Language, reality, meaning questions/considerations for the list

Diane Frances Lesley-Neuman Diane.Lesley-neuman at
Mon Mar 27 19:58:46 UTC 2006

I would like to pose the following questions/considerations stemming from
recent postings, with an appreciation for the diversity of ideas that may
 While some may take the position that phonetics and phonology may
be "simple"or simpler than other types of mapping, we still have not truly
figured out many aspects of language processing in which it is involved.  We
also may use it to track and aid our understanding of what are considered to be
higher level processes, which bear on the language and reality debate.  Keeping
in mind:

1.  The phenomenon of semantic priming in lexical access experiments.("doctor"
will allow a faster retrieval of "nurse" in lexical access tasks.)
2. The fact that in some languages single phonemes, nasalization,
tone,aspiration, glottalization are factors in the  morphological, syntactic
and semantic systems.
3.  Even in languages where phonetics/phonology have a predominantly
alphabetic encoding function of longer units of meaning,social meanings are
attached to nasalization, velarization,and other phonological processes, as
well as to prosody. Social meanings are interpretations of reality and affect
word choice and conversational pragmatics during the communication process.
4.  Even in these more alphabetic-style languages, speakers will take the
trouble to preserve segments that are weaker in the hierarchy of targets and
triggers (weaker segments that are targets of assimilation and elision) because
there are meanings important to the speech community attached to their presence
in the communication stream.

While these considerations constitute a more "nuts-and-bolts"take on the debate
over language and reality, and are possibly considered to be more proletarian,
I would appreciate ideas from the list contributors regarding how they
integrate these considerations into their models of language and the
interpretation of reality.

Many thanks to all,

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

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