Analytic languages and their function. (8)
Salinas17 at aol.com
Salinas17 at aol.com
Tue May 30 03:33:55 UTC 2006
In a message dated 5/29/06 2:18:53 PM, amnfn at well.com writes:
<<When my daughter wanted one of us to come help her with something, she
would call out: "Mama! Mama!" It doesn't matter what the nanny or I originally
thought "Mama" meant. It doesn't matter that most people use that word as a
nominal or participant reference. For my daughter, it was the way to summon help.
It was not a way to refer to anyone, because she never pointed at any person
and said Mama.>>
I'm not sure what this proves. The child wanted help but did not have a word
for help? Or were her words for "help me with something" less effective than
saying "Mama." What if she said "Mama! Mama! and nobody came? Obviously,
the listeners did not care about what she said, because they came anyway. This
is not special to human language. Sound draws attention and aimed at the
right audience will draw a response. If "mama" has been effective on mother, it
may be effective on others. If "bobo" is more effective than "mama" at drawing
a response, start using "bobo."
Of course, if "Mama" works, use it. It's the real world consequence that
drives language, cognition is only an intermediary.
Once again, a man touring a candy factory falls into a vat of chocolate. He
yells "Fire! Fire!" After being rescued he is asked why he yelled, "Fire!
Fire!" He answers, "If I yelled, 'Chocolate, Chocolate', do you think anyone
would have come?"
All this is a completely different issue than common reference. If Aya's
child started calling her Taiwanese nanny, "Queen Mary" or asking for help by
saying "leg of lamb," the anecdote was have been quite different in the point it
was making. Where common reference is clearly off the track, that is
categorized as a serious language problem.
The reason we even have a guess at what a child or an adult "means" by spoken
word is based on an assumption of commonality of reference. If a child says
"ya ya" to indicate that he needs to go to the bathroom, we have to learn
that reference and incorporate it into our own set of references for
communication to be effective. If a child says "bathroom" to indicate that he needs to go
to the bathroom, that is within our common reference, and it takes less work
on the LISTENER's part to understand the intended result the child is after --
assuming the listener is interested in what the child is after.
<<My point with regard to the development of early human language is that
using a symbol to stand for a concrete object which is stable through time and
space is a very late development in language, both in ontology and phylogeny.>>
That's true and that is because -- before sounds become symbolic -- they were
merely auditory attempts to manipulate the environment. Yelling "Mama!
Mama!" where "Mama" has no connection to any particular object, process or
relationship, is equivalent to yelling "Bobo" -- the sound may elicit a response just
because it is a sound. What separates human language is the extent of common
reference. The other sounds we make are not really different than those made
by cicadas and chimps.
<<...the parts are presented to us already broken down. However, for someone
who has never had language comprehension, getting to that point is a very big
deal. It's not the first thing that happens for infants, and it was probably
not the first step we took as a species on the road to modern language.>>
The "parts" of language are merely representations of the "parts" of the
world. There are many folks out there who never really thought about the world
being separable into objects and actions, despite the fact that it is easy for
them to distinguish the two for the most part, once they think about it. There
are many folks out there who never really thought about language being
separable into nouns and verbs, despite the fact that it is easy for them to
distinguish the two for the most part, once they think about it.
This correspondence between symbol and the real world, when it is made common
by a common language, is what makes human language particularly effective.
Most examples of the "holistic" nature of language are either deducible
shorthand versions of complete statements, or examples of arbitrary sound-generation
that acts as a simple discriminative stimulus -- whether the sound is a bell,
a buzzer, a child shouting an ambiguous "mama" or a mating songbird repeating
tweets and warbles in a consistent pattern. The fact that the sound is not
symbolic does not keep it from being effective. But it is not distinctively
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