The Paradox of Language

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by one_raven, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Since words are abstractions. And so are emoticons and all symbols.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,100
    That doesn't mean they understand metaphors. For example they may think that most of the time they are being literal, when they are not. They also probably think that metaphors are similies but without 'like' or 'as'. Which can be the case, but often is not.
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. ha wow I never knew that.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2009
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    People also misinterpret metaphors as truths because of cultural conventions. The leaders of virtually every major Christian denomination (and the universities they endow) teach their followers that the earth was not literally created in six days, the first woman was not literally built out of a spare rib, knowledge was not literally delivered by an apple (which in any case would have to be a pomegranate), the entire earth was not literally covered by a flood that would have required sea level to nearly double in forty days, etc. Yet millions of members of minor denominations have not grasped that. And even the major denominations abandon their sense of rationality over Christianity's defining metaphor: the resurrection.
     
  8. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,100
    Well, sure. But then it is hardly restricted to religious people. Most people do not realize that a huge % of their language is metaphorical, since we had to base new language on old language and we based it on body-in-world language, therefore. Scientists find this out all the time. The double split experiment showed the problems with the 'particle' metaphor. Our everyday language is filled with metaphors that we take as literal, not realizing how our perception of 'reality' - iow primate sensing world - has created language that describes not reality, per se, but rather the phenomenolgy of a clever primate's experiences.

    George Lakoff's work has shown how pervasive this is and how distorted much of what we take to be literal is.
     
  9. mugaliens Registered Member

    Messages:
    110
    "Babel-17." Samuel R. Delany. Standard stuff. Also echoed in John D. MacDonald's "Ballroom of the Skies."

    Much more than emotion. Physical needs are many and varied.

    Which have been demonstrated among animals.

    I think that quite often our comminications are about as complex as animal communication, while we errantly believe its as stylized as a poet laureate.

    Interesting thought. I think it has merit, heard in every yelp of a puppy on whose paws we've inadvertently tread.

    A small percentage of man does this. So does a small percentage of the animal kingdom at large.

    I know what mine are six ways to Sunday: Survive, procreate, and care for my offspring. I've done all three. That doesn't mean I don't figure out ways to integrated my instincts into the needs of society, including sharing of the care of children, working with relatives towards acceptable tradeoffs of care and enjoyment of the kids. After all, their genes are a part of my son, too.

    But what of daycare? There's no genetic connection, but they would care for him almost as much as I would for my own? Merely extended survival of the species?

    I think so, combined with favors traded as it probably existed 50,000 years ago:

    "Muh tak jo. Genuh meat?"

    "Jah. Tak jo?"

    "Ah tak jo. Jo gut. Genuh meat?"

    "Jah, I genuh meat."

    Actually, I think they're alive and well, and far more "out there" than modern society is, perhaps "politely willing" to admit.

    Since this usually begins happening before birth, and is largely shaped by five...

    Horsehocky. I've see languageless animals reason their way out of paper bags and blankets with greater rapidity than a Rhodes scholar.

    But if you're speaking of logic, well, that's a different story. I do know of an African Grey Parrot who reasoned that if his owners were leaving him with someone else, he'd be lonely, and he expressed his discontent with the situation by saying, in English, "Please..., don't go."

    Wow. What a mind job. Language is merely the extension of reason, self-determination, response, thoughts, and emotions.

    I'll admit language modifies our psyche in major ways. But I would counter that all the language in the world has no hold on one's basic psyche.

    Oh, we are so much more evolved than the apes, are we?

    Most things that appear above instinct are merely extenstions of instinct.

    Of this, I have no doubt! In fact, I'm a firm believer that language is key towards defining who we are.

    But not just language! What about logical discourse? I know many people who're perfect users of the English language who nevertheless cannot follow logical discourse or spot fallacious arguement if their life depended on it.

    I think your faith in language with respect to how it might elevate/distance us from the rest of animalia is totally unfounded.

    On the other hand, I strongly belive that all animalia brains exhibit some semblence of language, even if it's exhibited in mere body position or scent release.

