Postal quote/directionality/talking to oneself

Matthew Anstey ansteyfamily at
Wed Nov 27 04:14:58 UTC 2002

Hi Steve,

>> In a message dated 11/23/02 8:25:40 PM,
>> ansteyfamily at writes: << I think there is a
>> danger here of explanatory reductionism, whereby there is
>> posited THE primary cause of language change. Paul Boersma
>> (Functional Phonology, 1998, phd Amsterdam) suggests that
>> just for phonology there are five functional principles at
>> work, often in conflict with one another. They are (1)
>> speakers minimise articulartory effort; (2) speakers minimise
>> perceptual confusion between utterances with different
>> meanings; (3) listeners minimise effort needed for perceptual
>> classification; (4) listeners maximise use of acoustic
>> information; (5) speaker and listener maximise the
>> information flow.  Principle (5) is akin to your comment above. >>
> It can't be accurate to lump these "principles" causing
> phonological change together, as if "information flow" were
> merely a subcategory.

I agree. The various principles at work in language change are, as you
point out, sub-principles of the general functional principle of
communicative efficacy. My point is simply that in practice such a
principle results in a variety of pressures on the language system that
are often in conflict with one another.

Nevertheless, I am still wary about the idea that "information flow" is
the only purpose for which language is used, ie, the only functional
principle. It would depend on what is meant by information. Wouldn't
sociolinguists observe many uses of language where information flow
would appear to be minimal?

With regards,
Matthew Anstey
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Faculteit der Godgeleerdheid
Residence: Kambah, ACT, Australia
ansteyfamily at
+61 (0)2 6296 4044

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