Wednesday, December 20, 2017

“I Do?’ or “Did I?”

 This Blog Post is written by
 Dillon Partap

In antiquity, women and their bodies were seen as property of their fathers. Being property, the father would look for a suitor matching his specific needs for his daughter. This suitor would have to then give dowry to the bride’s father, basically paying for her. 

The Asian Indian arranged marriage process can find its roots in Ancient India, that was much larger then what it is today. India still remains a mostly Hindu country, and in the religion we can find our first origins of arranged marriages. The sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas, describe the rules for arranged marriage and its purpose.  In the Vedas, it talks about the caste system of India, which dominates all aspects of social interaction. In the Hindu caste system there are 4 main castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras); these then are sub-castes or gotras. The belief is that one can only marry within their caste, then sub-caste, but never any of their kin. The Indian Muslim community also adheres to some rules when coming to their arranged marriages. In their faith, there can’t be marriages between the two main sects (Shia and Sunni). Within each individual sect, marriage has to be within their sub caste to be recognized. 

Currently the world is changing and arranged marriages are out of date, or so you think? In the Asian Indian communities the idea of arranged marriage is still alive and well, no matter the location. Specifically, in the Western Hemisphere this supposed tradition is opposed by what the Asian Indian youth is experiencing. The general norm expected by the Asian Indian youth is to obey the choices made by their elderly family members. Especially in New York City where there are prominent Asian Indian communities, the struggle between tradition and assimilation ensues.

In modern western culture, marriage is often the union of two individuals who have known each other for some time through dating. This western norm is what seems to create the tension between tradition and assimilation. Assimilation theory poses that the parents hold on to their beliefs when migrating to a new country, it is their offspring that is raised in this new setting that adapts fully. Arranged marriages appear to have no substance in a society where the individual chooses their partner. It comes down the setting of where these practices were formed. 

Arranged marriages are meant to benefit the family economically, mainly in India due to its agrarian history. A family would have raise their youth in a faith, then train them in an occupation that is multi-generational. This ensures that society flows smoothly through arranged marriages. With western society being highly industrialized, the need for multi-generational jobs became irrelevant. The individual doesn’t bare the stress of finding necessities because through industrialization these become commercialized commodities.   

The speech acts of these marriage ceremonies illustrate the difference between them. In the western wedding is confirmed with the famous “I do”. This speech act shows some sense of choice because of the word “I”. The “I” demonstrates that before the marriage ceremony, one gain a sense of who their significant other is. In Muslim Indian weddings, the speech act “I accept” is used. This backs up the need of some relation through marriage, and choice is usually with the elders of each family.  

In the West, arranged marriages seem to adapt to the assimilation process of the Asian Indian youth. The processes concerning arranged marriages are now marketed in various forms of media. The Indian youth now see ads for various marriage websites. (I personally see them when flipping through the Indian television channels) These websites are usually broken down based on religion. Based on your religion, it then goes into the specifics of the arranged marriage process.  

The use of entertainment sources to reinforce this practice is interesting, because it explains that the process is entering the modern entertainment forms that the Asian Indian youth use. Parents of the youth would see these website ads and use it to their advantage. Using these websites, parents are arranging and analyzing partners for their children. In reality, their children are following social norms of western society. Socializing with other peoples of different ethnic backgrounds, the Asian Indian youth may develop romantic relations with such people. This leads to conflict between family tradition and assimilation. (Basically the story line of every Bollywood production) Parents want one reality, whilst the child may have one completely different in plan. 
So please share your thoughts and experiences with arranged marriages: 

Do you think that the marketing of arranged marriages are apparent in other cultures in the west?
Are arranged marriages in the Asian Indian community outdated and should be done away with?
Some may say that arranged marriages are totally beneficial, but is that the case?

Netting, N. (2006). Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth between Love and Arranged Marriages. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(1), 129-146. Retrieved from

Sharda, B. (1990). Marriage Markets and Matrimonial: Match Making Among Asian Indians of the United States. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 20(1), 21-29. Retrieved from

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Duterte’s War on Drugs

This Blog Was Written by 
Aijo De Castro

More than 7500 people have died in Philippine President Duterte’s "War on Drugs". The Philippines is experiencing chaotic, bloody and horrendous extra-judicial killings. The President’s campaign has stripped poor Filipinos of their human rights. The President believes that criminals don’t have human rights. He states “if you are a criminal, you have no humanity. You deserve to die and burn in hell.” 

In Duterte’s eyes drug users and criminals should be killed. He gave an executive order to kill addicts. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” He the protector of the people however, the commander-in-chief has failed to protect civil rights.  To him the poor are mere pawns that could and should be sacrificed. Hence, the administration’s War on Drugs does not only violate civil rights but also creates a façade that conceals the corrupt and malicious mischiefs of its reign.

The general population has agreed that Mr. Presidents “War on Drugs” is nothing but a class war. According to recent surveys “3 out of 5 Filipinos believe that only the poor are killed… 60% agreed – 33 % strongly believed, and 27% somewhat agreed that  "the rich drug pushers are not killed; only the poor ones are killed.” (Philstar). 
However, the supporters of the president believe that the killings of thousands is just collateral damage of a new, reformed society. They believe that all the innocent lives that are lost were for a greater cost. The campaign supports killings done by hitman, militias, and those who possess money and power. There is no due process that takes place, nothing but death to those who are accused - the Skwaters (a local term for slum dwellers) …

The severity of the extrajudicial killings is out of control, bodies of alleged drug users, drug pushers and criminals are seen lifeless on the streets of the slums. One of many heartbreaking examples is the death of a father of six. Mr. Manosca, a poor pedicab driver was once a drug user. Over the years he has halted the use of drugs as his family was growing and he wasn’t able to afford the addiction. One Sunday evening, “Elizabeth remembers that evening earlier in December ... from the darkness, gunfire tore through the plywood they used as walls. Domingo was killed. Another bullet struck Francisco in the forehead as he slept nearby” (CNN). As if the tragic loss she had isn’t enough, her bills are piling and her children are hungry. The family is in worse shape in terms of emotional, physical and financial status. With the loss of the bread winner, the family can only rely on donations, their future is jeopardies. Elizabeth is not only a widow, but now she must act as the bread winner to her family of four. 

