Freitag, 24. April 2009

Tauron = Greek?

So...we watched the Caprica prequel on DVD last night & it looks like the series will be interesting. I'm still a little bit doubtful about setting everything so few generations before the events of Battlestar Galactica, but the story is good and promises to have the same thoughtful characterization and exploration of philosophical problems as the earlier series, so I'm willing to give it a chance.

What interested me the most, though, were some linguistic tidbits: a number of tantalizingly brief segments in the Tauron language, which meant I got to spend time trying to identify the words instead of paying attention to the plot. From what I could hear, I'm fairly certain that it was Greek -- or something remarkably close to it. "therapōn" = minister, "aner" = man, "dikē" = justice. Now, the fact that they would use Greek in particular is not terribly surprising, since the religion and a lot of the names come from classical mythology. But the question is: ancient or modern Greek? Or neither?

My ear isn't fast enough to catch it. I wish I had thought to ask Matt to see if the DVD had close-captioning before he returned it -- maybe I would have been able to get a transcription, at least. None of the fan sites seem to have touched on this important issue (yet).

Edit: Never mind. Apparently it would have helped if I spelled the language correctly when searching -- it's "Tauron" not "Tauran." The BattlestarWiki confirms my intuition that the language is ancient Greek, although (frustratingly) they don't give any further details or sources.

Sonntag, 19. April 2009

Beginning German Resources

Some books and resources I've found helpful when doing German tutoring.

The textbook I generally recommend for self-study is Deutsche Sprachlehre für Ausländer by Dora Schulz and Heinz Griesbach. This is a natural-method textbook (i.e., all explanations are in German) which starts out with easy readings and dialogues that get gradually more difficult, and it contains plenty of grammar drills (making questions out of statements, replacing nouns with pronouns, and so forth).

The other books I would recommend are the Living Language Ultimate Course and Teach Yourself German, as both these series are generally fairly solid, reasonably priced, and include audio tapes for practice. The usual problem here is a tendency to be a bit superficial - although they go beyond the tourist phrase-book level - and a lack of sufficient practice exercises. But both series serve as a good starting point.

I have generally found reading/grammar-based courses to meet my learning style the best. "Listen and repeat" type courses such as Pimsleur drive me nuts, and textbooks intended for classroom instruction are not necessarily useful for the independent learner (plus, they are frequently incredibly expensive).

There are tons of resources for learning German online; unfortunately, I haven't done extensive research on this as I haven't any immediate need for beginning German instruction. There does seem to be a gap in most languages between phrase-book type stuff and advanced dialogues; most podcasts are more suitable for intermediate/advanced students who already have a good grasp of the basics and need practice listening and building vocabulary.

The online Beginners' German course by Paul Joyce looks good, although I haven't used it with students. It includes a fair amount of audio.

The German radio Deutsche Welle has audio resources for learners of all levels.
The BBC also some lessons in basic German. My impression is that it provides more than just a phrase-book, but is probably not enough for someone who seriously wants to learn the language.

Both these readers are intended for beginners:
Hannelore and William Crossgrove. Graded German Reader. ISBN 0669201596
Heinz Thorn. Beginner's German Reader. ISBN 084422170

Kaleidoskop has short readings on various topics on everyday life in Germany. Seems to be oriented more towards a school-age audience, but many of the topics in the should be appropriate for learners of all ages. Beginners should check out the archive, which is sorted by topic.

Worksheets provided by Nancy Thuleen to accompany her introductory German courses.

Grammar practice provides a good overview of essential grammatical topics, as well as some discussions of more advanced issues. Includes audio of all examples. Quite well done, although probably not suited for use as a stand-alone course because of the lack of exercises.

Fundamentals of German. Paradigms and grammar from the University of Houston.

Deutsche Grammatik online has exercises and games on various grammar topics (primarily level B1 - intermediate - and above)

Blogs for beginning and intermediate German language learners:'s German blog includes essays on various topics related to German language and culture. The posts are sprinkled throughout with relevant vocabulary, so it's a good way for a beginner to pick up some new words.

