LINGUIST List 11.1971

Tue Sep 19 2000

Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Langs/Last Posting

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Dan Moonhawk Alford, Re: 11.1965, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Message 1: Re: 11.1965, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 15:33:48 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <>
Subject: Re: 11.1965, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Sorry for the length but this is just so exciting and fruitful!

On Mon, 18 Sep 2000, bwaldHUMnet.UCLA.EDU wrote:

> I couldn't stop thinking about the issues I started in my first
> response to Moonhawk, esp about language type and culture as
> independent entities. There is a recurrent proposal that small-group
> languages tend to develop or preserve complex synthetic or
> inflectional properties, an early typological issue, complex (in word
> structure) as opposed to "isolating" languages. English (among other
> Western IE) as opposed to the classical IE languages is sometimes
> cited as evidence, to which Russian is countered, similarly, Chinese
> as opposed to Tibetan, etc. In any case, the truth of the correlation
> between type of language and type of culture depends on what kind of
> typology of language is at issue. This has been touched on in ensuing
> discussion with regard to nouny vs. verby languages, with negative
> results, I think. That is, type of culture is not predictable from
> this particular typology, at least to the extent that non-Western
> cultures are of all types, regardless of their difference from Western
> culture, while the focus of initial discussion particularly contrasted
> Western with non-Western culture (esp various Amerind cultures). 
> Well, OK. But it is a side-issue, because it does not really come to
> grips with the Whorfian "world-view" issue, which, I suppose, is not
> easily deducible from material (and ?performed?) culture, but somehow
> (?only?) from the language that culture uses. That's a difficult
> problem because of the danger of circularity.

Given my 20 years of public pleas to understand Whorf correctly rather
than thru a (Whorf Hypothesis) lens darkly, may I offer an alternative and
valid Whorfian conception to replace the strawman position that most
critics concede wasn't even held by Whorf? In so doing, perhaps we can
pierce the veil (mixing metaphors) and get a ways further than previous
discussions on this topic. 

The conception is that language and culture are hoplessly entangled,
culture being the way we pass on languaging, among other processes; that
they are complementarily interconnected, much as the Yin and Yang. They
can be analytically divorced from each other *as long as we remember we
did it and not take the analytical split and autonomous results as real.

> And, of course, it's not what Moonhawk is suggesting. 

... either.

> He suggests that there are behavioural consequences to worldviews --
> and who would deny that? But I continue to wonder if anthropologists
> who entertain Whorfianism, in particular, associate language and
> culture too closely, because they learn so much about a culture from
> the language -- which is not the same thing as learning about the
> culture from the TYPE of language.

You could say "anthropological linguists" in the last, to be sure to
include me. ;-) Do Whorfians, then, associate language and culture, as a
complementarity, too closely?

To be sure, one might equally wonder whether non-anthropological linguists
take language to be autonomous from culture because of the post-1957
insistence on such in the professional writings as a point of theory. ;-) 

In complementarity, once we take both opposing sides as equally true at
once, we bypass the useless either/or arguments and get to the task of
assigning different percentages of each happening in a given instance.
Somehow, I get the feeling that you like this alternative, or at least
understand it.

> Again the problem is what typology is under consideration. 
> Traditionally, Whorfianism got a boost in mainstream anthropology
> through the analysis of kinship system TYPES, because those types
> often indicated differences in what corresponding cultures made of the
> social relationships among biological relatives (with
> culture-dependent implications for adoption into a family or larger
> units, so that the issue may start "objectively" with biology but it
> doesn't end there). So by abstraction we get the notion that any TYPE
> of language MIGHT reflect something about the culture. That's where
> our problem of nouny vs. verby languages begins, and if we can solve
> it at all we will have to solve it on a case by case basis.

A very interesting argument; I'm still trying to sort it all out. It may
well be a facet of the diamond, one seat around the fire, where everyone's
view of the fire is different. I'm not sure I agree with a kind of
reducing I see there though, leaving out many other possibilities as well
for why Whorf got a boost in anthropology, including his lyrical style.