To some, if not most of her neighbors, her loss is part of attaining better and safer streets- “Santo Niño residents say their streets are safer now. The drug-pushers and users who once plagued this area, and so many others like it, have been removed — jailed and are killed…(Philstar) In the Filipino slums these occurrences are part of daily life. 

The administration has no intentions of stopping its War on Drugs. It will last until the last day of the President's according to the president.  Not even the most well known public activist can stop the bloodshed. It is too late, for the president deems himself as the new Hitler. 

It may have seemed that the focus of the War on Drugs is simply to eliminate criminals, I beg to differ. Truly there must be an underlying agenda to this catastrophe. It seems the public officials and corruption are to be blame.  Many of the deaths on this War on Drugs case are not justified. The killers, are yet to be known. Mostly because they have been subjected to police brutality and are being covered up by the officials. Anybody can be killed, if there is slight suspicion of drug activity. Some are killed because of political, financial or personal reasons. There is leaked evidence that suggests the use of false and planted evidence against the alleged criminals. 

With the decreasing amount of poor people more land opens in the slum. Relocating the slum occupants is one of the few promises the President gave in his campaign. “I will move you, give me a year and I will relocate you… don’t worry there will not be demolition without relocation” he stated

The slum areas near Manila are of great economical and strategic value. Recentl foreign investors such as China have come. China, is known to have disputes with the Philippines over a few islands in the South China Sea. However, the relationship between the two countries is growing as multiple investment contractsand joint ventures have been signed by the two countries -contracts that involve industrialization and road work that affects the slums. Thus a land grabbing agenda that is hidden under the controversial drug war.

The Philippines is on the verge of being a complete dictatorship. The unconscionable violation of civil rights is alarming. The majority of Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters are being brainwashed by propaganda. It is time for the United Nations to act, to halt a fascist regime. There are 12 million Filipinos living in poverty, 12 million lives that are in great danger.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tongues of Conquest: A Powerful Address

This Blog Was Written By 
John Ribauldo

In his first address to the United Nations general assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump employed a variety of rhetorical approaches to advance the interests of American foreign policy. Although Trump campaigned on the idea that he speaks plainly and not to obscure truth― a quality he felt differentiates himself from other politicians― his language was equally as frustrating and steeped in assumptions. Using a rhetoric mastered by his political opponents and predecessors, President Trump is able to mask his administration’s agenda with the appearance of normalcy.

Most notably, the President uses specific terms of address to refer to other nations― particularly those under the immediate crosshairs of his foreign policy. Without mentioning either Iran or North Korea (DPRK) by name, in the third minute of the address, Trump references “rogue regimes” that “support terrorists and threaten their own people with the most destructive weapons known to man”. Being steeped in the rhetoric of today, we can infer that Iran and North Korea are the targets of this statement. 

Many nations, including some key partners to the United States, have murky connections to terrorist groups, yet when we hear President Trump speak about state-sponsored terrorism, we immediately think only of Iran. Likewise, despite the fact that several nations possess nuclear weapons (and that the US is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in combat), the association with “the most destructive weapons known to man” is firmly cemented onto both Iran and North Korea. Why is this? It’s all about those pesky terms of address!

Trump is able to make such strong references to the targets of his regime because the American mass media has associated the “boogie man”-like phrases with countries like Iran or North Korea. Trump is simply tapping into a reservoir of linguistic trickery that was assembled by such previous leaders as George Bush and Barack Obama. Trump continues to use these empty scare-words against other targets of US foreign policy: Syria is a tyrant’s dictatorship, Venezuela is a failed state, and Cuba is a rogue socialist nightmare.

Mass media has created easily accessible and shared terms for the international community to use when referencing other nations. This is a very useful tool for whoever gets to set these terms, because these terms’ implications can be immensely powerful and indicative of how international relations are conducted.

Not only do these terms of address set the narrative for how we discuss and think about countries unaligned with U.S. interests, but it also facilitates the exertion of power; i.e. when President Trump refers to North Korea as a rogue regime, he isn’t just referencing a country, he’s making a call to action. Speech acts are utterances that do something or accomplish a goal. By strongly condemning North Korea, President Trump is commanding his international constituents and junior partners to join him in the condemnation and ostracization of North Korea.

By subtly tapping into the wealth of established communicative practices that he inherited from presidents past, Mr. Trump is given a variety of ways through which his mere words could command attention, mobilize nations, and conquer the narrative.

In Defense of Mumble Rap: Dismissing Haters in the New Age of Poesy

This Blog Post Was Written By 
John Ribaudo 

2016 and 17 were― as most years are― exciting for hip-hop music, introducing us to countless new entries to the hip-hop canon and a host of new sounds. Of these new additions is the contentious category of “mumble rap”. The term was well characterized by Wiz Khalifa in reference to fellow artist, Desiigner, as an appraisal of Desiigner’s innovative lyricism and sound:
"We call it mumble rap. It ain't no disrespect to the lil homies, they don't want to rap. It's cool for now, it's going to evolve. Those artists, if they want to stay around, they'll figure out the next thing to do. But right now, that's what's poppin”.

