LINGUIST List 11.2129

Tue Oct 3 2000

Disc: Review Green

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Dan Moonhawk Alford, Re: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green
  2. jose luis guijarro, RE: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green
  3. jose luis guijarro, RE: 11.2102, Disc: Review Green

Message 1: Re: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 08:58:53 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <>
Subject: Re: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

On Tue, 3 Oct 2000, Guijarro wrote:

> > From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <>
> > How about the way we teach our babies "Hot!" -- is it one word
> > among many, like "ball" and "bed"? Hardly. It's invested with emotion
> > suggesting danger and physical movements of pulling the hand away in order
> > to get the child to understand the "seriousness to survival" meaning of
> > that word. We engage more brains into the acquisition process. Along with
> > many words there's an emotional tone/tune ALSO expressing whether it's
> > good or bad for the child. This is what I meant by picking up meanings
> > from all over: different levels of meaning, including emotional. Some
> > believe that memories are stored first by emotions, for instance. So an
> > emotional tone demonstrably helps "fix" the word and concept in the baby's
> > memory, yet that seemingly is "para-linguistic," not really "language."
> JLG: I am not sure I understand you correctly, but I will make some
> comments, anyway . (1) It's strange that you should associate "hot"
> with "danger of being burned". I take it that this is the most
> available sense for you. For me, instead, who live in a "hot" country,
> hating the heat as I do, the first and most salient "emotion". that
> associates with that term is "Ufffff!!" (thereby perspiring copiously)

Actually, by mentioning babies, adding an exclamation point ("Hot!"),
talking about pulling the hand away and survival value, the intended image
(far afield of the EFL classroom, to be sure), was one of small children
and stoves, fires, etc.
> (2) However, I have learned the word "hot" and can understand it when
> you use it in your mental context as, I hope, you can understand it in
> my mental context. Do you really think that to learn the word "hot"
> you or me had to have a _"look out" / "ufffff"_ emotion before? This
> is a strange thought from my point of view.

Sure, I get your "hot" as well. Emotion before? Not what I said/meant. The
Gray-LaViolette model of cognition claims that all of us store memories in
emotional frequencies, similar to rainbow-color frequencies. Thus it's
difficult to "think happy" when caught in depressive cycles, and vice
versa. The tone of "Hot!" and physical gesture of pulling a hand away from
the fire add extra meaning to the "elevated temperature" meaning,
including the survival meaning.
> (3) Perhaps, what you are pointing to is that, when one is very
> strongly motivated, experiences associated with that strong motivation
> are likely to get fixed in our memories. Fair enough, I have no
> quarrel with that obvious fact.

Great -- that was my only (admittedly minor) point.

> What I was discussing before, however, was that INSIDE A CLASSROOM,
> learning a second language is not normally too strongly motivated. And
> that I doubted very much whether the communicative approach was able to
> provide a reinforcement of that motivation. You see, I think that the
> "communicating-real-language-stuff-in-class" is either (a) an obvious
> truism, since whatever you do in a class you are REALLY COMMUNICATING
> with the students and they with you, or (b) an impossible feat, since
> whatever else you try to fake as real communication is, by definition,
> a FAKE COMMUNICATIVE situation. So, I am unable to begin to understand
> (i) what is the "originality" of having a class where real
> communication takes place, and (ii) how this real communication (in
> both senses, a and b) makes up for the missing motivation one might
> have in other real life situations.

Having taken OFL classes in the U.S., I tend toward b).

> >DM: We have a primate brain with extensive modification.
> (...)
> > We share brainwave levels and brains with them as well as have a level and
> > functional brain they lack. We share body language, emotional tunes/tones,
> > and simple utterances "words"/calls) with them, and differ by complex
> > utterances.
> JLG: Again, I am not certain of what you wish to stress here. 

What I wish to stress is a meta=point about "language" -- that by
understanding the built-in meaning systems of the primate brain, we may
learn more about the primate HUMAN brain and replace the theoretical LAD
with underlying primate meaning systems.

> (...) 

> It is very clear to me that "language" (or, in my Spanish terminology,
> IDIOMA) alone is not THE means humans have to communicate. It is a
> very helpful tool among many others (roughly, what you call a "body
> language", which, I wouldn't call "IDIOMA corporal", but "LENGUAJE
> corporal". I told you before in another debate, Dan, remember? The
> trouble with you, anglophones, is that you have only the one word
> LANGUAGE, where lucky we have three, IDIOMA, LENGUA and LENGUAJE. So
> we can be a lot more accurate than you. Tough, but such is life!).

