The assignment was:
Any aspect? :D I just wrote stuff about formal logic. So no more research was needed. Lucky.
The assignment was:
Any aspect? :D I just wrote stuff about formal logic. So no more research was needed. Lucky.
Consider Marx’s famous words in “The Eighteenth Brumaire o f Louis
Bonaparte” : “Men make their own history, but they do not make it
just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by
themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and trans
mitted from the past” (Marx 1978:595). In place o f the word
“history” in this remark, one could easily substitute “ language,” “soci
ety,” or “ culture,” and the statement would remain equally insightful.
At the core o f what is known as “practice theory” is this seeming
paradox: that language, culture, and society all apparently have a pre
existing reality but at the same time are very much the products ot
individual humans’ words and actions.12 Many linguistic anthropolo
gists explicitly or implicitly draw upon practice theory in their work.
Correct. Equally insightless.
In sum, as important as the interview is as a research method, it is
often mistakenly assumed to provide a simple, straightforward path
toward “ the facts” or “the truth.” Interviews can indeed provide rich
insights, but they must be appreciated as the complex, culturally
mediated social interactions that they are.
I cringe every time I read ”the truth” and ”the facts”. Social constructivism -_-
A researcher interested in language ideologies might conduct a
matched guise test, a process that involves recording individuals as
they read a short passage in two or more languages or dialects
(“guises”). In other words, if four people are recorded, eight (or more)
readings o f the same passage might be produced. For example, a
researcher interested in whether listeners judge people who speak
African American English differently from those who speak standard
American English might choose four individuals who can code-switch
fluently between these two ways o f speaking. Each o f these four
individuals would record two readings o f the same passage, one in
African American English, the other in standard American English.
These eight readings would then be shuffled up and played back to
other people who do not know that there were only four readers
instead o f eight. The listeners would be asked to rank each o f the eight
readings, rating each according to how honest, intelligent, sophisti
cated, likable, and so on, they thought the reader was. By comparing
the scores listeners give to the same speaker reading in African
American English vs. standard American English, it is possible to hold
a person’s other voice qualities constant and thereby determine how
much influence simply speaking one or the other o f these language
variants has on listeners’ attitudes toward the speaker. In other words,
matched guise tests can provide a measure o f people’s unconscious
language ideologies – which can be related to racial prejudices.6
It is telling that the author uses ”prejudices” instead of, say, ”beliefs”. Since it is well known that american blacks ARE less intelligent, and that there is a certain dialect used mostly by black americans, this the usage of this dialect can hence be used as a diagnostic tool for identifying american blacks. This in turn makes it a useful proxy for low intelligence (white american standards). Indeed, not using the information for that purpose if one knows about these correlations, would be to ignore relevant data.
The message to scholars interested in language acquisition, therefore, is
that they should consider cultural values and social practices to be
inseparable from language and its acquisition (Slobin 1992:6). And the
message to cultural anthropologists and other social scientists interested
in processes o f childhood social practices, education, apprenticeship, or
other ways o f learning or entering into new social groups is that they
should look closely at linguistic practices. In other words, learning a first
language and becoming a culturally competent member o f a society are
two facets ot a single process. It is virtually impossible for a child to learn
a language without also becoming socialized into a particular cultural
group, and, conversely, a child cannot become a competent member o f
such a group without mastering the appropriate linguistic practices.
What about learning foreign languages? Especially dead foreign languages. Or constructed languages? Does one become a member of the nonexistent Klingon soceity if one learns that as a child? They must have some other way of thinking about this, if these obvious counter-examples do not work.
Franz Boas (1858-1942) is often considered the father o f anthropology
in the United States. An important part o f Boas’s research agenda
involved disproving racist assertions about the existence o f so-called
“primitive” languages, races, and cultures. At the turn o f the twentieth
century, when Boas was writing, some scholars were arguing that
people in certain societies were incapable o f complex, abstract, “scien
tific” thought because o f the seeming lack o f “logical” grammatical
categories in their languages. Boas, who was keen on demonstrating
the essential equality and humanity o f all people despite their tremen
dous linguistic and cultural diversity, disputed this interpretation,
proposing instead that all linguistic and cultural practices were equally
complex and logical. The particular language spoken by a group o f
people merely tended to reflect their habitual cultural practices, Boas
maintained. Language might facilitate certain types o f thinking and
could provide a valuable way o f understanding unconscious patterns
o f culture and thought, Boas declared, but it would not prevent people
from thinking in a way that differed from the categories presented
most conveniently in their language.
I found it difficult to believe that there is nothing to this general idea. I expect there to be some correlations between population IQ and their language. And just trivial things like that indo-european and chinese languages are associated with high IQ. Something like that high IQ is associated with some measure of the advancedness of the language in question. But perhaps it’s not true. In any case, I don’t presume to know to begin with and am willing to look at the data. Apparently, this wasn’t true for Boas.
Another possible way o f researching the influence o f language-in-
general on thought is studying children who have not yet learned a
language. Clearly, it would be highly unethical to deprive a child o f
access to a language; furthermore, studies o f abused children who have
not been exposed to any language involve so many complicating fac
tors that the causes o f cognitive differences are impossible to ascertain.
Researchers interested in the effects o f language-in-general on human
thought have therefore turned to subjects such as very young, prelin-
guistic infants, or deaf children who are raised in normal circum
stances but who have been deprived o f early exposure to language
because they have hearing parents who do not use sign language. In
the case o f infants, as noted in chapter 3, the language socialization
process begins from day one (if not before), so it is impossible to study
a truly “prelinguistic” infant. [...]
It does begin before, at least, so claims this TED talk I saw a while back. www.ted.com/talks/annie_murphy_paul_what_we_learn_before_we_re_born.html
Much research remains to be conducted before a definitive under
standing of the potential effects o f language-in-general on various
dimensions o f thought can be obtained. It may even turn out to be the
case that there is no such general effect, since no one actually learns
“language-in-general” but instead learns one (or more) particular lan
guage. In this regard, additional research is needed to explore the timing
of theory o f mind development in children who speak languages other
than English. There are some studies o f Baka- and Japanese-speaking
children, among others, indicating that they are able to pass the stand
ard false-belief tasks at the same age as English-speaking children, but
other children, such as those who speak Junin Quechua, seem not to
be able to pass the classic false-belief tasks until much later, perhaps
because o f the specific grammatical structures o f Junin Quechua or a
very different cultural context (Villiers and Villiers 2003:372—373).
Many linguistic anthropologists question whether standard experi
ments devised in the United States can be exported, either in their
original form or in “culturally appropriate” versions, to be used with
children (or even adults) from very different linguistic and cultural
backgrounds. At the very least, what little research there is o f this sort
must be closely scrutinized for cultural and linguistic bias.
Knowing that the japanese are similar to whites in intelligence, and not knowing the intelligence of the people speaking the mentioned language, this immediately gives one the idea that it might be an intelligence thing. The crucial test for that is whether false-belief tests correlate with intelligence.
Nothing useful on Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False-belief_task#False-belief_task
Did a brief search on GScholar, with terms: false-belief task, IQ. Result? IQ does predict better scores on false-belief tests. Cites:
The group seems to be this one: www.ethnologue.com/language/QVN
Lynn lists Peru’s population IQ at 90. So, this explanation might fit. Or it might not. Difficult to say about some specific subgroup of that population. Presumably, the indegenious peoples have lower IQ due to lesser admixture of white genes.
Think o f all the taken-for-granted ways in which reading and writing
saturate our daily lives. Even if we put aside schooling, the most obvi
ous realm in which literacy plays a central role, an average day in the
life o f a person living in the United States or any number o f other
countries in the twenty-first century will most likely involve more
interactions with written texts than can be counted. “ [M]ost social
interactions in contemporary society,” David Barton and Mary
Hamilton proclaim, “ are textually mediated” (Barton and Hamilton
2005:14). From cereal boxes, billboards, and newspapers to the inter
net and words written on clothing, many people engage more fre
quently with the written word than they realize. And even when
people are alone while reading and writing, they are engaged in social
activities because reading and writing are enacted and interpreted in
culturally and socially specific ways. Moreover, these activities are also
bound up with social differences and inequalities. Patricia Baquedano-
Lopez writes: “Literacy is less a set o f acquired skills and more an
activity that affords the acquisition and negotiation o f new ways o f
thinking and acting in the world” (2004:246). And since the social
world is not composed o f neutral, power-free interactions, Janies Gee
notes that we should therefore not expect this to be true o f literacy
practices: “The traditional meaning of the word ‘literacy’— the ‘ability
to read and write ’ — appears ‘innocent’ and ‘obvious.’ But, it is no such
thing. Literacy as ‘the ability to read and write ’ situates literacy in the
individual person, rather than in society. As such, it obscures the
multiple ways in which literacy interrelates with the workings of
power” (Gee 2008:31).
Garbage like this is found consistently throughout the book.
Junigau women’s literacy practices did not just facilitate a shift away
from arranged marriage toward elopement, therefore, but also reflected
and helped to shape the new ways in which villagers thought o f
themselves. Along with these changes, however, came some rein
forcement o f pre-existing norms, especially in the area o f gender rela
tions. While it might seem to readers used to having the right to
choose their own spouse that acquiring such a right would inevitably
improve someone’s life, in fact, the opposite was true for some Junigau
women who eloped after love-letter correspondences. In cases where
their husbands or in-laws turned out to be abusive, the women found
that they had no recourse and no support from their own parents.
If they had encountered these kinds o f problems after an arranged
marriage, most could have returned to their parents’home or expected
their parents to intervene on their behalf. Such was not the case tor
most women who had eloped. Indeed, because most o f these women
ended up moving into their husbands’ extended households as low-
status daughters-in-law, their social positioning and daily lives were
virtually identical to those o f women whose marriages had been
arranged – except that they did not have the same recourse if things
went poorly In some respects, therefore, the women’s new literacy
practices created new and different opportunities and identities, but in
other respects, long-standing gender inequalities remained or were
Interesting, even if sad.
An alternative source o f theoretical illumination for literacy
researchers, according to James Collins and Richard Blot (2003), is
French post-structuralist thought. Pierre Bourdieu,Michel de Certeau,
Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault all provide important analyses
o f the workings o f power in society in ways that are especially apt for
scholars interested in studying reading and writing. Drawing on these
theorists, Collins and Blot attempt to provide something they argue
has been lacking in NLS: “ an account o f power-in-literacy which
captures the intricate ways in which power, knowledge, and forms o f
subjectivity are interconnected with ‘uses o f literacy’ in modern
national, colonial, and postcolonial settings” (2003:66). Lewis et al.
(2007) draw upon some o f these post-structuralist theorists as well as
others to create a “ critical sociocultural theory” by focusing on con
cepts such as. “activity,’’“history” and “communities o f practice,” which
they claim help literacy scholars to incorporate a better understanding
o f identity, agency, and power into their research.
Oh no. Not more of this garbage.
The challenge o f identifying the many possible interpretations and
emergent possibilities o f any given performance – or, indeed, any
social interaction — has been a central issue in some o f my own
research. In particular, I became intrigued by a specific woman’s festival
in Nepal known asTij. From my first experiences o f the yearly festival
in the early 1980s when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Nepali
village ot Junigau through my subsequent stints o f research there once
I became an anthropologist,Tij has always been o f interest.The festival
is based on Hindu rituals for married women that require them to
pray for the long lives o f their husbands (and even pray that they die
before their husbands). The rituals also require women to atone for
having possibly caused men to become ritually polluted by touching
them while the women were menstruating or recovering from child
birth. In Junigau, however, the celebration ofTij goes far beyond these
rituals, extending weeks in advance and involving feasts for female
relatives and many formal and informal songfests at which women
sing, men play the drums, and both women and men dance, some
times even together.
Mehl and his colleagues conducted a study of almost 400 college
students – the study mentioned at the outset o f this chapter – in order
to measure gender differences in the average number o f words spoken
over the course o f the research subjects’ waking hours (Mehl et al.
2007).The college students (divided roughly equally between women
and men) were rigged up with digital recorders that were programmed
to record for 30 seconds every 12.5 minutes. The students could not
tell when they were being recorded. The researchers then transcribed
all the words spoken by the participants and extrapolated from these
figures to estimate the total number o f words spoken over the course
o f an average day for these individuals. The findings showed that
female college students spoke an average o f 16,215 words per day,
while men spoke an average o f 15,669 words per day – but this dif
ference was not statistically significant. “Thus,” write Mehl and his
co-authors, “the data fail to reveal a reliable sex difference in daily
word use. Women and men both use on average about 16,000 words
per day, with very large individual differences around this mean . .. We
therefore conclude, on the basis o f available empirical evidence, that
the widespread and highly publicized stereotype about female talka
tiveness is unfounded” (Mehl et al. 2007:82).
In the source referenced to just prior to this Language Log is mentioned a study about the talkativeness of the sexes, which found that females used 45% more words.
I tried to find some more recent studies on Google Scholar, but didn’t find anything useful. Wrong key words?
It the realities o f language and gender are really so complex and varied,
however, why are the language ideologies concerning female talka
tiveness or male verbal competitiveness that can be found in the
vignettes presented by Tannen (1990) and others so recognizable
to us? Cameron (2007b) explains that it happens because o f the
tendency o f all people to rely at least in part on stereotyping when
processing information. It is not just ignorant or prejudiced people
who stereotype, Cameron states, but everyone because stereotyping
provides us with convenient shortcuts in determining what people
are like and how we should treat them.The downside, however, is that
such stereotypes “can reinforce unjust prejudices, and make us prone
to seeing only what we expect or want to see” (Cameron 2007b: 14).
When we see someone who fits our preconceptions – say, a woman
who is extremely talkative, for example – we easily “supply the cultural
script that makes them meaningful a n d ‘typical’” (Cameron 1997:48).
When we encounter someone who does not fit a particular stereo
type, however, we tend either not to notice or to explain the case
away as an aberration.
Why should we care i f one or more o f our gendered language
ideologies might be inaccurate or at least overly simplistic? There are
many real-world implications o f inaccurate language ideologies — in
the workplace, in family life, in court cases, and in interpersonal
relationships. Women, men, and children all suffer when gendered
assumptions regarding communicative styles and identities are inac
curate or overly rigid. What the research described in this chapter
clearly demonstrates is that complexity and variability best character
ize the relationship o f language to gender. We will come to a similar
conclusion in the next chapter after exploring the ways in which
language relates to race and ethnicity.
They are also useful in remembering base rates and making correct judgments. Cf. Jussim, Lee, et al. “10 The Unbearable Accuracy of Stereotypes.” Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (2009): 199.
Defining Race and Ethnicity
Many misconceptions surround the concept of race. Jane Hill, a
well-known linguistic anthropologist and the former President o f
the American Anthropological Association, maintains that most
white Americans share a largely inaccurate “ folk th eo ry ” ot race and
racism, one o f the main components o f which is a belief in “race” as
a basic category o f human biological variation, combined with a
belief that each human being can be assigned to a race, or some
times to a mixture o f races (Hill 2008:6—7). Hill argues that this folk
theory is widespread and taken for granted – but mistaken in most
respects, according to the vast majority o f anthropologists and other
social scientists. Indeed, the official statement on race o f the
American Anthropological Association begins with these two
In the United States both scholars and the general public have been
conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions
within the human species based on visible physical differences.
With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century,
however, it has become clear that human populations are not unam
biguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence
from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical
variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional
geographic “racial” groupings differ from one another only in about
6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within
“racial” groups than between them. In neighboring populations
there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic (physical)
expressions.Throughout history whenever different groups have come
into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic
materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species.
Physical variations in any given trait tend to occur gradually rather
than abruptly over geographic areas. And because physical traits are
inherited independently of one another, knowing the range of one
trait does not predict the presence of others. For example, skin color
varies largely from light in the temperate areas in the north to dark in
the tropical areas in the south; its intensity is not related to nose shape
or hair texture. Dark skin may be associated with frizzy or kinky hair
or curly or wavy or straight hair, all of which are found among different
indigenous peoples in tropical regions. These facts render any attempt
to establish lines of division among biological populations both
arbitrary and subjective.
As definitive as the AAA’s statement is about the lack o f a consistent
biological basis for the concept o f race, it should not be read as argu
ing that race does not exist. Race is clearly an important social cate
gory that influences people’s life trajectories and identities. Many
scholars in fact view it as a, or even the, central organizing principle
in the United States. But the social fact o f race does not support the
folk theory described by Hill above.2 Reflect for a moment upon
the following paradox: because o f the so-called “one-drop rule,” a
white woman in the United States can give birth to a black child, but
a black woman cannot give birth to white child. Such reflection
should lead to an appreciation for the social foundations o f the con
cept o f race (Ignatiev 1995:1).
This one was bound to happen. The usual socialconstructivism.
Edwards, Anthony WF. “Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy.” BioEssays 25.8 (2003): 798-801.
As usual, these socialconstructivists attack strawman accounts of race. Who believes in an essentialist, clearly separate account of human races? No one. It’s biology, clear bounderies are a rarefind. :)
At one point in the history o f the United States, for example, many
groups now unquestioningly considered “w h i te ” were initially not
included in this privileged category.3 Benjamin Franklin, for example,
wrote in the eighteenth century that Swedes and Germans were
“swarthy,” and he did not include them among the “white people,”
who consisted, according to Franklin, solely o f the English and the
Saxons. “This example,” Jane Hill comments, “shows how what seem
to us today like fundamental perceptions may be o f very recent his
torical origin . .. Contemporary White Americans can no longer see
‘swarthiness’ among Swedes, and find it astonishing that anyone ever
did so” (Hill 2008:14).
