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Re: [xmca] Measuring culture
Linguistics is stalked by a terrible succubus, the succubus of structuralist reification. I guess the worst example of this is the Chomskyan "revolution", a technical means of diagramming sentences which people mistook for the way in which people actually formulated them.
When this was clearly disproved by psycholinguistic experiments in the sixties and seventies, it was immediately replaced with exactly the opposite idea: that potential language and real language are exactly the same thing; that is, everything that can be said actually is being said or has been said somewhere in the world. Ergo corpus linguistics, the linguistics of ever-larger computer corpora, is the real thing. I think that the "five million books" idea is just the latest instantiation of this opposite idea, which is ultimately behavioristic.
As Andy says, real philosophy, and real science, is what starts where the popular myth, the current Zeitgeist ends. The problem is that the NEXT big thing, the NEXT popular myth, also starts where the current Zeitgeist ends; behavioristic "realism" in linguistics started exactly where the structuralist succubus expired (and, I might remark parenthetically, it started up precisely because we did not listen to Merleau-Ponty's remark to the effect that structuralism's main crime was not valuing structure ENOUGH to link it firmly enough to value).
I'm afraid that's how I read the Owen Barfield quote Rob and Larry refer to below (though I'm ALSO afraid I will not have time to track it down and read it in context). It seems to me we are in danger of going back to the structuralist succubus: we are in danger of reifying the language system and attributing all of linguistic creativity to this great bag of God sentences.
I don't believe language is an abstract system that is capable of generating any and all sentences. I believe in language that is still warm from the lips and breath of living breathing humans, and I believe that there is no actual poetry without an actual poet (whether that poet is wearing laurels or just wearing a baking cap and an apron). But I also don't believe that language and all of its poetic moments are just the sum total of everything that ever has been said, is being said, or even will be being said by living breathing people.
If this seems like a contradiction, then it is only because we are not in the habit of thinking of potential as truly infinite (mathematicians had a similar problem explaining what it really means when we say something like given an infinite number of opportunities, everything that can happen will happen).
Every unit of language, from sounds to words to the most complex and intricate of wordings, is both a car horn and a traffic light. That is, there is always some element (what Volosinov calls 'theme" and Vygotsky calls "sense") that is mutable and negotiable, where you have to look over your shoulder and see if you know the guy who is honking.
In sounds, intonation and stress are like this. In words, the prefixes and suffixes and particles and pronouns. In sentences, subgrammatical fragments like "What about you?". But in language generally, this is the predominant nature of spoken discourse, and that is why it is consistently missing from the Google N-grams base (which would have you believe that swearing was invented in the late twentieth century).
Then there is this other element (what Volosinov calls meaning proper and what Vygotsky calls "signification") that is quite fixed and systematic. Red always means stop and green always means go (although the precise meaning of yellow depends on where you are with relation to the intersection).
In sounds, vowels and consonants are like this. In words, the common nouns and workaday verbs, the independent morphemes of all kinds. In sentences, the independent clauses that make up the overwhelming majority of our (non-novelistic and non-dialogic) written text. This is where we find all of our dictionary meanings, (and, alas, almost all of the meanings in the N-gram system).
The infinite potential of language, which is what the poet exploits and which is why language is not reducible to the sum total of everything that has been, is, and will be said, is the product of the way these systems interact. So there is no contradiction. But if there were, it would only be a contra-diction; it would still be perfectly true.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Thu, 4/19/12, Robert Lake <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Robert Lake <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Measuring culture
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, April 19, 2012, 6:45 AM
I am intrigued with the passage from Owen Barfield.
Which book is that found in?
On Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 1:53 AM, Larry Purss <email@example.com> wrote:
> Andy, thanks for this post which I find exploring experience and culture.
> These insights of Dewey's seems to parallel themes I've been reading in
> Gadamer's perspective on prejudice .
