When is a form real?

hefin jones hefinjones at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 15 05:54:26 EDT 2001

ross purdy said ...
>When is a form real?
>Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 03:51:43 -0500
>From Ross Purdy To the List,
>Trying to think from a practical perspective, when I think of a verbal
>action, I do not think of a particular form until after the context it will
>be used in is considered.  So, first an action is conceived of in the mind
>which has meaning to me.  Then, the form arises as I have learned it which
>best serves the aspect/tense/point of view: go, going, come, coming, went,
>gone etc. The form, it seems to me, is only representing the reality and is
>subservient to what is the most convenient way of expressing it.  Meaning 
>context underlies the real/used forms, while the analytical, abstract form
>would be an artificial construct of the linguist, again convenient for the
>purposes of the linguist. Do not most speakers of more than one language
>think primarily in one language and then match the words they are thinking
>of with forms in the second language with out ever touching base with a 
>or lexical form? In the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, there are a lot of 
>speaking people who think in German and speak in a literal English 
>of their thoughts like "turn around the corner". When children have not
>learned or can not remember the correct form, they use rules they learned
>for creating a form  or substitute in one they do know: "I goed to the
>bathroom", "I should've went too" to express what they mean. I guess I 
>vote for calling it an analytical form which is artificial since I do not
>think the language user is conscious of it. Rather the user is conscious of
>the meaning and the learned conventions for expressing it.

1.   The view of bilingualism advocated here is seriously flawed. True 
bilinguals don't privilege one language over the other(s) in their minds. In 
fact in certain contexts one can switch from one language to the other and 
back again without being especially conscious of doing so.

2.   As for how we select appropriate verbal forms when we speak fluently: I 
doubt that we make conscious choices most of the time. Occasionally we 
deliberately select a particular form. The form is not generated from 
reality but your thought.

3.   From a generative point of view there are  "abstract forms" which are 
not artificial constructs but real theoretical constructs of language much 
as electrons are real theoretical constructs in Physics.

Hefin Jones

Sydney, Australia.

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