• Beyond Grammar: Grammar and Meaning

    Beyond Grammar: Grammar and Meaning

    Grammatical correctness and meaning are two separate functions, and they don’t always coexist. Noam Chomsky devised a sentence with perfect grammar and no meaning: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. It is also possible to devise a sentence which a listener or reader can understand though it is grammatically incorrect. Another… Read More
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    Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, is an iconic Yankee manifesto. I am a Yankee, yet I had never read it. I opened it expecting a clarification of our American spirit, like reading Walt Whitman. As a memoirist, I found a similarity between his book and my own; man/woman goes into unfamiliar territory with the express intention of re-inventing him/herself, and along the way, comments on the principles, practices, religions, and habits of the world around him/her. Like Thoreau, I wanted to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I have lived to seventy-six, Thoreau died at forty-five. Our lives have played out in different eras, but I shared his aspirations and looked forward to reading the book. One section of Thoreau’s work is his clear, accurate, prescient, and poetic descriptions of Nature. In the final chapters, he describes Walden Pond in winter and spring, and the animals, human and otherwise, visiting it. His clear and reverent style approaches the poetic.  Read More
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  • Beyond Grammar: Gun talk in America

    Beyond Grammar: Gun talk in America

    There has to be a cultural change before the gun violence subsides, and that change is in our own hands in a way that legislation is not. Just as we are changing our culture by revising language regarding race and gender, we might revisit our use of gun… Read More
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  • Some advice from an older generation

    Some advice from an older generation

    The protesters of my generation (we came of age in the 60s and early 70s) have two lessons for the powerful generation standing up for all of us these days: 1) by uniting around solid ideas, you can be effective, and 2) the forces against you are powerful, militant, and… Read More
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  • BOOK REVIEW: The Idiot, by Elif Batuman

    BOOK REVIEW: The Idiot, by Elif Batuman

    This book can be read on many levels – for a linguist like me, its linguistic observations were a blast of fresh air, for a historian it is rich with commentary, and for a writer or avid reader, the allusions are legion, including the title, which pays homage to… Read More
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  • Virginia Woolf: How Jane Austen worked

    Virginia Woolf: How Jane Austen worked

    “Jane Austen wrote like that until the end of her days. ‘How she was able to effect all this,’ her nephew writes in his memoir, ‘is surprising, for she had no separate study to repair to, and most of the work must have been done in the general sitting room,… Read More
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