Saturday Shelfie

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Saturday Shelfie is a new fortnightly feature and blogging event here at Cultural Life. If you’re a blogger and would like to take part, the guidelines are simple: grab the Saturday Shelfie badge for your post and publish a photo of your current read, along with a brief synopsis and/or your thoughts on it. Don’t forget to link back to this post so that your Saturday Shelfie post will appear as a “pingback” link below this post!

Image courtesy of Goodreads

The book I am reading at the moment isĀ Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. Set primarily in small-town Wisconsin, it traces the stories of four people, Ronny, Lee, Kip and Henry, who grew up together and were boyhood friends. Now adults, their lives have diverged onto four very different paths but their shared past links them together, including old rivalries which threaten to reappear. I am only half-way through this novel and so far, it is an engaging read which is making me want to read on. The characters in this story seem very real and authentic and the author has a gift for portraying the nuances of friendship and loyalty.

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From This Valley

I drive an average of forty-five miles a day, much less at weekends when I like to stay home and unwind after a busy week! I don’t like driving in silence; listening to the radio or to a good CD makes the time pass much quicker. The CD which has been in my car stereo on repeat for the past few months is the self-titled second album by The Civil Wars, the singer-songwriter duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White. I have mentioned them before on Cultural Life because I absolutely adore their music. They have a wonderful creative chemistry. When I first heard about them and saw videos of their live performances on YouTube, I assumed they were a couple (they’re not) because the atmosphere between them when they performed was so powerful.

The unique blend of different influences – country, alt/indie, Americana – combined with wonderful song lyrics and talented harmonies is a compelling mix. Unfortunately for me and many other fans of their work, they split up in 2012, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition”. I hope they will one day, perhaps, find a way to reconcile the issues which caused the break-up. I would love to see them release a third album.

Here they are performing the Grammy award-winning song, From This Valley, live in New Orleans. I love listening to this positive, upbeat song!

Do you like The Civil Wars? Can you recommend me some similar bands/singers which I would also enjoy?

Saturday Shelfie

Inspired by participating in the Daily Post’s Zero to Hero blogging challenge, Saturday Shelfie is a new fortnightly feature and blogging event hosted by my blog. I invite other bloggers to get involved and take part.

The criteria are simple: take a photo (a shelfie!) of the book you are currently reading, write a short, spoiler-free synopsis of the book and your thoughts on it so far, and post it on your blog with the title “Saturday Shelfie” and the event badge (right-click on the image and “save as…”, then upload it into your post).

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Make sure you link back to this post when you publish your Saturday Shelfie post; it means a link to your Saturday Shelfie will appear below this post. And that means we can all find each other’s posts. Not only does it help to introduce book-loving bloggers to exciting new reads, it is also a great way for all of us to find new blogs and that helps publicize our blogs too. Score! You can also use the hashtag #saturdayshelfie on Twitter when promoting your Saturday Shelfie post.

The book I am currently reading is Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I have nearly finished it – only a couple more chapters until the end – and it’s a very compelling read.

Growing up in St. Louis, identical twins Kate and Violet shared everything like two peas in a pod, including the ‘gift’ of having senses: being able to see some parts of the future. But a couple of decades later, their lives have gone in different directions. Kate is a suburban stay-at-home mother while Violet, who makes her living as a psychic medium, is eccentric and unconventional. When Violet predicts that a massive earthquake will hit St. Louis on October 16, both of their lives are jolted off course.

This is Sittenfeld’s fourth novel and, like all of her writing, it engages the reader and is very readable. In my opinion, it is her best novel so far. Sittenfeld has a knack for writing about the many aspects of family life and Sisterland is a book which will make you stay up late to read more!

Poll results – How do children learn language?

A month ago, as part of a discussion about linguistics and language acquisition, I asked my readers what they think about how children learn language. You can read that post and view the poll by clicking on the link here: We Need to Talk About Language.

Language Acquisition wordle. Created by Grace @ Cultural Life using wordle.net

Language Acquisition jargon. Created by Grace @ Cultural Life using wordle.net

In the poll I asked the following question: “How do children learn language?” It seems simple, doesn’t it? But there are no simple, straightforward answers. In order to give you some background information before I discuss the answers of the poll, I’ll outline three main approaches to language acquisition, with reference to another linguistics post I wrote: The Language Instinct. I wrote about the behaviorist and nativist theories at greater length in that post if you would like to read a more detailed explanation.

1. Behaviorist theory = based on Skinner’s experiments in the 1950s where rats learned to press a lever when they received positive reinforcement. Skinner said that native language acquisition is based on a system of imitation and reward.

2. Nativist theory = the ground-breaking linguist, Noam Chomsky, proposed that we are born with an innate ‘Language Acquisition Device’. A key part of the LAD is Universal Grammar: the concept that “children arrive in the world with grammatical principles wired into their brains” (quoted from my previous post which contains a more detailed summary of Universal Grammar).

3. Constructivist theory = as its name suggests, constructivist theory hypothesizes that children learn the grammar and syntax of their native language by acquiring a set of constructions, e.g. nouns, pronouns, verbs etc, based on the input around them (note that it is not the same as imitation). These components of language can then be formed into sentences. The constructivist theory does not agree with the concept of an innate language device.

It was very interesting to see the outcome of the poll.

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41% of you chose the option that children begin by imitating the language they hear around them. While it is true that imitation plays some part in language acquisition, the exact nature of it is disputed. As I wrote in a previous post, “this argument for how children acquire language has many flaws. Firstly, if children learn how to produce their language solely as a result of [imitating others], their lexicon would be extremely limited”. The book, Language Acquisition, by Jill and Peter De Villiers explains that “The child…needs to extract the rules of the language in order to produce sentences appropriate to his changing situation” (De Villiers & De Villiers, 1972:199). Therefore, language acquisition is much more than simple imitation.

The second most popular option, with 35% of the vote, was the constructivist approach. The least popular option, at 25%, was the theory that we are born with innate linguistic principles. There is a lot of discussion and debate about these two theories. There aren’t any conclusive answers because each theory has advantages and disadvantages and it is very hard to disprove either theory for definite. I wonder if we will ever find definitive evidence on how we acquire what is arguably the most important component of our daily lives.

Thank you to everyone who voted in the poll. I hope you have enjoyed the linguistics posts I published here during the past couple of months. Let me know if you would be interested in more linguistics posts (but not about language acquisition – I think I’ve said enough on that topic for now) here on the blog.

Bibliography

De Villiers, J.G. and De Villiers, P.A. (1972). Language Acquisition. Harvard College: United States of America.