Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thinking About Language

I've been taking Russian for the last three semesters. It's an interesting language to study because it's so much more subtle than English. Russian makes all kinds of distinctions that English doesn't bother with, or at least doesn't bother with anymore. For instance, if you're going somewhere on foot you use a different verb than if you're going somewhere by transport. And then there's the imperfective/perfective question: is this a repeated action or are you going to/have you done it one time and one time only? English really only uses "to go" in these situations. Well, I guess you can count "to drive" and "to ride," but that gets a bit iffy.

And then there's "where." English uses "where" for "Where are you?" and also "Where are you going?" and "Where are you coming from?" Russian uses a different word for each of these. My professor explained it in terms of where, whither, and whence. Which is interesting, because suddenly I understand so much better how both the Russian and the English words function. This is true of whom as well. Before I studied Russian I couldn't point out the direct object of a sentence to you and I don't know if I had even heard of indirect objects. But because Russian uses different cases for the subject, the direct object, and the indirect object, I can now figure out what they are in English. Most of the time.

Which leads me to this: sometimes the things we study make strange connections to entirely different areas. I mean, who knew that studying Russian would clarify English grammar for me? I guess there is some correlation there since they are both languages. But I just wrote a paper from my art history class which relied heavily on the ideas of the historian of religion Mircea Eliade, whose work I had first read in my Celtic Spirituality (Christianity, although it didn't say so) class first semester.

And leads me finally to this: let your mind make connections. We usually get our education in discrete packages: this is art history, this is math, this is English, this is Russian. We don't have to leave them in those discrete packages. Cut the string and let them be friends. Okay, yes that metaphor was a little strange. But you get the point. There are interdisciplinary connections. Explore them and see where it takes you.

2 comments:

Rebecca June 4, 2008 at 8:11 AM  

what an interesting idea Maureen! thanks for that!

Mamselle Duroc June 4, 2008 at 12:07 PM  

I'm just graduating from high school. I was homeschooled all the way through, and my parents based their whole philosophy of education off of that... the fact that everything is connected. All truth leads ultimately to God.

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