Sunday, June 24, 2012

38. Partir c’est mourir un peu

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Leaving is like dying a little, the French say; indeed, it must be so for those who say good bye for a while, for we never know. 

One thing is certain: this blog invites you to share thoughts and concerns within the community language learning workshop, and I, for one, will not stop thinking throughout the holidays! What is more, thinking unveils issues, and these systematically turn into concerns whose solutions must be worked out. In turn, solutions require information input...So, if not now, then when?

There won’t be such a thing as leaving, then. I’ve made up my mind: I’ll keep posting here once a week, according to the relatively recently established routine. So also, comments are open to anyone, provided that their comments refer to the contents of the blog entries. Needless to say, a box below each entry allows visitors to express their interest, if any, in the post they’ve read - that is, if they don't also feel like posting a comment, which would be only fair!

Posting: what about? Well, as long as there are no suggestions, I’ll keep drawing on general topics, since all of them have to do with the original theme: Meaning + Use + Form = Language.
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The joke in the previous post is tricky indeed.

It is based, like lots of other witty twists, on Grammar.
Any speaker of English can turn a sentence upside down and obtain a different meaning each time:

1.     ‘You’re dumb.’ = a plain statement and an offence in self-defence; actually, the person would rather say ‘you’re being dumb’, that is, not a permanent trait of yours – it’s just that this once you may be called thus.
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2.    ‘You’re not dumb.’ = grammatically correct, but, pragmatically, it doesn’t obtain; it’s hardly the case to imagine the interlocutor asking, ‘Am I dumb?’ so as to receive such a reply (but the possibility is not discarded). The same change in aspect applies as in 1. above.
3.  ‘Are you dumb?’ = again, ‘are you being dumb’ is more plausible than the simple form (see 1. above).
4.    ‘Aren’t you dumb?’ = now that’s the tricky trick: this is where the meaning twists, and only if intonation accompanies. It becomes the expression of amazement, or surprise, like in these cases:

·        (looking at a baby-girl who is fixing her curious eyes on you from the protective comfort of her pram): ‘Oh, isn’t she pretty!’ = ‘I am amazed at how pretty she is.’ Or: ‘Yes indeed, she is really pretty!’
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·        You’re pleasantly surprised at realising a new idea, and perhaps you don’t want to let your interest show. Of course you may say, ‘Mmm, very interesting!’, but there’s this other possibility: ‘Isn’t that interesting!’  

I expect by now that you got it: well, if and only if you know that is you and ain’t you in the constable's question are not correct!
 Lost in Translation

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a. ‘I have been to Amsterdam for two days only.
b. ‘Number eleven, Fransiska Delgado Street, spelling and pronouncing the proper names English-like.
 c. ‘I used to drink a lot of hot chocolate when I was young. Now I usually drink coffee and everybody tells me it's bad for my health. I'll have to get used to drinking decaffeinated coffee and sleeping more instead.’
d. 'I stopped eating chocolate because I was getting really fat.’