

Anonymous said...

oops, yah that would help. seekingacademia at

Kristen said...

It's not a rumor. American apple cider is sort of like wassail--it is heated apple juice with spices (cloves, nutmeg, etc...). It wasn't until I studied abroad in Oxford, England that I had my first taste of "hard" cider (as we called it). Strongbow is by far the best.