Discussion:
Chomsky's latest(?)
(too old to reply)
Peter T. Daniels
2017-05-27 11:54:20 UTC
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(The copyright date is 2016 but I haven't seen it or a notice of it before)

"[T]he Basic Property: each language provides an unbounded array of hierarchically structured
expressions that receive interpretations at two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and
conceptual-intentional for mental processes. ,,, [invoking Darwin and Aristotle]

"At the very least, THEN, each language incorporates a computational procedure satisfying the Basic Property."
[emphasis added]

--Noam Chomsky, *What Kind of Creatures Are We?* Columbia UP, 2016

("Language," of course, refers only to "I-language"; he isn't interested in what is actually said,
but only in UG, or Universal Grammar.)

The small book, or extended essay, will then go on in four chapters to integrate his views
into an overarching view of human nature (I assume). The first pages are a curious melange of
passives and gnomic statements, with as usual no acknowledgment that some of his assertions have
been controversial -- at least this time he cites an evolutionary anthropologist, Ian Tattersall,
to support the very late date for the development of language but seems still to insist on a "language
organ" in the brain that no neuroscientist has ever found a trace of.

But what gets me is the "then" in the quotation above. Is that not a complete begging of the question?
DKleinecke
2017-05-27 16:27:47 UTC
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
(The copyright date is 2016 but I haven't seen it or a notice of it before)
"[T]he Basic Property: each language provides an unbounded array of hierarchically structured
expressions that receive interpretations at two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and
conceptual-intentional for mental processes. ,,, [invoking Darwin and Aristotle]
"At the very least, THEN, each language incorporates a computational procedure satisfying the Basic Property."
[emphasis added]
--Noam Chomsky, *What Kind of Creatures Are We?* Columbia UP, 2016
("Language," of course, refers only to "I-language"; he isn't interested in what is actually said,
but only in UG, or Universal Grammar.)
The small book, or extended essay, will then go on in four chapters to integrate his views
into an overarching view of human nature (I assume). The first pages are a curious melange of
passives and gnomic statements, with as usual no acknowledgment that some of his assertions have
been controversial -- at least this time he cites an evolutionary anthropologist, Ian Tattersall,
to support the very late date for the development of language but seems still to insist on a "language
organ" in the brain that no neuroscientist has ever found a trace of.
But what gets me is the "then" in the quotation above. Is that not a complete begging of the question?
As it stands I find the quotation incomprehensible. Unless
it is a definition disguised as a deduction.

That is, I think he says a language interfaces on the one hand
with the mind and on the other hand with vocal utterances.

I consider that obvious.
Peter T. Daniels
2017-05-30 10:53:47 UTC
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Post by DKleinecke
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(The copyright date is 2016 but I haven't seen it or a notice of it before)
"[T]he Basic Property: each language provides an unbounded array of hierarchically structured
expressions that receive interpretations at two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and
conceptual-intentional for mental processes. ,,, [invoking Darwin and Aristotle]
"At the very least, THEN, each language incorporates a computational procedure satisfying the Basic Property."
[emphasis added]
--Noam Chomsky, *What Kind of Creatures Are We?* Columbia UP, 2016
("Language," of course, refers only to "I-language"; he isn't interested in what is actually said,
but only in UG, or Universal Grammar.)
The small book, or extended essay, will then go on in four chapters to integrate his views
into an overarching view of human nature (I assume). The first pages are a curious melange of
passives and gnomic statements, with as usual no acknowledgment that some of his assertions have
been controversial -- at least this time he cites an evolutionary anthropologist, Ian Tattersall,
to support the very late date for the development of language but seems still to insist on a "language
organ" in the brain that no neuroscientist has ever found a trace of.
But what gets me is the "then" in the quotation above. Is that not a complete begging of the question?
As it stands I find the quotation incomprehensible. Unless
it is a definition disguised as a deduction.
That is, I think he says a language interfaces on the one hand
with the mind and on the other hand with vocal utterances.
I consider that obvious.
Yesterday I read the third of the fourth chapters. In what may be his first
attempt ever to integrate his political writing with his linguistic writing,
he defends a rather odd definition of "anarchism." His transition from the
"What is language?" and "What is thought?" of the first two chapters is less
skilled than what any preacher learns in seminary -- how to make the day's
assigned readings relevant to whichever matter the preacher needs to address.

