Seeing Little Things Largely


This study of the uniquely shaped leaves of the ginkgo tree, considered to be a living fossil, requires careful observation of shapes, details, and most importantly, the relationships between the two. In Lingua Franca, a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Geoffrey Pullum ends his essay with a quote from Otto Jespersen, a Danish linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language:

“To anyone who finds that linguistic study is a worthless finicking with trifles, I would reply that life consists of little things; the important matter is to see them largely.”