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Archive for April, 2012

“Midterms are coming”, as fans of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire could say. Or are we through? While preparing for one of the tests – Introduction to linguistics, to be accurate – I came across a curious little thing, not really a podcast, but just as useful. It is called Glottopedia and it shall be my treat for you today.

I’m sure it would take a great deal of trouble to find a person who at least once in their lifetime peeked into the world of Internet and still wouldn’t have an idea what Wikipedia is. But even so, let’s try to answer this question. What is it, then? It is a freely editable online encyclopaedia. Some say it’s a blessing, others claim it is a curse. One thing is certain: while used responsibly, it can be really helpful.

Once we cleared that up, we can imagine what would happen when we narrow all this knowledge provided by Wikipedia  to strictly linguistic issues. Imagine a place intended for a specialist audience, created by academic linguists with articles that can be edited freely by any registered linguist.

It all sounds marvellous, but…

HOW CAN WE KNOW IT IS RELIABLE?

I shall repeat it once and for all – any online encyclopaedia is to be used responsibly. However, the authors claim that it is not less reliable than other encyclopaedias, since it is dynamically created by scholars. Errors committed in articles are quickly corrected and the site grows larger and larger. It is also easily noticeable that names of well-known fathers of linguistics such as Chomsky or Yule appear frequently in the sources, alas the information does not come from nowhere.

At the moment, Glottopedia is still being built up. Even though, it already contains a variety of useful data base and is available in two more languages: German and Spanish (which would surely be a great of help for our exchange students).

I find this initiative very attractive and I encourage you all to somehow contribute to Glottopedia – perhaps provide an article with a proper background? Or maybe just stare in awe and keep in mind that there is a place where you can quickly look up all the linguistic terms you need and it’s not necessarily Utopia anymore.

by Aleksandra

By the way, a short “welcome” would be proper. It’s Aleksandra Michalczuk, a second author of this blog, and what you’ve just read happens to be my very first post here. Hope you enjoyed it!

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For all Tolkien maniacs

Title: “The Tolkien Professor”
Speaker: Corey Olsen
Provider: Washington University
This is the first series of lectures I have ever listened to and I’m happy to say that they convinced me to seek other podcasts. As a Tolkien fan (not quite a fanatic but close) I can say that the lectures I’ve listened to – the ones about “Hobbit” – have led me to a whole new understanding of the first book Tolkien published. The Tolkien professor, as Professor Olsen calls himself, introduced me to new ways of reading “The Hobbit”, increasing my Fascination and appreciation of Tolkien’s craft.
Not everything is worth listening to. Though I am a fan of Tolkien, I’m not really involved in any fan sites. The lectures are all very interesting, but there are podcasts that are all news and that does not interest me. Especially since I’m listening to the material long after it was published so for me all of the announcements are boring and irrelevant. I recommend skipping that part and simply enjoying the knowledge inside other tracks.
For me the most interesting was “The Ridiculous and the Sublime”. It showed me how clever Tolkien was in the constructing the story as not to scare children. One example that professor Olsen used was that of the trolls – it is only when that are frozen in the sun and the whole company is safe, that we learn how truly dangerous they were. After all they had an elf sword in their cave – and one does not simply find elf swords lying around – it must have been taken by force from the owner.

One of the drawbacks of the series is that they require quite a bit of attention and time – some concepts are easier to understand if you read the books in time with the podcasts – they are usually divided by chapters. In addition it is a lot of listening material – and it draws you in, so it’s better not to have a test or two in your future when you start listening – the results of those test may be quite disappointing.

With that said there is only one thing left for me to say: enjoy and please share your thoughts with me. And if you’d like me to search for good podcast on a particular subject leave a comment and I’ll do my best. Anyone?

by Izabela

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Title: Feminisms

Speaker: Thomas Docherty

Provider: University of Warwick

For me personally this podcast was extremely interesting – since I think of myself as a feminist and listening about all the different trends in woman’s fight for equality was great. Since I’m a university student and a woman I think it is natural for me to be a feminist. It is only due to feminism, that I’m allowed to study. It was not the case just few generations ago. By the way, what is even more shocking that in Switzerland women were granted voting rights only in the 70s.

In this podcast professor Docherty stresses at the very beginning that feminism, like Marxism, is not optional in reading – it is very much involved in politics, it is more of a state of mind which can influence he way we read literature. We look into the text, but we admit that it does not exist in a void – the writer is influenced by the society he or she lives in.

With that said, I must admit I never knew that there was a difference between Anglo-American and French feminism. One front wants to erase the social differences between man and women – they think that it is unfair that certain traits are naturally masculine and some feminine. Others – the French – acknowledge that men and women are different but the feminine traits are seen as negative and that is unfair. We shouldn’t work to erase the differences between women and men – we should, as a society, acknowledge the worth of sensitivity, delicacy and other feminine traits.

Just like with the other podcast from the series it was very helpful in my classes in literary theory at my home university – after the class it was just what I needed to systematise my knowledge. As in the podcast about Marxism I’ve written about before, the quality is good, but a little too quiet, so I’d recommend listening in headphones. And admittedly it is a little hard to understand how to use feminism in critical reading in practice without the texts that are used during the lectures.

by Izabela

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