But let's remember: Whorf wasn't trained in anthropology, tho he got at
least one field trip with a master anthrolinguist -- he did most of his
fieldwork right where he was. And I, for instance, came to his work first
in the English department right where *you* are teaching. At any rate, his
writings are mainly linguistic, and I think he's had the most debate in
linguistics, with anthropology, pyschology, sociology and cognitive
science all vying for second. But I could be wrong. ;-) I don't think most
of them understand Whorf correctly since the science social scientists
usually assume is 19th-C. physics while Whorf was an uncontested pioneer
in bringing 20th-C. insights of relativistic and quantum physics into
linguistics and therefore danced to a different drummer as far as
determinism is concerned.

> So back to the issue at hand. And I add that the issue is becoming
> more manageable as specific linguistic examples have been introduced
> and discussed, with interesting results in revealing different
> concepts of "language", "meaning" and what-not, e.g., that in nature
> rocks are neither nouns or verbs. As Ken Hale said, we impose those
> categories on references to them. But then again that's the issue.

Yes, and we can see the analogue to that in physics with the
Schroedinger's Cat paradox: the cat is neither alive nor dead, or both,
until we look. We look and we say, collapsing the wave-function to be one
or the other or both, in physical reality and declarations. 

And what's really at stake here, I think, is whether it's possible using
human language that doesn't collapse the wave-function and create an
unambiguous object. That's the consensus my Native friends and various
quantum/relativistic physicists have come to. 

Let's take "person" and clumsily turn it into "personing," meaning the
awareness of an apparent human being. It's not said with absolute
certainty because -- who knows?! -- it may be a spirit of some sort in
human appearance; or if there's "coyote-ing," it could really be a
shape-shifter. So the "root-y" talk allows them to talk about their
awareness, and thus how they know, without collapsing the possibilities.
I'm trying to relay their positions as I heard them as accurately as

> And BTW what do we mean when we say that a root is either a noun or a
> verb?

Not sure who might've done that. My proffered Native claim has to do with
roots that must have various affixes attached to make them verby, then
some removed and more added to make nouns, when necessary. 

> As we've noted for English, it doesn't mean much. I suppose we
> indentify English "rock" (in the appropriate meaning) with a noun
> because IN PRACTICE it is usually realised as a noun, and then "stone"
> because we assume that the verb is (?was) derived from the noun, still
> the more frequent use. And then for "sleep", some can't decide on a
> prime label and others might suppose VERB where impressions don't
> suggest a priority of one use over the other -- and maybe because
> verbs are so "central" and the stereotype of the noun as a "thing" may
> favour categorisation of a root as a V when it is not a stereotypical
> "thing".

So, the question is: are we all doing anything different? At this level of
structure, early morphology, there are lots and lots of similarities,
seen this way. Let's see if it's the same at the syntactic level.

As for the priority, I'd like to see it as favoring (animate) process and
relationship, not collapsing possibilities over [+/- anim] objects, or
vice versa. Oops -- did I stack the deck a bit on that one? ;-) 

> Now, here I'm talking about how linguists not make analytical decisions,
> not that they necessarily have to do with how speakers "regard" them. Of
> course, if we find that speakers with brain lesions that affect their
> recall, comprehension or whatever of nouns but not verbs have difficulty
> finding certain items then we have independent evidence for an analytical
> decision we may make, e.g., maybe they can't talk about "man" but only "man
> the boats", whereas speakers who have the same lesion but a verby language
> can still talk about "man". But I still suggest that that does not help us
> draw any conclusions about worldview such as it has been discussed up to
> now. 

I take it the first "not" simply failed to get deleted when you made the
sentence more complex. ;-) I agree the lesion studies won't help us, but
then I'm very guarded by deficit studies in general; my parody is that you
have a radio with two speakers; you cut a wire on the right channel and
the stereo effect is gone; ergo, the stereo effect lived in the right
channel. ;-) 

> It only shows what we are already taking for granted, that languages
> differ by type -- well, additionally that these have storage
> consequences in neural networks, but not necessarily at the level of
> complexity that neural networks control a worldview.

Two words we're using aren't really defined yet in our discourse at this
moment: what do you mean by "type" and what do we mean by "worldview"?

