March 17, 2010

Human Language, languages and communicaiton (Instruction 4-6)

                                     Introduction (4)

Ordinarily, language change is an exuberant process, which makes language develop far more machinery than they really need to—the gender markers in such languages as French and German are hardly necessary to communication, for example But this overgrowth is checked when history get in the way. For example, when people learn a language quickly, without being taught explicitly, develop a pidgin version of it; then if they need to use this pidgin on an everyday basis, it becomes a real language, called a Creole. Creoles are language starting again if you will, immediately they divide into dialects, mix with other languages, and tart building up the decorations that older languages have.



Introducion ( 5)

Just as there is an extinction crisis among many of the world’s flora and fauna, it is estimated that 5,500 of the world’s languages will no longer be spoken 90 years from now. Globalization and urbanization tend to bring people toward one of a few dozen politically dominant languages, and once a generation is not raised in language, it no longer survives except in writing—if linguists have gotten to it in time. As a language dies, it passes through a ‘pidgin’ stage on its way to expiration. This course, then, is both a celebration and a memorial of a fascinating variety of languages that is unlikely to exist for much longer.

This concludes the introduction to “What is language.” In the next installment we begin this series with a talk on what linguists mean by Language.







To lay the groundwork for this series we ought to set up before we look at the natural history of language is exactly what we mean by language. To this end, I will follow the methods linguists use to study language. It’s important to realize that as easy it is to think that language is just a collection of words, but it’s the grammar that we use to put the words together in order to convey an audience, and even in order to affect the world by the utterances that we produce.

So, for example, you could know 5,000 words in a foreign language. You could cram them all into you head with flashcards, and you still wouldn’t be able to say things like. “She might as well end it,” getting in that nuance of might as well and what that means.  Or, you probably wouldn’t know how to say, “It happened to be on a Tuesday.” In many other languages, you wouldn’t use the word for happen. That’s just one way happen happens to be used. But it’s things like that that are language; it’s something unique that we can do.


  ですからたとえば外国語の5000単語を覚えることができます。単語カードで頭の中に単語だけ詰め込んだとします。それでも、微妙な文章を理解することはできません。たとえば”She might as well end it.” のような文のmight as well の意味はわかりません。”It happened to be on a Tuesday.” このhappen の使い方はそう多くの言語では使わないでしょう。Happen のいろいろな使い方の一つです。このようなことが言語であり、独特の使われ方があるのが言語です。                  

                                      Questions to consider

What does Language (with a capital L) do for us? The most important role it has is to provide us with a representational system. By a representational system I mean an ordered picture of the world, arranged so that the items of information in it can be swiftly and easily located. A picture that divides our view of reality into named and readily recovered pieces. Is what enables us to talk about the world and, more or less, everything in it—everything, at least, that lies within the reach of our senses, and even a good deal (Cyclops, quarks, gremlins and the like) that lies outside that reach.

 And I hasten to add that there is no sense in which we could call any other so-called language (bees, trained apes, parrots, flowers, your pet pochi, etc) a representation of the world. Neither human body language nor the calls or gestures of monkeys represent the world. What they do represent is how the human or monkey individual is feeling right now, and in so doing may transmit the wants or intentions of that individual, but no more than that. Only language can constitute a representation of the whole world that a creature senses and experiences.

 Please take note of the fact that representation is logically prior to communication. We cannot communicate what we cannot first represent, because we have no symbols with which to communicate. This applies, not merely to human language, but to any of the other so-called languages already mentioned. If you were to, heaven forbid, remove the fur of an animal which expresses hostility by fluffing out its fur that animal would obviously, be unable to communicate hostility. By the same token, if we were to suffer a stroke or other trauma to the brain we would be unable to communicate linguistically.  

In the Grimm Brothers ‘Riddling Tale’ three women were changed into flowers but only one of them was allowed to go home at night. Thus, she could talk to her husband and explain to him what had happened to her and how she could be rescued. And so in the morning she returned to the field of flowers to await her husband who ws coming later that afternoon to the field to ‘gather’ her. This very brief tale had a happy ending but only because she was able to tell her husband, the night before, how to tell her apart from the other flowers in the field and thereby rescue her and live happily ever after.





具象化は意思伝達よりも先にあるという事実を覚えておいてください。わたしたちはまず初めに具象化できないものは伝達することはできません。なぜなら伝達するする手段としての記号がないからです。このことは人間の言語だけではなく、すでに述べた他の動物などの言語にも適用されます。もし、あり得るとして、動物の毛をすべて引き抜くとしたら動物は敵に対して毛を逆立てて、敵対心を表わすことができなくなります。同じく、人間も脳梗塞やトラウマなどにおかされると、言語による意思伝達ができなくなります。グリム兄弟の ‘Riddling Tale’ の話しでは3人の女性が花に変えられてしまうのですが一人だけが夜、家に帰って夫と会って話すことを許されました。しかし明け方また元に戻って花に返らなければなりませんでした。このように彼女は夫に何が起きたか、どのようにしたら助けてもらえるかを説明できました。だから彼女は救われたのでした。そして朝、彼女はあとで「迎えに来る」と言った夫を待つために畑に戻っていきました。この短い話しは彼女が前夜、他の花たちとちがって夫に伝えることができたことによって助かり、幸せに暮らすことができたということです。


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