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Some interesting stuff...

From:David Peterson <digitalscream@...>
Date:Thursday, April 19, 2001, 17:10
    George Lakoff gave a lecture in my cognitive science class the other day,
and there were two things I found really interesting.
    The first is some data from an actual, natural language (this blows me
away).  He had three pictures (and it would be much better if I could somehow
render the here, but I can't, so I'll try to make do):
    1.) One big circle, and a circle within.  In the smallest circle was [m];
in the area outside that circle and inside the bigger was [j]; outside both
circles was [?] (glottal stop)
    2.) There was a weird, phallic looking drawing where it came up like a
thin bar from the bottom and cut out a thin, long pattern, but didn't reach
the end of the page.  Inside this line was [u] and outside was [a].
    3.) A picture of a hill with a definite bottom, a side and a top.  On the
bottom was [n]; on the side was [h]; on the top was [l].
    Now, what these letters comprised was a set of a big number of
prepositions (I can't do the permutation/combination in my head), and these
prepositions were built in the following way.  First, the speaker would
imagine the first image (1), and if the object they were describing was near
them, they'd use [m]; if it was a little bit farther, they'd use [j]; and if
it was farther than that, [?].  Then the next image (2), they'd decide
whether or not the thing was in or out of their line of sight, and if it were
in they'd use [u], if not [a].  Lastly, they'd decide if the thing were on
the bottom of the hill [n], the side of the hill [h], or the top of the hill
[l].  And so, you had some prepositions:
    mah (near me, out of my line of sight, on the side of the hill)
    man (near me, out of my line of sight, on the bottom of the hill)
    mun (near me, in my line of sight, on the bottom of the hill)
    al (far from me, out of my line of sight, on top of the hill)
    jul (a little bit near me, in my line sight, on the top of the hill)
    jah (a little bit near me, out of my line of sight, on the side of the
    Now, I can imagine someone constructing a language with a system like
that, but can you imagine that being in a real, natural language?  It blew me
away.  It's so...Esperanta, in a way.
    Anyway, the other thing was George Lakoff claimed, in one fell swoop,
that a lot had been written about the nature of aspect, but that absolutely
everyone else was wrong, and that he found the one and only correct origin of
aspect, and it's a diagram as follows.
  -                               -       -
  -               Interupt  -       - Continue
Cancel                     Suspend

    Anyway, then he had a bunch of examples of how all actions map onto this,
such as walking.  In the start position, it's "set out", or "start walking"
(there's no speech for the "ready" position), the process is walking, an
interupt might be slipping, and if you fall, then that's a finish and can be
mapped as an action in of itself, but if you regain your balance, then you
continue, and when you stop walking you finish, and the result is that you're
somewhere different than before (or the same place at a different time, or
something).  Anyway, I thought it would be interesting if someone made a
language where every verb had a conjugation just for these particular parts
of his aspect model.  You can't tell me that someone saying "I am ready to
love you" would not be hilarious.



Frank George Valoczy <valoczy@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Rik Roots <rikroots@...>