Archive for January, 2013

Writing a book….

So I’ve now embarked on the whole ‘writing a book’ malarkey, and I have to say, it’s been a bit of a rough transition from article writing to book writing. When I was doing my PhD, finishing the thesis was the big aim, and since you usually have three years in which to complete it, a whole thesis doesn’t seem like too big an effort. Once I was done with my thesis and started writing articles for publication, the jump down from writing 100,000 words for one piece of work to only having to write ~10,000 words was fantastic! The great thing about a journal article is the sense of progress. You start with a blank piece of paper, and (hopefully!) within a few months, you’ll have at least a first draft to work with. Progress is very noticeable with a journal article and that sense of achievement keeps you going on and plugging away at it. Moreover, you know that, generally speaking, you’ll be able to draw a line under it after a few months.

But with the book, I’m back to the long, drawn out process of thinking about my research over the course of 100,000 words, rather than a short, punchy 10,000 words. And unlike writing a journal article, there’s less of a sense of progress, especially when I’ve planned to write nine chapters. Keeping positive when I know that there’s another 90,000 words to go (or eight chapters, depending on how you look at it) is tough, and despite having already written that much for my thesis, girding my loins for a marathon rather than a sprint is, thus far, proving to be a bigger challenge than I had originally thought.

I suppose part of the solution is to break it down into manageable chunks, and to forget that each chapter is working towards the book as a whole (since that can be dealt with during the re-write part). So instead of seeing it as one big book, seeing it as a bunch of quite detailed journal articles. That way, there’s more of a sense of achievement once each chapter is ticked off. And I think that seeing any long piece of writing (a thesis, a book, an edited volume etc) as one long slog is probably self-defeating. Chunking it up and breaking it down into smaller bits and pieces keeps you focused on short-term goals and targets and makes you feel as though you’re actually getting through the work.

But I’ll be able to better comment on that once the book is done.

The Social Linguist

Ya big feartie!

The following story which just recently came through my inbox (thanks to Dave Sayers for noticing it) made me chuckle, mainly because I didn’t realise that fearties was an especially Scottish term (although I only just found out yesterday that the phrase to clap the dog is also a Scottish term, whereas English English would use pet…). Anyway, feartie derives from the Scottish term feart, an adjective meaning, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘afraid’, and feartie is simply the nominal form of the adjective (I’m not sure whether there are any English English terms which follow a similar pattern?).

I don’t have access to the actual recordings, but I think it’s fair to assume that the speaker here would have have produced a glottal plosive, resulting in something like [ˈfiɹʔˌiz]. I’d then guess that the Hansard transcriber heard [ˈfiɹʔˌiz], thought that the glottal plosive was unnecessary, resulting in [ˈfiɹˌiz]. It’s not a huge gamble to assume that since the transcriber would a) not having any immediate lexical corollary to the word fearties and b) had a different phonological system to the speaker, they would have resolved the confusion by choosing a word with a similar phonological and syllabic structure; hence fairies.

The story also made me think of a situation a few weeks ago when we were out having lunch with some friends, complete with make-your-own Bloody Marys. The conversation turned to the different neighbourhoods in Pittsburgh (there are over fifty!), and one of these neighbourhoods is called ‘Fairywood’. Now, Scottish English has contrastive vowels before /r/, so words like ‘merry’, ‘marry’ and ‘Mary’ are distinct. Other varieties, however, have these some or all of these vowels merged (or neutralised, a nice discussion of which can be found here), so these words sound the same. Since ‘fairy’ and ‘ferry’ were homophonous in my interlocutor’s speech, I struggled for about a minute as I tried to map their pronunciation onto my own phonological system to determine whether it was ‘fairy’ or ‘ferry’ (I had to give up and just ask them to clarify which it was). And no, the Bloody Marys weren’t a factor.

From the back of a monster the cheery driver calls out.

“Haud oan man, nae need tae be feart! I’ll gie ye a lift.”

The Social Linguist

2012 in review

So 2012 is done and 2013 is shaping up to be a busy but interesting year. Here are some of the stats highlights from the past 12 months. Additionally, this is the 100th post for the blog (although I should have hit this landmark much earlier!).

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 13,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

The Social Linguist