Reflections on Grammaticalization, Epiphenomena, etc....

cc at cc at
Wed Mar 15 23:21:19 UTC 2006

Indeed, we see the immunological function of language everytime an antigen is
attacked by antibodies on this list.


Quoting jess tauber <phonosemantics at>:

> I'm not the first to suggest also that in many cases language is used 
> as well to stop communications. All sorts of sociolinguistic 
> phenomena help identify one as in- or out-member of a group (actually 
> multidimensional grading). One doesn't necessarily want an enemy to 
> know your plans (or have things changed radically re linguistic 
> profiling since 9/11?), and its always good to be forewarned when 
> some member of the riff-raff attempts to nose his way into the 
> old-boy club.
> Perhaps language might be thought of as a social/technical regulatory 
> system, with analogies not only at the genetic level, but also higher 
> up, where other parts of the biochemical realm (such as hormones, 
> growth factors, etc.) help to integrate or isolate multiple or 
> individual compartments/components as needed. Even simple organisms 
> such as sea anemonies can recognize each other chemically, as in- or 
> out- group. And parasites must evade immune defenses in order to gain 
> access to internal resources. The secret handshake can get you past 
> the bouncer.
> As for MT, which along with NLAI got me interested in linguistics in 
> the first place, my own take is that it is largely a positivistic 
> reductionist mindset which is at fault for so many of the failed 
> efforts, though giving due weight to the inertia created by 
> establishment of powerful theoretical schools. Linguistics came very 
> late to the 'scientific' table, and in some ways is still a party 
> crasher (much as I am also ironically). Scott DeLancey's 'physics 
> envy'. The ghost of Bloomfield haunts the hallowed halls, egged on by 
> a gallery of dead Neogrammarian ancestors.
> But is some of this really possibly just symptomatic of the 
> relationship linguistics (and increasingly most maturing fields) 
> often has with funders, who don't want complex explanations as they 
> stare at their watches and their eyes cross? A sort of evolutionary 
> selection, where shiny, sparkly promises of simple and quick 
> solutions to otherwise natty problems open the dollar floodgates? 
> What kind of personal and political psychological makeup predisposes 
> one to success in such an environment? How often does self-promoting, 
> carefully groomed professional dynamic image prevail over substance 
> and ability in the less appealing (and verbose) package?
> It is also interesting that the oversimplification of real complexity 
> when dealing with outsiders has its inverse in the 
> overcomplexification of simplicity in communications within the field 
> itself to help create one's professional persona in the first place. 
> A growing problem in many fields, blah blah blah.
> One tries to hope that things don't get as desperate for folks in MT 
> as they must have been for that Korean stem-cell scientist who is in 
> the news just now. Is it just a matter of time before somebody peers 
> behind the curtain and sees the truth about Oz?
> Jess Tauber
> phonosemantics at

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