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On 11/01/2013 18:42, Matthew Martin wrote:
[snip]
>
> The language that appears to rely entirely on vocabulary
>  (no morphology or syntax) almost certainly has
> discourse.

How?

> As soon as you have to sequence your utterances, there
> will be some sequences better than others (Should we
> start with a flash back? Shall we have the narrator
> narrate how the story ends first?)

Once we are into sequencing, we have syntax!

If we three lexemes HUNTER LION KILL it is useful to know
who was the killer and who got killed.  Once it is accepted,
e.g. that the killer (i.e. subject of verb) comes first, we
have syntax.

If there is no syntax then speaker A can utter a stream of
lexemes and speaker B can put them together in any way s/he
wants.  That IMHO does not permit fluent discourse.

> A skilled user of a system like that probably could do
> quite well.  This would be sort of analogous to Chinese,
>  which clearly has syntax,

It does.

> but the writing system relies on fixed forms and in
> skilled hands has some advantages over the alternatives.

I do not understand this.  All written Chines that I have
ever encountered has syntax; indeed, surely "fixed forms"
implies syntax.  It would be somewhat difficult
to read without there being syntactic rules, methinks.

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On 12/01/2013 04:39, Amanda Babcock Furrow wrote:
> On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 07:14:59PM +0100, Jörg Rhiemeier
[snip]
>
> They could also have "Warrior enemy felled-by" vs.
> "Warrior enemy got-one",

Ah, passive versus active verbs.  Yes it could be done by
the lexicon and not by morphology.  But I cannot help
noticing that both sentences are of the SOV order - i.e.
_syntax_ is being used.

> but again I think they could just use the "Casualties!"
> vs. "Kills!" calls.  You get the drift.

That's about all, if syntax is ruled out IMO.

> All supposing there ever was such an embryonic language.
>  It makes me cringe to have written the above, being so
> close to caveman-ese as it is.

It is   ;)

> But logically, communication almost had to pass through
> this point, though quite possibly before the evolution
> of the modern vocal tract.

Why? Are there no other possibilities.  It has long seemed
to me that language may have developed out of babble of
apparently aimless chatter or of singing before becoming
formalized as language as we know it.  I really must read
Professor Steven Miten's "The Singing Neanderthals."    :)

 From what I have read about it, it seems much more in accord
with the way I've vaguely thought about things.

I think it significant that in all ancient societies that I
know of, the earliest _literature_ is in verse - prose comes
later. I can imagine palaeolithic humans (whether HSN or
HSS) chanting around the fire on long dark winter nights    :)

-- 
Ray
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