Language and Thought

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Join in the discussion on the interconnectivity between language and thought. Does language influence our thoughts or do our thoughts influence our language?


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Developing a Holistic Model of Language: Problems and Solutions : Developing a Holistic Model of Language: Problems and Solutions Laura Hattersley University of South Carolina Lee, Su-tseng Chin Min Institute of Technology lbhatters@hotmail.com sutsenglee@yahoo.com.tw

The controversy: Language and Thought : The controversy: Language and Thought Do our thoughts effect the language we use? or Does the language we know and use in society effect the thoughts we have? History Panini and Bhartrihari, (India, 6th Century A.D.) argued that our language influences the thoughts we have; language as either that which influences our thoughts, or is influenced by our thoughts, has been the subject of debate in both Western and Eastern linguistic tradition even to this day .

Two Opposing Views : Two Opposing Views Thought determines language: (T-> L) Key theorists: Pinker, Chomsky Evidence: Recursive grammars, cognitive processes and innate language abilities, language universal theories Language determines thought: (L-> T) Key theorists: Lakeoff, Geoff, Hall Evidence: Worldview conceptions, language accessibility options and barriers, euphemism theories.

PowerPoint Presentation : An astronomer, an engineer, and a mathematician are on a train traveling through Scotland, when they see a black sheep in a field from the window. “Aha!” says the astronomer, “All sheep in Scotland are black.” “No” says the engineer, “All you can say is that the sheep in this field are black.” The mathematician rolls his eyes. “Gentlemen”, he says, “All we know is that in Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, with at least one side of which is black.”

Abstract L. Hattersley University of South Carolina TESOL, English Su-Tseng Lee Chin Min Institute (Taiwan) Linguistics : Abstract L. Hattersley University of South Carolina TESOL, English Su-Tseng Lee Chin Min Institute (Taiwan) Linguistics This research examines four of the most prominent prototypical models of language which have caused us to reach the conclusions we have, through an examination of those forces which have influenced our reasoning, past and present. When we unconsciously divide linguistic, social, and cultural models up into as many different categories as there are sciences, we do not give sanction to a holistic model of language. To create an integrated, holistic model, we must also remove those premises which demand for us to focus on one area of specialty. This is impossible. Therefore, since historically we have used logic to classify our thoughts into the various theories, we must use logic to remove them. Whether removing them causes any disequilibrium is the ultimate test of their strength.

Data Collection and Analytical Method : Data Collection and Analytical Method Research began and ended with a longitudinal history of 1.) logic, 2.) linguistics, and 3.) anthropology from the Sixth Century AD to the present day using the categorical definitions of prominent language theories as described by western encyclopedias and books as a basis for analysis. In the process of random research, a debate between linguistic studies and cultural-anthropology was discovered, and used as the base for the search for a holistic language model. Based on the debate of these two contrasting theories, a preliminary model was formed which contrasted the Formal language theories (with the premise that thought primarily influences language) with the Contextual ones (with the premise that Language primarily influences thought). Other theories which dominated linguistic circles described by long-established and modern-day scholars from western encyclopedias and texts were examined. The four categories by western scholars found and agreed upon by the authors, included : 1.) the Formal Models, 2.) the Functional Models, 3.) the Systemic Models, and 4.) the Relativistic Models . A logical summary of the four major theories within these categories were recorded.

PowerPoint Presentation : Twelve common components of all of the theories were gathered and evaluated for their roles in language theory, including: 1.) Phonological Functions 2.) Morphological Functions, 3.) Syntactic Functions (including functional structure), 4.) Phrase Structures 5.) Semantic Functions, 6.) Cohesion with Cohesive Devises (component is necessary) 7.) Cohesion without cohesive devises 8.) Paralinguistic Structure, 9.) Components of Register (contextual functions), 10.) Rhetorical Structure 11.) Pragmatic Functions, and 12.) Sequential Turn-Taking Patterns (interactive and relational change functions). Each of the four categories of theories were evaluated for whether they characteristically do or do not employ a discussion about these components in that particular theory, i.e. in each of the Formal Models, the Functional Models, the Systemic Models, and the Relativistic Models (Figure 3).Theories were then compared by the characteristics and components recorded above, and compared with each other (Figure 4). A new paradigm is proposed for a holistic theory of language. It proposes that if any of the four theories of language are excluded, then a holistic model is not complete.

