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Tutor profile: Tristan R.

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Tristan R.
Latin and French Tutor
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Questions

Subject: Latin

TutorMe
Question:

Compose an original Latin work in prose and metered poetry on birds.

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Tristan R.
Answer:

DE AVIBUS Hoc scribit Tristan anno MMXXI in provincia Virginiana. I - INTRODUCTIO Numerus animalium tantus est ut qui vellet cunctas feras enumerare suscipiat onus sine fine. Quin etiam nullus cunctas feras incolentes unam provinciam solam enumerare potest: vero in terra sterilissima quoque nemo scit quantus numerus animalium sit. Enim animalia ubique vivunt – sub saxis, in undis, per herbas, super capitibus nostris, nostris etiam in domibus – et valde numerosa sunt. Est quanta diversitas inter locos amoenos uni et alteri animali, tanta diversitas inter formas animalibus, hoc propter: per saecula longa, forma animalibus ita mutare potest ut quod piscis fuerit iam canis sit. Ergo tanta est diversitas inter animalia, et forma et loco et nomine et evolutione, ut non coner cuncta illustrare; ne, age qui cogitet hoc possibile. Tamen prodest describere parvum numerum animalium, id est nonnullas aves. Nam omnes feras bonas, sacras, puras sunt; quapropter de nonnullis earum scire semper proderit nobis omnibus. II - DE AVI MIMICA Mimica avis cantat carmina vecta Noto (Hinc illinc voces alitiumque capit.) Quae cum surgentes e thalamo calido Auribus adpetimus ut capiamus ea. In mundo est nullus qui melius quam avis Mimica cantare ex vatibus omnibus ac Humanis possit. Proptereaque ratus Vates qui scribo hanc avem in arboribus Regem esse. Omnes nos concelebremus aves. Nobis semper det mimica carmina avis. III - DE PASSERE TROGLODYTE Passer parvus atrocibusque ocellis In silvam ille egredi solet sub altis Magnis arboribus; cibum requirit; Rotundus strepitus resolvit anguum. Hic est troglodytes et arbitrator Nidorum numeri carentis ovis – Ille istos facit ut feras invisas Contristet pater almus atque fidus. IV - DE RANABECCO Pinnae tibi en molles et os nimis magnum Dantur. Quibus muscas rapis modo ranae. Est ranabeccus stridulo melo dulci Cum lumine in silva colens suum nidum. Pinnae tibi en molles et os nimis magnum Dantur. Quibus muscas rapis modo ranae. V - CLAUSULA Versibus multigeneribus de avi mimica (quodam numero elegiae quod avis mimica cantat ut sibi amorem mereatur), de passere troglodyte (numero hendecasyllabo quoniam Catullus quoque de quodam passere scripsit), et de ranabecco (numero claudo modo aut ranae salientis aut ranabecci cataciter volitantis) narravi. Hae tres aves notissimae moribus faciebus sunt, quas praecipue amo. Haec carmina lectori gaudium apportare, amatori avium monumenta amicorum carissimorum, tandem spero.

Subject: French

TutorMe
Question:

Analyze the underlying purpose and message of Shenaz Patel's 2003 novel « Sensitive ».

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Tristan R.
Answer:

