This is a blog about language and literature. I’ve always been fascinated by words, by how words form sentences, and how sentences form poems and stories. The technical term for this fascination is philology—the love of language. Friedrich Nietzsche defined philology as the art of reading slowly—that’s where I got the title for this blog. In the section titled What is Philology? I discuss what I take to be the four major components of philology: historical linguistics, the editing of texts, the interpretation of language in context, and the interpretation of literature with special attention to language. I’m interested in all of these, and I will post blogs on all of them, but my own work lies primarily in the third and fourth areas.
I created this site as an invitation for anyone who has a passion for literature—readers and writers of all sorts. I would like to think of this blog as one part of a conversation among people who share an interest in the way language works and the way it turns into art. Please feel free to enter the conversation by dropping me a note with your reactions to my posts or with your own thoughts. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Karen L. Hogan, who did all the hard work of designing and mounting this blog. Without her help it wouldn’t have happened.
My Most Recent Blog Posts
In several recent posts I’ve been exploring the difference between phonetics and phonemics, along with the related concepts of the morpheme and componential analysis. This post is a more general discussion of the contrast between Emics and Etics. The word Etic is the end of the word phonetic, and the word Emic is the end … Continue reading Etics and Emics
Phonemes—the topic of my last two posts—are the smallest bits of language that make a difference. A phoneme doesn’t mean anything, it just allows us to tell one word (or morpheme) from another. So the phonemes /p/ and /b/ allow us to tell the word “pat” from the word “bat”. Phonemes are more or less … Continue reading Phonemes, Morphemes, and People
A phoneme is the smallest bit of language that makes a difference. Making a difference is just what phonemes do. They make one word different from another. In English, for example, the difference between the phonemes /p/ and /b/ makes “pin” different from “bin”, “pat” different from “bat”, “tap” different from “tab”, and so on … Continue reading What’s the Difference?
The letter ‘p’ changed my life. I was a junior in high school, and I was attending a science fair at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Like most science fairs, this one was dominated by exhibits and presentations about physics and chemistry and biology, but I saw that a professor from the department of linguistics … Continue reading The Letter “p”
I first saw the word “vote-a-rama” a week ago Wednesday, when it appeared in a CNN headline, after the covid relief bill passed in the Senate: “Bill Passes After All-Night Vote-a-rama”. I knew that the process of voting had been delayed and took many hours, and I supposed that the word “vote-a-rama” must refer somehow … Continue reading Vote-a-rama
After I posted “Things and Actions” I had a couple of afterthoughts. First, I mentioned that one way to turn a noun into a verb or a verb into a noun is just to do it. Then I came across the following passage from another of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels, “Too Many Clients” (p. … Continue reading Second Thoughts on Things and Actions