LINGUIST List 3.43

Thu 16 Jan 1992

Disc: Synaesthesia, Infiniteness

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  1. Dan I. Slobin, Re: 3.24 Queries: Synaesthesia, Diachrony, WH-Questions
  2. , 3.8 Are Languages Infinite?

Message 1: Re: 3.24 Queries: Synaesthesia, Diachrony, WH-Questions

Date: Mon, 13 Jan 92 09:23:34 -0Re: 3.24 Queries: Synaesthesia, Diachrony, WH-Questions
From: Dan I. Slobin <slobincogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.24 Queries: Synaesthesia, Diachrony, WH-Questions

Synaesthesia:

A classic study is Brown, R. W., Leiter, R. A., & Hildum, D. C.
(1957). Metaphors from music criticism. _Journal of Abnormal
and Social Psychology_, 54: 347-52. They found agreement among
musically naive listeners in assigning "non-auditory sense terms"
to recordings of sopranos, tenors, and baritones (e.g. cool, dry,
thick, chromium, closed, coarse). Roger Brown gives the following
interpretation (_Words and Things_, 1958, pp. 148-9): "The principal
sensory dimensions of the world are the same for men everywhere and
are named in all languages. Though each of these dimensions is
primarily associated with one receptor system its essential quality
is inter-sensory. The quality is first detected in one sense
modality and is named at that stage. Afterward the quality is
detected in many other phenomena that register with other senses.
The original name tends to be extended to any experience manifesting
the criterial quality. And so it happens that unrelated languagesx
extend their vocabularies of sensation in similar fashion. So it
happens, too, that people in one language community can identify
the basic inter-sensory qualities in operatic voices and exttend
their vocabularies accordingly."

Dan Slobin (slobincogsci.berkeley.edu)
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Message 2: 3.8 Are Languages Infinite?

Date: Mon, 6 Jan 92 00:51:08 EST3.8 Are Languages Infinite?
From: <Alexis_Manaster_RamerMTS.cc.Wayne.edu>
Subject: 3.8 Are Languages Infinite?

Stavros Macrakis wonders why I said that:

 ...the union of the set of even natural numbers with the set of
 primes which I happen to know is infinite although again not
 well-defined.

The point is that the set of even natural numbers is an infinite set,
and a well-defined one, but the the set of primes which I happen to know
is not well-defined (because, for example, for some numbers I am not
sure whether they are prime or not) but certainly is finite. The
union of the two is, of course, infinite (because the even natural
numbers are infinite) but is not well-defined (because the primes
I know are not well-defined).

I would submit that it is appropriate to think of NLs in this way,
(i.e., discuss their mathematical properties such as finiteness vs.
infinitude, (non)context-freeness, etc. even if they are not
well-defined).
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