> especially the section,
> It [experience] is filled with interpretations, classifications, due to
> sophisticated thought,
> which have become incorporated into what seems to be fresh, naive
> empirical material. It would take more wisdom than is possessed by
> the wisest historic scholar to track all of these absorbed
> borrowings to their original sources. If we may for the moment call
> these materials prejudices (even if they are true, as long as their
> source and authority is unknown), then /philosophy is a critique of
> I would like to juxtapose, or put in play, these insights of Dewey's with a
> quote from Owen Barfield,
> More particularly, it (i.e. pleasure) can be aroused by a language which is
> at an earlier stage of development than the one which is our own, because
> it is the nature of language to grow less figurative, less and less couched
> in terms of imagery, as it grows older. We notice, we relish figurative
> quality in older language, and we EXPERIENCE this figurative element in the
> same way in which we experience those new metaphors which poets make for
> us. But it does not follow from this (and this is where most of the
> philologists of the 19th Century and the early twenties have really made
> their mistake) it does not follow from this that that figurative element,
> that presence of living memory, that we find in earlier language was made,
> invented, created by the individual genius of a poet. On the contrary, it
> couldn't have been. It was simply there in the language as such; it was a
> 'given' kind of meaning, a 'given' kind of imagery.
> I also want to bring in Emily's comment posted today,
> I just wanted to call attention to play as in the way play ' plays ' us...
> Gadamer talks about this in Truth and Method, noting that when we engage
> in in play, play can overtake and seem to become something more that the
> As I read Dewey's, Barfield's, and Gadamer's notions of experience I see a
> theme of experience and expression as playful.
> More parti
> On Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 9:37 PM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > Wagner, your post sent me into my book of the writings of John Dewey,
> > where I became happily lost for half an hour. I couldn't find the maxim I
> > was looking for, but this one will do:
> > "Experience is already overlaid and saturated with the products of
> > the reflection of past generations and by-gone ages. It is filled
> > with interpretations, classifications, due to sophisticated thought,
> > which have become incorporated into what seems to be fresh, naive
> > empirical material. It would take more wisdom than is possessed by
> > the wisest historic scholar to track all of these absorbed
> > borrowings to their original sources. If we may for the moment call
> > these materials prejudices (even if they are true, as long as their
> > source and authority is unknown), then /philosophy is a critique of
> > prejudices/. These incorporated results of past reflection, welded
> > into the genuine materials of first-hand experience, may become the
> > organss of enrichment if they are detected and reflected upon. If
> > they are not detected, they often obfuscate and distort.
> > Clarification and emancipation follow when they are detected and
> > cast out; and one great object of philosophy is to accomplish this
> > task." (PJD 276)
> > The quote I was looking for and couldn't find made an allusion to Hegel's
> > famous aphorism:
> > "As for the individual, every one is a son of his time; so
> > philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as
> > foolish to fancy that any philosophy can transcend its present
> > world, as that an individual could leap out of his time or jump over
> > Rhodes." (Pref. Phil Rt.)
> > and went on to say that while no philosophy worthy of the name can simply
> > reflect the prejudices of its own times, it is given by its own times the
> > prejudices against which it must protest. Those who are blindly swept
> > by the fashions of the times are quite incapable of doing this and are
> > worthy of the name of philosophy or science.
> > Andy
> > Wagner Luiz Schmit wrote:
> >> Hello,
> >> I don't know if you already saw this... I am still thinking about it and
> >> what to say about it...
> >> http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/**pt-br/what_we_learned_from_5_**
> >> million_books.html<
> >> A new tool or a new way to reduce human to numbers? In some places i
> >> already see scientists from fields like neuroscience, evolutionary
> >> psychology and etc pointing to me and saying "Marx? Vygotsky? Gosh you
> >> obsolete and should be in a Museum". And they have funding...
> >> Just trowing toughs...
> >> Wagner Luiz Schmit
> >> ______________________________**____________
> >> _____
> >> xmca mailing list
> >> email@example.com
> >> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/**listinfo/xmca<
> > --
> > ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> > ------------
> > *Andy Blunden*
> > Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<
> > Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> > Book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/**product/1608461459/<
> > ______________________________**____________
> > _____
> > xmca mailing list
> > firstname.lastname@example.org
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/**listinfo/xmca<
> xmca mailing list
*Robert Lake Ed.D.
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA 30460
*Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
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