Sunday, February 22, 2009

Journal Articles

This will help me keep track of the various journal articles I've read.

1. Sakamoto-Goto, Junko. 「SAmaJJaphalasutta(沙門果経)とVeda祭式」
2. Koster, Jan. "Is Linguistics a Natural Science?"
3. Eijck, Jan van. "Discourse Representation Theory"
4. Janda, R. D. et al. "Linguistic Borrowings from Biology: Cross-Pollination or Cross-Bollixation?"
5. Goto, Toshifumi. "Comments: From the Viewpoint of Indo-Iranian Philology"
6. Goto, Toshifumi. 「人類と死の起源 リグヴェーダ創造讃歌 X 72」
7. Goto, Toshifumi. 「新資料 VAdhUla-anvAkhyAna の伝えるPurUravas と UrvazI 物語」
8. Goto, Toshifumi. 「インド・ヨーロッパ祖語における動詞表現の諸カテゴリー 枠組み再建のスケッチ」
9. Thieme, Paul. "The Comparative Method for Reconstruction in Linguistics"
10. Lubotsky, A. "Vedic Samaha 'Verily'"
11. Norman, K. R. "Notes on the Ahrauraa Version of Azoka's First Minor Rock Edict"
12. Vine, Brent. "On the Metrics and Origin of Rig-Vedic Na 'like, as'"
13. Sakamoto-Goto, Junko. "Mittelindische Absolutivbildung auf -tvA/*-tvAna(m) und verwandte Probleme der Lautentwicklung"
14. Kirchner, Thomas and Sato, K. T. "D. T. Suzuki and the Question of War"
15. Yoshida, Kazuhiko. 「印欧語史的形態論研究: 中・受動態動詞の先史」
16. Takubo, Yukinori. 「現代日本語における2種のモーダル助動詞類について 推論の方向性とメノマエ性の観点から」
17. Vijunas, Aurelijus. "On the Pronunciation and Development of the Proto-Indo-European Sibilant */s/"
18. Oettinger, Norbert. "Perfect and Related Categories in Proto-Indo-European: Some New Thoughts"
19. Goto, Toshifumi. 「インド伝統文法学をめぐって」
20. Pind, Ole Holten. "Studies in the PAli Grammarians I"
21. Goto, Toshifumi.「ユーラシア言語史の現在」
22. Vine, Brent. "PIE Mobile Accent in Italic: Further Evidence"
23. Sasaki, Tsuguya. "Sociolinguistic Typology of Jewish Languages and Their Speech Communities"
24. Ota, Fukiko.「チャンドラキールティにおける仏身論」
25. Jamison, Stephanie W. "Voice Fluctuation in the Rig Veda: Medial -anta in Active Paradigms"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Buddhism and Science

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is often applauded for his standpoint that science and religion can be compatible with each other. The majority of liberal humanities scholars seem to share this view--Buddhism has become "scientific" in the eyes of many educated people.

A quick search confirms the recent flood of books in this vein. Here's a sampling of titles:

Alan Wallace:
Buddhism and Science

Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness

Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind


Matthieu Ricard:
The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet


Donald Lopez:
Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed


Vic Mansfield:

Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics


Shinzen Young:
The Science of Enlightenment

佐々木閑:
『犀の角たち』

Alubomulle Sumanasara:

『仏教は心の科学』
An excellent critique of the "science and religion are compatible" camp is Jerry Coyne's piece in The New Republic. Edge has published an entertaining set of responses to Coyne's article.

The following is a well-known quote from the Dalai Lama that appeared in the November 12, 2005 edition of The New York Times:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.
This statement seems to make the hip religious and humanities scholars feel all warm and fuzzy. The idea hits you in the same place as a warm piece of apple pie. Isn't it wonderful how open and honest Buddhism is to the advancements of science! What a mature philosophy (it's not even a religion!) Buddhism is! A typical response of this sort can be seen in Jeffery Paine's article in The Boston Globe:

The Dalai Lama has even declared, "If the words or [sic] the Buddha and the findings of modern science contradict each other, then the former have to go." Try to imagine the pope or an ayatollah making a similar statement about the New Testament or the Koran.
The pope would never make such a risky statement! Isn't it impressive how open the Dalai Lama is! He would even go so far as to reject certain tenets of Buddhism if they were found to contradict what modern science tells us! Alan Wallace and many other compatibilists often bring up this quote.

But the Dalai Lama has no need for concern. He's not sticking his neck out one bit by making such a statement. As its claims are unverifiable and unfalsifiable, Buddhism gives nothing that science could grab hold of. How could science reject the position that there is no unchanging "self"? How would science show that reincarnation is not possible? Could science design an experiment to falsify twelve-part dependent arising? How about proving through scientific means that Amitabha in fact didn't succeed in creating a pure land?

As a Buddhist, you are free to believe any of these concepts. And according to the Dalai Lama, you are justified in your beliefs until science can show you otherwise. The thing we must not forget though is that the time to accept a claim is when there is evidence for the claim. It's a fallacy to claim validity for your claim simply because the claim has not been successfully falsified yet. That's not how the game works.