Although mumble rap has been well received by millions of fans, it also has an (un)fair share of detractors. Many opponents to the sub-genre insinuate that mumble rap is childish, unskilled, and even disrespectful. Some of the new performers who belong to this new sub-genre have playful antics, and some may even fail to honor their legendary predecessors, but one critique of mumble rap which is just wrong is the insinuation that mumble rap is in any way a lack of musical or poetic talent.
For those unfamiliar with mumble rap, the name tells all: many mumble rap records feature lyrical delivery that is difficult to decipher at first, second, or third listen. The lyrics of Desiigner’s breakthrough hit “Panda” are most likely little-known by his fans or casual listeners alike. Even so, the song doesn’t fail at its goal to get people going. Some may attribute this hype to the song’s beat, and this is not to say that the production deserves no share of credit for the song’s intense energy, but the lyrical delivery is moreso key to the song’s success. Here, try it for yourself:
It’s easier to bounce with the beat than decipher the delivery, so, how does Desiigner command us so well with his verbals? The answer lies in defamiliarization, the practice of twisting language such that we can have a visceral understanding of it’s content, yet not be fully able to abstract and concretize its form or meaning (this is closely based off of Roman Jakobson’s definition of defamiliarization). Through his use of hard-to-comprehend delivery, Desiigner demands active listening. This is similar to the rhetorical practice of speaking lowly, a power-play sort of move that forces listeners to devote careful attention to the speaker. This delivery can also be heard on popular tracks like Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” and Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia”. This use of language engages listeners deeply. The charm to Desiigner’s delivery is not only in it’s meaningful decoherence; it is so closely fused to the song’s beat that it feels like an instrument of its own.
Another example of defamiliarization: a group also commonly described as “mumble rap”, Migos, uses a textbook definition example of defamiliarization in their popular track “Pipe It Up”. Without ever explicitly defining what it means to “pipe” something “up”, the Migos create a grandeur feeling of triumph, vitality, and lavishness; they use the language we do know to illustrate things we do not and take the words into directions not obvious for them to go in. And, just as with the three aforementioned tracks, “Pipe It Up” creates chaotic excitement, not despite but because of its incoherence.
It would be amiss to not recognize the many complex linguistic tools used by its artists to create complex and layered musical experiences. And while it may be true that some of these artists don’t pay full respects for their musical predecessors, I’d rather call mumble rap irreverent than irrelevant.

Before I wrote this, I read these:

Side notes: 1) The music videos for “Magnolia” and “XO Tour Llif3” resemble a visual form of defamiliarization. 2) If you like the video for “Magnolia”, I highly recommend the video of A$AP Ferg’s “Plain Jane”. Not relevant to this blog post, but still great. 3) Some of the lyrics in these songs are actually very clear and easy to hear. Maybe that makes us more curious to decipher the rest of them?

Consciousness and language: why AI will never succeed

This Blog Was Written By
Gabriela Armas

It took me 3 weeks to pen this down into something concrete, as I've written it and rewritten it over a dozen times while dozing off, it felt like I only ever really wanted to write this post in my sleep.

The discussion of consciousness and language is something toyed over pretty frequently by linguists. Most often, it's reduced to the question of  “do we think in language?” and related discussions that then twist into notions that one need not language to think at all. 

One thing particularly excruciating to endure is listening to such discourse being presented in binary postulations, often found in academic settings. People, all too often, are so desperate to ‘come up with something’ that they try to neatly tie up all the answers into one that they overlook the nuances of a complex philosophy and debate. 
It is true, you don't need language to think; Pinker makes several good points in (1), he states that there is a never-ending feedback loop between which mode of thought we access our ideas in, and the significance of context we produce and how that plugs right back in and shapes how we think, which shapes how we speak, which shapes how others process our thoughts and how/what they think and what they say and so on but hesitates to tie this to concepts like self awareness (in all fairness, this is a 4 part video, and only 1 is available).

But ultimately, what does it all mean when we're discussing consciousness and self awareness? Just because an individual knows they exist, are they aware that others exist outside of one’s self? That they have lives of their own and feelings of their own, experiences and perceptions of their own? 
Does language, its utilization, its very concept, and its proper understanding and conveying context make one more readily aware of other’s consciousness as well? And if that is the case, can you teach that? 
This image, or meme really, is what spurred this question in my mind. It was funny, horrifying, and completely fascinating all at the same time....

(The following is a Reddit post )

 After reading it I kind of just sat with my mouth open trying to interpret the fact that there are actually people like this. And even further, there are fully neurotypical people who may in fact live their entire lives never even reaching this standard point of self awareness. I’ll link the reddit thread at the bottom as well (2), that specific user has a bunch of other postings that are just as peculiar and deal with depersonalization, which is pretty atypical. But the comments and experiences in the thread are pretty interesting (and also exactly what you’d expect to see on reddit).

I’m sure by now many of you have heard people say that if you talk to yourself, you’re crazy, or alternatively that if you talk to yourself, you’re a genius. Many researchers have tried distinguishing between the two, but overall, talking to yourself is pretty universal. There are even different layers and names attributed to it: soliloquy, private speech, silent speech, subvocalization, inner monologues, etc. But the reason many people associate this with intelligence is due to the fact that this practice helps you retain and understand concepts more clearly, as well as help to remember and find things more easily. 

By this logic, I’m inclined to believe the original poster on Reddit  and their experiences, and would even be inclined to say that thinking in these more concrete ways rather than weird, floaty, abstract thoughts without words, would help to train you to be more aware of others and possibly even more empathetic. 

Moreover, could you train AI this way?

