Saturday, 27 April 2013

The second part to the April 17th entry to an email distribution list

Una titirarataalauqtama ilagutanga.
 
There is a term,techne, from ancient Greek that I’d like to talk about today. The word “techne” is often translated ascraftsmanship, craft or art and the term is almost always indicated in relation to a Latin term,ars meaning roughly the same thing. From the root word “techne” comes words in English like: technical, technique, technology, etc.
 
In the Wikipedia entry, it says that “techne” differs from abstract theory (epistēmē) in that it is about “making or doing” – Inuktut taigajaqtavuqqai “sananiq” amma ilagalangit “sanajjuti/sananirmik” uvvalu “pilirijjuti/pilirinirmik” tukiliit piqasiutilugit.“For the ancient Greeks, it signified all the mechanic arts, including medicine and music.” (Wikipedia)
 
The point I’m trying to make, in this “word of the day” entry and the one before this, is that when one looks at knowledge “semiologically” one begins to understand that “knowledge” itself is not language-specific (as much as prejudice wants us to believe that English alone is good enough to teach science, maths, politics, and so on) because “knowledge” precedes words/vocabulary.
 
To quote Larry Shiner in his book, The Invention of Art: a cultural history (2001, University of Chicago Press): “…techne and ars referred less to a class of objects than to the human ability to make and perform…. the issue is not about the presence or absence of a word but about the interpretation of a body of evidence…” (p. 19) –he’s talking about here the fact that ancient Greeks had no word for “drama” though they are inventors of tragedy/comedy as a performance art, as they are “inventors” of great many things Qallunaat.
 
I’ve always attempted to make explanations of scientific and mathematical principles in the Inuit language because I know that “semiologically-speaking” these fields of knowledge are not English-only. Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Russian…some of these languages do a much better job of conveying scientific and mathematical knowledge than English but because the pre-dominant language (for us) is English we think and assume that only English can be used to teach and learn these fields of human knowledge.
 
Using what are called, “first principles” and their rules-of-logic as the basis of discoursing/teaching and learning is it possible to construct Inukt. terms that make much more sense and have better consistency than English (which is not really English per se but “Anglicization” of Greek and Latin terms). For example, I started constructing the first two periods of the periodic table of elements (chemistry) by starting out with “lumaajuq” for hydrogen (lumaajuq, in Nunavik versions of the Inuit legend is the old woman who turns into a narwhal and is the grandmother of the sun and moon) to flourine (atomic number 9 as “nipijuq” Inukt for the setting of the sun). I had all the terms ending in [-juq] to indicate that these elements are less a noun than chemical processes of the atom; then, I’d built up compounds by changing the ending [-juq] to [-ja-] as in: paujanirlijuq1 (for cabon monoxide) and paujanirnijuq2 (for carbon dioxide) which come from paujuq (for carbon) and anirnijuq (for oxygen).
 
By setting up rules of naming (“nomenclature”, in technical-speak) we can construct logically-productive terms this way. What I mean by “logically-productive” is that new and original conclusions/insights/connections can be made by the students themselves once they begin to master the art and science of a field. In the case of chemistry, of course, we’d want to stick with the symbolic conventions (F, 9 for “flourine”; Au, 79 for “gold”, and so on) so as to be able to encode and decode chemistry using the International symbolic conventions…
 
Jay

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