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In message <v01520d04b0f40ac9ec41@[195.54.224.94]> [log in to unmask] (Raymond A. Brown) writes:
> At 23:19 25/1/98, Cheradenine Zakalwe wrote:
> >In message  <v01520d00b0f1037ad6dd@[195.54.224.105]>
> >[log in to unmask] writes:
> >> What I fail to see is that if humankind is born with these "language
> >> universal", why, in fact, are they not apparent.
> >
> >Because you haven't looked, perhaps?
>
> Why do some auxlangers always feel to the need to attack _personally_.
 
I wasn't.
 
> I did *NOT* say that I hadn't found them.  What I was commenting on is the
> *fact* that these "language universals" are very controversial.
 
Really? I was under the impression that a lot of universals are
uncontroversial, eg:
 
1. languages have nouns and verbs
 
2. languages have words that are composed of phonemes
 
3. languages have a set of sound-symbols called phonemes; and each
phoneme can be realised by a range of sounds, often different depending
on the phonemes before and after it
 
4. utterances in languages can be syntactically split into lumps and
sub-lumps, eg "the big red car goes into a wall":
 
<sentence>
   <noun-phrase>
      <article>: the
      <adjectives>: big red
      <noun>: car
   <verb-phrase>
      <verb>: goes
      <prepositional-phrase>
         <preposition>: into
         <noun-phrase>
            <article>: a
            <noun>: wall
 
5. pidgins and creoles tend to have similar grammars (eg small number of
prepositions, tense and aspect marked by particles) and similarities in
the lexicon (eg small number of words, compound words are transparent in
meaning), regardless of thre source languages.
 
6. when children learn language, the order in which they learn phonemes
tends to be similar, whatever language they are using.
 
> That has absolutely nothing to do with *my* not looking.  I have studied to
> a lesser or greater degree quite a number of languages for nearly 50 years.
> Do not, please, accuse me of not looking.
 
OK, I take it back.
 
> >It seems to me obvious that human language didn't suddenly appear from
> >nothing.
>
> ....same as the first human didn't suddenly appear out of nowhere.  I
> didn't say that human language suddenly appeared from nothing.
>
> >There must have been a long transition period -- say about a
> >million years or so -- between the earliest language-like utterances
> >and modern language.
>
> You have evidence for this?
 
Yes. The human body (especially the brain) contains special structures
for doing language. These are too complex to have evolved in one
generation. Therefore they must have evolved over many generations.
 
> >Possibly it was something like this: first
> >came single nouns, spoken on their own:
> >
> >"tiger", "food"
> >
> >Then two-word utterances:
> >
> >"eat food", "tiger there"
> >
> >Then gradually building up more grammatical complexity and function
> >words.
>
> Is this the "Bow Wow" theory, "Woof Woof" theory or what?
 
Call it what you like.
 
> This seems to me no more credible that to imagine millions of years through
> which proto-birds could manage single notes, then evntually join two notes
> together gradually building up gradually to the complexity of modern
> bird-song.
 
Bird-song does not, as far as anyone knows, convey complex meaning the
way human language does.
 
> I find it much more plausible that language arose
> from this matrix of "chattering" as humans came to 'understand' their
> neighbors; I suspect it was a complex process worthy of an organism that
> had evolved over millions of millions of years.
 
Then we agree?
 
> I have a suspicion that
> human language has always been complex.
 
Not before it existed, it wasn't.
 
--
Cheradenine Zakalwe
Eurolanga Publicizationa Organization