14.656, Disc: "Deflation" and "Inflation"

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Fri Mar 7 15:18:50 UTC 2003

LINGUIST List:  Vol-14-656. Fri Mar 7 2003. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 14.656, Disc: "Deflation" and "Inflation"

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Date:  Thu, 06 Mar 2003 06:35:58 +0000
From:  Daniel Buncic <dbuncic at web.de>
Subject:  "Deflation" and "Inflation"

Date:  Thu, 06 Mar 2003 18:38:36 +0100
From:  "W. Schulze" <W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de>
Subject:  Re: 14.637, Disc: New: "Deflation" and "Inflation"

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Thu, 06 Mar 2003 06:35:58 +0000
From:  Daniel Buncic <dbuncic at web.de>
Subject:  "Deflation" and "Inflation"

Is there really any problem, any misunderstanding that might occur?
Have ''deflation'' or ''inflation'' ever been used to denote a 'rise
in value', as Ben Zimmer implies? He does not give any examples. The
only ''problem'' there might be is that both ''deflation'' and
''inflation'', just as ''devaluation'', ''pejoration'', and
''degradation'', are used in the sense of a 'decrease in value'.

If anyone wants to create an international linguistic term for this
phenomenon (although I consider all the terms coined so far quite
straightforward and understandable without long definitions), than
''deflation'' in its direct sense (the balloon metaphor) would have to
be translated (e.g. as German ''Sinnentleerung'', i.e. literally
'sense evacuation'). ''Inflation'' in its figurative sense (the
financial metaphor) is already an internationalism, so that the
additional linguistic sense can easily be borrowed in all languages
(e.g. ''Inflation'' in German, ''infljacija'' in Russian, etc.). This
might be an advantage. In popular discourse about language this is
already a linguistic fact, as a quick glance at Google hits
demonstrates: German ''inflationärer Gebrauch'', i.e. 'inflationary
use', renders 389 hits (more than English ''inflationary use'' - 188
hits; see also Russian ''infljacija slova'', i.e. ''inflation of the
word'' - 66 hits.) Along with this, German ''Sinnent!  leerung'',
which I proposed as the appropriate translation for ''deflation'',
gives even more hits (965).


After all, a decision on terminology should be based on an elaboration
of the theory of the matter, so that from my point of view the authors
cited by Ben Zimmer are quite right to use the terms that they need
for their analyses. Later on in linguistic discussions, probably those
terms will naturally be used that have been introduced in the best
analysis of this field.

Daniel Buncic
Bonn University Seminar of Slavonic Philology
Lennestr. 1, D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 228 73-5595, -7203
E-mail: dbuncic at web.de
Homepage: http://www.uni-bonn.de/~dbuncic/

-------------------------------- Message 2 -------------------------------

Date:  Thu, 06 Mar 2003 18:38:36 +0100
From:  "W. Schulze" <W.Schulze at lrz.uni-muenchen.de>
Subject:  Re: 14.637, Disc: New: "Deflation" and "Inflation"

> Date:  Tue,  4 Mar 2003 05:27:07 -0600
> From:  Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at midway.uchicago.edu>
> Subject:   "Deflation" and "Inflation"

It is good to see that Ben Zimmer has opened the discussion of a very
important issue that not only is a terminological issue but that is
also related to the question of whether and how more general (or: folk
linguistics) terms or terms that are taken from an idiosyncratic
scientific tradition can/should be adopted in linguistics. It is a
well-known fact in scientific theory that scientific terminology
frequently makes use of technical terms that are 'en vogue' in the
actual public discourse (the perhaps most famous example is the use of
biological terms in historical linguistics that came up in the times
of early 'biologism' (19th century)). In order to disclose the
'semantic' value of such terms in a given linguistic paradigm, it is
crucial to ask to which extent they still cover the 'meaning' of the
'source terms' as it shows up in the scientific tradition from which
they are 'borrowed'.

