Feeling Poorly

You know that you’re under the weather when even the thought of knitting seems like too much work.

Recently, I have been fighting off a cold (and probably a bit of the winter blues. It is hard when it is so cold and windy out that even a quick walk is an invitation to frostbite) and have spent a lot of time recently doing nothing but lying in bed. Thankfully, my furry little roommates have been looking after me. Occasionally, I’ve put on an audio book or netflix (I’ve been re-watching/listening to series so that I don’t have to pay attention to them to know what is going on. If you’re going to fall asleep a quarter into an episode or a chapter, it may as well be an episode or a chapter you’ve already read.)

But, the bitch of all of this sickness (and sleep, which my body clearly needs if I can’t stay awake past 9 pm) is that nothing sounds good to me other than lying very still in a dark room under lots of blankets. Knitting? Why would you do that? Dissertation? Nope. Exciting new side project that a friend dangled in front of me? Ya, I can see why I want to be involved, but can it happen after I nap? I have a standing work date with a colleague that I made it out of the house to earlier this week and at the end of it she said, “If you were feeling better, we could go to the makeup store.” And, I responded, “Can I just go to bed?” You know things are serious when the dissertation, knitting, and my new obsession with lipstick and nail polish have all been sidelined in favor of sleep.

I am looking forward to being well again.

I’ve been taking lots of cold medicine and the naps are starting to have more wakefulness in between them. Hopefully, soon, I will emerge from my cocoon of blankets, tissue packets and cups of tea into a fulling functioning adult (who doesn’t cough all the time).

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Describing Language

Last summer, I had the privilege of taking a field methods class at CoLang (Institute for Collaborative Language Research) at the University of Texas at Arlington and while I was there I had had many conversations with friends asking about what I’m doing. So, I would like to take this time to describe in a series of posts the processes involved in describing a language by describing what we did in this four week class. This will not be a complete description of the process but I hope it will provide enough information and references that if you, as a non- linguist, have questions you have an idea of what and who you should ask.  Aside from me, of course.

First, I want you to think about five situations in which you used language today. Who were you talking to? What, if anything, were you trying to accomplish? If you had been talking to different people, would you have said or done things differently? Did you use slang? Complete sentences? Were you joking or sarcastic?

The first language I used this morning was in a (rather one-sided) conversation with my cat. I told him at 5:30 this morning that I was sleeping. I said it in a full sentence and at a higher pitch than I would ever use to speak to an adult.

The most recent language I used (aside from what I’m typing now) was to order food at a restaurant. I said, “I would like…” and then I told the waitress would I wanted to eat. I used complete sentences sometimes but sometimes I used phrases (“ranch, on the side.”)

I talked to my Mom.  There were quick back and forths in the conversation where we only used phrases or incomplete sentences and we sometimes talked over each other.

I talked to myself while working on my homework for my class.  The class is in Spanish, so my conversation with myself was with mix of Spanish and English where English is subbed in when I either don’t have the Spanish vocabulary to describe to myself what I want to say or when my patience was stretched by my lack of fluency.

I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook Messenger.  The friend is another linguist and we used a lot of technical vocabulary to talk about a project we are working on together.  We also used a lot of emoji.

All of these times I used language today, I used different voice pitches, different vocabulary, different languages, different speeds and different types of sentences all to get the job of communicating with others done.  As a native speaker of English, I’ve grown up with access to all of these different ways of using the language and I can appropriately situate myself and my communication with that knowledge.  (I can also violate appropriateness conditions, if I choose to do so like when I’m being sarcastic.)  All native speakers of any language have access to these resources in their own language and they know how to be ironic and how to be funny and how to be (or not to be) rude. These things are part of what we know when we say we know a language. We know how to form sentences, we know how to make plurals, and we know how to use all of these technical skills to speak.

There isn’t a part of my life in which I can’t use English.  I use it at work.  I use it at home.  I use it with my family.  I use it with my friends.  I can use it with doctors and administrators and government officials.  I can use it to talk to strangers.  As a learner of another language, I don’t have the same set of skills in the other language, but I do have access to some of it and I do my best to exploit that.  When I couldn’t do something I wanted to do, I fell back onto my English.  And, if I want to know about English or Spanish, I can look up what I want to know.  There are books and websites about words and grammar.  If I want to know about the differences between the past and the present, I can look it up.  If I want to know more about how words are put together to make new words, I can look it up.  English and Spanish are both well documented (although, we still don’t know everything about either of them.)  And, there are vast bodies of academic literature about all of the moving parts of English and Spanish so I can look at that if I choose to, too.