Preliminary Model : Preliminary Model Formal ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contextual (innate, non contextual, closed) (relative, open) THOUGHT  LANGUAGE LANGUAGE  THOUGHT Figure 1. A visual diagram showing the dualistic extremes of language theories

Formal ------------------------ -----------------------Functional ---------- Systemic -------------------- Contextual (innate, non-contextual closed) (pragmatic) (social) (relative, open) THOUGHT  LANGUAGE LANGUAGE  THOUGHT : Formal ------------------------ -----------------------Functional ---------- Systemic -------------------- Contextual (innate, non-contextual closed) (pragmatic) (social) (relative, open) THOUGHT  LANGUAGE LANGUAGE  THOUGHT Figure 2. A visual diagram showing: 1.) the dualistic extremes of language theories and 2.) where the additional two categories appear to fit into the system. Preliminary Model Assumption 1: All linguists are formalists. In fact, there are anthropologists who are considered to be formalist. Assumption 2: All anthropologists are relativists. In fact, there are linguists who are considered to be formalist.

PowerPoint Presentation : Four Angles on language theory Systemicists (Open) Relativists -PostStructuralists SYSTEMIC GRAMMAR THEORIES (systems-based grammars) RELATIVE GRAMMAR THEORIES (relative grammars) Speaker meaning and intent is for social goals and connection. Speaker intent is at core for expression of meaning Language influences context and influenced by context. Language is influenced by environment and worldview Meaning influences choices of grammar Language determines thought- linguistic relativism SOCIAL RELATIONAL Language Influences thought SOCIAL CONTEXTUAL FORMAL GRAMMAR THEORIES LEXICAL FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR THEORIES Speaker meaning and intent irrelevant Grammar is a resource for creating meaning (descriptive-rank scale) Thought determines language- generative socially prescribed typology of patterns and rhetoric which influence (absolute universals) CODE, COGNITIVE meaning (universal tendencies ) FUNCTIONAL/ PRAGMATIC (Closed) Structuralists Functionalists

PowerPoint Presentation : William Turnbull summarizes the contrasting theories of traditional models as follows: Cognitive Models: Talk is the verbal expression of thought; the purpose of talk is to convey information; talk is the product of mental processes alone; talk is an intrapersonal process; the structure of cognition determines the structure of talk; but is not influenced by talk; the structure of talk is merely a reflection of cognition. Social Pragmatic: people do things with words; words, [and] language are a constituent of talk; people coordinate actions with talk; talk is co-constructed; interpersonal, dialectic process; the structure of talk influences the structure of cognition, and vise-versa (Turnbull 2003, 18).

Formal : “It is we, the self, who are makers of meaning” --Pinker, The Language Instinct Formal “Men are born with certain genetically inhereted psychological abilities which allow them to acquire language”.

Functional : Functional www.hf.uib.no/i/LiLi/SLF/ans/Dyvik/comptran.htm l 3quarksdaily.blogs.com “We organize our world and communication patterns into meaningful hierarchies and relationships for external and internal balance in society and personal life.”

Systemic : Systemic Mattheissen, Halliday., Systemic-Functional Grammar , 58 “ Communication occurs in context of meaning for pragmatic goals and are both influenced by and influence that context”. Grammar provides us the basic resource expressing these speech functions. This is grammar as a system in its paradigmatic organization (Mattheissen & Halliday, 2006).

Relative : “Our culturally influenced concepts shape our own thinking patterns.” Relative Signifiers are words which refer to other words, and never connect to material objects. Meaning is contextual, and affected by related words. Specification of meaning is an infinite and endless process, with language only being manipulated by an ever-changing diachronic network of significations.

PowerPoint Presentation :

Proposal : Proposal The influence of structuralism is at the foundation of western science for creating such wide range theories, diametrically opposed. Westerners develop theories of language in isolation of other theories which have clouded the development of an adequate model of language. Aristotelian patterns of logic and reasoning have influenced classical western thought processes. These theories which appear to contradict each other may be looked from four different angles: the formal, the functional, the systematic, and the cultural.

THE PROOF: ABSENCE OF FOUR ANGLES ON LANGUAGE THEORY : THE PROOF: ABSENCE OF FOUR ANGLES ON LANGUAGE THEORY Figure 5. A paradigm which proposes a holistic theory of language. It proposes that any of if any of the four theories of language are excluded, then a holistic model is not complete. The proposal suggests that a holistic theory of language includes the various well-researched theoretical schemata, and does not exclude any of them.

