LINGUIST List 12.235

Mon Jan 29 2001

Disc: Origins of Human Language

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Zylogy, Re: 12.223, Disc: Origins of Human Language
  2. Lotfi, Re: 12.206, Disc: Origins of Human Language

Message 1: Re: 12.223, Disc: Origins of Human Language

Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 03:44:25 EST
From: Zylogy <Zylogyaol.com>
Subject: Re: 12.223, Disc: Origins of Human Language


Larry's last points are well taken- but then we descend into the 
nomenclatural morass of defining the nature of the ideophone/expressive. Good 
luck. Apalai as well as most of the many South American languages I've got at 
least minimal data from have maximally on the order of 100-200 relatively 
simplex ideophones. You don't get anything like the exuberance of form one 
sees in Subsaharan African languages of Niger-Congo stock. And the forms in 
these languages really are mostly about sounds, unlike the situation in the 
richer languages, which have many forms dealing with patterns of motion, 
visual impressions, etc. added to the mix.

I've said before in posts to other lists that a hierarchy appears to be at 
work here- with sound imitation being the basic, bottom line most refractive 
to incorporation into the lexicon.

Tucker Childs' well written overview of ideophones in the volume Sound 
Symbolism, edited from papers from the 1986 UCBerkeley conference on the 
topic, goes into the variation of form class. Based on what I've seen in 
different languages, there are different pathways and degrees of 
lexicalization of ideophones/expressives into other form classes from any 
independent class, depending on typological and historical reanalyses of 
constructions. Where you draw the line is an open question. And do newly 
coined terms simply go into some word class, or must they first be filtered 
through some ideophone class "trace"?

For me, the key to differentiating ideophones/expressives from what you 
describe as words of expressive origin is algebra. Ideophones and expressives 
are formulaic, in that the meaning really is the sum of the parts, or 
whatever the particular algorithmic analogue might yield. The less systematic 
the relation, the less we have a "true" stock of ideophones or expressives. 
We really need to fix terminology in this area, and we haven't. Even those of 
us who deal with these issues on a more or less regular basis.

Jess Tauber
zylogyaol.com
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Message 2: Re: 12.206, Disc: Origins of Human Language

Date: 28 Jan 2001 09:01:54 EDT
From: Lotfi <Lotfiwww.dci.co.ir>
Subject: Re: 12.206, Disc: Origins of Human Language

Dear Colleagues,
I just popped up to say in his THE ORIGINS OF COMPLEX LANGUAGE
(1999), Carstairs-McCarthy offers an intriguing (though somehow
miraculous) account of the origin of language and how physiological
changes could bring about the increase in vocabulary leading by its
turn to the development of syntax. Please find enclosed the abstract
of the work. A precis is also available online at
http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?11.082
Best,
Ahmad R. Lotfi.
English Dept, Chair
Azad University
Esfahan.
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THE ORIGINS OF COMPLEX LANGUAGE
Carstairs-McCarthy
(1999)
Abstract
Some puzzling characteristics of grammar, such as the
sentence/NP distinction and the organization of inflection classes,
may provide clues about its prehistory. When bipedalism led to
changes in the vocal tract that favoured syllabically organized
vocalization, this made possible an increase in vocabulary which in
turn rendered advantageous a reliable syntax, whose source was the
neural mechanism for controlling syllable structure. Several
features of syntax make sense as byproducts of characteristics of
the syllable (for example, grammatical 'subjects' may be byproducts
of onset margins). This scenario is consistent with evidence from
biological anthropology, ape language studies, and brain
neurophysiology.
- ----------------------------------------------------------------
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