    Bottom line, I think language and thought go hand in hand. We cannot have higher thought without the appropriate language, and we cannot entertain more detailed language without higher thought.

    That's my two cents.
     
  10. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,287
    ahhh, a like-minded individual--welcome!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    This is the pack-social instinct. Other (but not all) pack-social animals babysit for each other. It's a more efficient allocation of resources, resulting in increased productivity. With fewer adults staying with the young, there are more hands out hunting and gathering.
    Well for starters we are apes, and anyone who doubts that has never watched a well-conditioned gymnast in action. To be specific we are Great Apes, like the orangutan and the two species each of gorilla and chimpanzee. The Lesser Apes are the many species of gibbons.

    But yes, we are tremendously more evolved than the other apes in the one characteristic that bears on this discussion: Our brains are about three times as big. And since all of those extra cells are in the forebrain, that gives us a forebrain something like ten times larger than theirs. This gives us the unique ability to override instinctive behavior with reasoned and learned behavior, on a massive scale. It also gives us greater language ability: I don't think Koko or Washoe was able to master more than a thousand words.
    I don't think you're distinguishing between language and mere communication. Language is far more complex than communication.

    Language can be defined differently by different scholars, but the Wikipedia definition is a good representative example. Language has:
    • 1. Vocabulary: A set of arbitrarily defined symbols with meanings that everyone knows and agrees on.
    • 2. Grammar: Structural relationships between these symbols--again ones that everyone knows and agrees on.
    • 3. Pragmatics: Rules for the way context resolves ambiguity and in other ways augments meaning.
    The way most non-human animals communicate fails Definition 1., because their symbols (sounds gestures, pheromones, etc.) are instinctive rather than arbitrarily assigned over the course of generations. It is also likely to fail the other two definitions because the "sentences" are too short to exhibit grammar and pragmatics--often a single "word." Obviously there are exceptions, such as dozens of species of cetaceans. Koko and Washoe were able to learn simple grammar and presumably some even simpler pragmatics, but I don't know of any studies suggesting that gorillas and chimps communicate in such sophisticated fashion in the wild, without the benefit of ASL.
     
  12. Nogard Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    17
    If what your saying is true then wouldn't emotion, and values be the building blocks of language?

    1.Clarity of language, past, present, and location.

    And at it's very core it would mean language is emotion and to add clarity to our emotion we add prepositions, and participles. But that would only explain abstract thought.

    2. Objects

    That would also mean that nouns are another way of saying facts, or I should say objects. Since they are not emotions. We may attach emotions to objects, but the object itself is tangible it's a concrete thought, not abstract.

    3. Meshed together, abstract thoughts placed on concrete thoughts.

    We place abstract thoughts on concrete thoughts, or objects, and we use participles or prepositions to describe when and where. Since there is a past and present, and a position. Example, a chair is an object, it's not an emotion or a state of mind it's a physical object, but we may place emotion on the object.

    4. Final thoughts

    Can you think without words?

    So language is sounds with values attached to them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2009
  13. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,100
    1) I think 'more evolved' is misleading if not outright incorrect.
    2) Animals learn all the time to override instincts, especially social animals. In fact they spent a lot of time teaching each other to do this. I also think it is not reason that causes us to override out instinctive behavior, it is power dynamics and pain, just as it is with other apes. We rationalize this using language, but we will not stop an instinct simply because it 'makes sense'.
     
  14. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,287
    could you define this notion of, heh, more evolved for me?

    and just how much of this brain do we actually use? moreover, the, uh, average person of whom i am insistent that he cannot grasp the concept of metaphor--and, again, i defy you to show me otherwise.

    a lot of good that does most people. my dog, and most of the dogs i've trained professionally, exhibit vastly superior capabilities as far as "overriding their instinct" goes, in my not so humble opinion. review your konrad lorenz.

    ahhh yes, language. that schmuck stephen pinker and all that shit. and you are completely disregarding the definitions of language maintained by many in philosophy--but science "overrides" all--correct?

    and i think you are failing to distinguish between language/communication (your definition) and meta-language. i'm tired, so review your gregory bateson, et al.

    moreover, this:

    is utter and complete b.s. have you happened to observe any human behaviour lately? and many animals can easily learn symbols beyond that which you describe as instinctive.

    i think you're still a bit hung up on your upbringing within abrahamic traditions and cultures.


