[FUNKNET] Query on structural properties

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Sat Dec 19 08:17:37 UTC 2009


Dear Dan, Tom and others,
[obviously, both FUNKNET and LINGTYP are involved in this discussion, so 
please excuse double posting]:

Whether or not the three 'domains' language (here in terms of grammar), 
cognition, and culture are seen as being related or mutually 
conditioning the 'shape' of the domains (in which direction so ever), 
naturally depends from how these 'domains' are defined. I have to admit 
that in quite a number of proposals that map 'language' (>'grammar') 
onto 'culture' (or vice versa), the term 'culture' is hardly ever 
defined or defined in a way that would be compatible with proposals 
stemming from contemporary 'culturology' and sociology (here, I use the 
term 'culturology' in a very trivial sense that should not evoke 
commitment to a special 'cultural theory'). 'Culture' is often used in a 
rather pre-scientific, folk-philosophic sense, entailing lots of biases 
and prejudices concerning the properties, values, and relevance of 
'culture' and being themselves again part of the 'cultural paradigm' of 
a community, both in terms of folk-ideology and scientific/philosophic  
debates (compare for instance the discussion on 'culture' in times of 
Johann Gottfried Herder as opposed to that initiated e.g. by the 
proponents of the Eurasianic Hypothesis (Trubetzkoy and others) soon 
after the October Revolution). There are so many ways of approaching the 
domain of 'culture' (or of dismissing it at all!), that any speculation 
about the type of relationship present (or not) in the above-mentioned 
triad should at the very first fix the/ locus observandi/ of the 
scientific 'spectator'. This is also relevant because the 'spectator' 
has to make sure that (s)he does not simply perpetuate often highly 
problematic, nevertheless 'lived' folk-models of 'culture'. Also, the 
'spectator' should make clear that his/her theoretical model as well as 
his/her methods of classifying, delimiting, defining, and generalizing 
culture and cultural features is compatible with those methods applied 
for doing the same with language and/or cognition.
    The dyadic tableau proposed by Dan in fact is a triad (or even more, 
in case you include domains like 'environment' or 'habitat' [which 
reminds me of some kind of Neo-Lamarckism] and sociology in a broader 
sense). If ever these domains can be kept apart, we would logically 
arrive at at least 13 different models, as listed below (L = language 
(here > Grammar/Lexicon), T = Cognition ('Thought'), C = Culture), -> 
conditioning/effecting/hierarchical 'higher', || = not relation.

L

	

->

	

T

	

->

	

C

L

	

->

	

C

	

->

	

T

L

	

->

	

T

	

||

	

C

L

	

->

	

C

	

||

	

T

L

	

||

	

C

	

||

	

T

T

	

->

	

C

	

->

	

L

T

	

->

	

L

	

->

	

C

T

	

->

	

C

	

||

	

L

T

	

->

	

L

	

||

	

C

C

	

->

	

T

	

->

	

L

C

	

->

	

L

	

->

	

T

C

	

->

	

T

	

||

	

L

C

	

->

	

L

	

||

	

T

     
This tableau is not exhaustive, because it neglects the parameter of 
'identity'. That means that some models may say that Language /is/ 
Cognition or Culture, not just a separate phenomenon related to one of 
them (or vice versa). Hence we should add:

C=T

	

||

	

L

C=L

	

||

	

T

C=T

	

->

	

L

C=L

	

->

	

T

L=T

	

||

	

C

L=C

	

||

	

T

L=T

	

->

	

C

L=C

	

->

	

T

T=C

	

||

	

L

T=L

	

||

	

C

T=C

	

->

	

L

T=L

	

->

	

C


This would give us 12 additional models (now 25 in total). The thing 
becomes even more complex, if we specify the type of dependency:  "-> " 
may e.g. be described in terms of one or more of the four Aristotelian 
causa-types (/causa efficiens, causa finalis, causa formalis, causa 
materialis/) [again 22 options, according to my calculus]. All this 
would end up in at least 25*22 models (if my rather basic knowledge of 
mathematics is correct), disregarding the different definitions (and 
hence descriptive 'types') of Language, Cognition, and Culture that may 
affect the choice of the relevant causa-types as well as  the final 
description of a given dependency. To make it even more complex: We have 
to 'decide' whether an assumed relationship is given synchronically or 
just a 'petrified' reflex of older mechanisms, no longer 'active' within 
the dynamics of the actual domains. This naturally includes the unproven 
hypothesis that whatever we think of characterizing Language, Culture, 
or Cognition today has been the 'same' since human language (etc.) has 
arisen. But  it is a matter of debate to ascertain the possibility and 
plausibility of such a projection (top put it into simple terms (for 
Culture): The concept of Culture is a cultural fact, and as cultures 
change, the concept of Culture changes too, both in  cultural practices 
and the corresponding folk-models - with the effect that one [practiced] 
concept of Culture may influence e.g. Language, while others do or did not.

In other words: There still is lot to do (albeit much has been done so 
far) to reach a theoretically and methodologically 'sound' basis for 
describing effects (what kind soever) among the three domains Language, 
Cognition, and Culture and to avoid impressionistic and intuitive 
statements. All this also presupposes some kind of 'reification' of the 
domains at issue, that is to turn the observed phenomena (Language, 
Cognition, Culture) into describable, more or less time-stable 'objects' 
with properties agreed upon by the scientific community (without 
neglecting to fix and make public one's own /locus observandi/).          

One final point: we all know that our own scientific thinking is not 
only driven by our personal history, by our scientific traditions, by 
the 'scientific habitat' we [have to] live in, and the data we deal with 
etc., but also by the (covert or overt) assimilation of actual models of 
the 'world', that is of those global paradigms that are current and 
sometimes trendy. The revitalization of the concept of Culture (itself 
being 'detected' in th late 18th century and popularized as a social 
(~political) model in the 19th century) is grounded in the growing 
relevance of relativistic models since the 1980ies, both in Western 
societies and Western concepts of science. Just as the orientation 
towards Cognition has developed into a clandestine 'must' since the 
declaration of the 21st century as the 'Century of the Brain', Culture, 
and, more specifically, Cultures have become a new societal model 
serving as a highly visible landmark in public and scientific discourse. 
This reminds me of the historicism and 'culturalism' in the 19th 
century, deeply engraved in the paradigm of Romantics. A nice example of 
how these two perspectives are even linked together is given by the 
recent program of /Cultural Neurosciences/. I know that we cannot escape 
from being being shaped in our 'thinking' by such public paradigms, but 
we should at least try to formulate this impact and to describe it as 
being part of our thinking (with all its consequences). Linguistics is a 
'cultural and societal fact', and hence it is not amazing at all that it 
changes just as the paradigms present a given culture change....         

Best wishes,
Wolfgang



-- 

*Prof. Dr. Wolfgang 
Schulze    *                                                               
 

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<mailto:Schulze at fhv.umb.sk>                                                                             
 

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