Abstract / Concrete

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jul 1 18:58:29 UTC 2002

If "more concrete" means "more accessible to larger numbers of
people," then I we have certainly left the ordinary (and even
specialized) senses of the words rather far behind, although I note
some common use for "abstract" to mean "complex," or even "arcane."
If Tom meant this, I wish he had said so.

I take non strong position (as Rudy) did on the efficacy of an
IPA-like as opposed to standard orthographic representation for
dictionaries. I am sympathetic to the fact that since we do not have
this in our tradition, it makes it very difficult to introduce.


PS: Yes, Tom, your reference to twins is idiosyncratic indeed.

>Answer #3: Sorry if I overstated anything, but that was on an empty
>My logic is vintage 1955, but let me try, so help me professors of
>You are saying S = +P ("+" based on your use of "more" and "better"). In
>effect, you are saying or implying, perhaps as a corollary, that
>"abstract" as a concept admits of degree (cf. levels of abstraction).
>Thus some concepts are more abstract than others.
>I would like to say that orthographic spellings are less abstract than
>IPA. There's, of course, a perceptual element to this, IDIOsyncratic as
>we all are. But, logic apart, I agree with what you mean, namely, "the
>orthographic representations [I] prefer [are] more accessible to
>better-than-moderatly literate speakers of English," vague as this
>statement is. To my own idiosyncratic thinking, identical twins are less
>concrete (more abstract) than fraternal twins (more concrete, less
>Answer #2: Not PYE- as in Pierre, but -AI- as in "aisle," etc. You are
>citing an
>exception in support of your argument, but exceptions (as in Conan Doyle
>and TMP's "native speaker" book) don't prove anything.
>Answer #1: Speakers of Spanish, etc. are supposed to be at the (vaguely)
>Grade 6
>level of English proficiency. Non-English speakers starting from zero
>would have to use some aural-oral method of language acquisition first
>before being able to use a dictionary meant for the English-speaking
>I enjoyed Rudy's lecture. I too was trained as an academic, but since
>1960, I have lived and worked in a commercial world, though with little
>profit motive. I think our differences are based on differences of
>attitude and (sub-conscious?) vested interests. Sorry if I have
>overstated it.
>www3.sympatico.ca/t.paikeday/index.htm (alpha version)
>Donald M Lance wrote:
>>  on 6/30/02 4:12 PM, Thomas Paikeday at t.paikeday at SYMPATICO.CA wrote:
>>  > To answer a couple of questions raised by Mark and Dennis:
>>  >
>>  > Mark: "How is this set of rules, abstracted and *regularized* from
>>  > English
>>  > orthography, not also a "key" to be learned?"
>>  >
>>  > Good question. Answer: A literate person is
>>  > supposed to have already learned the common English spellings.
>>  Not true for speakers of Spanish, Russian, Chinese pinyin, etc.
>>TMP: Please see answers above, #1
>>  (snip)
>>  > TOM PAIKEDAY (pointing to the spelling of his name, the first syllable
>>  > of which is not good orthography, but I didn't do it! Anyone who cares
>>  > please say PYE- not PAY-).
>>  PYE- as in Pierre? TMP: Answer #2
>>  Sorry, Tom.  I don't buy your rebuttal as stated.  The orthographic
>>  representations you prefer may be more accessible to better-than-moderately
>>  literate speakers of English, but they're still abstract.  They're concrete
>>  only as marks on paper.  You're overstating your case. TMP: Ans. #3
>>  DMLance

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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