Dialogue with Mia Kalish - II

Mon, 29 May 2000

From: Dan Moonhawk Alford
To: Mia Kalish
Re: Yngve, Whorf, Chomsky, ModLx, worldview, Rosen, philosophy, etc. 

[Moonhawk] You wrote:

[Mia] Hi Back. Don't worry about the Yngve. You, and the rest of the world (chortle) are in enormous luck: I am building a web page where I will explain it all! This should be fun and interesting.

[*Moonhawk previous] Can't wait!

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

[Moonhawk] Actually, I made up the name. I needed a shorthand way of talking about what that meant. Drove my gender and language professor nuts. She didn't realize that in the computer industry, when we need a name, we make it up. :-)

[*Moonhawk previous] The reason it drove them nuts was that in their brand of academic scholarship, that's called "making it up as you go along" and frowned upon! ;-) "Original scholarship" is an oxymoron!

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

[Moonhawk] I saw your discussion of what's real. Foucault and the post modernists/- post constructionists seem to like to dance around this one a lot.

[*Moonhawk previous] One of my absolutely favorite questions (and possibly yours as well, re: your sig-line quote), given the linguistics, physics, consciousness, (Continental) philosophy, and Native American lenses (among others) I can bring to bear on the same question. If, as seems common to many of them, the so-called "out-there" reality comes packaged as waves to us from a complex frequencies domain, which we receive synesthetically (holistically -- a holographic mind interpreting a holographic universe) before parcelling them out to our senses for specific domain reports to turn them into objects or sounds or smells hooked up with our histories/memories of such specific frequency complexes encountered before -- which can also include people, spirits, concepts, etc -- then reality is tunatya: the spacetime emergence, moment by moment, of the interaction of the manifested and the unmanifested. This is of course what Einstein meant by E=mc^2. Energy and mass are the same thing when bounded by the speed of light squared: one of those speed-of-light conditions has been mentioned, of out-there reality sharing itself with us once we are tuned to that frequency; we tune to the frequency through consciousness and there is a back-action such that manifesting happens in spacetime. Thus, atoms and molecules have no intrinsic color, but we see see color where they are, not like we're projecting color at them. We create rainbows by seeing them. And the most wonderful part of all: reality is what we ask it if it is! Are you waves? Yes! Are you particles? YES! So which shall we focus on for Human Linguistics, since so little for us is actually particle-like unless we make it so ('states'!)

[Mia] Sometimes, I am not sure what the "real world" is, either. As I sit here in New Mexico, in the late afternoon heat, I believe that the late afternoon heat is real, because I feel it on my skin. I believe that the words in my head are real because I hear them as I speak this email I am typing.

[*Moonhawk previous] I do *such* a good rap on "voices in the head" in my classes. That's where linguistic code-switching originates, including where multiregister, multilect, and multilingual PROMPTS come from before you open your mouth to repeat them out loud (Slobin's "thinking for speaking" as one kind of thinking available to a person). OH, BTW -- will you be in NM during the summer? I should be in Albuquerque the second weekend of August, doing another Language of Spirituality conference -- perhaps you can meet me there!

[Mia] But do I believe the love I think I perceive in Brother Warrior is real? Ah, Dan, here is the rub. I sometimes think it is such a beautiful thing that that kind of trust and understanding could exist that the cynic in me disbelieves... but then, the person I am shakes me soundly and tells me that I have to believe, because if I don't, I won't be able to get more of the world to believe it's possible... and that is really what I, and the focus of my work, are ultimately all about.

[*Moonhawk previous] The cynic is wrong. First, there is a level of *friendship* that goes on in Native America that is sooo much deeper than anything we can normally expect in our "civilized" society; I know, because I'm in one, and I've described it as being adopted as a friend. Next, that's what marriages are generally based on. Third, if you throw one of these verby languages into the deal -- where the cognitive bias is for personal experience and the language helps you formulate a description of what-is in verby ways, such as eighty roots signifying dynamic, animate movement within an animate universe -- then you've got as close to the *real deal* going on as I can imagine! And what's pure imagination for us and our language/culture complex is seen as the norm, the ordinary, in theirs.