No Formal Language Rules? : No Formal Language Rules? What if there were no formal grammar patterns we could work with? What if grammar was entirely subjective to one’s belief or relative to one’s opinion? Grammarians have proven that there are right and wrong ways to construct a sentence to communicate a thought effectively through linguistically-defined conventions. But what if that was not so? Could we communicate?

No Functional Language Possibilies? : No Functional Language Possibilies? What if we could not classify grammar according to their semantic and syntactical functions? What if one could only make imperative statements in the world, and never know the right context to make indicative ones? What if we could not classify our language by knowing the difference between a polite expression and an angry one? Could we really communicate?

No Systematic Language Ability? : No Systematic Language Ability? Would it be possible to communicate if we had no choices about what to say next? If we had only one choice could we be able to express our meaning clearly? What if we only could communicate without exchange of information, or any way to influence a person to think, respond, or act as we’d like to share? Could we get anywhere in our communication with each other?

No Relative Language Theories? : No Relative Language Theories? What if language was not relative to the context it was in? What if we had only one grammar for all people but had no choice or reasoning ability to use or classify that grammar, unable to ever change someone’s point of view? What if a word was autonomous, without reference to other words in a text or discourse, and could only be used in isolation? ‘How do I know the word “I” stands for myself?’” (Wittgenstein 1974: 120)

Questions of logical consistency to consider : Questions of logical consistency to consider A set of beliefs is consistent if it would be possible for them all to be true together : that is, if they are either in fact all true or could all have been true. Can all of these theories be true together, within each of their own closed system of explanation? A set of beliefs is inconsistent just if it would be impossible for them all to be true. Can all of these theories together be false within each of their own closed system of explanation? A single belief can also be said to be inconsistent (if it is not possible). An inconsistent belief is said to be self-contradictory , or a contradiction . Are any of these theories self-contradictory with any of the other theories, or with its own theory, within their own closed system of explanation? A single belief which could not be false is said to express a necessary truth . Could any of these theories be considered not false within its own closed system of explanation? A single belief which is not inconsistent and does not express a necessary truth is said to be contingent . Could any of these theories be considered not inconsistent within its own closed system of explanation?

PowerPoint Presentation : When we communicate, we wish to share our thoughts, ideas, emotions, etc. with others. However, communication is not a matter or replication or duplication of thoughts, but rather, it entails a creative model of transformation and interpretation. This interpretive view of communication implies that your understanding of what I am writing is not a reproduction in your mind of what I am thinking. Rather, you are constructing thoughts of your own which are more or less closely related to mine (Sperber 1996, Bou-Franch 2002: 3.1.)

PowerPoint Presentation : Thought influences/ determines Language Language influences/ determines thought Language influences/ determines thought Thought influences/ determines Language Input Hypothesis Input Hypothesis Output Hypothesis Output Hypothesis

PowerPoint Presentation : SYSTEM CONTEXTUAL Induction A priori sense/“blank slate” Deconstruction Open System or Classes Top-down processing (concept driven) Langue (Saussure) Associative (Saussure) (Paradigmatic) Deep Structure (Chomsky) Competence (Chomsky) Wernicke Right Brain Contiguity No Lexicon Similarity Disorder (Jakobson) FUNCTION FORMAL Deduction A posteriori empiricism/ experience Closed Structural Closed System or Classes Bottom-up processing (data driven) Parole (Saussure) Syntagmatic (Sausure) Surface Structure (Chomsky) Performance (Chomsky) Brocha Left Brain Similarity No Context Contiguity Disorder (Jakobson) Cohesion without Cohesive devises Cohesion with Cohesive devises

PowerPoint Presentation : The lesson was taught to them by me I went swimming Please ---- don’t go outside! She won’t, will ----- she? Tell me some jokes. FUNCTION FORMAL Deduction A posteriori empiricism/ experience Closed Structural Closed System or Classes Bottom-up processing (data driven) Parole (Saussure) Syntagmatic (Sausure) Surface Structure (Chomsky) Performance (Chomsky) Brocha Left Brain function Similarity (Jakobson) Contiguity Disorder No Context SYSTEM CONTEXTUAL Induction A priori sense/“blank slate” Deconstruction Open System or Classes Top-down processing (concept driven) Langue (Saussure) Associative (Saussure) (Paradigmatic) Deep Structure (Chomsky) Competence (Chomsky) Wernicke Right Brain function Contiguity (Jakobson) Similarity Disorder No Lexicon THE CONCEPT-DRIVEN, CREATIVE, INDUCTIVE, MIND THE REASON DRIVEN, STRUCTURE DRIVEN, DEDUCTIVE MIND

