Rules vs. Lists

Rob Freeman lists at
Wed Jul 9 07:49:34 UTC 2008

You keep wanting to change the subject, Aya.

It is good that you accept "the grammar of any language at any given
point is somewhat indeterminate."

I wonder how many people would agree.

But note, I'm not only suggesting the existence of indeterminacy in
human language, I'm suggesting a model to explain it. This is
something which has historically fallen between complete explanation
in terms of rules and lists/usage. In fact nearly everything about
language has fallen between complete description in terms of rules and
lists/usage. I suggest this is because we have not considered the
possibility of a list which implies more rules than it has elements.

If you want to address that hypothesis, or its consequences, I would
welcome your feedback.

It seems you want to talk about cognitive or social constants in language.

We can start another thread to talk about cognitive or social
constants in human language if you like. Though really, I think many
people have done quite a thorough job on that aspect of language
already. Perhaps you have a new perspective. By all means start a new
thread and present it.


On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 11:35 PM, A. Katz <amnfn at> wrote:
> Okay. So your other point is that the grammar of any language at any given
> point is somewhat indeterminate, because it just misses resolving itself
> one way or the other. That's true, of course. Sapir made that point when
> he spoke of linguistic drift.
> What I find more interesting, (while acknowledging your point), is that
> languages don't just drift. They cycle. They keep coming up with the same
> ways of resolving the indeterminacy, after having seemingly gone in a
> different direction for a while.
> The reason I find that interesting is because all the while language
> appears to be evolving, it's really staying the same more or less.
> Show me one primitive language! There is none to be found. We have people
> with primitive material culture in isolated pockets of the world, but NO
> primitive languages.
> Best,
>      --Aya

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