John -- (01)
Thanks for your typically thoughtful responses, but some fine points: (02)
John F Sowa wrote:
> Some comments:
> Phil M
>> You can say, "It rains tomorrow." and be understood perfectly by
>> almost every English speaker, even if the sentence occurs in isolation.
>> But you will probably be thought of as someone who has limited
>> familiarity with "standard" English.
> Yes, but the grammatical requirement to speak in a certain way tends
> to direct thought along certain lines. For example, the Slavic
> languages have pairs of verb forms to express perfective (action
> completed) vs imperfective (action continuing).
> English speakers who learn Russian are forced to pay attention
> to details that they could express in English, but usually don't.
> They can understand the distinction when you tell them, but it
> takes a great deal of practice to express it consistently.
Hmm. I speak Russian and French (although rather badly now, in both
cases) and am familiar with several other European languages. Yes,
native speakers of English like me have to adapt to the significant
difference between representations of tense. But in this particular
case, I can't think of any specific instances in which an equivalent,
fully grammatical representation cannot be constructed in either
language. It's more like re-mapping, which we do unconsciously or very
fluidly after we reach a certain level of expertise/experience/fluency,
However, I defer to the judgment of those who are truly bilingual, and I
suspect that you may be among them. (04)
> By the way, Chinese doesn't have the elaborate inflections of Russian,
> but it has a particle (le) that indicates a completed action. But
> Chinese doesn't have any way to express the English 'would be' or
> the subjunctive particle 'by' in the Slavic languages. Chinese
> speakers who have not learned an Indo-European language find it
> very difficult to express those forms.
That makes sense, but again I defer to the judgment of those who are
truly bilingual. (05)
>> Meaning *precedes* language, but they become intricately intertwined.
> Sometimes. But meaning that is encoded in the syntax and vocabulary
> of one's native language is much easier to express, learn, and think.
I may have introduced ambiguity by attempting to be cleverly succinct.
Fail, I guess. (06)
First of all, by "meaning preceding language," I mean (07)
(1) Historically, I believe that awareness/understanding of purposeful
activities preceded the use of language to convey that awareness. Just
ask the caveman who was whacked with a stick for trespassing in
anotherís cave. Meaning understood. (08)
(2) We don't usually communicate via natural language in most
work/social situations unless we intend to convey significant
(meaningful, relevant) information (or command or question, etc.). Of
course, there are other uses of language in which this may not be true. (09)
Within this overly simplistic framing, I cannot find good examples in
which meaning does *not* "precede" language. And, yes, they become
intricately intertwined, whether easy or difficult ... but perhaps to a
different degree for a second language. (010)
Thanks again, (011)
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