LINGUIST List 12.1824

Mon Jul 16 2001

Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <lydialinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Jorge Guitart, Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study
  2. Whitney Anne Postman, Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Message 1: Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001 09:43:26 -0400 (EDT)
From: Jorge Guitart <guitartacsu.buffalo.edu>
Subject: Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

When the sun imploded and Earth and all its linguists disappeared we had
long been studied by some superior extragalactic civilization and someone
from there wrote billions and billions of years later an essay that reads
in part as follows:

"At different points in the history of science of Planet 3 of Star
123456789567463535 there was always at least one individual
who thought (and told others) something like 
'I believe there have been sufficient manifestations of the existence of
X to believe that X exists, even though X cannot be inspected directly'
but there was always at least one other individual who thought
and told others that there was no such thing as X, no way. But one thing
that happened a lot was that once they developed better ways to study and
record manifestations there was no logical way to refute the existence of
X, even though in some cases it continued to be impossible to inspect it
directly through the senses. I think of the triumphant case of the
muon and that of the black hole, and much much much later that of
Universal Grammar...."

Jorge Guitart
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Message 2: Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001 10:16:19 -0400
From: Whitney Anne Postman <wap2cornell.edu>
Subject: Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

In Linguist 12.1819, John Goldsmith wrote: "it is controversial that
that system of knowledge lives in our brains," where "that system of 
knowledge" presumably refers to human natural language. (Goldsmith 
was responding to Mendivil's definition of grammar (Linguist, 
12.1785).)

My first question is, If language does not originate in our brains, 
then where? To head off a particular vein of criticism with which 
I've been confronted before, let me state that I assume that the idea 
that language is a part of human biology is not in the least bit in 
conflict with the idea that language is also part of human culture. 
Why should these two notions (beliefs?) be mutually exclusive?

Goldsmith also wrote: "it is (even more) controversial that 
linguistics is a scientific theory of something that is in the brain."
As someone who's investigated acquired aphasia (=language impairment 
due to brain damage) firsthand, in particular the very real phenomena 
of agrammatic production and comprehension of language (Standard 
Indonesian, in my studies), I fail to see what is (even more) 
controversial here.


Whitney Anne Postman
Graduate Student, Ph.D. Candidate
Fields of Linguistics and Cognitive Studies, Southeast Asia Program
campus address: Morrill Hall, Dept. of Linguistics, Ithaca N.Y. 14853-4701
http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/wap2/
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