On Everett & Piraha & Pre-Darwinism

A. Katz amnfn at well.com
Tue Apr 24 15:37:34 UTC 2007

The relationship between language and communication is similar to the
relationship between sex and procreation. There can be procreation without
sex and sex without procreation, although undoubtedly sex has survived
because it was of benefit in facilitating the continuation of species.

There is a strong causal relationship between the use of language and
communication, but language and communication are distinct. We can
communicate without language, and we can use language without

There are aspects of language and its structure that can be
studied apart from their effect on communication.

An even more interesting distinction is that between transfer of
information through language and intentional linguistic acts whose purpose
is the changing of another's state of mind. Encoding a proposition in a
language, and getting someone to believe the truth of that proposition are two
different things. Which of them is communication? Transmission of
information or changing someone's mind?

We can talk to ourselves or to a friend and be overheard by someone that
we didn't even know existed. Our speech transmits that information to the
unobserved stranger without our ever intending to communicate. On the
other hand, we can speak nonsense to an intended audience with the result
of making some kind of impression on them, without actually encoding any
proposition with our words.

Language doesn't have an objective. It's just a phenomenon. Speakers have
objectives, but they have many alternate ways of achieving them. Language,
as a phenomenon, sometimes helps transmit information despite lack of
intention to communicate on the part of speakers.

    --Aya Katz

Dr. Aya Katz, Inverted-A, Inc, P.O. Box 267, Licking, MO
65542 USA
(417) 457-6652 (573) 247-0055

On Tue, 24 Apr 2007 Salinas17 at aol.com wrote:

> In a message dated 4/23/07 5:22:47 PM, Dan Everett quoted Jagdish Jain:
> <<3. Dan Everett confuses "language" with "communication."  Language,
> especially syntax, is a cognitive object involving computation (merging, adjoining,
> moving,etc.) with word-sized units.>>
> I'm sorry for interjecting at this point with this reaction, and I hope it
> won't be taken as too antagonistic.  I know its not the issue Dan was addressing
> or how relativist Sapir was.
> But reading the above paragraph is a shock.  I'm wondering how many on this
> list agree with that statement.
> It would be just as easy to be contrary, and say that someone here has
> confused "language" with "computation (merging, adjoining, moving,etc.) with
> word-sized units."
> The description seems to describe language as some kind of ever-expanding
> cognitive Rubik's cube, but leaving out any mention of the objective of all that
> merging, adjoining, moving, etc. -- or why one bit of computation, merging,
> adjoining, moving might be preferrable to any another.

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