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Saturday, March 26, 2011

As Dense as a Rock (part 3): The Enriching Terms for Language Students

We spend our lives using statements like "He kicked me!" "Studying is hard work." or "I won't go if he's gonna be there, no way!" often without ever knowing what they are or how they work. While we are certainly capable of living full lives without this knowledge, in knowing these be become much more able to grasp it and use their principles to portray a certain image or feel(though the practice of naming is not without it's issues and limitations of how something can grow). That in mind, here are some of the terms to help you give greater depth and life to your statements and stories

Active Sentence
A sentence which describes an action from the agent's point of view.
What Does That Mean?
It talks about whatever the Agent’s doing, like when you tell your friends “Man, that Liang chick is chugging those beers like they were water. She’s on her 7th…8th…9th…I totally lost count”

Passive Sentence
A sentence which describes an action by someone from the viewpoint of someone else who is affected by that action.
What Does That Mean?
It talks about whoever was on the receiving end of whatever happens, often using Intransitive Verbs to provide a more detached point of view. It’s like when you ask your friend about the company softball game they played in and they say “We got whupped hardcore”

Auxiliary Adjective
A dependent adjective that is preceded by and attached to a verb or another adjective.
What Does That Mean?
One adjective is attached to the end of another adjective/a verb to give it a certain tone or intent, like when we’d say someone’s accident-prone (prone being the Auxiliary Adjective here). The same principle applies to Auxiliary Verbs

Causative Sentence
Sentences in which someone/something makes or lets someone/something do an action
What Does That Mean?
Depending on the sentence, they either let something happen or force it to happen, like when a workmate says “Yeah, you can borrow my stapler” or when you overhear someone say “Don’t make me break my foot off in your ass!”

Noun Phrase
A Word/group of words consisting of a single noun or noun and a number of optional modifiers
What Does That Mean?
It can be a group of something-like Pigs or Urbanites- or a subject + adjective(s)-like a rookie officer putting a Parking Ticket on that pricy Porsche. Altogether, it can let you talk in more detail about a subject, like when your friends ask you about Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ and you say “That dated book is still pretty useful and informative”

Noun Clauses
A Word/group of words consisting of noun, predicate and/or a number of optional modifiers
What Does That Mean?
It’s much like a Noun Phrase, but allows for more detailed information to be brought into the conversation, so instead of saying of just talking about ‘That nerdy girl at the bookstore’ you can talk about ‘That nerdy girl you ran into yesterday at the bookstore’ Clauses themselves come in 2 kinds: Main (which can be used on its own, I.E. “That nerdy girl I know”) and Subordinate (which can’t, and need to work with a Main Clause to work proper, I.E. the ‘who I ran into’ part of “That nerdy girl you know was who I ran into”), which combine to make Complex Sentences

A word, phrase, or clause which expresses a condition
What Does That Mean?
It says that something can or will happen if something/someone is a certain way, like when someone says “Yeah, I’ll give you some cash. When pigs fly” or a buddy tells you “If you weren’t so weird, people would talk to you more”

A figure of speech in which two similar things are compared.
What Does That Mean?
It’s something that lets you say one thing is like another to illustrate their common qualities, like in Forest Gump’s famous line “Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get”. Like others parts of language, it can be mean, funny, sad or anything else, based on the intent of the one using it.

A figure of speech in which a word for one idea or thing is used in its place or another to suggest a likeness between them
What Does That Mean?
It’s something that lets you say something or someone shows the qualities of something else or does something the way something or someone else would. This is demonstrated when you overhear someone say “People in our society are rats running through maze to get their piece of the big cheese” at a rally or when you’re at a pizza eating contest and your friend says “Wow, are those people or food processors over there?” Many sexual innuendoes rely on the metaphor and simile to express the intent of the message without directly using terms like ‘sex’ ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’(because that isn’t what classy folks do). Can be paired with a simile in the structure ‘A is B as C is D (along with similar structures)’ for more elaborate and thorough comparisons, like when you pass by a Hot Topic and your friend says “Rapcore is music like chess is a full contact sport” 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

As Dense as a Rock (part 2): The Technical Terms for Language Students

The study of languages is often seen as dense and scary, and one of the greatest contributors to that are the use of terms few use outside the linguistic(study of languages, if you didn't know) circle. I know the first time I heard the word 'Agent' in the context coming up, my mind went near instantly to the Men in Black, and certainly nothing about someone who does something. Like I said before, once the series is done, the entries will be placed in a section on the blog and each one linked back to my Tumblr for individual consumption(and perhaps further analysis?). Nonetheless, here are a set of more technical entries to help you better identify parts of a sentence and improve your ability to seeking the intent of a statement and translate on the fly(which you'll want to improve as soon as possible not just for Japanese, but also for when you chat with friends and need to break down who did what quickly)

One who initiates and /or completes an action or an event.
What Does That Mean?
It’s whoever or whatever does something in a sentence, like when a rock (agent) smashes a window or when your friend (agent) pays for dinner

An element of a sentence which indicates an agent of an action
What Does That Mean?
It points out whom or whatever is doing something, like when you see your friend about to buy a $200 flannel shirt and say “You’re being an idiot! You can buy the exact same thing at Goodwill for $5!” (You being the subject pointed out here). This can be one thing/person, a group of 'em, an action, among many others, and is often mixed in with the concept of an Agent, the defining traits of each you could argue about at lengths for hours on end(and has been a topic of dispute among Linguists, or folks who study language, for generations)

