Language and Communication

Salinas17 at Salinas17 at
Fri Apr 27 05:05:19 UTC 2007

In a message dated 4/25/07 11:40:16 AM, jjain at writes:
<< I am sorry that Steve Long finds the concept of the computational 
processes of merging, adjoining etc, as "a shock" because he thinks I am describing 
language "as some kind of ever-expanding Rubik's cube,  but leaving out any 
mention of the objective of all that merging, adjoining, moving, etc."

No, I am not leaving out of the objective. The objective is to relate sound 
and meaning (in spoken languages).  >>

So, putting the elements together we have:
"Language... is a cognitive object involving computation (merging, adjoining, 
moving,etc.) with word-sized units... [whose] objective is to relate sound 
and meaning..."

So we have this "object" that's doing all these computations in order to 
"relate sound and meaning."

So my question is... Why relate sound to meaning or meaning to sound? What 
does sound got to do with this?  

Let say we leave sound out of this for the moment.  Is this computating 
object still "language" if only meaning is involved?  Do we call it language if 
Jagdish's object is just doing computation to relate meanings to one another or 
whatever it is computing?

If sound is one of the objectives of this "cognitive object" called language, 
well what is the sound for?  All one has to do is talk out loud to oneself to 
accomplish "language"?

Of course, the reason sound is part of the objective is because the word 
"language" presumes that there are speakers and listeners.  

This is of course communication.

Even Pinker has not gone so far as to "discover" a self-blooming language 
that numbers only one person.  The pigdins or creoles that supposedly support the 
LAD or UG always involve multiple speakers.  I know of no one who claims that 
learning a particular language does not involve communication.  One does not 
learn the rules of the English lexical item "put" without learning it from 
another English speaker.  Universal Grammar will not supply such information.  
And even if it did, why would it have to be turned into sound unless someone 
else is supposed to hear it.

Now there may be a case where one person talks only to himself in his own 
personal language.  But that could not be how human language started.

Defining language without including communication is like defining a motor 
car without mentioning that it moves and is supposed to take you from place to 

The study of syntax and of the structure of language is extremely valuable.  
But to say that language itself is not communication is to see only structure 
and not function.  And it is not even remotely plausible that language should 
be made up of sound (more properly symbol) without any need for those sounds 
to be heard.

These purely structural view of language is pre-Darwinian precisely because 
it can give no account of how such a thing as human language could have 

<<I hope Steve Long will come out of his "shock" that he experienced because 
of my earlier e-mail note.>>

It's been officially upgraded to "shocked and appalled."

Steve Long

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