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Zurück zur ersten Seite The strangeness of English In a way English is pretty straightforward, but... Irregular verbs: can - could, go - went, dive -

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Presentation on theme: "Zurück zur ersten Seite The strangeness of English In a way English is pretty straightforward, but... Irregular verbs: can - could, go - went, dive -"— Presentation transcript:


2 Zurück zur ersten Seite The strangeness of English In a way English is pretty straightforward, but... Irregular verbs: can - could, go - went, dive - dove,.. Weird plurals: cacti, indices, brethren, deer,... Spelling: knight, nite, night, boatswain, Worcester, ghoti,... Of course, one might say that English is simply as it is and leave it at that. But if one starts to think about it, it does have really strange properties. And when I say strange, then I’m referring to such features as ‘irregular’ (isn’t that a synonym of ‘strange’) verbs, weird nouns with irregular plurals, or the downright nasty spelling conventions. Why should the past tenses of go and be be went and was, if they might just as well, and much more regularly, be goed and beed? Why are some brothers brethren, why are not all cacti catusses, and why is sometimes pronounced /f/ as in laugh, and at other times not pronounced at all? Why is pronounced / U / in ? Like all natural languages, English abounds with quirks of this kind. What this course will attempt to do is ‘explain them historically’. That is to say, it will argue that they are descendants of properties of prior stages of English, which have been passed down into Modern English even though they may have lost much or all of the functionality which their ancestors may have possessed.

3 Zurück zur ersten Seite Why is any L like it is? Because of: n The whims of fashion Social Conventions n The language module in the brain Universal Grammar n The efficiency and effectiveness with which it fulfils its Functions n Prior languages of which it is an (imperfect) copy Cultural Evolution This is our central question, remember?

4 Zurück zur ersten Seite Explanations: n Causal n Functional n Historical ExplanansWhy... Y Because... Law Condition If X then Y X Explanandum Therefore Y Types:Structure: That’s how good explanations are structured

5 Zurück zur ersten Seite Manifestations of Language n Texts ( patterns, graphic or acoustic... ) n Behaviour ( moving mind and body parts ) n Competence ( patterns in human minds ) n Social institution ( many patterns in many minds ) n Some abstract essence that one can know about (where is that supposed to exist????) Elements in an explanation (including the question) need to be ‘empirically interpretable’

6 Zurück zur ersten Seite ‘of’ TEXTS INSTANCES OF LINGUISTIC BEHAVIOUR (productive and/or receptive) INDIVIDUAL LINGUISTIC COMPETENCE result in trigger informs constrains informs shapes POOL/NETWORK of COMPETENCES within a COMMUNITY Theories, ideas, abstract knowledge BCDEA consists of / emerges from Spot the odd manifestation... !

7 Zurück zur ersten Seite changes into TB C1C1 informs C2C2 producesinformsalters B changes into BT B1B1 produces B2B2 informsaltersinforms C changes into CB T1T1 informs T2T2 altersinformsproduces B The Competence-Behaviour-Text Cycle Manifestations of language all seem to cause one another. But is anyone of them basic?

8 Zurück zur ersten Seite CBT1T1 informs T2T2 altersinformsproduces B X1X1 X3X3 X2X2 X5X5 X4X4 X1X1 X3X3 X2X2 X5X5 X4X4 X1X1 X3X3 X2X2 X5X5 X4X4 X1X1 X3X3 X2X2 X5X5 X4X4 Competence is. Remember why?

9 Zurück zur ersten Seite This is what defines DARWINIAN SYSTEMS. Might language be one?

10 Zurück zur ersten Seite Language (competence) as a Darwinian System  Replicators:NEURAL CELL ASSEMBLIES that acquire their identities from the way in which they are linked up with one another. They ‘represent’ linguistic elements from phonemes over words to syntactic constituents or concepts. Theygovern linguistic BEHAVIOUR and produce cultural artefacts, i.e.TEXTS. BRAINS come equipped with a propensity to make sense of their environment, including (crucially) texts. When they do so the neural networks of which they consistSELF-ORGANISE INTO structures that containCOPIES of the Cell Assemblies which originally produced the texts.Thereby the former have replicated.  Imperfect Copying Fidelity inherent in the special type of replication.  Differential Replication:Ease of production, ease of perception, learnability, usefulness... legions of well established factors make some competence properties better at replicating than others.  ExternalLimits on Sustainability: obvious limits on memory. YES. Here’s why.

11 Zurück zur ersten Seite Family trees: Pan/Homo Homo/Paniscus BonoboCommon ChimpHomo West-Germanic German Low-GermanHigh-germanEnglish Biological Linguistic There are linguistic family trees that look just like biological ones.

