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Chomsky is one of the worst linguists ever

ShabShoral
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6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...
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Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/12/2015 9:10:56 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

I'm actually doing a debate on the very matter with Sidewalker next week. I'll be taking up Chomsky's position. Let's see if I'll convince you then :)

(I don't actually have a stance on this issue, but I figured the topic would be fun to debate.)
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
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Skepsikyma
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6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies. Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form. The Greek epics and tragedies, the Roman legal and poetic tradition, Arabic calligraphy and poetry, English literature, and Persian cultural and religious tales were all central to those empires. They contributed to the strong sense of identity which allowed them to assimilate and codify, to foster continuity, stability, and a sense of belonging.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/16/2015 9:32:21 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's- a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies. Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form. The Greek epics and tragedies, the Roman legal and poetic tradition, Arabic calligraphy and poetry, English literature, and Persian cultural and religious tales were all central to those empires. They contributed to the strong sense of identity which allowed them to assimilate and codify, to foster continuity, stability, and a sense of belonging.
I don't think that's what he meant by this. When Chomsky talks about language, he is referring to what he calls an I-language, a 'state of the mind' that is inside the speakers' heads. Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all E-languages. When we study E-language, we look at actual samples of that language from corpora. I-language, however, is a state of the mind. It's a set of principles, or what Chomsky calls the speakers knowledge of the language, that allows him to produce language correctly. When we study I-language, we study the language user's intuitions. The mind starts with a set of innate principles, called the universal grammar. These principle do not necessarily appear in all languages because they may be 'turned off' by some, but there are no languages that violate them. Consider this example:

Will you have finished your homework by eight?
*Have you will finished your homework by eight?

We can see why the first is right and second is wrong by looking at the D-structures:
You will have finished your homework by eight?

As 'have' has to jump two steps to get to the start of the sentence, it 'loses' while 'will' wins as it only has to jump one step. This principle is never violated; as in, there is no languages that forbids the first sentence but at the same time allows the second. However, it is simply not present in some languages. For example, Chinese does not have inversion for interrogative sentences, so there is no need for the locality principle, but this is not the same as a violation of the principle.

When we acquire a language, we gain the lexicon of the language and learn its grammatical parameters, what is turned on and off, to a 'steady state' known as the I-language.

Basically, by rejecting the notion of language being developed for communication, he was rejecting the study of E-language in favour of I-language.
I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/16/2015 10:10:18 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/15/2015 4:16:22 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
He needs to just die already.

I apologise if I have misconstrued your remark, but while there are legitimate reasons to disagree with his theories, to discredit his work in the field of linguistics based on a single, ostensibly unreasonable statement (and, I suspect, his political beliefs, which, although unpopular, should not be taken into account during the evaluation of his academic work) is, to me at least, quite unfair.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.
Skepsikyma
Posts: 8,286
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6/16/2015 11:35:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.

Can you show how, in any way, communication could be selected for?

Can you come up with a situation in which a non-communicative language could be pressured to become communicative?

Because that is what the claim that language evolved to be communicative would entail. It's like saying that 'pheromones evolved to be communicative', that goes without saying. What we need to look for are the details of why pheromones followed the evolutionary tract which they did.

Language is communicative by definition. Grammatical intricacies do not necessarily increase the degree of information which can be communicated, yet we see them develop, and we see that they are reinforced. If you want to redefine 'beauty' to mean 'communication', then there's no reason to disagree with and ridicule Chomsky in the first place, because he's agreeing with you.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
dylancatlow
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6/16/2015 11:55:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 11:35:32 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.

Can you show how, in any way, communication could be selected for?

Can you come up with a situation in which a non-communicative language could be pressured to become communicative?

Because that is what the claim that language evolved to be communicative would entail. It's like saying that 'pheromones evolved to be communicative', that goes without saying. What we need to look for are the details of why pheromones followed the evolutionary tract which they did.

Why do I need to explain what caused language to take the course it did in order to argue that language evolved for communication?

I may not know the history behind the decoration on a sword, but I still know that it's used for fighting. They're separate issues.


Language is communicative by definition. Grammatical intricacies do not necessarily increase the degree of information which can be communicated, yet we see them develop, and we see that they are reinforced.

So? I don't deny that language is more intricate than it needs to be.

If you want to redefine 'beauty' to mean 'communication', then there's no reason to disagree with and ridicule Chomsky in the first place, because he's agreeing with you.

I don't.
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 12:00:42 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 10:10:18 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/15/2015 4:16:22 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
He needs to just die already.