I went back to try to see the connection -- and didn't. There is, though, a
20-page preface (by someone whose name I don't recognize) attempting to
clarify the whole thing -- which, however, is far more clearly written
than most of Chomsky. (I suspect a competent editor at Columbia UP.)
There are a few spots where phrases ensue without evident connection to what
precedes or follows, and a few verbs and pronouns with unidentifiable subjects
and antecedents, but many fewer than usual. But plenty of hand-waving and "will
be addressed below"s that aren't.
DKleinecke
2017-05-30 18:09:08 UTC
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by DKleinecke
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(The copyright date is 2016 but I haven't seen it or a notice of it before)
"[T]he Basic Property: each language provides an unbounded array of hierarchically structured
expressions that receive interpretations at two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and
conceptual-intentional for mental processes. ,,, [invoking Darwin and Aristotle]
"At the very least, THEN, each language incorporates a computational procedure satisfying the Basic Property."
[emphasis added]
--Noam Chomsky, *What Kind of Creatures Are We?* Columbia UP, 2016
("Language," of course, refers only to "I-language"; he isn't interested in what is actually said,
but only in UG, or Universal Grammar.)
The small book, or extended essay, will then go on in four chapters to integrate his views
into an overarching view of human nature (I assume). The first pages are a curious melange of
passives and gnomic statements, with as usual no acknowledgment that some of his assertions have
been controversial -- at least this time he cites an evolutionary anthropologist, Ian Tattersall,
to support the very late date for the development of language but seems still to insist on a "language
organ" in the brain that no neuroscientist has ever found a trace of.
But what gets me is the "then" in the quotation above. Is that not a complete begging of the question?
As it stands I find the quotation incomprehensible. Unless
it is a definition disguised as a deduction.
That is, I think he says a language interfaces on the one hand
with the mind and on the other hand with vocal utterances.
I consider that obvious.
Yesterday I read the third of the fourth chapters. In what may be his first
attempt ever to integrate his political writing with his linguistic writing,
he defends a rather odd definition of "anarchism." His transition from the
"What is language?" and "What is thought?" of the first two chapters is less
skilled than what any preacher learns in seminary -- how to make the day's
assigned readings relevant to whichever matter the preacher needs to address.
I went back to try to see the connection -- and didn't. There is, though, a
20-page preface (by someone whose name I don't recognize) attempting to
clarify the whole thing -- which, however, is far more clearly written
than most of Chomsky. (I suspect a competent editor at Columbia UP.)
There are a few spots where phrases ensue without evident connection to what
precedes or follows, and a few verbs and pronouns with unidentifiable subjects
and antecedents, but many fewer than usual. But plenty of hand-waving and "will
be addressed below"s that aren't.
Chomsky has never been a very good writer but I think you
are offering evidence that he is coming apart intellectually.

I was struck with the possibility (based on your quotation)
that he was thinking along the same lines as Franz. About
communication as opposed to language.
Peter T. Daniels
2017-05-30 18:23:35 UTC
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Post by DKleinecke
Post by DKleinecke
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(The copyright date is 2016 but I haven't seen it or a notice of it before)
"[T]he Basic Property: each language provides an unbounded array of hierarchically structured
expressions that receive interpretations at two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and
conceptual-intentional for mental processes. ,,, [invoking Darwin and Aristotle]
"At the very least, THEN, each language incorporates a computational procedure satisfying the Basic Property."
[emphasis added]
--Noam Chomsky, *What Kind of Creatures Are We?* Columbia UP, 2016
("Language," of course, refers only to "I-language"; he isn't interested in what is actually said,
but only in UG, or Universal Grammar.)
The small book, or extended essay, will then go on in four chapters to integrate his views
into an overarching view of human nature (I assume). The first pages are a curious melange of
passives and gnomic statements, with as usual no acknowledgment that some of his assertions have
been controversial -- at least this time he cites an evolutionary anthropologist, Ian Tattersall,
to support the very late date for the development of language but seems still to insist on a "language
organ" in the brain that no neuroscientist has ever found a trace of.
But what gets me is the "then" in the quotation above. Is that not a complete begging of the question?
As it stands I find the quotation incomprehensible. Unless
it is a definition disguised as a deduction.
That is, I think he says a language interfaces on the one hand
with the mind and on the other hand with vocal utterances.
I consider that obvious.
Yesterday I read the third of the four chapters. In what may be his first
attempt ever to integrate his political writing with his linguistic writing,
he defends a rather odd definition of "anarchism." His transition from the
"What is language?" and "What is thought?" of the first two chapters is less
skilled than what any preacher learns in seminary -- how to make the day's
assigned readings relevant to whichever matter the preacher needs to address.
I am now in the middle of hearing back-to-back interviews with Al Franken, with
WNYC's Leonard Lopate and with Terry Gross on *Fresh Air*, and he talks about
"pivoting" -- how the politician has to learn how to answer the question he
wants to answer instead of the question that was asked. As a satirist, he hated
when politicians did it. Terry immediately had to caution him to stop doing it!

