09 April 2009

grad school plans

emphasis on plans. minimum 5 years later. i want a break from school, I need some life experiences doing things! but i already have many ideas for what I want to research for grad school.

oh yes, i forgot to mention, as of right now, i don’t want to go to grad school for art. mainly because those programs are aimed at people who want to teach art a college level or are serious conceptual artists who are truly making art. There are a few people at my school right now that are like that, and I know for sure I’m not like that. I'm not a very conceptual person, i prefer to focus on form and design, and I don’t feel as if the contemporary art world direction is right for me. It doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about it, only that my interests don’t match up with the graduate programs. and plus, the art related things i do like to do, i don’t feel as if i need school as much as I would need it for linguistics. but perhaps the more realistic reason is that i'm just a little bit tired of art school and would like a change. remember, i prefer small bites of everything over one big bite of one thing.

My interest in languages goes very well with many linguistics programs. Plus they still bring in my passion for art and food.

Topics I enjoy and would perhaps pursue:

1. How the choice of words we use reflect who we are as a person. (this may not be the correct title, but its all I can think of at the moment.) For example, in our photography class, my professor, Lawrence McFarland, became very passionate about the difference between shooting a photo, taking a photo, and making a photo. In the end, the same thing happens: a new photo exists.

Shooting a photo implies the photographer is forceful, rude, invasive, and harsh. Shooting is for guns and weapons. When you shoot a photo, its aligning yourself with those objects of destruction. And that is not what photography should be about.

Taking a photo implies you know nothing about what you are doing. You’re just mindlessly pushing the button. Harmless, but no real thinking involved.

However, when you make a photo, you are thinking about what you are trying to communicate. You are creating something in the form of a photograph. There’s a level of skill and thought involved here that the other terms can’t imply.

Another example is from p. 116 of teach yourself linguistics by Jean Aitchison. (I know, i know, i’m a huge dork for reading this book willingly, but I always regretted not taking a linguistics class in college). She (or he?) talks about these 3 phrases:

I should be grateful if you would make less noise.

Please be quiet.

Shut up!

All three of those end in the same result: a person making less noise, but the way you request it makes all the difference. And plus it tells you a lot about the personality of the person making the request.

2. How new words are formed related to culture and food. (again, a terrible title, but I'm not too concerned with naming my topics yet)

Let’s start with the Chinese word “餅” pronounced “bing3”

This character is used in the words:

cookie, 餅乾, “bing3 gan1”, “biscuit”

deep-fried pancake, 油餅, “you2 bing3”, “crêpes chinoises aux oignons”

moon cake, 月餅, “yue4 bing3”, “gâteau de lune”

In other words, there is absolutely no way to translate bing3 concisely. It is anything that is round and flat made from a dough. However, just look at the huge variations in english and french:

A cookie in America is always sweet. A “bing3” can be savory! It can be baked, fried, dried, etc. It can even be a flat bread (for the deep-fried pancake). However, although it is widely accepted to call it a pancake, it actually is a flat bread! Yet you could absolutely not call it a type of bread in Chinese. And yet it is not a pancake, because pancakes use a batter, and this uses a dough. And in French, they call it a crepe, but a crepe is also from a batter and much thinner than the bing3. And a moon cake is most definitely not a cake. You also could not call it a cake back in Chinese. It’s a bing3. The word “cake” in Chinese is completely different

See how 1 word is so confusing? But so fascinating to me.

Another example is “fry.” There are 4 ways to say “fry” in Chinese. However, only one word exists in English for “fry.” And so when Chinese food started to trickle over to the western world, new words were created (and old words adapted) in English to help differentiate between the Chinese definitions of “fry.” Stir-fry, pan-fry, deep fry, and sauté.

3. Ancient phrases that people have adapted to contemporary times. I love how the essence of a phrase never loses it’s meaning regardless of the centuries that pass. And I think it would be nice to study those changes. In Chinese we study a lot of proverbs, and the majority of them are from ancient classical chinese culture, where it was all about emperors and conquering lands and what not. However, the lessons of these proverbs continue as people have updated the context into situations that are of today’s times. The timelessness of them is what makes me so attracted to them.

My current French prof brought up anthropology today when I mentioned language, culture, and food. I hadn’t even considered that topic because I thought I was going into the sociolinguistic realm. But who knows. I’ve got many years to figure out what exactly I want to do!

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