Never heard of this one. But it seems true. www.dialoginternational.com/dialog_international/2008/02/ben-franklin-on.html
24. Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.
Good old racism. In reality the Swedes are very white, and the British are partly Swedes due to Viking settlements… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_Age#England
Gene tests can surely confirm this, if they haven’t already done so.
The parameters and nuances o f racial classifications in countries
other than the United States have been studied by anthropologists and
other social scientists for many years. In Brazil, for example, scholarly
debates have focused on the meanings o f multiple Brazilian racial
categories that intersect in complicated ways with class, gender, and
sexuality.4 In Nepal, the country I know best ethnographically, there
is nothing like the black—white binary commonly attributed to the
United States, and until recently, the concept o f “race” was not men
tioned in public debates at all. Instead, caste, ethnicity, and religion
have been the most salient forms o f social differentiation for Nepalis.
During the 1990s, however, a group o f activists from various Tibeto-
Burman ethnic groups drew upon outdated social science research
from the last century to posit three main races in the world (Hangen
2005, 2009). Susan Hangen, an anthropologist who has conducted
fieldwork on this topic in Nepal, reports that a politician in eastern
Nepal stated the following during one o f his speeches in 1997:
We are a M on go l community, we are n o t a caste either; we are Mongol .
For example, in this world there are three types o f people. O n e is
w h i te w i th w h i te skin like Americans, for example like sister here
[referring to me] . . . T h e o th e r has black skin and is called N e g ro .T h e
o th e r is called the red race like us: sh ort like us; stocky like us; with
small eyes and flat noses like us. (2005:49)
L5y invoking this outdated tripartite racial classification, the politician
was attempting to unite a number o f linguistically and culturally
diverse ethnic groups, such as Rais, Magars, Limbus, Gurungs, and
Sherpas, under the umbrella o f one political party, the Mongol
National Organization (MNO). The hope was that unifying these
disparate but similarly disadvantaged groups would help them oppose
Nepal’s high-caste Hindu ruling groups. One person told Hangen,
“We didn’t know that we were Mongols until the M N O came here”
(2005:49). Hangen’s research is a fascinating example o f the com
plexities, contradictions, and cross-cultural differences involved in the
concept ot race.
Actually those three are the three superclusters found using modern methods and not a all wrong. They are however less informative than are the lesser clusters, say, the 10 clusters identified by Sforza (1994). Depending on how much data one has, and how much detail one wants, one can find a larger number of clusters, aka. races.
Bonnie Urciuoli approaches the process o f ethnicization differently
in her research on Puerto Ricans in New York City, contrasting
ethnicization with racialization and situating both within the context
of class and gender identities in the United States. According to
Urciuoli (1996), racial discourses “frame group origin in natural
terms.” Ethnic discourses, in contrast, “frame group origin in cultural
terms” (1996:15). Racialized people, Urciuoli writes, are considered
out of place; they are dirty, dangerous, and unwilling or unable to
participate constructively in the nation-state. In contrast, the cultural
differences said to be characteristic o f ethnicized people are consid
ered safe, ordered, and “ a contribution to the nation-state offered by
striving immigrants making their way up the ladder o f class mobility”
(1996:16). Within this landscape o f social inequality and exclusion,
Urciuoli states that language differences are often racialized.That is, an
inability to speak English, or an inability to speak English “without an
accent” (cf. Lippi-Green 1997), marks someone as disorderly and
unlikely to experience social mobility – as someone, in other words,
who does not fully belong in the United States.
But the asians are doing just fine and speak with an accent. Likewise with other high IQ immigrants.
Some people argue that using two negatives is “illogical” because
two negatives is a positive according to formal logic or mathematical
principles. But if this were so, then the use o f three negatives, as in the
sentence, “ I can’t get n o th in ’ from nobody,” would go back to being
a negative and would no longer “violate” these principles. Clearly,
this sentence would be as objectionable as ones with only two nega
tives to the prescriptivists who want to impose the grammatical rules
o f one dialect o f English (the standard one) on all other dialects.
While there may be many good reasons for preferring standard
English over other dialects o f English in certain instances, neverthe
less, as Labov (1972a) famously demonstrated decades ago in his
classic article, “The Logic o f Nonstandard English,” logic and gram-
maticality are not among them. The preference o f one dialect over
another is one based on social, political, or economic factors – it
cannot be based on linguistic factors because all dialects are equally
logical and grammatical.
Nonsense. Some languages are more logical than others. The obvious case being lojban which is directly translateable to predicate logic. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban
In any case, the author seems to have no good understanding of formal logic, as she uses confusing simplistic terms. The sentence she uses as an example: I can’t get nothin’ from nobody.
I can’t get nothing from nobody.
I can get something from nobody.
I can’t get anything from anybody.
These are all equivalent in standard predicate logic.
¬(∃x)¬(∃y)¬CanGetFrom(I, x, y)
substitute ¬(∃x) for (∀x)¬
(∀x)¬¬(∃y)¬CanGetFrom(I, x, y)
Double negation elimination
(∀x)(∃y)¬CanGetFrom(I, x, y)
For any x, there is an y such that it is not the case that I can get x from y.
In other words, for every person, there is something I can’t get. I can’t get anything from anybody.
That’s using the internal negation interpretation. Using external negation, the situation is easier, and that is left for the reader as an exercise in logic. :)
Turning to the second question about how or whether AAE should
be used in schools to facilitate the acquisition among AAE-speaking
students o f the standard dialect o f English, it is important to note the
serious educational crisis that the Oakland Board o f Education was
trying to address (however ineffectively or controversially) in its
December 1996 resolution. As John Rickford (2005) reminds us, the
Oakland school district was not alone in experiencing extremely high
rates o f failure and drop-out among its African American population.
O th e r school districts throughout the United States faced similar
disparities in school performance at the time – and still do today.
The question remains how to address these educational disparities.
Although this issue is far beyond the scope o f this book, involving as
it does complex issues o f poverty, racial discrimination, and residential
segregation, among other possible contributing factors, the extent to
which speaking a nonstandard, stigmatized linguistic variant such as
AAE contributes to school problems deserves to be studied further
(cf. Labov 2010; Rickford 2005).
It is called intelligence.
Aside from the obvious racist slurs, what constitutes racist language?
Jane Hill (2008) argues that the language ideologies that are dominant
in the United States, combined with a widespread American folk
theory o f race, combine to ensure that the everyday talk produced by
average white, middle-class Americans and distributed in respected
media “ continues to produce and reproduce Whi te racism” (2008:47).
Far from being an element o f the past. Hill maintains, racism “is a vital
and formative presence in American lives, resulting in h ur t and pain
to individuals, to glaring injustice, in the grossly unequal distribution
o f resources along racially stratified lines, and in strange and damaging
errors and omissions in public policy both domestic and foreign”
(2008:47-48). And this racism, Hill suggests, is largely produced in
and through everyday talk – not through the obvious racist slurs that
most people today condemn (though these o f course contribute), but
through unintentional, indirect uses ot language that reinforce racist
Ah, the racism theory of blacks problems. Obviously doesn’t work due to the fact that blacks in African countries perform likewise badly. And they have done so for the last 100 years, so far back as we have data.
Cf. Jensen’s discussion in The g Factor. emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/The-g-factor-the-science-of-mental-ability-Arthur-R.-Jensen.pdf
In a similar set o f experiments, Rubin (1992) and Rubin and Smith
(1990) conducted matched guise tests with undergraduates (Hill
2008:12). All their research participants heard the same four-minute
tape-recorded lecture featuring a woman who was a native speaker ot
English, but half o f the students were shown a slide o f a white woman
while they listened to the lecture and were told that this was the
speaker, while the other half were shown a slide o f an East Asian
woman. The students in the latter group tended to report that the
speaker had a foreign accent, and they even did significantly worse on
a comprehension quiz on the material in the lecture — even though
these students had heard exactly the same lecture as the students who
were shown the photo o f a white woman while they listened to the
lecture! Clearly, racial categories and racialized language ideologies can
influence perceptions even without our being aware o f the process.
That sounds interesting. Inb4 small sample size and publication bias.
The cites are:
Rubin, D.L. (1992) Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates’ judgments of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. Research in Higher Education 33:51 1—53 I .
Rubin, D.L. and Smith, K.A. (1990) Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture
topic onundergraduates’ perceptions of non-native English-speaking teaching assistants. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 14:
I looked into the newest one, from 1992. It had a sample size of 62 (with apparently, self-selection before that). And it reported non-significant results for the things the author of the book claims. Color me not impressed, although interesting study. The results did tend to go in the direction the author claims, but they had a huge variance.
What are the problematic assumptions underlying the desire to
count the number ot endangered languages, and the number o f speak
ers each endangered language has? Jane Hill (2002:127-128;
cf. Duchene and Heller 2007) names several. First, although she
acknowledges that numbers can be powerful “ calls to action” that have
been used to mobilize activists to reverse the trend toward language
death, and although Hill herselt has been involved in such efforts, she
warns that journalists and the mass media are soundbite oriented and
cannot or will not devote enough time or space to explaining the dif
ficulties or subtleties involved in quantifying languages or speakers.
Second, Hill warns that numbers and statistics that are meant for one
kind of audience — speakers of dominant languages, perhaps, who have
the power to do something about the extinction o f smaller languages
— can have very negative effects when heard by a very different kind o f
audience – the speakers o f endangered languages themselves. Hill
reminds her readers that numbers have often been used by colonial
powers in the past as one means o f control, what Foucault would call
governmentality through enumeration. Speakers o f endangered lan
guages are often fearful, she warns, that numbers can be (and have been)
held against them, and they can therefore become fearful or resentful.
K. David Harrison, another linguist who works on endangered lan
guages all over the world, lists three areas o f loss if we fail to safeguard
and document languages at risk o f extinction: (1) the erosion o f
the human knowledge base, especially local ecological knowledge;
(2) the loss o f cultural heritage; and (3) failure to acquire a full under
standing o f human cognitive capacities (2007:15-19). With regard to
the first area o f loss, Harrison notes that an estimated 87 percent o f
the world’s plants and animals have not yet been identified or studied
by modern scientists. If we are to hope that a cure to cancer or other
horrible diseases might be found in the Amazon, or in Papua New
Guinea, or it we want to learn about more sustainable forms o f agri
culture from people who have been living in harmony in their envi
ronments for many hundreds o f years, then we should recognize,
Harrison writes, that “most o f what humankind knows about the
natural world lies completely outside o f science textbooks, libraries,
and databases, existing only in unwri tten languages in people’s
memories” — that is, mostly in unwri tten endangered languages
(2007:15). O f course, some o f this knowledge can be communicated
in a different language, assuming the person speaking the endangered
language is bilingual, but oftentimes there is a “massive disruption o f
the transfer o f traditional knowledge across generations” when a
group switches from an endangered language to a dominant language
(2007:16). Particular languages are often especially rich in certain
areas o f the lexicon, such as reindeer herding, botany, or fishing, that
are the most important to the speakers o f those languages, and a great
deal o f ecologically specific knowledge is encoded in that language
that goes along with those particular cultural practices. It is not sur
prising, then, that much o f that knowledge is not passed on when the
language (and often the way o f life as well) dies.
I thought the point about loss of local knowledge was good. Although this is only relevant for useful local knowledge. Map knowledge, not useful. We have satelites. Properties of local plants. Might be very useful for medicine.
The third area o f loss Elarrison identifies is the ability to acquire a
full understanding o f the capabilities o f the human mind. Linguists
and cognitive scientists make assumptions about what the human
brain can and cannot do based on experiments and existing data. One
source o f such data is the group o f languages that have been studied
by linguists. Whenever a language is analyzed for the first time, schol
ars look to see what patterns it shares grammatically with other lan
guages in the world and which features it has that might be unique.
The more languages that die, the more likely it is that the conclusions
scholars draw about the limits o f human cognition might be mistaken.
For example, the language o f Urarina, which is spoken by only 3,000
people in the Amazon rainforest o f Peru, has a very unusual word
order for its sentences. Unlike English, which generally uses the
Subject -V e rb – Object (S-V-O) word order, as in sentences such as,
“The girl rode the bike,” Urarina uses the Object – Verb — Subject
(O-V-S) word order, which would have a literal translation for this
sentence as, “The bike rode the girl.” O-V-S word order is extremely
rare among the world’s languages. “Were it not for Urarina and a few
other Amazonian languages,” Harrison writes, “scientists might not
even suspect it were possible. They would be free to hypothesize —
falsely – that O-V-S word order was cognitively impossible, that the
human brain could not process i t” (2007:19).
Eh. It is obviously ‘cognitively possible’ since we just understood an English example with OVS order… Another route is just to make construct a language to test it with. Similarly for other candidates for impossibility.
Still useful, sure, but not that useful.
As a language is in the process o f dying out, it often undergoes
simplification in its grammar and lexicon. Speakers have fewer oppor
tunities to use the language and so either forget or do not acquire a
large vocabulary. Grammatical structures can also be lost or simplified.
For example, in Dyirbal, an endangered Aboriginal language in
Australia, there used to be a four-part classification o f nouns. (See
chapter 4 for a discussion o f the four categories.) Nowadays, however,
young people are less familiar with the ancestral myths and cultural
practices that motivated the four-part classification, and they are less
fluent in Dyirbal, having attended school mostly in English, and so
they have replaced the four-part system o f noun classification with a
two-part one. It is still different from English and retains some of the
features o f the older system, hut it has become much simpler to use
(Nettle and Romaine 2000:66-69).
Now, if only all other languages would get rid of noun classes/genders… :)
The chapter on language extinction is really lacking in content. They don’t discuss the overall cause of the huge diversity of languages to begin with, why there is a lot of diversity some places, and others not. And they fail to mention one very good reason, which is indeed the primary reason to use a language at all, to have fewer languages: it makes communcating easier! The cause of diversity of languages is 1) lack of long distance communcation between groups of people. Consider it a proces similar to genetic drift. Those places where there is lots of language diversity, are exactly the kind of backward places with no decent technology to facilitate long distance communication. When we use introduce it, they need to use a different language to talk with other people, and hence switch from their now not very useful language to one more useful. Nothing mysterious here.
One o f the most useful terms for our purposes in understanding how
power intersects with language is hegemony. According to Raymond
Williams, a cultural Marxist who builds on the work o f Antonio
Gramsci, hegemony refers to a dynamic system o f domination based
not so much on violence or the threat o f violence, or merely on the
economic control o f the means o f production, but rather on political,
cultural, and institutional influence. “That is to say,” Williams writes,
“it is not limited to matters o f direct political control but seeks to
describe a more general predominance which includes, as one o f its
key features, a particular way o f seeing the world and human nature
and relationships” (1983:145). Having military power or economic
wealth can certainly lead to power, but social status and cultural dom
inance can also come from other sources, and hegemony is a term that
helps us understand this process. Hegemony is saturated with the spe
cific forms o f inequality belonging to particular societies at particular
historical moments, according to Williams, and is “ . . . in the strongest
sense a ‘culture’, but a culture which has also to be seen as the lived
dominance and subordination o f particular classes” (1977:110).
Emphasizing the dynamic nature o f any “ lived hegemony,” Williams
reminds us that “it does not just passively exist as a form o f domi
nance. It has continually to be renewed, recreated, defended, and
modified. It is also continually resisted, limited, altered, challenged by
pressures not all its own” (1977:112). In other words, Williams con
cludes, while any lived hegemony is always by definition dominant, it
is never total or exclusive (1977:113).
Oh boy here we go…
Antonio Gramsci (Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo ˈɡramʃi]; 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian writer, politician, political theorist, philosopher, sociologist, and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini‘s Fascist regime.
Gramsci was one of the most important Marxist thinkers in the 20th century. His writings are heavily concerned with the analysis of culture and political leadership and he is notable as a highly original thinker within modern European thought. He is renowned for his concept of cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining the state in a capitalist society.
In a contribution that ties in nicely with one o f this b o o k ’s key
concepts, that o f language ideologies, Bourdieu describes how differ
ent levels o f symbolic capital can turn into symbolic dominance and even
symbolic violence. When individuals in a society are not proficient in
the most highly valued ways o f speaking (such as English in the
United States, especially Standard American English), they do not
benefit from the access such proficiency often provides to prestigious
schools, professions, or social groups (cf. Lippi-Green 1997). And yet,
speakers o f stigmatized variants (for example, in the United States
these might include speakers o f nonstandard varieties o f English
such as African American English or Appalachian English) frequently
buy into the system o f evaluation that ranks Standard American
English as superior. These people’s own language ideologies, in other
words, stigmatize the ways in which they themselves speak. This
acceptance o f differing social values accorded various ways ot speak
ing is in actuality a misrecognition, according to Bourdieu, because the
differential levels o f prestige constitute an arbitrary ranking. Every
language or dialect is as good linguistically, even though not socially, as
It just isn’t true. Languages differ in many relevant linguistic properties. Good luck discussing advanced physics in some amerindian language with no words for the relevant physics terms. This is even the case for a large language such as Danish. This is one of the reason we see what is called domain loss – a domain of life is spoken about in a different language because no suitable terms exist in the standard language. Cf. ex. sprogmuseet.dk/sprogpolitik/ingen-fare-for-dom%C3%A6netab-naturvidenskabelige-forskere-vil-altid-have-brug-for-dansk/
And some are easier to learn than others, due to grammar or phonology (ex. English <th> sounds are difficult to learn).