Another way of adopting technical terms is to refer to their 'basic'
meaning in the sense of their etymology. For instance, the term
'representation' is occasionally used in cognitive frameworks in the
sense of e.g. German 'Vergegenwaertigung' that covers the sense of
Latin 're-praesentare' (lit. 'to render a past event as being actual')
etc.) more closely than its standard technical meaning ('sign of
symbol of something' etc.). If we turn to the two terms discussed by
Ben Zimmer (deflation and inflation), it If we refer to the
etymological meaning of the two terms, we can see that 'deflation' is
a later formation that is derived from 'inflation' < Latin 'inflo:' 'I
blow (up), swell' etc. Here, 'deflation' is simply used as an
antonymic term that describes the opposite of an 'inflation' process
(> 'collapse, shrinking (of available substance)' etc.).

Hence, 'deflation' is connected to the concept of 'more of the same',
and 'deflation' to the concept of 'less of the same'. In this sense, I
cannot see a real difference between the two positions described by
Ben Zimmer: The 'inflation of the same' is usually experienced as a
decrease in value, whereas the 'deflation of the same' augments the
value of the 'same' just because it becomes more marked.

Whether one takes the position of say Nunberg or Dahl simply is a
matter of perspective: Nunberg refers to the process of in/deflation
itself, whereas Dahl uses the terms to denote the (so to say)
'pragmatics' of in/deflation. >From a gestalt-theoretic position, both
perspectives are two sides of the same medal (or, to put it in simpler
albeit problematic terms: The Nunberg position starts with the
'semantics' (or: denotation) of the two terms, whereas the Dahl
position starts with the 'pragmatics' (or: connotation) of the two
terms [note that I use the two names just as 'labels' for the
traditions described by Ben Zimmer.

It should be noted, however, that the two terms at issue are also
related to the tradition of Fractal Geometry (or: more general, to the
tradition of Fractal Theory). In this sense, 'inflation' refers to the
gradual extension of self-similar structures as well as to scalar
invariance: More concrete, it describes a property of certain
structures in space and time which is characterized by the transition
of a part into the original whole during 'enlargement'. 'Deflation',
on the other hand refers to a property of such systems that is
characterized by the transition of the whole into one of its original

It is this perspective that is also taken by the paradigm of
'Cognitive Typology' as it is elaborated in the framework of a
'Grammar of Scenes and Scenarios' (GSS, Schulze 1998). Here, inflation
and deflation are related to the well-known Invariance
Hypothesis. Accordingly, both terms describe processes that are
crucial for the formation and interpretation of metaphorical mapping:
Among others, GSS concentrates on the question of how the dynamic
architecture of the relation between 'basic level structures' and
'higher level structures' can be described from a holistic cognitive
perspective. Here, the two terms are used in (functional) analogy to
Fractal Theory to describe the degree to which the invariant component
of a (superficially) basic level term shows up in its metaphorical
extension: Inflation then means that the use of a (superficially)
basic level term (or structure or construction) opens the option to
'inflate' its meaning towards possible metaphorical extensions.
Deflation, on the other hand describes the degree, to which the
'semantics' of a basic level term (or structure or construction)
'comes through' in a given metaphorical mapping. GSS thus uses the two
terms in order to describe basic schematic processes that show up in
metaphors (note that in GSS, metaphorization is seen as one of the
most basic symbolic (or, in parts, sub-symbolic) processes of human
cognition that is not confined to language.  Rather, it is seen as a
basic schematic process that dominates the ecological 'ontology' of
cognition (Experientialism)). In other words: Inflation and deflation
are interpreted as universal procedural parameters of human cognition
that structure all types of metaphorization processes (more about the
use of the two terms in GSS can be found under
http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~wschulze/grammet.pdf = Schulze 2001).

Wolfgang Schulze

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut für Allgemeine und
Typologische Sprachwissenschaft
- General Linguistics and Language Typology -
Dept. II - Kommunikation und Sprachen
F 13/14 - Universitaet München
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 Muenchen
Web: http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~wschulze/

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