12 Zurück zur ersten Seite Cultural Evolution is different from Biological Evolution Biological Information is gene-based and transmitted via the germ line. Cultural Information is mind-based and transmitted via behaviour, learning and imitation. But there are differences as well, of course.

13 Zurück zur ersten Seite Why and how may language have evolved? n How does language help an organism survive and reproduce? n How may it have evolved gradually from non-language? n Was there ever one proto-language and what may it have been like? n What is the relation between universal characteristics of human language and its evolutionary origin? This is a truly BIOLOGICAL question? ‘language’ here means the human ‘language capacity’

14 Zurück zur ersten Seite How does language increase the fitness of an organism? or rather: that of the genes in the organism? models reality allows safe thought experiments communicates information about the world allows individuals to profit from experiences made by others conveys information about the speakers allows quick recognition of friends and foes manipulates others allows one to make others serve one’s own interests makes information tradable allows one to give without losing

15 Zurück zur ersten Seite Vervet alarm calls Our relatives can also communicate vocally.

16 Zurück zur ersten Seite 1: hardwired primate comunication (examples invented!!) „aaargh“ Threat: I‘m ready to attack „ugh ugh ugh“ Submissiveness: I‘m your servant „wih wih“ Alarm - snake: go for a tree! „wuh wuh“ Alarm - eagle: leave treetops! „wah wah“ Alarm - leopard: assemble in group! „iuuuu“ Contact call: I‘m here, where are you? Does this sound like Proto-human to you??

17 Zurück zur ersten Seite Did Early Homo Sapiens live in groups of ~150? What may the role of group size have been for the emergence of language?

18 Zurück zur ersten Seite n In large groups it is necessary to keep track of who-is-who. n As grooming became increasingly vocal, acoustic/articulatory cues became increasingly important for identifying and recognizing individuals. 2:Sensitivity for differences among individual styles of vocalisation evolves „iuuuu“ I (John) am here, where are you? „ioooo“ I (Jim) am here, where are you? n SIGNS MUST BECOME LEARNABLE n COMPOSITIONALITY MAY HAVE EVOLVED i = [am here], uuuu = [John], oooo = [Jim]

19 Zurück zur ersten Seite n Once signs (i.e. form-meaning realtionships) cease to be fully hardwired and children have to learn them through observation instead, it is conceivable that they might attribute new meanings also to signs which had been hitherto been comparatively meaningless or to acquire novel meaning distinctions. 3:The learnability of signs makes the number of signs explode „myam myam food „uooa“ I’m tired Once you know how to interpret signs, you won’t be able to stop

20 Zurück zur ersten Seite Physiological adaptations to the word chimp human Language may have undesired side effects...

21 Zurück zur ersten Seite n The human vocal tract acquires its present shape, which is otherwise non-adaptive. n Sign-compositionality yields syntax (AB = A + B) n Duality yields phonology (AB = C) 4:The need for ever more signs leads to physiological adaptations as well as to the emergence of syntax and phonology The number of possible signs and combinations of such ‚soon‘ becomes practically infinite ?????? (see next page)

22 Zurück zur ersten Seite [wa][la] {man} {nice} [wala] {friend} [wal] {friend}[wa][la] [le] [li] [wa] [ta] [fa] [li] Adj ‘words after words like [wa]’ ‘words before words like [la]’ N SYNTAX PHONOLOGY Remember?

23 Zurück zur ersten Seite n While vocal signs might once have been genetically determined and neurally hardwired, they have now become partly liberated from genetic and bodily control: They are free to take a huge number of shapes and form a huge number of patterns. n These patterns vary freely, and replicate independently of their bodily substrates. n As systems of replicating and variable patterns, languages become capable of having histories of their own. 5:Linguistic signs become cultural replicators Being passed on through imitation, languages are free from the tyranny of genes. They can have histories of their own.

24 Zurück zur ersten Seite Step 0:vocal signs hardwired socialisation through grooming Step 1:socialisation through vocal grooming variable aspects of vocal signs become learnable Step 2:vocal signs increasingly learnable principle of signification generalised info trade, thought experiments become possible Step 3:language complexifies, acquires its modern shape enormous number of possible signs and patterns Step 3‘:possible signs compete for actualisation language internal evolution begins 6:Summary Once again, then.

25 Zurück zur ersten Seite The scenario outlines predicts that: n language should be variable in order to fulfil its social functions (compatible with Chomsky but not in his spirit) n communicatively efficient and effective (to minimise speaking costs and maximise speaking effects; compatible with functionalist approaches) n able to represent information about the world What is the relation between universal characteristics of human language and its evolutionary origin? Does the story we have told make these properties of human languages easy to understand?

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