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Re: [ontolog-forum] language ambiguity

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 22:26:41 -0500
Message-id: <47B3B4F1.2040204@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Rob,    (01)

 > I was thinking of Pinker. I know him mostly for his book
 > "The Language Instinct".    (02)

Pinker and Jackendoff are both in the Chomskyan tradition,
and they both believe in the priority of syntax.  But they
have their own specialized versions.    (03)

 > I disagree with the idea that there are cognitive primitives
 > which explain language structure.    (04)

Before you disagree with me, please note that I did not use the
word 'primitives'.  Following is exactly what I did say:    (05)

 > One of the students was trying to develop an ontology of spatial
 > relations for representing structures in civil engineering.
 > For her term paper, I recommended Talmy's papers on representing
 > spatial relations in multiple languages.    (06)

Instead of the word 'primitive', I would use a word like 'pattern'
or 'schema', which is used to recognize sensory configurations and
to build mental models.  But I believe that any such pattern could
be reanalyzed at a lower level or be replaced by a different pattern
that might be more useful.  Therefore, it wouldn't really be a
'primitive' in the sense of a fixed and frozen, unanalyzable unit.    (07)

 > Interesting to hear you were right in there at the "Language Wars".
 > I enjoyed reading some essays by Frank Newmeyer on that period.    (08)

Since I am basically a mathematician, I was never in the linguistic
"in group".  However, I did attend the LSA (Linguistic Society of
America) Summer Institute in 1969.  One memorable event was an
evening talk by George Lakoff in a large auditorium.  During the
question period, Ray Jackendoff began asking repeated questions,
and it degenerated into a shouting match with Ray running down
the aisle.    (09)

I don't remember anything about the subject matter or the points
they were arguing about, but the entertainment was thoroughly
enjoyed by all.    (010)

John    (011)

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