I apologise if I have misconstrued your remark, but while there are legitimate reasons to disagree with his theories, to discredit his work in the field of linguistics based on a single, ostensibly unreasonable statement (and, I suspect, his political beliefs, which, although unpopular, should not be taken into account during the evaluation of his academic work) is, to me at least, quite unfair.

If I think Chomsky has contaminated every field in which he has taken part with false information, absurdities, and lies, would it be fair to wish for his death.
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 3:11:14 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).


That is, if language did not evolve for its use, then its complex role in facilitating communication is utterly random - a happy accident. If the only pressures were those which selected for beauty, then it's quite astonishing that we ended up with such an advanced communication system when there was nothing pushing for it. It's like arguing that legs - despite being perfectly designed for walking - actually evolved for something else. It's simply insane.
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/17/2015 7:49:50 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 12:00:42 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 10:10:18 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/15/2015 4:16:22 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
He needs to just die already.

I apologise if I have misconstrued your remark, but while there are legitimate reasons to disagree with his theories, to discredit his work in the field of linguistics based on a single, ostensibly unreasonable statement (and, I suspect, his political beliefs, which, although unpopular, should not be taken into account during the evaluation of his academic work) is, to me at least, quite unfair.

If I think Chomsky has contaminated every field in which he has taken part with false information, absurdities, and lies, would it be fair to wish for his death.

That would depend on whether your belief is supported by facts. Do you have evidence of intellectual dishonesty of such a great scale?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not a Chomsky fanatic. I'm sceptical of some of his theories too. In fact, I"m currently reading Dixon's Basic Linguistic Theory, lol. However, I do not find it appropriate to dismiss all his contributions to the academia in such a manner, nor do I see his contributions as purely 'false information, absurdities and lies'. For instance, do you still believe that L1 acquisition is based solely on stimuli?
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/17/2015 8:19:32 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).
Chomsky never denied that communication is one of the functions of language; it is simply not the main one.

From Language and Responsibility:
Language can be used to transmit information but it also serves many other purposes: To establish relations among people, to express or clarify thought, for creative mental activity, to gain understanding, and so on. In my opinion there is no reason to accord privileged status to one or the other of these modes. Forced to choose, I would say something quite classical and rather empty: language serves essentially for the expression of thought.

As for why it's not useful, Chomsky has gone into quite a bit of detail on that...

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/17/2015 8:40:51 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/16/2015 11:35:32 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.

Can you show how, in any way, communication could be selected for?

Can you come up with a situation in which a non-communicative language could be pressured to become communicative?

Because that is what the claim that language evolved to be communicative would entail. It's like saying that 'pheromones evolved to be communicative', that goes without saying. What we need to look for are the details of why pheromones followed the evolutionary tract which they did.

Language is communicative by definition. Grammatical intricacies do not necessarily increase the degree of information which can be communicated, yet we see them develop, and we see that they are reinforced. If you want to redefine 'beauty' to mean 'communication', then there's no reason to disagree with and ridicule Chomsky in the first place, because he's agreeing with you.

I would actually disagree with that. It is not just the lexicon that conveys meaning; morphosyntactic rules are responsible for that as well. Noun cases tell us the thematic roles of that noun (and this is why Latin allows every permutation of SOV); inversion in questions hint at the speech act...

Tribal languages generally have the most intricate grammars compared to major world languages. A quarter of the world's languages have a grammatical property known as evidentiality - the Tariana, for example. They find Portuguese to be vague and imprecise because it does not have evidentiality to convey information.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/17/2015 8:49:38 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think a core misconception in the thread is confusion over the word 'creativity'. Creativity, in a Chomskyan sense, does not mean creating things like works of literature. It is, rather, emphasis on the ability of human minds to interpret sentences that they have never seen before, and to tell that a sentence is wrong even if they have never seen that particular error before.

Take this example sentence:
ESocialBookworm asked Zaradi to take it off.

Someone with no experience with DDO would have no idea who ESocialBookworm and Zaradi are, nor what 'it' is referring to, but they can make sense of the sentence. They know it's right, and they know what is being talked about.

Moreover, they can tell that this sentence is wrong:

Taken Zaradi has his shirt off?

It's unlikely that anyone has seen this sentence before, but everybody knows it's wrong.

This is creativity in the Chomskyan sense: The ability to create and comprehend an infinite number of sentences with a finite number of rules.

