Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘language

Is Improvisation in Jazz a conversation? And how the brains work?

Does the brain works in the same way for all kinds of languages?

For the better part of the past decade, Mark Kirby has been pouring drinks and booking gigs at the 55 Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

The cozy dive bar is a neighborhood staple for live jazz that opened on the eve of Prohibition in 1919.

It was the year Congress agreed to give American women the right to vote, and jazz was still in its infancy.

Nearly a century later, the den-like bar is an anchor to the past in a city that’s always changing.

ADRIENNE LAFRANCE published in The Atlantic this Feb. 19 2014:

How Brains See Music as Language

A new Johns Hopkins study looks at the neuroscience of jazz and the power of improvisation.

For Kirby, every night of work offers the chance to hear some of the liveliest jazz improvisation in Manhattan, an experience that’s a bit like overhearing a great conversation.

“There is overlapping, letting the other person say their piece, then you respond. Threads are picked up then dropped. There can be an overall mood and going off on tangents.”

Brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions: this music is syntactic, not semantic.A member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

The idea that jazz can be a kind of conversation has long been an area of interest for Charles Limb, an otolaryngological surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Limb, a musician himself, decided to map what was happening in the brains of musicians as they played.

He and a team of researchers conducted a study that involved putting a musician in a functional MRI machine with a keyboard, and having him play a memorized piece of music and then a made-up piece of music as part of an improvisation with another musician in a control room.

What researchers found:

1. The brains of jazz musicians who are engaged with other musicians in spontaneous improvisation show robust activation in the same brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax.

Improvisational jazz conversations “take root in the brain as a language,” Limb said.

“It makes perfect sense,” said Ken Schaphorst, chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston. “I improvise with words all the time—like I am right now—and jazz improvisation is really identical in terms of the way it feels. Though it’s difficult to get to the point where you’re comfortable enough with music as a language where you can speak freely.”

2. Along with the limitations of musical ability, there’s another key difference between jazz conversation and spoken conversation that emerged in Limb’s experiment.

During a spoken conversation, the brain is busy processing the structure and syntax of language, as well the semantics or meaning of the words.

But Limb and his colleagues found that brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions: this kind of music is syntactic but it’s not semantic.

Music communication, we know it means something to the listener, but that meaning can’t really be described,” Limb said. “It doesn’t have propositional elements or specificity of meaning in the same way a word does. So a famous bit of music—Beethoven’s dun dun dun duuuun—we might hear that and think it means something but nobody could agree what it means.”

So if music is a language without set meaning, what does that tell us about the nature of music?

3. “The answer to that probably lies more in figuring out what the nature of language is than what the nature of music is,” said Mike Pope, a Baltimore-based pianist and bassist who participated in the study.

When you’re talking about something, you’re not thinking about how your mouth is moving and you’re not thinking about how the words are spelled and you’re not thinking about grammar.

With music, it’s the same thing.” Many scientists believe that language is what makes us human, but the brain is wired to process acoustic systems that are far more complicated than speech.

Pope says even improvisational jazz is built around a framework that musicians understand. This structure is similar to the way we use certain rules in spoken conversation to help us intuit when it’s time to say “nice to meet you,” or how to read social clues that signal an encounter is drawing to a close.

4. “In most jazz performances, things are Not nearly as random as people would think,” Pope said. “If I want to be a good bass player and I want to fill the role, idiomatically and functionally, that a bass player’s supposed to fulfill, I have to act within the confines of certain acceptable parameters. I have to make sure I’m playing roots on the downbeat every time the chord changes. It’s all got to swing.”

5. But Limb believes his finding suggests something even bigger, something that gets at the heart of an ongoing debate in his field about what the human auditory system is for in the first place.

“If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech. So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.”

Back in New York City, where the jazz conversation continues at 55 Bar almost every night, bartender Kirby makes it sound simple:

“In jazz, there is no lying and very little misunderstanding.”

Origin of languages? Has Mankind stopped migrating?

Apparently, the main factor that discriminates mankind (the latest Homo Sapiens) from the other mammalian species, particularly the chimps-kind, is the capacity to communicate in grammatical structure, starting with the verbal structure 50,000 years ago.

There exist in nature sophisticated communication systems among the animal species, and they are highly efficient, and making sense associated with signals…Among them all species, mankind was the only one making complete sentences.  This evidence is an either we can communicate in grammatical structure or we cannot. “If you are unable to learn grammar, you stay a chimp…”

Grammatical structures do not means learning how the linguist want you to express yourself according to specific rules in a particular language, but the capacity of expressing yourself using words that the community use, in full sentences, and making sense to the community. There is structure in every dialect within the larger family group language.

Language requires a specialized part of the brain.  It is turning out that this specialized part shares the capacity to adapt to extreme environmental conditions.

Most animals survive within particular environments, give or take mild changes in the climate and the vegetation…but mankind survived and settled in extreme regions and thrived…

The American scientist Luca Cavalli Sforza discovered high correlations between languages and the genes of the speakers. Developing a new dialect might take no more than two centuries, but genes diversity need a couple of thousand of years.  Two genetically close populations have the same family group language, where the vocabulary are similar…

Although we are descendant of chimps, a couple million years ago, the chimp can learn (recognize) more than 900 words, but was unable to construct a sentence from the words they acquired…

It is currently admitted that mankind (the latest Homo Sapiens) had a single original language (about 50,000 years ago) and that the current 12 large family languages resulted from periodic mass migration to other regions. Every large wave of migration within or toward another of the 5 continents generated a new group of a basic language and were diversified by local dialect. This presuppose that the people settled the region for many thousands of years.

