Reflection – Maps

Map showcasing my data (Green dots – 78 records) vs. the Class’s data (Blue dots)


Gathering my data did encounter various difficulties, the first being timing.
I had classes all day till 5 PM and meetings/Group studying till 8 PM. As a young woman in Beirut, walking around in the evening alone to take pictures didn’t seem very safe. Therefore, I had to wait for my friend to walk with me, and most of my pictures were taken in the dark.
Also, I knew I’d want to work on an area-based project where we had a high amount of data, and I live in Jounieh during the weekends. This is why I waited for the weekdays in order to take pictures of my data.

Second of all, tagging seemed complicated, especially when configuring my map (the order mattered, and a lot had to be taken into consideration). I’d suggest an addition of categories for the features, so that the sub-features would be narrowed down.

Concerning my data, it was mostly taken around Ashrafieh. The one night I took a lot of pictures, I had focused on the old signage in Mar Mikhael – Gemmayze – Monot. It was clear that old signage had a kind of type in the font, colors and languages used (mostly french and arabic). Hence my first idea for my final project which was Old VS. New. However, the lack of a tag for this didn’t let me go through it. Ergo a second suggestion of adding a “Old/New” tag.

Overall, data collecting and map configuration were a whole new experience to me I’d never think I’d encounter in an English course. This activity shed the light on things we had internalized as Lebanese citizens, and now I can’t stop looking at signs and trying to analyze them.

Wildcard -WhatsApp Linguistics

As a Lebanese young adult, 50% to 70% of my time I spend on my cellphone. More specifically – On WhatsApp.

Not that I am proud of it or anything, but spending that much time on this peculiar mean of instant communication has shed the light on the complex distribution of language by my interlocutors upon their texts.

In order to share my observation (that I find fascinating) with you, I have picked 2 WhatsApp Groups in which all members with no exception follow the below criteria:
– Lebanese
– Live in Lebanon
– Fluently speak (Oral and Written): French, Arabic and English
– Mother language: Arabic/French

Next, I skimmed through a total of 100 texts and chose them to try and find a pattern of how we use English French and Arabic.
To make it clearer, I started taking note of the emotion/purpose intended in the text and then attributed to it the language used.
Below are the final charts I got as a result :


Results for Group 1 – A = Arabic, F = French, E = English – Data Collected May 2nd 2016


Results for Group 2 – A = Arabic, F = French, E = English – Data Collected May 2nd 2016

In the “First Words” category, I have picked Time, Space and Food; the three fields in which we first learn/listen to lexicography as toddlers. We could also add to it Anger and Excitement, but I stuck with the evolutionary perspective on things, in which Food and the ability to situate oneself in Space and Time are primary.
Indeed, it is clear that concerning Time, French is highly dominating – in Food (alongside Arabic) too.

What could explain the domination of English in situating actions in Group 2? Or even, the complete absence of French in Group 1 ?
If we were to consider the types of groups I studied (one being just for fun, the other including people that work together), we could say that English is highly used as a formal language in scheduling (ergo the upcoming chart in which I divided formal and informal writing). Also, one could consider that according to the criteria, we all live in Lebanon, which automatically gives a preference to Arabic in referring to places.

Our negative feelings are divided into two parts : Anger and Sadness.
Anger is mostly expressed in Arabic; it’s the language with which we are most familiar, and that’s not only a mother tongue language, but also one that almost no one in Lebanon wouldn’t understand (unlike French which is rarely spoken in Beirut areas and towards the South). Expressing our anger in Arabic would thus (as I’d conclude) guarantee a universality to our speech. I’d also say the same in regards to Humor.
What about the excessive use of English in expressing Sadness ?
I have tried to come up with an explanation for this one, and all I could find and decided to stick to, was blaming the Media.
In fact, most of the highly emotional/romantic/sad/makes-your-eyes-cry-like-a-waterfall movies/books/TV shows the members of these two groups watch are all in English.  Could this mean that as we grew up, exposed to highly emotional art, we internalized a certain English – the Special Sad Edition – vocabulary?
I’d also conclude similarly concerning the Excitement category.
Also, most of the news we watch and Universities we attend are English-based; hence the high amount of written English in the Persuasion category.

Before I wrap up, let’s take a look at (my attempt of building) a Formal V.S Informal Speech Chart :

Formal Language : Time, Space and Persuasion V.S Informal Language : Anger, Sadness, Humor and Excitement

Looking at the charts, one could conclude that we Lebanese young adults are indeed quite fluent in the three languages. The French did have a mandate for a few years here, and the use of French could be explained by WWI History.
But what about English?