Al is less skilled at giving the same answers verbatim to different interviewers
-- as I sometimes heard S. J. Gould do three times on the same day.
Post by DKleinecke
I went back to try to see the connection -- and didn't. There is, though, a
20-page preface (by someone whose name I don't recognize) attempting to
clarify the whole thing -- which, however, is far more clearly written
than most of Chomsky. (I suspect a competent editor at Columbia UP.)
There are a few spots where phrases ensue without evident connection to what
precedes or follows, and a few verbs and pronouns with unidentifiable subjects
and antecedents, but many fewer than usual. But plenty of hand-waving and "will
be addressed below"s that aren't.
Chomsky has never been a very good writer but I think you
are offering evidence that he is coming apart intellectually.
I was struck with the possibility (based on your quotation)
that he was thinking along the same lines as Franz. About
communication as opposed to language.
Vice versa. What's very clear in chapter 1 is that for him, communication is not
the primary job of language -- in fact, communication is rather incidental --
but thought is.
Franz Gnaedinger
2017-05-31 06:50:01 UTC
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Post by DKleinecke
I was struck with the possibility (based on your quotation)
that he was thinking along the same lines as Franz. About
communication as opposed to language.
Is traffic opposed to cars? No, certainly not. What I say is that language and
communication are like vehicle and traffic (and a dictionary the garage ;-)
In 1974/75 when I helped a student of linguistics with her Chomsky homework
I formulated my own theory of language: Language, on the most basic level,
is the means of getting help, support and understanding from those we depend
upon in one way or another --- and every means of getting help, support and
understanding may be called language, on whatever level of life it occurs ...
Human word language evolves together with the many artificial things we make
and use, words naming objects, and turning natural entities into objects
(the latter accounting for much confusion in philosophy). Later on I expanded
my definition. Language may be considered the intelligence of life: working
together, coordinated by language, we achieve more than on our own, the
same with less energy, or more with the same amount of energy. I would never
separate language from communication, as I would never separate walking
from leg and feet. Language as tool of forming thoughts goes along with life
in an artificial world where actions can return over a wide circle of things
and people and more things and more people on us much later - action and
reaction are often separated by a considerable time gap, which forces us to
think what me might cause in a remote future by what we do just now.
Franz Gnaedinger
2017-05-30 06:51:58 UTC
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
(The copyright date is 2016 but I haven't seen it or a notice of it before)
"[T]he Basic Property: each language provides an unbounded array of hierarchically structured
expressions that receive interpretations at two interfaces, sensorimotor for externalization and
conceptual-intentional for mental processes. ,,, [invoking Darwin and Aristotle]
"At the very least, THEN, each language incorporates a computational procedure satisfying the Basic Property."
[emphasis added]
--Noam Chomsky, *What Kind of Creatures Are We?* Columbia UP, 2016
("Language," of course, refers only to "I-language"; he isn't interested in what is actually said,
but only in UG, or Universal Grammar.)
The small book, or extended essay, will then go on in four chapters to integrate his views
into an overarching view of human nature (I assume). The first pages are a curious melange of
passives and gnomic statements, with as usual no acknowledgment that some of his assertions have
been controversial -- at least this time he cites an evolutionary anthropologist, Ian Tattersall,
to support the very late date for the development of language but seems still to insist on a "language
organ" in the brain that no neuroscientist has ever found a trace of.
But what gets me is the "then" in the quotation above. Is that not a complete begging of the question?
You say it, no 'language organ' has been found in the brain. The forming of
sentences in speaking and writing is now understood as "recursive sequencing"
that may be compared to the way we move an arm: a first muscle makes a
beginning, a second muscles adds a correction, a third one a further
contribution, and so on. We have then a similar situation as in vision.
Eyes are not just cameras. Our vision is being constructed by at least
thirty areas of the brain that work together in a wonderfully economical
way - for example we see only a tiny spot of our vision field clearly,
not larger than the moon or sun in the sky, everything else unclearly,
blurred, and yet we have the impression that we see a clear and brillant
picture of the entire space or landscape we have before our eyes (Leonardo
da Vinci knew that, he understood the roles of attention and knowledge
and emotion in perception which he encoded in his Mona Lisa painting,
an allegory of seeing). Speaking is equally complex as vision. Single
grammars fail. Each one might grasp an aspect of language, but none can
cover everything. We should develop each grammar in its own right, and
then study how they co-operate in the process of "recursive sequencing."
Chomsky ruled for too long a time, blocking other views on language.
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