And so on.
Why such a change in the understanding o f these languages? Irvine
and Gal argue that the answer it was not so much because o f better
scholarship or improved data but instead because, “There have also
been changes in what observers expected to see and how they inter
preted what they saw” (2000:48). Nineteenth-century linguists and
ethnographers assumed that linguistic classifications could be used to
judge evolutionary rankings o f groups. (White Europeans were of
course at the top o f this ranking, and various African groups clustered
toward the bottom.) They also assumed that ethnic groups were
monolingual and that a “primordial relationship” existed that linked
languages with territories, nations, tribes, and peoples. In the case o f
Fula, Wolof, and Sereer, racial and linguistic ideologies led nineteenth-
century linguists to consider the Fula language and its speakers (who
were often lighter skinned than the others and who tended to espouse
a more orthodox Islam) to be o f higher status and intelligence. The
Wolof language was deemed “less supple, less handy” than Fula, and its
speakers less intelligent. The Sereer language, nineteenth-century lin
guists claimed, was “the language o f primitive simplicity” (Irvine and
Never heard of them, but lightness of skin does correlate well with population intelligence world wide.
They might be smarter than their neighbours. At least, there is a list of prominent fula people. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fula_people#Notable_Fulani_people_by_country
Googling “fule people intelligent” yields 13.1e6 results.
Cambridge.University.Press.Analyzing.Grammar.An.Introduction.Jun.2005 free pdf download
Overall, there is nothing much to say about this book. It covers most stuff. Neither particularly good, or interesting, or particularly bad or uninteresting, IMO.
Forexample, what is the meaning of the word hello? What information
does it convey? It is a very difﬁcult word to deﬁne, but every speaker of
English knows how to use it: for greeting an acquaintance, answering the
telephone, etc. We might say that hello conveys the information that the
speaker wishes to acknowledge the presence of, or initiate a conversation
with, the hearer. But it would be very strange to answer the phone or greet
your best friend by saying “I wish to acknowledge your presence” or “I
wish to initiate a conversation with you.”What is important about the word
hello is not its information content (if any) but its use in social interaction.
In the Teochew language (a “dialect” of Chinese), there is no word for
‘hello’. The normal way for one friend to greet another is to ask: “Have you
already eaten or not?” The expected reply is: “I have eaten,” even if this is
not in fact true.
In our comparison of English with Teochew, we saw that both languages
employ a special formof sentence for expressing Yes–No questions. In fact,
most, if not all, languages have a special sentence pattern which is used for
asking such questions. This shows that the linguistic form of an utterance
is often closely related to its meaning and its function. On the other hand,
we noted that the grammatical features of a Yes–No question in English
are not the same as in Teochew. Different languages may use very different
grammatical devices to express the same basic concept. So understanding
the meaning and function of an utterance will not tell us everything we need
to know about its form.
interesting for me becus of my work on a logic of questions and answers.
Both of the hypotheses we have reached so far about Lotuko words are
based on the assumption that themeaning of a sentence is composed in some
regular way from the meanings of the individual words. That is, we have
been assuming that sentence meanings are compositional.Of course,
every language includes numerous expressions where this is not the case.
Idioms are one common example. The English phrase kick the bucket can
mean ‘die,’ even though none of the individual words has this meaning.
Nevertheless, the compositionality of meaning is an important aspect of the
structure of all human languages.
for more on compositionality see: plato.stanford.edu/entries/compositionality/
We have discussed three types of reasoning that can be used to
identify the meaningful elements of an utterance (whether parts of a word
or words in a sentence): minimal contrast, recurring partials, and pattern-
matching. In practice, when working on a new body of data, we often use
all three at once, without stopping to think which method we use for which
element. Sometimes, however, it is important to be able to state explicitly
the pattern of reasoning which we use to arrive at certain conclusions. For
example, suppose that one of our early hypotheses about the language is
contradicted by further data. We need to be able to go back and determine
what evidence that hypothesis was based on so that we can re-evaluate
that evidence in the light of additional information. This will help us to
decide whether the hypothesis can be modiﬁed to account for all the facts,
orwhether it needs to be abandoned entirely.Grammatical analysis involves
an endless process of “guess and check” – forming hypotheses, testing them
against further data, andmodifying or abandoning those which do not work.
quite a lot of science works like that. conjecture and refutation, pretty much (Popper)
What do we mean when we say that a certain form, such as Zapotec ka–,
is a “morpheme?” Charles Hockett (1958) gave a deﬁnition of this term
which is often quoted:
Morphemes are the smallest individually meaningful elements in the utter-
ances of a language.
There are two crucial aspects of this deﬁnition. First, a morpheme is mean-
ingful.A morpheme normally involves a consistent association of phono-
logical formwith some aspect ofmeaning, as seen in (7) where the form ˜ nee
was consistently associated with the concept ‘foot.’ However, this associ-
ation of form with meaning can be somewhat ﬂexible. We will see various
ways in which the phonological shape of a morpheme may be altered to
some extent in particular environments, and there are some morphemes
whose meaning may depend partly on context.
obviously does not work for en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cranberry_morpheme
what is the solution to this inconsistency in terminology?
In point (c) above we noted that a word which contains no plural marker
is always singular. The chart in (17) shows that the plural preﬁx is optional,
and that when it is present it indicates plurality; but it doesn’t say anything
about the signiﬁcance of the lack of a preﬁx. One way to tidy up this loose
end is to assume that the grammar of the language includes a default
rule which says something like the following: “a countable noun which
contains no plural preﬁx is interpreted as being singular.”
Another possible way to account for the same fact is to assume that sin-
gular nouns carry an “invisible” (or null) preﬁx which indicates singular
number. That would mean that the number preﬁx is actually obligatory for
this class of noun. Under this approach, our chart would look something
the default theory with en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markedness is more plausible than positing invisible morphemes.
since the book contiues to use Malay as an ex. including the word <orang> i’m compelled to mention that it is not a coincidence that it is similar to <orangutan>. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangutan#Etymology
The name “orangutan” (also written orang-utan, orang utan, orangutang, and ourang-outang) is derived from the Malay and Indonesian words orang meaning “person” and hutan meaning “forest”, thus “person of the forest”.Orang Hutan was originally not used to refer to apes, but to forest-dwelling humans. The Malay words used to refer specifically to the ape is maias and mawas, but it is unclear if those words refer to just orangutans, or to all apes in general. The first attestation of the word to name the Asian ape is in Jacobus Bontius‘ 1631 Historiae naturalis et medicae Indiae orientalis – he described that Malaysians had informed him the ape was able to talk, but preferred not to “lest he be compelled to labour”. The word appeared in several German-language descriptions of Indonesian zoology in the 17th century. The likely origin of the word comes specifically from the Banjarese variety of Malay.
The word was first attested in English in 1691 in the form orang-outang, and variants with -ng instead of -n as in the Malay original are found in many languages. This spelling (and pronunciation) has remained in use in English up to the present, but has come to be regarded as incorrect. The loss of “h” in Utan and the shift from n to -ng has been taken to suggest that the term entered English through Portuguese. In 1869, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-creator of modern evolutionary theory, published his account of Malaysia’s wildlife: The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise.
Traditional deﬁnitions for parts of speech are based on “notional”
(i.e. semantic) properties such as the following:
(17) A noun is a word that names a person, place, or thing.
A verb is a word that names an action or event.
An adjective is a word that describes a state.
However, these characterizations fail to identify nouns like destruction,
theft, beauty, heaviness. They cannot distinguish between the verb love and
the adjective fond (of),or between the noun fool and the adjective foolish.
Note that there is very little semantic difference between the two sentences
(18) They are fools.
They are foolish.
it is easy to fix 17a to include abstractions. all his counter-examples are abstractions.
<love> is both a noun and a verb, but 17 definitions, which is right.
the 18 ex. seems weak too. what about the possibility of interpreting 18b as claiming that they are foolish. this does not mean that they are fools. it may be a temporary situation (drunk perhaps), or isolated to specific areas of reality (ex. religion).
not that i’m especially happy about semantic definitions, it’s just that the argumentation above is not convincing.
Third, the head is more likely to be obligatory than the modiﬁers or other
non-head elements. For example, all of the elements of the subject noun
phrase in (22a) can be omitted except the head word pigs.If this word is
deleted, as in (22e), the result is ungrammatical.
(22) a [The three little pigs] eat trufﬂes.
b [The three pigs] eat trufﬂes.
c [The pigs] eat trufﬂes.
d [Pigs] eat trufﬂes.
e *[The three little] eat trufﬂes.
not so quick. if the context makes it clear that they are speaking about pigs, or children, or whatever, 22e is perfectly understandable, since context ‘fiils out’ the missing information, grammatically speaking. but the author is right in that it is incomplete and without context to fill in, one would be forced to ask ”three little what?”. but still, that one will actually respond like this shows that the utterance was understood, at least in part.
Of course, English noun phrases do not always contain a head noun. In
certain contexts a previously mentioned head may be omitted because it is
“understood,” as in (23a). This process is called ellipsis . Moreover, in
English, and in many other languages, adjectives can sometimes be used
without any head noun to name classes of people, as in (23b,c). But, aside
from a few fairly restricted patterns like these, heads of phrases in English
tend to be obligatory.
(23) a [The third little pig] was smarter than [the second ].
b [the good], [the bad] and [the ugly]
c [The rich] get richer and [the poor] get children.
i was going to write the author doesn’t seem to understand the word ”obligatory”, but it another interpretation dawned upon me. i think he means that under must conditions, one cannot leave out the noun in a noun phrase (NP), but sometimes one can. confusing wording.
As we can already see from example (5), different predicates require
different numbers of arguments: hungry and snores require just one, loves
and slapping require two. Some predicates may not require any arguments
at all. For example, in many languages comments about the weather (e.g. It
is raining,or It is dark,or It is hot) could be expressed by a single word, a
bare predicate with no arguments.
it is worth mentioning that there is a name for this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dummy_pronoun
It is important to remember that arguments can also be optional. For exam-
ple,many transitive verbs allowan optional beneﬁciary argument (18a), and
most transitive verbs of the agent–patient type allow an optional instrument
argument (18b). The crucial fact is that adjuncts are always optional. So
the inference “if obligatory then argument” is valid; but the inference “if
optional then adjunct” is not.
strictly speaking, this is using the terminology incorrectly. conditionals are not inferences. the author should have written ex ”the inference “obligatory, therefore, argument” is valid.”, or alternatively ”the conditional “if obligatory, then argument” is true.”.
confusing inferences with conditionals leads to all kinds of confusions in logic.
Another way of specifying the transitivity of a verb is to ask, how many
term (subject or object) arguments does it take? The number of terms, or
direct arguments, is sometimes referred to as the valence of the verb.
Since most verbs can be said to have a subject, the valence of a verb is
normally one greater than the number of objects it takes: an intransitive
verb has a valence of one, a transitive verb has a valence of two, and a
ditransitive verb has a valence of three.
the author is just talking about how many operands the expressed predicate has. there are also verbs which can express predicates with four operands. consider <transfer>. ex. ”Peter transfers 5USD from Mike to Jim.”. There Peter, subject, agent; 5USD, object, theme, a repicient, Jim, ?; Mike, antirecpient?, ?.
The distinctions between OBJ2 and OBL make little to no sense to me.
It is important to notice that the valence of the verb (in this sense) is not
the same as the number of arguments it takes. For example, the verb donate
takes three semantic arguments, as illustrated in (8).However, donate has70 Analyzing Grammar: An Introduction
avalence of two because it takes only two term arguments, SUBJ and
OBJ. With this predicate, the recipient is always expressed as an oblique
(8) a Michael Jackson donated his sunglasses to the National Museum.
b donate < agent, theme, recipient >
subj obj obl
Some linguists use the term “semantic valence” to refer to the number of
semantic arguments which a predicate takes, and “syntactic valence” to
specify the number of terms which a verb requires. In this book we will use
the term “valence” primarily in the latter (syntactic) sense.
We have already seen that some verbs can be used in more than
one way. In chapter 4, for example, we saw that the verb give occurs in
two different clause patterns, as illustrated in (10).We can now see that
these two uses of the verb involve the same semantic roles but a different
assignment of Grammatical Relations, i.e. different subcategorization. This
difference is represented in (11). The lexical entry for give must allow for
both of these conﬁgurations.3
(10) a John gave Mary his old radio.
b John gave his old radio to Mary.
(11) a give < agent, theme, recipient >
subj obj2 obj
b give < agent, theme, recipient >
subj obj obl
it seems to me that there is something wholly wrong with a theory that treats 10a-b much different. those two sentences mean the same thing, and their structure is similar, and only one word makes the differnece. this word seems to just have the function of allowing for another order of the operands of the verb.
A number of languages have grammatical processes which, in effect,
“change” an oblique argument into an object. The result is a change in
the valence of the verb. This can be illustrated by the sentences in (19).
In (19a), the beneﬁciary argument is expressed as an OBL, but in (19b)
the beneﬁciary is expressed as an OBJ. So (19b) contains one more term
than (19a), and the valence of the verb has increased from two to three;
but there is no change in the number of semantic arguments. Grammatical
operations which increase or decrease the valence of a verb are a topic of
great interest to syntacticians. We will discuss a few of these operations in
(19) a John baked a cake for Mary.
b John baked Mary a cake.
IMO, these two have the exact same number of operands, both have 3. for word <for> allows for a different ordering, i.e., it is a syntax-modifier.
at least, that’s one reading. 19a seems to be a less clear case of my alternative theory. one reading of 19a is that Mary was tasked with baking a cake, but John baked it for her. another reading has the same meaning as 19b.
(20) a #The young sausage likes the white dog.
b #Mary sings a white cake.
c #A small dog gives Mary to the young tree.
(21) a *John likes.
b *Mary gives the young boy.
c *The girl yawns Mary.
The examples in (20) are grammatical but semantically ill-formed –
they don’tmake sense.4
the footnote is: One reason for saying that examples like (20) and (22) are grammatical, even though
they sound so odd, is that it would often be possible to invent a context (e.g. in a fairy
tale or a piece of science ﬁction) in which these sentences would be quite acceptable.
This is not possible for ungrammatical sentences like those in (21).
i can think about several contexts where 21b makes sense. think of a situation where everybody is required to give something/someone to someone. after it is mentioned that several other people give this and that, 21b follows. in that context it makes sense just fine. however, it is because the repicient is implicit, since it is unnecessary (economic principle) to mention the recipient in every single sentence or clause.
21c is interpretable with if one considers ”the girl” an utterance, that Mary utters while yawning.
21a is almost common on Facebook. ”John likes this”, shortened to ”John likes”.
not that i think the author is wrong, i’m just being creative. :)
The famous example in (23) was used by Chomsky (1957) to show how
a sentence can be grammatical without being meaningful. What makes this
sentence so interesting is that it contains so many collocational clashes:
something which is green cannot be colorless; ideas cannot be green,or
any other color, but we cannot call themcolorless either; ideas cannot sleep;
sleeping is not the kind of thing one can do furiously; etc.
(23) #Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
it is writings such as this that result in so much confusion. clear the different <cannot>’s in the above are not about the same kind of impossibility. let’s consider them:
<something which is green cannot be colorless> this is logical impossibility. these two predicates are logically incompatible, that is, they imply the lack of each other, that is, ∀xGreen(x)→¬Colorless(x). but actually this predicate has an internal negation. we can make it more explicit like this: ∀xGreen(x)→Colorful(x), and ∀xColorful(x)↔¬Colorless(x).
< ideas cannot be green,or any other color, but we cannot call themcolorless either; ideas cannot sleep;
sleeping is not the kind of thing one can do furiously> this is semantic impossibility. it concerns the meaning of the sentence. there is no meaning, and hence nothing expressed that can be true or false. from that it follows that there is nothing that can be impossible, since impossibility implies falsity. hence, if there is something connected with that sentence that is impossible, it has to be something else.
This kind of annotated tree diagramallows us to see at oncewhat iswrong
with the ungrammatical examples in (21) above: (21b) is incomplete, as
demonstrated in (34a), while (21c) is incoherent, as demonstrated in (34b).
a better set of terms are perhaps <undersaturated> and <oversaturated>.
there is nothing inconsistent about the second that isn’t also inconsitent in the first, and hence using that term is misleading. <incomplete> does capture an essential feature, which is that something is missing. the other ex. has something else too much. one could go for <incomplete> and <overcomplete> but it sounds odd. hence my choice of different terms.
The pro-formone can be used to refer to the head nounwhen it is followed
by an adjunct PP, as in (6a),but not when it is followed by a complement
PP as in (6b).
(6) a The [student] with short hair is dating the one with long hair.
b ∗The [student] of Chemistry was older than the one of Physics.
6b seems fine to me.
There is no ﬁxed limit on howmanymodiﬁers can appear in such a sequence.
But in order to represent an arbitrarily long string of alternating adjectives
and intensiﬁers, it is necessary to treat each such pair as a single unit.
