Lately I’ve been thinking about metaphors (nothing new about that in itself) and how the words chosen when talking/writing about science, ethics, and environmental issues might influence the reaction in people and their willingness to reflect and act. It’s a big field, from biblical wordings (and their translations) about dominion, usage, and stewardship of the earth to modern capitalistic conceptualisations of human beings as a resource. Words matter. Some are dark matter. To achieve the desired effects, careful wording is essential. Then again, words are easily employed to manipulate opinions and emotions. Where is the line between gently steering people via purposeful education into the direction with the most promising outlook for our species as a whole and the planet we keep changing, and blatantly misusing this tool to enforce a scientific world view on the brink of turning into an ideology to counter the ideologies deemed more harmful, to manipulate people into sacrificing the freedom of forming opinion and ruminating and coming to good conclusions based on knowledge, not fear and force? How can we use words to make people wonder again and delight in discoveries? How to break new ideas to our kind so often afraid of change and the vasteness of the cosmos? How to make people feel involved?
(Also, I hardly make any progress reading my books at the moment because my mind strays to all these side tracks of thought. Tonight’s rambling is presented to you by the introduction of “Earth in Human Hands” by David Grinspoon. You should see the crazy stuff Carl Sagan does to my brain … he did metaphors so well. Normally I’m a quick reader, by the way.)
The first week of the new semester is over! I’ve attended some nice classes so far. Right now I’m in the third semester of my master programme (M.A. in Linguistics), so I think it’s time to remember …
my favourite classes back in the B.A. programme:
– Cognitive Linguistics. It was an elective class I took to connect my major (African Languages: Documentation and Analysis) to my minor (Psychology), and I enjoyed it so much! Most of the time there were between 5 and 10 students in class, and our lecturer was a pretty young academic himself, so we had lots of fun discussing recent theories and difficult articles (though reading them at home was not so funny), and learning from each other. This semester I’m taking a bunch of courses related to this subject, hopefully they’ll be interesting as well!
– Biopsychology was not everybody’s cup of tea, but I liked it (and was pretty good at it). Braaaaains. I hope I’ll be able to take some classes in Neuro- or Patholinguistics in the future to follow up with it.
– Swahili … lugha nzuri. One of the reasons I joint this specific programme was the opportunity to take language classes for three years. Sometimes we even sang songs in class.
– Educational Psychology and Clinical Psychology both were very interesting, though the exam for the latter was quite difficult.
– Phonetics and Phonology rank pretty high on my list of favourites as well. [kən ju ɹiːd θɪs]?
– Manuscript Cultures … well, I really liked most of the contents because I’ve been interested in the history of writing systems since my later childhood. Cuneiform in ancient Mesopotamia? Hieroglyphs and the rebus principle? Being allowed to touch old African “magic scrolls” in class? Count me in. Just the way the lectures were held was not very appealing to me (the fact that I had trouble understanding the lecturer’s accent may have been a big influence as well), so I spent some classes eating licorice and just reading the provided scripts (which were very detailed, easy to understand, and generally helpful, really!) instead of listening all the time. Sorry, prof.