When is a form real?

ross purdy rossjpurdy at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 17 10:37:44 EDT 2001


Hefin Jones writes:

>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.

Then Mike knows someone who has to switch gears, if you will, to speak 
another language.  Those who I know who know more than one language are for 
the most part not fluent in either laguage they speak, so I suppose that 
means they are not "true bilinguals" by Hefin's definition! I suppose they 
are not true "monolinguals". Anyways I will call the simple folk I know 
bilingual even though they may not have a superior command of either 
language.  In fact, I know a number of people who have to put a lot of 
effort into saying something intelligent in the one language they do know.

>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.

I agree.  The process is automatic and similtaneous for the fluent, but I 
was merely proposing a "logical" description.

>The form is not generated from
>reality but your thought.

The forms exist by convention and then we are equipped with them as we learn 
the language.  When we think of something, I do not believe we necessarily 
think in a language until it comes time to express the thought or unless we 
are remembering some speech. Albeit on a subconscious level, a choice of 
form that already exists is made to express the thought. For those who are 
not fluent in a language and must translate from one language to the other, 
there will definitely be conscious and deliberate choice being made ( just 
sit in on a NT Greek class during a test and observe);)

>
>3.   From a generative point of view there are  "abstract forms" which are
>not artificial constructs but real theoretical constructs of language

I am not familiar with the "generative point of view" and I do not know what 
is meant by "abstract forms". I think what you mean by "real theoretical 
constructs" is probably what I would call "artificial constructs".

If a lexical form is a form that is not used in speaking or writing the 
language, then with respect to speaking and writing, that form is "not 
real".  The form is real with respect to other contexts, but if it does not 
function in the speaking/writing of the language, then to that purpose it is 
useless. If it were to be employed, it causes confusion.

Artificial has a broad range and can carry a number of connotations and so 
may not be the best choice. Perhaps "analytical form" would be more 
preferable to denote the root meaning for a family of forms which are real 
since they are actually used in speech/writing.

G'day mates

Ross Purdy

Iron Ridge, Wisconsin

rossjpurdy at hotmail.com

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