Reality and Language

Diane Frances Lesley-Neuman Diane.Lesley-neuman at
Mon Mar 27 05:27:59 UTC 2006

  I think people are ignoring Mark because he's stirring up trouble in a
sometimes unproductive way, They are letting it drop because there is no list
manager to police things. But actually, some of the disagreements in phonology
are similar to the issues you two are raising.  The functionalist--
phsyiologically-based, vs. the formalist -'"it's in your head" is a common
  My view is that more research is needed.  Shoot for an operational definition
for when a "phonetic process" becomes phonologized.  The debate over where
phonetics ends and phonology begins needs to be explored with more scientific

Diane Lesley-Neuman, M. Ed.
Linguistics Department
Institute for Cognitive Science
University of Colorado at Boulder

Quoting Salinas17 at

> In a message dated 3/21/06 4:21:52 PM, mark at writes:
> << Reality couldn't possibly make language intelligible. At best, a person's
> *understanding* of reality might be claimed to make language intelligible. I
> can't imagine what the universe would have to be like for reality to
> intervene
> directly in language processing. >>
> (Please forgive the late response.)
> If you want to experience "what the universe would have to be like for
> reality to intervene directly in language processing," all you have to do is
> wake up
> in the morning.
> I find yours a strange statement and I'm amazed that there was so little
> reaction on the list to it.
> I presume that you are talking from some kind of non-scientific or mystic
> point of view.  Which I respect, but it has nothing to do with science or
> hopefully this forum.
> >From a naturalistic point of view, the real world is an independent
> objective
> reality.  It does not depend on subjective understandings for its existence.
> Human language is part of that reality.  It does not depend on subjective
> understanding for its existence.  If your "understanding of reality" is that
> there is no such thing as human language, you'd be wrong -- scientifically
> speaking.  The same goes for "language processing."
> We can use language any way we like.  We can adopt an "understanding of
> reality" that makes us walk around all day repeating nothing but four-letter
> words.
>  But our personal subjective understanding will not affect the real world
> consequences of walking around all day repeating nothing but four-letter
> words.
> The real world is an 18-wheeler and it will run you over no matter what your
> subjective "understanding of reality" is.
> Over the long term, the real objective world has shaped our language.  I
> think that the categories of grammar -- noun, verb, etc. -- mirrors what
> humans
> have learned about the world -- that it contains objects and actions, an
> arrow
> of time reflected in tense and conditionality, etc.  There may be alternative
> "realities" but human language has done a very good job of storing a fair
> picture of the independently existing real world.  Our technological prowess
> demonstrates this, I believe.
> Perhaps the real world becomes less apparent in the comfortable condition all
> our technology has produced for us.  If we had to dig and scratch to find
> food or shelter every minute of the day, we might be more inclined to take
> reality a bit more seriously in our theorizing.  And we might be more aware
> how
> reality shapes our language, our thinking and our actions, if it was a
> constant
> matter of survival rather than our favorite cognitive imagings.
> Regards,
> Steve Long

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