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February 02, 2012 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-02

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4B - Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cam* I

4B - Thursday, February 2, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom'

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NG LANGUAGES Ojibwe classes at the University
will contain students in their 20s
Page 1B who were taught the language
in elementary school. These stu-
dents learn about language loss
t well," Konstantopoulos and sociolinguistics as well as the
nuts and bolts of Ojibwe, Noori
le educated guessing is said.
& the fun," it's nonetheless For Noori, a large part of
t to approach a civiliza- teaching Ojibwe is the sense of
at, in many respects, has locality. "It's fun to teach a lan-
en preserved very well. guage that has a particular con-
ly access scholars have is nection to the place," she said.
guage. Through social technologies
eiform tablets are monu- and efforts by the program, the
o and by an otherwise for- local connection has never been
civilization. Literary texts stronger. Through the ojibwe.
ly reveal bits and pieces net website and Facebook page,
lture like the place of the students and teachers from the
ic lore that Konstantopou- University as well as schools and
dies, but also how people tribal colleges across Michigan,
t about religion and lan- can connect to reserves in Ontar-
in general. Our under- io, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
g of Sumerian society is They can share cultural events,
ed by not only the study of teaching tips and accomplish-
ge, but close interrogation ments in the language.
way that Sumerians and Instructors at the University
ans studied and concep- impart not only language struc-
d language. ture and vocabulary, but culture
and traditions. One project had
Keepingitlocal students integrating vocabulary
into songs and using drums they
study of Ojibwe at the Uni- made. Students also made birch
exemplifies the relevance bark boxes as a part of the Uni-
guage's time and place in versity's initiative to repatriate
- the word "Michigan" bones and tribal artifacts. Noori
from the Ojibwe language. refers to this as "language les-
according to Margaret sons as empowerment." Far more
a lecturer in the Native than a simple utility, the lan-
'an Studies Program, guage is a way to explore culture
ed interest is a big part and history.
many students'choose to "Students have an authentic
jibwe. platform for using language in a
'erly known as Anishi- real context," Noori said.

to Cornish, the music is a great
facilitator, which enables stu-
dents to become familiar' with
the text.
"Everybody can live with this
opera as much as they want,"
Cornish said.
Opera texts, known as libretti,
are full of difficult and archaic
language forms. Students discuss
opera as literature and anno-
tate the libretti with an eye for
character development, images
and recurring motifs, as well as
grammar, cultural background
and even musical analysis. At
performances, they even critique
the translation in subtitles.
"Students can internalize the
Italian language, but not just
mundane phrases - passion-
ate phrases about love, death,
betrayal, despair and life," Cor-
nish said.
Considering Cornish's other
work, the relationship between
different strains of Italian is
a foundational element of the
course. Her examination of ver-
nacular Italian translation of
classical literature provides an
understanding not only of the
time of the translators and the
literature they worked on, but of
the overall relationship between
language and literature.
According to Cornish, ver-
nacular languages exist within
a local context and have limited
accessibility. But the vernacu-
lars of Italy became cosmopoli-
tan languages when they were
written down in literary form.
Cornish's book, "Vernacular
Translation in Dante's Italy: Illit-
erate Literature," examines the
"ocean of translated work" that
lies between the first literary
experiments in 13th century Italy
and the "Divine Comedy," which
was written 60 years after the
original, nascent works in ver-
nacular Italian.
It is particularly appropriate
that Cornish examines translated
works, because in intertextual
examinations, we find the most
profound insights about the cre-
ation of literature. The manu-
scripts were initially supposed to
be simple copies, but scribes often
corrected and improved on each
other's works, and even annotat-
ed or clarified the originals.
This phenomenon "demon-
strates how many people are
involved in the production of
literature," Cornish said. The
"chain of people" tried to make
sense of Virgil. Cicero. Ovid and



Students study the Native American language Ojibwe, which is the language the word "Michigan" comes from.

naabemowin, it was illegal to
teach the language until the pas-
sage of the Native American Lan-
guages Act of 1990. Fortunately,
the culture survived the de facto
purge that occurred prior to the
passage of the bill. Since then,
Anishinaabe culture has flour-
ished, in no small part due to the
program at the University.
When Noori first started
learning Ojibwe, it was largely
propagated through tribal elders
who weren't able to write and
whose capacity to teach the lan-
guage was largely unsystematic.
A large part of the Ojibwe revival
was learning how to better teach
it; in this respect, Noori attained
a Ph.D. in Linguistics. Her efforts
to better understand language
comprehension in general has
paid off.
"My kids grew up with the
language," Noori said. In fact,
2012 is the first year in which