    EDIT: i'll make sense of that language bit when i am feeling better.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2009
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    I clearly qualified that to refer specifically to our brains. The ratio of forebrain to midbrain volume in our species is around an order of magnitude larger than any other animal.
    I've got a houseful of social animals of several different mammalian and avian species right here. Could you please give me an example of what you're referring to? I'm not denying that they do that, but my thesis is that we do it far more often, to a far greater extent, and in many more facets of our lives than they do.
    The most glaring example is the overriding of our pack-social instinct itself. Our midbrain tells us to trust and care for only a couple of dozen extended-family members we have known since birth, and to regard all others as feared/hated competitors for the scarce resources of the Paleolithic Era. The Agricultural Revolution both permitted and required us to congregate in larger communities so that farming and animal husbandry could generate the first food surplus in history. Civilization got us to expand our "packs" so that we were living in harmony and cooperation with complete strangers. Each expansion to states, nations, transnational hegemonies, and the impending global civilization, has racheted that override up another notch, to the point that we now depend on and care about people on the other side of the planet who are nothing more to us than abstractions. At each juncture we are negotiating with our inner caveman, using reasoning and learning to convince him that if he will refrain from killing those billions of strangers he will be so well fed, warm, safe, and entertained that he will think it's a more than fair bargain.
    Life is much too short to even follow all the URLs that are posted on SciForums. I am certainly not going to track down one of your favorite writers and review his work. If it is fundamental to your position in this discussion, then surely you can give us a few articulate sentences about it.
    Please double-check the name of this website. This is a place of science. The scientific method is to be observed at all times, or at least not flouted except in jest. We Moderators are charged with enforcing that. Perhaps you're looking for a place called PhiForums.
    You're tired but you want me to spend a couple of hours looking up your favorite writers? Sorry, I've got dogs to play with, music to learn, Christmas ornaments to hang, NCIS Los Angeles and the Witches of Eastwick on DVR, and a stash of chocolate in the next room that I hear calling my name.
    I was brought up as an outsider to Abrahamism within an Abrahamist culture, and have widened the gap as I grow older. I think you might find that I have used reasoning and learning to overcome many of the key handicaps that culture might have instilled in me, especially considering that they're not even instincts.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  16. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,287
    well, actually i was in the middle of something similar--preparing dinner, taking the dogs out, and readying myself to watch black moon again (the witches of eastwick, eh? i'm not sure i could handle cher)--hence my terseness.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!



    i was alluding to on aggression and man meets dog (being a dog person, you have to have read that one, no? yeah, it's got that bit about dogs being descended from jackals, but whatever...)

    our massive forebrain gives us the ability, sure--but do we actually use it? before you point towards da vinci, keep in mind the rest of us. i'll confine myself to the u.s. here, so i don't have to denigrate the rest of the world's populace: i've had the "pleasure" to traverse the u.s. countless times on bicycle, on foot, and via hitchhiking, and one encounters many a "curiosity" out there in the hinterlands. and i'm pretty certain that most folks are not operating by "reasoned" or "learned" (except, perhaps, in the most basic operant conditioning sense) behaviours: they're pretty damned instinctual about 97.4 percent of the time, i'd say. moreover:

    sure, but the study of language (the study of our capacity to produce such utterances aside) falls into that fuzzy domain of the "soft sciences." and with respect to our employment of such, again i would not turn to the pynchons and vidals, for they are exceptional; in fact, misanthropic as this may sound, i think the writers of AP news bits (which, in spite of the fact that such are written at a 3rd grade reading level, most adults seem incapable of understanding) are exceptional as well. in everyday circumstances, the bulk of communication is conveyed not by language (in this sense), but by gesture, intonation, and "presence" (by which i mean pheromones and various chemical factors).

    vocabulary? are you confident that the average american has a vocabulary exceeding one thousand words

    grammar? i'm not entirely sure that the generation of "texters" are consciously (well, of that, i'm pretty confident) or subconsciously familiar with any such rules.

    pragmatics? when the context is schizophrenic--the words employed are discordant with everything else that is being communicated--if anything creates ambiguity and distorts (or renders meaningless) meaning. i mean, are all these people on cellphones 24/7 actually saying anything?

    perhaps the symbols and abstractions employed by animals (barring human intervention) are primarily instinctive--though i would argue the same for the bulk of communication between humans--but their capacity to learn often surprises many a skeptic: i do not train with terse, monosyllabic "commands," but rather ordinary language--full, proper sentences (well, sufficiently "proper"). i've encountered few dogs who do not readily pick up sizable vocabularies--can they parse a sentence? probably (i do not know for certain) not, but can most people?

    moreover, how quick are most people to pick up on what an animal--even a dog, with whom they've lived for years--is saying to them? rhetorical question. how about the converse? pretty damn quick.

    i'll get back on the bateson, etc.--again, movie to watch.

    i don't think we can so easily shed the baggage, no matter how strong our desire or determination. moreover, science itself has a long established tradition for creating a division where such does not exist. certainly, descartes notions about animals are laughable to us, but what about b.f. skinner? sadly, that wasn't all that long ago. in areas of ethology an animal cognition, i think science is lapsing--and i think the non-scientists who actually work with animals have a far better understanding, whether their claims are canonically "established" or otherwise.

    likewise, such sciences are problematic, i.e. observer bias, inability to fathom our own biases (favoring one sense, i.e. sight, over another, when other animals far surpass our other sensory capabilities), and studies within the lab are grotesque distortions of the reality, and studies in the field are deemed suspect due to lack of controlled variables, etc.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2009
  17. Photizo Ambassador/Envoy Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,519
    Incorrect. "Christianity's defining metaphor" is the Incarnation, The Logos of God.
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    It's a prime-time series on ABC, expanding on the original story, with very engaging characters and a milieu that adheres more to the principles of literary fantasy, very self-consistent and requiring little suspension of disbelief. Rebecca Romijn plays one of the three unsuspecting witches so I doubt that you'd be put off by it.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Never heard of it, sorry.
    DNA analysis has revised a lot of what we thought we knew about the intricacies of evolution, so that can be forgiven. Dogs are not a separate species, merely a subspecies of Canis lupus, and all dogs are descended from a single pack of wolves in China, not domesticated independently in multiple locations. Of course the biggest shock is probably the discovery that the cetaceans are artiodactyls, descended from primitive hippoptamus-like creatures who swam to the mouth of the river and kept going.
    Every single day, every single human being (with what in the grand scheme are relatively few exceptions) overrides his pack-social instinct and lives in harmony and cooperation not only with complete strangers, but with people on the other side of the planet who are mere abstractions. This is done by:
    • Learning that this artificial evolution from pack-social to herd-social has made life immensely more pleasant, and
    • Reasoning that contributing to this artificial evolution will continue to make life more pleasant not only for his inner caveman (more food, more security, more comfort, better life expectancy) but also for his inner caveman's pack-mates (the couple of dozen people he would instinctively trust his life to and risk his life for).
    Every single day, we all do this. Quite a triumph of reasoning and learning over instinct.
    Of course. Nonetheless we Moderators (at least this one

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    ) manage to enforce the scientific method in discussions of the economy, dating and music, so it's not difficult to do it here.
    • Every assertion must be based on reasoning and/or empirical evidence, which in an academy of tertiary and quaternary research can be the writings of acknowledged experts.
    • If an assertion is challenged, evidence must be supplied to support it or the line of reasoning can never be pursued on this website again.
    • Every assertion must be made in good faith and from a position of at least halfway reasonable knowledge and understanding, except when in jest.
    • Every discussion must move forward and not become mired in repetition.
    Considering that every day a greater percentage of our communication is done virtually using nothing but writing (including the new symbols of emoticons) I predict confidently that regardless of the current validity of that assertion, within a few years it will be laughable. I personally perform well over half of my communication in writing.
    Yes. To use my powers-of-three scale it's generally estimated in the 8-9 range, between ten thousand and thirty thousand words. This doesn't mean that they use all of those words in conversation, but they understand them if they hear them, and if one actually becomes appropriate the odds are very high that it will spring to mind. I'll have to waffle on written language because by the standards of my generation the average American reads at the sixth-grade level and writes considerably worse. But I predict that the coming primacy of electronic written communication will reverse that trend, even if we find the spelling and grammar ugly.

    Don't make the mistake of regarding rap stars with their four-hundred word vocabulary as average Americans just because of their high profile.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Every communication of any complexity has grammar. Texpeak does not follow the rules we learned in school, which makes it a dialect, jargon, cant, or some such, rather than standard American English with misspellings.
    The information content of much communication is low. Often it serves as emotional reassurance. As a pack-social species we've been plagued by the feelings of alienation brought about by long separation from our true caveman packmates--family and close friends. Cell phones bring us back into contact with them and make us feel at home. The information content of the conversation is almost totally irrelevant. What we're saying to each other is, "I'm here, dearest pack-mate. I still care for you and trust you." I wouldn't be surprised if this brings about a qualitative change in Western society, much less the developing countries like Mexico and India whose guest workers can now keep in close touch with home instead of becoming strangers who only send money.
    As a musician and linguist I am so different. My wife insists that if I ever go blind it will take me three days to notice. Even in my work, I'm a writer and use my eyes for language. My wife notes that when we're out driving I only notice the signs, not the scenery.
     
  19. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,287
    one of life's many mysteries: how american network television--notorious for producing some of the most unfathomably appalling dreck--can sometimes produce a decent remake of a crappy hollywood film made from a decent book.

    lorenz, considered by many to be the founder of modern ethology, wrote the book (man meets dog) in 1948, so the error is certainly forgivable. and frankly, his other books are far more substantive--on aggression and king solomon's ring--and relevant to what i was suggesting re: human behavior.

    true, but dog's do this as well--and quite masterfully, i'd say, given that most of them are stuck living with complete idiots, with regards to their understanding of animals. and i would venture to guess--well, not just guess, it's been more than adequately demonstrated--that countless other species can do this as well.

    of course, as far as living peaceably with the abstractions (foreigners), keep in mind that many are quite irrational xenophobes, and consider these "others" to be a monstrous threat to their security, i.e. they consider them as less than human.

    that would be ideal, wouldn't it? but it's hardly what i see in many of the threads i peruse. (especially that last one

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    )

    perhaps, but that leads us to this:

    i am simply not convince that this is the case--is there any evidence for this? really, how could there be? it seems rather speculative.

    as regards the written: are you suggesting that folks might have a greater verbal vocabulary than they do textual--by which i mean both words they understand in writing and words they employ in writing? there's many a joke about americans and books, but this one comes to mind: a non-american, who encounters a word in reading she does not know, opens up a dictionary; an american simply throws the book in the trash. where are these great orators? sure, i can and do find them through careful selection, but i don't bump into too many churchills on the street.

    bahhh! i know you are every bit as disconcerted by this phenomenon as i am--and do you know how i know this? intuition. heh.

    i won't deny that for many cellphones can be a godsend (first word to spring to mind), but these are the exceptions: the majority of cellphone junkies are simply producing and responding to meaningless utterances--and they are consequently avoiding doing that which supposedly distinguishes them from the "brutes" in some marked fashion: thinking. or, paying attention to that which they are supposed to be doing.

    i'm also a musician and my passion for dogs is eclectically informed, i.e. i draw more from the margins of the world's canonical texts not related specifically to dogs--literature, poetry, philosophy, religious texts, etc. i like to think i'm aware of my biases and predispositions, but one can never be certain: when i hold humans to a "higher standard" i think in terms of dogs, and music, to me, is like cartography or a manifestation of particular moments in the dao de jing, for instance--and i simply can't get how others don't "see" this. and neither can i understand how people don't think mp3s sound like crap.

