Saturday, July 22, 2006

Over at The Beiderbecke Affair...

(Image from Bix Beiderbecke Resources: A Bixography)

... where the jazz is always frying in the fat, Brendan Wolfe -- who spent a year or two in South Korea -- has posted a blog entry presenting observations on the Korean language by Westerners living in Korea and trying to master its subtle intricacies.

For those of you who don't know because you've never had to know, Korean is an Ural-Altaic language that functions in an agglutinative manner, gluing syllable onto syllable after syllable, but not in any order that speakers of Indo-European languages would find intuitively reasonable. Think of Mark Twain's remarks on "The Awful German Language," raise their value to an unbounded exponential factor, and you'll have an extrapolated inkling of the difficulty that Korean poses for us Western expats (excluding Hungarians and Finns, who are half-Korean anyway). Take, for example, this literal translation of a sentence randomly selected from a Korean text:

"I-subject just what-object meaning-doing-knowledge-object say-doing-topic thing-topic impossibility-to-do!"

I think that's J. Alfred Prufrock saying, "It is impossible to say just what I mean!" Which is ever my experience, too. Similarly, back over at Beiderbecke's, one commenter, David Boshko, writes of his experience with Korean:

Korean is essentially being caught in a syllable-diagramming exercise gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I heartily concurred, and responded:
I agree with David Boshko: "(Trying to speak) Korean is essentially being caught in a syllable-diagramming exercise gone horribly, horribly wrong."

Every time that my wife sits down to teach me Korean, I find myself mentally diagramming syllables, sketching out cerebral lines, attempting to find points of linear intersection in a non-Euclidean langue-scape, a prison-house of language from which there is no parole.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.... But you're wondering what any of this has to do with the jazz genius Bix Beiderbecke. Well, I'll tell you:


Except that Brendan Wolfe's blog bears this jazzy name and has a logo that does not lend itself to copying and posting, so I pasted from another website about Beiderbecke, one with a more promiscuous logo...

Still ... here's to Brendan Wolfe and his ambixious blog.


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