Notes from a Linguistic Mystic

This site exists both as a place for me to post the things that intrigue me and make me think, but also as a place for you to find and learn about things that might intrigue you. I’ll do my best to write in such a way that you don’t need a background in Linguistics to understand my posts, and always feel free to comment if you don’t understand something. I’ll post a clarification as soon as I can.

Although I’m a Linguist by trade and by passion, some what I’m discussing on this site might fall outside of mainstream linguistics. I’ll always do my best to be factually accurate in areas where facts exist (and corrections are encouraged), but I’ve chosen this site and this name to emphasize that this is my own personal site, pulling in information from my life and my many passions, rather than just from a linguistics textbook. Naturally, the content of this site represents only myself, not the institution(s) I’m involved with, and if you’re curious about why the site is named “Notes from a Linguistic Mystic”, here’s the full story.

About the Author

More information than you likely wanted to know can be found at my personal homepage.

If you’d like to get in touch with me to discuss my posts and ideas, voice a concern, make a correction, or just get to know me, feel free to email me at parangaricutirimicuaro (at) linguisticmystic dot com (It’s the name of a volcano in Mexico, used here so that spambots will have a whole lot of fun trying to guess my address at random). You can also contact me via Twitter where I go by @wanderfowl.

This email will forward to my real address, which I use for correspondence (and which I’ll reply with). It’s nothing personal, I just don’t want to post the real address here, so I don’t get any more spam than I already do. Also, I’m absurdly busy of late, so pardon any slow response times.

Advertising Policy

I’ve get lots of emails asking about advertising on this site. So, here’s the policy:

Notes from a Linguistic Mystic will not run any paid advertisements at all on this site, nor will I allow paid “guest content”, nor display your brand-laden infographic.

I’m maintaining this site for fun and as a service to the internet, not for profit, and the cost of doing so is still very low. Ads annoy me, and I’ve decided that advertising is not something I’d like to include here. So, I won’t sell your product, link to your page, or feature your SEO-laden blog post or infographic. Sorry.

Mind you, I still reserve the right to review and link to products and services that I find useful, but when I do, I’m just passing on a recommendation to my readers. You can rest assured that any time such a link appears, it’s just a personal endorsement, and that there’s no sponsorship or other sketchy exchanges happening in the background.

Pronoun Policy

Perhaps you’ve noticed that in some of my posts, I’ll use constructions like “nobody knows their own strengths” or “when a reader is saddened by a story, they won’t come back”. I’d like to comment a little bit on why I’ve chosen to use these constructions, and why I think it’s justified to do so.

Historically, sentences like these have been considered ungrammatical. When one has a singular subject, such as “a reader”, one generally uses a third person singular pronoun, usually “he” or “she”. To use a plural pronoun in these contexts has been historically considered to be incorrect and in bad form.

However, this leaves an awkward gap in the language. If one’s forced to specify “he” or “she”, it doesn’t leave any options for when the gender of the person is unknown or unspecified. There are a few ways to deal with this, ranging from the rather awkward “he/she” construction to the variety of gender neutral pronouns suggested for English (like the Spivak pronouns).

As language tends to do, though, it seems to be adjusting nicely to the lack on its own, and is filling the void naturally. The third person plural pronouns (they, their, them, themselves) seem to be stepping up in usage to become the preferred method of indicating a person without marking gender specifically. Thus, sentences like “a person is always happy when their pain is relieved” are becoming more and more commonplace. I’ve discussed this a few times, here and here, and it seems like this trend is only increasing.

It would seem that “they” is stepping up as the default third person gender neutral pronoun, and here at Linguistic Mystic, I support that particular facet of language change completely, and have chosen to adopt it early to encourage this change to proceed.

Although it might not yet be completely accepted by the grammarians, I encourage you to begin using the gender neutral third person plural as well, as they can only rap so many people over the knuckles with a ruler before they have to acquiesce, and an army of gender-neutral pronouns sweeps over English departments across the world with the fury of a people forced into fifty years of awkward phrasings.

Well, a man can dream.

Technical Details

This site is built using Jekyll, which generates all the pages you see here as static pages on my machine and then uploads them using rsync. The advantage to this is that I get to write all my posts using Markdown, which is much more pleasant than writing raw HTML, and that it doesn’t require PHP, SQL, or anything beyond a server capable of fetching and serving static pages. As such, hosting gets really cheap, really quickly, and I don’t need to worry about security updates and whatnot for my blogging software. It also gives me the opportunity to mess around with the styling using CSS, which, I’ll admit, has become a bit of a hobby.

Comment serving and processing is done using Disqus, which allows the fancy interaction to occur on their machines, and also makes comment spam their problem rather than mine. The one disadvantage is that they require you to input an email. Mailinator is the best solution I’ve yet found to getting around this while still posting anonymously.

Finally, this site is a Textdrive refugee (following the Joyent Lifetime Debacle and the Textugees’ subsequent abandonment). It’s currently hosted with asmallorange.