If any of you are into Sci-Fi or tech in anyway then you probably have some idea of what the Turing test is (as well as its namesake). Basically it’s a test meant to measure the intellectual capabilities of an artificially intelligent program (being?) - if it can speak with another person and go undetected in such away that the human thinks they’re speaking with another human then you’ve successfully produced a strong AI -it has a consciousness, sentience, and mind. 
If consciousness was not tied to language so strongly then why is this linguistic interaction our basis for consciousness? Trying to teach or convey context to another human alone is nearly impossible, there are even slimmer chances that you can teach such an imperatively nuanced idea/skill to a computer. That may sound dramatic to some of you, but when I mean context in this sense, I mean your entire life as context. This is why a lot of the time you can see  somebody ‘understand’ what you’re saying, they may even identify with whatever idea you’re expressing but they don’t and probably won’t ever fully get it, because they haven’t gone through the rhythm and sensations, feelings and responses, thoughts and desires of your own sublime consciousness. 
...This thought is getting a little *too* abstract, so I guess I'll end here. 

I’d be EXTREMELY interested in hearing what your emotional reactions or thoughts to the Reddit post are.  


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Weathermen, You Clownin’

Hurricane Florence in about to make ground fall and as I watch Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel and just about every other recognizable network reporter beginning to get blown around, I'm reposting a discussion my students at Hunter initiated in 2017. 

Originally posted 12/9/17   Reposted 9/13/18

This Blog Was Written By 
John Darabos 

Professor Zarcadoolas posed a question asking why television weather reporters go out into the thick of dangerous storms. She had a very reasonable point suggesting there shouldn’t be a problem having mounted cameras to show the activity of the storm. With such technology available to us, why are weather reporters going out into these storms and why are the television networks compelled to put those reporters in hazardous situations when it appears it may be unnecessary?

This is a storm chaser named Juston Drake. The picture is take from his self-recorded footage from Hurricane Irma. Even though he is not a weatherman in the sense of Willard Scott his footage did air on NBC. There is a youtube video from NBC News at Drake is part of a fantastic website at and he can  be followed on twitter at @JustonStrmRider.

I did a bit of light research on the origins of the television weather reporter and came across some interesting information, defiantly not telling the definitive story, but still bringing me to a speculative inference I think is worth putting out there (also linking to language).

According to Tom Moore, TV weatherman for thirty years on The Weather Channel, most early television meteorologists of the 1950s had professional backgrounds from the military or as college professors. This military connection makes sense to me, consider that was post World War II, we do recall a moment of the war as “storming” the beaches at Normandy. Moore says the station directors felt these meteorologists made weather segments too dull. 

Consider the communication style, in general, of the military. I would characterize most military communication to disseminate information in a style designed to be direct, effective, and efficient. Now consider this military style of communication added with the communication style of a scientist. I am suggesting, even though scientific method is extremely useful, the scientific method is boring. 

We have now built a character to tell us about the weather who approaches such a task with the precision and efficiency of a military operation combined with the rote mechanicalness of the scientific method. I would imagine a 1950s college professor would manage the classroom in a similar fashion. How many minutes of that would you like to sit through? Nothing about our generic 1950s ex-military meteorologist screams entertainment. There would be no use of dramatic adjectives or outlandish physical displays to accent the language describing the weather because it just doesn’t fit the style of people in the community of meteorologists of the 1950s.

Toward the end of the 1950s, stations began to add to the weather forecast to make it more entertaining. Those additions included cartoon characters, very famous characters were Wooly Lamb and Gusty. Cartoons are generally silly things meant for humorous entertainment, which makes very interesting the evolution of the weatherman as seen through these first cartoon characters.

Enter Willard Scott. Willard Scott is a famous television personality from the 1950s, he is known for being on the Today Show, being Bozo the Clown, and was the original clown mascot for the fast food chain McDonalds as Ronald McDonald. 

The image is taken from a 1986 forecast given by Scott on NBC
It's a short video at the end he quickly makes note of his "act" as a weatherman which I think provides merit to my topic.

Willard Scott was very successful as a television weatherman by bringing his clown act to the weather broadcast. Willard Scott and his weather broadcasts were a novelty but quickly became parodied by other stations all over the country. People tuned in to a more entertaining personality delivering them the weather.

The television stations, through Willard Scott’s example, built somewhat of an architype for the weatherman. This architype mimicked the clown, a comical joker using exaggerated antics to entertain others. In the name of television ratings the purpose of the weather broadcast was no longer simply to deliver a report about the weather but to perform the weather report. 

To tie this to linguistics, best I can, why didn’t the original format of weather reporting work? Certainly the original meteorologists of the 1950s were qualified to analyze and report the weather, and certainly their ability to communicate was sufficient to the point they could educate in colleges and perform the duties required of our military. However their style of communication wasn’t sufficient to the television audience they were tasked with reaching. Style of communication would have a wide range of implications from particular word choice, to how that choice resonated with the target audience, and the effect those decisions on communication had on the actions taken by those who received it.

If there is a serious weather storm approaching what bigger stage is there to send our clown to? 

The consideration is not, “this place is dangerous and people should be informed to evacuate”, the consideration is, “send the clown!” I am partially suggesting this is about humor, but there is also the observation our professor posed in her own post:

“Has our emersion in reality TV raised the bar so high that we’re no longer engaged enough nor satisfied enough until the weatherman is torn limb from limb as we gaze snacking at our viewing devices -  our own private Roman Collosseums?”

Within danger there is the primal element required for entertainment. Our clown does so with a humorous foolishness that keeps us on the edge of elation while not quite crossing that line into a morbid reality. College professors or military personnel would not typically be considered to perform in this way, and this may be due to the type of communication style required of his/her discipline. However, the clown, can be equally qualified to disseminate this information, but have a style of communication that is bettered tailored for the realm of television. I think this raises an important note on the role language plays in our expectations on the actions and behaviors of others.

