Better than biological/linguistic parallels?

Salinas17 at Salinas17 at
Mon Mar 27 06:45:44 UTC 2006

In a message dated 3/26/06 4:10:23 PM, macw at writes:
<< You could well decide instead to use another, more selectionist, 
biological mechanism as his analogy. That would at least allow us to keep our analogies 
straight. >>

Or, better yet, one might use a more purposeful form of development than 
biology or evolution.  Proteins reflect a highly complex process, but I hope no 
one is saying that their structure or function is intentional.  

There are probably excellent examples of complexity and emergence in human 
technology that would make far superior analogies to the very intention driven 
structure of language.  For example, if you trace the physics, mathematics, 
chemical and material engineering necessary to bring Stone Age projectile to Mars 
explorer, you'd see a long line of emergences, wouldn't you?  And, like 
language, all were objective-driven.  Some of them perhaps as elegant as protein 
folding?  Or how about the emergence over time of technologies that allow us to 
observe and decipher proteins?  Or do the human genome? Or cell phones and 
race cars, for that matter?  At least you'd be comparing apples and apples, one 
would think.

<<  But, then we need to have some evidence that the "form/meaning mapping is 
usually very crisp, and based on the internal symmetries of the used portion 
of the phonological inventory of the language."  >>

Or even that such processing -- whether crisp or not -- is somehow 
independent of action/effect mapping that may include not just dictionary "meanings" of 
words, but more importantly what the effect of using a particular piece of 
language has been and therefore might be in the future.  The phonological part of 
matching would be far less complex than the "mapping" of everything words can 
make happen when we use them or hear them.  When we read Shakespeare's 
"Sleep, that mends the raveled sleeve of care," do we really think that the phonemes 
would be the most difficult thing to map?

Steve Long

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