derivational history of the lexicon and reification of structure?

Date: Mon Apr 16 2001 - 20:38:03 BST

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    Subject: derivational history of the lexicon and reification of structure?
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    Hi. Been quiet a while, lurking. Been thinking a lot about the nature of the
    lexicon as found in most languages. In most lexicons, there is a large body
    of forms with a complex history in terms of both structure and meaning. Not
    that there aren't also simplex forms, but in many languages these are a small
    minority of the total. These would include ideophones and expressives.

    Ideophones and expressives are not part of the lexicon proper as it is
    usually understood by linguists. Forms are in constant flux, templatically
    created and apparently as easily destroyed. There is something to be said for
    parallelism with the virtual particles which form and fall back to the vacuum.

    Ideophones are also extremely symmetrically organized as to sound structure
    and parallel semantics. When these forms are reanalyzed into normal
    vocabulary, as it appears happens at certain points in the linguistic
    typological cycle, this symmetrical organization is lost. In fact, one might
    see here a parallel to symmetry breaking in particle systems.

    What is most interesting about all this is that multiple threads point in the
    direction of the creation of a derivational history behind the staying power
    of lexical items, especially one where inter-element boundaries are obscured.
    One wonders whether similar derivational history is behind the stability of
    particles in physics. Without such derivation, and the removal of the
    structures which allowed the edifices to be erected in the first place, it is
    too easy to simply reverse the process, and you get an equilibrium between
    creation and destruction at a very low level.

    So here is my question to the list membership: does such a derived system
    then have a cognitive "life" of its own? Is reification a form of "memory"?-
    a history of what went before, allowing intergenerational transfer not only
    of basic information, but also of tried and true strategies, attitudes, etc.
    I might be willing to posit that languages based on universals and
    symmetrical patterning lack such history, and the living is day to day,
    generation to generation. Do memeticists have any feelings about all this? I
    understand that my particular interests are alien to most of you here, as is
    linguistics proper (which shouldn't be). Anyway, hope to here some real
    criticism here, not dead air.

    Jess Tauber

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