The “star” notation used in (15) is one way of representing arbitrarily
long sequences of the same category. For any category X, the symbol “X∗”
stands for “a sequence of any number (zero or more) of Xs.” So the symbol
“AP∗” stands for “a sequence of zero or more APs.” It is easy to mod-
ify the rule in (12b) to account for examples like (14b); this analysis is
shown in (15b). Under the analysis in (12a),wewould need to write a more
complex rule something like (15a).3 Because simplicity tends to be favored
in grammatical systems, (12b) and (15b) provide a better analysis for this
(15) aNP → Det ((Adv) A)
∗ N (PP)
bNP → Det AP∗ N (PP)
for those that are wondering where this use of asterisk comes from, it is from here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regular_expression
In English, a possessor phrase functions as a kind of determiner. We
can see this because possessor phrases do not normally occur together with
other determiners in the same NP:
(19) a the new motorcycle
b Mary’s new motorcycle
c ∗Mary’s the new motorcycle
d ∗the Mary’s new motorcycle
looks more like it is because they are using proper nouns in their example. if one used a common noun, then it works just fine:
19e: The dog’s new bone.
Another kind of evidence comes fromthe fact that predicate complement
NPs cannot appear in certain constructions where direct objects can. For
example, an objectNP can become the subject of a passive sentence (44b) or
of certain adjectives (like hard, easy, etc.) which require a verbal or clausal
complement (44c).However, predicate complement NPs never occur in
these positions, as illustrated in (45).
(44) a Mary tickled an elephant.
b An elephant was tickled (by Mary).
c An elephant is hard (for Mary) to tickle.
(45) a Mary became an actress.
b *An actress was become (by Mary).
c *An actress is hard (for Mary) to become.
45c is grammatical with the optional element in place: An actress is hard for Mary to become. Altho it is ofc archaic in syntax.
mi amamas. ‘I am happy.’
yu amamas. ‘You (sg) are happy.’
em i amamas. ‘He/she is happy.’
yumi amamas. ‘We (incl.) are happy.’
mipela i amamas. ‘We (excl.) are happy.’
yupela i amamas. ‘You (pl) are happy.’
ol i amamas. ‘They are happy.’
it is difficult not to like this system, except for the arbitrary requirement of ”i” some places and not others. its clearly english-inspired. inclusive ”we” is interesting ”youme” :D
This constituent is normally labeled S’or S (pronounced “S-bar”). It con-
tains two daughters: COMP (for “complementizer”) and S (the complement
clause itself). This structure is illustrated in the tree diagram in (15), which
represents a sentence containing a ﬁnite clausal complement.
how to make this fit perfectly with the other use of N-bar terminology. in the case of noun phrases, we have NP on top, then N’ (with DET and adj) and then N at the bottom. it seems that we need to introduce some analogue to NP with S. the only level left is the entire sentence. SP sounds like a contradiction in terms or oxymoron though, ”sentence phrase”.
i had been thinking about a similar idea. but these work fine as a beginning. a good hierarchy needs a lvl for approximate truth as well (like Newton’s laws), as well as actual truths. but also perhaps a dimension for the relevance of the information conveyed. a sentence can express a true proposition without that proposition being relevant the making of just about any real life decision. for instance, the true proposition expressed by “42489054329479823423 is larger than 37828234747″ will in all likelihood never, ever be relevant for any decision. also one can cote that the relevance dimension only begins when there is actually some information conveyed, that is, it doesnt work before level 2 and beyond, as those below are meaningless pieces of language.
and things that are inconsistent can also be very useful, so its not clear how the falseness, approximate truth, and truth related to usefulness. but i think that they closer it is the truth, the more likely that it is useful. naive set theory is fine for working with many proofs, even if it is an inconsistent system.
found via Gene Expression, blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/01/a-correlation-between-acacia-trees-and-tonal-languages/
Recent studies have taken advantage of newly available, large-scale, cross-linguistic data and
new statistical techniques to look at the relationship between language structure and social
structure. These ‘nomothetic’ approaches contrast with more traditional approaches and a
tension is observed between proponents of each method. We review some nomothetic studies
and point out some challenges that must be overcome. However, we argue that nomothetic
approaches can contribute to our understanding of the links between social structure and
language structure if they address these challenges and are taken as part of a body of mutu-
ally supporting evidence. Nomothetic studies are a powerful tool for generating hypotheses
that can go on to be corroborated and tested with experimental and theoretical approaches.
These studies are highlighting the effect of interaction on language.
Key words: nomothetic, social structure, complex adaptive systems, linguistic niche hypoth-
esis, cultural evolution
Fashionable Nonsense, Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science – Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont ebook download pdf free
The book contains the best single chapter on filosofy of science that iv com across. very much recommended, especially for those that dont like filosofers’ accounts of things. alot of the rest of the book is devoted to long quotes full of nonsens, and som explanations of why it is nonsens (if possible), or just som explanatory remarks about the fields invoked (say, relativity).
as such, this book is a must read for ppl who ar interested in the study of seudoscience, and those interested in meaningless language use. basically, it is a collection of case studies of that.
[footnote] Bertrand Russell (1948, p. 196) tells the following amusing story: “I once received a
letter from an eminent logician, Mrs Christine Ladd Franklin, saying that she was a
solipsist, and was surprised that there were not others”. We learned this reference
from Devitt (1997, p. 64).
The answer, of course, is that we have no proof; it is simply
a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. The most natural way to ex
plain the persistence of our sensations (in particular, the un
pleasant ones) is to suppose that they are caused by agents
outside our consciousness. We can almost always change at will
the sensations that are pure products of our imagination, but we
cannot stop a war, stave off a lion, or start a broken-down car
by pure thought alone. Nevertheless— and it is important to em
phasize this—this argument does not refute solipsism. If anyone
insists that he is a “harpsichord playing solo” (Diderot), there is
no way to convince him of his error. However, we have never
met a sincere solipsist and we doubt that any exist.52 This illus
trates an important principle that we shall use several times in
this chapter: the mere fact that an idea is irrefutable does not
imply that there is any reason to believe it is true.
i wonder how that epistemological point (that arguments from ignorance ar no good) works with intuitionism in math/logic?
The universality of Humean skepticism is also its weakness.
Of course, it is irrefutable. But since no one is systematically
skeptical (when he or she is sincere) with respect to ordinary
knowledge, one ought to ask why skepticism is rejected in that
domain and why it would nevertheless be valid when applied
elsewhere, for instance, to scientific knowledge. Now, the rea
son why we reject systematic skepticism in everyday life is
more or less obvious and is similar to the reason we reject solip
sism. The best way to account for the coherence of our experi
ence is to suppose that the outside world corresponds, at least
approximately, to the image of it provided by our senses.54
54 4This hypothesis receives a deeper explanation with the subsequent development of
science, in particular of the biological theory of evolution. Clearly, the possession of
sensory organs that reflect more or less faithfully the outside world (or, at least,
some important aspects of it) confers an evolutionary advantage. Let us stress that
this argument does not refute radical skepticism, but it does increase the coherence
of the anti-skeptical worldview.
the authors ar surprisingly sofisticated filosofically, and i agree very much with their reasoning.
For my part, I have no doubt that, although progressive changes
are to be expected in physics, the present doctrines are likely to be
nearer to the truth than any rival doctrines now before the world.
Science is at no moment quite right, but it is seldom quite wrong,
and has, as a rule, a better chance of being right than the theories
of the unscientific. It is, therefore, rational to accept it
—Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development
(1995 , p. 13)
yes, the analogy is that: science is LIKE a limit function that goes towards 1 [approximates closer to truth] over time. at any given x, it is not quite at y=1 yet, but it gets closer. it might not be completely monotonic either (and i dont know if that completely breaks the limit function, probably doesnt).
for a quick grafical illustration, try the function f(x)=1-(-1/x) on the interval [1;∞]. The truth line is f(x)=1 on the interval [0;∞]. in reality, the graf wud be mor unsteady and not completely monotonic corresponding to the varius theories as they com and go in science. it is not only a matter of evidence (which is not an infallible indicator of truth either), but it is primarily a function of that.
Once the general problems of solipsism and radical skepti
cism have been set aside, we can get down to work. Let us sup
pose that we are able to obtain some more-or-less reliable
knowledge of the world, at least in everyday life. We can then
ask: To what extent are our senses reliable or not? To answer
this question, we can compare sense impressions among them
selves and vary certain parameters of our everyday experience.
We can map out in this way, step by step, a practiced rationality.
When this is done systematically and with sufficient precision,
science can begin.
For us, the scientific method is not radically different from
the rational attitude in everyday life or in other domains of hu
man knowledge. Historians, detectives, and plumbers—indeed,
all human beings—use the same basic methods of induction,
deduction, and assessment of evidence as do physicists or bio
chemists. Modem science tries to carry out these operations in
a more careful and systematic way, by using controls and sta
tistical tests, insisting on replication, and so forth. Moreover,
scientific measurements are often much more precise than
everyday observations; they allow us to discover hitherto un
known phenomena; and they often conflict with “common
sense”. But the conflict is at the level of conclusions, not the
basic approach.55 56
55For example: Water appears to us as a continuous fluid, but chemical and physical
experiments teach us that it is made of atoms.
56Throughout this chapter, we stress the methodological continuity between scientific
knowledge and everyday knowledge. This is, in our view, the proper way to respond
to various skeptical challenges and to dispel the confusions generated by radical
interpretations of correct philosophical ideas such as the underdetermination of
theories by data. But it would be naive to push this connection too far. Science—
particularly fundamental physics— introduces concepts that are hard to grasp
intuitively or to connect directly to common-sense notions. (For example: forces
acting instantaneously throughout the universe in Newtonian mechanics,
electromagnetic fields “vibrating” in vacuum in Maxwell’s theory, curved space-time
in Einstein’s general relativity.) And it is in discussions about the meaning o f these
theoretical concepts that various brands of realists and anti-realists (e.g.,
intrumentalists, pragmatists) tend to part company. Relativists sometimes tend to fall
back on instrumentalist positions when challenged, but there is a profound difference
between the two attitudes. Instrumentalists may want to claim either that we have no
way of knowing whether “unobservable” theoretical entities really exist, or that their
meaning is defined solely through measurable quantities; but this does not imply that
they regard such entities as “subjective” in the sense that their meaning would be
significantly influenced by extra-scientific factors (such as the personality of the
individual scientist or the social characteristics o f the group to which she belongs).
Indeed, instrumentalists may regard our scientific theories as, quite simply, the most
satisfactory way that the human mind, with its inherent biological limitations, is
capable of understanding the world.
right they ar
Having reached this point in the discussion, the radical skep
tic or relativist will ask what distinguishes science from other
types of discourse about reality—religions or myths, for exam
ple, or pseudo-sciences such as astrology—and, above all, what
criteria are used to make such a distinction. Our answer is nu-
anced. First of all, there are some general (but basically nega
tive) epistemological principles, which go back at least to the
seventeenth century: to be skeptical of a priori arguments, rev
elation, sacred texts, and arguments from authority. Moreover,
the experience accumulated during three centuries of scientific
practice has given us a series of more-or-less general method
ological principles—for example, to replicate experiments, to
use controls, to test medicines in double-blind protocols—that
can be justified by rational arguments. However, we do not
claim that these principles can be codified in a definitive way,
nor that the list is exhaustive. In other words, there does not
exist (at least at present) a complete codification of scientific ra
tionality, and we seriously doubt that one could ever exist. After
all, the future is inherently unpredictable; rationality is always
an adaptation to a new situation. Nevertheless—and this is the
main difference between us and the radical skeptics—we think
that well-developed scientific theories are in general supported
by good arguments, but the rationality of those arguments must
be analyzed case-by-case.60
60 It is also by proceeding on a case-by-case basis that one can appreciate the
immensity of the gulf separating the sciences from the pseudo-sciences.
Sokal and Bricmont might soon becom my new favorit filosofers of science.
Obviously, every induction is an inference from the observed to
the unobserved, and no such inference can be justified using
solely deductive logic. But, as we have seen, if this argument
were to be taken seriously—if rationality were to consist only
of deductive logic— it would imply also that there is no good
reason to believe that the Sun will rise tomorrow, and yet no one
really expects the Sun not to rise.
id like to add, like i hav don many times befor, that ther is no reason to think that induction shud be proveable with deduction. why require that? but now coms the interesting part. if one takes induction as the basis instead of deduction, one can inductivly prove deduction. <prove> in the ordinary, non-mathetical/logical sens. the method is enumerativ induction, which i hav discussed befor.
But one may go further. It is natural to introduce a hierarchy
in the degree of credence accorded to different theories, de
pending on the quantity and quality of the evidence supporting
them.95 Every scientist—indeed, every human being—proceeds
in this way and grants a higher subjective probability to the
best-established theories (for instance, the evolution of species
or the existence of atoms) and a lower subjective probability to
more speculative theories (such as detailed theories of quantum
gravity). The same reasoning applies when comparing theories
in natural science with those in history or sociology. For exam
ple, the evidence of the Earth’s rotation is vastly stronger than
anything Kuhn could put forward in support of his historical
theories. This does not mean, of course, that physicists are more
clever than historians or that they use better methods, but sim
ply that they deal with less complex problems, involving a
smaller number of variables which, moreover, are easier to mea
sure and to control. It is impossible to avoid introducing such a
hierarchy in our beliefs, and this hierarchy implies that there is
no conceivable argument based on the Kuhnian view of history
that could give succor to those sociologists or philosophers who
wish to challenge, in a blanket way, the reliability of scientific
Sokal and Bricmont even get the epistemological point about the different fields right. color me very positivly surprised.
Bruno Latour and His Rules of Method
The strong programme in the sociology of science has found
an echo in France, particularly around Bruno Latour. His works
contain a great number of propositions formulated so ambigu
ously that they can hardly be taken literally. And when one re
moves the ambiguity— as we shall do here in a few
examples— one reaches the conclusion that the assertion is ei
ther true but banal, or else surprising but manifestly false.
sound familiar? its the good old two-faced sentences again, those that Swartz and Bradley called Janus-sentences. they yield two different interpretations, one trivial and true, one nontrivial and false. their apparent plausibility is becus of this fact.
quoting from Possible Worlds:
The method of possible-worlds testing is not only an invaluable aid towards resolving ambiguity; it is also an effective weapon against a particular form of-linguistic sophistry.
Thinkers often deceive themselves and others into supposing that they have discovered a profound
truth about the universe when all they have done is utter what we shall call a “Janus-faced
sentence”. Janus, according to Roman mythology, was a god with two faces who was therefore able
to ‘face’ in two directions at once. Thus, by a “Janus-faced sentence” we mean a sentence which, like “In the evolutionary struggle for existence just the fittest species survive”, faces in two directions. It is ambiguous insofar as it may be used to express a noncontingent proposition, e.g., that in the struggle for existence just the surviving species survive, and may also be used to express a contingent proposition, e.g., the generalization that just the physically strongest species survive.
If a token of such a sentence-type is used to express a noncontingently true proposition then, of
course, the truth of that proposition is indisputable; but since, in that case, it is true in all possible
worlds, it does not tell us anything distinctive about the actual world. If, on the other hand, a token
of such a sentence-type is used to express a contingent proposition, then of course that proposition
does tell us something quite distinctive about the actual world; but in that case its truth is far from
indisputable. The sophistry lies in supposing that the indisputable credentials of the one proposition
can be transferred to the other just by virtue of the fact that one sentence-token might be used to
express one of these propositions and a different sentence-token of one and the same sentence-type
might be used to express the other of these propositions. For by virtue of the necessary truth of one
of these propositions, the truth of the other — the contingent one — can be made to seem
indisputable, can be made to seem, that is, as if it “stands to reason” that it should be true.
We could be accused here of focusing our attention on an
ambiguity of formulation and of not trying to understand what
Latour really means. In order to counter this objection, let us go
back to the section “Appealing (to) Nature” (pp. 94-100) where
the Third Rule is introduced and developed. Latour begins by
ridiculing the appeal to Nature as a way of resolving scientific
controversies, such as the one concerning solar neutrinos:
A fierce controversy divides the astrophysicists who calcu
late the number o f neutrinos coming out o f the sun and Davis,
the experimentalist who obtains a much smaller figure. It is
easy to distinguish them and put the controversy to rest. Just
let us see for ourselves in which camp the sun is really to be
found. Somewhere the natural sun with its true number o f
neutrinos will close the mouths o f dissenters and force them
to accept the facts no matter how well written these papers
were. (Latour 1987, p. 95)
Why does Latour choose to be ironic? The problem is to know
how many neutrinos are emitted by the Sun, and this question
is indeed difficult. We can hope that it will be resolved some day,
not because “the natural sun will close the mouths of dis
senters”, but because sufficiently powerful empirical data will
become available. Indeed, in order to fill in the gaps in the cur
rently available data and to discriminate between the currently
existing theories, several groups of physicists have recently
built detectors of different types, and they are now performing
the (difficult) measurements.122 It is thus reasonable to expect
that the controversy will be settled sometime in the next few
years, thanks to an accumulation of evidence that, taken to
gether, will indicate clearly the correct solution. However, other
scenarios are in principle possible: the controversy could die
out because people stop being interested in the issue, or be
cause the problem turns out to be too difficult to solve; and, at
this level, sociological factors undoubtedly play a role (if only
because of the budgetary constraints on research). Obviously,
scientists think, or at least hope, that if the controversy is re
solved it will be because of observations and not because of
the literary qualities of the scientific papers. Otherwise, they
will simply have ceased to do science.
the footnode 121 is:
The nuclear reactions that power the Sun are expected to emit copious quantities
of the subatomic particle called the neutrino. By combining current theories of solar
structure, nuclear physics, and elementary-particle physics, it is possible to obtain
quantitative predictions for the flux and energy distribution of the solar neutrinos.
