Re: Standard definition

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Tue 29 Oct 2002 - 03:08:24 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: I know one when I see one"

    >Dear Kenneth,
    > > > In practice, this is not a problem as long as you are clear about
    > > > level you are talking about. For a long time I considered memes as
    > > > for different levels, and it was fine to have memes for one level
    > > > composed of memes for a lower level. But there is an alternative that
    > > > find attractive.
    > >
    > > Are you implying a kind of hiearchy, a kind of pyramid- scheme with on
    > > top THE MEME !?
    > >
    >Language and other knowledge is hierarchically organized. As for
    >language, I think that all of the -emes are memes: phonemes, morphemes,
    >lexemes, sememes. However, the higher up we go in these hierarchies, the
    >more abstract we get, the further from the senses, the less likely I
    >think it is that things are transmitted *as a unit*, and the less likely
    >that the entities on those levels are individual memes.
    Although language and knowledge are hierarchicly organized, the organizing is done after the fact and has little to do with the way language develops. We organize language studies around the way language has become at some point in time. Memetics, in my estimation, should concentrate on how language users picked up new memes and integraged them into the language rather than what language has become at some later point in the process.

    Japanese, like English, is an excellent language for that purpose. The Japanese brought thousands of Chinese words into their culture in the process of adapting the Chinese writing system for their own use. After WWII, they did the same thing with English. Now you can look at Japanese and see things like the number system which uses "hitotsu," "futatsu," and
    "mitsu" from pre-Chinese adoption and "ichi," "ni," and "san" which were taked from the Chinese along with the writing system. Since WWII, Japanese words for new cultural items are written in katakana, which was adapted from Chinese to express ideas adopted from American culture for things that did not exist in Japanese culture.

    The bits and pieces of emes in English were borrowed from German (before there was a Germany), Latin, French and other languages like Celtic, that are now fully integrated into the language. If you look at English at various periods in history, you will find that intigration and organization were slow processes based on the who held power and organized society at any time. Legal memes of common law, for example are the result of Dane law, Roman law, and French law competing for use in English society. It was easier for kings to let local custom define legality than to enforce a single legal culture on the whole of a diverse population as Napoleon did.

    The memes of culture are acquired meme by meme over time based on the interaction of members of a population. Analysis of the product of that process takes place at a point in time and is organized hierachically after the fact. Since language is a dynamic system, the hierarchy is always shifting to reflect what people are doing and organized knowledge about the subject is necessarily always wrong in some areas because of this.

    This is especially true now when the rate of change is increasing exponentially and the Red Queen rules over everything we think we know.



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