And I'll throw into the mix Deacon's Symbolic Species, arguing that
specific languages grow the brain differently; or at least that's my take
on what he says, but I'm open to differing interpretations.

> Well, the topic is rich. Let me control myself to respond to some
> specific points made, mainly by Moonhawk, passing over the debate with
> Larry Trask, where I see a cultural conflict between the two with
> occasional implications for linguistics as a culture, but which I do
> not have the stamina to pursue now.

Bless you! ;-) 

> First one point to a statement by Ahmad Lofti which clarifies the
> direction of the discussion between me and Moonhawk. Ahmad writes: 

>> >>unfamiliar grammatical means to say what they want to say.

> This implies that you can conceptualise and create meaning
> independently of language: you first think of meaning, then you put it
> into words depending upon the type of language you speak, and then
> BANG! You express yourself with nouns and verbs or whatever you find
> around.

Hmm -- I'm not sure that implies that at all, given the morphological
level we discussed avoce. Even in English speaking I can bring something
up in my "about to say" buffer and decide to add something else which then
forces one word to change from the noun usage I had intended to to a verb
usage, or vice versa (to copy vs a copy). What am I doing there? Is it

> The truth is


> that the very concepts you form are influenced by how others
> (including your predecessors) have decided to view the world. For the
> English, one and the same event is expressed as 'it's raining' while
> the Persian-speakers see the same event as 'The rain is coming'. Here
> Persian is even more nouny/thingy than English.

indeed! Structurally these are still both S->NP+Pred (to use a general
code). Tho the NP is semantically empty in the English example, it is
structurally obligatory. The Q at hand involves whether, in casual daily
talk as a cultural norm, not more formal explanation, it is noteworthy
that they say they can talk continuously without collapsing possibilities
into separate object-nouns (excluding talk to linguists, ;-) of course).

> The first point is a really good and crucial point. My only answer is
> that with respect to my example of optioinality of pluralisation in,
> say, Chinese, I do not see that that can plausibly argued to affect
> worldview of one vs. many "things".


Does "dual" (mated pair, usually together), betwwen singular and plural,
represented as a verbal affix, add to or change this argument at all? Does
the category "dual" shape perception of Nature to any appreciable degree?

> Now, the Chinese counter-system is another matter, because it indeed
> group things in a certain way which varies from one language to
> another, and may affect our view of the things referred >to. It's no
> different from (male) English speakers using "she" to refer to boats,
> cars or various other machines, exhibiting a kind of affection that
> resonates with the sexual overtones of "she" applied to women, or
> whatever image of women such a speaker may associate with the
> application of "she" to machines.

Which I take it to be the clumsy way an English speaker is practically
forced to use in order to reference animacy and relationship -- we do not
use "it" to refer to an "animate object"; we are forced into the gender
route to get at animacy/relationship. It's much easier in Alg. languages:
for instance, a comb is spoken of in inanimate terms, then animate when it
talks, then inanimate again.

So the question becomes: what if these 80 roots or so kinesthetically
*categorize* reality as consisting of 80 primes of awareness of movement,
which can then be combined with each other as the occasion warrants.

> So I do not dismiss the influence of language on worldview, inasmuch
> as, as Ahmad observed about predecessors, such attitudes and language
> use come from predecessors and have cultural implications that very
> much channel basic instincts into "worldviews". 

Now, if we can only be sure of what "worldviews" are, we'll be set! ;-) 

> My suggestion was more concrete. It was how do we know nouny vs.
> verby is not like pluralisation as an optional vs. an obligatory
> grammatical phenomenon, where wordview is not involved, rather than
> like "she" in reference to machines or possibly a particular variant
> of a counter system? So Ahmad is right to ask for clarification, and
> to question whether conceptualisation and creation of meaning is
> independent of language. I'm still thinking about that,

So am I. And I like this way of looking at it very much! After 35 years of
grappling with the issue, the Yin/Yang complementarity model is the only
way that makes any sense to me. Let's admire their messy entanglement in
all its glory. And then begin assessing the balance in any given case. 

> because, as I said, I don't think it is in some cases, and I'm not
> sure how it works in other cases, such as nouny vs. verby.