This is the difference between Chomsky's I-language studies and Pinker's E-languages studies. Pinker studies E-languages. He gets grammar using induction, using linguistic data that is actually produced. Chomsky studies linguistic data that originate from the mind, the intuition of the speakers.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/17/2015 9:53:17 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 8:49:38 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
I think a core misconception in the thread is confusion over the word 'creativity'. Creativity, in a Chomskyan sense, does not mean creating things like works of literature. It is, rather, emphasis on the ability of human minds to interpret sentences that they have never seen before, and to tell that a sentence is wrong even if they have never seen that particular error before.

Take this example sentence:
ESocialBookworm asked Zaradi to take it off.

Someone with no experience with DDO would have no idea who ESocialBookworm and Zaradi are, nor what 'it' is referring to, but they can make sense of the sentence. They know it's right, and they know what is being talked about.

Moreover, they can tell that this sentence is wrong:

*Taken Zaradi has his shirt off?

It's unlikely that anyone has seen this sentence before, but everybody knows it's wrong.

This is creativity in the Chomskyan sense: The ability to create and comprehend an infinite number of sentences with a finite number of rules.

This is the difference between Chomsky's I-language studies and Pinker's E-languages studies. Pinker studies E-languages. He gets grammar using induction, using linguistic data that is actually produced. Chomsky studies linguistic data that originate from the mind, the intuition of the speakers.

Fixed
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 2:26:49 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 8:19:32 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).
Chomsky never denied that communication is one of the functions of language; it is simply not the main one.

I never suggested that Chomsky denied that. I was criticizing the fact that he doesn't think language was selected for its role in communication.

From Language and Responsibility:
Language can be used to transmit information but it also serves many other purposes: To establish relations among people, to express or clarify thought, for creative mental activity, to gain understanding, and so on. In my opinion there is no reason to accord privileged status to one or the other of these modes. Forced to choose, I would say something quite classical and rather empty: language serves essentially for the expression of thought.


These are all perfectly reasonable functions of language. Language obviously helps facilitate thought whether or not those thoughts are shared with others.

As for why it's not useful, Chomsky has gone into quite a bit of detail on that...

How could anyone actually believe that.


Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 2:28:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 8:49:38 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
I think a core misconception in the thread is confusion over the word 'creativity'. Creativity, in a Chomskyan sense, does not mean creating things like works of literature. It is, rather, emphasis on the ability of human minds to interpret sentences that they have never seen before, and to tell that a sentence is wrong even if they have never seen that particular error before.

Take this example sentence:
ESocialBookworm asked Zaradi to take it off.

Someone with no experience with DDO would have no idea who ESocialBookworm and Zaradi are, nor what 'it' is referring to, but they can make sense of the sentence. They know it's right, and they know what is being talked about.

Moreover, they can tell that this sentence is wrong:

Taken Zaradi has his shirt off?

It's unlikely that anyone has seen this sentence before, but everybody knows it's wrong.

This is creativity in the Chomskyan sense: The ability to create and comprehend an infinite number of sentences with a finite number of rules.

This is the difference between Chomsky's I-language studies and Pinker's E-languages studies. Pinker studies E-languages. He gets grammar using induction, using linguistic data that is actually produced. Chomsky studies linguistic data that originate from the mind, the intuition of the speakers.

Have we even been discussing creativity?
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 2:37:47 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 8:40:51 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:35:32 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.

Can you show how, in any way, communication could be selected for?

Can you come up with a situation in which a non-communicative language could be pressured to become communicative?

Because that is what the claim that language evolved to be communicative would entail. It's like saying that 'pheromones evolved to be communicative', that goes without saying. What we need to look for are the details of why pheromones followed the evolutionary tract which they did.

Language is communicative by definition. Grammatical intricacies do not necessarily increase the degree of information which can be communicated, yet we see them develop, and we see that they are reinforced. If you want to redefine 'beauty' to mean 'communication', then there's no reason to disagree with and ridicule Chomsky in the first place, because he's agreeing with you.

I would actually disagree with that. It is not just the lexicon that conveys meaning; morphosyntactic rules are responsible for that as well. Noun cases tell us the thematic roles of that noun (and this is why Latin allows every permutation of SOV); inversion in questions hint at the speech act...

Skep did not deny that syntax helps convey meaning. He only denied that grammar rules always refine or increase the amount of information contained in a sentence. For example, the sentences "Go to the store" and "Do not not go to the store" mean the same thing, yet one of them is grammatically incorrect and one is not. The rule which says to avoid double negatives is not actually increasing the amount of information in the statement to which it is applied.