Since the late 1960s, experimental physicists, beginning with the pioneering work of
Raymond Davis, have been attempting to detect the solar neutrinos and measure their
flux. The solar neutrinos have in fact been detected; but their flux appears to be less
than one-third o f the theoretical prediction. Astrophysicists and elementary-particle
physicists are actively trying to determine whether the discrepancy arises from
experimental error or theoretical error, and if the latter, whether the failure is in the
solar models or in the elementary-particle models. For an introductory overview, see
this problem sounded familiar to me.
The solar neutrino problem was a major discrepancy between measurements of the numbers of neutrinos flowing through the Earth and theoretical models of the solar interior, lasting from the mid-1960s to about 2002. The discrepancy has since been resolved by new understanding of neutrino physics, requiring a modification of the Standard Model of particle physics – specifically, neutrino oscillation. Essentially, as neutrinos have mass, they can change from the type that had been expected to be produced in the Sun’s interior into two types that would not be caught by the detectors in use at the time.
science seems to be working. Sokal and Bricmont predicted that it wud be resolved ”in the next few years”. this was written in 1997, about 5 years befor the data Wikipedia givs for the resolution. i advice one to read the Wiki article, as it is quite good.
In this quote and the previous one, Latour is playing con
stantly on the confusion between facts and our knowledge of
them.123 The correct answer to any scientific question, solved or
not, depends on the state of Nature (for example, on the num
ber of neutrinos that the Sun really emits). Now, it happens that,
for the unsolved problems, nobody knows the right answer,
while for the solved ones, we do know it (at least if the accepted
solution is correct, which can always be challenged). But there
is no reason to adopt a “relativist” attitude in one case and a “re
alist” one in the other. The difference between these attitudes is
a philosophical matter, and is independent of whether the prob
lem is solved or not. For the relativist, there is simply no unique
correct answer, independent of all social and cultural circum
stances; this holds for the closed questions as well as for the
open ones. On the other hand, the scientists who seek the cor
rect solution are not relativist, almost by definition. Of course
they do “use Nature as the external referee”: that is, they seek to
know what is really happening in Nature, and they design ex
periments for that purpose.
the footnote 123 is:
An even more extreme example o f this confusion appears in a recent article by
Latour in La Recherche, a French monthly magazine devoted to the popularization of
science (Latour 1998). Here Latour discusses what he interprets as the discovery in
1976, by French scientists working on the mummy of the pharaoh Ramses II, that his
death (circa 1213 B.C.) was due to tuberculosis. Latour asks: “How could he pass
away due to a bacillus discovered by Robert Koch in 1882?” Latour notes, correctly,
that it would be an anachronism to assert that Rainses II was killed by machine-gun
fire or died from the stress provoked by a stock-market crash. But then, Latour
wonders, why isn’t death from tuberculosis likewise an anachronism? He goes so far
as to assert that “Before Koch, the bacillus has no real existence.” He dismisses the
common-sense notion that Koch discovered a pre-existing bacillus as “having only the
appearance o f common sense”. Of course, in the rest o f the article, Latour gives no
argument to justify these radical claims and provides no genuine alternative to the
common-sense answer. He simply stresses the obvious fact that, in order to discover
the cause of Ramses’ death, a sophisticated analysis in Parisian laboratories was
needed. But unless Latour is putting forward the truly radical claim that nothing we
discover ever existed prior to its “discovery”— in particular, that no murderer is a
murderer, in the sense that he committed a crime before the police “discovered” him
to be a murderer— he needs to explain what is special about bacilli, and this he has
utterly failed to do. The result is that Latour is saying nothing clear, and the article
oscillates between extreme banalities and blatant falsehoods.
a quote from one of the crazy ppl:
The privileging o f solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the
inability o f science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she at
tributes to the association o f fluidity with femininity. Whereas
men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women
have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids.
Although men, too, flow on occasion— when semen is emit
ted, for example— this aspect o f their sexuality is not empha
sized. It is the rigidity o f the male organ that counts, not its
complicity in fluid flow. These idealizations are reinscribed in
mathematics, which conceives o f fluids as laminated planes
and other modified solid forms. In the same way that women
are erased within masculinist theories and language, existing
only as not-men, so fluids have been erased from science, ex
isting only as not-solids. From this perspective it is no wonder
that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model
for turbulence. The problem o f turbulent f low cannot be
solved because the conceptions o f fluids (and o f women)
have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated
remainders. (Hayles 1992, p. 17)
u cant make this shit up
Over the past three decades, remarkable progress has been
made in the mathematical theory of chaos, but the idea that
some physical systems may exhibit a sensitivity to initial con
ditions is not new. Here is what James Clerk Maxwell said in
1877, after stating the principle of determinism ( “the same
causes will always produce the same effects”):
but thats not what determinism is. their quote seems to be from Hume’s Treatise.
it is mentioned in his discussion of causality, which is related to but not the same as, determinism.
Wikipedia givs a fine definition of <determinism>: ”Determinism is a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen.”
also SEP: ”Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.”
[T]he first difference between science and philosophy is their
respective attitudes toward chaos. Chaos is defined not so
much by its disorder as by the infinite speed with which every
form taking shape in it vanishes. It is a void that is not a noth
ingness but a virtual, containing all possible particles and
drawing out all possible forms, which spring up only to dis
appear immediately, without consistency or reference, with
out consequence. Chaos is an infinite speed o f birth and dis
appearance. (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, pp. 117-118, italics
in the original)
For what it’s worth, electrons, unlike photons, have a non-zero
mass and thus cannot move at the speed of light, precisely
because of the theory of relativity of which Virilio seems so
i think the authors did not mean what they wrote here. surely, relativity theory is not the reason why electrons cannot move at the speed of light. relativity theory is an explanation of how nature works, in this case, how objects with mass and velocity/speed works.
We met in Paris a student who, after having brilliantly fin
ished his undergraduate studies in physics, began reading phi
losophy and in particular Deleuze. He was trying to tackle
Difference and Repetition. Having read the mathematical ex
cerpts examined here (pp. 161-164), he admitted he couldn’t
see what Deleuze was driving at. Nevertheless, Deleuze’s repu
tation for profundity was so strong that he hesitated to draw the
natural conclusion: that if someone like himself, who had stud
ied calculus for several years, was unable to understand these
texts, allegedly about calculus, it was probably because they
didn’t make much sense. It seems to us that this example should
have encouraged the student to analyze more critically the rest
of Deleuze’s writings.
i think the epistemological conditions of this kind of inference ar very interesting. under which conditions shud one conclude that a text is meaningless?
7. Ambiguity as subterfuge. We have seen in this book nu
merous ambiguous texts that can be interpreted in two differ
ent ways: as an assertion that is true but relatively banal, or as
one that is radical but manifestly false. And we cannot help
thinking that, in many cases, these ambiguities are deliberate.
Indeed, they offer a great advantage in intellectual battles: the
radical interpretation can serve to attract relatively inexperi
enced listeners or readers; and if the absurdity of this version is
exposed, the author can always defend himself by claiming to
have been misunderstood, and retreat to the innocuous inter
mor on Janus-sentences.
Negation_in_English_and_Other_Languages pdf download ebook free
This book is actually very advanced for its age. it contains lots of stuff of interest to logicians and linguists, even those reading it today. the thing that annoys me the most is the poor quality of the scan making reading a hazzle. second to that comes the untranslated quotes from other languages (german, french, greek, latin, danish altho DA isnt a problem for me ofc). third but small annoyance is the difficulty of the reference system used.
About the existence of double negatives
My own pet theory is that neither is right; logically one
negative suffices, but two or three in the same sentence cannot
be termed illogical; they are simply a redundancy, that
may be superfluous from a stylistic point of view, just as any
repetition in a positive sentence (every and any, always and
on all occasions, etc.), but is otherwise unobjectionable. Double
negation arises because under the influence of a strong feeling
the two tendencies specified above, one to attract the negative
to the verb as nexal negative, and the other to prefix it to
some other word capable of receiving this element, may both
be gratified in the same sentence. But repeated negation
seems to become a habitual phenomenon only in those languages
in which the ordinary negative element is comparatively
small in regard to phonetic bulk, as ne and n- in OE and Russian,
en and n- in MHG., on (sounded u) in Greek, s- or n- in
Magyar. The insignificance of these elements makes it desirable
to multiply them so as to prevent their being overlooked.
Hence also the comparative infrequency of this repetition in
English and German, after the fuller negatives not and nicht
have been thoroughly established – though, as already stated,
the logic of the schools and the influence of Latin has had some
share in restricting the tendency to this particular kind of
redundancy. It might, however, finally be said that it requires
greater mental energy to content oneself, with one negative,
which has to be remembered during the whole length of
the utterance both by the speaker and by the hearer, than
to repeat the negative idea (and have it repeated) whenever
an occasion offers itself.
Jespersen came close to one of the gricean maxims
If we say, according to the general rule, that “not four” means “different from four”, this should be taken with a certain quahfication, for in practice it generally means, not whatever is above or below 4 in the scale, but only what is below 4. thus less than 4, something between 4 and 0, just as *”not everything” means something between everything and nothing (and as “not good” means ‘inferior’, but does not comprise ‘excellent’). Thus in “He does not read three books in a year” | “the hill is not two hundred feet high” | “his income is not 200 a year” | “he does not see her once a week”.
This explains how ‘not one’ comes to be the natural expression in many languages for ‘none, no’, and ‘not one thing’ for ‘nothing’, as in OE nan = ne-an, whence none and no, OE nanthing, whence nothing, ON eingi, whence Dan. ingen. G. k-ein etc. Cf. also Tennyson 261 That not one life shall be destroy ‘d . . . That not a worm is cloven in vain; see also p. 49. In French similarly: Pas im bruit n’interrompit le silence, etc.
When not + a numeral is exceptionally to be taken as ‘more than’, the numeral has to be strongly stressed, and generally to be followed by a more exact indication: “the hill is not ‘two hundred feet high, but three hundred” | “his income is not 200, but at least 300 a year” | Locke S. 321 Not one invention, but fifty – from a corkscrew to a machinegun | Defoe R. 342 not once, but two or three times | Gissing R. 149 books that well merit to be pored over, not once but many a time I Benson A. 220 he would bend to kiss her, not once, not once only.
But not once or twice always means ‘several times’, as in Tennyson 220 Not once or twice in our rough island-story The path of duty was the way to glory.
In Russian, on the other hand, ne raz ‘not (a) time’, thus really without a numeral, means ‘several times, sometimes’ and in the same way ne odin ‘not one’ means ‘more than one’; corresponding phenomena are found in other languages as well, see a valuable little article by Schuchardt, An Aug. Leskien zum 4. juli1894 (privately printed).He rightly con- nects this with the use in Russian of the stronger negative ni with a numeral to signify ‘lessthan’ : ni odin ‘not even one’.
hat the exact import is of a negative quantitative indication may in some instances depend on what is expected, or what is the direction of thought in each case. While the two sentences “he spends ” 200 a year” and “he lives on 200 a year” are practically synonymous, everything is changed if we add not: “he doesn’t spend 200 a year” means ‘less than’; “he doesn’t live on 200 a year” means ‘more than’; because in the former case we expect an indication of a maximum, and in the latter of a minimum.
and actually the discussion continues from here. it is worth reading.
also normal formulations of the maxim doesnt take account of the fenomenon pointed out in the last paragraf.
Negative words or formulas may in some combinations be used in such a way that the negative force is almost vanishing. There is scarcely any difference between questions like “Will you have a glass of beer ?” and “Won’t you have a glass of beer ?”, because the real question is “Will you, or will you not, have. . . . ” ; therefore in offering one a glass both formulas may be employed indifferently, though a marked tone of surprise can make the two sentences into distinct contrasts: “Will you have a glass of beer ?” then coming to mean ‘I am surprised at your wanting it’, and “Won’t you have a glass of beer ?” the reverse. (In this case really is often added.)
In the same way in Dan. “Vil De ha et glas 0I ?” and “Vil De ikke ha et glas 0I ?” A Dutch lady once told me how surprised she was at first in Denmark at having questions like “Vil De ikke raekke mig saltet ?” asked her at table in a boarding- house; she took the ikke literally and did not pass the salt. Ikke is also used in indirect (reported) questions, as in Faber Stegek. 28 saa bar madammen bedt Giovanni, om han ikke vil passe lidt paa barnet.
true, it dosent make a lot of sense. the <ikke> / <not> almost has no meaning. it seems to create a kind of ”please” meaning in the utterance.
In writing the forms in nH make their appearance about 1660 and are already frequent in Dryden’s, Congreve’s, and Farquhar’s comedies. Addison in the Spectator nr. 135 speaks of mayn’t, canH, sha’nH, won’t, and the like as having “very much imtxmed our language, and clogged it with consonants”. Swift also (inthe Tatler nr. 230)brands as examples of “the continual corruption of our English tongue” such forms as coii’dn’t, ha’n't, can’t, shan’t; but nevertheless he uses some of them very often in his Journal to Stella.
In my hard task to avoid actually doing my linguistics exam paper, ive been reading a lot of other stuff to keep my thoughts away from thinking about how i really ought to start writing my paper. In this case i am currently reading a book, Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science (Keith Stenning and Michiel van Lambalgen), and its pretty interesting. But in the book they authors mentioned another paper, and i like to loop up references in books. Its that paper that this post is about.
Logic and Reasoning do the facts matter free pdf download
Why is it interesting? first: its a mixture of som of my favorit fields, fields that can be difficult to synthesize. im talking about filosofy of logic, logic, linguistics, and psychology. they are all related to the fenomenon of human reasoning. heres the abstract:
Modern logic is undergoing a cognitive turn, side-stepping Frege’s ‘anti- psychologism’. Collaborations between logicians and colleagues in more empirical ﬁelds are growing, especially in research on reasoning and information update by intelligent agents. We place this border-crossing research in the context of long-standing contacts between logic and empirical facts, since pure normativity has never been a plausible stance. We also discuss what the fall of Frege’s Wall means for a new agenda of logic as a theory of rational agency, and what might then be a viable understanding of ‘psychologism’ as a friend rather than an enemy of logical theory.
its not super long at 15 pages, and definitly worth reading for anyone with an interest in the b4mentioned fields. in this post id like to model som of the scenarios mentioned in the paper.
To me, however, the most striking recent move toward greater realism is the wide range of information-transforming processes studied in modern logic, far beyond inference. As we know from practice, inference occurs intertwined with many other notions. In a recent ‘Kids’ Science Lecture’ on logic for children aged around 8, I gave the following variant of an example from Antiquity, to explain what modern logic is about:
You are in a restaurant with your parents, and you have ordered three dishes: Fish, Meat, and Vegetarian. Now a new waiter comes back from the kitchen with three dishes. What will happen?
The children say, quite correctly, that the waiter will ask a question,say: “Who has the Fish?”. Then, they say that he will ask “Who has the Meat?” Then, as you wait, the light starts shining in those little eyes, and a girl shouts: “Sir, now, he will not ask any more!” Indeed, two questions plus one inference are all that is needed. Now a classical logician would have nothing to say about the questions (they just ‘provide premises’), but go straight for the inference. In my view, this separation is unnatural, and logic owes us an account of both informational processes that work in tandem: the information ﬂow in questions and answers, and the inferences that can be drawn at any stage. And that is just what modern so-called ‘dynamic- epistemic logics’ do! (See  and .) But actually, much more is involved in natural communication and argumentation. In order to get premises to get an inference going, we ask questions. To understand answers, we need to interpret what was said, and then incorporate that information. Thus, the logical system acquires a new task, in addition to providing valid inferences, viz. systematically keeping track of changing representations of information. And when we get information that contradicts our beliefs so far, we must revise those beliefs in some coherent fashion. And again, modern logic has a lot to say about all of this in the model theory of updates and belief changes.
i think it shud be possible to model this situation with help my from erotetic logic.
first off, somthing not explicitly mentioned but clearly true is that the goal for the waiter to find out who shud hav which dish. So, the waiter is asking himself these three questions:
Q1: ∃x(ordered(x,fish)∧x=?) – somone has ordered fish, and who is that?
Q2: ∃y(ordered(y,meat)∧y=?) – somone has ordered meat, and who is that?
Q3: ∃z(ordered(z,veg)∧z=?) – somone has ordered veg, and who is that?
