Rules vs. Lists

A. Katz amnfn at
Mon Jul 7 13:19:20 UTC 2008

Rob Freeman wrote:

>It would be a fun conversation to talk about what cognitive restraint
>fixed our common arithmetic base at exactly the most common number of

It may be that we could do arithmetic with base nine or base eleven just
as well, and we chose the exact number of our fingers to make up the
decimal system. But the fact that we didn't choose base two isn't on account
of the number of fingers we have. We have two hands, after all, and we
could have used them to count in base 2.

>Equally I would like to see how you allocate tone to a vowel
>in Chinese without first knowing the word. But I fear that all such

The fact that the tone of a word in Chinese is part of its lexicon entry
does not in any way take away from the phonemic status of tone. You might
as well say that you can't allocate consonants to the onset of a syllable
in English without knowing which word it is. Of course, you can't.
Monomorphemic words are made up of a list of phonemes. (Or, if you like,
morphemes are made of phonemes.) The list is different for each
monomorphemic word. That doesn't take away the phonemic status of the
units in the list.



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