Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Assimilation & Dissimilation

In Phonology (the branch of linguistics concerned with sound patterns) there are processes known as assimilation and dissimilation. Assimilation is the process by which one sound becomes in some way more alike a nearby sound. As a basic example, in English with nasals(m, n, ng) sounds immediately preceding stops(p, b, t, d, k, g) the nasals will assimilate to the same place of articulation of the stop. That is, with p or b, it will be an m, t or d an n, or k and g, ng. Just try saying humgry instead of hungry, or hunble instead of humble. It will feel incredibly awkward to you to say them that way. Dissimilation is similar except in reverse, sounds become less alike in some way usually in order to more easily distinguish them apart. This is most prominent between vowels to help people hear articulation differences that may be difficult to perceive. Appropriately I think, assimilation is far more common than dissimilation. I say that because I see these same kinds of patterns in people, especially myself.

Most people seek to conform to their environments. Though not everyone necessarily wants to completely blend in, most people to a degree want to fit in and be like everyone else. They don't need to stand out and be different for the sake of being distinguishable from others. They are content to ignore and be ignored by the majority of the world's population. They want to be the same, not different. Then there are a few who are different. Maybe not because of some inherent quality but because of their desire to stand out as such. I am one of those people. I encourage in myself those qualities that seem dissimilar from the majority of the population. I do not want to be the same as others. If I have too many people agreeing with my point of view I tend to reevaluate it and examine whether what I think or believe is truly worth holding. I even dress a bit differently. I enjoy activities that are usually uncommon. I stand out in the crowd. I am an introvert that is loud. I am a man who doesn't want to be noticed, but can't allow myself to blend in. Even within this broader category I've labeled here I want to further differentiate myself even from this group. Most of these people I would imagine are content to be different in one or only a few areas that distinguish them from others. In Phonology it is called minimizing features. You only name the fewest number of features that are relevant to sufficiently distinguish a sound or group of sounds from all others. But I am not like this. You would think I'd be content to be the only (fill in the blank with some unique quality, skill, trait, etc.) around or at least in my group of friends, but I am not. I must be different in a myriad of ways. I have to be better, faster, or at least do things in a different way than you do or I feel like I'm copying people. I don't just stop at one or even a few qualities that make me different from others, I keep going. I be as different as I can be without compromising my core beliefs. I don't know if this is the way I was created to be, or if it was some subconscious decision I made, but this is what I'm like. When I came to CanIL it was a rather strange experience for me because in no other place have I ever had so much in common with other people. It has truly turned me into even stranger of a person. The way I dress, talk, interact, everything has become even more eccentric because of my need to dissimilate. And this might become a problem as I go out onto the mission field for Christ. Maybe what I'll need to be is someone who blends in and doesn't make a splash. I like to make a splash too much. Maybe what I'll have to learn is to be drastically different than the Jason I've always been and dissimilate from who I was in the past to be effective for Christ. But I'm not concerned, for I know it is Christ's work, not mine and I am only a tool. I'll just be the best tool I can be. And for now it looks a lot different than all the other tools lying around.

For His Glorious Name,

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