Re Discrete Infinity
david_tuggy at sil.org
Wed Jun 11 19:33:05 UTC 2008
Right. But isn't the point (or shouldn't the point be) that when we make
original structures of whatever size we typically do so by stringing
together in novel ways smaller structures or established sequences of
structures? It seems obvious to me that original morphemes will (in
every language) be pretty rare, original stems will be a bit more common
but still likely rarer than original words, original words rarer than
original phrases, original phrases than original clauses, original
clauses than original sentences, and so on up the hierarchy of levels of
(That is of course relatively speaking: i.e. each level will have a
higher percentage of original structures than the next lower one, not
necessarily a higher absolute number. I can easily imagine that more
original sentences than original discourse sections might be produced in
a language where most utterances did not rise to the level of sections.
For many languages the stem/word level distinction may be irrelevant to
such an extent that both levels would be manifest in all of the same
structures. And of course otherwise comparable levels need not
correspond all that well in this regard across languages: original
Nahuatl words are much more common than original English words because
Nahuatl does so much more in the morphology.)
A structure does not cease to be original because it has pre-established
parts. I believe it was Langacker who said that "our vaunted linguistic
creativity typically reduces to stringing a few clichés together to make
a sentence", and I think there is something very right about that. But
it certainly does not deny creativity in the stringing of those clichés
together. And that creativity is a very big deal.
Which I think was your main point.
A. Katz wrote:
> Good point.
> I'm willing to concede that original sentences as such may not be that
> rare. However, I think many of our colleagues might like to suggest that
> if we did a search, we might find many of the sequences of words occurring
> in these sentences have been used by others.
> On Wed, 11 Jun 2008, David Tuggy wrote:
>> In what way are original sentences (or even original clauses) rare? How
>> often will any of the sentences in Aya's post, or this one, have been
>> produced in the history of the world? And even if some of them ever
>> were, would that mean that Aya copied them, rather than producing them
>> as, for him, effectively original sentences?
>> --David Tuggy
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