Actually, I'll just extend my thinking a bit, as I've just had a rather odd
insight come to me.
Imagine two proto-humans together, one is showing the other how to build a
spear. In order to communicate how to build it, the 'teacher' only needs to
demonstrate, point, and go "Ug" (= "See?").
And the learner can just look, nod, and go "Ug" (= "Yes, I see how").
Q: So when do the specific labels for things need to come into play in human
A: When two people need to communicate about something *that is not present
in the context they are currently in*.
Q: How the heck did human beings make that leap, because it takes two to
tango, as they say?
A: Well, it would seem that people started to label things uniquely by
demonstration in groups, and the prior provision of labels provided for the
opportunity to talk about things out of context.
Q: So the proto-linguistic learning capacity must have been present in more
than one proto-human at a time in order for the communicative act to make
A: Yes, it was driven by evolution. Communication between members of a group
provides better protection against predators.
Q: Why did they start to do that, if we make the assumption that necessity
is the mother of invention?
And why didn't the predators just win all the time instead?
Did Steven Pinker (or another) cover this already?
On a different thread, enriching thoughts about the visual and
communication, maybe language gives rise to difficulties of communication
because of its *poverty* not its richness.
I.e. English, or whatever language, is still a pretty feeble abstraction
(for the sake of this line of thought).
Or, maybe people don't really learn the full content of meanings when they
learn the language, they just learn the bits they need as reflexes as they
go along. So perhaps more complete methods of learning are needed, or, even
further enrichment of communication that goes beyond the mere word as
printed on the page, so that the full extent of intent of meaning is
available to both writer and reader.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Jones" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 9:00 PM
Subject: Re: Re: more Re: [unrev-II] Thinking about communicating
> bcl (forwarded) wrote:
> >distinction, however, between 'language' and 'idea' is non existant.
> I might be grievously misconstruing what bcl meant here, but as I read it
> disagree wholeheartedly with the sentence above. Ideas are often prior and
> different in nature. Just because they can be expressed in language does
> mean they are necessarily not distinct.
> When I am building a tool, say, creating the first spear ever, is my
> thinking visual imagination or verbal?
> As someone who has personally creatively solved many a motorcycle
> problem employing only synthetic visual imagination I argue strongly for
> that distinction.
> >The idea of a 'meme' can discussed in terms of chunks of language
> >which spread around, translate, morph, degrade, die, etc.
> Yes, but a 'meme' can also be demonstrated.
> Some might say that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is untestable purely
> no two people have the same CPU.
> Others might say, "Look not to language but to the world," and emphasise
> power of visual metaphor in crossing the divides of understanding.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jack Park" <email@example.com>
> To: <unrev-II@yahoogroups.com>
> Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 2:41 PM
> Subject: Fwd: Re: more Re: [unrev-II] Thinking about communicating
> > Forwarded from an Unrev user who has problems with yahoo groups.
> > >From: "earth"
> > >henry:
> > >
> > > >1. Steven Pinker, linguist and psychologist, now at MIT, doesn't
> > > > much of the Whorfian hypothesis. Writes he in his 1994 book,
> > > >"The Language Instinct," that "there is no scientific
> > > >ebidence that languages dramatically shape their speakers' ways of
> > > thinking."
> > > >(p.58), which is called, I gather, linguistic determinism.
> > >
> > >Well, sure. Thats why its called the Whorf (/ sapir) hypothesis, not
> > >Whorf Fact ;] Half my undergrad major was linguistics, for context.
> > >Its clear that Pinker is reacting against some of the muddled thinking
> > >that was constructed around an ill-conceived hypothesis in the 60's,
> > >70's and 80s..
> > >
> > >But 'scientific evidence' is difficult to gather on this topic since
> > >decisive experiments are extremely hard to devise.
> > >
> > >It seems intuitively obvious that language shapes behaviour,
> > >but proving that is another matter altogether.
> > >
> > >I, for one, am certain that in the softer-senses the whorf hypothesis
> > >is correct: that language (even diction) shapes behaviour. The
> > >distinction, however, between 'language' and 'idea' is non existant.
> > >The idea of a 'meme' can discussed in terms of chunks of language
> > >which spread around, translate, morph, degrade, die, etc.
> > >
> > >Meme's (Ideas) shape behaviour and it is quite obvious to me
> > >that the language used to describe Ideas are key to the behavioural
> > >shifts. A mantra I came up with in college, however, when studying
> > >all the various sciences, analytical fields of various flavors was:
> > >
> > >"Just because there's a word for it doesnt mean it exists."
> > >
> > >This was in reaction to the absurd proliferation of naming of
> > >hypotheses, 'syndromes', literary bits, scientific findings, etc.
> > >It was clear that having a word for various things, in itself,
> > >changed people's behaviours around things. Self identifying
> > >with various diseases is a reasonably good example. People are
> > >sometimes presented with a word which describes a syndrome
> > >or set of symptoms or disorder and can sometimes decide that
> > >it fits them and self identify. Through learning that niche-word, they
> > >will often change their behaviour.
> > >
> > >I've noticed this myself as I've developed a host of words for
> > >different types of insomnia :]
> > >
> > >But, again, building a set of definitions and logical structure and
> > >on to prove the whorf hypothesis is more work than I have time for at
> > > the moment :)
> > >
> > >happy august 2001,
> > >
> > >bcl
> > >----------
> > >please do not post my email address on a public website, newsgroup,
> > >or similar bot-open location
> > Community email addresses:
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Tue Aug 21 2001 - 18:58:49 PDT