Conclusion : Conclusion When we unconsciously divide linguistic, social, and cultural models up into as many different categories as there are sciences; we do not give sanction to a holistic model of language. The differences between theories are that all are dependent on the premises that of their particular specialty to develop the theory. To create an integrated, holistic model, we must also remove our cultural influences which demand for us to focus on one area of specialty. Because this is not possible, we have taken an approach to the issues by negation . When this is done, it becomes clear that each of the theories which have shown to be the most influential have each contributed valuable information which helps us to create a model which is most holistic. In comparing theories, the systemic-functional theory has proven the best that we have to date in describing the science of language and communication .

1. Implications for Language Teaching : 1. Implications for Language Teaching

Example A: Conversation : Example A: Conversation M: Sam ^ , John is on the phone S: Okay. (^ indicates rising intonation) (Thurnbull, 1993: 32) Based on research of discourse analysis, the propositional meaning of the sentence is that someone named John is on the phone, and that someone named Sam is to know about it. But what must be assumed?

PowerPoint Presentation : First, that the speaker M has some reason for telling S that John is on the phone. Second, the rising intonation by M of the name “Sam” assumes that S understands that he is to respond or listen in some way. Finally, the assumption to S is that because John is on the “phone”, that S needs to come and pick up the phone. Now, what if this sort of conversation is conducted in an environment in which S knows the meaning of a “phone”, but has never used one? Then, S, though he might understand that John is on the other line, might not share the assumption of M to come pick it up.

PowerPoint Presentation : Therefore Turnbull proposes, “meaning is not ‘in’ sentences from which it is mechanistically extracted, but rather meaning is achieved (or not) by participants who together use the resource of talk, including sentences” (Turnbull, 1993: 32).

Example B: Text : Example B: Text [The World Council of Scholars tell us that] it is forbidden not to be happy… Yet … we look upon our brothers… we wonder… and a word steals into our mind… and that word is fear. There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets... All men feel it and none dare to speak. How does the language of the World Council of Scholars in saying that it is “forbidden to be unhappy” affect the thoughts of Equality 7-2521? Anthem , by Ayn Rand, 1937

Example 3: Grammar : Example 3: Grammar Truss, L. (2005) Eats, Shoots and Leaves for Kids, 2006

Truss, L. Eats, Shoots and Leaves For Kids, 2006 : Truss, L. Eats, Shoots and Leaves For Kids, 2006

Challenges with Natural language processing: : Challenges with Natural language processing: English doesn’t always specify which word an adjective applies to. The syntactic structure of some sentences can look different depending on the intended meaning of the author in context, which effects the interpretation of the computer’s internal program. For example, in the string "pretty little girls' school". Does the school look little? Do the girls look little? Do the girls look pretty? Does the school look pretty? Which interpretation do we choose when processing language? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_language_processing Or consider the problem of interpretation based on semantics and context: They took the panda back to the zoo. They took the tram back to the zoo. Huang, Y. (2006) Lexical Narrowing in English. Selected Papers from the Fourteenth International Symposium on EnglishTeaching. English Teacher’s Association, ROC. Taipei: Crane Publications

2. Implications for Computer Programming Methodology : 2. Implications for Computer Programming Methodology For natural language used in computer programming. This has important implications for language learning, computer programming and virtual communities. The possibilities and problems we have encountered have become greater and more challenging as language programs more closely represent the logical patterning that our own minds use. Programs are beginning to demand that language be adopted or modified for greater clarity for the user or for the internal goals of the program; most of which require contextual knowledge of the discourse or text.

PowerPoint Presentation : Among current theories of grammar, systemic grammatics can be located within a broadly defined class of 'functional' grammars that are typically characterized by certain orientations: it is oriented towards: Function rather than Forms Rhetoric rather than Logic Text rather than Sentences Resource rather than Rules Meaningfulness rather than Grammaticality Taken from: SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR: A FIRST STEP INTO THE THEORY Christian Matthiessen & M. A. K. Halliday iii/97

Laura Beth Hattersley
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