It seems to me that many of the people who are drawn to Buddhism are drawn to it because of their rejection of monotheistic religions like Christianity. Many highly educated people are quick to reject Christianity, but maintain a soft spot for Buddhism with its peaceful images and smiling faces of guys like the Dalai Lama. I've seen audiences soak up all sorts of nonsense simply because it's coming from the mouth of a Buddhist monk.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

All About the Beat

I enjoyed this book and agreed with most of its message. Here are some of my favorite parts:

"Hip-hop is an upturned middle finger--which is different from really working on how to help people."

"Too often for it to be an accident, I have found that people making big claims about the potential for hip-hop to affect politics or create a revolution have mysteriously little interest in politics as traditionally understood, or political change as it actually happens, as opposed to via dramatic revolutionary uprisings."

"Hip-hop is all about the beat, but real world activism is all about the work."

"I once attended a talk by a black academic who decorated his points with lines from old blues songs. Every time he chanted one of those lines, a good portion of the black people in the audience would mm-hmm warmly...What warmed them was the sheer cadence of the man's utterance of the lines. Each time he quoted a line, it was like bringing the audience to church for a few seconds. He went over well--but the truth was that, that night at least, he never actually said much of anything."

"People who think hip-hop is politics are falling for the visceral sense that beat, pulse, feel, is meaning, and in a "realer" way even than words, sentences, logical connections, genuinely "conscious" thought."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Test results

I passed the damn thing!

Time for some wine and celebration...

Finished with my tests!

Oh man it's been a rough few months! I finished a 100-page translation project, wrote a paper to submit with my application materials, and then hit the books hard to prepare for my entrance exam.

I spent every day studying and studying. For breaks I took walks now and then at the nearby shrine, but most of my time was spent cramming. I used all the ink of a whole pen to completely fill up a notebook with definitions and examples of important terms and topics in linguistics. Because of my knowledge of Sanskrit, I was strong in historical linguistics and certain areas of phonology and morphology.

I first tackled phonetics, defining all the types of articulations and learning how to express them in Japanese. Having to do all my studies bilingually was a huge pressure too. After I felt I had phonetics covered, I focused on syntax. Some of the students at Kyodai helped me with syntax, and I was able to borrow some introductory texts on syntax in Japanese. Syntax, especially Chomsky's contributions, are fascinating to me but the terminology and formality of generative grammar can be intimidating at first. Once you see what's being explained, it is usually pretty straightforward. I was nervous because I didn't want to get hit with a technical syntax problem on the test.

I then did a lot of studying about the history of modern linguistics. Most of the schools of linguistics have an underlying philosophical basis, so I tried to cover these philosophical stances also. This paid off because the second test on Thursday had three questions: Out of the following three questions, pick two and describe the history of (1) phonological research (2) syntactic research (3) comparative linguistics. I chose to write on syntax and comparative linguistics, and I felt pretty confident with my answers.

The first test on Monday was hell. About 200 of us lined up early on Monday morning outside the faculty of letters. We were divided up into groups of around 30 people and led to the examination rooms. The first round was a foreign language test. I had to take Japanese, and I think that most of the other students were taking an English test.

Before starting the test, we were told to change answer sheets for each question. I checked my test papers and found that although there were two questions, there were actually three answer sheets. This threw me off at first and made me quite nervous--I thought that the third answer sheet was there in case people needed more space.

Anyway, I did very well on the Japanese test, but I think I could have done better if I hadn't had that uncertainty in the back of my mind. You never know--in Japan they might reject you if you screw up on the order of your answer sheets, regardless of how well you did on the test!

After the language test, it became clear that many other people made the same mistake as me. The examiner apologized for not being clearer in his instructions and reassured everyone that our mistakes on the order of the answer sheets wouldn't affect our score! That was a great relief. I didn't want to be put back another year just because I didn't use the damn third answer sheet!

We had a short break and then started the second test, which was to test our general knowledge of our respective fields. It was a long long test! The answer pages were large blank pieces of paper, and the questions were designed to weed out the real guys from the fakers. The first question was on Optimality Theory and had four sub-questions where you had to give examples of generative phonology from Japanese or English. I knew the information and felt that I did pretty well, although I noticed at the end of the test that I had the order of my answers mixed up!

But that was just the first question! Just that one question could take over an hour, but you had to go on to the second question: There was a list of about 70 words in the Masaai language, and we were asked to describe the phonological processes and distributions of stops and fricatives. I started work on it and fortunately it kind of "fell into my hands" quite easily and I was able to draw out the conditioning environments quite quickly. Then we had the third question: we were to choose 3 terms out of 5 linguistics terms and give a concise explanation. I didn't find it too hard.

My interview also went quite well, so I think I have passed the test! The results will be out this evening. I'm happy to at least be done with it.

This was the toughest exam I have ever taken--IT WAS TOUGH! The fact that you have to go back on Thursday if you make it past the first round is very taxing mentally. There were about 25 people in my exam room on Monday, and when I went in on Thursday only nine people were left! Huge chunks of people had been cut! I really felt like a survivor at that point. I'm just glad that I pulled through to the end. We'll see if I passed this evening...