Moore, T., Haby, J. A Brief History of Broadcast Meteorology: From the Past to the Future. iWeathernet. March 26, 2017

Laskin, David. Television A Change in the Weather. NY Times, Arts Section. February 18, 2017.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Aliens Are Here And They Are Not Impressed

This Blog Was Written By 
Johanna Arias

This past August Ava DuVernay announced that she would be working on a TV adaptation of one of my favorite sci-fi trilogies, The “Lilith’s Brood” trilogy formally know as the Xenogenesis Trilogy, by Octavia Butler. I was ecstatic. As an avid sci-fi reader and women of color, I love the fact the protagonist was a black women named Lilith. She is a strong, smart, capable, beautiful woman with a very heavy burden to bear. The books take place in a post-apocalyptic earth that has been invaded by aliens after a nuclear holocaust and humanity is mere moments away from extinction. Our saviors are called Oankali. They are nomadic space explorers who survive their extensive space journeys by interbreeding with species they come across and they can teach us a thing or too about communication.

The Oankali are ugly. They have worm like tentacles that react to stimuli, they use them to see, most importantly to communicate. They can speak any human language vocally as well. They have a mouth which they use to eat and talk to humans.

Their tentacles can also visually communicate their emotions. It seems to be something they have little control over. The tentacles knot up and contract when upset and look like ugly misshapen bumps. They also smooth themselves against the Oankali's bodies when they are please or aroused. The effect is so complete that it causes them to look like they the have no tentacles for a few moments until they are released.

There are a lot of conflicts between the Oankali and Humans but one recurring source of conflict stems from the differences in communication between the two species. The Oankali use their tentacles to interact with the world around them and to each part of their ecosystem. That means the can use them to talk to their ships, their plants, their animals (think Avatar). When connected to each other they transmit everything emotions, feelings, memories, knowledge, conversations. They do not lie, instead they control information by withholding or not withholding. They literally withhold the information in their bodies or they do not make physical contact with each other. 

Humans communicate in a lot of different ways including touch but our communication is limited by what we see, and sometimes feel coming off or out of another person. A common lament among humans is the feeling that a lot of what we are trying to say gets lost in translation. Be that translated to another language of an emotion that you don’t know how to describe. Even when we get close to describing a sensation we don’t quite get it right. The Oankali do not have this problem. They don't even have this problem among each other or to a lesser extent with us. They can connect their tenticles to our nervous system and transmit an endless variety of feelings, emotions and thoughts.

The Oankali also have an amazing sense of smell, eyesight and hearing. This combination is very frightening to humans because at times it seems like the Oankali can read their minds. They can’t. The following quote is some dialog between to of the characters in the book. They are in a room with an Oankali. The first speaker is talking about the Oankali referred to as "it" because it has no gender.
"Can it go?" he whispered. "Just for a while."
"It chooses not to," she said in a normal voice. "And don't bother whispering. It can hear your heartbeat from where it's sitting. It can hear your sub-vocalizations-the things you say to yourself in word but not quite out loud. That may be why you thought it could read minds. And obviously it will not go away." 

Often times the Oankali with act according to what they sense our body is telling them and not by what we say. This next exchange [MILD SPOILER ALERT] takes place between two humans and an Oankali. The Oankali has made the female human pregnant without her consent or at least the human equivalent of consent. The male human believes it was wrong in doing so. It's response was that it gave the female want she wanted but she was too afraid to ask for it. It read her emotions and pheromones and body chemistry and determined that she wanted a baby. It did not ask her first. I am in no way implying that it is OK to go around raping or impregnating someone without their knowledge/consent. We are all humans so this argument does not work for us. You can't just go around sniffing people and saying that their pheromones told you the “wanted it.” This is a fictional alien species and by their definition is wasn’t coercion or rape or wrong. They argue that all they do is for our best interests. They are patronizing in that way.  

What I find interesting is the implication that humanity as a species is considered to be liars by the Oankali because we cannot or choose not to share our biological feelings. According to the Oankali, we lie to ourselves and each other all the time. How much of this is true? We leave things left unsaid because it is just easier that way. 

This past Thanksgiving, how many of us have family members who view the political climate in the US in direct opposition to our own viewpoints. Yet some of us choose to say nothing. We have "No Politics" rules at dinner so we can eat in relative piece. Does this make us liar? According to the Oankali, yes. We lie because lying is easier then the truth. Easier on ourselves, on the other person's feelings, on our family traditions. You could argue that life is more peaceful that way. Sometimes lying is necessary to achieve some noble end. So seeing a species that can communicate in ways so complete that nothing is left open to interpretation is terrifying. The humans feel their way is better but the Oankali have the ultimate trump card, they didn't kill themselves and every living thing on the planet with nuclear bombs. How can we say or communication skills are better?

Sadly Octavia Butler passed away in 2006. Her work is really inspiring and transformative to me. I encourage everyone to check the books out. They are amazing and so nuance. So many other issues come up in the book. Consent, procreation, gender, what it means to be human, intelligence in the hands of a hierarchical society, second chances, love, family and race. Things that I might have alluded to hear but didn't have the time to flesh out. You will not be able to put the books down.

