Reflections cont'd

Salinas17 at Salinas17 at
Fri Mar 17 20:41:05 UTC 2006

In a message dated 3/17/06 2:35:53 PM, mark at writes:
<< (Instance for, print in sentence this understand to fail would English of 
speakers native few.) >>

Your example does not apply to what I wrote.  What I wrote was that Grammar 
can be perfectly correct and still make no sense.  Your example is about 
English syntax, not sense.

In response, I only can tenderly carmelize the teacher to whom you ventilated 
in the left column, weedlessly uncondensed.

That's fine grammar but -- unless you are privileged to know something I 
don't -- it makes absolutely no sense.  One doesn't even have to raise observation 
to the level of discourse to suspect that there was no intention to do 
anything with this sentence but make it grammatical and that the words are random.

Grammar, naked and by itself, conveys little or no meaning at all, either to 
oneself ("cognitively") or to others, pragmatically.

<<I think that hearers generally cause perceived language to make sense 
almost at any cost, even when there may be no sense to be made of it from a more 
privileged frame of reference (if you can identify a more privileged frame of 
reference, that is).>>

Listeners will give speakers the benefit of the doubt, no doubt.  And grammar 
can give the impression of meaning, but we know that we can generate 
grammatical sentences that objectively intend no meaning and convey no information in 
terms of communication to others.  

That tells us that grammar -- despite everything that you hear otherwise -- 
is not the core of language.

Grammar is like the shape of a common hammer.  We can contemplate the shape 
of a hammer all we like.  But unless we get around to asking what it is for, it 
will appear to hold many hidden mysteries and yield many different theories 
to no point.

There are those of us who believe that language is most basically only 
another partially evolved, partially developed tool (but one of immense processing 
power) used by humans to affect their environment.  And we have to regard any 
structural approaches as being deficient -- UNLESS they take central account of 
what that structure is aimed at.

Steve Long

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