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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
>And culture is likewise seen in both these evolving and artifactual
>Point of view.
>IMHO, both are valid, and neither proved.
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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