more on language

From: rmey4892 (
Date: Tue Apr 09 2002 - 22:52:31 BST

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    Subject: more on language
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    Hi Grant,

    One thing we do with language that is completely non-skinnerian is that we
    paint pictures with it. A sentence works for us because, in most cases, the
    speaker or writer uses the power of words to paint a picture in the mind of
    the listener or reader. How can we do this? It is the key to our ability to
    pass memes and other information from one person to another.

    <<<<<<I wasn't as interested in language, as I was in the functional
    pre-requisites of language, as embodied in our perception apparatus and
    cognitive faculties. I thought that all perception and observation about the
    world must utilize the inherent notion of existence and existence of a
    pattern. So the picture painted in the mind of the listener must first be
    painted in the mind of the speaker. this first occurs in the form of a
    "live-video feed" (from eyes and ears etc.) but after the event can only be
    recalled upon as disjointed memories of interconnected events that we
    rememeber as having "used to exist". These existences can then be labelled and
    communicated and thus painted.>>>>>>

    The vocabulary, grammar and syntax are like the hammer, saw, wood and nails we
    use to build a house. Just by studying the tools you will not understand how
    the house came into existence. By the same token, the study of grammar and
    syntax will not make you a writer nor develop in you the skill of turning
    words into mind pictures. Only the study of what other writers have done and
    attempting to do it yourself will accomplish that. That's why I say language
    is a collection of memes and the memes are tools we use to construct words,
    sentences, stories and pictures that we can pass from one mind to another. A
    knowledge of grammar and syntax, morphemes. syllables and all the other
    language tools is necessary but not sufficient to play the game of language.

    <<<<<Cheers to language as a collection of memes!!!! I should also say that
    each meme can be simple or complex, the simpler being closer to events as
    perceived and recorded and stored, and complex being highly derived from those
    simpler forms.>>>>>>>>

    I would compare it to the fact that just knowing the values of the cards and
    the rules of the game of poker is not sufficient to become a skilled poker
    player. Knowing how to bet, how to bluff, and how to read the faces of other
    players are also necessary -- but even these are not sufficient. A small
    library of books has been written on the subject and there is still more to
    write that has not yet been written.

    The difference between games like poker and language is that poker is codified
    and frozen in place with rules that change even more slowly than genes.
    Language is a wild and crazy game in which we create new rules on the fly. The
    minute you try to codify the rules, you find yourself describing a point in
    time that has already been left behind and your set of rules are incomplete
    because new ones have been created and old ones dropped. That's pretty much
    the same thing that happens with memes and is one of the reasons memetics is
    so hard to study and write about.

    The minute you start reducing it to a code or a set of rules, you will find
    yourself chasing the rainbow. You will never find the point where it touches
    the ground and there is no pot of gold there, either. And like the rainbow, it
    only exists in the eye of the beholder. No two people perceive the same
    rainbow or the same language. It's a shared illusion that we do. But that
    illusion enables us to communicate with one another.

    <<<<<I hope you don't mean that the rules of the perception of existence as a
    pre-requisite for thought are "a code or set of rules" that is akin to
    "chasing the rainbow". It might be that I take liberties in a field I am
    unfamiliar with but I think memes can be said to be simple and some memes,
    derived from many smaller simple memes, complex. Sounds like a good rule to

    The picture I paint with my words will not look the same to my mind as it does
    to yours. But there will be enough similarity that we will think we are
    talking about the same thing. A close examination of the process will often
    show that we are not.

    <<<<<fair enough.I am picturing a ham sandwich (I have to stop emailing at
    dinner time). toodles, Randy>>>>>>



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