I do remember -- and, truthfully, I think all of linguistics would benefit
by carefully keeping IDIOMA, LENGUA and LENGUAJE apart!
> (...)
> > DM: A complementary meaning-first approach might look, AS WELL, at the
> > integrative and coherent aspects of meaning which surround the utterance
> > like an onion-layered field.
> JLG: That's exactly what I mean above. It's hard for you, anglophones,
> "to make the necessary distinctions" (as Jerry Fodor advised us to
> do). Now, our IDIOMAS, although very useful, are not waterproof tools
> with which we can unambiguously make our intentions, and the
> information we want to share with others, manifest . My
> representation, then, is that with the help of that (useful but far
> from perfect) tool you can point to a field of individual
> representations of yours which you would like to make manifest to
> others. Now this pointing is what I call meaning. And as, I insist,
> language, although mighty useful, is far from perfect, we NEED to use
> a lot more cognitive processes to approach a similar field of
> representations to the one you had in mind in the first place. If it's
> close enough, communication will have suceeded. If not, a
> mis-understanding will have arisen. Now, THIS ability is already well
> entrenched in the human minds of those that try to learn a foreign
> IDIOMA. You seem to be implying that the oposite is indeed the case:
> that one has to teach in class how to adapt to the representations of
> others in communicating. I have given you my reasons for doubting that
> this has to be done. It's your turn to give me your reasons. 

I'm not sure what you think I was saying, since I agree with you! I see
speech as oral gesture which can be supplemented, for richer or
disambiguating meaning, by tones, expressions and manual gestures -- which
EFL students have already learned and bring to the classroom. Any teaching
methods which incorporate these (as in REAL conversation) can only benefit
students, IMO.

warm regards, moonhawk

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Message 2: RE: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 16:32:02 +0200
From: jose luis guijarro <>
Subject: RE: 11.2113, Disc: Review Green

> Date: Mon, 02 Oct 2000 23:51:16 +0200
> From:
> Subject: Disc: Review of Green

> 1. Linguistic description and data (or the old competence-performance
> distinction?):

> (...) [ I ]cannot help regarding authentic data, obtained from
> actual language use, as the only empirical/objective/verifiable basis on
> which we can draw when we want to come to grips with competence. I do not
> assume that competence and language use ("performance") can be separated
> altogether.

JLG: That's it: "You cannot help it". It is a pre-rational attitude which
you have all the right in the World to hold, as I cannot help but (for more
than 30 odd years now) regard chomskyan competence as an innate mental
organ. There are two basic ways to view the problem and we belong to
different fields. I don't think it is a problem, and I am sure many insights
are to be found in both parties.
> 2. JM: Corpus linguistics and EFL

> (...) the scope of corpus data and corpus linguistic methods
> concerning EFL teaching are just about to emerge. If you, however, look at
> recently published EFL textbooks or dictionaries (esp. COBUILD), you will
> see what corpus linguistics has already contributed to EFL teaching. For
> instance, the order in which irregular verbs are taught today (in Germany)
> follows, grosso modo, the frequencies as attested in representative

JLG: Fair enough. I admit that this is a way to teach a foreign language.
But, don't you see? You are admitting that 2L teaching needs a
methodological order (in your case, derived from a corpus, which could be
THE way to do it). It CANNOT be a "natural" or "communicative" or whatever
methodology in which the order is established by the student as he
communicates around like mad in the classroom. I never discussed what seems
to be your pedagogically ordered proposal. Far from it!

> JM: 3. Quid pro quo, Jose (and perhaps Kevin)
> Drawing on the Corpus of London Teenage Language, Andersen (1997) observes
> that London teenagers tend to use invariant tags regardless of the lexical
> verb in the main clause, e.g. "innit/isn't it" with "go". Please explain
to me how this - very frequent - use fits into a generative description of
> language competence? Is the underlying rule part of teenagers' language
> competence? Is this phenomenon ungrammatical, a "poor mirror of competence"
> because it is restricted to spontaneous spoken teenage talk? Is it,
however, acceptable?

