söndag 11 mars 2012

Copying is how we learn

Everything is a remix (episode 3) has taught be that we learn through copying. Many great artists spend their formative years producing derivative work, remakes of others. The great author Hunter S Thompson retyped the Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) and Farewell to Arms (Hemingway) just to get the feel what it's like to write a great novel. Bob Dylan's first album contained 11 cover songs. We can't be creative until we are fluent in the language of our domain.

I am not aspiring to become an artist but I believe the same is true for scientists.

In the spirit of that I did a remake of the first modern semantic map ever by Anderson 1982 (click to see full size). One can consider Hjelmslev's model from 1963 (example on page 25 here) as an early semantic map but the one that really shaped the way we use semantic maps today is the one by Anderson. Anderson's concept of how to map grammatical items onto a graphical space has been reshaped since then, with further definitions and suggestions (Haspelmath 2003 for example). Ideas develops through copying and transformation, this is what creativity is. It is not an isolated event inside one genius' head.

The original map was made by Lloyd Anderson in 1982 and concerned the semantic fields of constructions related to the perfect aspect in Mandarin and English. It incorporates notes about diachrony that are not uncontroversial (that there are two le, one that springs from liao 'finish'  and on from lai 'come'). I added a note about the diachrony of the English Perfect.

In case anyone wondered
This image is produced by me for the purpose of a presentation in a course. It is not for publication anywhere and is not a formal piece of research. This semantic map is based on maps by Anderson (1982:229, 236) and they are copyrighted by Anderson 1980. This image goes under 'fair use' as it is a non-profit comment on the original work produced with no intention of commercial use.

Imitating artists I like
I am not aspiring to become a artist, but I do enjoy drawing. I've applied the same concept there - trying to recreate artists that I admire. Below is an attempt at recreating the styles of Nancy Peña, Lina Neidestam, Kolbeinn Karlsson and Fabian Göranson. Not that impressive - it's just sketches -  but still proves the point of learning through copying.

Anderson, L. (1982). The ’Perfect’ as a Universal and as a Language-Particular Category. In Hopper, P. J., editor, Tense-Aspect: between semantics & Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins
Dahl, Östen & Velupillai, Viveka. (2011). 'The Perfect'. In: Dryer, Matthew S. & Haspelmath, Martin (eds.) The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Munich: Max Planck Digital Library, feature 68A. Available online at http://wals.info/feature/68A Accessed on 2012-03-11.
Göranson, Fabian (2008). Kirurgi. Stockholm: Galago
Haspelmath, M. (2003). The Geometry of Grammatical Meaning: Semantic Maps and Cross-Linguistic Comparison. In Tomasello, M., editor, The New Ppsychology of Lan- guage: Cognitive and Functional Approaches to Language Structure. Vol 2. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Karlsson, Kolbeinn (2009). Trollkungen. Stockholm: Galago
Neidestam, Lina (2009) Zelda. Stockholm: Kartago
Peña, Nancy (2010) Katten och kimonon (översättning av Oskar Sjölander). Stockholm: Kolik

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