But, for many of the world’s languages, that isn’t the case. Speakers might be able to use their language in their home and their village, but they might need to know another language to talk to government officials or to see (and understand) a doctor, for example.  Additionally, if they are interested in their language, they can’t go to library and check out books on it because those books don’t exist.  For some linguists, their entire job is documenting languages that have never been studied or have only been studied a little and to help create resources that speakers themselves can use. (For some linguists, like me, language provides a window into how the mind/brain works and also how groups of people work together. But, that’s a post for another day.)

 

This class that I am took focused on how to collect data to document an un(der)documented language.  In a series of post over the next couple of months I will discuss how we go about figuring out some of the parts of the language so that we could write preliminary sketches of those parts of the language.

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Blocking with Cats

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Hibernation

Earlier this year I asked the question: when do you decide to frog? I really hate frogging, not just because it is a pain to back out of a pattern but also because I hate all the wasted effort it represents. Nevertheless, I have these two projects that I only work on grudgingly and that have gotten shuffled to the side every time I want to start something new. Knitting on them doesn’t make me happy (and since knitting is a hobby) I don’t even want to make myself continue with them. but, ugh. I hate frogging! I came up with a compromise. I decided to hibernate the projects and that I would revisit them in Late Spring and reconsider them.

In typing this post, though, I decided I need to frog the Summer Steps and start again on bigger needles. I like the pattern, I like the yarn. I think I will like the whole thing better when it is wider and it knits up faster.

Do you make compromises like this with yourself? Do you find that putting off a decision can be helpful to resolving an issue?

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Nerdy Little Valentine ( A week late, but nonetheless heart felt)

Ladles and Jelly Spoons, I am a huge nerd. Let me provide you with some evidence. My sister introduced me to a book series, (possible spoilers ahead) in which there was a character that I fell in love with and that met an untimely ending. So far, only kind of nerdy. Well, then I decided that I needed to do something in honor of this character. A little nerdier.

I decided to make a shawl in honor of him. This might be where I crossed the line into weirdo nerd territory. (Or, maybe not? At least I didn’t write slash fiction starring the character and me?)

The pattern I picked is the dreambird, which is a lovely piece constructed out of short rows within short rows. The pattern itself seems intimidating, as it is something like 9 pages long, but once you get into it, it isn’t bad. There’s a nice rhythm to knitting short rows. Plus, the pattern introduces you to a short row technique known as German short rows which all you to avoid short row gaps without wrapping. I’m only about 20% done with this pattern but I’m happy with it so far.

Where do you get inspiration for your knitting? Has you taken it from books? Which book characters would you knit something in honor of?

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Duolingo Addiction

I’ve been starting and ending my days with language practice in Duolingo. Do you know this app? It provides games for language learners (for a few languages, mostly Indo-European and all with bigger speaker numbers). If you like playing games (check) and are goal oriented (check) and you like the boost of completing a task you’ve set for yourself (check), then this app might benefit your language skills (provided you want practice in one or more of the languages available). I think it is benefitting me. it’s at least provided me with some structured procrastination. (Sure, this won’t get me hired, but it also won’t hurt…or so I tell myself.) I can’t help myself, so I signed up for Spanish, French, German and Danish. Surprisingly, I tested into a German level almost as high as my Spanish level. I’m not sure if I should be disappointed in my Spanish or proud of my German. I suspect that I should be a bit of both.

Is there a language you would like to learn? Would you try if you could play games to do it?

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Disastre!

Recently, I started Spring Cleaning. I know, it isn’t even Spring yet. But, I have to get started early because I’m going to have at least one existential crisis while I decide what to keep and what to give away.

And, what I found while I was cleaning is that I had a moth infestation. (How does one get moths in December?)

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When do you decide to frog?

I might not have gotten exactly to zero with my queue or busted as much of my stash as I would have liked last year, but I made a strong effort and I got a lot accomplished. There are only three things left in progress on needles. I have startitis in my bones so having only three live projects (and one of them a blanket!) is really good for me. Here’s the thing with the three projects that are left, though. I can’t get excited about them (or I haven’t thought about them in a long while). The blanket is wonderful and it will be perfect in my apartment when I’m done with it. Of course, at the rate I’m knitting it by the time I’m done with it I’ll probably live in another city on a different continent. The other projects I can’t even really picture what they’ll look like when they are done. One of them is a pattern I like, but it is just taking forever and I don’t feel like I get a lot done when I sit down and work on it. This is disheartening because it is an easy pattern, just short rows and knit stitches! But, it’s on 1s. And, it’s taking for-ever. Not in love. The other project is a beaded beauty. But, I am also not in love with it. When I picked out the beads they were meant to go on a different yarn. But, that yarn had some breakage issues and that absolutely broke my heart. The yarn I have the beads on now is perfectly lovely and it will be a tremendously glamorous piece when I’m done. That is, if I ever finish it. And, now I’m wondering: When do you frog? When something has been on needles for over a year and you can’t seem to find a rhythm with it, is it worth it to keep on?