[Mia] Tunatya: Is this real? We know it is. But we are in the select minority.

[*Moonhawk previous] "The Emperor has no clothes!" It's truly the shadow side of gaining understanding, like explaining color to the blind or otherwise visually differently abled. ;-) What do you DO when you know and others don't?

[Moonhawk] got a handy example [of paralinguistic tropes]?

[Mia] Oh yeah, zillions. ('Zillions real, d'ya'think? ....just joking.) Anyway. Before I do this, let me say that I am interested in a) what people mean when they say; and b) what informs both the speaking and the understanding. This automatically moves me away from Chomsky, whose little know-it-alls I am still tracking, and Grice, who simplified stuff so much that we barely have a communicative transaction, and all the other linguists who look only at the words and sentences, and leave out all the gestures, paralinguistics, sound, etc. etc.

[*Moonhawk previous] ... which of course mirrors my own distancing. And the informing/enforming (would you like to be in contact with my good friend Don Watson's Theory of Enformed Systems? makes sense to me, and you can find him as the host of MY webpage) has something to do with the voice(s) in our head. And we are in complete accord, as you know, regarding syntax-crashing idioms and "fashions of speaking", limbic emotional tunes, and reptilian-brain body language being language in the larger sense we MUST have to understand the evolution of language as well as its developmental stages. What's "para-" from one literacy-biased view is foundational and integral from another.

[Mia] Me: "Oh, I have lots of trouble with men." Him: "I'm not the one to help you with that."

Seems pretty straight-forward, yes? However, in the response, you see the implication that my statement was seeking help. In fact, I find the situation somewhat humorous, generally. Yes, it is sometimes painful and difficult, but it occurs because I have been a project manager most of my life and don't act like most men expect women to act. When I am in "personal mode", you don't generally see the PM come out, but when I am working, I am a whole different person. And, I say, smirking, you should sit back and watch how people react to this. Talk about a rich linguistic resource, rife with semantic double entende, inappropriate assumptions, power tropes, posturing.

[*Moonhawk previous] Hm -- I'm married to someone like that. ;-) I like strong women -- had one for a mom, too. Hmmmm!

[Mia] "He" obviously did two things. First, he ignored my tone of voice, which was an indicator of how I looked at the situation (benign, rather than problematized), and read through some schema of his own that there was a single meaning to my statement. Now, I am making an assumption here, based on the fact that he made a response statement rather than asking a question. QED.

[*Moonhawk previous] Sounds like typical male, so far, as described by Tannen -- focused on problem solving. Did you see the east coast study using MRI for women and men given the same verbal tasks? Men had a large area in the back of the left hemisphere lit up while women had a smaller area lit up there -- but a corresponding area in the back of the right hemisphere AS WELL! To men it looks like women don't use enought LH thinking while to women it looks like men have no RH at all! So, re: above, tone of voice not registered, only the words. ;-) My model works well for that!

[Mia] In the above paragraph, you can see how the simple linguistics of the two statements don't really tell you what is happening. They give you no way to predict what will happen next. Of course, Generative Linguistics doesn't promise you predictions, or Rose Gardens, but it does say that the grammar can tell you something about how the mind is working. And actually, I agree. I just think the focus is a bit sparse.

[*Moonhawk previous] Hm, I used to agree, but no longer; I think it only tells about how the virtual mind inside the ideal-speaker/hearer works. ;-) Actually, I think it adequately describes some features of left-brain workings while ignoring the rest of the evoltionary/developmental brainminds.

[Mia] Here we have two people, each with their own set of understandings. Yngve says these "understandings" can be translated into parameters. Then, each person speaks. Yngve says the voice pattern carries meanings. These can be represented as parameters. As one speaks and one listens, both change "state", one because he has spoken, and the other because she has heard what has been spoken. Yngve says that we can represent the state changes are variations and changes in the paramenters.

[*Moonhawk previous] Sounds interesting, if you like that kind of stuff. Kinda nouny for me, betraying its Indo-Eurpean noun bias.

