[b-hebrew] knowledge of language versus language use (was Pronoun )nky in Judg 6:8)

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Sat Oct 9 13:37:06 EDT 2004

On Friday 08 October 2004 22:27, Robert Holmstedt wrote:
> Harold,
> I agree with you that there is often a difference (register, perhaps?)
> between written and spoken language.  And certainly forming sentences is
> not an "unconscious" process (or I couldn't even be typing at this very
> moment).  And I try (but don't always succeed) in choosing my words
> carefully, when writing or speaking.  ;-)
> However, since there is very little that is intuitive about putting a verb
> before a subject, or vice versa, or even being able to carry information
> over from one statement to the next (e.g. gapping), how in the world are
> we to call this fully conscious activity?  Rather, when we speak, write,
> or communicate in any way with our language, it is a subconscious activity
> that springs from the "language faculty".  We are able to manipulate it
> and use it, but not access it.  For instance, can you tell me exactly how
> your mind puts together a sentence, processes an implicature, or anything
> else?
> All of these issues are why Chomsky maintains a hard distinction between
> knowledge of language and language use (or what is more often called
> "competence" versus "perfomance").

I thought about responding to Harold's post, but figured you could do a better 
job :-)  I think the reason he doesn't understand the subconscious part is 
because you and he are talking about two very different levels of language 
usage, i.e. you are talking about the very deep, fundamental level that says 
"I form a question by reversing the subject and verb, except when X, Y or Z 
is needed" and that sort of thing, whereas he's talking about a very high 
level of word choice, connotation, emphasis, and other matters of a more 
pragmatic nature.  It's always difficult to have a discussion when we're 
talking right past each other...

> Even for those of you who are die-hard anti-Chomskyans, I think you'd find
> the somewhat dated (but still valuable) book "Challenging Chomsky: The
> Generative Garden Game" by Rudolf Botha (Blackwell, 1990 -- out of print,
> though) very amusing and more than a little informative.

Sounds like an interesting book.  I have Radford's earlier book about 
transformational grammar and wasn't crazy about it.  Now I notice from your 
earlier post that he's following Chomsky into minimalism.  I confess I have 
always had difficulty understanding those who just follow him wherever he 
goes...I once had a snail-mail conversation with Ray Jackendoff, one of 
Chomsky's earlier students, and he told me in so many words that he finds 
Chomsky, from about 1991-2 onwards, incomprehensible.  I figured if HE 
couldn't understand Chomsky, I didn't have a prayer ;-)  For my own approach, 
see my post in response to Clay.

Dave Washburn
"No good.  Hit on head."   -Gronk

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list