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  • hardie karges 7:22 pm on October 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Religion 101: the Quest for Meaning 

    Hindu God

    Hindu God

    In the Beginning was the Question: WTF? And thus was born Consciousness, self-consciousness, both blessing and curse. Could the origins of consciousness be of anything besides the juxtaposition of Self and Other? I doubt it. From that is born the recognition of basic relationships, very similar to Boolean logic: more than, less than, equal to, etc. This is primal thought, thought without language. From that all the plethora and panoply of consciousness is possible.

    Now that we have language, it’s hard to imagine thinking without it, because we certainly do think in a language, just as does a computer. But computers existed, and had functions, before language, and so did we humanoids: not much, perhaps, but some, enough to populate several continents, apparently for no other reason than that they were there, and had food.

    From the basic relationships come causal relationships: if this, then that, every time, so one must be the cause of the other. Animals do this all the time, and without language, as we know it. Yet they exist—and have meaning, to us, at least. This cause-effect relationship I suspect is the origin of ‘reason’, in fact, and arises very early in the history of thought, in fact the same word in some languages. (More …)

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  • hardie karges 9:28 am on November 19, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Chinese characters were ahead the time. 

    In an evolutionary quirk Chinese pictograms never became alphabetic letters, but letters quickly held hands and formed pictures. If left to their own devices, vowels might only form verbs and consonants likewise with nouns, but because of love or the sheer thrill of excitement, consonants and vowels like male and female meet in mid-air, sniff each other, make love, and produce babies running wild with inspiration. Usually pictures gradually become symbolic characters until they become letters, like the alpha beta gamma, aleph beth gimmel, ox house and camel of Semitic origin, twisting and turning and doing flips until they find a comfortable position and retire as the president of the ABC of the future. Ironically, though, it seems that once a word is known, the original phonetic code is superfluous and letters become essentially the same as the brush strokes of Chinese calligraphy. They form a word/picture that is grasped immediately in its entirety, without the necessity of considering the phonetic information involved, even though the word might be silently pronounced in the mind’s vocal chords. Is it possible to read silently without ‘hearing’ the words in the mind’s inner ear? Is it possible to think without language? The definition of thought makes much mention of pictures, none of language. Yet the component quarks of alphabetic script are definitely waves, not the particles of Chinese ideograms. The Chinese characters hanging out in a thousand chop suey kitchens in the Great American west are another story.

     
  • hardie karges 5:21 pm on November 16, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    If Chomsky’s winning the debate over psycho- vs. socio-linguistics, 

    then I’d say it’s because the world is slowly but surely becoming a cultural, if not linguistic, unity, chocked to the gills with gadgets and thingamajigs and the materialistic culture that produces it, promotes it, and ultimately explains it away. Most languages tend to simplify over time, dropping dual number and sexual inflection and unnecessary tenses and aspects, opting for the simple analytic isolating style of Chinese, and increasingly, English. Nothing may seem more obvious than a S-V-O system in which subjects go around verbing the Hell out of objects, but that is merely convention, without any prior or inherent logic. Despite conscious efforts on the part of editors and schoolmarms to iron out the historical kinks, sentences in the passive voice, like this one, are still being written by educated speakers of the English language. Furthermore, if I have anything to do with it, they will continue to be, notwithstanding the green lines crawling through my text like geckos through my house here in Thailand. Vestiges of archaic speech remain in all languages. We like it that way. Even in the analytic no-tense no-nonsense Asian languages, the ages of speaker and person spoken to are in constant reference. I doubt that Romance languages will ever lose the gender of a noun needing modification, as if there were something intrinsically feminine about a coffeepot. Europeans are hung up on sex; Asians are hung up on age. No matter how many sentences you diagram, language and logic are not the same, and cultural magic will be lost when and if we all speak the same language, whether or not with different words. I prefer linguistic heterosis, hybrid vigor, languages mating and mutating through cultural necessity to create the cultural reality that will eventually explain it. I’m ready to get out of my rut and get into a groove. That’s the beauty of language. It allows you to do that.

     
  • hardie karges 1:51 pm on November 15, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Do I really think in complete sentences 

    or does my shining the light of observation only make it seem that way, like getting your act together when you see a police car in the rear-view mirror? Do nouns really need verbs to make sense? I doubt they did in the remote beginning when a name was probably a highly ritualized symbol for the thing itself for religious purposes. Nouns needed verbs no more than consonants needed vowels to sweeten the harsh sounds of males creating civilizations to replace the nature worship of all things female. I suspect that language started as a shaman’s tool, a magical sound to represent the real thing in stories and incantations back when hand motions served as verbs. Shamans created language in all its wonder till businessmen came along and stole its thunder, putting language down on paper in the service of commerce. And the rest is history. To this root word were gradually affixed the verbs, adjectives, and adverbs necessary to put this subject through the motions and drama of life and death. These affixed sounds might be bound to the particular subject as prefixes or suffixes or it might be a free form able to interact with any other form.