The "F" Word

This Blog Was Written By
Reanna Ramasami 

Have you ever noticed when learning a language that the words deemed inappropriate, are the ones that tend to stick? Or the crazy fascination to just know how to say the ‘bad’ words first rather than actual words that you would use? Have you ever wondered who gets to declare what words are bad, and how is it that some words are considered taboo to say? 
But isn’t cursing a form of communication? We often express our emotions by simply using words known as profanity. As defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “an offensive word/ offensive language”

Personally, growing up I was taught to never use any form of swear words, but why? My parents never cursed or used the ‘f’ bomb in front of us ever, and I have always wondered why? And, if I would want to expose my children to these words that are marked ‘inappropriate’ by society. In a fascinating book “Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad language” Author and scientist Emma Byrne talks about the great world of swearing and how beneficial it can be to use these words freely to express oneself. She argues that foul language can be very beneficial in the work place, for people are drawn to others when they can have a very natural flowing conversation, without any strict guidelines to follow, therefore encouraging room for trusty relationships along with cooperation and unity, to be built.

The stigma of profanity used only in extreme cases of violence comes up, and primarily older people tend to avoid these terms. In the past couple of years, I have seen the use of this type of communication expand, and we see that music and other forms of art are highly influenced with expressing themselves using profanity, to say how angry or extremely happy/excited they are. 

One question that I have is, if swear words are used so commonly now, especially in New York, then why is it still taboo to use such words in certain places and at certain times depending on the setting? 
Are we codeswitching by using profanity in some instances rather than others? the use of profanity helps to relive us, in many cases, the language is used to express emotions that regular words sometimes do not contain. And having a word that is loud and expressive might just do the trick, by proving the point of how you want to be taken. 
Is profanity highly offensive? Or have these words become meaningless? Because of being used so freely?  What if these words were never distinguished and marked as “Bad” words, would we still find them offensive?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Earphones: Killer of Public Interaction?

This Blog Was Written By
Kami Sabghir-Frota

There are many forms of verbal and body language that people employ to show respect towards others: I may hold a door open for someone, make eye contact, say hello when passing on the street, say please and thank you. Peculiarly, as I’ve grown older, especially since moving to New York, I have noticed the weight that headphones possess during my daily interactions with people. When I am sitting on the train listening to music and a homeless person or subway performer comes into the car, there is a moment where I decide whether or not to take off my headphones and listen to them or watch the show. There are days where I am too far in my own head that I leave my headphones on, maybe even turn up the volume to drown out the noise. Other days I take them off and embrace the present moment with this new presence on the train. 

Similar encounters happen when someone stops me on the street to ask a question; I may assume they want to sell me something or ask for money, and I just shake my head and keep walking. Or I may decide to take a moment to acknowledge what they actually have to say, because truthfully I cannot know unless I hear them out. Encounters such as these have made me aware of the ways in which we show respect, the ways we acknowledge other people by taking off our headphones, giving up our private world that blocks out our surroundings. 

In Stephen Thompson’s npr article “The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Wear Headphones In Public?” he mentions our desires to “enforced alone time — to put up barriers that shut out distractions, make ourselves appear less approachable to strangers, and close off the world outside our own heads.” 
Earphones allow us to bring the privacy of the home into public spaces. They leave a permanent signal on our heads notifying those around us that we are occupied, absorbed in our own worlds. There is an implicit statement that by wearing headphones we would rather be listening to our music of choice then be engaged in the sounds of the world around us. inearheadphones, in their article “DOES WEARING IN-EAR HEADPHONES MAKE US ANTISOCIAL?” contrasts the ways in which music is listened to now with how it was before the Sony Walkman in 1979. The boomboxes of the 70s engaged the public, encouraging human interaction. Now, as this writer notes, earphones “tell the world, “Go away.”” 

On, user AlreadyRegretting2 furthered the intentional isolation caused by public headphone use: “Does anyone else wear ear plugs in public, even though I'm not always listening to anything? It gives me a sense of security, possibly so it looks like I am busy so people won't talk to me. The weird thing is, I enjoy talking to strangers, it's people I know that make me really anxious.” Similar to Thompson’s article, AlreadyRegretting2 brings up the impact of headphones on deterring people from approaching us, however the reddit user specifically takes advantage of ear plugs impact whether or not they are listening to music. Used in such a way, earphones become an extension of our bodies, a new way of indirectly communicating that leaves us void of responsibility to those around us. With our earphones in, we can act as if music is playing, as if we are distracted, even if we may be completely aware of our surroundings. 

What does the pervasiveness of earphone use in public spaces say about how we as people interact with each other? Perhaps more telling, what does earphone use say about our attitudes towards human interaction? With modern technologies and services, we can heavily dictate when and where we engage in face to face human interaction. With headphones privatizing the music experience, creating isolation in the most densely populated places, the decision to remove one’s headphones and engage in personal interactions has become a rarity, the exception to the norm. Removing one’s headphones shows a remarkable interest in our immediate communities and surroundings. 


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"Like": The Epidemic

This Blog Post Was Written by
Reia Gonsalves

Epidemic: a sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon.

The word “like” has many different meanings and is often used in everyday conservation. The word "like" can be used to express similarities, preferences, feelings (emotional and physical) and can even be used to bring attention to an action or event.  The word "like" is most commonly used as a filler word or a discourse marker. People tend to use "like" to mark a pause or hesitation in speech. Often times the use of "like" does not add any real value to the sentence, it simply fills the silence while you generate the rest of your thoughts. We have all used filler words, for example, well, um/er/uh. hmm, and like. 

Another popular one that many of us know is "you know" which is often used by middle age people. In most cases, the use of a particular filler word or phrase is often confined to a particular age group. Over the years the use of "like" as a filler word or a discourse marker has become prevalent across ages. Is the use of "like" a good thing?

