Daniel Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Thu Oct 2 03:48:07 UTC 2003

Tom Payne says:
> So when we say "What if speakers intend their messages to be
> interpretable? And what if iconicity would help messages be more
> interpretable in such and such a way? How would that affect the
> structure of human communicative systems?" I think we are doing pretty
> much what the physicists are doing -- telling a story that has more or
> less value depending on how much observable data are explained by it.
> Statistical universals are (part of) the observable data.
> Tom

This is why there is ultimately no qualitative distinction between
explanation and discovery, as I said in my previous posting. The
question put to the physicists, namely, 'Is x a proven fact', is not a
fair one, because there are no proven facts. Just more or less useful
stories - whether 'explanations' or 'discoveries'. This is an idea that
goes back at least 100 years in its first clear formulations,  from the
body of work constituting perhaps the single paradigmatic contribution
of American philosophy - Pragmatism, in particular Jamesian Pragmatism.

-- Dan


Daniel L. Everett
Professor of Phonology
Postgraduate Programme Director
Postgraduate Admissions Officer
Department of Linguistics
The University of Manchester
Oxford Road
Manchester, UK M13 9PL
Fax: 44-161-275-3187
Office: 44-161-275-3158

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