Decent read on American Jewish accent(s)

Some good info in this piece: Why Linguists are Fascinated by the American Jewish Accent.

The title is overblown, but that is common in journalism these days.

All accents are interesting once you pay attention. I am fairly good at telling the region of the US someone grew up in by their accent. When wrong, I often find that one or both of their parents grew up in the region I identified.

Many regional accents are suppressed at home, often by parents who are better educated or who have moved from elsewhere. And this leads to further degrading the regional norm. You can find a lot of this in New England, which has several very beautiful regional accents. Rural Mainers speak in ways that sometimes remind me of a Texas drawl.

One paragraph in the linked article got me:

Another element that isn’t dying is the particular conversational style of Jews. When linguist Deborah Tannen taped dinner conversations between Jews and non-Jews (her work was published in 1981), she found that arguing and interrupting (or “cooperative overlapping”) occurred at higher rates among Jews. Pauses were also different: Jews tended to use both shorter pauses and fewer pauses between clauses and sentences. Like intonation, this isn’t really “accent,” in a strict linguistic sense, but as a broad answer to “how do Jews speak differently from non-Jews,” it’s a significant element.

I grew up in a community with many Jews and learned a lot of speech habits from them. “Cooperative overlapping” was one of them. To this day it is very hard for me not to do this. When you have this style ingrained in you it feels very warm and friendly, though many other American English speakers find it disrespectful, even rude.

When I speak with people who don’t do “cooperative overlapping,” conversations can seem slow-paced, even boring.

More information can be exchanged with “cooperative overlapping” as well as more quick shifting of topic and nuance. Also, more options for situational humor.

If there is one thing other regions could beneficially learn from Jewish speech habits, this is the one I would choose. It’s not hard to do and it adds several dimensions to speaking and listening.

Campus PC: It’s the Dumb Students


Good essay worth reading.

FIML partners, note that the core problem is failure to understand the speaker’s real intent. This can be due to not being smart, but is also commonly due to habit. Our subcultures teach us to listen in the ways we do. Not to detract from the essay, but my guess is that the author will himself be a “dumb” interpersonal listener by FIML standards. ABN

American Pravda: The Legacy of Sydney Schanberg

I doubt if one Americans in twenty is aware that over forty years ago, his government deliberately abandoned hundreds of POWs in Vietnam, and then spent four decades desperately covering up that enormous crime, with the media being a willing co-conspirator. But even if our citizens remain ignorant of that particular dark deed, over the years they have strongly come to suspect their elites are guilty of a vast number of equally heinous offenses, some of which are plausible and others ridiculous; and who can reasonably blame them? If our entire media would willfully ignore “the story of the century” as massively documented by one of its most distinguished members, who can say what other matters might remain hidden from public view?

For years I’ve been telling my friends that unless and until our major media publications are finally willing to report Sydney Schanberg’s stunning POW expose, I simply won’t trust a word they write about anything else. And perhaps that is the most important legacy of one of America’s greatest journalists. (emphasis added)

link to original

Well-worth reading. ABN

The illusion of culture

Cultures have illusory “grammars” that outline what can and cannot be said.

Culture wars, essentially, are battles over what can and cannot be said, done, signaled, thought, believed, valued, etc.

A few days ago in You can’t say what they don’t already know, I said:

Cultures demand constant authorization and reauthorization from their members. To stray from established norms is to weaken group authorizations.

That’s how it works for all cultures with more than a few members. Cultural bonding and affirmation involves nothing more than authorizing and reauthorizing the basics of the culture.

It even works that way in groups as small as two people. This because two people speaking together typically do so in a larger cultural context that is defined and accepted by both of them.

Just as most people do not make up their own words or jokes, most people do not make up the bases of their culture(s).

Even committed couples speaking in private typically do not leave their shared cultural script(s). This happens because they do not know any other way to speak to each other.

A profound and rich world of subjective insight and perception eludes them because they are afraid they might stray too far from the established script.

Culture becomes deeply illusory at this point. Its tenets are held not due to thought and insight but only to stabilize or maintain a rote communication pattern.

You can change this by using a functional communication pattern instead of rote cultural grammar that has been imported into your mind from outside.

As an experiment, try not feeling anything about the basics of your culture. Do FIML from this point of view and see what happens.

You can’t say what they don’t already know

The main problem with culture is, in virtually all cases, “you can’t say what they don’t already know.”

Some very small cultures of just a few people are exceptions to this rule, but no large culture with anonymous and/or not-well-known members is.

Cultures demand constant authorization and reauthorization from their members. To stray from established norms is to weaken group authorizations.

In the world today, you cannot escape the above truth about culture. You will find it prevails no matter where you go.

In your private life you can escape the above truth by doing FIML practice. The whole point of FIML is to speak about things you don’t already know.

Intellectual intimacy

My partner said today that she thought many people ignore or avoid intellectual intimacy.

“They’re either afraid of it or don’t understand it’s possible,” she said.

I agree.

We know we exist, have minds, perceptions, emotions, thoughts. And we also have language. Shouldn’t many topics of conversation involve our intellects probing and sharing these rich areas of subjectivity, idiosyncrasy?

Hierarchies evolve to reduce connections (and confusion)

Large social systems, especially those with many members who do not know each other, evolve into hierarchies because the number of connections is reduced.

When the number of connections that hold a group together is reduced, it is less costly to maintain the group and thus such groups are more likely to survive.

Military organizations, companies, religious organizations and schools are usually organized into hierarchical structures. Creative, independent modules can relieve some of the formalism of hierarchy but these modules will still fit into the hierarchical structure somewhere.

