Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Linguistic Vacation

OK, I'd like people's thoughts on this if you don't mind. I've had this idea in the back of my head for a long time, but never acted on it.

The main thing keeping me from moving more quickly on the dissertation is (laziness and) a lack of participants for the experiments. I'm ready to go again with my next set of experiments, but only have 3 more people dropping by this week. I could have the whole experiment done in a couple days if I could get 20 people to show up.

Now, at the same time, at least in 2006, there were 7 million, that's 7 with 6 zeroes, visitors to Hawaii, or almost 20,000 a day. If I could interest just 1 thousandth of those people (0.1 %) in stopping by the linguistics lab, I'd be done with an experiment in a single day. Clear benefit to me.

Moreover, you hear about people taking all these research / science / educational trips as vacations all the time. They go to dig up dinosaur bones or build a school or learn the art of the loom from Shakers or whatever. Now I'm no Shaker (though I can shake the moneymaker) but I wonder if us linguists could be at all interesting to people who like that sort of vacation.

And I don't really have in mind an entire linguistics trip, but maybe a single day program or an afternoon or an evening lecture in the hotel ballroom, etc.

My question is just: Imagine you are the type of person who likes educational holidays and not the type who identifies vacation with the number of salt-rimmed margaritas that can be consumed (I imagine a couple of you like both). Would you ever show up to a linguistics-type lecture or day program? If so, what sorts of things might float your boat?

Since this is Hawaii, I can imagine that people would be interested in the Hawaiian language or other Pacific languages. Maybe something about children learning language... Possibly an intro to the field. Oh, people often like historical linguistics, how English has changed through time or the history of Indo-European languages or some such.

What ya think?


fairyhedgehog said...

I'd be interested in taking part in an experiment, especially if I was told that it would be explained to me afterwards what it was all about.

I'd be less interested in a lecture if I was on holiday. If I was not on holiday, the kind of things that interest me are children's aquisition of language. "How does your baby learn to talk" - that sort of thing.

Or "What does your language say about you?" (sociolinguistics).

I wish I lived near enough to visit!

writtenwyrdd said...

I'd help you out if I were going to Hawaii, but I'm not planning on a visit. If you could get hawaiian bloggers or Facebook people to show up or spread the word...that would be usful, though.

bunnygirl said...

Considering that I'm reading Ad Infitum for fun, I'd enjoy a linguistics workshop as part of a vacation, especially if it was about history of language and how a particular language changed over time.

But Hawaii would be out of my price range, since I live in Texas...

Sammy Jankis said...

I'd be happy to participate in your experiment in an exchange for an expense-paid, or expense-assisted, trip to Hawaii. Outside of that, I don't think I'd make plans to participate if I were on holiday from the mainland.

pjd said...

I can not conceive of convincing my wife to go to a linguistics lecture during our few days in paradise.

What I can readily conceive of, and would think of as ultra cool, is a small exhibit space with learning and exploration tools for kids and adults. Hands-on science things based on speech and linguistics--how sounds are made, heard, etc. Couple that with a cultural diversity aspect that brings the differences and similarities of language to life, perhaps with an emphasis on Hawaiian (simply because people would expect that), and you've got something I would love to take my kids to. And while we're there, to participate in an experiment would double the fun. Honestly.

It would not have to be big at all. When we've been to Hawaii, we've looked for non-beach things to do with our kids that could keep us busy for an hour or two at a time. Shoot for a total two hour visit, include interesting hands-on things like you'd see at the Exploratorium or any kid-friendly science museum these days, and you've got a winner.

But then of course you're running a museum, not focusing on research. So if there's a place like this already where you could piggyback...

McKoala said...

I'm sure some people would go for it. There are a lot of amateur linguists out there. But you might get fed up with them laying their half-learned theories on you.

A linguistic science museum. I might have to go to that. And FH's idea re. 'what does your language say about you?' is good too - it's a hook, and we all know how much people like hooks...

Robin S. said...

Oh mhy Gopd, sign me up for a margarita bonanza AND the history of Indo-European language, coupled with the language development of children (like the stuff you wrote about last year) and I would be in vacation heaven, and I'm nogt even remotely kidding. Well, I'd rather you served wine, but still.

What about asking around to see if there are any book clubs you could talk to, to drum up interest? Middle-aged women love this stuff down to the ground.

Robin S. said...

OR....how about a Skype conference? I'd be in for that, seriously.

fairyhedgehog said...

Aw, you've removed the spam about "sightseeing volcanoes".

I thought it was very funny.

moonrat said...

I agree, it seems like something Hawaii-oriented would be an easy and natural sell.

You could talk about the Hawaiian language, but also eg Hawaiian English, which is fascinating because of the immigrant patterns and the secluded island relationship of importing languages and cultures but not exporting, no diffusion etc. In fact I'd love for someone to lecture me specifically on all those things.

sylvia said...

Here on the Costa del Sol, there are bright cheery young people on every street corner in high season. They stop anyone who looks very touristy (i.e. 80% of the summer population) and offer them free drinks or a coupon for a meal at a certain restaurant etc, if they come to listen to a presentation on time shares.

What always amazes me is how trivial the "free thing" is and how many people go for it. They spend one or two hours listening to a sales pitch and then get their drinks / meal / whatever and feel they've done well.

So if the point is to get people to stop by, you are probably better off offering random strangers something that fits in with their holiday (in conjunction with a local restaurant that would like to get bodies in the door) rather than an educational special.

The thing is, you go to dig up dinosaur bones or build a school or whatever because it's something you couldn't do at home. You could attend a local university to learn about language acquisition or the history of English so Hawaii holds no special appeal. Possibly if soemthing focused on Pacific languages, but that's now very specific and probably primarily appeals to academics.

My boyfriend and I both studied linguistics and would certainly attend such a lecture or day programme if it was taking place locally - but I don't think we'd plan a holiday around it.