Deut(sch)lich includes mini-lessons for learners of various levels. The blog is entirely in German, but there's some material that should still be useful for a beginner (these are listed under the tag "A1").

pukkagerman is a podcast aimed at beginning to intermediate German learners. All episodes include a complete transcript and translations of vocabulary words.

Audio Lingua has audio files of varying difficulties in German (also in various other European languages); sortable by level.

Slow German offers podcasts (with transcript) about German culture and life in Germany.

German Words Explained are short podcasts in German focusing on key words from German politics, culture, and media.

Freitag, 10. April 2009

Old Provençal Nursery Rhymes

Not only did I just successfully pass my comprehensive exam, but my examiners were highly complimentary about my work as well!
*bounces around excitedly*

Which puts me one step closer to earning my masters' degree. (Eventually I may even get around to finishing my bachelors'...)

I am so relieved to have this over and not have to worry about it anymore. The anticipation (let's say 'Vorangst,' rather than Vorfreude) was definitely the worst part. I panicked several times at various stages in the process because I was terrified not so much of the exam itself, but of doing something wrong. Not knowing what to expect, and being afraid that I wouldn't be able to perform when I needed to.
The oral part of the exam was exciting in a way. The chance to talk about what I've silently been obsessing over all this time. I learned something from it as well; a couple of times someone suggested a line of thought which hadn't occured to me at all, but which had intriguing possibilities for pursuing further. And that, it seems to me is ideally what the oral examination should do: not just demonstrate competence, but provoke further exploration.

Also, I am informed that 'graduate student' is a very practical career choice with the current economic situation. So maybe there's hope for me yet.

Oh, yes, the post title: one of my committee members threatened that he was only going to ask me about this topic. (Naturally, I did my homework accordingly.) Just in case anyone is curious, this seems to be virgin territory; a google search doesn't turn up a single hit for the phrase -- or rather, it didn't until I posted this. (The internet equivalent of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: the act of making an observation actually changes the data being observed.)

Sonntag, 5. April 2009

Some translations

(I should be writing my comprehensive exam -- I have one last section to finish -- but meanwhile I thought I would post a few random translations from my notebook.)

Climax for a Ghost Story - I. A. Ireland

"How eerie!" said the girl, advancing cautiously. "--And what a heavy door!" She touched it as she spoke and it suddenly swung to with a click.
"Good Lord!" said the man. "I don't believe there's a handle inside. Why, you've locked us both in!"
"Not both of us. Only one of us," said the girl, and before his eyes she passed straight through the door, and vanished.

ἀκμὴ τοῦ περὶ τῶν φασμάτων λόγου
Ὥς γε καινόν - ἔφε εὐλαβῶς προσβαίνουσα ἡ γυνή - καὶ τόση ἐστὶ βαρεῖα ἡ θυρά. τῆσδε ἅμα εἰποῦσα ἔψαυσεν· ἧδε ἄφνω ἑαυτὴν τῇ ὀξείᾳ φωνῇ ἔκλεισεν. Μὰ Δία · ἔφη ὁ ἀνήρ. οὔ μοι δοκεῖ κώπην τινὰ ἐντος εἶναι. σὺ δὲ ἡμᾶς ἀμφοτέροις συγκέκλεκας ὧδε. Οὐδ' ὀτιοῦν ἀμφοτέρος · μόνος γε. ἔφη αὕτη καί, αὐτοῦ θεώμενου, θύραζε ᾔει καὶ ὴφάνισεν.

This was one of my first attempts at Greek composition -- I probably should revisit it at some point and see if I can do better now that I've read a lot more Greek. The passage was appealing because it's such a fun story, but also because it's short and has relatively simple language.

