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DEFAMILIARIZATION

To avoid any kind misunderstanding, let me make it clear that this piece of lamentation has nothing to do with Victor Shklovsky or Russian Formalism. I’m not going to talk about Tolstoy and Wordsworth and Coleridge either. This is all about how academic language frustrates me. And being a part of academics (for quite some time) I should be good at bringing totally unrelated things together and make it look like I actually made a connection and it makes sense. But here, I am spared that trouble. Academics is all about defamiliarization. And by defamilarization, I mean the kind of language that is used in academic writing.

I believe in using simple language in academic writing because I don’t believe in beating around the bush to make a point. My work is always crisp, brief and to the point. Okay! That is another way of saying I just can’t complicate my language without confusing and frustrating myself. I thought my ‘simple language formula’ would be helpful all my life, but I was wrong… I could have chosen to be right by not getting into academics. But there’s no point lamenting about it. The fact is, I am into academics and I have to start ‘academizing’ my language. Gone are the days when my English teacher used to appreciate my answer scripts for the simplicity. Crisp and accurate, he used to call it. But that was nearly a decade ago when I was still in school and I had to the opportunity to choose what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Not that things are very different now. I still have no clue what the rest of my life is going to be like. But whatever it is going to be, it is not going to be uncomplicated.

I have been reading complicated things from the time I can remember. I attempted reading War and Peace when I was fifteen and should have limited myself to Mills and Boons. I had acquainted myself with the ‘classics’ of world literature before I was twenty. But I started thinking about the complication in language only a couple of years ago. It was Arnoff’s work on Word Formation. I don’t remember why I was reading it so desperately. Probably there was a test the next day and I didn’t want to flunk. Or maybe I was just trying to make sense of the essay. I don’t know. And right now that doesn’t matter anyway. All I knew was that the essay had something to do with word formation and the rules of word formation and that it was twenty one pages long. So, I and my friend (who has no clue why he chose Linguistics of the umpteen number of suicide options available) settled down with a cup of coffee and a copy of Arnoff’s essay each and started reading. The deal was- he would explain what he understood and I would do the same. I started reading the first page- the introduction, which continued for the next four pages and was about how Morphology has evolved in the last decade and about a lot of other irrelevant theories and the names of famous and not-so-famous linguists. The next section which was supposed to be about the lexicon and word formation was no different. Apparently, the sentences were in English, but too complicated for laymen like me and my friend. Finally, my friend couldn’t take it any longer. He threw the essay on the table and said, “What is this man writing? An essay or some thriller novel? Is all the suspense necessary before actually talking about word formation?” He was right. If they expect people to understand their theories/ideas, why can’t they use a language that will help them in the process? It is not just Arnoff. It can be found everywhere. I need not mention the woman who writes about the ‘subaltern’ in a language even the elite can’t comprehend in the first reading.

I should stop lamenting and actually continue ‘defamiliarizing’ my thesis (that’s what I like to call it, though my supervisor and experienced seniors will call it an ‘attempt’). It is not very difficult when the ideas are already written down in an understandable language. I just have to edit the sentences. Change the active into passive, use synonyms; change the sentence structure, etc. It took nearly two hours to ‘academize’ one paragraph. And wow! I have done a perfect job. I don’t understand what I have written!

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1 Comment

  1. Eric Alagan says:

    Yup, that does sound like academics 🙂

    Like

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