Some Cicero

Vacare culpa magnum est solacium. – M. T. Cicero

To be free from blame is a great comfort.

From his letters.


Annals of Acquisition

I recently tasked myself with reviewing my French.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had any opportunity to use it, and my conversational skill has suffered as a result.

That’s a problem, for a guy with plans for France and Morocco.

I’m taking it a bit easy and drilling from the ground up. I’ve gone through the first five units of Hugo Advanced French — which I really quite like — with the intention of memorizing the text.

The last recommendation I make for people learning languages is to memorize. But this particular brand of memorization is very useful for me.

I’ve been adding interesting vocabulary in HAF to a dedicated AnkiDROID deck. I generally don’t recommend memorizing isolated vocabulary en masse. But, I’m doing something of an experiment that requires me to take things to a bit of an extreme.

I do recommend recording sentences in bulk, however. Sight translating sentences is an extremely effective exercise. Sentence mining in general is a powerful tool, which I’ve used with great success in Russian, Latin, and Italian study, and we used it — in some modified form — in my Mandarin course at Princeton.

Developing an algorithm for determining optimal sentence selections is difficult. I have a high-level understanding of what the process should accomplish, but have yet to flesh out details.

I’ll be making a project of that soon, though.

In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing what people have to say about sentence mining, or using flashcards with sentences as opposed to the more traditional, “word-centric” approach.

If you’ve got the time, let everyone know what works for you and what doesn’t in the comments — it’d be a huge help for my research, and for anyone reading. Maybe people will even have some suggestions, if you’re lucky!

And speaking of reading, thanks for your attention — au revoir, pour l’instant!

Deflected Agreement in . . . The Book of Mormon?

I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I’ve been working through this text on Classical & Koranic Arabic. In chapter 5, the author discusses how Arabic deals with the issue of attributive noun agreement.

There’s an interesting section on how the language treats certain plurals of inanimate nouns.

Broken plurals of nouns referring to other than people [sic] take deflected agreement, that is, the adjective is feminine singular.

I’ve run into this phenomenon in MSA and Egyptian Arabic, but never know what it was called.

I’ve read that this happens to a lesser extent in Classical Hebrew, as well. When I turned to Google to find out a little more about it, though, the first thing I found was this paper on how deflected agreement in Semitic languages “gives greater credence to the plausibility of the authenticity and historicity of the Book of Mormon.

I haven’t thought much about it, yet — I thought I’d share it with you guys, first — but I thought it was an interesting find for anyone interested in philology.

Or out-of-the-box linguistics, for that matter.