Tribal languages generally have the most intricate grammars compared to major world languages. A quarter of the world's languages have a grammatical property known as evidentiality - the Tariana, for example. They find Portuguese to be vague and imprecise because it does not have evidentiality to convey information.
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 2:46:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
If Chomsky held that language evolved for its use in facilitating thought rather than communication, I would be fine with that. But he's not, or at least it's not obvious that he is.
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/17/2015 7:33:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 2:28:50 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/17/2015 8:49:38 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
I think a core misconception in the thread is confusion over the word 'creativity'. Creativity, in a Chomskyan sense, does not mean creating things like works of literature. It is, rather, emphasis on the ability of human minds to interpret sentences that they have never seen before, and to tell that a sentence is wrong even if they have never seen that particular error before.

Take this example sentence:
ESocialBookworm asked Zaradi to take it off.

Someone with no experience with DDO would have no idea who ESocialBookworm and Zaradi are, nor what 'it' is referring to, but they can make sense of the sentence. They know it's right, and they know what is being talked about.

Moreover, they can tell that this sentence is wrong:

Taken Zaradi has his shirt off?

It's unlikely that anyone has seen this sentence before, but everybody knows it's wrong.

This is creativity in the Chomskyan sense: The ability to create and comprehend an infinite number of sentences with a finite number of rules.

This is the difference between Chomsky's I-language studies and Pinker's E-languages studies. Pinker studies E-languages. He gets grammar using induction, using linguistic data that is actually produced. Chomsky studies linguistic data that originate from the mind, the intuition of the speakers.

Have we even been discussing creativity?

I got the impression, since Skep was talking about literature and all, the intricacy thing, then you seemed to agree and continued to discuss that...
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/17/2015 7:35:07 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 2:26:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/17/2015 8:19:32 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).
Chomsky never denied that communication is one of the functions of language; it is simply not the main one.

I never suggested that Chomsky denied that. I was criticizing the fact that he doesn't think language was selected for its role in communication.
Okay.

From Language and Responsibility:
Language can be used to transmit information but it also serves many other purposes: To establish relations among people, to express or clarify thought, for creative mental activity, to gain understanding, and so on. In my opinion there is no reason to accord privileged status to one or the other of these modes. Forced to choose, I would say something quite classical and rather empty: language serves essentially for the expression of thought.


These are all perfectly reasonable functions of language. Language obviously helps facilitate thought whether or not those thoughts are shared with others.

As for why it's not useful, Chomsky has gone into quite a bit of detail on that...

How could anyone actually believe that.
Perhaps you could try to refute some of his points here? Then maybe we can discuss them.



Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/17/2015 7:37:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 2:37:47 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Skep did not deny that syntax helps convey meaning. He only denied that grammar rules always refine or increase the amount of information contained in a sentence. For example, the sentences "Go to the store" and "Do not not go to the store" mean the same thing, yet one of them is grammatically incorrect and one is not. The rule which says to avoid double negatives is not actually increasing the amount of information in the statement to which it is applied.

Is it wrong because your intuition says so (I-language) or because there is a descriptive basis for that (E-language)? Or is it simply wrong because of the prescriptive rules you've learnt at school?

Personally, I did not find your latter sentence to be wrong by intuition, though English is my L2.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/17/2015 7:41:38 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 2:46:58 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
If Chomsky held that language evolved for its use in facilitating thought rather than communication, I would be fine with that. But he's not, or at least it's not obvious that he is.

Why not? Here's another quote from New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind:

Language is not properly regarded as a system of communication. It is a system for expressing thought.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Skepsikyma
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6/17/2015 9:10:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 8:40:51 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:35:32 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/12/2015 1:11:12 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
"In fact, over the years he has become rather hostile to the idea that language is a system designed for communication. He believes that language evolved for beauty, not for use."

http://web.mit.edu...

There's a good amount of merit to that. The more intricate and beautiful a language is, the more it tends itself to the sort of literary corpora that bound societies together in ways that lead to cohesion and success in competition with other societies.

Cohesion requires coordination, which is almost impossible to achieve if members of a group do not know what others are thinking. Without a complex language, effective communication becomes extremely difficult (and without communication, there can be no society). The ability to communicate has evolutionary benefits which language was able to confer.

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).

Arabic, Latin, Persian, Spanish, English and Greek are all great examples. All of these languages were intricate far beyond what is useful; they sacrificed basic function for intricacy of form.