According to Ryan Grenoble's “Here's Why Using 'Like' In Conversations Could, You Know, Be A Good Thing" it just might be.  According to Grenoble and researchers from the University of Texas, the use of "like" as a filler word and a discourse marker is beneficial in conversation because it displays a higher level of conscientiousness. Although this rise in perceived conscientiousness was seen mostly between young females.

As demonstrated by this project the use of filler words and discourse markers can often be beneficial in everyday conversation. What many people do not understand is that filler words are like chocolate, only to be used in moderation. One example of the overuse of fillers words can be seen in Caroline Kennedy’s interview with the New York Daily News, where she used the phrase “you know” nearly two hundred times. How many filler words do you see, in the following quote? How many times are the filler words used unnecessarily? 

“Well, you know, that’s something, obviously, that, you know, in principle and in the campaign, you know, I think that, um, the tax cuts, you know, were expiring and needed to be repealed.”-           Caroline Kennedy

Recently I have noticed the ubiquitous use of "like" between both male and female individuals. One of the most notable events was a conversation between a male professor and a female student. The student was trying to make a point about an article we had recently read and the professor was rebutting it. Despite being an active participant in the conversation I can honestly say that I unable to recall the student's point. This is because I spent the entirety of her argument cringing. 

And that's because she sounded kind of like this (please excuse my use of the word):

"Is it, like, because I, like, say, 'like', like, so much?"

The professor laid out his argument after the student was finished and I was surprised when he not only seemed to ignore her excessive, unnecessary use of the word "like" but he also began to use "like" unnecessary and excessive. I thought that it may have been a domino effect, similar to the contagious smile or yawn theory. But as the day and week progressed, I became more aware of the unnecessary and excessive use of the word like by both genders and across ages. 

Has "like" become so ubiquitous that it has become detrimental to our conversation. Is it dumbing down our language? I personally think that the overuse of filler words and discourse markers are harmful, not only does your point gets lost in translation but you are also subconsciously telling others that it is okay to overuse this word.

Have you been infected with the "like" virus? 
Have your family or friends infected? Hold the hysteria, there is hope. We have the power to stop this epidemic in its tracks. By being aware of the epidemic, we can actively combat this virus. Be aware of your own use of filler words and discourse markers. Are you using it excessively and unnecessarily? Remove or replace the filler words. Just keep this in mind when you hear your friends overusing filler words and discourse markers. Friends don’t let friends overuse filler words.

Friends don’t let friends overuse filler words.

"Here’s Why Using ‘Like’ In Conversations Could, You Know, Be A Good Thing"
By: Ryan Grenoble

"The use of ‘like’ in conversation has been around since 1200"
By: Rashell Habib

On-the-Go Language Acquisition?

This Blog Was Written by 
Teresa Sadowska

Who else here is learning a language? 
I’m studying Italian in college, with goals to achieve fluency one day. I’m taking the Italian courses as a part of my college’s language requirement: four sequential courses of your chosen language. There is no real national mandate in the United States for learning a second language in schools, but many choose to have their students fulfill a language requirement anyway. Studies have shown that learning a second language helps to solidify necessary skills and attributes such as a good memory, productive study skills, and critical thinking. Being fluent in a second language could also open doors to many educational and employment opportunities, not even mentioning the benefits when traveling the world. 

As many schools continue to require language classes, there are still other ways to learn languages. The brave could jump right in the deep end and immerse themselves in a foreign country. The studious could get vocabulary books and join a cultural club to practice. I haven’t mentioned language learning apps yet… but I’m sure you’re thinking about them. Are language learning apps for the regular, everyday person? And is there such a thing as casually learning a language?

Nowadays there’s an app for everything. There’re your typical social media apps, apps that have the sole purpose of mimicking bubble wrap, and hey, Dunkin Donuts released an app that lets you order your coffee when you’re not even inside a physical shop! In this day and age, when you can order your coffee on-the-go, is learning a language on-the-go possible too? There is a large selection of language learning apps in the App Store and Google Play and the top downloaded language learning app on Google Play is Duolingo. Many users have taken to the reviews tab of Google Play to compliment how much they love Duolingo … myself included. 

I must admit, I am a sucker for Duolingo.  For me, it makes learning Italian a more enticing, game-like challenge. The little green owl named “Duo,” the mascot of the app, helpfully reminds me when I need a refresher and in what specifically. I like to use the app on the subway, which allows me to use my downtime to practice in a fun way. But that’s all it really is to me – practicing.  
Language learning apps that depend on memorization by rote advertise an easy way to learn a language. But, really, is there such a thing??

Learning a language takes time, effort, and communication. Of course, we can be diligent and practice on every subway, bus, or ferry ride. But practicing verbally and with other people is crucial to becoming fluent. Real life situations have no script, which makes the ability to create original sentences crucial. This skill requires the capacity to fully understand the nitty-gritty of how a language works: conjugations, syntax, the works. Memorization doesn’t offer this. Much like how child language acquisition is so much more complex than simple memorization, learning a language is the same way! Real-time communication helps to solidify and expand knowledge of a language. Instead of relying on language learning apps such as Duolingo as my sole exposure, I use them for the amazing resources they are: vocabulary practice and constant daily exposure. 
There is, however, another type of language learning app that can be used to practice when learning a new language. Apps that don’t stress the rules of language itself but instead encourage connecting with native speakers of the language you want to learn. The whole idea is that native speakers help each other learn the other’s language, helping each other through text message, voice message clips, phone calls, and even video chat! While all these may seem strange to do with someone you barely know, it is truly the beauty of globalization and the world wide web that allow these kinds of connections possible. To learn a language through an app like this take a lot of self-discipline, as it is the user’s responsibility to reach out, connect with other users, and work towards fluency. The connections the app offers is highly beneficial, as it allows you to speak in real time with people who know the language well!  These apps make it possible for absolutely anyone, even the most geographically secluded person, to try communicating in a new language with a native speaker.