'Nouny' and 'verby', let's agree, are only "filenames" for a whole bunch
of issues inside the "file," and leave it at that.

> But then second point starting with "the truth is..." is what we in
> the trade call BALD ASSERTION.

And here I'd taken it as a BWALD one! [ ;-) sorry, just couldn't stop my
fingers from doing that one]. Please continue.

> It seems to do the abstraction thing I mentioned earlier, by tacitly
> assuming that if we can demonstrate or at least plausibly argue for
> the influence of language on worldview in some cases, then we can
> assume it for all cases; the typical problem of generalising and using
> inductive logic.

Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that neither of us do that. The
type of argument Whorf seemed to favor was: let's assume that language
affects worldview and vice versa. Now the task is not one of causality,
but of assessing their relative potential in a given circumstance.

> But that is what we are exploring in this discussion with rerspect to
> N/V. A does not demonstrate or plausibly argue for N/V. The
> implications of the difference between "it's raining" and "rain is
> coming" (literal translation into English changes English
> interpretation to "it's gonna rain", not intended, I assume) is not
> clear for a difference in worldview (to choose a more specific term
> than conceptualisation), only for a different grammatical strategy for
> saying the same thing -- across languages.

And we're also exploring whether "raining" (no obligatory NPs), acting
without actors, does or does not make any difference in worldview.

> >For instance in Sahaptin (Nez Perce/Yakima -- [snip] 
> >what gets translated as "Mother Earth" is more like "gently
> >supporting underneath mocassin [foot-covering]", >>according to
> >speaker Lloyd Pinkham. 

I should've mentioned it's *Dr.* Pinkham, whom I personally trained into
linguistic mindfulness at the doctoral level.

> Good. Certainly reflecting a point of view, if not worldview in
> general. In the chicken-egg problem I'm inclined to view such things
> as the culture using the language to express a particular point of
> view. The egg comes first, laid by archaeopteryx, and the culture
> comes first deciding on this expression for the earth (perhaps the
> surface of the earth in particular, I'm just guessing). We learn more
> about the culture than the language from the example.

The chicken's just the egg's way of making another egg? ;-)

Chicken-and-egg stating itself presupposes monocausal determinism -- one
exclusively causing the other and not vice versa -- which has retarded any
progress on this issue in decades. I'd rather play the game that takes
them as both right, rather than one right and one wrong, called
complementarity. It ingests the paradox as true, just needing a reframe
for clearer deliberation. 

> I suppose the grammatical context in Sahaptin determines whether the
> English translation is adequate to suggest a participial phrase rather
> than a nominal, i.e., "(the thing that) supports gently under the
> moccassion', i.e., the thing you walk on and isn't covered with
> obstacles.

Or the formal vs daily usage, yes. The claim is that (the thing that) is
not generally used.

> In this context, I recall Bloomfield's mention of a Menominee name 'he
> sits among six' (or some other number).

Good example -- but if my friends' claim is true, that in these languages
(Menominee is Algonkian, if I remember correctly right now), there are no
pronouns, only deictic vectors, perhaps with validity markers thrown in
for good measure, then we're back to the S->Pred form we saw in the naming
of "Dances with Wolves" and "Stands with Fist" [note: there are no
prepopsitions in these languages either], where "he who" and "she who"
really aren't part of the names. So "Sits Among Six/Seven".

> I assumed a cultural reference that has meaning for Menominees, like
> Quintus for the fifth son would have cultural implications for ancient
> Romans, rather than >simply display a lack of imagination in naming
> practices.

Exactly -- probably a political leader.

> But to get back to the grammatical point, the Menominee name is
> translated as a sentence, or clause.

Exactly, with the pronoun inserted by the linguist, is what I'd expect my
friends to claim, or said for the linguist's ears.
> That's common in a variety of languages across the world, even >such
> things as "(s/he) was born during a/THE famine". But, as Moonhawk
> anticipates in a later passage, the English translation may be
> misleading from the point of view of English -- or even such names as
> Quintus, a nominal in Latin. Thus, we lose nothing of the cultural
> reference if we translate it into English by a nominalisation, e.g.,
> a relative clause, "(the one WHO) sits among six", etc. 