Could this be a proof of the strong Westernization  in the Middle East? Or could it be displaying a result of the large Lebanese Diaspora? Or even, of the high exposure to English Media and Entertainment?
Does this mean that in WhatsApp Linguistics, we could be talking about a Lebanese English among other “Englishes” ?

You can find below some samples of the data I used

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Webster’s and Johnson’s: A Tale of Two Dictionaries

After having read the prefaces of two famous dictionaries; Webster’s 1828 and Johnson’s 1755, one would get a general sense of the first being closely related to Religion and Spirituality, in contrast with the second being more scientific and perplex.

As I went on searching and finding definitions of random words in both works, I was more and more surprised of the qualitative and quantitative distinctions between the two. In fact, Webster seems more elaborative in terms of non-concrete concepts, whereas Johnson extends his explications on more tangible ones.

By the time I had gone over words from diverse categories, I decided to try and shed the light on the mentioned difference.

Therefore, I looked up the words: Mad, Happy, Scared, Love, Beauty, Nature, Doctor, Bible, Christmas and Philosophy.

At first, I was more or less surprised of how Johnson barely expanded emotion definitions. The reason I felt so is because Lerer had mentioned how Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was in close correlation with his emotional state.
If you look up happy for example, Webster gives eight different uses of the word whereas Johnson only mentions three. The perspective that Johnson seems to omit in comparison with Webster is a more fictive, virtual one. He doesn’t use terms such as Harmonious, instead, he seems very direct and realistic in phrases such as in a state where desire is satisfied.

Throughout my research, I have also noticed the important recurrence of referring to the Bible on behalf of Webster, in contrast with a reference to Dryden (critic and translator), Locke (philosopher and physician) and Shakespeare by Johnson.

If you look for the word “Love”, Webster relies on biblical references in order to give an example of the word’s usage “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matt. 22.”. Jonson on the other hand, relies on Shakespearean quotes and some from Cowley I could not love I’m sure
One who in love were wise.

I would say looking into two dictionaries in a comparative way makes you realize the role lexicography plays in history. Comparative lexicography also sheds the light on the extent to which the author has an impact on the final work.

Semantic Change

“Meat Literally gives me Heartburn”. The following sentence nowadays simply invokes the acidic effect of meat on my stomach. However, this sentence wouldn’t have been understood the same way hundreds of years ago.

I will be describing hereby the semantic change of the words; Meat, Literally and Heartburn.

Let’s start with “Meat”. If you look up the word in a modern online dictionary, the simple definition of it would be “the flesh of an animal used as food “- “the part of something that can be eaten “as displayed in Merriam-Webster.
If we go and look the same word up in the OED, we get more than 13 distinct definitions for it, varying through time. Here are some highlights;

The eldest entry defines meat as any comestible thing that’s not drink. That connotation mostly resided in old English; the word was generally related to food.

Later on, it was considered as one kind of food, or dish, to be generalized further around year 1150 to the “meal”.
A lot of later posts relate to it as animal flesh, what can be eaten etc.

The interesting turning point is when the word “Meat” in Slang Language meant Feminine Genitals, a Prostitute and other times, the Penis.

Then again, it meant flesh-related words, but this time a human’s flesh, or even a dead or dying human.
Another interesting fact would fall in the 20th century, when many entries used the word in a sentence as follows;to be a person’s meat: to be the right or appropriate individual to carry out or assist in a person’s plan, enterprise, etc.” (

Regarding the term “literally”, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: “in a literal sense or manner” or “in effect”.

Switching to the OED, the word appears to first be employed in the 1400s. The dictionary first categorizes is under the “literal sense or manner” ( definition, as found in Merriam-Webster.
The second category under which it is defined, isn’t entitled, we find under it though, two subcategories; the first being in a sense of; word by word, the second; faithfully or with extended fidelity.
The last definition is the most obvious, and I was surprised that we never thought of understanding it this way nowadays; “By or with regards to letters” (

Finally, Merriam-Webster online Dictionary explains the word “Heartburn” as such; “a burning discomfort behind the lower part of the sternum due especially to spasmodic reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus.” I have also asked around how friends and family understood it (I don’t speak English that often), in order to make sure that this is how people described its meaning, and they agreed.
The OED displays three main interpretations;

Firstly, as appeared in 1325, heartburn is a burning passion, lust. Then, on what seems to be covered by various centuries, the word appeared with the same meaning we have today in modern dictionaries. Finally, also on a wide range of history (1579-2005), heartburn originally meant jealousy or disappointment, and subsequently worry and anxiety.