JLG: There seems to be a wide-extended misrepresented belief on the notion
that chomskyan *competence* equals, more or less, the accepted *standard
norm* of a language (in the Spanish sense of IDIOMA). Whereas, what I think
Chomsky had and has in mind (sorry for being such a pretentious fellow!)
when he talked of *competence* (now, he prefers to speak of a *language
organ*, in order to avoid misrepresentations like the one you seem to be
pointing at) was the "percolator" or "sieve" that allows for certain
linguistic possibilities and not for others in EVERY KNOWN HUMAN LANGUAGE.
Therefore, I prefer to use the Spanish term LENGUA (instead of IDIOMA) for
that competence-mental organ. Do you really think that we chomskyans refuse
blatantly to aknowledge the fact that language (IDIOMA) is a living process
that keeps changing all the time? Come on, Joybrato, you must be kidding!

> JM: 4. Hypothesis and evidence
> Ratcliffe points out that "the universal grammar hypothesis has never, as
> far as I know, even been stated in explicit falsifiable terms, and it has
> certainly never been subjected to empirical test." In my opinion, this
> really hits the nail on the head. Formal, intuition-based theories of
> universal grammar (and generativist language competence) might be
> but they cannot be vindicated by empirical evidence.

JLG: This is again a pre-rational attitude and I respect it, although I have
a totally different one -even in what concerns empirical evidence. However,
for me this is not the point at issue. I am not prepared to engage in
defending generative grammar. For me, it's the only sensible theory with
well proven iresults in many fields. But mine is, again, a pre-rational
attitude. As Fritz Perls said: "there is nothing we can do about it!"

> JM: > I happen to be a native speaker of German. Does this change your

JLG: I don't know about Mike. But I have a question for you here. As I said
the other day, although I speak German since I was four, I have problems
with declension endings all the time, since in Spanish there are almost
inexistent. I am sure that I am quite older than you are, so I must have
been speaking German for odd 50 years now, presumably longer than you, a
native German speaker. Do you have problems with those morphological
endings? Surely not! How do you EXPLAIN this (for me) blasted inconsistency?

Sure enough, in TRUE COMMUNICATIVE contexts I sometime got into trouble. For
instance, when I was dragging native German speaking ladies in the very
distant past (alas!), I had my own formulae to take me out of trouble. So, I
remeber I said to my then favourite German-speaking girl: "Ich liebe Du, Ich
liebe Deiner, Ich liebe Dir, Ich liebe Dich AUF ALLE FAELLE!".
I got away with it!

Adios, hasta otra!

Jose Luis Guijarro Morales
Facultad de Filosofia y Letras
Avda. Gomez Ulla, 1
11003 Cadiz (Espa�a)
Tel. +34 956 015526
Fax. +34 956 015501
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Message 3: RE: 11.2102, Disc: Review Green

Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 17:26:23 +0200
From: jose luis guijarro <>
Subject: RE: 11.2102, Disc: Review Green

Hola, buenas!

Just a few quick comments to the message:

> Date: Mon, 02 Oct 2000 15:02:41 +0000
> From: "Robert R. Ratcliffe" <>
> Subject: Re: 11.2064, Disc: Review of Green

> (...) In other words
> UG, as Chomsky formulates it, just doesn't give a satisfactory
> explanation for the differences between first and second language
> acquisition.

JLG: I am not going to enter into the discussion of chomskyan or
non-chomskyan linguistics, for this is too long and, I fear, fruitless
debate. As I said in my answer to Joybrato, these are pre-rational attitudes
that make us interpret the world in one way or another. More or less, like
the Russian pessimist who when he drinks Russian whisky, thinks:
"Pouhafff!... It tastes like a smashed beetle!" and the Russian optimist who
when he sees a bettle he smashes it, and licks it while thinking
"Gaspadin!... it tastes like whisky!". What I mean is that we interpret the
world in different ways according to our extant inner representations.

However, I would like to point out that (1) the linguistic module chomsky
calls now a *language organ* and which help us learning our mother tongue
covers ALL the linguistic features, and (2) it is far from evident that we
2L speakers will ever be native-like speakers of that foreign language in
any of its representations.