I'm really not sure I can agree with the "lose nothing" part given my
comments; we *gain* something for our ears/eyes. Is that what you mean?

> The relativisation makes such names less bizarre for the English
> speaker, but does not really affect the insight they get into
> "worldview". That is, it's not the grammatical construction that
> carries this piece of worldview; it's the content.

Yes to the first part, but still not quite sure I understand the second.
Maybe it's because I break the flow into too many pieces. :-(

> >Or "iyeska" in Lakota, meaning "mixed-blood" if you're talking about
> >someone's ancestry/culture, "translator" if about language, and
> >"shaman" if about the sacred. But they're still talking about the
> >underlying process of going between in each case, focusing on dancing
> >not dancers. Now it's true you could in some sense recover the noun
> >IF you know the context. Often, however, this is not culturally
> >desired except for teaching purposes, then dropped. 

> Now that gets back to the culture, as usual. "translator" may suggest
> that the "mixed-blood" is a potential cultural bridge, even mediator,
> between Lakota and the other culture. It's the classification thing
> again, precipitated by the culture and THEN expressed in the language.

I would suggest that what is being *categorized* in each case (shaman
mediates between seen and unseen realm) is simply process.

> You can see where my further thinking about the relation of culture to
> language got me, even before I read M's message. A later comment

> >>And the bitch of it is, even *verb* is a noun! ;-) Only joking,
> >>since that obviously doesn't hold for me and my verbing -- damn!
> >>still a noun! ;-) 

> Of course, but then appreciate that *verb* originally meant its
> cognate >*word*. Its specialisation of meaning shows at least one IE
> group's >appreciation of the primacy of the verb over the noun.

No problem -- I'm an IE speaker and proud of it! ;-) 

>>> Similarly, the noun "something" in "something happened" does not show 
>>> a tendency to REIFY, as opposed to NOMINALISE. Similarly, "WHAT 
>>> happened?" answer: "it rained" or whatever.

>>Point taken. But what if it's just "Rained." and "Happened."? What if 
>>there's no reification OR nominalizing in daily talk? 

> Doesn't really matter. It takes more argument to counter the view
> that "it" is just a "dummy element" and that when English developed
> this feature of its current grammar from the previous one which
> allowed "rained" that reflects a change in the worldview of its
> speakers. There's a little more to say here because I think
> "something" is a replacement of a wh- word "what" indicating an
> indefinite. So even before "dummy it" arose "happened" took a
> subject. Again the language that allows the verb alone does not
> require whatever distinction there is between "it" and "something" (or
> "what" as an indefinite). The message is the same. Worldview is not
> obvious.

I agree it's a surfacy phenomenon required by the IE S->NP+PredP kind of

>>I remind everyone of Whorf's Hopi example of "rehpi" -- flashed! No light, 
>>lightning, or it involved (making ours look like grammatical fictions), 
>>just a bare predicate, the way we saw with "Dancing with Wolves" and 
>>"Stands With Fist" (probably better Dances-wolfing and Stands-fisting or
>>some such); what comes after the initial (subjectless) verb looks like 
>>prepositions with object NPs in the translations, but can be just 
>>kinesthetic roots acting as infixes and suffixes in various Amerind 

> English allows wolf-dancing (> wolf-dance verb), etc.

I don't see this the same as bare predicates.

> "flashed" is not an adequate translation for "light" unless only for
> "a flash of light".

True, tho in the Natural world only "light" flashed.

> Whether the apparent past inflection suggests a view of the
> transitoriness of light or fails to capture the more general meaning
> of the inflection at issue might be a matter of contention.

Yipes! "Apparent" is right since this involves manifestation, not
"time" (see Whorf on this, last few chapters, I think, excluding last).

> I can see here the temptation to rely on a speaker judgment that
> interpretation UPON REFLECTION indicates a temporary state by
> association with the use of the inflection with contexts where
> pastness is understood, but in a gentle way I am >reiterating Trask's
> point that this may be post-hoc philosophising by a speaker noticing a
> grammatical difference between Hopi and English, and not an indication
> of a difference in worldview in normal unreflecting use of the
> language.

What might suggest a temporary state could be a lack of reduplication in
such a case. ;-) Only whether something manifested or not is understood,
not "pastness," from Whorf's report. "pastness" is IE projection.

> It's a difficult point to resolve. The data are important, but so far
> insufficient.

Agreed on both counts.

[snip flags, pluralizing, my Cheyenne failures :-( ]

>This gets back to what I was saying above about "he sits
> with six" (uh I think it was actually seven), etc. As with any
> languages, for learning how to speak, time is better spent listening
> to unreflecting speech, speaking, getting corrected and continuing to
> speak. That's the only way to learn to speak IDIOMATICALLY, and it's
> very important. Beside that, the grammatical distance between
> Cheyenne and English makes it more difficult to get how the
> grammatical strategies are used idiomatically than for many other
> languages, even non-Western ones. This is a relevant observation not
> an accusation since M had a job to do. We see that under the
> constraints of having a job to do, a savvy linguist can fall into the
> procrustean trap, and that goes for all linguists. It's something we
> try constantly to guard against, but with no hope of total success
> until the job of linguistics is finished -- now and forever.

I hope all grad students/fieldworkers take note of those excellent
remarks. And -- thanks.

> Much more needs to be said about idiom than I can say -- or even
> >understand. I'll just give the example that English made me want to
> use a substitute for "before" in saying such things as "he gets up and
> smokes BEFORE he even washes his face" in Swahili. And there is a
> Swahili equivalent for "before" that satisfies that urge for the
> English speaker. But I quickly noticed that Swahili speakers most
> commonly say "he gets up and and smokes, he hasn't even washed his
> face (yet)". That's the idiom, and it has larger implications for the
> difference between how English and Swahili mark clause relations,
> aspect vs. subordinating conjunctions.
Yes, excellent example. It is this daily idiomatic use of English that I
too have found fascinating for decades -- the social level or casual
register that does not always follow the syntactic rules.
> -------------------------------- Message 2 -------------------------------
> >Prt 2 of my further thoughts to Pt 2 of Moonhawk's messages.
> >
> >>All glossaries of scientific disciplines are nearly exclusively populated
> >>with nouns -- for a starter. And just because it comes out as "the
> >>dancing" when discussing it in English doesn't mean that's the case in the
> >>Native languages I'm discussing. I'm trying to focus on animate processing
> >>and relationshipping as prime, with all objects being grammatical
> >>fictions.
> >
> >Yes the starter is facilitated by the ease with which English nounifies,
> >and then, as I mentioned in my original response, how scientists avail
> >themselves of that strategy to use a shorthand to refer to phenomena. I
> >won't deny reification, but I'll put it in the eye of the beholder, rather
> >than in a worldview necessitated by the language or the strategy used. 

Let's say the proclivity is part of the culture in a language/culture
complementarity. I can dig it. And different in different subcultures
(such as academe, law, etc.).

> >As noted earlier, Hale agreed that objects are grammatical fictions inthe
> >sense of the discussion here. Again, it's the effect of those grammatical
> >fictions on worldview that is at issue, not the objects referred to
> >themselves.

Excellent! Agreed! 

> >I had said:
> >>> The term "optional" suggests that the NP referents are understood, and
> >>> simply do not have to be obligatorily expressed, not even by pronouns --
> >>> although it is not clear that the prefixes referred to do not function as
> >>> "pronouns", regardless of Latin.
> >
> >M responds
> >>Not so fast -- that's a misinterpreting of my "optional," which I hope
> >>I've cleared up by now. While it may be optional structurally, its use is
> >>culturally proscribed to be outside of daily talk -- so it is certainly
> >>NOT recoverable in that sense, according to the Natives, who themselves
> >>must occasionally interrupt for clarification.

I forgot to add something about the possibility of provisionally accepting
the Native no-pronoun claim for discussion purposes as part of their
larger case.

> >It's not clear whether we're dealing with idiom or grammar here. It seems
> >idiom. Don't mention the objects unless you think you have to; and it
> >might be insulting to mention them if that presupposes that the listener
> >is too stupid to understand without overt mention -- or is it repeated
> >overt mention? 