Through this exercise, one would notice how words seem to be multifaceted; more specifically, how they can play the role of incredible tools for historians. If it weren’t for dictionaries, the sentence I mentioned above would mean the same thing unconditionally. However, having access to the different meanings of each word, we could explain my sentence by:
“Prostitution faithfully gives me anxiety”.


Lost in Translation

Last Monday, our ENGL 229 Professor asked us to choose a manuscript among a list of many others, each in different languages such as Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English. My instinct led me to immediately choose the text that was closest to a language I mastered; French. Little did I know, transcribing a piece of  Marie of France’s Fable – “De Leone agreoto” ; taken from the British library, was harder than keeping all of my hair inside one rubber band.

The manuscript I had in front of me looked like this:
British Library, 1260s ms

The first thing that struck me as beautiful was the way the columns were perfectly arranged; let’s just say it’s very OCD-Satisfying. The first letter of each verse seemed to be fixed in such a way that it would fit a specific zone. Ergo a certain attraction of the eye to these symbols, that look like letters (or so I thought), but I’ll get back to that later.

First, let’s contemplate the way the verses are perfectly aligned, or should I say “columned” in front of each other. The piece I got enclosed has most of the writing in brown, the beginning of the verses striped in orange but most importantly; both the big “J” and “O” in orange and blue respectively, reminded me of fairy tales books. The “O” has a lot of scribbles, some kind of designs attached to it. One would think that this would be were the story starts. Then I asked myself, if it were the case, why draw the “J” this way?
As I began my first attempt to untie the words lost in the scribbles, I realized that this was far from being simple. The first obstacle I encountered was distinguishing the “s” from the “f” and sometimes even from the “t”. The handwriting had multiple ways of writing the latter. Moreover, the first letters, which I thought would be attached to the first words, rather looked detached from them, it made no sense!
What I did find interesting though (throughout the 10th or 20th attempt), was the similarity of most words which were situated specifically at the end of the verses; almost all of them were very close to modern French. For example, “petit”, “chien”, and “seignur” weren’t hard for me to recognize.

Struggling to find out the meaning behind the initial letters, I started looking online for a different version of the manuscript, one that’s typed. Here’s a Snapshot of what I found, that includes the verses I chose to transcribe.
online manu

The Fables of Marie de France; an English Translation, XV. De asino adulante

The English Translation functioned as a spoiler; my task was to try and transcribe what I saw, which was very different from the picture above.
The electronic version did help though, in understanding what those initials I was talking about meant. Apparently, the writers back then had this way of abbreviating words, in most cases coordination conjunctions.
“Qui” is written as a “q” that is struck through with an orange “C” or an “F”.
“Que” on the other hand, is written as a “q” and some kind of weird accent over it.
Also, a new chapter begins in the English version, right where I started transcribing.It is displayed by “XV” roman numbers and a clear title. However in the manuscript, it’s not very clear whether they’re moving on to another story, or if the passage is a subdivision of the whole page.

Now this is what the handwritten version of my transcription looks like:


The next step was to try and type the passage on our computers; here is the result:
Or un riche hume cunte escrit

Qui aveit un chenet petit

Su u entefeiz a lui rua

C un fun aines les guarda

En sun courage entendi bien

Qui tuit lautre aiment le chien

Pur le seigneur quil cherisseit

E ki odlui le dedueit

Suz fun mantel le fut muscier

Su fut lel autres dur abaier

Mut seit li asnel ppensez

Que mellz del chien vaallt asez

Que de bunte e de grudur

Mielz saverait a sun seignur

When I compared the manuscript with the English version, I learned how “ppensez”, written in the manuscript with “pp” and a  wavy-like accent over, really spelled; “purpenser”.  Another interesting note would be how in the English version some words seem to be missing out.

What I did here is something called “remediation”.
According to the Oxford English Dictionnary, remediation is : “The action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage” (, or : “The giving of remedial teaching or therapy” (

While searching for a clear and concise definition of the latter, I found a WordPress post by Caitlinelizabethmullen, published the 30th of October, 2012. I think the image enclosed below that she had posted describes remediation in regards to media studies and communication;

I have to say that after my tentative transcription writing, remediation seems very complicated. It might omit some words, misunderstand them, see words as symbols and vice versa, or write them in different meanings. It feels as though every time a literary text was remediated, some truth about it went away. Still, we can’t blame transcribers and researchers, since understanding these writings would be jumping into another era, a whole new world, and getting lost in translation.