History through opera
"Italian through Opera" is one
of those high-concept classes
that jumps off the page of the
course catalogue. In any lan-
guage class, one can hardly help
but absorb some of the culture,
through osmosis if nothing else.
According to Italian Prof. Ali-
son Cornish, "Italian through
Opera" goes a step further, build-
ing on the fundamental Italian
language sequence to engage the
According to Cornish, students
in "Italian through Opera" study
one opera per semester in enough
depth that many of them end up
memorizing large tracts of the
text. Cornish chooses the operas
based on what's available, either
through a local ensemble or the
New York Metropolitan Opera's
national broadcasts. According

other literary and devotional
works, often localizing them by
using vernacular vocabulary to
describe historical events and
"They would call Cicero a
knight. Well, Cicero wasn't a
knight - he was a Roman sena-
tor, but it made more sense to the
public," Cornish said.
More than just music
Music is perhaps the best
example of the importance of
the place that careful, directed
and varied use of language has
in culture. Anthropology Prof.
Kelly Askew's work in Swahili
music reveals just as much about
the society she is studying as the
interconnectedness of language
and creativity.
As the founding Director of
the African Studies Center at
the University, Askew started
her eclectic career by studying
music. Her doctoral work took
her to Mombasa, Kenya to study
musical mixing in Indian dias-
poras. While that search proved
fruitless, she found the style and
culture-mixing in which she

was most interested in the sung
Swahili poetry of tarab. In the
syncretic form of tarab, there are
audible Middle Eastern, Indian
and Japanese influences and even
strains of Cuban and American
Askew is a trained musician
and is cognizant of the amplify-
ing effect music has on poetry.
Tarab is referred to as "sung
poetry," and not simply as a
"song." The poetic structure of
tarab is just as important to the
form as the variegated instru-
"There's a very sing-song qual-
ity to it, because the rule in Swa-
hili is that you always stress the
second-to-last syllable," Askew
Askew's work is more than just
musical analysis - tarab music
also serves as a peculiar form
of social cue. At social gather-
ings, musicians play songs from a
well-established canon covering
themes of love, loss and reconcil-
iation. By publically tipping the
musicians, people can send very
pointed and directed messages to
social rivals, all without saying a

"It's not the speaker commu-
nicating through words to a lis-
tener who interprets his words,"
Askew said. "The audience
appropriates the songs, and the
musicians' voicing is almost tan-
Beginning with the basics
"Learningis only one aspect of
language," Meek said. "Language
involves grammar, acquisition,,
and sociocultural expectations
and practices."
Even though the initial stages
of learning a foreign language are
difficult and, so to speak, foreign,
the courses spotlighted by the
themed semester are an example
of where language learning can
lead. "Italian through Opera"
expects second-year proficiency.
To interpret cuneiform tablets,
one needs to first go through the
laborious process of learning
Sumerian. While language learn-
ing can be drudgery, it opens up
singular and challenging avenues
of creativity.
"Language was chosen
because it epitomizes being
human," Meek said.

Classes like "Italian through Opera" form connections among language, culture and history.

Anthroplogy Prof. Kelly Askew recognizes the poetic aspect to Swahili tarab music.

From Page 3B
play? We can each think of
someone who emphatically
declares "King Lear" unparal-
leled or picture the reaction-
ary who'declares Shakespeare
a worse playwright than Mar-
lowe. About all we agree on is
that Iago is evil, there are too
many characters named Anto-
nio and "Measure for Measure"
is mislabeled as a comedy. How,
then, do we arrive at those
subjective answers, especially
when we are debating such a
vast number of characters and
We might think of there
being two distinct threads in
a play's content: characteriza-
tion and plot. Though it would
be foolish to separate the two
completely, we need, for such a
subjective notion as "greatest,"
to delimit our measure. Follow-

ing Dhruv's argument, I will
also make the supposition that
characterization is our focus -
however, I hesitate to describe
any characters as either a pro-
tagonist or antagonist. Rather,
in close examination of the
style of language used by Julius
Caesar, Octavius Caesar, Mar-
cus Brutus and Cassius - with
the notable exception of Mark
Antony - there are many syn-
tactic and semantic similari-
ties. What emerges are similar
characters - which is not to say
they're the same or of stock cre-
ation - who react to the play's
political power plot from their
Interestingly, these shared
similarities actually create
more pathos in the play. Where-
as in "Othello" we have evil
seemingly corrupting virtue
for an illusive, highly debated
motive, in this play we have
honorable men with the inten-
tions of the greater good in con-

tention. With clear motivation
comes an even crisper message:
the evil of good versus good.
With that message, we might
consider the larger Elizabe-
than context and the issue of
the succession. I won't digress
long, but it is important to jux-
tapose this play against the
waning reign of Good Queen
Bess, considering the problem
of Elizabeth's lack of heir and
Caesar's baroness are more
than coincidental.
"Julius Caesar" is a great
play, but perhaps not for its
"complexity of the human
condition." Instead, it is the
similarities, the shades of grey
and the honor of the Romans
that make the play so power-
fully tragic. Out of that similar
humanity, Shakespeare retells
a perennial allegory of power
and politics, describing corrup-
tion and virtue with complex



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