[b-hebrew] Hebrew and the Elements of Language

JAMES CHRISTIAN READ JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk
Fri Aug 24 02:18:31 EDT 2007

Hi Karl,

KWR: Ah, but that picture has been proven false. The newborn child already
has heard the sounds of his household, and knows the voices of his
parents and of whoever else lives in the household.

JCR: Agreed.

KWR: I agree with you, however, that the specifics of any particular
language is not hard wired in an infant's brain. The question remains:
is there any aspect of language acquisition that is hard wired, and
can that change upon maturation?

JCR: Hearing is hardwired. The ability to distinguish 
first language syllables (an ability which wains with 
age) seems to also be hardwired. The ability to 
manipulate the larynx etc. is hardwired and the ability 
to mimick sounds and produce personalised 
approximations of syllables also seems to be hardwired. 
The cognitive system, including the ability to hear 
and see and to record those events with reprogrammable 
circuits is also hard wired. As for nouns, verbs, 
adjectives etc. I do not believe they are hardwired. 
They are just the byproduct of our hardwired language 
learning algorithm.

KWR: The studies that you reference assume that all language learning is
object oriented. But my question, does all language remain object
oriented, or can it change to function oriented? Or in this question,
am I dealing with something that is more cultural than linguistic per

JCR: The studies that I reference are cognitively 
psychological in their agenda. They make no reference 
to the implications for language. It is my own 
personal conclusion that language is therefore object 
oriented. I think we are dealing with something more 
psychological than cultural or linguistic. 

KWR: Now I admit that very early language acquisition is object oriented
(mommy, daddy, doggie, sister, brother, table, chair, foot, etc.)
because these are the elements that can be learned without being
linguistically communicated (e.g. pointed to). Likewise, objects
(though usually not the same ones) are usually the first elements
learned in the acquisition of a second language. My question is, can
the primary focus of language change from object oriented to function

JCR: We could make such a suggestion but the question 
will always remain "The function of what?"

KWR: Not necessarily. In many contexts, the missing verb can lead to
frustration and inability to communicate. There are many times where a
child will name an object, but what is important is not so much the
object itself, but what it is doing, and in omitting the verb, the
parent can be mystified why the child brought up the object in the
first place. The same with an incomplete inscription.

JCR: Yes! See my reference to how earliest words are 
context bound. These facts show that communication is 
both object and action oriented. However, the cognitive 
basis of such always remains the object itself.

KWR: I mentioned the example of (WP as defined by the function of flying,
not by the form of having wings KNP. In fact, KNP is also used for the
wing of clothing (from the action in clothing that it flaps in the
wind?), so the form/object connected with flying is also used for
non-flying objects and even that could be defined by its action.

JCR: Good point. But we are still at the end of the 
day discussing an abstract classification of objects 
with a common behaviour rather than specific concrete 
objects. The whole basis of understanding such abstract 
concepts is built on the solid framework of 
understanding of concrete objects which is in turn 
built upon the foundations of cognitive understanding 
of objects. Abstract behaviour oriented classification of objects can be considered a mature level of 
language as you suggested.

KWR: I suspect it is more cultural, affecting linguistics, than the other
way around, though there is most likely a certain amount of feedback;
namely the culture affects the language, but then the language
restricts expression to culturally accepted norms.

JCR: You are, of course, referring to the Whorfian model of linguistics. It is undeniable that there is a 
level of cultural influence in languages but I wouldn't 
go as far as Whorf and give it such primacy.

KWR: But are there not other cultural/cultic aspects that also come into
play? For example, the worship of Baal was exciting, with sexual
orgies, drink, loud music, feasting, etc. with few restrictions on
personal behavior, while the worship of YHWH was often a fairly quiet,
sober affair with many restrictions on personal behavior. Which would
be more enticing?

JCR: Agreed.

James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science 
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew - thesis1: concept driven machine translation using the Aleppo codex 
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc - thesis2: language acquisition simulation

ud music, feasting, etc. with few restrictions on
personal behavior, while the worship of YHWH was often a fairly quiet,
sober affair with many restriction

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