Re: I know one when I see one

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Thu 24 Oct 2002 - 16:01:23 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: I know one when I see one"

    Dear Vincent,

    > <But "couch potato," in my opinion, is not a meme but an artifact.
    > It encodes
    > > an idea, along with a bunch of associated ideas, for transmission. People
    > > who hear that transmission will either pass it along, let it die, or store
    > > it away for future use some day.>
    > >

    > But isn't that what people do with memes? Seems to me to be a
    > pretty good description of artefact as meme to me.

    Seems like a meme to me, too. :-)

    > <I am a man.
    > > I am A man.
    > > I am a MAN
    > > I AM a man.>
    > >
    > The changes here might change their interpretation by people reading
    > them, but they are not necessarily dramatically different enough to not call
    > them memes.

    The differences may be in part memetic. Emphasis in English is expressed by volume, length, and pitch contour. The same is true in Japanese, but the pitch contour is different. I suspect that, across languages, increased volume and length indicate emphasis, and that they are biological in nature, not memetic. Pitch contour is different. In English the emphatic element starts on a relatively high pitch, which falls, usually during the emphatic element. Sometimes the falling pitch is truncated. E. g., "What!", said explosively.

    In Japanese, pitch contour has less to do with emphasis, and a difference from the usual contour indicates emphasis. For instance,
    "Nani?" (What?) has a high-low pitch contour, with a rising inflection at the end for the question. "Nani!" often has a low-high pitch contour.

    Pitch contour is one of the first constituents of language to be learned. Pre-speech infants already show it in their babbling.

    In English writing, the exclamation mark (!) is plainly memetic. However, capitalization, underlining, and capitalization are another matter. They are all examples of marking, and marking for emphasis may be inborn. Japanese does not have an analog for capitalization in ordinary writing, as character size remains the same. However, it does have analogs for italicization and underlining, as katakana characters can be used for emphasis as well as foreign terms (italicization analog), and marks may be placed beside characters (underlining analog). In comics, however, larger characters do indicate emphasis
    (capitalization analog). So marking to indicate emphasis may not be memetic, but some forms of marking may be.

    Is using larger writing for emphasis (capitalization in English) memetic? I doubt it.

    > (Could this be a linguistic equivalent to hair colour? Wild,
    > speculation from the social scientist there... on the basis that hair colour
    > in our species doesn't appear to play and substantive part in adaptive
    > potential so it varies from person to person).

    Oh, but hair color does affect sexual selection. "Blondes have more fun." ;-)

    > Slight variations in text
    > are fine as sufficient meaning can still be conveyed.

    Memes are meaningful, but so are other things. :-)



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