Monday, October 27, 2008

If only this skill could get me a high paying job!

The diagnostic is in. My friend Marcello, a linguist, tells me that I am suffering from Temporary Aphasia Paradigmatic! What about that? I am special that way, yes I am...

It all started a little over three weeks ago, as I noticed that I was not only not fluid in Italian, but neither was I in English or Spanish anymore. I tried to explain it as a confusion of my aging brain, which could only take a new word if I forgot two old ones. I was kidding when I said that, but it ends up being an accurate description of what is happening to me.

I know I am not making any sense so far, but please do not blame me, blame my mush of a brain for it. I think all will make more sense if I give you some examples of my recurrent, embarrassing mistakes. Like the other day I was telling a friend that we took the train back and I said that we took the plane back. train = plane. Or the other night I was telling my husband that I have gone to the butcher (carnicero in Spanish) and I said jardinero (gardener). carnicero = jardinero. I frequently open the floor and not the door. I also go around talking about my bed as a refrigerator, or my bag as a hat... People, this is not funny! Stop laughing right now!

I was talking to my friend Debbie about it, and her husband Marcello told me that this is a disfunction that occurs to multilingual speakers in times of stress- you can blame the USCIS (U. S. Citizen and Immigration Services)- and it is usually a temporary condition. I went on the internet to find more about this, but most of the information I found is for the real aphasia, the kind suffered by stroke victims or people who had severe brain injuries.

It is really interesting to dive into the world of words and communication from another point of view. I discovered for example that the words that I am mixing up are actually related. Words are archived in the brain in files of related words. Paradigmatic relation is associative, and clusters signs together in the mind, producing sets: sat, mat, cat, bat, for example, or thought, think, thinking, thinker. Sets always involve a similarity, but difference is a prerequisite, otherwise none of the items would be distinguishable from one another: this would result in there being a single item, which could not constitute a set on its own. From Wikipedia's Course in General Linguistics

In my multilevel search of all things linguistic I found this poem, and I found it so beautiful that I am leaving you with it:

--Good-bye, sir.
--Where to?
--Which madness?
--Any madness, for I have turned into words.

Mahmoud Darwish

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