(x, y, z ar in the domain of persons)
the waiter can make another, defeasible, assumption (premis), which is that x≠y≠z, that is, no person ordered two dishes.
also not stated explicitly is the fact that ther ar only 3 persons, the child who is asked to imagin the situation, and his 2 parents. these correspond to x, y, z, but the relations between them dont matter for this situation. and we dont know which is which, so we’ll introduce 3 particulars to refer to the three persons: a, b, c. lets say the a is the father, b the mother, c the child. also, a≠b≠c.
the waiter needs to find 3 correct answers to 3 questions. the order doesnt seem to matter – it might in practice, for practical reasons, like if the dishes ar partly on top of each other, in which case the topmost one needs to be served first. but since it doesnt in this situation, som arbitrary order of questions is used, in this case the order the fishes wer previusly mentioned in: fish, meat, veg. befor the waiter gets the correct answer to Q1, he can deduce that:
(follows from varius previusly mentioned premisses and with classical FOL with identity)
then, say that the answer gets the answer “me” from a (the father), then given that a, b, and c ar telling the truth, and given som facts about how indexicals work, he can deduce that a=x. so the waiter has acquired the first piece of information needed. befor proceeding to asking mor questions, the waiter then updates his beliefs by deduction. he can now conclude that:
(follows from varius previusly mentioned premisses and with classical FOL with identity)
since the waiter cant seem to infer his way to what he needs to know, which is the correct answers to Q2 and Q3, he then proceeds to ask another question. when he gets the answer, say that b (the mother) says “me”, he concludes like befor that z=b, and then hands the mother the veg dish.
then like befor, befor proceeding with mor questions, he tries to infer his way to the correct answer to Q3, and this time it is possible, hence he concludes that:
(follows from varius previusly mentioned premisses and with classical FOL with identity)
and then he needs not ask Q3 at all, but can just hand c (the child) the dish with meat.
Moreover, in doing so, it must account for another typical cognitive phenomenon in actual behavior, the interactive multi-agent character of the basic logical tasks. Again, the children at the Kids’ Lecture had no difficulty when we played the following scenario:
Three volunteers were called to the front, and received one coloured card each: red, white, blue. They could not see the others’ cards. When asked, all said they did not know the cards of the others. Then one girl (with the white card) was allowed a question; and asked the boy with the blue card if he had the red one. I then asked, before the answer was given, if they now knew the others’ cards, and the boy with the blue card raised his hand, to show he did. After he had answered “No” to his card question, I asked again who knew the cards, and now that same boy and the girl both raised their hands …
The explanation is a simple exercise in updating, assuming that the question reﬂected a genuine uncertainty. But it does involve reasoning about what others do and do not know. And the children did understand why one of them, the girl with the red card, still could not ﬁgure out everyone’s cards, even though she knew that they now knew.15
this one is mor tricky, this it involves beliefs of different ppl, the first situation didnt.
the questions ar:
again, som implicit facts:
and non-identicalness of the persons:
x≠y≠z, and a≠b≠c. a is the first girl, b is the boy, c is the second girl. ther ar no other persons. this allow the inference of the facts:
another implicit fact, namely that the children can see their own card and know which color it is:
∀x∀card(possess(x, card)→know(x, possess(x, card)) – for any person and for any colored card, if that person possesses the card, then that person knows that that person possesses the card.
the facts given in the description of who actually has which cards are:
so, given these facts, each person can now deduce which variable is identical to one of the constants, and so:
but non of the persons can seem to answer the other two questions, altho it is different questions they cant answer. for this reason, one person, a (first girl), is allowed to ask a question. she asks:
Q3: possess(b,red)? [towards b]
now, befor the answer is given, the researcher asks if anyone knows the answer to all the questions. b raises his hand. did he know? possibly. we need to add another assumption to see why. b (the boy) is assuming that a (the first girl) is asking a nondeceptiv question. she is trying to get som information out from b (the boy). this is not so if she asks about somthing she already knows. she might do that to deceive, but assuming that isnt the case, we can add:
in EN: for any two persons, and any card, if the first person is asking the second person about whether the second person possesses the card, then the first person does not possess the card. from this assumption of non-deception, the boy can infer:
and so he coms to know that:
know(b,¬possess(a, red))∧know(b, x≠a)
can the boy figure out the questions now? yes: becus he also knows:
from which he can infer that:
¬possess(b,red) – she asked about it, so she doesnt hav it herself
¬possess(b, blue) – he has the card himself, and only 1 person has the card
but recall that every person has a card, and he knows that b has neither the red or the blue, then he can infer that b has the white card. and then, since ther ar only 3 cards and 2 persons, and he knows the answers to the first two questions, ther is only one option left for the last person: she must hav the red card. hence, he can raise his hand.
the girl who asked the question, however, lacks the crucial information of which card the boy has befor he answers the question, so she cant infer anything mor, and hence doesnt raise her hand.
now, b (the boy) answers in the negativ. assuming non-deceptivness again (maxim of truth) but in another form, she can infer that:
and so also knows that:
hence, she can deduce that, the last person must hav the red card, hence:
from that, she can infer that the boy, b, has the last remaining card, the blue one. hence she has all the answers to Q1-3, and can raise her hand.
the second girl, however, still lacks crucial information to deduce what the others hav. the information made public so far doenst help her at all, since she already knew all along that she had the red card. no other information has been made available to her, so she cant tell whether a or b has the blue card, or the white card. hence, she doenst raise her hand.
all of this assumes that the children ar rather bright and do not fail to make relevant logical conclusions. probably, these 2 examples ar rather made up. but see also:
a similar but much harder problem. surely it is possible to make a computer that can figur this one out, i already formalized it befor. i didnt try to make an algorithm for it, but surely its possible. heres my formalizations.
types of reasoners, i assumed that they infered nothing wrong, and infered everything relevant. wikipedia has a list of common assumptions like this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doxastic_logic#Types_of_reasoners
William McGregor – Linguistics, an introduction – (download, free, ebook, pdf)
BALEETED. but piratebay has one!
All in all, this is a fairly decent textbook covering most of the linguistic basics. I wud have liked more references to some of the claims made in the text. The author set out to do what he said in the preface:
My intention in writing this book to provide a basic introduction to modern linguistics
that conveys an idea of the scope of the subject, and a feeling for the excitement of doing
linguistics – the excitement of finding out about language and languages, including your
own. I hope it will stimulate an understanding of the subject, rather than rote memorization
of facts. I would also like to convey some appreciation of the reasons why linguists do what
they do, and for the approaches and methods they adopt in studying languages. The third
thing I would like to encourage is the development of your powers of observation, as well as
your critical and creative faculties.
There are many excellent introductory textbooks on linguistics. Why another? My motiva-
tion lies mainly in dissatisfaction with particular aspects of the existing textbooks. None
offers precisely what I desire in terms of manner of presentation, pedagogic philosophy, the
range and type of information presented and theoretical stance. As a result of teaching an
introductory course in linguistics in 2002,1 was convinced of the need to write my own text-
book to remedy these dissatisfactions.
and i think he succeeded reasonable well in that.
Below are some quotes and various comments to them. Quotations are in red, my comments in black.
Your lecturer or tutor can also be consulted on points you have difficulty with. But you
should first make a serious attempt to understand and attempt to formulate precise ques-
tions. Your lecturer or tutor will be able to answer a specific question, though they will be
hard-pushed to help you if you can’t formulate a question. It is very hard to help if you can
only say you don’t understand! I always advise my students to formulate at least one question
about each chapter to ask me or the tutor prior to the lecture or tutorial.
why is he wasting students time (for reading it) and money (more pages in the book) for writing this? it is obvius.
is this part of the childrenization of students? as they become less smart, more childish introductions are needed, or?
Linguistics as a science
What does it mean to say that linguistics is a science or scientific field of study? To begin
with, it says something about the approach taken to the subject matter. A scientific approach
to the study of language involves a critical and inquiring attitude, and refusal to accept uncriti-
cally, on faith, or on authority, ideas or ways of thinking about language. It strives for objecti-
vity, for developing hypotheses and putting them to the test by confronting them with
observations. This means that linguistics is empirically grounded: it is based on actual lan-
guage data, including observations of language use by speakers, and their intuitions about
Linguistics is thus descriptive rather than prescriptive: its primary goal is to describe
languages as they are actually spoken, indicating what they are like and how they are used,
rather than prescribe how they ought to be spoken. Many people are concerned about how
their language ought to be spoken, as a glance in a newspaper is likely to reveal: people often
comment on wrong’ grammar or pronunciation that people (usually others!) use.1
At school you may have learnt that you should say That is the child whom the dog bit and not That is the child who the dog bit. But in modern English (Indo-European, England)2
most people say the latter, and few could use the school rule consistently and properly without consciously thinking about it. Linguistics is concerned with what people actually say, not with what they should say.
while i agree that these ‘corrections’ and hypercorrection in general is annoying, he is wrong about prescriptive matters not being a part of linguistics. in his first test to reading this book, there is a question about whether prescription is part of linguistics, and i had to answer “yes” even tho i knew that he wud ‘correct’ me. fuck getting ‘correct’ wrong answers, truth matters.
linguistic prescription is much like medicine. there are good ways of treating conditions. likewise, there are good ways of dealing with language, and language change. linguistic prescription is a kind of applied linguistics. too bad that most of it is in the form of purism and other dumb stuff.
typically, prescription in english are things like:
Don’t split infinitives!
a. Do not say: I wanted to carefully explain to her why the decision was made.
b. Say: I wanted to explain to her carefully why the decision was made.
Don’t use double negation!
a. Do not say: I didn’t do nothing
b. Say: I didn’t do anything
(10) Don’t end a sentence with a preposition!
a. Do not say: A preposition is not a good word to end a sentence with
b. Say: A preposition is not a good word with which to end a sentence.
(11) Don’t use who in place of whom!
a. Do not say: Who did you talk to?
b. Say: Whom did you talk to?
prescription is very much a part of linguistics, whether or not many people like it now a days.
Linguistics is often regarded as a humanities (or arts) subject, though in many ways it
straddles the boundaries between humanities and sciences, with a foot in both camps. Links
to humanities include to language history and philosophy, as well as to ancient and modern
‘language subjects taught in universities, such as English, French (Indo-European, France),
German (Indo-European, Germany), Ancient Greek (Indo-European, Greece), Sanskrit
(Indo-European, India) and so on; links to social sciences include to sociology, psychology,
anthropology and archaeology. But there are also links to the ‘hard’ sciences such as biology,
physiology, physics and mathematics, most obviously in the production and perception of
surely he is right about this. something that i often have to explain. also, he didnt mention the more formal parts of lingustics that are more akin to math and logic, and there is also computational lingustics which is related to computer science – also a formal matter.
Saussure likened the sign to a coin: just as both faces are essential for a coin to count as
an object that can be used in economic transactions, so also are form and meaning both
essential to the sign as a unit in information exchange. Without a meaning we have no sign:
the letter h of the Latin alphabet has no meaning in written English words, and so is not a
sign: it can no more be used in information conveyance than the image of a head on a coin
can be used in a shop. Nor is a disembodied meaning or concept without a form a sign.
depending on whether he wants to include abbreviations, then surely “h” does have a meaning in many contexts. in math it often means ‘height’, in fysics it often means Planck’s constant, and surely there are many other contexts where it means something. even in the context he suggested by mentioning a coin. a coin has two sides, heads and tails, h is a common abbreviation for “heads”.
on page 87 he does explicitly include acronyms as words:
Acronyms are words formed from the first letters of a string of words. There are two types:
word acronyms and spelling acronyms.
Iconic signs in language
There are exceptions. Some words are iconic. The phonetic forms of words like woof-woof
cock-a-doodle-do, baa-baa, meow, ding-dong, pop and ping are quite suggestive of the mean-
ings, which are sounds, the sound made by dogs, roosters, sheep and so on. The spoken form
is somewhat similar to the sound it represents; such words are onomatopoeic. (The written
forms of these words, however, do not resemble the meanings.)
i really hate that term. it is too dam difficult to remember. i like “sound word”, which is immediately understandable and pronunciable by anyone who speaks english. not some old greek word with an impossible spelling and pronunciation.
Wikipedia has a huge list of cross-linguistic sound words. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-linguistic_onomatopoeias
This dimension is called syntagmatic. The signs that go together to make up an utterance
are not put together randomly, but are related in specific ways to one another. In I will never
forget that terrible day the order of signs plays an important function. The fact that I precedes
will tells us that the utterance is a statement. If these two words had occurred in the reverse
order, we would have a question, Will I never forget that terrible day?
sort of. there is also an added question mark. does it still count as a sygtagmatic change then?
The meaning of a sign in a language is dependent in part on the other signs in close para-
digmatic relationship with it. In English we means me and someone else; it contrasts with
Jin terms of the number of persons specified. Gumbaynggirr (Pama-Nyungan, Australia) has
four words for we, ngalii, ngiyaa, ngaligay and ngiyagay, as well as ngoya ‘I’. The first two
words, ngalii and ngiyaa, are used if the group includes the hearer; the second pair, ngaligay
and ngiyagay, if it does not. The first word of each pair is used if there are just two persons
in the we group, the second, if there are more. The Gumbaynggirr word ngalii does not
mean the same thing as English we partly because of the other words in paradigmatic
contrast to it.
yup. this is a cool feature. it is an annoying feature of germanic languages that they do not include this feature and instead leave “we” as ambiguos. see also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clusivity
The communication systems of non-human animals, by contrast, are typically non-
productive, and do not admit new combinations of signs or the invention of new signs for
new meanings. The systems allow for the expression of a small set of possible meanings. The
honeybees dance that indicates the location of a nectar source (see §10.1) is restricted to
the horizontal dimension, and bees are incapable of communicating information about the
location of a nectar source vertically above the hive.
one of these words are redundant. u might think its “above”, but its not. the nectar cud be below the hive. but above and below both imply that it is vertically located in relation to the hive.
Languages written with alphabetic scripts ideally represent words by their sounds.
Some do this reasonably well, and you can make a good guess at the pronunciation of a word
from its written form, if you know the correspondences between letters and sounds. This is
the case for Spanish (Indo-European, Spain) and Hungarian. Other languages, including
English, French and Danish, have notoriously poor representations of the spoken forms
reading about spelling reform recently made me think about how it is possible to compare the orthografies of different languages computationally, so as to avoid purely qualitative judgements, or mere expert judgement. i agree with the author about these languages, altho i think FR has a better system from reading the Wikipedia article about FR orthografi.
surely this must be possible. ill have to work on that in the future if it hasnt already been done.
ETA. i stumbled upon this while looking for papers inre. my spelling reform proposal:
To date, there have been no comprehensive attempts to quantify and compare
the transparency of different orthographies, although some orthographies have
been subjected to a computational linguistic analysis. For the English language,
31% of all monosyllabic words have been found to be feedforward inconsistent
(in the direction of spelling to pronunciation; Ziegler, Stone, & Jacobs, 1997).
The corresponding inconsistency is reported to be 12% in French monosyllabic
words (Ziegler, Jacobs, & Stone, 1996), and 16% in German monosyllabic
words (J. Ziegler, personal communication, February 20, 2001). It is worthy of
note that the above-mentioned consistency calculations are based on spelling
body–rime correspondences and not grapheme–phoneme correspondences. Sey-
mour, Aro, and Erskine (2003) have presented a hypothetical classification of
European languages according to their orthographic depth at the level of graph-
eme–phoneme correspondences. Based on the expert opinions of COST A81
representatives, they suggest that, of the orthographies included in the current
study, English is the most inconsistent when placed on the continuum of ortho-
graphic depth. In degrees of increasing consistency, it is followed by French,
Dutch and Swedish, German and Spanish, and Finnish as the most consistent
orthography that displays regular and symmetrical grapheme–phoneme corre-
Applied Psycholinguistics 24 (2003), 621–635
see also lyddansk.dk/ortografi_laeseskrive
Most speech sounds are produced on a stream of air forced out from the lungs, through the
trachea or wind-pipe, and then through the upper vocal tract, where the airstream is modified
in various ways to produce different sounds. This stream of air is called an egressive pulmonic
airstream. Speech in English and most other languages is usually produced on egressive
It is also possible to produce speech sounds on air drawn into the lungs, on an ingressive
pulmonic airstream. This is like speaking while breathing in. Although not as often used as
egressive pulmonic air, in some languages it is used to convey certain emotional effects. For
instance, in Danish and other Scandinavian languages, words – particularly ja yes – are
sometimes produced on an ingressive airstream to indicate sympathy or commiseration.
Other airstream mechanisms used in human languages will be discussed in §2.4.
never heard of this, and dont think i succeeded in doing it when i tried to do it at will power. perhaps i do it sometimes without noticing it.
The pharynx is the chamber behind the back of the tongue, above the larynx, and roughly
at right angles to the oral cavity. Pharyngeal consonants are made by pulling the root of
the tongue back to narrow the pharynx so that the air passes through noisily. Pharyngeals
are not found in English; Arabic (Afroasiatic, Arabian peninsula and north Africa), however,
has them. So does Danish, in the r-sound of words like råd ‘council’.
this doesnt seem true. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/IPA_chart_2005.png the IPA chart marks the danish r-sound [ʁ] as uvular, not faryngeal.
i double checked with ordnet.dk/ddo/artiklernes-opbygning/udtale?set_language=da
Bound morphemes, by contrast, require the presence of another morpheme to make up
a word; they cant occur independently. The morphs -er, -s and -ling in our example sentence
are bound morphemes; all the other morphemes are free. Yingkarta -ku, -wu and -Iku
(see §3.2) are also bound morphemes.
