LINGUIST List 3.339

Mon 13 Apr 1992

Disc: Saussure, Cavalli-Sforza, Discourse

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  1. bert peeters, Language/langue
  2. Jacques Guy, Cavalli-Sforza et al. in "Le Monde"
  3. Michael Covington, Computational treatment of discourse

Message 1: Language/langue

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 92 9:19:57 ESTLanguage/langue
From: bert peeters <>
Subject: Language/langue

> Date: Wed, 08 Apr 92 18:32:37 BST
> From:
> Subject: Saussure & rule-government

> I apologise for having had to quote at such length. Perhaps, by way of
> compensation, I could offer a small puzzle: for French specialists, please
> translate the words of the following sentence which are in upper case
> The speakers of any LANGUAGE can accomplish a great many communicative
> tasks with the sentences of their LANGUAGE.
> If LANGUAGE is translated by the same word each time, please justify this. If
> there is a difference between the words used in any French translation, please
> say what the difference is.

 Les locuteurs de toute LANGUE savent accomplir un grand nombre de
 ta^ches communicatives a` l'aide des phrases de leur LANGUE.

Each occurrence of the word *language* deals with a particular language, one
among thousands of possible realisations of human language = *langage*. I'd
like to quote Emile Benveniste on this particular point - for he has said
it clearer than most of us could:

 From: *Proble`mes de linguistique ge'ne'rale*, Paris, Gallimard, 1966.

 Commenc,ons par observer que la linguistique a un double objet, elle
 est science du langage et science des langues. Cette distinction,
 qu'on ne fait pas toujours, est ne'cessaire: le langage, faculte'
 humaine, caracte'ristique universelle et immuable de l'homme, est
 autre chose que les langues, toujours particulie`res et variables,
 en lesquelles il se re'alise.
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Message 2: Cavalli-Sforza et al. in "Le Monde"

Date: Mon, 13 Apr 92 09:51:49 ESCavalli-Sforza et al. in "Le Monde"
From: Jacques Guy <>
Subject: Cavalli-Sforza et al. in "Le Monde"

There was in "Le Monde" of 26 March an article by Yvonne Rebeyrol
entitled "Cousins proches, mais uniques" in which the phylogenetic
theories of the Sforzas and Allan Wilsons are discussed. It is
extremely well written, clear, and informative. It is difficult, after
having read it, to still believe that Wilson, Sforza et al. did not
deliberately refuse to take into account known evidence, and known
genetic mechanisms that did not fit their aims. In particular, you will
discover in that article that mitochondrial DNA does carry male genetic
information too, contrary to what is claimed in that famous Scientific
American article, and that geneticists had known it since the 70s. The
editors of "Le Monde" thought the topic important enough to include
Yvonne Rebeyrol's article in their "Selection hebdomaire"
(international edition). It's in there, p.10 (Le Monde, Selection
hebdomadaire No.2265 du jeudi 26 mars au mercredi 1er avril).
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Message 3: Computational treatment of discourse

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 92 12:08:57 EDComputational treatment of discourse
From: Michael Covington <>
Subject: Computational treatment of discourse

In answer to a recent query, we have done some work with Hans Kamp's
Discourse Representation Theory (DRT). (See the papers available on
our ftp server,; also the book "Natural Language at
the Computer" recently published by Springer, containing papers from
people at Stuttgart and Tuebingen who are working the same framework.)

It depends, however, what you mean by "discourse." Kamp's framework is
essentially formal semantics not bounded by the single sentence.
Other people use the term "discourse" to refer to studies that delve
much deeper into pragmatics.
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