Language and "Self-Expression" (2)

A. Katz amnfn at
Sun Apr 29 18:56:40 UTC 2007

On Sun, 29 Apr 2007 Salinas17 at wrote:

> In a message dated 4/27/07 11:59:21 PM, amnfn at writes:
> << Communication can be intentional or unintentional. Vocalization can be
> voluntary or involuntary. In the context of a discussion of the separability of
> language structure from communication, "self-expression" means a
> form-to-meaning mapping that encodes information where the speaker had no intent to
> communicate with another. >>
> "'Self-expression' means a form-to-meaning mapping that encodes information
> where the speaker had no intent to communicate with another."
> Aya -
> I am trying to understand what this might mean.  So I'll try to do something
> that promotes common reference between us.  I'll ask some questions.
> Is there a difference between "form-to-meaning mapping" where the intent is
> self-expression versus where the intent is communication?  What is that
> difference?

There is no formal or semantic difference between utterances that are
distinguished by the itent or lack of intent to communicate. That was my
point. Individuals need not be aware that communication is happening
in order for transfer of information to take place as a result of one
vocalizing and the other hearing the vocalization.

One can communicate without intending to. I thought your position was that one
couldn't, and that therefore all communication is governed by the intent
to communicate, and that syntax could not possibly form without
intentional use of the communicative function.

My point was that standard mappings from form to meaning can arise under
circumstances where neither party intends to communicate.

Language and the precursors of language could have evolved before people
had developed a strong theory of mind.

> To put it another way:
> I presume that we are talking about self-expression that must involve
> language, since your distinction above doesn't work otherwise.

My distinction works both in the case of human language, and in the case
of other non-human or non-linguistic signals.

> Is this self-expressive "form-to-meaning mapping" in a specific language?
> (Not Language in general, but in a specific language.)

It can work in specific languages and in specific non-linguistic forms of

> If this self-expression is in a specific language, then is that language
> changed when used for non-communicative self-expression?  How is it changed?

The form does not have to change. The point is that it doesn't have to.
The form can be interpreted regardless of whether the speaker had a
particular hearer in mind, no hearer in mind -- or even was not aware that
other hearers could exist.

> If a listener should accidentially overhear this "form-to-meaning mapping" as
> speech, would he find that it violates grammar or syntax?  Would it be a
> different language than the speaker would otherwise speak in?


Accidental overhearing is just one example of how communication can occur

> If the form or structure of the language is not changed, what is the
> different between speech generated for self-expression versus communication?

None. No difference. The point is: You need not intend to communicate in
order for the message to go through. Use a standard form to meaning
mapping to express your thoughts and others will get the message even if
you don't know they exist. You just blurted something out without any
concern for its effect on others: there still will be an effect,
regardless of your intent, if somebody heard.

The hearer need not know what you were thinking in order to associate the
message with its meaning. A cry of pain from an unknown source spells
danger. Everbody pays attention.

I gave you many, many specific examples:

a) food and predator cries of primates, whose purport does not change
regardless of the intent of the speaker. Motive: self expression. Effect:

b) The cries of infants who have not yet made the distinction between self
and other, but who communicate their needs without intending to. Motive:
Primitive Urge to self-express. Effect: Vital information.

c) Involuntary cries of pain by any individual, infant or adult. Motive:
Involuntary self-expression. Effect: Warning.

d) The fully grammatical, semantically unobjectionable human specific
language utterances of high functioning autistics who speak a standard
language without having a theory of mind or an intent to comunicate with
another individual. When overheard talking by others, their speech
transmits information about their state of mind and their observations on
reality. Motive: The desire to express one's thoughts. Effect:
Transmission of said thoughts to another.

Intent to communicate is something that we develop when we start
to realize other people have minds separate from our own. But it is
possible to communicate with another long before we make that realization.
Communication with the help of a standard code of sound to meaning
mappings enhances the survival of the group, and it predates the intentional
use of language.

First we cry because we are sad and we can't help it. Only much later do
some people learn to pretend to cry in order to make someone think they
are sad. The first was self-expression. The second: intentional communication.



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

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