Direct Object
The direct object of a verb is the direct recipient of an action represented by the verb.
What Does That Mean?
It’s who or whatever’s on the business end of an action, like when you see your irate classmate take their keys to the side of your history teacher’s car (the car here getting the brunt of the classmate’s rage)

Transitive Verb
A verb that requires a direct object.
What Does That Mean?
It’s a verb that needs something to act on, the lack of it leading to confusion. It’s like when you and a friend are hanging out at your house and you say “Cook.” as you glance at the frozen pizza on the table. Your friend, not seeing this glance, asks “Cook what?” unaware of what you want to them to cook, because you didn’t say what, exactly, you want them to cook

Intransitive Verb
A verb which does not require a direct object
What Does That Mean?
It talks about whatever the subject at hand was doing, in this case discussing it in a more detached and observant tone, like when your workmate asks you about what happened to your roommate last night and you say “Oh, Steve? Nothing much, he just worked overtime to cover for some girl he likes. When I got home and chatted with him, he fell asleep watching SportsCenter.”

A verb that takes the place of a noun in a sentence
What Does That Mean?
It can used the same way you use a noun, the word’s exact appearance depending on language standards (English using verbs ending with ‘–ing’ as its Gerund). You’ll hear its use when someone says something like “Training is hard work” after practicing their 3 point shot at the gym or “Editing gets kinda lonely, sometimes” after they get off of a long day of working on transcripts and talk to their friend. When a verb is used as an adjective or adverb-like in ‘The Running Man’ or ‘A Broken Education System’- it’s called a Participle, and when it appears in its plain form-like when someone’s called ‘The One to Beat’ it’s called an Infinitive.

Indicates action performed or existence expressed by the subject
What Does That Mean?
It points out what a subject does or what a subject is, like when someone sees a rusty van and says “Man, that car is old” or you see a sign at a protest that says “Corporations lie!”(Old and lie being the predicates here) It’s the presence of this and a subject together which makes a sentence a complete thought, in terms of proper grammar.

A verb/adjective which precedes a noun and modifies it
What Does That Mean?
It gives more detail to whatever you’re talking about, like when your friend tell you they managed to cook an edible chicken soup or a workmate calls your plan to try Skydiving sex a horrible idea. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

As Dense as a Rock (part 1): The Foundational Terms for Language Students

  As a student of the Japanese Language(and budding teacher of both it and English), one of my biggest pet peeves about language learning material is that even the best ones expect the reader to know what a noun clause or a gerund is like the back of their hand and don't even give one single second to explain what they are or how one uses them in their native language. I was also guilty of this in the earlier versions of my lessons, and it's something I want to rectify as much as one dude with a blog can. When the series is done, these entries will be collected into one section of the blog+links to the further explanations of the individual entries on my Tumblr, but for now, let's starts with these base terms, the core of what gives any language it's skeleton;  its foundation.

A word that is the name of a subject of discourse
What Does That Mean?
It gives a name to people, places, things and ideas, Proper Nouns naming specific people, places, things and ideas. It’s much like the difference between saying you ate at a restaurant and saying you ate at Spago.

A word that takes the place of nouns in sentences (He, She, They, etc.)
What Does That Mean?
When the subject is understood, they’re employed to give more flow to what you’re saying and eliminate repetition. When you mention the name of a subject, you can use pronouns in its place so your sentences don’t sound stilted and unnatural. When it’s not mentioned when Pronouns are used, they add a sense of mystery to a statement(this is especially true for Japanese, which I will discuss in greater detail at a later date)

A word that expresses an act, occurrence or mode of being
What Does That Mean?
It gives us a way to describe the stuff we do to someone, whether it’s playing football, yelling at the top of our lungs or living it up. What makes a word a verb-or an adjective or noun, for that matter-depends largely on personal perception and how each person uses the language, making it just as like to hear someone say “Let’s green this place up” as you would hear “Are you gonna Lawyer up?”. (And there are different kinds of verbs to create different moods, which will be discussed later)

A word that typically serves as a modifier of a noun
What Does That Mean?
They give color, definition and intent to the form laid out by nouns and the life infused by verbs. Instead of just saying you own a car, they let you say you own an American car; instead of just saying you love Metal, they let you say you love Heavy Metal; instead of just saying you’ve gained skill, they let you say you’ve gained unbeatable skill. The kinds of effect the different adjectives make are plentiful, and will be discussed later.

A word that typically serves as a modifier of a verb, adjective or other adverbs
What Does That Mean?
They-in moderation-allow greater detail in describing something, so it lets you say the hair of a girl you just saw is platinum blonde or fiery red instead of just plain ol’ blonde or red.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sowing the Seeds: What to Pack Before Traveling to Japan(if you're a woman)

One question all travelers ask themselves as the day of their trip draws near is "What should I pack for my trip?", which is further complicated when a country uses different measuring systems(as is the case with the US and every country that uses Metric). If you're a woman needing some assistance on what to take with you, Miss Mitsu of Universal Doll wrote a handy guide on the matter which should serve you well in helping you choose. If you're a fella, well, you're gonna have to wait a little longer before I get my full write up done on the matter(hint: take as much of your country's soaps, shampoos and so on before you go, as Japan is known to have body care products not made to handle the Western-strength stench)