Bound morphemes which, like those discussed in the previous paragraph, go onto the
ends of words, are called suffixes. Another type of bound morpheme is a prefix, which pre-
cedes the morpheme to which it is attached. The bound morphemes un- and re- in English
are prefixes, as in un-happy and re-constitute. A third type of bound morpheme is an infix,
that goes inside another morpheme, as in Tagalog (Austronesian, Philippines) -in- past’ in
ib-in-igay gave’, which occurs within the morpheme ibigay give’. Collectively, suffixes, prefixes
and infixes are called affixes.
there are also circumfixes. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumfix using Wikipedia’s example:
The circumfix is probably most widely known from the Germanpast participle (ge- -t for regular verbs). The verb spielen, for example, has the participle gespielt. Dutch has a similar system (spelen – gespeeld in this case).
However, twice does he refer to circumfixes, neither time explaining it. example:
The other types of affix – infixes, circumfixes and suprafixes (i.e. prosodic affixes) – are
far less frequent than prefixes or suffixes.
Blends involve the combination of parts of two separate words to form a single word. Usually
it is the first part (often syllable) of one word together with the second part of the other word
(either syllable or single final consonant), which occur in that sequence. The word motel is
a blending of motor and hotel; smog is a blending of smoke and fog; and bit is a blending of
binary and digit. Other examples are Channel (the tunnel under the channel between England
and France) from channel and tunnel, refolution a peaceful revolution from reform and
revolution, and names for various mixes of languages such as Franglais, which blends franqais
(French) and anglais (English), and Japlish a blend of Japanese and English. While speakers
undoubtedly realize the status of some of these words as blends, others are not so obvious.
Occasionally it is the first part of both words that are combined together, as in modem,
a blend of modulator and demodulator.
for some reason he doesnt mention the alternativ term for this: Portmanteau en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portmanteau
“Portmanteau word” is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely “a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings.” This definition overlaps with the grammatical term contraction, but a distinction can be made between a portmanteau and a contraction by noting that contractions are formed from words that would otherwise appear together in sequence, such as do and not, whereas a portmanteau word is typically formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a singular concept which the portmanteau word is meant to describe, such as Spanish and English, into Spanglish; or, indeed, port and manteau into portmanteau.
Major features of word borrowing
Borrowing, the process of incorporating into one language words from another, is perhaps
the most common source of new words. Words that have been borrowed are called
he doesnt mention the distinction between loan words and foreign words (DA terms: låneord og fremmedord). Wikipedia explains it well: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loanword#Linguistic_classification
see also: emilkirkegaard.dk/da/?p=2014
later he talks about it again, almost getting at making the distinction clear:
Second, as described earlier, the word
applies to the specific case in which the word is incorporated into the lexicon of another
language, which usually means that it adapts to the phonological structure of the borrowing
language. A loanword is not just any word of Danish that I as a native speaker of English
living in Denmark might insert into my spoken English, although nothing in the meaning of
the words making up the compound precludes words of this type.
Sometimes certain phonemes or combinations of phonemes are felt by speakers to be
evocative of certain meanings. For instance, in many languages the high front vowel [i] con-
veys a suggestion of smallness or closeness in contrast with [a] or [u]. Compare, for instance
English ding and dong – which of these do you feel best describes the noise of a large bell?3
If I was a betting man I would bet you chose dong, and that you would go for ding for the
sound of a small bell. Interestingly, in Australian English a small dent on the body of a car is
referred to as a ding. And in English (among other languages) the lateral I has a tendency to
suggest liquids and fluid or uncontrolled movements.
this might not be an accident. different frequencies of ding-dong sounds are made depending on the size of the object that is being hit. high frequencies result from small stuff thus yielding a ding sound. low frequencies result from larger objects, like a church bell.
Euphemisms are indirect or evasive expressions used to avoid direct mention of unpleasant
or taboo ideas; euphemisms provide ways of avoiding being offensive by being evasive.
A few examples are: pass away and go to sleep for ‘die’; bathroom (American English) and
loo (Australian English) for ‘toilet, lavatory’; smalls and unmentionables for ‘underclothing’;
and girl, working girl, and woman of the street for ‘prostitute’. The word undertaker, which
originally meant odd-job man, was used as a euphemism for someone whose job is to bury
the dead. Its meaning narrowed to this sense alone, as often happens with euphemisms.
Now a new euphemism is now replacing it, funeral director.
The unpleasantness of touchy events or things is felt to be lessened by use of an indirect
term, because it reminds one of something more pleasant. Euphemisms are commonly found
in the domains around which taboos are often found, including sexual activity, sex organs,
bodily functions and products, death and killing. But they are not restricted to these domains,
and can be found for any sort of unpleasant reality: for example, honorariums instead of
bribes, campaign contributions instead of graft, make redundant instead of sack and tactical
withdrawal instead of retreat.
he doesnt mention the interesting thing about eufemisms, namely, that they tend to become taboo words themselves, and are thus replaced by new words. this goes on and on and on forever. the eufemism treadmill – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism_treadmill#Euphemism_treadmill
Contractibility is the potential for a string of words to be replaced by a single word. In (5-10)
we can replace the fisherman by he, the net by it, and on the fence by out or up: He hung
The idea behind this is that if the string can be replaced by a single word it behaves as
a single word, which we know is a grammatical element. Thus the string behaves like a single
grammatical item, and so the component words form a single syntactic group.
Again this criterion is imperfect: in (5-7) it is not clear that a single word could replace
through the mountains, or indeed the line through the mountains (it perhaps works marginally -
The train chugged along it). Nevertheless, replacement of non-groupings of words is not
possible. You cant replace chugged along the by a single word.
original = “The train chugged along the line through the mountains.”
“There is a line that goes thru the mountains. The train chugged along it.” works.
“The train chugged along the line now.” works.
It should be obvious by now that this approach will result in a very long list of different
structures. It is also obvious that important generalizations will be missed if the types are
merely listed. Thus, the examples so far show that when a clause begins with an INTER,
the first NP always follows the first word of the VP, which will be either the main verb or an
auxiliary. Recognition of this as a grammatical rule would lead us to predict that some
patterns – for example, INTER NP VP – are impossible. We can then search for examples to
test whether or not this is so, giving us a more powerful method of investigation than search-
ing randomly for new patterns. (Can you find grammatical clauses satisfying this pattern
predicted to be ungrammatical?)
“When the train comes” is a pseudoexample since the word “when” isnt an INTER here, and the sentence isnt a question-sentence.
“Which cars come?” works
There is an important difference between the relations of hyponymy and meronymy: the
property of transitivity Alsatian is a hyponym of dog, which is a hyponym of animal; Alsatian
is also a hyponym of animal. This often does not apply in meronymy. For example, nostril is
a meronym of nose, but not of face: we do not say that ones nostril is a part of ones face!
Hyponymy is a transitive relation, but meronymy is not.
im going to contest this one.
we may consider it odd to say, but that doesnt mean its not true. i fail to see hold transivity doesnt hold for merological relations as well as hyponymous relations.
The standard componential approach identifies semantic features that differentiate words
from one another. Consider the following a small set of nouns: bull, cow, calf, woman, boy, girl,
chair, man. Except for chair these words all have in common the concept animate’. We could
identify [animate] as a semantic feature with a value of either + for animate nouns, or – for
inanimate nouns. (It is conventional to put semantic features in square brackets.) Continuing
the comparison of the terms, we could also identify features [human], [male] and [adult].
Our eight words could be specified as follows:
A feature value is given as ± if the word is not specific on that feature: calf is [±male] for this
reason. Inanimates are given the value – , not ±, for the features [adult] and [male] because
they can’t be either adult or male.
i think im gonna go with it being nonsense to speak of a male chair. the appropriate symbol wud then be “?”, as in being confused by the nonsense, or * akin to denote ungrammatical sentences.
English has (presumably in common with all languages) a number of speech act verbs, verbs
like inform, promise, request, baptize and so on, that give labels to particular types of speech
act. Most can be used in sentences like the following, where they make explicit the speech act
the speaker intends to perform:
(6-6) I bet you any money you like that we’ll win on Saturday
(6-7) I resign
(6-8) I apologize
(6-9) I double dare you to hit me
(6-10) I pronounce you man and wife
(6-11) I order you to leave the premises
Sentences like the above that make explicit their illocutionary force by a speech act verb are
called performative sentences, or performatives.
strange that he doesnt mention the very short test for detecting a performative verb – namely that if one can insert “hereby” into it and it continues to be meaningful and not odd, then its a performative.
e.g. “I resign” → “I hereby resign”, makes sense still. but “I am tall” → ?“I am hereby tall” is very odd.
the test is from Fromkin et al p. 216 which the author has previously mentioned, so its strange that he doesnt mention it here.
As already indicated, reference is different from sense in that it is not what is inherently
associated with linguistic forms such as morphemes and words. Words as such do not refer;
rather speakers use them to refer. The claim on p. 112 that NPs refer is to be interpreted
in this way: that it is the specific instance of use of the NP by the speaker – the NP token
(see box on p. 133) – that refers.
How are these acts of reference achieved? All languages have words or morphemes that are
used to help pin down the reference of a stretch of speech (including writing and signing),
that facilitate the hearers identification of the intended referent. For instance, we can use
proper nouns (e.g. for animals and people Nim Chimpsky, Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles
Darwin; and places Sydney, Uluru), and, in languages like English and many other languages
of Europe, articles (the man on the moon, a puppy, the government). In most cases these
expressions do not identify unique individuals, except when used in particular contexts.
for those wondering who or what Nim Chimpsky is… its a chimpanzee named after Nom Chompsky.
There is a particular class of words or morphemes that are used to assist identifying
referents by linking them specifically to the context of the speech act; these are known as
deictic expressions. Deictic expressions identify things by relating them to the social, lin-
guistic, spatial or temporal context of an utterance, and include pronouns, demonstratives
and adverbs of space and time. The reference of these items varies with each context in which
they are used.
Personal pronouns such as I, me, you, we, our are deictic expressions since their inter-
pretation is always dependent on the speech context: their interpretation depends on
knowledge of who is the speaker and who is the hearer. As soon as the speaker changes, the
interpretation of I and you changes. Third person pronouns are generally also deictic: they
effectively point to someone or something other than the speaker or hearer. (There are excep-
tions, including use of it in It is clear that you are not listening to me.)
Demonstratives such as this and that are also deictics, effectively specifying referents by
indicating whether they are close to the speaker, or distant from the speaker. Thus you might
say this book to refer to the book you hold in your hands; changing speaker roles, I might then
refer to the same book as that book. Languages differ in the number of demonstratives they
have; for instance in some languages there are three (occasionally more) rather than two.
In Tongan, for instance, there are three demonstratives, eni close to the speaker’, ena close
to the hearer’, and ito ‘distant from both speaker and hearer’.
Demonstratives employ spatial deixis. Other spatial deictic elements are the adverbs here
and there. Expressions of temporal deixis include words such as today, tomorrow, now, then,
last week and so on, which situate the time with respect to the time of speaking, and change
their interpretation with changes in the speech context.
It is important to note that the deictic expressions discussed in this section have senses, for
instance, for pronouns relating to person, number, gender and case. Their full meaning how-
ever is only acquired when they are used in a particular context.
it is sort of strange that he doesnt mention the common synonym / very-closely related in meaning term: indexicals.
A presupposition is something that must be assumed to be true in order for a sentence to be
appropriately uttered. In each of the following examples, the a. sentence presupposes the b.
(6-13) a. The bus driver managed to stop in time.
b. The bus driver tried to stop in time.
(6-14) a. The baby has stopped crying.
b. The baby was crying previously.
(6-15) a. I regretted giving them the donation.
b. I gave them the donation.
(6-16) a. He realized that he had been tricked.
b. He was tricked.
If the driver didn’t try to stop, it would not be appropriate to utter (6-13a), that they managed
to stop; if the baby had not been crying previously, it would not be appropriate to say that it
had stopped crying, (6-14a); if the speaker had not given the donation, it would be inappro-
priate to say that they regretted doing so, (6-15a); and if he had not been tricked, he could not
realize this (6-16a). Thus in each case the b. sentence is presumed true in order for the a. sen-
tence to be sensibly uttered.
these look like regular implications to me.
again, someone mentiones the three different grammatical gender ways in Denmark. altho these seem to have very little basis in reality. being a native from Viborg (Almind) in the no-gender zone.. this is just not true. spoken danish has genders in Viborg. one needs to go way out of town to small local villages to find people speaking danish without genders. or even is bigish cities to the west, f.i. Skive.
i have no idea what it is supposed to mean that there are 3 genders in Zealand spoken danish. what is the supposed distinction between feminine and masculine? dictionaries dont mention these either. its not just becus the dictionaries are based on a different dialect, they are based on one from Zealand.
i have seen this claim many times about 3 genders, but it never made sense to me. i googled around and pretty much all sources mention only 2 genders, not 3.
Wikipedia also mentiones the 3 gender thing, but it is apparently only found at Bornholm. the rest of the country gave it up during the 20th centure. i have definitely never heard about it. Wikipedia gives no direct source, so difficult to say.
See also Den Store Danske www.denstoredanske.dk/Samfund,_jura_og_politik/Sprog/Dansk/danske_dialekter
Differences in speech between the genders are often a matter of degree rather than kind,
although in some languages there are features that are unique to either males or females.
In English the situation is of the former kind, that is, a matter of degree rather than kind.
A number of linguistic features tend to pattern differently for men and women. It is docu-
mented, for instance, that women tend to have, and habitually use, larger vocabularies of
colour terms than men, including terms such as mauve, lavender, crimson, violet, beige and
so on. Differences also exist in usage of non-standard grammatical forms such as double
negatives (as in I never did nothing), use of the /in/ allomorph of the -ing verb suffix (as in
eating), and non-standard past tense forms such as seen instead of saw (as in I seen it the other
day). Numerous studies have shown these non-standard features to be more common in the
speech of males than females.
i have heard this claima bout color usage before. if so, then it might be related to biology. i did a quick search:
Sex-related differences in peripheral human color vision: A color matching study
Abstract: There has been much controversy as to whether there are sex-related differences in human color vision. While previous work has concentrated on testing the central visual field, this study compares male versus female color vision in the near peripheral retina. Male (n = 19) and female (n = 19) color normal observers who exhibited no significant differences either in the midpoints or the ranges of their Rayleigh matches were tested with a color matching paradigm. They adjusted hue and saturation of a 3° test spot (18° eccentricity) until it matched a 1° probe (1° eccentricity). Both groups demonstrated measurable shifts in the appearance of the peripheral color stimuli similar to those that have been previously reported. However, females showed substantially less saturation loss than males (p < 0.003) in the green–yellow region of color space. No significant differences were found in other regions of color space. This difference in the perceived saturation of color stimuli was minimally affected either by the inclusion or exclusion in the analysis of potential heterozygous female carriers of deutan color vision deficiencies. We speculate that this advantage of female over male color vision is conferred by M-cone polymorphism.
as for word usage:
Sex-Related Differences in the Color Lexicon
Abstract: Two experiments investigated sex-related differences in the color vocabulary of college students. In the first experiment, students were required first to provide color names for a series of color stimuli and then to match color names with the same stimuli. Sex-related differences were found only in the matching task. Men used more basic color terms than women, while women were better able to match correctly elaborate color terms with the appropriate stimuli. In the second experiment, students described the colors represented by a series of elaborate color terms. Women not only described more terms than men, they also used more elaborate descriptions. The results indicate that college-age women have a more extensive color vocabulary than men. It is proposed that this difference in the color lexicon indicates that women possess more distinct internal representations for color than men.
most studies about this seem to be somewhat old. at least using the search terms that i used “color lexicon”, “color vocabulary” “sex-related” “sex difference”
i wud like to see an updated meta-analysis/systematic review
as for men using more non-standard language. cant come as a surprise. men are innovators. they need to. for get women, one needs to be special compared to other men. an easy way is to use language creatively to demonstrate intelligence.
Some linguists have predicted that if present trends continue unabated as many as
90 per cent of the presently spoken languages will either become extinct, or at least endan-
gered, within the next century. Opinions differ, however, and it is a fact that linguists’ prog-
noses have often been wide off the mark (Vakhtin 2002).
Many speakers of endangered languages and many linguists are concerned about this
situation, and efforts have been proposed or adopted to arrest the processes of shift in com-
munities around the globe. These efforts are referred to by a range of terms, including
language maintenance and revival (other terms are also used; sometimes the terms are used
to refer to different things, sometimes as synonyms). For instance, in Australia a number
of Aboriginal-controlled language centres have emerged since the mid-1980s, that are con-
cerned with determining community attitudes to the traditional languages, and how best to
serve them. In a number of cases communities have expressed determination that their tra-
ditional languages survive, or that a previously spoken traditional language be reintroduced.
Slightly earlier, in New Zealand, ‘language nests’ or kohunga reo, were established by the Maori
community in an attempt to promote the acquisition of Maori by children. In these language
nests older Maori-speaking adults, typically from the generation grandparental to the
children, worked as voluntary caretakers speaking Maori to the children. (This strategy has
subsequently been tried elsewhere.)
Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine which strategies are likely to succeed either in
general or in particular cases, and few attempts have enjoyed much success. Widely regarded
as the most successful is the revival of Hebrew – which had not been used as a medium of
everyday communication for over a thousand years – in the late nineteenth and early twenti-
eth centuries. (See, however, Zuckermann (2006) for a different view.)
the primary function language is communcation. generally, one cannot understand people that speak a different language. seeing that it is useful to communicate over longer distances, why not get rid of some languages? after all, if the egalitarian dreams of all languages being equally good and expressive etc., then why not settle on a single (or a few) languages?
