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07/25/2010

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wheels

Chomsky's ideas - deep structure and the like - have always sounded incorrect to my intuitions. Not very rigorous, I know, but from my knowledge of languages, I've always felt that Sapir-Whorf seemed likelier to be correct.

James Cooke-Brown, who started developing Loglan as an effort to test the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, has used as examples of language differences that seem to support Sapir-Whorf the tenseless nature of the Hopi language, and the language of the Tobriand Islands that treats individual things as specific instances of the collective. I don't remember his specific examples for that one, but I recall that he anthropomorphized them by saying, for example, that a glass of water is treated as an instance of "Mr. Water," and a rabbit is an instance of "Mr. Rabbit," referring, respectively, to "all the water in the world," and "all the rabbits in the world."

I think any deep structure that can account for all variants of human language has to contain very little actual structure, personally.

John Pepple

Thanks for the input, especially the examples. And be sure to follow the link for some more unusual examples. I certainly agree with your last sentence.

Account Deleted

Deacon's The Symbolic Species has a lot more to say on Chomsky and the concepts discussed here. For fundamental info, try also Langer's Philosophy in a New Key. In a nutshell, we speak because our brains require it, and very young children have made our languages what they are -- so the languages could be learned by humans.

John Pepple

I've never heard of Deacon's The Symbolic Species. I'll have to put in on my list of books to read. Thanks.

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