I agree that language is usually more intricate than it needs to be, but I don't accept that this extra intricacy interferes with communication in any critical way. The are many styles of communication, some of which are more beautiful than others. So it's natural that humans would develop language systems that were beautiful, since by doing so they could satisfy both their need to communicate and their need for artistic expression.

I think that it's an oversimplification of the word 'evolve' here that's making people miss that Chomsky makes a good observation. Selective pressure, on the individual basis, for a characteristic like 'language' is absurd. The pressure is applied to the language group, to the society, and the trait which it selects for is an unnecessary intricacy which can quite plausibly be categorized as 'beauty'. If a person invented a language for themselves, their motive would be 'to communicate', but that begs the question: communicate with whom? Language is always a group-based characteristic, and is selected for or against on the collective level.

No, that's not the problem. I don't think anyone denies that language is only useful at the group level. The point is that language allows a group to organize itself more effectively.

Can you show how, in any way, communication could be selected for?

Can you come up with a situation in which a non-communicative language could be pressured to become communicative?

Because that is what the claim that language evolved to be communicative would entail. It's like saying that 'pheromones evolved to be communicative', that goes without saying. What we need to look for are the details of why pheromones followed the evolutionary tract which they did.

Language is communicative by definition. Grammatical intricacies do not necessarily increase the degree of information which can be communicated, yet we see them develop, and we see that they are reinforced. If you want to redefine 'beauty' to mean 'communication', then there's no reason to disagree with and ridicule Chomsky in the first place, because he's agreeing with you.

I would actually disagree with that. It is not just the lexicon that conveys meaning; morphosyntactic rules are responsible for that as well. Noun cases tell us the thematic roles of that noun (and this is why Latin allows every permutation of SOV); inversion in questions hint at the speech act...

I'm not saying that it can't, just that it isn't always the case. An increase in grammatical intricacy does not always lead to an increase in the ability to convey information. If we're talking about which one is being selected for, and see that intricacy increases, but that the ability to communicate isn't correlated heavily with that increase in intricacy, then it doesn't make sense to saw that the ability to communicate is being selected for.

Tribal languages generally have the most intricate grammars compared to major world languages. A quarter of the world's languages have a grammatical property known as evidentiality - the Tariana, for example. They find Portuguese to be vague and imprecise because it does not have evidentiality to convey information.

This, I think, boils down to semantics. I defined intricacy, for the sake of this argument, as the qualities which tend themselves to literary accomplishment, qualities which the languages of successful societies possess. While something like evidentiality might meet the dictionary definition, it doesn't really impact my points much because tribal languages are not used by successful societies. Just look at what happened to Turkish when it came into contact with Arabic and Persian: the language was so altered by the more established languages that Ottoman Turkish became unintelligible to speakers of the older tribal languages. Whatever characteristics that the 'great languages' share do not include evidentiality, which communicates more information. This just further demonstrates that the ability to convey information is not selected so much as aesthetic qualities which predispose a language to literary arts.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 9:13:28 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 7:33:13 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/17/2015 2:28:50 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/17/2015 8:49:38 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
I think a core misconception in the thread is confusion over the word 'creativity'. Creativity, in a Chomskyan sense, does not mean creating things like works of literature. It is, rather, emphasis on the ability of human minds to interpret sentences that they have never seen before, and to tell that a sentence is wrong even if they have never seen that particular error before.

Take this example sentence:
ESocialBookworm asked Zaradi to take it off.

Someone with no experience with DDO would have no idea who ESocialBookworm and Zaradi are, nor what 'it' is referring to, but they can make sense of the sentence. They know it's right, and they know what is being talked about.

Moreover, they can tell that this sentence is wrong:

Taken Zaradi has his shirt off?

It's unlikely that anyone has seen this sentence before, but everybody knows it's wrong.

This is creativity in the Chomskyan sense: The ability to create and comprehend an infinite number of sentences with a finite number of rules.

This is the difference between Chomsky's I-language studies and Pinker's E-languages studies. Pinker studies E-languages. He gets grammar using induction, using linguistic data that is actually produced. Chomsky studies linguistic data that originate from the mind, the intuition of the speakers.

Have we even been discussing creativity?

I got the impression, since Skep was talking about literature and all, the intricacy thing, then you seemed to agree and continued to discuss that...

He was talking about beauty.
dylancatlow
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6/17/2015 9:22:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 7:41:38 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/17/2015 2:46:58 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
If Chomsky held that language evolved for its use in facilitating thought rather than communication, I would be fine with that. But he's not, or at least it's not obvious that he is.

