Tag Archives: language

Running the Race on The Bachelor [One Year Later]

Almost exactly a year ago today I wrote a little about race and my latest obsession at the time, ABC’s The Bachelor. At that point we were in the middle of its 20th season, which had the very affable Ben Higgins as the pearl of great price 28 women were striving to attain.

While both that show and its spinoff, The Bachelorette, have never had stellar track records as far as racial diversity, things came to a head when Jubilee Sharpe, the final Black contestant remaining, was eliminated on the first day of February [AKA Black History Month]. Cue soundbites from higher-ups that “[they’re] doing a whole lot of tweaks”. Not that that’s anything new, as a lengthy interview that NPR conducted with host Chris Harrison back in 2015 reveals they’ve long been aware of the issue, and that they want to do something about it. Harrison also used the exact words “we really tried” after surmising that a previous previous star was “1/16th Cherokee Indian”, if that’s any indication of what we might expect.

Those of you who follow both shows will be well-aware of the events that took place at the beginning of this week, but before I get into that I want to fill in the gaps between that last post and this one.

So, What Happened After Ben’s Season?

The cyclical nature of franchise means that the The Bachelor premieres every January, with The Bachelorette following not too long afterwards in May. ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, the man who hinted at the “tweaks” up above, also told reporters at the time that:

“I’d be very surprised if ‘The Bachelorette’ in the summer isn’t diverse. I think that’s likely”

He also made reference to something called the “farm team” which a) I recently found out is sports terminology and has nothing to do with animals or actual farms and b) is the term for the contestants featured on each season of The Bachelor or The BacheloretteVariety notes that the norm is for the next Bacheloron [a gender neutral term for the star of either program that I took from an article I’ll link to later] to be from the previous season’s “farm team”. With that in mind both fans and critics of the franchise saw the 12th season of The Bachelorette as the perfect opportunity to make that much-needed change. Continue reading

Advertisements

Language as a Product of Cultural Evolution [Or Why Chimpanzees Can’t Talk and We Can]

thedomesticationoflanguagecoverThis week I finished The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal, a book whose subject matter should be self-evident. Shortly afterwards I was given the opportunity to talk to Daniel Cloud, the author of said work and professor of philosophy at Princeton University.

To summarize it very briefly the book is a thorough and eye-opening examination of language as a piece of culture that has been grown and thus evolved due to choices and actions we’ve made as human beings. While our discussion of his work was incredibly thorough and actually exceeded an hour I’ve managed to cut it down to something that closely approximates a conversation, and one that I hope will convince you to pick up a copy for yourselves.

Evan: Now I will of course be putting together some form of introduction to preface this interview, but I thought it would be good for our readers to hear you describe yourself in your own words-

Cloud: I would say that I am an American philosopher carrying on the American philosophical tradition. I worked in science for a while in Russia and China which gave me some some experience with socioeconomic change; I was in those places during a period of upheaval. Research as a philosopher most interested me when I decided to quit and go back to school. Biology and evolution in particular stood out as I already knew a lot about the social sciences.

Evan: As far as The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal is concerned I would describe your primary goal as breaking down the origin of human language. Would you agree with that?

Cloud: My goal was and is to explain where language comes from, yes, but specifically the theory of cultural evolution and if it works relative to language. Language is one type of culture, and the specific type of culture I chose to focus on in this book was words as they’re discrete identities that are easy to identify and track throughout history.

The larger project is actually to track humans as being distinct from other types of living things. To return to language I present it as a tool for exploring the way cultural evolution works. It’s the application of the word “domestication” as seen in the title, the theory that just like animals and plants what we have in the present day is very different from how it began. Words are only the first thing I’ve tried to identify in this way. I could just as easily have turned to fashion or clothes or any other kind of culture. Continue reading

Florida’s War on Context

Florida, one of the crazier states in the Union, has taken climate change denial to a whole new level.

Apparently, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott is responsible for an off-the-books ban on the terms “climate change” and “global warming” (among others) at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

I mentioned “others” because, according to some, DEP employees have also been pressured to avoid using the term “sustainability.”

