Grammar and culture


If you’re not a word nerd like I am, perhaps you won’t appreciate Phuc Tran’s examination of some of the differences between English grammar and Vietnamese grammar. But I found it fascinating.

Tran could not get into the finer points of grammar and culture in this 14-minute talk, so he makes some generalizations. But his main point is worth considering: language affects reality.

If you’ve got 14 minutes, let Tran explain:

If you don’t have 14 minutes, here’s my clumsy summary of Tran’s point:

The “subjunctive verbal mood” (quite prominent in English grammar) is about possibility—what could happen or should happen or might happen. The “indicative verbal mood” (sort of the default mode of Vietnamese grammar) is about fact—what did or didn’t happen. Neither is inherently good or bad, but each is a tool that needs to be used for the right purpose. Facts can be limiting. And possibilities can be overwhelming. Growing up in an English-speaking culture, Tran acquired the subjunctive language tools to imagine a different future for himself—and this was empowering, until it became overwhelming. Then he needed the clarity of his Vietnamese father’s indicative language to move forward.

I guess I had never realized that different languages have different grammar. I mean, I understood some of the differences, like when you say, “There’s no word for that in French” or when you have to wait for the end of the sentence in German to find out what the verb is. But I didn’t understand that the underlying modes of thought and structure were different too.



Net Neutrality
(democracy and the internet in action together)

Net NeutralityLast year, I posted a couple of blogs about Net Neutrality. Now, I understand that a name like “Net Neutrality” does not sound terribly exciting, but it is, in fact, a subject very important to the life we take for granted in America every day.

Many of you responded to my first Net Neutrality post by digitally signing a petition or making your opinion known in some other way. I appreciate that!

Net Neutrality
Click image to view larger

Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who took action. People all over the country made their digital voices heard.

And our President has responded. (See the letter at right.)

Not only has the FCC voted in favor of a strong Net Neutrality rule, but the President himself has issued a statement about his plan for “keeping the internet open and free.”

The White House has also provided a clear explanation of what Net Neutrality is, how it was defended by the American people, and the path of policies and petitions that led us to where we are today:

  • Net Neutrality, by

I think the whole issue is a fascinating example of regular people—the democracy—using today’s tools—the internet—to be involved in government, commerce, and personal expression.

Well done!

Related posts:

Continued web host frustrations

I continue to have trouble with the new web host I chose a few weeks ago, and that has affected my ability to work on blog posts when I need to. Also, the time I’m spending in conversation with tech support is time that I am not writing, which also affects my output. So I apologize for the current state of unreliability in my posting schedule, as well as the lack of depth and life-changing insight you are used to receiving from LifeLines.

Instead, this morning, I offer you this interesting video that is only tangentially related to the business of writing:

If any of you can recommend a good WordPress web host whose hosting plan options might fit within the LifeLines budget, please email me!

Giving thanks—for family

Giving thanks for family

My family has gone through some changes in the past year or two, and so we are learning to be flexible with our traditions. Traditions, after all, are just routines that we use to convey a deeper truth. Just because the traditions change, doesn’t mean the deeper truth goes away.

Anyway, in spite of how profound that sounds, I am still feeling a bit nostalgic this Thanksgiving. So I put together a one-minute video of old family photos that capture the joy we have when we’re together. We may not be gathered around the same Thanksgiving table this year, but the love is still there.

And for that, I am thankful.

Thanksgiving blessings to you and your family too!