For example, linguists categorized 4 family group languages in Africa:

1. The Khoisan in the south of Africa

2. The Niger-Kordofan region in the west and central Africa

3. The Nilo-Saharan region that includes Arabic, ancient Egyptian, Berber, Hebrew…

4. The East of Africa group language starting from the Niger Delta (in current Nigeria) and expanding eastward

And how the linguists agreed on these classifications?

1. They use key words such as water, sky, I, you…and what are considered “fossil words”

2. A new-born baby has the potential to learn any language: He will acquire the language of his adoptive community, regardless of the sounds and the complex structure… (Chomsky)

3. There exist common grammatical structures in all languages and the brain of mankind is able to capture any structure at birth, and invent new structures…

And guess what:

1. Homo Sapiens, 100,000 years ago, was barely 30,000. And they were saved from extinction several times. The necessity to split into smaller groups saved them from sweeping epidemics and natural calamities…

 

2. Homo Sapiens migrated to China 65,000 ago, and reached Indonesia and Australia…He migrated to Europe 50,000 years ago, and to North Americas 20,000 years ago. Mind you that during the glacial periods, seas and oceans had receded and mankind and animals could travel walking among many continents …

 

3. The original Homo Sapiens settled the Near East (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt) and from this region migrated and “colonized” the world and later, exported the urban civilization as they planted and harvested the lands 10,000 years ago (the Neolithic age)…

Go figure: from 30,000 to 7 billion of mankind within less than 12,000 years

 

 

Words Not Existing In English? Missing 25 Handy Words

A language is but words expressing exactly the wide gamut of feeling and emotions in a culture. Dictionaries must be updated to define the classical words (in classical books) and the corresponding understanding in the current popular culture.

ALEX WAIN posted on April 29, 2012 “25 Handy Words That Don’t Exist In English”:

25 Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English

“Approximately 375 million people speak English as their first language, in fact it’s the 3rd most commonly spoken language in the world (after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish).  English is #1 second language used worldwide – which is why the total number of people who speak English, outnumber those of any other.

We look at 25 words that simply don’t exist in the English langauge (and yet after reading this list, you’ll wish they did!)

1 Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut

2 Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude

3 Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist

4 Bakku-shan (Japanese): A beautiful girl… as long as she’s being viewed from behind

5 Desenrasçanço (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation (To MacGyver it)

6 Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.

7 Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love

8 Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute

9 Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favor to be repaid

10 Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time

11 L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it

12 Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery

13 Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan): A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire

14 Manja (Malay): “to pamper”, it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behavior by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men. “His girlfriend is a damn manja. Hearing her speak can cause diabetes.”

15 Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing

16 Nunchi (Korean): the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood. In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or do, or what not to say or do, in a given situation. A socially clumsy person can be described as ‘nunchi eoptta’, meaning “absent of nunchi”

17 Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation

18 Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions

19 Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain

20 Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky

21 Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement. (Actually, I speak Arabic and have n idea what Taarradhin means)

22 Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively

23 Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbor’s house until there is nothing left

24 Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods

25 Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language

(I think that there is always a particular words expressing specific emotions in every language…more investigation must be done in the English language…)

I hate to talk, read, and write. Oh, and I hate math: Different teaching resolutions… 

 

I got this revelation. 

Schools use different methods for comprehending languages and natural sciences.  Kids are taught the alphabet, words, syntax, grammars, spelling and then much later, they are asked to compose essays.  Why this process is not applied in learning natural sciences?

I have strong disagreement on the pedagogy of learning languages. 

First, we know that children learn to talk years before they can read. Why kids are not encourage to tell verbal stories before they can read?  Why kids’ stories are not recorded and then translated into the written words to encourage the kids into realizing that what they read is indeed another story telling medium?

Second, we know that kids have excellent capabilities to memorize verbally and visually whole short sentences before they understand the fundamentals. Why don’t we develop their cognitive abilities before we force upon them the traditional malignant methodology?  The proven outcomes are that kids are devoid of verbal intelligence, hate to read, and would not attempt to write even after they graduate from universities.

Arithmetic and math are used as the foundations for learning natural sciences. We learn to manipulate equations; then solving examples and problems by finding the proper equation that correspond to the natural problem (actually, we are trained to memorize the appropriate equations that apply to the problem given!).  Why we are not trained to compose a story that corresponds to an equation, or set of equations (model)?

If kids are asked to compose essays as the final outcome of learning languages, then why students are not trained to compose the natural phenomena from given set of equations?

Would not that be the proper meaning for comprehending the physical world or even the world connected with human behavior? 

Would not the skill of modeling a system be more meaningful and straightforward after we learn to compose a world from a model or set of equations?  Consequently, scientists and engineers, by researching natural phenomena and man-made systems that correspond to the mathematical models, would be challenged to learn about natural phenomena. Thus, their modeling abilities would be enhanced, more valid, and more instructive!

If mathematicians are trained to compose or view the appropriate natural phenomenon and human behavior from equations and mathematical models then the scientific communities in natural and human sciences would be far richer in quality and quantity.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2021
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,466,255 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 803 other followers

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: