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[ontolog-forum] Michael Halliday on language evolving

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From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2014 11:12:29 -0500
Message-id: <54789EED.6070605@xxxxxxxxxxx>
I came across a one-hour YouTube lecture by Michael Halliday
on the topic "Language evolving: Some systemic functional
reflections on the history of meaning":    (01)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC-blhaIUCk    (02)

By "evolving", he means social evolution in historical times --
ranging from a few thousand years to a few dozen years.    (03)

Although Halliday is talking about language, the issues about
changes in language terms and forms reflect changes in the
implicit ontology expressed by those terms.    (04)

These issues are related to the Whorfian discussions, but Halliday
acknowledges that any language can express equivalent ideas by
borrowing or coining equivalent terms.  But it's important to
recognize that differences caused by inventing or borrowing new
terms affect how we think, talk, reason -- and design ontologies.    (05)

Halliday is an almost exact contemporary of Chomsky, but their
views of the nature of language are almost diametrically opposed.
Following is a review I wrote of one of his books:    (06)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/halliday.pdf    (07)

See below for the abstract of his talk.    (08)

_________________________________________________________________    (09)

Source:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC-blhaIUCk    (010)

Uploaded on Aug 25, 2010    (011)

Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, and hosted
by the Department of Language and Literacy Education and the Faculty
of Education as part of the plenary session at the 37th International
Systemic Functional Congress. Halliday notes the evolution of language
seems a simple enough concept:  it arose in the work of scholars
studying the history of linguistic forms (phonology, morphology,
some syntax).    (012)

But a language is a semiotic system; more importantly a semogenic, or
meaning-creating, system; and meaning also has a history - a highly
complex one.  Every language has, in Sapir's term, a "certain cut",
its own (constantly evolving) ways of meaning; yet most of its features
are shared with other languages.  We seek out the history of meaning
along various routes:  in the history of the form of language, in the
history of the people that speak it, in the history of the locale where
it is spoken, and in the history of its varied cultural contexts.    (013)

Consider English and Chinese, as two widely spoken and widely-documented
languages.  The history of meaning in English includes changes that took
place in ancient Greek and in ancient and medieval Latin, even though
English is not "descended from" these languages; Chinese has undergone
somewhat less upheaval, but the history of Mandarin involved contact
with ways of meaning derived from Sanskrit and from Mongolian, both also
"unrelated" to Chinese.  I think that, to study the history of meaning,
we take account of both child language development and the emergence of
learned forms of discourse; we maintain a trinocular perspective; and we
seek systemic and functional (especially metafunctional) explanations of
semiotic patterns in discourse.    (014)

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