That’s the last I’ll say about that one, because, if it’s true, the stupidity of it could very well give me a brain aneurysm. Continue reading

Québec Part V: Saying Goodbye (5 Things I’ll Miss about the French Province)

I’m a pretty sentimental person, so as I think about the 5 weeks I’ve spend here in Quebec it’s easy to think of lots of things that I will miss. Since I’ve promised to try to write all my posts about Quebec in French, however, I’ve narrowed it down to one for each week.

The Food

Everyone knows that the French know what is up it comes to food. This past Sunday, for our last weekend together, several of us biked to a waterfall close-by for a little picnic. We stopped by an outdoor market on the way to pick up some bread. We bought a loaf of sun-dried tomato and chocolate cranberry bread. Afterwards we went to the fromagerie and bought several types of cheese. A couple of us also picked up a bottle of wine from the corner store (yes, there is wine available everywhere here). Then we sat in front of a waterfall feasting on bread and cheese and the grapes we packed along.

cheeseandbread

Then, of course, there were the restaurant-style meals we are fed each and everyday by our hosts.

Continue reading

Quebec Pt. III: 4 Things You Inadvertently Learn in French Immersion

1) There are muscles in your mouth you’ve never used before

I’ve never thought much about language, at least not beyond trying to figure out what to say next. Even then I don’t really think things through. If you never had much of an interest in linguistics (like myself) it can come as a surprise when you start to learn about the basics of how spoken language works.

Here at Trois Pistole one of the French Teachers is a linguist and, incidentally, an anglophone. This gives him a lot of insight. As an English Speaker he has first-hand experience with the kind of mistakes we are likely to make while learning French. Then, as a linguist, he has a good idea of why exactly we make those mistakes. Luckily for us, he also hosts a phonetics clinic once a week to teach us the little details of pronunciation. Last week he focused on how French vowels work. The image I’ve included below is meant to represent where French vowel sounds come from in our mouths.

The French “i”, which sounds like an English “e”, is formed at the front of the mouth when the jaw closed (antérieure, fermée). In contract, the French “ɑ” comes from the back of the mouth and requires a wide open jaw (postérieure, ouverte).

Continue reading

BC Girl in a Québécois World Pt. II: What to Expect in Quebec

As you may remember from last week, I’m currently attending a full immersion language school in Quebec. A little over a week ago I gathered in a sweltering auditorium with approximately 250 other students while a professor spoke to us in English, for the last time.

“The people of this village have a name for you anglophones;” he explained, “they call you the ones with the blank stares.”

I’ve been here for about two weeks now, and more often than not that’s how it goes. I limp out something French. The Francophone responds so fast that to my untrained ears a sentence sounds instead like one very long word. It feels a little bit like being two years old again, only with memories of a time when you were actually a competent human being.

Just imagine that first image is someone trying to explain something in French.

Growing up in British Columbia I heard complaints against French language laws, which work to protect French culture. English speakers argued that it was an unfair double standard, and that the French were just being snobby. That has not been my experience here in Quebec.  Continue reading

BC Girl in a Québécois World

Guess where I am right now?

That’s right, Quebec! (Sorry, you don’t get a prize because I already gave you the answer in the title of the post).

Look how far away I am from home!!

Those of you who follow the blog (or know me in person) will know that I live in British Columbia. Anyone who saw my excited Facebook announcement will know why I am here, but for anyone who didn’t, I want to give you an outline of where I am exactly and why.

This past year John and I both applied for a program called Explore. It’s a bursary provided by the Canadian government that pays for English students to experience French immersion (and vice versa for French students). The bursary covers room and board along with the cost of the classes, the majority of extra curricular activities and textbooks. Students just need to find their own way to the school they’ve chosen. The bursary covers a wide variety of schools; some provide a credited program and some do not. John and I both applied for the language program in a small town called Trois Pistoles. Since it’s pretty easy to find pockets of English in both Montreal and Quebec City, we chose somewhere small that would (ideally) force us to use French as much as possible.

Continue reading