[Mia] I can do this example also with deixis, also from an example with a different conversation, same interesting "him". He says to me, These are interesting questions and I hope someone finds an answer to them. Unfortunately, the questions refered to are my research, and I read the deixis as false. I am both furious and hurt. Not a pretty sight, but typical. I don't say, Did you mean that, because of course, I already "know" the answer, much as he did above. Also, my interpretation has been informed by the previous conversation, which I have interpreted to mean that the "interesting he" is a chauvinist.

[*Moonhawk previous] Hm!!

[Mia] So where did we get with all of this. Grice would show no anomalies. We only begin to notice that there are ambiguities when we treat the exchange as a two-sided conversation, and look at the views of the participants.... See? Seems intuitively obvious to me, so let me know if it isn't. My computer mind finds transparent things that are clear as mud to others, and you have to tell me or I don't know.

[*Moonhawk previous] It does make sense to me, tho better in your form than his. ;-)

[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 led me to believe that...." are ungrammatical.

[*Moonhawk previous] Ahem -- do you really want to make it ungrammatical in English? Or merely ungrammatical in K'ChaiMaya and nonsensical in English? I will certainly agree that animacy-detection is hardwired, AND that some languages, such as of Native America, focus clearly on that while we muddle it up with sexual gender. But in all cases, I'd wager, animacy itself is a problematic, not the given of the English sense of it. Each language configures animacy differently, sometimes looking more like, as in Algonkian languages, what we call animacy as a subset of what we call 'respect' -- being one of many reasons to respect -- as a property of the relationship with the object, in a language/culture complex where relationships and process are primary and objects are secondary, valuing the how more than the what, a good description of a non-materialist culture.

[Mia] 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. .....

[*Moonhawk previous] And yet, has anyone considered this sentence at the next cognitive level up in terms of worldview? Drumming bringing rain in an animate worldview is more grammatical and meaningful/sensible than in the lens of English with its inanimate worldview through which we would normally judge the sentence -- especially since the clouds they're calling are also spoken of in animate (i.e. relationship) terms. Please note, vis a vis cogsci and George's work, that this is happening at the level of categorization, not metaphor. And there is a branch of mathematics I've been introduced to which is also called category theory (Robt Rosen, Life Itself); the similarity is not trivial. Anyway, I hope you've browsed the article on my webpage ("Non-Metaphor") where a Blackfoot speaker says that no matter what anything sounds like when it's translated into English, when she's speaking her own language she does NOT use metaphor! Last summer in Albuquerque she went further to explain that when she says even the simplest thing in English, e.g., "The man is riding a horse," pictures come up in her head; but when she says the "same" thing in Blackfoot, there are no pictures -- only [kinesthetic] feelings of movement! Imagine that! That an oral *human language* can be based on a primary kinesthetic-auditory link -- just like Sign languages! -- rather than our own visual-auditory one! There's one for the books, huh?! And then you throw in the fact that there used to be habitual simultaneous signing of Plains Indian Sign Language as well, so you've got primarily kinesthetic thinking underlying the polysynthetic smooshing of the morphemes indicating animate movement in a primarily animate universe ("inanimate", btw, being more like our "inert" than our "dead") ... perhaps you can see why I prefer whole-brain worldview problems to left-brain grammatical ones in general.

[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] Wonderful. thank you. Tell me more about him. Sometimes, I run into to some really heavy-duty linguistics, all of whom I have the habit of treating as people. Some find this offensive. :-)

[*Moonhawk previous] Let's see -- he's a 'real person' you can treat as such; he's been my co-teacher in developing fresh and exciting linguistics delivery systems around consciousness, culture and cognition issues for 20 yrs; has been meditating since he was 14; is attending UC Davis in Education, not linguistics, for a better career path.

[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.