Extracts from Ingeborg Bachmann, "Jugend in einer österreichischen Stadt"

Die Kinder! (Sie wissen zur Not, wie sie heißen, aber sie horchen nur auf, wenn man sie "Kinder" ruft.)
Дети-то! (Они знают в крайнем случае, как их зовут, а только обращают внимание, когда 'Дети' кричут.)

Man weiß dann, daß alles war, wie es war, daß alles ist, wie es ist, und verzichtet, einen Grund zu suchen für alles.
Тогда знаешь, что было всё так, как было, что всё сейчас так, как быбает, и отказываешься искать причины для всего.

In these snippets I was primarily interested in lexical problems: the fact that Russian neither uses the article nor the verb 'to be' in the present tense. The tone in the first sentence is largely dependent on the half-affectionate use of the article in the exclamation. The parallelism suffers a bit in the second excerpt, but the contrast in meaning, I hope, is preserved.
I'm not sure what possessed me to translate pieces of this particular text into Russian, except that I think we were reading this in another class at about the time I was taking a very intensive Russian course.

Extracts from Emine Sevgi Özdamar, "Mutterzunge"

In meiner Sprache heißt Zunge: Sprache.
Zunge hat keine Knochen, wohin man sie dreht, dreht sie sich dorthin.

На моём языке, то, чем мы говорим, и то, на чём мы говорим - это то же самое слово: язык.
В языке косточек нет, куда язык вертишь, вертется он туда.

Russian, like Turkish, Özdamar's native language, uses the same word for tongue and language. Because she is playing with the distinction here, I was interested in trying to figure out how to express it in a language which doesn't make the distinction.
My Russian isn't good enough to get a sense of how well I succeeded in capturing the feel of the passage.
The chiastic construction of the last sentence is a result of the rules of German word order, but it appealed to me and I tried to reproduce it in the Russian. I might have been better off using parallelism, however.

Catullus 8
nec quae fugit sectare, nec miser vive, sed obstinata mente perfer, obdura.
"Laufe nicht nach, was flieht, nicht traurig lebe, sondern festen Willens sei, und dulde."

From Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
He, too, was "out" who was a stranger to her land, and yet who had never been a stranger in it. He, too, was "out" of that great country whose image had been engraved upon his spirit in childhood and youth, before he had ever seen it. It had been a geography of heart's desire, an unfathomed domain of unknown inheritance. The haunting beauty of that magic land had been his soul's dark wonder. He had known the language of its spirit before he ever came to it, had understood the language of its tongue the moment he had heard it spoken. He had framed the accents of its speech most brokenly from that first hour, yet never with a moment's trouble, strangeness, or lack of comprehension. He had been at home in it, and it in him. It seemed that he had been born with this knowledge.

Er hat das Land verlassen, er der ein Fremder war, dem aber es niemals fremd gewesen war. Er hat jenes herrliches Land verlassen, mit dessen Bild seinen Geist in der Kindheit und Jugend eingeprägt wurde, ehe er es je gesehen hatte. Es war eine Landschaft inbrünstiger Sehnsucht, ein unergründeter Bereich unbekanntes Erbes. Die verzaubernde Schönheit des Landes war das dunkle Wunder seiner Seele. Er hatte die Sprache seines Geistes gekannt, ehe er je angekommen war, die Sprache seiner Zunge augenblicklich verstanden, als er sie zum ersten Mal hörte. Er hatte nach der ersten Stunde die Töne gebrochen ausgesprochen, doch nie Schwierigkeit, Fremdheit oder Verständnislosigkeit empfunden. Er fühlte sich in ihr zuhause, und sie in ihm. Es war, als ob er mit dieser Kenntnis auf die Welt gekommen war.

A couple of spontaneous translations after I came back from Germany last summer. (I always seem to be reading Thomas Wolfe when I come back from Germany for some reason.)
I took a little liberty with the Catullus lines, as "quae" refers to his girlfriend and should properly have a feminine antecedent.
The second passage suffers a little from being taken out of context. The "land" that the narrator is referring to is of course a Germany on the brink of WWII, so there's a certain appropriateness to translating it into German.