     
  • hardie karges 3:45 am on November 10, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Much has also been made of the inherent propensities for language 

    which seem to be specific only to humans, without ever stating exactly what these properties are, much less how they are transmitted. I’d probably estimate that language is more of an invention that an inheritance, but that something is likely inherited that underlies language, probably the logic or causality of it. In Asian languages ‘here’ and ‘now’ are frequently variations of the same word, sound, morpheme, phoneme, whatever, as are ‘then’ and ‘there’, so maybe that sort of equivalence and general space-time coordination is inherent. Maybe the sentence structure of subject-verb-object is the ‘innate idea’ of language that’s inherited, regardless of how long it’s taken some languages to make that explicit. The central idea of an ‘I’ acting on ‘them’ is easily intuited, but the idea of a ‘they’ acting on ‘them’, rather than a ‘them’ somehow attracting the attentions of another, may be equally inherent, at least in this expansive phase of the Big Bang universe. During the Big Squeeze, if everything we experience happens all over again except in reverse order, then logic may indeed be similarly reversed, and guns may indeed suck the bullets out of bodies, with no apparent violation of causality. Nevertheless, all this may very well be the first thing a child learns in this world, even before speech, but not inherited. Language is an invention. Though perhaps bound to happen, hominids were nevertheless without it for most of their history, as they proceeded to tame fire, use tools, and bury their dead.

     
  • hardie karges 7:55 am on November 9, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    The history of language is a family tree that maybe began with a single stalk. 

    They say that 5% of any two languages will show similarities, as if that proves the insignificance of any similarities when in fact it may show just the opposite. They may well have all derived from just a very few, maybe just one. Don’t be surprised if that evolution parallels the evolution of homo sapiens sapiens themselves, if not directly, then by analogy. Whether there is any direct connection between language and DNA or not, they seem to function similarly in how they evolve over time. Much is made of the fact that homos are the only species that can speak, then going into elaborate explanations of the human vocal chords having worked their way deep into the throat for proper enunciation of modern languages. All this seems a bit anthropocentric to me, diminishing if not outright ignoring or rejecting the fact that communication can be equally, if not more, effective in other ways. If anything, humans’ own writing systems are more articulate than the speech they represent, but which may never actually be vocalized, particularly in the case of mathematical equations. Beyond the human sphere, other animals convey rather complex information, which, while it cannot be properly regarded as speech, is certainly a form of communication, i.e. transfer of information.

     
  • hardie karges 5:28 am on November 6, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    The ‘mentalese’ the Chomskyans are looking for, is likely thought itself. 

    That’s not language properly speaking, and applies to lower animals, as well. Once we have language, we proceed to think in it, but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t think without it. The idea that, since all languages are so similar, and since all children learn them so easily, then there must be an underlying ‘mental language’, makes a few non-provable conclusions based on a few non-provable assumptions, though it may fall short of outright begging the question. For one thing, though I love kids, their linguistic prowess is not impressive to me. Think what you might do if you had one-on-one instruction every day for four or five years with literally nothing else to occupy your mind and everything to gain for your efforts. Secondly, since when are all languages so similar? They may indeed all be coming closer together whether because of international English or the simple logic and proven effectiveness of S-V-O word order, but that is recent and tentative. There is a much longer history of languages categorized as synthetic/analytical, inflected, or agglutinative. There may be an even earlier period when languages were more similar. Nevertheless, if languages are indeed similar, there may be an even better reason for the phenomenon. They may all derive ultimately from the same parent language before they literally went separate ways.

     
  • hardie karges 4:00 am on November 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    The only thing universal to all languages 

    are symbols corresponding to things and actions, nouns and verbs utilizing consonants and vowels, whether explicit or implicit, in some prescribed order based on internal rules of logic. The only thing universal to all thought, human or not, linguistic or not, would seem to be things and actions ordered by chronology, and therefore tentative causality, Pavlovian stimulus-response-reward mechanisms. The act of perception itself must proceed through many phases from inception through its subsequent development, depending on the complexity of the organism being discussed, analogous to the capabilities of a nerve ending itself: pain, pressure, hot, and cold at the local level. In complex multi-celled organisms, this quickly expands into sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, a whole world of perception. When this swirl becomes categorized into actions and things, we cross over into thought, replete with chronology and causality. Once we abstract that thought with symbols, we have language. So mankind proceeds, from infant to sage, from past to present, from perception to thought to language.

     
  • hardie karges 5:41 am on November 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Causality seems to be intrinsic to human thought and by extension, language. 


    This would follow directly from chronology, the ordering of events by order of their appearance. The ‘mentalese’ language that underlies all formal language that Chomsky and his disciples are looking for is probably mathematical, as in logic, inference, the basic assumption that if one event precedes another directly and seamlessly, then it is likely the cause. While this may not be language in the strict sense, nor even always accurate, it may nevertheless underlie it at any level beyond the simple naming of objects. S-V-O word order may derive from this at the earliest stages of consciousness, empty minds hungry to be fed, form looking for content beyond the mother’s breast. But I doubt it. That ‘s merely our arrogance, assuming we’ve always been the rational animal, full of logic and reckoning. To assume that an object was acted upon by unknown actors with unclear antecedents for unknown causes would be to live in a world of magic and superstition, religion and showmanship. Bingo. Welcome to America, bastion of science and modern technology. Even more so the rest of the world, where the passive reflexivity heretofore described is intrinsic to much spoken language, especially in the Spanish of Latin America. Go figure. When combined with subjunctive moods and conditional aspects, you might even forget your own primacy in the equation, which is what a sentence is. In many countries the subject of a sentence can even be understood or assumed, not indicated or reiterated, and therefore weakened, a verb and object sufficing for comprehension.

     
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