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Ola! Oral Language Acquisition!

I spent much of my summer at the Institute on Collaborative Language Research (CoLang for short) which is a biennial summer language program for linguists, language revitalization experts and speakers of any and all languages. While at CoLang I met an awesome woman named Hali Dardar, who was working with Houma Language Project. Houma is a language of Lousiana, it is endangered, and the speakers are looking for ways to change that for the better. At CoLang, Hali put together the first draft of an excellent guide for language investigation, specifically, language investigation in small groups with some native speakers and some learners. Since this summer she has continued to work on it and it now has a kickstarter! This book that she has put together is a guide to language discovery for small groups. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in practical language acquisition in small groups working with native speakers, I recommend you check this out! It is full of awesome activities that will allow you to get to the heart of the language; its moving bits and pieces.

Or, if you yourself are interested in what linguists do when they go to the field, you may want to check it out, too. A mere 15 bucks would get you a copy of the book!

This was originally posted at Stacks Exceed Life Expectancy.

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Knitting Designers I loved in 2014

This year has meant more knitting than it has meant spinning. Since I have had a spinning wheel, it is usually the other way around. But, this year has seen a substantial amount of stash-busting (but not nearly enough!). All of these designers had patterns that fit with my stash. Some of them even provided yardage which made it easy to knit with handspun! There are three designers I’ve discovered this year and I would like to share their work with you. (And, a bonus designer I discovered awhile ago that I fell in love with again this year!)

1. Anthony Casalena

I discovered this LA-based artist on instagram. I love his shawl construction and this year I knitted two of his patterns (tre o molti and astoria) and I bought a third. What I liked most was that his patterns are easy to follow and are great with showing off yarn. They’re even easy to adapt to hand spun; for example, the tre o molti came with yardage for each section making it simple to group similar colors of my hand spun and slot it into a section. I just had to make sure I had enough yardage (and that it was the right weight) and I was good to go! I think I missed a section, though, in my pattern reading, which just means I’ll have to knit the pattern again. That’s cool, though, I certainly have the hand spun for it.

2. Marc Smollin

I don’t know how I discovered this artist. I knitted his megalodon out of some really special yarn in my stash (some handspun, some lesceister longwool from The Ross Farm and some bamboo I bought while on vacation in Hunstville, Alabama with a friend.) The pattern was fun and had a nice rhythm to it that allowed me to do other things while knitting (like practice Tseltal or listen to audio books or read) and that made me happy. It also included a stranded color section that was easy to follow and was a nice introduction to that technique. I’m so pleased with this shawl and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have it done in time for winter. Nothing makes you cheerful on a dark morning like that neon green bamboo yarn!

3. Josh Ryks

I also found this artist on instagram. Possibly because his work is liked by one of my favorite local yarn dyers, 716 Knit? (Her colorways have Buffy inspired names!) I just finished his Scarfy Shenanigans, which we released as an MKAL over twelve days in December. The pattern has included a lot of texture, some short rows, a fun cast on (that I’d never done!) and it has been a joy to knit. I love watching it develop as the days progress! Ryks’ patterns are all textured, geometric and fun, so I look forward to knitting more of them in the future!

4. Laura Nelkin

Laura Nelkin is my bonus designer as I didn’t discover her this year. I discovered her in 2012 through her craftsy class Knitting with Beads. But, I actually got around to finishing that class this year, adding an Accola to my collection (I had a terrible time with the yarn I picked to knit with it but the end result is so beautiful! I wear it every chance I get because it is just so spectacular!) I also started her April MKAL this year, a pattern called Magnify. And, while I haven’t finished it, I recently picked it back up and I’m once again in love with it. When it is done, it will be a stunning piece because of the bead placement and construction. Nelkin really hits beaded lace patterns out of the park!

I had a lot of fun knitting this year and I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for my needles. (Will I cast on the Celestarium I bought yarn for? Will I complete it? Only time will tell!) What patterns did you enjoy knitting in 2014? Who did you discover?

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