I'd call it social/casual level discourse as opposed to formal explaining.
As for the rest, you're so right I could praise you! The "insulting"
comment is RIGHT ON!!!!

> >It becomes a matter of judgment, just like what kids have
> >to learn in English who start off a complaint with "I can't find it!" --
> >can't find what? In English listeners often get confused about pronominal
> >references when there are a lot of he's and she's in the discourse.

Chalk that up to lack of sustained experience in not collapsing the
wave-front of possibilities -- a cultural proclivity. Besides, Algonkian
languages have 3rd AND 4th person to keep things straight. But you're
right -- the never landing would drive us crazy!

> >Sometimes they don't know they're confused and leave with the wrong
> >impression. Sometimes they ask for clarification, "wait! he, him, is he
> >Jack or Ralph?" In the language at issue in the example I suppose the
> >request for clarification would be simply "who?" or "what?"

Yup -- and they do need clarification at times, natch.

> >>> Against this is Sapir's observation that Takelma speakers tend to present
> >>> myths as if they directly experienced the events related. It is then a
> >>> matter of levels of belief and not specifically of experience.
> >>
> >>In societies living in what Owen Barfield called "original
> >>participation," they WERE kinesthetically reliving that *teaching*
> >>("myth" has conflicting meanings) and thus directly experienced the events
> >>related. This is what it means to speak a kinesthetic- rather than
> >>visually-based language. Sahaptinn speakers sing an ancestor's song and by
> >>so doing kinesthetically relive looking East from atop the Rockies and
> >>seeing the Great Inland Lake that disappeared 6-8000 years or so ago. I
> >>can understand the mystery.
> >
> >That refines what I said about evidential being a matter of belief in such
> >cases. I take "myth" in the usual sense as not directly experienced in
> >the sense of "eye-witness", but we're playing with what I meant by direct
> >experience here. It is certainly cultural rather than linguistic that
> >speakers in current Western societies are not so readily believed when
> >they claim to have been visited by Jesus or flying saucers or whatever.
> >But that is not to deny, even in such a culture, that such claimants have
> >had a religious or mystical experience which for them is real. It is
> >Sahaptin culture that facilitates its religious experiences, not least by
> >using and probably even encouraging the "eye-witness" evidential for such
> >experiences. Among the religious in mainstream Western culture, religious
> >experience may be accepted but not expected on a daily basis. The
> >difference may be that the religious mainstream sees God not religious
> >experience as inscrutable.

I guess it could be seen as part of a spiritual (not necessarily
religious) ceremony, but since all teaching incorporates that, I think the
song would be more like a history class than religious experience.

[snip Homer, poor bard!]

> >As some linguists including Karl Teeter noted, it is doubtful that
> >there is any language without nouns, if we recognise nouns as an
> >organising strategy for discourse and not as an inherent property of
> >particular lexical roots. But that takes us from arguing about worldview
> >to arguing about how to analyse any and all languages. 

As you understand by now, the issue was never the structural impossibility
of nouns, but their striking absence in daily talk.

> >When the two
> >considerations meet we can make progress, in my view. As a linguist, I'd
> >like to better understand the issues involved in what linguistics means to
> >capture by the concept "noun" before I start entertaining thoughts about
> >what effect that might have on worldview. All my discussion here has
> >another issue in mind, getting a proper perspective on the difference
> >between language and "culture". We take the difference for granted, but
> >we're having difficulty disentangling their interconnections.

Whatchu mean 'we,' kemosabe? Anthropological linguists (Sapir, Whorf, and
me, among others) take the entangled interconnections for granted. ;-) 

> >In the best of worlds I would see this discussion splitting into two. One
> >is what's a noun? The other is when is language not culture and culture
> >not language?

I concur, tho I'll probably try to reframe the latter. ;-) Thank you very
much, Benji, for taking this discussion seriously. What a joy! (And this
reply took me 4 hours! Yipes! I can't do this much longer; classes begin
on Thursday for me!

warm regards, moonhawk

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