Language and thought: the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
We discuss instead a related question: is there a relationship between the language one speaks
and the way one thinks about and conceptualizes the world? One highly influential idea
holds that the answer is in the affirmative: the structure of the language we speak does corre-
late with the way we think. This idea goes back a long way, at least to Wilhelm von Humboldt
(1767-1835), and more recently to Franz Boas (1858-1942), Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and
Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897-1941). It is now referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, often
just the Whorfian hypothesis.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis can be separated into two components. The first is the prin-
ciple of linguistic relativity, according to which lexical and grammatical differences between
languages correlate with non-linguistic cognitive differences. For instance, the existence of
a number of terms for similar objects in a language – say mound’, ridge’, ‘hill’, mesa,
plateau, cape and mountain – will correlate (according to this principle) with different ways
of habitually thinking about geographical projections, while if a single term is used it is likely
that the range of objects will be regarded as the same. The principle of relativity holds that
language and habitual modes of thought are correlated; it does not presume a causal relation
The second aspect of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the stronger principle of linguistic
determinism, the notion that differences in cognitive styles between cultures, differences
in their habitual ways of thinking, are due to differences in the grammatical and semantic
systems of the languages. Thus thinking about the geographical features mound’, ridge’, ‘hill’,
mesa, plateau’, cape’ and mountain as either different or the same would be a consequence
of the language system, in this case the lexicon.
Whorf is usually understood to have advocated linguistic determinism, though his
stance was often equivocal. His thinking was more sophisticated than simple examples like
the above might suggest. He considered that it was not only lexical features that are relevant,
but, more importantly, grammatical structures. Thus he contrasted the linear notion of time
shared by speakers of English, in which time progresses ever onwards into the future, with
a cyclic view of time he attributed to speakers of Hopi (Uto-Aztecan, USA). An aspect of
this difference, Whorf suggested, was related to the presence of tenses in English, which is
consistent with a time line extending indefinitely into the future, and their absence in Hopi.
(His analysis of Hopi as a tenseless language has been criticized by some later investigators,
notably Malotki 1983.)
This single difference between Hopi and English is not telling: absence of tenses does
not logically imply a cyclical view of time. Whorf sought not just single isolated lexical or grammatical features, but sets of linguistic phenomena that interlock in a system. In the
case of the Hopi notion of time, he linked the absence of tenses with other facts about
the language, including expressions used for quantifying time. Rather than measuring by
numbers of units such as days, they used expressions like ‘the fourth day’. This, Whorf averred,
was consistent with the notion of cyclical time, repetition of events of the same type in cycles
Wikipedia’s description seems better:
True, there are sometimes indications of boundaries in the speech signal. Words are
occasionally separated from neighbouring words by pauses. And an allophone of a phoneme
can indicate the position of the phoneme within a word. For example, great ape and grey
tape could be distinguished by an aspirated [th] in grey tape, that would not normally
occur in great ape. On the other hand, realization of the /t/ as [d] or [r] would be most likely
in great ape. (This is not to say that these minimal pairs would always be distinguished
in pronunciation.) By the same token, allophony also contributes to processing difficulties
since it means that quite different stretches of sound – for example, [nɒt?æt?ɔ:l], [nɒtætɔ:l]
and [nɒdədɔ:l] – must be recognized as representing the same sequence of words, not at all.
The third form, moreover, admits another interpretation. (What is it?)
<noded all>, yes?
Other factors are known to affect the identification of words. Frequency is one: high-
frequency words are processed more quickly and easily than low-frequency words, and are
more readily identified in noisy conditions. Also relevant is the existence of phonologically
similar words, which have the effect of slowing down identification through interference.
In one experiment it was shown that if word frequency is held constant, words with many
phonologically similar neighbours – that is, words differing from the target word by a single
phoneme – are identified more slowly than words with few neighbours.
how very interesting! and important for designing languages. avoid similarly sounding words.
Parsing begins immediately from the very beginning of an utterance: hearers do not wait
until the entire utterance has been produced before they begin processing it, as any self-
respecting grammarian would. Evidence from conversational interaction indicates that
interactants continually monitor what is being said, projecting what is to follow; they switch
speaker and hearer roles so rapidly that there is often no gap in speech. This would be impos-
sible if processing was delayed until the end of utterances.
There is a downside to beginning parsing so soon. In sentences like The horse raced
past the barn fell – called garden path sentences – beginning parsing from the start of the
sentence results in raced being interpreted as the main verb in the intransitive clause the
horse raced past the barn. But then the next word is inconsistent with this analysis; the only
possibility is that raced past the barn is part of an NP with the horse (i.e. the horse that was
raced past the barn).
that sentence hardly makes any sense to me.
the listed transitive meanings of <race> on Wiktionary doesnt fit with this either. Dictionary.com lists one that marginally fits, but ive never seen that use of the word. if other readers are like me, it wud probably be better to use another example. actually this sentence wud perhaps be more likely to be understand as having a misspelled word, <raced> for <raised> which does make sense. also works in speech.
besides, there is a more obvious kind of evidence of the non-holistic interpretation of utterances: people do not wait until the other person has stopped speaking to interpret the words. very often the response to an utterance begins before the utterance has been finished.
probably this wait until the end comprehension wud make it even more difficult to understand very long sentences.
Problems of interpretation
The account of aphasia presented in the previous subsections that links the type of aphasia
with language centres in the brain can be criticized on more than one count. As Sigmund
Freud pointed out, we can t conclude that a function is localized in a certain area of the brain
because damage to that area results in aphasia. It could be that the area is involved in a crucial
way in the task that is widely distributed across areas of the cortex; for instance, it could be
where several lines of connection cross.
wow?! Freud said something useful???
Positron emission tomography scanning or PET scanning involves injection of a harmless
radioactive isotope (often oxygen-15) into the blood stream. Since neurons in the more active
areas of the brain require more oxygen, blood flow to that region increases. The PET scanner
detects the locations of the radioactive isotope; greater concentrations will be recorded
in regions where blood flow is higher. Thus the regions of the brain that are most active in the
performance of a task can be mapped in three dimensions.
actually pretty cool. oxygen-15 decays with β+ decay (that is, antielectron/positron). this positron is ofc the antiparticle of the electron, so when it loses enuf speed from traveling, it annihilates with an electron in the brain tissue. this produces two gamma rays that travel in approx. opposite directions. these are then detected. due to them being in approx. opposite directions, it is possible to elimate from the data any other gamma rays that lack a partner. clever.
PET scanning suffers from certain disadvantages, most of which are too technical to
discuss here. One that we can mention is that since it involves the injection of a radioactive
isotope, ethical considerations limit the number and duration of tests an experimental sub-
ject can be exposed to.
hardly. more likely that overprotective regulatory rules slow down research.
also, note the seeming contradiction between “harmless” in the previous paragraf, and this one.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Unlike PET scanning, functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI is a non-invasive
technique: that is, it does not require the injection of anything foreign into the blood stream.
In fMRI, brain activity is measured indirectly through changes in oxygen levels in the blood
stream, measured via different magnetic properties of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood.
fMRI has certain advantages over PET: it is faster, gives better spatial resolution, and does not
suffer from such severe restrictions on the amount of time, or number of times, a patient can
be in the scanner. It is also cheaper.
he is wrong about the contrast invasiveness between fMRI and PET scans. both are non-invasive.
Children vary considerably as regards the times they reach the various stages, some enter-
ing the stages very early, some very late – for example, Albert Einstein is said not to have
begun talking until five years of age. Regardless of whether the child is fast or slow in the
acquisition of language, in the long run it seems not to matter: late talkers end up with full
control of the language. Moreover, it should not be presumed that the stages are rigidly
distinct; they merge into one another. Below we discuss these six stages in order.
i know the author only writes that “is said”, but such passing remarks about Einstein keep the myths alive.
from the link:
But in the entrance exam to the Polytechnic, that he took after only half a year of French lessons at the Gymnasium, Albert had to compete with Swiss graduates who had at least six years of French study. And the statement with respect to the Hebrew language was the realistic evaluation of a 43-year-old scientist who had no use for that particular language and, therefore, no motivation to learn it. Ten years later, the American immigrant was well able to acquire the necessary knowledge to communicate with his new compatriots. Would anyone be surprised that at the age of fifty-five he did not reach the same high level in English as he did in his mother tongue, and had, another decade later, to admit that he “cannot write in English, because of the treacherous spelling”?
the egalitarian view about early and late learnings is certainly wrong. great intellects were often child prodigies, learning learnings very quickly. and all natives do not end up with the same control of the language.
Overextension refers to the child’s generalization of the meaning of the word beyond
the sense in the adult language. The word might be extended to all things sharing a general
feature of colour, shape, size or whatever. For example, the word daddy might be used to
refer to any man, doggy to all four-legged hairy animals, or moon to all round things.
Overextension need not necessarily apply equally to the production and comprehension of
a word. For example, one child used the word apple to refer to other similar round objects
like balls and tomatoes, but was able to correctly pick out the apple from a collection of such
items when asked to identify the apple.
the example with the Moon is pretty bad, since the Moon is not in fact round all the time (well, it is, but it doesnt appear to be), not even in fiction. more likely <moon> wud be overextended to some other meaning like ‘all bodies in the sky’ or ‘all large bodies in the sky’ – refering to the Sun and the Moon, since they are visible larger than the stars that all appear to be the same size.
as for the apple example. it seems more easily interpreted in a prototype theory. the apple is the prototype of a medium-small sized, round object, while balls and tomatoes are less representative examples. when asked to pick “the apple”, the person will ofc pick the most representative object.
Also relevant are the circumstances and manner in which the L2 is learnt. Sometimes
a distinction is drawn between foreign-language learning (in which the L2 is learnt outside of
the community of speakers, for instance, Hungarian and Finnish (Uralic, Finland) in Denmark)
and second-language learning (where the language is learnt in its speech community). It
seems reasonable to believe that the latter situation is more conducive to L2 acquisition than
the former. But things are not always as simple as this. In the Netherlands and Scandinavian
countries adult monolingual speakers of English can experience difficulties in entering into
speech interactions in the language of the country because speakers immediately switch to
English when a foreigner is present.
true, and this will be ever more the case in the future.
These two questions are of interest in relation to the origins of human language, which we
deal with in §10.3. If we can show that non-human animal communication systems exist that
share features of human languages, and that our closest biological relatives have systems that
most resemble human language, this would count as evidence in favour of the evolution of
language from animal communication systems, and that language differs in degree rather
than kind from these other systems. Even if we could find evidence that other species can
learn human language to a significant degree, this might count in favour of the evolutionary
development of human language from systems of animal communication. Not finding such
evidence does not, however, argue against an evolutionary story: it may be that there are no
living species sufficiently close to us biologically to reveal the continuity. Our lineage diverged
from our closest biological relatives the chimpanzees some five to six million years ago; the
only remains of the intermediate species that emerged and lived during these millions of
years are fossils; the species themselves are extinct.
there is another possibility. that there are differences between language skills between various human populations. they have after all been separated for thousands of years. it might be that there are no differences, or there might be. especially if language ability is strongly related to general intelligence, which is found in different amounts among the human populations.
Involuntary signs like the erection of hair or feathers are indexical signs or indexes, according to the
classificatory scheme developed by the American philosopher Charles S. Pierce (1955). Indexical signs are characterized by association between form and meaning that arises through habitual co-presence; the form as it were points to the meaning. Other examples are smoke, which is an index of fire, and the first person pronoun /, which is an index pointing to the speaker.
sounds like bad terminology as it overlaps with “indexicals” as mentioned earlier in this review.
a word like “indicator” is better.
Perhaps it is a mere accident that animals did not develop communicative systems as
elaborate as human language; maybe some animals actually do have the capability of acquir-
ing human language. Numerous instances have been reported over the past century of ani-
mals acquiring human language, as well as of performing a range of other complex mental
operations, such as arithmetic, that one thinks of as uniquely human. In this section we focus
on attempts to teach a human language – or a simplified version of a human language – to
apes. But before we embark on this, we look briefly at the linguistic ability of one non-primate
species, one with a long history of domestication.
Dogs’ understanding of human language
Dog owners often speak to their pets, which they believe are capable of understanding much
(if not everything) that is said to them. For example, an owner says heel, and the dog returns
to its owner; or fetch and it fetches a thrown ball.
In the following subsections I outline with a very broad brush a few of what seem to me to
be the more interesting recent proposals about language origins. No attempt is made to be
comprehensive: there are far too many theories to mention in an introductory survey; some
are too complex to summarize in a few paragraphs, and have been left out for that reason.
Nor do I attempt to be critical – all the proposals are based on circumstantial evidence, and
can be fairly easily critiqued on the grounds that they leave unexplained a rack of known
facts about the structure and/or functions of human language. In other words, at best they
might account for the emergence of a communicative system of complexity less than that of
human language; all take recourse to much hand-waving.
One popular notion, with a long history, is that human language originated in bodily gestures
that were later transferred to the vocal medium. Our ancestors such as the australopithecines
may have communicated with bodily signs before their vocal tracts were capable of speech.
One attraction of this idea is that apes have intentional control of manual gestures but not of
vocalizations (see §10.2), and the same was presumably true of our common ancestor, and
likely also of some of the descendant hominid species. Following Max Miillers lead, we will
refer to this theory as noddy’.
oh god these puns!
If the ‘Oops!’ theory is correct, a single gene ought to be responsible for language. A possi-
ble candidate for this is the FOXP2 gene, the first gene to be shown to be relevant to language.
A mutation in this gene was shown by geneticists in 2001 to be associated with a type of
language disorder – called Specific Language Impairment (SLI) – characterized by articula-
tion difficulties and grammatical impairments. However, it seems increasingly likely that it
cannot be a single gene that is responsible for language,5 which counts against the single mutation scenario, and in favour of the natural selection scenario. Thus, language is not com-
pletely wiped out in those individuals showing the mutation in FOXP2, and other genes have
been shown to be associated with SLI. Furthermore, an investigation by a team of geneticists
into the distributions of the FOXP2 gene across a range of animal and human populations
revealed that the most likely scenario is that the gene has been the target of selection during
recent human evolution (Enard et al. 2002).
the author does not make it clear that genes do not have their effects alone. genes are not like a blueprint. genes are like a recipe – they play together in ways that are hard to predict.
it doesnt make sense to say that a single gene gave rise to the LAD. one has to take into account the genetic environment (the other genes) as well.
the author uses the word “score” quite a few times to mean “20”. i rather he just used the numeral instead of an obscure word for the same thing. same applies to “dozen”
A distinction can be drawn between characteristics that are shared by all languages (so far as
we know) and characteristics that are exhibited by many though not all languages. Thus we
can talk – with some poetic licence – of absolute and non-absolute universals. The shared
characteristics can be either specific linguistic features such as vowels, or logical relationships
between features such as ‘if a language uses the velaric airstream, it also uses the pulmonic
airstream’. (Note that the inverse implication does not hold: if a language uses the pulmonic
airstream it need not use the velaric airstream.) Correspondingly we can distinguish non-
implicational from implicational universals.
All languages have X
In all languages if X then Y
these are both implications in logic:
altho one can use a fancy interpretation with domains to make the formalizations fit the natural language more:
and then let domain(x) refer to ‘languages’.
much envy much?
This type of explanation is based on physiological processes for which no further explana-
tions are proposed – we have not attempted to explain why some gestures were lost, some
gained and others became simultaneous: they just happened. The actual changes are not
predictable like the motion of the planets; at best they are more or less explicable in hindsight.
In most circumstances different outcomes could have eventuated, some more likely, others
less likely. It is not suggested that all sound changes can be explained in this way.
what kind of useless theory one ‘explains’ things after they have occured? theories are most useful when they can be used to predict things.
Linguists usually use the term in a different way, and employ the criterion of mutual
intelligibility. If speakers of one form of speech can understand the speakers of another
without having to learn it, the varieties are said to be mutually intelligible, and they are dia-
lects of a single language. British English and Australian English are mutually intelligible, and
so are dialects of a single language, English, according to this definition.
whats the threshold for mutual intelligibility? its not a all or nothing thing, its a continuum. pretty much all danes can read bokmål. or does only speech count? in that case swedish and norwegian may be norswegian? i can certainly understand swedes from Malmö, in a dialect continuum kind of way. does that mean that there is a common scandinavian language? well. maybe.
We now discuss some of the methods linguists use to establish language families. It should
be cautioned that genetic relatedness of languages has, in principle, nothing to do with the
biological-genetic relatedness of their speakers. Speakers of genetically related languages
need not be closely related biologically; a child will acquire the language spoken in its social
environment, not the language spoken by its biological parents, if they are not present in the
social environment. Thus, English is spoken as a mother tongue by humans of diverse bio-
logical ancestry On the other hand, speakers of genetically unrelated languages may belong
to the same genetic groups. Hungarian is not genetically related to the neighbouring lan-
guages, although the speakers of Hungarian are not distinguishable as a population in terms
of biological-genetic features from speakers of nearby languages.
yes they are. author needs to look into population genetics. even danes and swedens are distinguishable with enuf markers. moreover, the reason why the uralic languages (finnish, estonian, hungarian) are so spread is probably due to a population split in past times. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finno-Ugric_peoples
the most odd thing is that the author does cite a population genetics book. he shud then also know that one can separate people from various populations. im guessing he didnt read the book.