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TriCo Language Seminar Series Forum

This on-line forum is for continuing discussion of matters arising from TriCo Language Seminar Series. Like all Serendip forums it is a class for informal conversation, for sharing of "thoughts in progress". Announcements of relevant related activities are also welcome.

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

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Forums and archives
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-11-01 10:48:22
Link to this Comment: 11298

Welcome to a new forum for interdisciplinary discussion of language. If you're new here, see remarks above about "thoughts in progress". If you've been here before, don't worry, nothing has been lost. You can find older "thoughts in progress" here.

Name: Eric Raimy
Date: 2004-11-01 13:36:09
Link to this Comment: 11301

Welcome to the TriCo Language Seminar Series Forum.

I hope you enjoy the discussions that occur here. There is never enough time to talk about all of the ideas that come from the Langauge Seminars that occur. This is the place to continue these discussions and to begin new ones that may not have occurred at a specific event.

My experience in the cross-disciplinary exchange on language has been to expand my understanding of what langauge is, to increase my appreciation of methods I'm not accustomed to and to actually strengthen and renew my own personal interests and perspectives on language. I hope that your participation in this project creates these benefits for you too.


Language Results from Emotional Dis-satisfa
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-05-01 13:01:16
Link to this Comment: 15006

So: this forum hasn't been (yet) been put to use, and the semester's ended, so I suspect it will not be any time soon...but I thought I'd record a couple of thoughts here, still rattling 'round in my brain from our discussion last Friday morning, which perhaps we can return to in the fall...? Or which someone else might like to pick up on, some summer day in the interim?

When I came late into the discussion on language, it was focused on the recent report of Vocal Experimentation in Juvenile Songbirds. What struck me here (because it jivved with recent experiences I've been having w/ an 11-month-old human) was less the report that the youngsters' songs became less variable and more true to the old standards, than the attempt to explain how all the playful variability in the little bird's babble arose in the first place. I get it that the process of comparing sounds happens in social interaction; what's of more interest to me is the generation of the variations.

If it's the case--following Greenspan and Shanker's argument in The First Idea that--contra Chomsky, contra Pinker--language is transmitted culturally, not genetically, what's used to decide what to copy? Is it genetic that "children don't copy trains"? If there is (again following Greenspan and Shanker) an in-built inclination to enrich emotional satisfaction--and we talk not to transmit information, but because we don't know what others mean (so the core is puzzlement, the production of questions), then we engage in the production of gestures or words because they invite response (vs. pantomine, which has no ambiguity, thus invites no response) .

If the process is driven by a need for emotional primacy, the key issue/trigger might then be boredom: If there is "enough to play with inside," a child may be slower in acquiring language, because she doesn't need it to communicate w/ others. Perhaps language acquisition is more rapid for only children (who need it to communicate w/ adults)? This would fit with two of the stories we heard Friday morning, which suggest that speech, like written language, depends on cultural transmission: a child's pleasure in "performing reading" for adults resembles another child's pleasure in "saying the words that get the most reaction."

But what's left out of all of this is the notion of the self talking w/ the self, the ways in which we may use language to adjudicate the confusion of what's going on inside. I'm reminded of two texts we read in the CSem I on Telling Stories: Polanyi's Tacit Dimension and Vygotsky's Thought and Language--both of which attend to thinking as an interior, not a social process, both of which examine self communing w/ self, in a special interior language. How necessary is the other in fueling this process?

Well, I found one answer in the preface to Kierkegaard's Either/Or. In search of Kate's quote ("Is reason then alone baptized,/ are the passions pagans?"-- which K. takes from Edwards Young's long 1777 poem, The Complaint; or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality --I found myself reading Kierkegaard's Forward, which begins by inviting his "dear reader"

to doubt a bit...the well-known philosophical proposition that the Outward is the Inward, the Inward the Outward...I have always been a little heretically-minded on this point...and therefore have accustomed make observations and inquiries myself....Gradually, then, hearing became for me the favorite sense. For just as the voice is the revealing of innerness incommensurable with the outer, so is the ear the tool whereby this innerness is perceived, hearing the sense whereby it is assimilated. Each time I found a contradiction, then, between what I saw and what I heard, I found my doubt confirmed and my desire for observation was increased.

The puzzle, in Kierkegaard's formulation, arises in the disjunction between what is seen and what is heard (I'm put in mind, here, of Jonathan Kahana's work on sound in documentary film--he looks at those moments when it doesn't accord with what is being shown). Perhaps language gets generated (or the generation of language is accelerated/facilitated) in response to our need to make sense of what we see....? And others' puzzling behavior (on top of the contradictions within)

gets--and keeps--us talking....?

Language fed, in other words, by emotional dis-satisfaction?

Forum Archived
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2006-08-08 10:55:47
Link to this Comment: 20140

This forum has now been archived and is closed to new postings. If you are interested in continuing the conversation, please contact Serendip. We like to hear from you. If and when the Language Group re-convenes, the forum will be reactivated.

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