Diversionary Mythology

An brief excursion into Greek and Roman mythology this morning veered sharply into an interest in linguistic treatment of grammatical structures across languages. I have always abhorred explorations into the formalities of grammatical structures, perhaps because I found the explanations too complex and dry to be of any interest. Or, perhaps, I simply do not have sufficient intellectual firepower to understand them. In spite of my tendency to steer clear of grammar, when I encountered discussions of grammatical structure across languages (during an exploration of Greek god mythology), I was intrigued. (As for English grammar, I know what conforms to the “rules” of the language and what does not, I just cannot explain why.)

I doubt my interest this morning in the accusative case, the genitive, the dative, the vocative, etc. will be long-lasting. But I found it interesting to be exposed to concepts that illustrate, at least to some extent, the ways in which various languages are structured in similar ways or, at least, can be compared and contrasted.  My interest in linguistics is neither new nor encyclopedic. My oldest brother pursued graduate study in linguistics before ultimately stopping the process at ABD (all but dissertation). Partly because of my admiration for him, I explored the possibility of going for an undergraduate degree in linguistics, but got sidetracked by other interests. But my interest in linguistics never waned (nor did it ever blossom into a full-blown diversion). For some reason, I remember learning, in a linguistics class, about the term ‘glottal stop.’ My recollection relies more on the experience of duplicating the instructor’s pronunciation of the word bottle, as spoken in some versions of regional London English. In place of the sound of the “t,” there is a brief pause (which is produced by closing the space between the vocal folds).

At any rate, I found myself wandering through grammatical structures and down linguistic pathways unrelated to Greek mythology. I spent a good hour reading about the evolution of grammatical elements of spoken languages. I learned about (maybe re-learned?) the ways in which certain sounds of spoken language (like the glottal stop) are symbolized in written form (symbolized in the International Phonetic Alphabet as ⟨ʔ⟩). And I discovered that the language used to define certain terms is almost unintelligible without serious investigative research, like this from Wikipedia‘s definition of fusional languages:

Fusional languages or inflected languages are a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by their tendency to use a single inflectional morpheme to denote multiple grammatical, syntactic, or semantic features.

I need this kind of diversion at the moment. Something that will both take my mind off the fact that the world is collapsing around us and that will briefly deepen my shallow intellectual store of useless knowledge. I still need to return to Greek and Roman mythology, though, inasmuch as I was unsuccessful at learning much today. I cannot keep writing this, for now, because I have other obligations. Or other inquisitions. That’s it, I should re-read Jorge Luis Borges’ Other Inquisitions. I remember being enamored of the essays contained in the book, but it has been so long ago that I recall almost nothing else. I hope I still have a copy; I’m afraid I may have gotten rid of it, though, in the massive book purge before our move to Hot Springs Village.  Perhaps I should try something new; some more modern. But no, not until I re-acquaint myself with the brilliance of Borges.

Enough. I have obligations to fulfill this morning. And I haven’t even showered and shaved yet. Ach. So much to do.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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