From: Kate Distin (email@example.com)
Date: Thu 05 May 2005 - 11:23:21 GMT
Derek Gatherer wrote:
>> Well, lack of precision does not preclude comparison, it just makes it
>> coarse grained. For example, take this quote from Chaucer:
>> I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley.
>> Eight memes (lexemes), counting 'childes pley' as one, six mutations
>> (including short to long 'i' in 'childes') in over more than 600
>> years. Millions of replications, at least. That's gotta be slower than
>> the flu, no?
> 600 years is a mere 20 human generations.
But meme generations aren't often the same as gene generations. 600
years could be thousands of meme generations.
> 20 flu generations is
> probably less than 60 days. How much does a flu virus mutate in 60
> days? In any case, to what extent are orthographical changes cultural
They're more changes in the way that culture is represented than in the
culture itself. The meaning of the phrase doesn't change when you move
it into modern English; the information it carries remains the same.
> Does that not assume that culture is somehow coded in
> language? Couldn't it be coded in something else (eg a mentalese?) or
> not coded at all?
Coded in lots of different ways, yes.
I'd also question the assumption that the phrase consists of 8 memes
just because it has 8 lexemes. I'm not saying that each word could not
be a meme, in certain contexts, but that functionally this particular
phrase actually carries only one or at the most two bits of information
(a self-referential statement that the phrase is a warning, and the warning itself).
Dawkins has an example in The Blind Watchmaker about the evolution of
language, plotted in terms of word divergence, which I think falls prey
to the same problems. Obviously there's a lot more to language than its
constituent words (e.g. grammatical rules, etc.).
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