> RR: But this doesn't mean that our intuitions are innate. We have
> intuitions about learned behavior too. People who have grown up in the
> same culture have common intuitions about what constitutes polite
> behavior, for example. If we all agree in a grammaticality judgement, it
> simply means we are all fluent speakers of the same language, that is,
> that we have internalized the norms or conventions of our speech
> community. Generativists tend to confuse the hypothesis of mentalism
> (language is in the mind) with that of innatism (it's there at birth).
> The fact that we know something doesn't mean we were born knowing it.

JLG: It certainly doesn't. But, as before, this is (from my chomskyan point
of view, naturally) another misrepresentation of yours. We are also normal
people who believe that when you internalize something, a concept, a
behaviour, a belief, and whatnot, you do it by "learning it" from the
environment you happen to live in. We do not assert that playing an
instrument is an innate ability, nor that being a Muslim is an innate
feature of people living in Africa or Asia or in some parts of Oriental
Europe. For us, chomskyans, all those clever arguments that antichomskyans
keep popping out as rabbits out of a hat in order to baffle us, seem jokes
that we cannot believe are said in a serious way. Which is patently not the
case, of course. They make a lot of sense to people that don't like innatist
theories of mind. You will understand that one can't argue against those
pre-rational and emotional attitudes. We simply do different things in life!

> RR: If you have learned calculus, then you can solve a calculus problem
> have never seen before, but that doesn't mean you have an innate
> knowledge of calculus, though presumably any intelligent human being has
> an innate ability to learn calculus. A theory that language is learned
> (rather than innate) need not be a theory that language is learned by
> routine. Plato's theory of knowledge-- the ability to learn anything is
> prior knowledge of the thing-- is, I think, not generally adopted
> outside of linguistics.

JLG: Exactly what I said above. In any case, you would be surprised on how
many non-linguist researchers (ethnologists, anthropologists, and even some
biologists) have formed my own view of the world in full coherence with my
linguistic ideas!

> RR: Chomsky's theory is based on logical arguments, very
> little evidence, and many assumptions which have never been explicitly
> formulated as hypotheses, much less subjected to empirical test. For
> example I often see statements like "The theory of the language faculty
> is (called) UG." This is incorrect. UG is simply A theory of the
> language faculty, and it's plausible only if one also accepts a Platonic
> theory of knowledge. UG is only one way in which we might connect the
> structure of language with the structure of the mind. I believe it is
> widely accepted by theoretical linguists simply because it's
> convenient-- It allows us to do what linguists have always done--
> structural analysis of language data-- while claiming that we are doing
> neuro-science.

JLG: You see? you are like the Russian pessimist in relation to Chomsky's
linguistics. I happen to be the Russian optimist in this particular field.

(1) I do think that UG is THE theory. That is, the only one that EXPLAINS
things in an explicit casual-effect way that I am able to understand.

(2) I do not believe that we are only interested in *structural analysis of
language data*, but rather, in the *formal DESCRIPTION of the human language
organ* (is that the beetle or the Russian whisky, do you think?).

(3) And, as I said the other day, I flatly deny that what I have been doing
in my professional life is neuroscience. I, for one, am not very much
interested in mental chips. I am very much interested in mental programs,
> RR: I think that scientists should avoid believing things, by the way.
> Theories are disposable-- falsifiable, otherwise they don't belong to
> science.

JLG: The falsiability of science is one of these contagious ideas that,
although important, are not quite well fundamented. What I mean is that, for
the time being, it is still not a dogma, although it looks as if.

In any case, innatist linguistic theories have been falsified over and again
by the very same Chomsky himself --BTW, another criticism that
non-chomskyans keep popping out of their magic hats to show that he doesn't
know what he is at.

> RR: Yes, the standards of evidence in linguistics should be the same as in
> natural science, but in the present state of things they are not. The
> universal grammar hypothesis has never, as far as I know, even been
> stated in explicit falsifiable terms, and it has certainly never been
> subjected to empirical test. It does not, and should not, enjoy the same
> status as the atomic theory.

JLG: You overreact here, I am afraid. It was only an "illustration", not an
attempt to assimilate it to a physical theory. About the other requirements
that you need in order to begin to think to be able to change your attitude
towards chomskyan linguistics, don't you worry. The whisky will taste like
smashed beetle to you forever.


Jose Luis Guijarro Morales
Facultad de Filosofia y Letras
Avda. Gomez Ulla, 1
11003 Cadiz (Espa�a)
Tel. +34 956 015526
Fax. +34 956 015501
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue