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Reality: A Fantasy?

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Reality: A Fantasy?

Postby xon » Wed Aug 04, 2004 5:01 am

Languages, such as Greek and Latin, assign abstract sounds to physical objects and ideas. If we think in languages, then is our reality is simply a virtual reality?

I have been reading some information on Chomsky's theories of language. In his theory, all spoken languages have built-in parameters in the brain. I think that there are no special parameters in the brain, because language is not just spoken. God did not create us with a special part of the brain specifically for setting the grammar of language spoken by our highly specialized throat muscles; likewise, God did not create us with a special part of the brain specifically for tapping morse code on a telegraph with our highly specialized finger muscles. Surely not the second one, because Morse code was invented just a few hundred years ago. Which raises a profound question: was spoken language invented? Spoken language and morse code both require highly complex muscle movements, whether in the finger or throat; this capability allows language, and maybe even provoked the specialization of throat muscles for language use, but does not in my opinion set the innate grammar within the brain.

If what I believe is true, the change of language over time is akin to the way certain muscular movements become "natural" over time. For example, every car make has its own way for turning on the windshield wipers (every one since the 1940s, at least). It takes time to get used to this. Every time you use the windshield wiper control, you get a little more used to it. At some point, whenever you see rain you may flick the wipers on without even thinking about doing so. Such is the same as language.
The drift of language with regards to grammar and vocabulary is the result of social necessity, speed, clarity, and aesthetics. "That you" is now pronounced more like "thatchoo" because the -iu dipthong gets turned into "ch". It's just faster.

It would be possible to simply invent a language from scratch with a seemingly absurd grammar. Even more absurd than Esperanto.

To say that there are innate grammar structures in the brain specifically for spoken language is probably incorrect as there are other ways of communicating, such as sign language and scribbles on peices of paper, that would also have to have such structures.

Perhaps I am not well-enough acquainted with Chomsky. Perhaps I could teach him a thing or two. Any opinions on this matter from others?
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Re: Reality: A Fantasy?

Postby Democritus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:15 pm

xon wrote:Perhaps I am not well-enough acquainted with Chomsky. Perhaps I could teach him a thing or two. Any opinions on this matter from others?


Human beings have appendages which make them adept at using computer keyboards. Most other animals do not have fingers nor anything similar to fingers, so they would have a hard time using a keyboard, even if they were smart enough to understand what keyboards are for.

Clearly, fingers are not a learned skill... they are part of the hardware. You are born with them.

Now, did fingers evolve in order so that we can use keyboards? No, of course not. It's the other way around. Keyboards are designed for human fingers.

It's not so far-fetched to imagine that the human brain has some hardwired features which make us adept at using language. These features may have evolved before language, for some other reason. Their usefulness for language might just be a happy accident. But they may be there nevertheless.

We might say that human language was designed for the particular contours of the human mind. When humans go about the task of inventing languages, they will tend to invent languages that are suitable for their own brains.

IMHO science is very much in the dark on how the brain works. So, it's all speculation, at this point.

My own hunch is that language is a combination of many things -- hardwired skills as well has a few special learned skills, which are not hardwired at all, as you described.

For sure, I do not believe that the human mind is a completely blank slate. A great deal of the mind is hardwired and can't really be changed through training. We like to think of ourselves as super-smart and firmly in control of ourselves, but it's not quite as true as we might like. We have the brains we were born with, and our ability to change ourselves (through training or otherwise) is limited. We have the talents and the foibles that the Gods alotted us.
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Fri Apr 08, 2005 4:31 pm

"Languages, such as Greek and Latin, assign abstract sounds to physical objects and ideas. If we think in languages, then is our reality is simply a virtual reality?" (Xon)

"Languages, (...) assign abstract sounds to (things) and ideas."

Sounds are not abstract, and neither are the words of languages. I remit to the dictionary.

"Languages, (...) assign (...) sounds to (things) and ideas."

Languages don't do anything. Language users talk, not assign. I remit to the word on the street.

"Languages, (...) (VERB) (...) sounds to (things) and ideas."

I agree.

"If we think in languages, then is our reality is simply a virtual reality?"

If (...), then (...) cannot be followed by a question.

Your next six paragraphs digress.
Last edited by Bardo de Saldo on Sat Apr 09, 2005 5:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Timotheus » Sat Apr 09, 2005 3:01 am

here's a test.


next ime you're using a hammer and squash your finger-

before you say or utter a "virtual reality" utterence-

decide it never really happened 8)
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Postby Weet » Tue Apr 12, 2005 5:00 pm

If (...), then (...) cannot be followed by a question.


Says who? Taking a strictly linguistic approach to language nothing is impossible if someone uses it.

Sounds are not abstract, and neither are the words of languages. I remit to the dictionary.


I'm not sure I agree. The sound *system* or phonology is NOT random. There is, however, no clear reason or pattern behind the association of a set of phonemes and a given semantic meaning.

The question of reality is indeed a good one IMO. Does language shape our reality, our perception of the world? I'm still split on this one. On one hand yes it does. English is only capable of expressing certain dynamics. On the other hand we as users of English are acutely aware that language doesn't always convey what we are feeling. It's a very interesting and hotly debated subject.

I think that there are no special parameters in the brain, because language is not just spoken. God did not create us with a special part of the brain specifically for setting the grammar of language spoken by our highly specialized throat muscles


First we need to keep in mind that language is first and foremost a spoken medium. Second, the structures which Chomsky discusses aren't really involved with the path between muscle and sound but rather between the association of syntactic elements. Sign language is ruled every bit as much by syntax as is spoken language so the theory applies to both equally well.
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Postby cweb255 » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:55 pm

All gods aside, animals have language also. Most should be familiar with the Dance of the Bees, or the Trumpeting of the Elephants. Language, as an concrete feature of the body (i.e. vocal sounds; tongue clicking) were evolved. All sounds are actually real. No, how we form those sounds, to produce sets of sounds (keeping it basic for the apparent newbies) to artificially create a language, which yes, doesn't really exist. But once again, it's the language, not language, that doesn't really exist (and yes, in Greek that sentence would make no sense :P)

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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Fri Apr 15, 2005 4:46 pm

"Says who?" (Weet)

Who did you quote, Weet?

Saying "reality: a fantasy?" Is like saying "Food: a legume?"
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