discourse analysis and circular reasoning

Moon-Ryul Jung moon at sogang.ac.kr
Sat Apr 13 21:59:28 EDT 2002

Rolf warned against the danger of circular reasoning in the method of
discourse analysis. To him, discourse analysis "tries  to confirm  the
very results on which your method build".

I would like to make some comments.

(1) We need to distinguish "circular reasoning" and "spiral reasoning".
    If you travel on the circle, you cannot move forward. But if you
    travel on the spiral, you make circular motion, but still move
    forward. I think discourse analysis which for example Niccacci does
    is more like spiral reasoning than circular reasoning. It does start
    with the assumption that different forms would have 
    different functions. He distinguishes WAYYIQTOL, WEQATAL, WEYIQTOL,
    QATAL, YIQTOL, and QOTEL. It is the safest assumption. I would be 
    happy to go on a spiral travel starting from this assumption. In the
    early part of the spiral travel, we would detect the usage of these
    forms from examples whose interpretations are clear. In the latter
    part of the travel, we would attempt to interpret difficult cases
    by using the patterns of usage discovered so far. As long as such an
    attempt does not face a total breakdown, it is scientifically
    legitimate to continue the trip. One should not criticise this trip
    by saying that it builds upon the assumption and sticks to it, but
    by saying that the resulting interpretations do not make sense at all.

    You worry that the interpretation of a sentence is affected by many
    factors, e.g. temporal adverbials, lexical aspects of the
    verb,  other than the verb form. That is true. But the interpretation
    of such sentences would be attempted in the latter part of the 
    spiral travel. 

(2) Science is the refinement of everyday thinking. Physics Laws are
    refined descriptions. For example, the Newton's three laws of motion
    are just descriptions of the reality. Before we attempt refining
    descriptions, we need to find them. In the case of hebrew, I think
    that we need descriptions of the verb forms more than we need to
    analyze them based on a few parameters. I have some experience
    in computational linguistics, a field of Artificial Intelligence.
    All the theories seemed to  lack "descriptive adequacy". Without it
    any attempt to get "explanatory adequacy" would turn out to be 
    a meaningless game. 

Moon R. Jung
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea


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