Dialogue with Mia Kalish - I
25 May 2000
From: Dan Moonhawk Alford
To: Mia Kalish
Re: Yngve 
[Mia] I read your comments in response to Yngve's From Grammar to Science on The Linguist board in October, 1997. Have you read the book since? What are your thoughts?

[Moonhawk] Nope. <Sigh>

[Mia] I read it. I assimilated it. I thought the world had suddenly become springtime because now I have a methodology for demonstrating that the Kohlbergian Proposition (everything is as it is for Harvard sophomores) doesn't work in communication as it doesn't work anywhere else, particularly when people are trying to understand women and other people. Like Native Americans, hmmmm?

[Moonhawk] Didn't know there was such a Proposition. <Sigh> Are lots of people trying to prove or disprove it?

[Mia] As a computer-based individual (not made of silicon, but of the same logical ilk), I loved the form that had inputs AND outputs; that allowed that people did not always understand "instantly";

[Moonhawk] I agree; that's a good feature for a model which wants to incorporate more of the "real world" (whatever that is ...)

[Mia] that addressed the various paralinguistic tropes that show up in ordinary communication and that linguistics has never had a way to handle.

[Moonhawk] got a handy example?

[Mia] So tell me what you think. I am doing independent research this semester. My prof said, Well, if you don't mind if its VERY independent (he is in Boulder). Seth Minkoff (Ph.D, MIT, 1994; Chomsky was his chair) is about to publish the discovery of Principle D, which essentially says that animacy and sentience are required for anaphoric reflexives with certain types of verbs. Since he is a Chomskian, he is positing this as a rule in UG. Principle D was "discovered" in K'ChaiMaya (sorry, I don't think I spelled that right). He says in K'Chai, sentences of the form, "The rock attracted us to it(itself)" are not considered grammatical, but that the K'Chai believe that everything is alive. Actually, I don't care much about Principle D itself, but I do care very much about the position Minkoff is taking that the understanding of animacy is hardwired. This means that statements of the form "Your explanation lead me to believe that...." are ungrammatical. We know in English without very much effort that writing and speaking abound with examples in this form. This also creates serious questions about grammaticalizations that are being observed in other languages, where sentences of the form, "The drum brought rain" are considered grammatical, and are attributed to the action and understanding of metaphor. And finally, it raises other questions about how animacy is used in understanding SO components in languages like German.....

[Moonhawk] Okay. You need to read what my co-teacher Matthew Bronson wrote about animacy as a "strange attractor" that creates rudimentary grammar. I'll cc: this to him and perhaps he can help you, Mia.

[Mia] So this is what I am squirreling around with. I like Yngve, because it allows me to take UG and define it as a foundational property. These, according to Yngve, are unanalyzed properties below the level of verisimilitude of the model.

[Moonhawk] Good -- using "foundational" in the physics sense, which is what Whorf's relativity was as well.

[Mia] So I think I can take Chomsky (and Generative Linguistics) and define them as participants in Human Linguistics. (Won't that be fun.)

[Moonhawk] Indeed! ;-)

[Mia] Tell me what you think about this too. Shall send Brother Warrior imminently.

[Moonhawk] Am awaiting!