Nouns, verbs, adjectives... and why they're pointless
|From:||Joshua Shinavier <jshinavi@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, December 9, 1998, 11:49|
> Most nouns are not easily definable. "Cat" can be defined as _felis
> domesticus_, a quite precise term. Water can be defined as H2O, also a
> precise term, but most cannot be so easily defined. What is "table",
> for instance? How can you define it as opposed to "desk"? Both have
> some sort of flat surface, suitable for various tasks, such as writing,
> but what seperates them? On the other hand, verbs can usually be
> defined quite precisely.
I disagree completely. In Danoven there is no distinction, but those words
which correspond best to verbs in English are not any simpler than those th=
correspond to nouns. Both are defined "minimalistically" based on other
elements of the language. Silm ("to drink"), for instance, means simply
"to ingest a liquid (down the esophagus, of course -- accidental inhalation
of liquids is not silm!)", and is a concept included in oev (o"v) -- "to ea=
-- to ingest, intentionally or unintentionally, regardless of material or
any other considerations. You would "oev" soup, not "silm" it, unless it i=
all liquid. You would "silm" water, poison, or anything else nutritional o=
non, with whatever intention -- these are the pure forms of the words,
clear and unambiguous; additional information may be added by way of compou=
or further explanation.
The "desk-table" quandary is a typically natlang one; natlangs tend to avoi=
inclusions and hierarchial definitions -- there is a tendency to try to put
every thing into just one categorical box, rather than taking nouns (since
these are the natlang "things") to be simply descriptions, approximate or
precise, of things, rather than mutually exclusive classifications.
In a sensible language a desk is a table as well; there is no way in which
the writing purpose of "a desk" compromises the table-ness of "a table".
Now, if "table" were only an adjective, you wouldn't have even brought up
this problem -- the seeming "boundary" between "table" and "desk" would
disappear, and they might both be used to describe a given thing with no
conflict, just as you might describe the table as both "wooden" and "black"
without any conflict.
I have yet to meet someone who could explain just what the distinction betw=
nouns, verbs, and adjectives is supposed to represent; the *evolution* of t=
distinctions is clear, but their *purpose*, if there is one, is shrouded in
mystery, at least for me. The distinction is absolutely fundamental to the
grammar of any language which has it -- IMNSHO there must be some very simp=
fundamental and important conceptual distinction it stands in for, otherwis=
it would not seem worth all the problems it causes, would it?
To me, the PoS seem far more traditional than rational, and this is an opin=
based not just on reasoning but also on experience; I fluently speak a lang=
without PoS and have never felt *any* need for them -- from an "outsider's
viewpoint", PoS distinctions are artificial, sloppy, and entirely unneccess=
as well. Flame at will, it's the simple, verified truth ;-)
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