    but when you say this:
    i'm again reminded of the anthropological distinction between field dependent and field independent awareness/perception: i think humans--contemporary, technologized urban sorts--are prone to the former, and most non-humans the latter. exceptions abound, of course-- autistics, hypersensitives, hunter-gatherers, etc. are more disposed to the former--but the dominant mode is clearly the latter.

    should we not take such things into consideration when deigning to make assessments and judgments about the minds and capabilities of beings wholly other to us? you stand perfectly still 20 meters away from your dog and she seems not to recognize you; you move about, in your ordinary fashion, 300 meters away from your dog and she recognizes you immediately.

    i realize that such is a considerable remove from debates about animals employing language, or thinking abstractly beyond things, i.e. concepts and such; but our biases cannot be so easily overcome and they inevitably inform whatever conclusions we may derive from a "study." and this is why i brought in the residues of abrahamic traditions and the curious conclusions drawn by pre-modern ethology scientists. we--human or otherwise--are always reading and assimilating subconsciously, and noone in his or her lifetime can wholly remove the traces of that which they wish to distance themselves from. (i mean, you did mention that you were hanging christmas ornaments.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    )

    i'm reminded of ataturk's effort to "cleanse" turkish culture of all traces of "arabic influence": the adoption of the roman alphabet, the criminalization of wearing a fez and smoking a hookah, etc. completely absurd! this cannot be done. methinks miscegenation--in that not-so-scientific sense intended by the french--is the rule.
     
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    You're more of a philosopher than I am. I usually find that there are more things on TV that I'd like to watch, than the time I'm willing to allocate to TV. So I have no issues with quality. That's about ten hours a week, with the Daily Show and South Park taking up 90 minutes and when Dancing with the Stars is on (I feel like they have five or six twelve-week seasons every year now

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    ) that uses up another three hours. What bothers me is when they cancel a show just as I'm getting into the swing of it. I wish the subscription TV they promised us 40 years ago had actually come to pass, instead of this chaotic commercial cable system. If only five million people want to watch a show but they're willing to pay a dollar a week for it--in advance--then they'll have plenty of money to produce the whole season for "only" five million people.
    One of the substantive differences that identifies dogs as a distinct subspecies of wolf is a several-orders-of-magnitude increase in the size of the pack they're comfortable with. This is partially due to weeding out the alpha instinct (wolf packs are small because if they were any larger they'd always be fighting for dominance), but I also think there's been a fundamental change in their social psychology in the past fifteen thousand years. Dogs have become gregarious: they not only tolerate the presence of strangers, many of them actually enjoy it. This mirrors what we have done to our own psychology, since we could make exactly the same observation about many humans. And like us, they have stretched the definition of "pack-mate" to include myriad other species.
    I think we've wrought the same change in the social instinct of most of the animals we've domesticated: companion, riding, traction, guard, herding, hunting, extermination, service, sport, even food. Cats are not even social by nature, but we've selected for the ones who easily lapse into neoteny and live their lives as playful, gregarious kittens.
    Of course we have a way to go before we've completely remade ourselves into a herd-social species. But even the most passionate American xenophobe feels solidarity with most other Americans, a "pack" of more than 200 million even if he doesn't like the ones who don't look like him. Notwithstanding the room for improvement, this is still an increase of seven orders of magnitude over the pack size of his caveman ancestors, and that is a remarkable accomplishment in six or seven hundred generations.
    You'll see it on my boards.
    I wouldn't have any problem designing the test but it would take rather a long time to administer. Nonetheless this rings true compared to languages in which the test would be differently administered. The Chinese definition of literacy changes with the politics, but you have to know at least 2,000 han zi, each of which represents a morpheme. Given the prolific way morphemes combine into polysyllabic compounds, that's pretty close to the analogs of 20,000 words in English.