Both types of language learning apps offer support in the process of learning a language. But do you think fluency is achievable solely through smart phone apps? Let me know! Do you have personal experiences with language learning apps? Feel free to share them below! What do you think of “casually” learning a language? Possible or impossible? What about apps that connect you with native speakers? Are apps like these the future of language learning?

 Hashtags: apps, duolingo, tandem, language, language acquisition, learn a language, learning, language classes, language apps, teach yourself a language, teaching, practice, study, easy, native language, bilingual, monolingual

My Fandom Language: For Me to Know and You to Figure Out

This Blog Was Written By 
C. Almeida

Fandoms or fan culture is a phenomenon anyone who has been invested in the fantastical framing of television show, trends, and mainstream pop culture can relate to. Fandom is performative - a fans language, gestures and choice of dress expresses the cultural work that influences them.  This allows these social performances to be reenacted and re-experienced. 

A fandom is a very self-conscious phenomenon, in which, fans or “scholar fans”  perform their identity through the engagement of idioms and textual sources (Kazimierczak). For many fandoms, their textual source is music, fanfics (fanfictions), fan works and art. According to studies done by Matt Hills, there are three concepts critical in understanding fandoms: liminality, imagined subjectivity and transgression. 
  Liminality: The between-ness where the fan's identity is temporarily affiliated with the identity and values of the culture. 
  Imagined subjectivity: Due to the ambiguity of identity there is continuous policing of and rules set within the fan community.
  Transgression: The dialectical force used as a means of reinforcement for the orders placed by the imagined subjectivity.  
Every fandom has their own culture, in which they create their own speech community to communicate feelings, ideas, and support with one another. These attributes are continually practiced, specifically, the language. Similar to other cultures, Fandom languages are constantly changing and being taught to the next generation that may join the fandom. For example, some Star Trek fans teach themselves the fictional language known as Klingon used in the films and tv shows. They continue to practice, evolve and pass down this culture for the next generation.    

Dipping into the K-Wave
The K-wave is a term used to describe the fast-growing Korean pop music scene. Korean pop, also known as K-pop, is a musical genre that originated in South Korea. Its growth into the international phenomenon it is known as today started with groups and artist like Big Bang, Psy, Shinee, 2ne1, Girls Generation etc. Often these groups incorporated dance, hip-hop, and R&B into many of the projects that their fandoms have come to love. 
How did Kpop become popular? Kpop grew mostly because of its accessibility via SNS platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Weibo. These platforms allow for the cultivation of a large cyberculture. For many Kpop fans, they gather as a speech community to talk about the latest M/V (Music video) or Artist activity on Twitter, Weibo, and YouTube (Chang, 2).

 Kpop Language 
The linguistical performance of this culture is found in their morphology and syntax. This is because it seems as if fans from Korea or other places internationally have their own “code” allowing them to be considered a member of the speech community. Most Kpop fans are multilingual, however, the fans that do not possess more than one language may also be considered multilingual because of their tendency to borrow words from four different languages: Hangul, Hinogo, Mandarin, and English (Llanes,3). 

Learning Kpop language is like Star Trek fans learning Klingon.   There is an agreed upon lexicon, semantics and syntactical usage. Some distinct things Kpop fans do is borrow words, compound word and adopt words related to their Bias (favorite artist).

Communications with a Kpop fan

Under the large umbrella of Kpop, fans create their own identity through the mixing of borrowed language with their primary language and tailor it specifically to an idol's group. There are probably over 40 sub-fandoms in the Kpop genre based on the number of groups/artists actively putting music.  In fact, many of the fans of Kpop classify or identify themselves to be a part of a multi-fandom, in which, they support more than one Kpop group. Never the less, there is a common language that is used among all of these fandoms. Here are some of the terms often used by a Kpop fan:     

Like many other communities, there are disagreements and competitions.  In Kpop these are called “fan wars” which are arguments between two fandoms. For example, a well-known fan war in Kpop is EXO-l's versus the ARMYs. The main fuel behind this war comes from each fandom wanting to prove their group is better than the others. 

 (a meme created by a fan expressing most the feeling 
most multi-fans have when faced with a fan war)

(This is a depiction of kpop oceans that occur at different kpop concerts,
 in which fans occasionally will synchronize their light sticks
 or own a specific idol groups light stick.)   

Does Fandom Equal Culture? 

In summary, a fandom is a speech community that is a performative culture. The performance is demonstrated in the common language exclusively used when fans gather together. Their language reflects their identity only within the context of their culture, whether it's in literature, music,  or a television show. For instance, within Kpop fandoms there are great complexities in the performative nature of there syntax, lexicon and semantics because the accessibility provided by SNS platforms. Allowing ideas and language to be shared and like a pidgin language, the borrowed words can be slightly changed and framed differently. 

So, can we really refer to Fandoms as languages? Can we think of Fandoms as a culture? And how is it possible for multiple Fandoms to exist?

1. Kazimierczak, Karolina Agata. “‘Linguistic Fandom’: Performing Liminal Identities in the Spaces of Transgression Karolina Agata Kazimierczak.” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, Oct. 2010, pp. 1–16.,
2. Chang, Yifan. “Research on the Identity Construction of Korean Pop Music’s Fandom Groups on the Weibo Platform, Exemplified by G-Dragon (Kwon Ji-Yong).” Department of Informatics and Media Master Program in Digital Media & Society Uppsala University, 2014, pp. 7–31.,
3. Llanes, Alpma Joy. “Language Research Proposal: Linguistic Practices of Philippine K-Pop Fan Community.”,