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[Xmca-l] Re: dappled
So, as Andy must realize by now, his question has to be
de-metalinguist-icized. The original question is, do we linguists have
any meta-linguistic term (that is, a term about terms, a terminology)
to describe the situation where a word has a single, unique referent?
Before we can answer this (and I'll do my best) we have to determine
whether any such situation ever exists. That is, is there a situation
where a word meaning (which is, Vygotsky tells us, always and
everywhere an act of generalization) has a unique referent? Here the
answer appears to be no, since generalization always presupposes that
you are taking one context of situation and applying it to another.
You might say that a proper noun like "Andy Blunden" is an exception
that proves the rule--Andy is always Andy, no matter what situation we
put him in, and the longer period of time we take the more general the
generalization "Andy Blunden" becomes. But this is not so, both
externally and internally: externally, speaking of the name in context
as a whole, Andy the supposed Referent of the name changes as he and
we age. Internally, speaking of the structure of the name itself
alone, we notice that "Andy" specifies which Blunden in the Blunden
household we mean.
This suggests that "Blunden" is more general than "Andy"--and on the
other hand if we google the name we find that in the English language
as a system, "Andy" is far more general than "Blunden". Needless to
say, names and nouns are quite a bit more unique in their supposed
referents than verbs--we have proper nouns which are supposedly closer
to Andy's ideal of a unique referent than common nouns, but there is
no such thing as a proper verb describing a unique and unrepeated
singularity: all verbs are common verbs.
But we can de-metalinguistic-ize still further. We can ask whether
there is a situation where a word meaning has a concrete referent. Do
word meanings always indicate, not some thing in the world (the sort
of thing that Andy was calling "matter"), but rather some
generalization we make about it?
Here the answer appears to be yes, but once again it's really a matter
of degree. At one end of language we find grammatical morphemes like
the "~ed" in "dappled" and "perished" are more grammatical than
lexical. That is, they have the three grammatical properties Halliday
calls "closure", "generality" and "proportion". They come from a
closed set of morphemes--a user of English has a lot of freedom, but
those freedoms do not include the freedom to invent a new past tense
morpheme and have it adopted into the language. They are general--you
can apply them to a wide variety of verbs across the system. And they
are proportional, because every time you do this you achieve more or
less the same effect.
In contrast, you find that the roots of the words "dapple" and
"perish" are more lexical than grammatical. That is, they are not
closed class words--you are free to invent new words and to make big
changes to the pronunciation of old ones, as Gerard Manley Hopkins
reminds us with his use of "sprung rhythm". They are not general; they
apply to much narrower and more local, more restricted situations
(though never unique ones, as Hopkins reminds us insistently with his
use of the plural). And of course they are not proportional--"dapple"
means one thing applied to ponies and another applied to mackerels
(and I find the idea that for Andy the prototypical meaning of
"perish" has to do with rubber tells us rather more about Andy than
And this is where the thread on "dappled" and "perished" meets the
thread on "Fate, Luck, and Chance", and begins to form some answer to
Vera's and Martin's twenty thousand dollar question on how
consciousness develops. If we go back in time to the moment when Andy
was an infant, we can imagine that Andy engaged in infant activities
like ostension and indication. Because the objects the infant Andy is
picking up and holding are completely new, we can imagine that in his
undifferentiated consciousness they are in fact singularities. He
doesn't use words to indicate them (because in order to do this he
would have to generalize), but his act of picking up and holding do
have unique referents.
We can't call this consciousness as we know it (which is why we cannot
say that "Andy Blunden" refers to any singular context of situation).
But we can certainly call it consciousness, and we can even see
fossils of this primitive undifferentiated consciousness in Andy's
adult language (e.g. his use of "he he", which is what we call in
Korean "ouiseongeo", that is words that only mean their sounds--Korean
also has a category of "ouitaeeo" which are words that only describe
the sound of the way actions look, such as "hurly burly" or "hanky
panky"). And that, in my humble de-metalinguisticized linguist's
opinion, is the origin of consciousness.
My original question on Fate, Luck, and Chance was--it seems to
me--related. "Luck" is the way I (as an individual) generalize
unrelated chance events. But "fate" is the way we (as a speech
community) generalize the notion of "luck".
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
On 26 November 2014 at 01:38, HENRY SHONERD <email@example.com> wrote:
> I am coming late to this, but I think “collocation” would be of interest. Wikipedia has some good stuff on that.
>> On Nov 25, 2014, at 12:00 AM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> I have a trivial question for the linguists on this list.
>> Do you have a word for words like "dappled" and "perished" (or dapple and perish) which can describe only one thing (shade and rubber respectively)?
>> *Andy Blunden*