« Sensitive » de Shenaz Patel (2003) constitue le journal intime d'une jeune fille qui décrit l’histoire de ses proches, qui vivent tous dans la misère extrême à l'île Maurice. « Sensitive » nous présente alors le cri au secours désespéré et éclatant de chaque personnage opprimé ; en ce sens, « Sensitive » veut donner la parole au subalterne. Mais, si « Sensitive » lutte pour les droits des démunis mondiaux, pourquoi alors dévoiler une intrigue si dépourvue d'espoir ? La situation des pauvres est-elle vraiment irréparable ? Bien que le livre tente par son message d'améliorer la société mondiale, « Sensitive » de Shenaz Patel montre au lectorat l'impossibilité pour le subalterne de s’échapper des conditions insupportables, même s'il en soit physiquement déplacé. Dans cette rédaction, je traiterai tout d'abord de la façon dont « Sensitive » essaie d'améliorer la société ; je préciserai ensuite la justification et les effets d’une intrigue tellement déprimante. Dans un premier temps, abordons par plusieurs exemples précis le moyen principal dont « Sensitive » essaie d’améliorer la société : il s’agit de révéler l’expérience vécue du subalterne. Le livre traite alors de l’expérience de Ti Fi, une jeune fille maltraitée et réduite au silence ; de Mam, une ouvrière opprimée par la mondialisation et la sous-traitance ; de Garson, un orphelin qui lutte en vain pour s’échapper de sa vie insupportable ; de Ton Faël, un Chagossien arraché à sa terre natale ; de Mam encore et surtout de Nadège, des femmes maltraitées dans l’amour et exploitée par le système néolibéral ; et également de Lui et Marco, des hommes dits « fainéants » que la société générale ignore (Patel 58). Son intention semble alors de dévoiler aux plus puissants la souffrance du subalterne, voire des impécunieux mondiaux, afin d’exposer le cycle de la violence et de la pauvreté du Sud global. Le message que l’on peut en tirer sort alors de la bouche de Mam : « il n’y a pas de bon Dieu sur la terre pour les pauvres gens » (Patel 109). Ti Fi, après avoir entendu cette déclaration de sa mère, écrit « Je ne sais pas quoi lui répondre » (Patel 109). Selon moi, Ti Fi fonctionne ici comme l’insertion d’un lectorat confus : bien qu’il soit important de rapporter au grand public la condition des pauvres, raconter de tels ultimata déprimants n’est pas forcément instructif. Il reste à nous, les mieux fortunés, une fois déboussolés par cette affreuse réalité, de songer aux façons d’aider. Il faut maintenant examiner l’effet sur le lectorat d’un message si déprimant. Nous nous trouvons face à la réalité vécue par ces personnages misérables de jour en jour, et comme Ti Fi, nous ne savons point comment aider. L’île Maurice de Patel fait écho alors à la vision d’un lectorat voyeur, celle d’une Afrique stéréotypée, accablée de violence, et sans espoir : Mam avait raison quand elle a regretté l’absence d’un dieu dans la machine (Patel 109). Personne n’arrive à s’échapper des supplices quotidiens, sauf par des expressions réciproques de la rage sous forme des émeutes et des meurtres (cf. Bouju et De Bruijn). Le lectorat, face à une telle révélation désespérée, est ainsi forcé à se demander que faire pour que la condition du tiers monde puisse se changer. En guise de conclusion, « Sensitive » de Shenaz Patel fait un travail important, dans la tradition de Césaire et de Fanon, en dévoilant les soucis affligeants de la population subalterne ; mais sans aucun message positif, sans aucun indice aux façons constructives dont on pourrait améliorer ces situations affreuses, le lectorat ne reçoit qu’une forte impression de l’impossibilité de la justice sociale. Cette impression, bien qu’elle soit déprimante et qu’elle puisse renforcer les préjugés contre le tiers monde, n’est pas inutile ; car elle s’efforce après tout de mener un lectorat plus puissant de l’ignorance à l’activisme.

Subject: Linguistics

TutorMe
Question:

Compare the prevailing disparate views on the role of nature and nurture in first-language acquisition.

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Tristan R.
Answer:

For much of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the most prominent linguistic schools of thought have been that of Noam Chomsky and that of Jerome Bruner and Michael Tomasello. Chomsky and Bruner, and then Chomsky and Tomasello after Bruner's death, are constantly at each other's throats: each thinks his theory is correct, and that one would have to be an archdolt (cf. Baugh and Cable, A History of the English Language, 215) to ascribe to the other's. One essential area in which the two schools of thought differ is their stance on first language acquisition in children. As any sentimental parent knows, a child's first words are a momentous occasion. But what is even more impressive from a psychological perspective is what comes next: over the ensuing decade, a child will learn a staggeringly huge number of words per day, and moreover, how to use them correctly – what they mean, how they are used in sentences, how they are spelled. Much of Chomsky, Bruner, and Tomasello's work focuses on explaining just how the phenomenon of child language acquisition functions. Chomsky believes that since the linguistic input received by children is ‘impoverished and degenerate,’ children could not possibly acquire language without innate knowledge of how language works – a mental structure which he terms ‘universal grammar.’ In contrast to Chomsky, Bruner and Tomasello hold that children can learn language because the environmental input that they receive must be less impoverished than Chomsky theorizes. In this essay, I will describe and contrast the positions and arguments of these two opposing schools of linguistic thought. Let us begin with a discussion of the more popular philosophy: that of Chomsky. Chomsky believes that language is a generative, formal system. He proposes that grammar is a set of finite rules with an infinite possible sentence output. Chomsky's argument is transcendental, beginning with the premise that a child's mind quickly acquires a complete, complex, and generative grammar. He then claims that a child could not acquire such a complex generative grammar without advance knowledge of how language works. Since received linguistic data cannot correctly represent all the possible constructions, words, contexts, and registers that the fully-fluent adult can use, Chomsky characterizes the linguistic input that a child receives as impoverished and degenerate. He posits that in an autonomous region of the brain, a so-called ‘Language Acquisition Device,’ there exists a genetically-encoded set of grammatical rules common to all human language (Chomsky, New Horizons in the Study of Language, 2-3). This ‘universal grammar’ constitutes the Language Acquisition Device’s initial state, which develops into a steady state as the child learns language: “Language acquisition… is something that happens to the child, not that the child does. […] The general course of development and the basic features of what emerges are predetermined by the initial state. But the initial state is a common human possession” (Chomsky, New Horizons in the Study of Language, 4-5). According to Chomsky, the unsuspecting infant can learn language without purposeful engagement only thanks to this hard-wired, underlying grammar common to all languages. On the opposite side of the debate about child language acquisition are Jerome Bruner and his former student, Michael Tomasello. According to them, the generative grammar proposed by Chomsky relies too much on introspective theory, rather than on empirical results: “Generative grammar takes as its model of natural language formal languages such as mathematics and propositional logic. From this original metaphor, everything else in the theory flows. [T]he whole purpose of formal languages is to allow users to manipulate abstract symbols in algorithmic ways without regard for their meaning or interpretation. The autonomy of syntax is [Generative Grammar’s] defining postulate” (MT 1995: 134). Bruner and Tomasello, both developmental psychologists, advocate a more empirical, less formal method of characterizing human language. From their research, especially on children, Bruner and Tomasello propose that language is not autonomous from the rest of thought: “Language is a form of cognition: it is cognition packaged for the purposes of interpersonal communication” (MT 1995: 150). Since they consider the language faculty continuous with the rest of cognition, Bruner and Tomasello posit that the child’s innate cognitive abilities, not an arbitrary, genetic record of a universal grammar, allow him to learn language. The cognitive abilities unique to humans that allow us to learn language include categorization, intention-reading, and directed, shared attention. According to Bruner and Tomasello, while the linguistic input a child receives may indeed be less-than-optimal, the process of language acquisition involves much more than just language cues. “To acquire language the child must live in a world that has structured social activities she can understand…. For children, this often involves the recurrence of the same general activity on a regular or routine basis. And it must be the case that the adult uses a novel linguistic symbol in a way that the child can comprehend as relevant to that shared activity” (MT 1999: 109). Bruner and Tomasello conclude that for the pre-linguistic child, the main determiner of linguistic success is not the relative richesse of the linguistic input, nor the existence of a universal grammar in the child’s brain. Rather, it is a sociolinguistic ‘scaffold’ which, through repetition and familiarity, “makes it possible for the child to make sense of what is going on, to understand the functions that items of language have in interaction, and eventually to use those items in a functionally apposite way itself” (Harris and Taylor, Landmarks in Linguistic Thought, 183). Thus, instead of Chomsky’s view of language as an arbitrary system, Bruner and Tomasello propose a system in which meaning is tied to language from the very beginning of the child’s learning process: the semantic and syntactic correctness, both of grammatical structures and of individual words, depends upon the scaffolding that repetitive social interactions provide. In sum, whether one supports Chomsky, Bruner, Tomasello, or none of the three, one cannot ignore the effects of their ideas on the modern study of linguistics. Chomsky, with his characterization of language as a formal, autonomous system, believes in a generative grammar. This generative grammar, with finite rules and lexicon, produces an infinite set of possible sentences. Because the pre-linguistic child cannot hear all the possible outputs for any language, Chomsky proposes that every child must possess an innate linguistic faculty common to all languages. He calls this innate faculty ‘universal grammar.’ Bruner and Tomasello rebut Chomsky’s argument, asserting that it relies too much on theory. They propose a ‘cognitive-functional’ approach, in which they argue that a child’s pre-linguistic interactions and innate cognitive abilities form a ‘scaffold’ upon which language grows. Although Chomsky’s position is currently more in vogue than that of Bruner and Tomasello, the power of the latter argument becomes clear when we consider that Chomsky’s interpretation portrays language as a system independent of meaning. The sentence “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” is correct by Chomsky’s purely syntactic model even though it is semantically nonsensical. Bruner and Tomasello’s position holds that such a sentence is incorrect, because all grammatical structures depend upon meaning- and intention-based pre-linguistic scaffolding; in short, one cannot divorce meaning from language. Now, having finished my discussion of Chomsky, Bruner, and Tomasello, it is time for me to put my own colorless green ideas to bed.

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