Thursday, 24 November 2016

-mut vs -mik

I've been noticing for a long time, even before I studied linguistics, that those from my generation on get confused about the grammatical differences and use of the case endings: -mut and -mik.

A case ending, in Inuktitut, is a syntactic marker that specifies a noun in the Direct Object slot of a complete sentence (ie, these markers normally indicate that the phrase is transitive and requires another phrase to complete its grammaticality).

The case ending, -mut, occurs like this:

ilinniarvingmut   'to the school'

ilinniarvingmut isiqtuq              'he went into the school'

Jpt-mut   'to Jpt'

Jpt-mut tuniguk                         'give this to Jpt'

Ottawa-mut   'to Ottawa'

Ottawa-mut aullalauqtuq          'she left for Ottawa  (ie, travelled to)


the case ending, -mik, is used this way:

inungmik   'a person'

takujunga inungmik                  'I see a person'

qilliqtumik   'a shiny thing'

qilliqtumik piuksaqtuq               'he likes the shiny thing'

aqugiuqsanirmik   'the ability to drive (a vehicle)'

aqugiuqsanirmik ilinniaqtunga   'I'm taking a driving course'


What prompted me to write this is that I just heard on the CBC radio an announcement in Inuktitut:

qarisaujalirinirmut illiniarniq   'a course to operate computers'

when the intended meaning was:

qarisaujalirinirmik illinniarniq   'a computer course'

The differences are somewhat subtle, especially when 'a course to operate computers' sounds ok to Inuktitut and English ears, but these differences are significant. That is, there is an unintended shift from "grammatical space" into "physical space".

What I mean is that 'to operate computers' doesn't mean 'to learn how to operate computers' but refers to a direct object (ie, a single noun element) labelled "operate-computer(s)" that one can actually, physically go to.

Mind you, the grammatical meaning (in Inuktitut) may be reclaimed by changing the notion/idea of "operating a computer" (denoted by [-nir-]) into an actual physical space (denoted by [-ving-]):

qarisaujalirivingmut    'to the computer lab'

but, then again, (learning how to) operate a computer, is clearly different from a computer lab.


Friday, 4 November 2016

The "outsider"

In this US presidential campaign, we've seen the Donald bare all his glory. What a freak (hold on, I don't mean 'freak' in its normal sense, but in the sense of "a very unusual and unexpected event or situation").

Apparently, the Donald—I assume this appellation is a German version of 'the don'—doesn't read nor write all that much. I read on Huffington Post himself admitting that he doesn't even type out his own countless tweets but shouts out his vitriol to one of the 'girls' in his office (even at 3am) to be posted. Wow.

He reminds me of Derek Zoolander, only darker and malignant—ie, not funny at all. Zoolander is a movie character played by Ben Stiller, a character who is almost completely, hopelessly self-absorbed, living as he does as a big fish in a very small pond of male modelling.

I said 'almost completely, hopelessly self-absorbed' because at one point in the movie Stiller's character actually tries to make a difference by proposing to build a school, a "school for those who can't read good and want to do other stuff good too". But he gets mightily upset that the school he envisions is too small to even fit a person in (it's an architectural model).

There is something endearing and lovable about Derek Zoolander; there is nothing warm about Donald Trump, not even his apparent cluelessness—excuse me: his "outsider" status. He is all out there in his apparent authenticity: sophomoric, mean and ignorant.

He is like Stephen Harper, only more real in the still-birth of his humanity—remember well Harper, after making a formal apology for the aboriginal residential school experience, came out of the green chamber and said that (thank God) Canada doesn't have a history of colonialism.

I only hope that, like Harper, he'll lose interest in politics (ie, go back to the rarified air of the board room) once he loses. He's used to losing, only he calls it "winning".


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Carlo Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Physics was once my obsession. I even attempted to come up with an Inuktitut taxonomic scheme for the periodic table of the elements based on the Inuit legend of the grandmother/mother of the sun and the moon, and Buckminster Fuller's notions of existence as verb (I Seem to be a Verb, 1970). With the luxury of grateful hindsight of allthe work that's been done before the system could work beautifully.

I was travelling recently where I picked up a book by Carlo Rovelli called, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, 2014. It is written by a poet (well, actually, he's a physicist). To wit:

Plain words can be utterly beautiful when they tell a thrilling story. Carlo Rovelli's words take us on a great adventure as the human mind reaches out to understand the universe. The book is a joy.
-ALAN ALDA, actor, director, and author of
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed

I'd highly recommend this little book to everyone who appreciates poetics, science and beautiful ideas even if only on a good day. This book is not a romanticized, mystical gibberish as some (if not most) popular science books tend to become. It is based on real scientific insights—plain and unadorned in all their glory.

It is not a confused mass of scientific/religious/mystical couching and massaging of disparately unrelated ideas into a chimera but a real briefing from a person who knows what they're talking about. Even having spent years thinking about and reveling in the scientific principles of physics, I found the book to reorganize and place these wonderful concepts onto a more solid grounding.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 1:1-4

Jay Arnakak