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[Xmca-l] Re: dappled

This conversation has been playing on my mind - Henry's comments about language in the other thread (Fate. Luck , Chance) tied in closely with my own ideas about the ways in which language is dappled with varieties of knowing. There are meanings which we can be pretty confident most speakers of a language will know and recognise but then there are also etymological remains which nuance the meaning of some words and word families and then there are the 'Bouba' and 'Kiki' effects of connections between the physical act of speaking and the felt meaning of sounds/words. What particularly interests me is the middle ground of word families which have a resemblance which most speakers will recognise but which very few will 'Know'.

Dapple belongs to one such family - words which suggest repetition by the addition of the '-le' suffix (spark - sparkle, crack-crackle, drip -dribble, dab-dabble) and this family includes words like dapple and freckle, drizzle and giggle which are clearly members of the family but whose lineage has faded (who knows what a dap, freck, driz or gig might be?). I suspect that perished might also belong, at least in part, to a family of 'dying fall' words which share the 'ished' ending (finished, demolished, extinguished, famished). I tried to think of more positive examples but could only come up with 'nourished' (I'm sure I will be proved wrong on this!).

The point is that words have many shades of meaning and association but ALL of these depend on the fact that these shades are shared. Some may be shared only within a very small group (and than gives them a special cachet) such as those which a family preserves from the mis-speakings of children. It is the fact that we know that we share our knowledge which converts knowing into understanding and I would argue that the knowing together aspect of con-sciousness is absolutely essential (our thinking is an internalised form of our social interactions and we learn to think together in our 'own' heads).

I was honestly surprised when I realised that all three of my children have names which include the same two vowels (my daughter is Sophie) and no others. This was not planned, in fact Sophie's name was chosen by her brothers (which might explain their preference for a name similar to theirs) but this has constructed a family resemblance which doubtless gives these vowels a different 'feel' for us.

I have to say how much I love the thinkles which dapple this forum!

All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Ed Wall
Sent: 26 November 2014 03:41
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: dappled

Just a note, the term 'perished silk' is reasonably common term (and possibly older than 'perished rubber') although not given space in the OED. It refers, it seems, to a sort of worn and faded look.


On Nov 25, 2014, at  8:36 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> David, thank you very much for your patient and extended response to my question. At the very great risk of even further humiliating myself, I want to say that you have nonetheless failed to give a satisfactory response to my enquiry.
> Firstly, all the stuff about my name is misplaced. Although there are several Andy Blundens around, "Andy Blunden" is a proper noun and is therefore not listed in the dictionary any more than David Kellogg or Seoul are listed. In the sense in which Vygotsky rightly said "All words are acts of generalisation" "Andy Blunden" is not a word; its referent is an specific entity. But in any case, my enquiry was meant to be about adjectives, not nouns proper or otherwise.
> As to "dappled" I was gloriously wrong there, but it was "perished" which set my mind going  in the first place, and I cast around for other examples, and our lovely back garden which has far too many trees for its tiny size reminded me.
> But let me try this single instance, which is after all, all I need.
> Meaning 2b in the OED of "perished" is "*b.* Of rubber or a similar material, or an article made from it: having lost its characteristic elasticity and become weak, sticky, etc." dating from 1922. Admittedly, meaning 2a is "*a.* Of a material object or organic substance: decayed, rotted; damaged, in a poor physical state" dating from 1587. So etymology aside, the writers of the dictionary recognise that in 1922 "perished" was given a new, specific meaning.which generalises only to the extent that any rubber or rubber-like object may "perish."
> So I fully accept that being a word of the kind I am asking about is never going to be a cut-and-dry matter, but it still seems to me that my enquiry was not entirely nonsensical. :) It was great how Rod responded, because the reflections which led me to ask about it was actually that such words have great literary, rhetorical and poetic potential. The Gerard Manley Hopkins poem confirmed this in spades, with not only dappled, but pied, brindle, fallow, freckled.
> Perhaps I ought to have phrased my question in terms of adjectives which, when used, evoke a specific kind of referent, only implicit in the adjective? Remember in West Wing, when the candidate calls his opponent "sprightly" - cleverly praising his fitness while reminding us that he is an old man. That's what I was interested in.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> David Kellogg wrote:
>> 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
>> about rubber).
>> 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".
>> David Kellogg
>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>> On 26 November 2014 at 01:38, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I am coming late to this, but I think "collocation" would be of interest. Wikipedia has some good stuff on that.
>>> Henry
>>>> On Nov 25, 2014, at 12:00 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> 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
>>>> --
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> *Andy Blunden*
>>>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/


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