X99Lynx at aol.com X99Lynx at aol.com
Thu Feb 4 04:31:59 UTC 1999

In a message dated 2/3/99 9:28:19 PM, you wrote:

<<Yes, it just goes, quite significantly constrained by various
functional considerations.  Language might be said to do the same, since
the intent of users is in effect subsumed by functional considerations:
what does not work to communicate cannot survive.>>

Just a tiny little nit.  Evolutions has no functional considerations, it has
no considerations at all.  Survival value only dictates what will be subjected
to the random process next (although "punctuated equilibrium" will prolong the
effects of survival value.)

If we did this in language at the most basic level it would be equivalent to
my saying a completely random set of sounds and seeing what you do.  If I
liked what you did, I would say it again until you stopped.  Then I would
start randomly altering those sounds or create new sounds (since in sound
production I am not limited by biological genetics for my raw material - I
don't have to stick to my prior sounds at all - I can and will try some
completely different sounds just as soon as work with the old ones) till you
did something I wanted again.  And on and on.

Intention (not a feature of evolution) changes this.  I suddenly have an
objective - communicative predictability.  I want you to recognize the same
sounds.  I don't want to keep making random sounds.  This is a lot more
practical for my purposes and yours than randomly picking sound combinations
to see if they work.  And it also means you and I can pass these roughly
predictable sounds to others or to a next generation.  (And that is a key to
creating human culture.)

Now genetics does this to some degree in biology.  Combined genes create
hybrids, just like combined words create new functions for words.  Language
changes like genetics - dominant and recessive genes, hyrids, small controlled
changes.  Animal breeding.  Like Grimm's law.

But what evolution does to biological genetics is change it for no point at
all. No function at all.  That change is not designed to create survival - it
is not designed to create anything at all.  Survival is only an occasional,
unintended after-effect.

When humans make a mistake in language, or some equivalent of randomness, we
are nevertheless intending to communicate.  And afterwards we will consider
whether that mistake communicates.  And sometimes even if that mistake does
communicate, we do not retain the change.  All that is really, really counter-

A language that mirrored biological evolution should not be easily
recognizable from day to day.  Most of what we would hear would be random
combinations of sounds, with a rare occasional thing that made staggeringly
good sense in between.

For this reason such a language is basically dysfunctional.   EXCEPT, of
course, when you do something like use a computer to break a password,
generating high-order random language events in order to acheive a
functionality.  And other such special occasions which I know about only from
hearsay. :)

Hope this make sense,

Steve Long

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