[*Moonhawk previous] IMO, BTW, very little left-brain stuff will be found to be universal, except pertaining to what's universal in left-brain processing. All the rest of what they're looking for as "language universals" are to be found in the stuff they otherwise dismiss as "not language," in the right hemisphere and evolutionarily nested Old Brainminds. They can't have it both ways! Mine's the only model that says that what EACH functional brain thinks in is its own language with its own unique kind of syntax; that the left-brain primary model of language is an emperor with no clothes, more attuned to literacy than full face-2-face communication, which uses a vastly larger bandwidth. ;-) That's the HUMAN one I'm after, rather than Chomsky's machine counterfeit version of language.

[Mia] I really liked the different perspectives on Whorf. Lots of people I know diss Whorf as being half of Sapir-Whorf, and that is that. But reading what you had to say, and what Andy Hilgartner had to say, I realized that Whorf is really someone worth reading. I figured the man couldn't be an idiot, but you know how dismissive some people can be. (Sniff!)

[*Moonhawk previous] As I tell MY grad students from different disciplines: no matter what your discipline, if you REALLY want to know what it's about at the foundational level, find out who they're relentlessly beating up on and why! And if you're ever so lucky as me to find someone whom 4 or 5 disciplines have all ganged up to beat up on -- you'll have struck a goldmine!!! The man who thru his MIT physics training made the connection between the Humboldtian relativity of Sapir and Humboldtian relativity thru Einstein reduced to "half of Sapir-Whorf" indeed! Mia, this goes back to the early statement about what do you do when you KNOW but are decades or centuries ahead of others in that knowing. He was a uniquely American prophet of linguistics!

[Mia] Hope you are having a grand week-end. I am playing with wonderful fractal graphics for my web page. I think it is delightfully oppositional that I am using mathematical fractals (which can be seen and touched, imagine that: imaginary things in the real world. [Yes, I love Quine.] )

[*Moonhawk previous] Let me know when it's done (?!) and I'll peek in. Quine is one of the reasons I abandoned philosophy for 15 years, after my introduction to mostly logical positivism at UCLA in the late '60s, until pulled back in by Bert Dryfus at Berkeley after my Native experiences, so that Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty made much more sense than they otherwise would've, talking about the knowing-how as primary over knowing-what in living our lives. My buddy Sakej is into Derrida right now; sees him as a European academic Trickster!

[Mia] Anyway, so much for my perverse philosophical humor. I am playing with beautiful graphics to lay out my web pages so I can put this stuff out there. I didn't see much about Yngve on the web. It is amazing to me that a man of his stature comes out with something as earth shaking as that book, and the world just yawns.

[*Moonhawk previous] At least Whorf had his vocal critics, as well as his admirers. Someone told me you haven't really "arrived" until you have your first critic roundly denouncing you! Funny, these whiteman games -- no such thing as "bad" publicity, I guess! But I'm kinda gettin' used to the yawns. :-(

[Mia] I have not been to the library to see what is available in the linguistics journals... So I am going to abstract it and draw the model. And write and write and write. They will probably ignore me, too. Until I get funding. Chortle.

[*Moonhawk previous] Just remember the ancient Chinese curse, the second part of which is "May people in high places take notice of you" (along with "May you live in interesting times" and "May all your wishes come true"). When I was on the Cheyenne res, one said to me that in their way nobody is so useless that they can't at least serve as a bad example! I think we can use Chomsky in that way to see what happened when the curse came true, selling his soul to the government -- and selling out our anthropologically rooted discipline -- by purposefully creating a grammar for military artificial intelligence purposes. He played an image shell-game: becoming a cultural icon representing anti-establishment views, displaying in bullet-form exactly how the big, bad media Manufactures Consent ... while at the same time, by Manufacturing Consent in linguistics using the same bullet-pointed methods as he said the media used, creating the biggest, baddest linguistics empire that's ever been seen in this lazy little discipline since its inception in the early 19th-Century! Nobody's been able to drag it back from him, tho inertia is presently causing it to gently implode.

"Thus three elements suddenly existed: that which is 'here'. That which is 'there'. And that which is neither 'here' nor 'there' - but which must exist for 'here' and 'there' to exist."

[*Moonhawk previous] I really like this! Kinda like tunatya! Kinda like how physicists talk about quantum causation behind spacetime!

warm regards, Moonhawk