LINGUIST List 17.2042

Wed Jul 12 2006

Disc: Cultural Identity & Lang; Word Stress; Cartesian Linguistics

Editor for this issue: Ann Sawyer <>

Directory         1.    Stan Anonby, Cultural Identity and Language
        2.    Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay, Word Stress-Existence at Stake?
        3.    Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay, Cartesian Linguistics: From Cogito to Psyche

Message 1: Cultural Identity and Language
Date: 11-Jul-2006
From: Stan Anonby <>
Subject: Cultural Identity and Language

I've been following the scuttlebut about English only and the translation of the "Star Spangled Banner". I'm here in the States teaching in a summer session in North Dakota, and the subject of identity and language has come up.

I'd like to throw out an observation made by a student from California. Her comment was that the Hispanics in Fresno are divided into three groups:

The first group is formed by people directly from Mexico. They speak English poorly, but "are the most American". She said you can tell who they are because they all have American flags hanging from their windows.

The second group is formed by their children. They're just living life, are bilingual, and don't think or talk about who they are much.

The third group is the third generation. These people don't speak Spanish, only English. However, they're the ones who are most vocal about language rights and being Mexican. They are the ones who hang Mexican flags in their windows, and say, "Viva la raza!"

Another student commented on a similar situation in southern Manitoba. She said her grandmother's generation lives the Mennonite lifestyle, speaks Plautdeutch, but seldom talk about their identity.

She said people in their 20's were much more proud and vocal about being Mennonite. Yet they do not speak Plautdeutch.

I myself am not American or Mennonite, so I can't vouch for any of this.

It does ring more or less true to me, though. I've seen similar phenomena among Indigenous peoples in Brazil and Canada.

I'm not sure if this tendency is the norm, the exception, or even accurate. Any comments?

Stan Anonby

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics Sociolinguistics
Message 2: Word Stress-Existence at Stake?
Date: 11-Jul-2006
From: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay <>
Subject: Word Stress-Existence at Stake?

Traditionally, in Phonetics as well as in Linguistics, stress of words is to be attested before going to analyze sentential intonation. What is "word" really, especially in this type of pre-lexical studies? Is it not mere truism that the "word" is a culture-specific concept, which has only visual representation? There is no such representation in the game of speaking. A literate speaking subject, in his/her printing culture, has only a visual sensation of word. If word is to be defined as a something (visual black or any other colored figure) in between two (white or any other colors) spaces (grounds), the boundaries of word depend on the particular literate community's way of manipulating blank (or, one may call it as "other" spaces) spaces in their printing/writing. The boundaries/spaces as defined by traditional morphology, do not exist when a speaking subject is engaged in a discourse. At that moment of speaking, from the subject's position, it is not word-stress, but it is rather a harmonic intonation of a discourse, which s/he is expressing as a continuum without ontologically being conscious about the grammarians' order of things (different levels of language, viz. phoneme, morpheme, word, phrase, sentence). As word does not exist, the word-stress is also an absentee at the moment of speaking. The memory of these blank spaces may also influence the way of speaking of a literate speaker. It is meaningless to account stress by isolating a 'word' (which is actually a citation form as it is lemmatized in the dictionary produced by the print capitalism) from the speech continuum. Thus, the typological differences (as designated in the order Polysynthetic, Synthetic, Agglutinating and Analytic languages) of languages on the basis of word-morpheme ratio hold no water at all if we do not consider the literate culture-specificity of something called word.

What do you think about this problem? How do you consider tonal languages, if the above statement is to be considered as "true"?

Linguistic Field(s): Lexicography Linguistic Theories Morphology Phonetics Phonology
Message 3: Cartesian Linguistics: From Cogito to Psyche
Date: 11-Jul-2006
From: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay <>
Subject: Cartesian Linguistics: From Cogito to Psyche

1. From where does the ideal speaking subject speak? Where is the locus of ideal speaking subject? What is about the history (childhood configuration, neurotic elements) of such ideal speaking subject? Does the outside influence information of inside (a physical organ, LAD)? What happens to transcendental Cogito (as postulated in Cartesian Linguistics) or the competence of creating infinite sets of sentences, when it is subjected to the outside sociality (threat, violence etc.)? (Here I am inkling towards Psychoanalysis-to the construct of "psyche" rather than that of cogito as I am emphasizing on the society-psyche interface).

2. Chomsky, out of his Cartesian anxiety, considers body as a machine. He deploys technical metaphors ((e.g., The terms like "Computation", 'array" "interface", "parser" etc., or operations like "COMMAND", "SATISFY", "SPELL OUT") for explaining human body. These are not metaphors or case of displacement only, but a case of metonymic transformation of human body as these technical metaphors condense the scope of human (linguistic) potentiality. Does human body follow algorithm only at the moment of speaking? Do we not have extra-/non-algorithmic cognitive ability? (My point is that Cognitive Domain is not algorithmic only.)

3. Chomskian syntax analyzes the algorithm of "normal" "well-formed" sentences only. Apart from the exclusion of institution-body corre(a)lation in the Chomskian hypothesis, this very construction of "natural language" (e.g., the well-constructed written sentences) mercilessly marginalizes the language of so-called non-"natural" madness or folly. How do we know the differences between normal way of speaking and abnormal way of speaking? This question was initiated by Foucault (1968) to beg the premise of Cartesian cogito. Chomsky, who is like an old-fashioned physicist, is interested only in VIBGYOR. However, in the domain of Art (where infinite sets of colors are illuminating) and literature, there is a proliferation of "deviations" from so-called "normal standard" (as constructed by the Ideological State Apparatuses) and without such "deviations" no work of art or literature or any paradigm shift is possible. Is this domain of Art and Literature, a domain of unreason or madness or is it un-"scientific"?

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science Language Acquisition Linguistic Theories Philosophy of Language Psycholinguistics