Why not? Here's another quote from New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind:

Language is not properly regarded as a system of communication. It is a system for expressing thought.

I don't think those are mutually exclusive. Also, this quote doesn't speak to Chomsky's stance on why language evolved in the first place, which is what we've been discussing.
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6/17/2015 9:30:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 3:11:14 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).


That is, if language did not evolve for its use, then its complex role in facilitating communication is utterly random - a happy accident. If the only pressures were those which selected for beauty, then it's quite astonishing that we ended up with such an advanced communication system when there was nothing pushing for it. It's like arguing that legs - despite being perfectly designed for walking - actually evolved for something else. It's simply insane.

... You're trying to apply the concept of 'design' to evolution. I think we've already had this argument.

Let me give you an example.

Plants can release chemicals, when injured, which causes plant tissues which receive those chemicals to react in ways which will protect them against possible injuries. In a forest, this means that one tree will effectively 'warn' the trees around it that bad things are coming. Looking at this from a design perspective, one would say that this trait was selected for because it allowed trees to communicate warnings to one another, thus increasing survival. But just because it now serves that function, that does not mean that it was selected for that reason. The trait actually originally moved because, unlike us, plants do not have a circulatory system which pumps some potential solvent throughout the plant, allowing different organs to 'communicate' as ours do through the endocrine system. They also lack a neural network, which we also possess (though some really interesting research indicates that the phloem can perform this function locally). So one part of a plant wouldn't be able to know if the other part were being attacked until the slow creep of water reached that plant, and since the plant has two transport systems (phloem and xylem) the message would be mono-directional. The response of releasing gaseous chemicals is now widely believed to have been an adaption which allowed the plant to communicate with its own tissues at a faster rate, bypassing the restrictions which they faced. It's competitors then 'clued in' to these stress signals in order to defend themselves against incoming danger in a form of commensalism. Just because something seems to fulfill a function, that does not mean that it originally came about to fill that function.

Language is simply a system which transmits information. In its most rudimentary form, it exists throughout nature. How it is selected for, and molded to fit situational pressures, is independent of what it does.
"The Collectivist experiment is thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Capitalist society which it proposes to replace. It works with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."
- Hilaire Belloc -
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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6/17/2015 9:46:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 9:30:42 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:
At 6/17/2015 3:11:14 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 11:26:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/16/2015 5:52:15 PM, Skepsikyma wrote:

If you want to say that language did not evolve for use, then you have to explain why language, despite not being selected for its use, is nevertheless so useful (or, conversely, explain why it's not useful).


That is, if language did not evolve for its use, then its complex role in facilitating communication is utterly random - a happy accident. If the only pressures were those which selected for beauty, then it's quite astonishing that we ended up with such an advanced communication system when there was nothing pushing for it. It's like arguing that legs - despite being perfectly designed for walking - actually evolved for something else. It's simply insane.

... You're trying to apply the concept of 'design' to evolution. I think we've already had this argument.

Let me give you an example.

I did not intend to bring in design. I only used the word because I could not think of another one. I was basically trying to say: "It's like arguing that legs - despite being perfectly suitable for walking - actually evolved for something else. It's simply insane."

Just because something seems to fulfill a function, that does not mean that it originally came about to fill that function.

Sure. But in the case of language, it's so well adjusted for communication that it it was obviously selected for it. You can't say it evolved for beauty unless you can explain why selection for beauty lead (inadvertently) to selection for communication capabilities.


Language is simply a system which transmits information. In its most rudimentary form, it exists throughout nature. How it is selected for, and molded to fit situational pressures, is independent of what it does.

They're logically distinct, but may coincide, and I think in this case they do.
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/18/2015 7:52:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/17/2015 9:22:02 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 6/17/2015 7:41:38 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
At 6/17/2015 2:46:58 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
If Chomsky held that language evolved for its use in facilitating thought rather than communication, I would be fine with that. But he's not, or at least it's not obvious that he is.

Why not? Here's another quote from New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind:

Language is not properly regarded as a system of communication. It is a system for expressing thought.

I don't think those are mutually exclusive.
Here's an analogy. Mathematics is certainly used in accounting. Would you consider mathematics a system of accounting? No, because accounting is an application of maths only.

Chomsky's interpretation of language is analogous.
Also, this quote doesn't speak to Chomsky's stance on why language evolved in the first place, which is what we've been discussing.
I'm doing a debate on this, and I"ll cover this in the opening arguments. I'll link to it here after I've written it.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...