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THEORY: language and philosophy [was Re: A question and introduction]

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Sunday, June 16, 2002, 23:34
Quoting Andy Canivet <cathode_ray00@...>:

> >From: "Thomas R. Wier" <trwier@...> > > > >But that's just the thing, though: languages typically are not > >organized around anything more specific than being capable of > >describing everything that a given human culture feels the need > >to describe. As such, it's not so much a philosophy as an > >anthropological description. That is, there isn't really an > >"idea" behind the language, since "ideas" are more or less by > >definition abstractions that humans impose on the environment > >surrounding them, including the social environment. > > > > I would certainly agree with most of this - the idea of a "motif" for an > over-arching "idea" behind a language seems a little beyond what might be > considered realistic. Natlang is by definition unintentional (well, > mostly), so philosophy may not be the right word - call it the "shape of > conciousness" for a particular group - their collective expectations and > assumptions about life. Chances are, most people in the culture are > unaware of these assumptions, but they will still affect at least the > use of language, if not the shape of it.
Right. I haven't been disputing that culture affects language. What I've been disputing is that organized systems that people create affects language in any really meaningful way. For example, there are no Christian cultures whose languages encode things like "saved" vs. "unsaved", nor Confucian cultures whose language encodes how "benevolent" one is. These things simply do not occur, perhaps because it is difficult to see how these things can be discourse- functionally important in distinguishing actants in a discourse. Knowing how many people are involved may be important; knowing how old someone is may be important; knowing what their social rank is may be important; but knowing someone's religious, philosophical or political affiliation appears never to have been important enough for people to want to, say, use distinct pronouns for such social differences. There many more salient diffentiators out there to use. More subtle things, like telling time and aspect of an action may differ from language to language, but appear to occur in languages whose culture has one philosophy with equal frequency as in languages of cultures with radically different worldviews. To the very best of my knowledge, these things simply do not occur. ===================================================================== Thomas Wier "...koruphàs hetéras hetére:isi prosápto:n / Dept. of Linguistics mú:tho:n mè: teléein atrapòn mían..." University of Chicago "To join together diverse peaks of thought / 1010 E. 59th Street and not complete one road that has no turn" Chicago, IL 60637 Empedocles, _On Nature_, on speculative thinkers


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>language and philosophy [was Re: A question andintroduction]