Re: teleology and language

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Tue Apr 30 2002 - 22:21:07 BST

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: teleology and language"

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    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: Re: teleology and language
    Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 14:21:07 -0700
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    >On Tuesday, April 30, 2002, at 02:37 , Bill Spight wrote:
    >> Are languages replicated? Yes. Do they vary over time? Yes.
    >>Are they, or their components, selected? Yes.
    >Are languages replicated? No. They are artifacts of developmental processes
    >and cultural environments. They are the product of repetitive and cognitive
    >processes, not replicated ones. Languages are not birthed. They mutate in
    >Do they vary over time? Perhaps, depending upon one's definition of
    >variance. But they are adaptations with fixed genetic determinants and are
    >produced with a set of bodily mechanisms, such as the larynx and the
    >tongue, that have arguably not changed in over 60,000 years in our
    >Are they, or their components, selected? No. There is no attempt to choose
    >languages- they are environmentally contained and offer no selected
    >advantage to the organisms. Any human placed into any languaged environment
    >will learn the language of that environment, without fail, for a normally
    >developing individual.
    >And culture is likewise seen in both these evolving and artifactual
    >Point of view.
    >IMHO, both are valid, and neither proved.
    >- Wade
    I'm surprised at your conclusion. Are you saying you can't see that we not
    only have an incredibly larger number of words in our language than we had
    just a hundred years ago or that we don't have a greater number of ways of
    representing the ideas they refer to and of transmitting those ideas?
    60,000 years ago we couldn't send each other messages using written symbols.
      We couldn't have represented ideas using only 1s and 0s. The things we
    can do with language today vastly exceeds what we could do with it a mere
    hundred years ago. It was language that enabled us to develop the tools we
    used to travel to the moon. We can communicate with almost anything. A
    tribe in Mexico developed a language based on whistling. Sign language is
    based on movements of hand, arm and fingers. Tribes in Africa can pass
    ideas from one place to another using drums to talk. While we tend to stick
    to the tried and true tongue and larnyx, we have developed many ways to
    accomplishing the same goal when something gets in the way of that means of
    communication. The ideas I am passing to you on this page involved the use
    of neither tongue nor larnyx. And every day language becomes more complex,
    with more options available to us if we choose to take them.

    You said: "Are they, or their components, selected? No. There is no attempt
    to choose languages"

    To say we don't choose the options we use is to ignore the facts. Out of
    the millions of words available to us in just English alone, we choose the
    ones we use based on what we are using them to do. The scientist chooses
    the vocabulary of science because the language of the layman is not useful
    to express what he is trying to say. The same principle applies to the
    doctor, the lawyer, the merchant or anyone else who works in a specialized

    The complexity of our language is a reflection of the complexity of our
    culture. My wife chooses to speak English when she goes shopping and
    Chinese when she is talking to her Chinese friends. I do the same thing
    when I go to Taiwan. So, like I say, I find it hard to see your point of



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