Hierarchies are (always?) organized around a purpose—money for corporations, winning for militaries, belief and organizational systems for religions, food for animals and so on.

You can even see the hierarchical principle in plant structures.

A research project on this topic as it applies to artificial intelligence demonstrates that biological networks evolve into hierarchies:

…because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. (Research showing why hierarchy exists will aid the development of artificial intelligence)

If we accept this principle behind the development of hierarchies, I would submit that we can also apply it to how language has developed as a hierarchy in and of itself and also as a support system for the social hierarchy within which it is used.

Language and culture are held together by a system of hierarchical categories.

These categories are what we think of as beliefs, values, codes, stories, political systems, who’s who in the group, and so on.

Hierarchical systems based on general categories of that type typically also exist between individuals within any society. Indeed, we can find the same sort of hierarchical system within the individual themself.

This is an efficient and very reasonable way to maintain a society and a language.

Problems arise in this system, however, when the individual does not know any other way of organizing themself or of communicating with others.

An individual who exists and communicates only within a hierarchical structure will be alienated from the great mass of idiosyncratic perceptions, responses, thoughts, and emotions that exist within them and others. I think that this causes a great deal of psychological suffering and is a major part of what the Buddha meant by delusion.

FIML is designed to fix this problem between individuals.

An example of explosive arm’s length (non)communication

The following video provides a good example of arm’s length communication happening in a public forum.

This is a type of formal communication in that it follows some basic forms and deviation from them is rarely allowed. Private communication, in contrast, is intimate communication between close friends where deeper levels of subjectivity are allowed, even desired.

No need to watch too much of this vid because it quickly becomes a ridiculous shouting match:

Do I even need to point out that no one even bothers to define racism? It’s a strong semiotic that once hurled tends to prevent further thought.

My point today is not Trump and the judge, but rather how Trump and the judge is a good example of something that can also happen in private settings.

When nebulous words, ideas, values, or beliefs become strong symbols in private conversations like the word racist in the video, confusion, bad feelings, alienation, or apathy will be the result.

In arm’s length communication, the instinctual human lurks behind signs and symbols much like a wild animal in the forest.

In formal settings, this is typically not a huge problem because everything is predefined. In the video, the exchange is largely a performance designed to excite the viewer.

In private settings between close friends, however, arm’s length communication is a recipe for disaster.

This is so, because even if there are no bad motives, there will be bad interpretations. And these bad interpretations will snowball and eventually lead to problems.

Since almost all of us have been raised in environments that only allow arm’s length communication and see it as the norm, almost all of us carry very heavy psychological baggage.

Few of us know how to overcome the very serious limitations of the communication norms we have learned.

The people in the video are being ridiculous, but almost all of us are just as ridiculous in our own kitchens.

If you want to do better, practice FIML.

A good essay on framing, reading, and thinking

The essay A Framework for Reclaiming Reality is a great example of good reading on the Internet today.

The author, Jonathan Revusky, skewers a good deal of what passes for thought and analysis in modern society. Whether you agree with every point he makes, his case is a strong one and surely mostly correct.

A lot of the fun of articles like Revusky’s comes in the comments section. For essays like this, I usually read most of the first comments plus all of the author’s replies, but skip a good deal of the back-and-forth between commenters.

Revusky is concerned with macro-societal-and-history-level BS and he nails a lot of it. A good deal of what he describes is the same as what I often describe as “public semiotics,” political positions (and others) which function more as social signals than real thought and that often are dead wrong.

If you can see Revusky’s point on the macro scale, you should be able to also see that we all do a lot of that sort of thing on the micro and meso scales of interpersonal communication and belief.

I have categorized this post under “Buddhism” because I believe a good deal of what the Buddha meant by delusion is falling for BS public (and private) semiotics.

The psychological value of micro-feedback

Normally, we get very little detailed psychological micro-feedback.

This is especially true of psychological micro-feedback in real-time real-life situations. Psychologically, such situations are the most important for mental and emotional growth.

Real-life psychological micro-feedback (PMF) happens whenever someone reacts to one of our acts of communication.

Most PMF reactions are not detailed because an explanation rarely accompanies them and even if there is an explanation it is almost certainly not going to include the real details of the actual communication act itself.

Rather than provide detailed PMF, almost all humans almost all the time provide only opaque responses based on their own guesswork, or presuppositions.

If there is any detail in the feedback it is almost always of a general nature that completely excludes the actual act of communication itself.

This happens because humans almost always process and use language at the phrasal level and normally never provide PMF in real-time during real-life situations.

Real-time real-life is where human psychology really lives.

By always avoiding real-time real-life PMF and follow-up analysis, humans are forced to rely on general categories and ideas to understand themselves and others. It is not possible to do this and gain a deep understanding of human psychology.

When we ignore detail in any other area of human endeavor—musical and scientific instrumentation, microscopy, art, science, engineering, etc.—we get poor results that are almost always surpassed by results that are based on greater detail.

FIML practice corrects the problem of poor detail in the study of human psychology by emphasizing the use of real-time real-life PMF.

By doing this, FIML greatly improves communication while also upgrading the general psychology of participating partners.

One of the hardest aspects of doing FIML practice is overcoming the ubiquitous human habit of fundamentally never wanting real-time real-life PMF that is open to conscious analysis and correction.

This habit can be overcome by partners’ making an explicit prior agreement to do it.

FIML is like tuning a guitar, calibrating a scale, using a good compass, caring for a fine instrument.

We expect and demand very fine detail in almost all areas of our lives, save what we say and how we hear what others say.

I do not believe anyone can achieve a deep understanding of human psychology without having a way to perceive and analyze PMF in real-time real-life. To date, I know of no other way to do this but FIML.