the four functions of language

was reading Karl Popper’s Arthur Holly Compton Memorial Lecture at Washington University in St. Louis “Of Clouds and Clocks” delivered in April 1965. and towards the second half of the lecture under section XIV, he described the 4 functions of language, 2 lower (the common things in animal languages and human languages) and 2 higher (which defines human beings), namely,

“the expressive, the signalling, the descriptive, and the argumentative functions”

the lower two functions are always present in a higher function according to Popper.

clouds and clocks photoPhoto by Fotografik33 –

downward spirals, upward spirals

a second consecutive post on Benjamin Zander. below’s a video on Zander’s sharing his teaching philosophy “the art of possibility”. saw it many times in the past, and can’t help but to feel rekindled by Zander each time i watch this video 🙂

extending some thoughts from the video, our education system is built on the downward spirals, and how learning can be transformed if learning is built upon upward spirals. let’s take how (un)well students are learning CL as an example.

the downward spirals talks include:

how would the worldview change if we were to frame all these thoughts into one main sentence:


similarly, all the above downward talks can be reframed:




“We give students an A not as an expectation to live up to. We give students an A as a possibility to live into.”

这个思维的转变是非常关键的。不然又要落入downward spirals中,不得超生。

the video:

some other quotes that caught my attention are captured here:

“When you give an A, the relationship is transformed.”

“We don’t give children a name as an expectation to live up to. We give children a name as a possibility to live into… We give students an A not as an expectation to live up to. We give students an A as a possibility to live into.”

“it’s “cosmic laughter” … The A is invented, the 68 is invented. We might as well invent something that lights up our lives, and the people around us.”

“In Asia it is important to be right. The teacher is always right… and a young girl said ‘If you don’t say anything, you won’t ever be wrong.”

“You cannot learn anything unless you make a mistake. When you make a mistake, this is how you celebrate…”

“The downward spirals …”

“A Vision, is not something only a few can reach. A Vision, is something that everyone can reach.”

“Everybody loves classical music. They just haven’t found out about it yet.” (vs. Only 3% of pple love classical music. If only 4% of pple love classical music, all our problems would be over.)

“It’s all invented. Standing in possibilities. Rule #6. That’s it. Simple.”


chinese new year, or lunar new year, or …

chinese new year, or lunar new year, which is “correct”? linguistically speaking, there’s no right or wrong 😛

but …

every year when we celebrate Chinese New Year (CNY) here in Singapore, there would be pple calling these holidays Lunar New Year, instead of CNY. “Chinese New Year” should be the more scientific and proper term, which our officials at MOM have also recognised and adopted:

150218-mom holidays 2015

WHY is CNY a more scientific and proper term in the Singapore context? context is important to take note, for language use is often, if not always, contextualised. let’s examine three(3) reasons:

1. The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. it takes into consideration BOTH orbits of mother Earth around the Sun, and the Moon around Earth. it is NOT a (pure) lunar calendar. these two calendar types are DIFFERENT scientifically. therefore, if one insists to call it LNY (singaporeans just love capitalisations & acronyms very very much), LNY should refer to Lunisolar New Year. “Lunar” new year is unscientific.

2. In multi-racial Singapore, we observe public holidays celebrated by the different ethnic groups. CNY originates from the Chinese ethnic group. while one may argue that LunarNY may “belong” to other pple in other parts of the world as Wikipedia have suggested, in the local context, we are obviously not celebrating this day becos the Japanese, or the Korean, or the Cambodian are celebrating it. it is Chinese New Year we are celebrating, based on our local multi-racial & cultural context.

3. If we were to trace how the Chinese called these (holi)days in the Chinese language, we have 春节 or 元旦 (used in contemporary P.R.China and ancient China respectively). Singaporean Chinese call these days 华人新年 or 农历新年 (note: 农历 is a 阴阳历, a lunisolar calendar in other words). neither in Singapore nor China do we hear “阴历新年” or “月历新年” or “月亮新年” if “Lunar New Year” were proper.

i think i can work out more reasons. but three should be enough as we have already examined the scientific aspect, cultural aspect, and the linguistic aspect of the phenomenon. on this day before CNY, “除夕” (chu-xi) as we call it, may i wish you “新年快乐,万事如意。身体健康,心想事成!”

this is 乙未(羊)年, year of the Goat btw (: