Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Proposing Terminology Development Principles (part iii)

One of the features of a literate society (including pre-textual societies whose mythologies and common sayings are strong) is that ability to coin new words and concepts using cultural references. English and other European cultures tend to use a lot of ancient Greek and Roman references.

A "Sisyphean effort" is used to refer to a difficult but pointless activity (from the mythological Sisyphus, a Greek king who is sentenced to eternity to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to have the stone roll back down the hill where he has to go back and roll it up again); something similar is "Herculean task", which means something that requires tremendous effort or strength; "heads of Hydra" refer to something that persists even when tried to be eliminated.

Another rich source of literary references in the West is the use of biblical characters: "raising Cain" - to cause disruptive trouble for someone, or to create disturbance; "old as Methuselah" - refers to something or someone who is or looks unbelievably old; etc. etc.

One of the movies that I totally think is cool is "Brother, where art thou?" by the Cohen Brothers which is replete not only with references to Homer's Odyssey (on which the movie is based) but also the bible. The movie is a great example of classical education American style. Life and the world casted in epical light like a renaissance painting, where life - any life, no matter how small and impoverished - is given and imbued with meaning, authenticity and dignity not afforded by the sterile and saniticised politically-correct "education" that is Canada. South American authors have retained and persisted in that quality of epic light in telling their tales.

I tried to demonstrate that we can also use Inuit legends and mythological characters to coin new words and phrases for the modernization of Inuktitut. I did the first and second periods of the periodic table of elements starting with the mother of the sun and the moon, Lumaajuq (for hydrogen) and the setting of the sun (nipijuq = fluorine) for the last reactive element before neon (the inert gas) which I haven't named yet as I had an ecstatic experience when I looked out and saw what beauty is possible with such a scheme. All these elements end with [-juq] by the way, which means that it exists right here, now.

A systematic naming scheme (principles of nomenclature) is used by science (or it tries as best as it can). But using terms and grammatical structures that are not indigenous to English (or any other European languages) breaks the scheme and gives the impression of intimidating complexity for such simple, elemental notions that comprise the whole field of scientific discourse. Science as a new priesthood is rather counter-productive for the advancement of human knowledge.

I don't know from where I got this image (I'm sure it's from a great book I read once) of an alien intelligence who sees the regular hexagonal shapes of foamy bubbles and "discovers" Euclidean geometry. Perhaps the hexagonal shapes of snowflakes is a more apt descriptor here. But the image bespeaks of learning and/or discovery of new things never before thought of by the learner. Personal discovery followed by translation of that primary image onto other things that are linked at the deeper level...

Jay

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