    I suppose a statistical way to measure literacy would be to first identify the words that are the most basic and the most likely to be learned first, then expand the list to the slightly less common, and keep going until you hit 20,000. Then pull a hundred words from that list at random and see how many the subject can define.
    When it comes to a foreign language, my considered opinion is that one's largest vocabulary is in reading, followed by listening, speaking, and writing. That's certainly true of me, (in languages with phonetic writing systems). In Spanish I'm 8.5 in reading, 8 in listening, 7.5 in speaking and 7 in writing.
    Churchill's vocabulary was estimated at 100,000 words; he's a ten. I certainly know plenty of nines and claim to be one myself. I have no trouble believing that the average citizen is 8.5, and that any adult who's a mere 8 would stand out as a woefully poor communicator.
    I didn't say I like it. I was reporting, not editorializing. I don't even have the feature on my phones. Keys the size of sesame seeds that you have to punch with an embroidery needle? Give me a break. Time to trot out my favorite quote from the short-lived "Boondocks" animated series: "Nothing worth reading was ever written by a man who was typing with his thumbs."

    I'm not even pleased with the quality of writing in the average e-mail. Even here on SciForums there's plenty of room for improvement. For example, how long have you owned your computer that you still can't find the Shift key?
    As I said, cellphones are for communication devoid of denotation. People stay in touch with their homies and it makes them feel like their pack is still there for them when they need it.
    That's because dogs' sense of sight is wired differently from ours. They see moving things much better than stationary things.
    My parents treated Christmas and Easter as purely secular holidays. When they started teaching us Christmas carols in school, I had to ask my parents what all the strange names like Jesus, Bethlehem and Virgin Mary meant.
    But somehow he was okay with hanging onto Islam.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    We just call it the Melting Pot.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2009
  21. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,287
    i like "quality" tv, but i also seek out a certain "quality" in tv: that which can best be described as an abomination. certainly, given that it ran for 11 seasons, you've caught at least one episode of 7th heaven? an unintended mockery of the "wholesome christian family" that only ran for 11 seasons due to it's specific appeal to a certain subset of the american populace: the christian right. the program was beyond "bad," but possibly more addictive than crack. alas, such gems are rare.

    hmmm. with english speakers, specifically americans, i remain skeptical.

    i would agree with this ordering. although for me, i would place writing before speaking. i believe that this is perhaps due to a certain self-consciousness, as i am told that when i am seizing (sometimes) i am inclined to speak german quite eloquently.

    heh. one of my many occupations is editing and proofreading, and i certainly abide the proper conventions when doing such. the lower-case thing is somewhat difficult to explain, and i'm going to have to ask you to simply accept this unsubstantiated claim: it's a temporal lobe epileptic thing. perhaps if you know any t.l.epileptics, this might make some sense; otherwise, it is the best explanation i can offer without going into laborious detail.

    but this is precisely my point: when studying animal behavior and cognition, we devise these tests which are biased towards human perceptual modes, and do not take into account that other animals are "wired differently" and often have other senses which are vastly superior to our own, to make up for those which are limited. the classic example of such is the mirror test--dogs seldom pass, but who would claim that a dog lacks self-awareness?

    i believe that with humans we are inclined towards making sweeping claims regarding our supposed capacities, when substantive evidence for such (and i mean for all, as opposed to simply more "intelligent" individuals) does not exist; whereas we make unfair--by which i mean un-scientific--claims regarding certain animals supposed lack of capabilities. when dealing with intelligent beings who are so thoroughly different from us, how can we make such claims? perhaps amongst chimps, washoe might be considered a dullard--who knows?

    very much the same for me. my parents are not avowed atheists, rather, such matters simply never came up. yet beyond santa and the easter bunny, there were traces of both judaic and christian (protestant) culture--in cuisines, in mannerisms, etc. i simply don't believe that we can wholly remove ourselves from the dominant cultures, and ways of thinking, which surrounf us.

    heh. frankly, he didn't really succeed in any aspect, save perhaps the adoption of the roman alphabet.
     

Share This Page