Avery, Gary, Ed, Greg

[From: Bruce Nevin (Fri 92041 Fri 92041 12:49:44)]

(Avery Andrews (920430.1053) ) --

What's suspicious about correction is that for the most part language
seems to be learned without it (though some child language researchers
I've talked to suspect that correction of children by slightly older ones,
delivered of course in the most soul-destroying manner attainable,
may be more significant than orthodoxy would have it). So as far as
linguistics is concerned, it's a pretty marginal phenomenon.

Suggest looking at Jerome Bruner (1983), _Child's Talk: learning to use
language_ (Norton). He shows evidence of a social Language Acquisition
Support System (LASS) to complement the hypothesized Language
Acquisition Device (LAD). The mothers he worked with provided a lot of
overt correction, though this may be in part an artifact of their being
middle class members of an occupational category (academia) whose
members typically have an especially high index of linguistic
insecurity, in a notoriously class-ridden society (UK). However, there
is a lot of correction that is unavoidable just in the maintenance of
the constrained frames for learning that constitute the LASS. We had
some discussion of this last spring, and after I posted a review of the
book (thanks again, Chuck) Joel told me that there had been extensive
discussion some months before I came on board. I don't have those
files, but you could poke the archives for them.

(Gary Cziko 920430.1155) --

The quote about pilots vs engineers reminded me of observations that
occurred to me on my return flight from California last summer. As the
plane was circling to land at O'Hare, I watched the flaps extend and
move up and down to adjust the attitude of the plane. Conventional
views of behavior are analogous, I thought, to supposing that the pilot
was controlling the angle of the flaps. "Move left flap to -37 degrees.
Now -49 degrees . . . -42 . . . now -17 degrees" and so on. (I could
only see the left wing, of course.) Looks very complicated, and it is.
Until you contrast the perception of these movements with the
perceptions the pilot was actually controlling. Turns out all the
complication was handled by mechanisms below the level to which the
pilot was attending.

I am reminded again of the Balinese dancers, a girl standing in trance
on the shoulders of a man. Which way the child in trance leans, how
fast and in what degree, determines how he must move in order to
maintain the balance and integrity of the dancing unit. Bateson
describes this in one of the essays in the first part of _Steps_, but I
don't recall which.

(Ed Ford (920430.11:44) ) --

"Me and Eddie, we was rose down to the ridge together."

I guess this is a kind of hypercorrection, where the lower-class speaker
knew that some other form was preferred over "raised" and grabbed at
"rose" rather than the only seemingly related "reared." In the
courtroom the defendant would want to emulate white, middle-class speech
as far as possible, but it is like a foreign language.

"Them bottles of wine, they was drunk between who?"

I guess this is the lawyer trying to incorporate a phrase used by the
witness into a question, unsuccessfully because the lawyer is not fluent
in the lower-class dialect used by the witness and/or anyway does not
want to *really* speak that way. There's a conflict between wanting to
use the words as used by the witness (not leading the witness, putting
words in their mouth, etc.) and wanting to speak by norms shared with
the judge and other lawyers.

These are just guesses, stories in context of which these utterances
make sense to me.

Gee, my grandfather was Phi Beta Kappa, Yale Medical summa cum laude,
1906 I think. Nah, they wouldn't have met.

The problem for me is that to be properly studied, understood, and
fully tested, a belief system has to be checked out through experience.

In my experience you have to live more than one alternative belief
system fairly authentically before you can begin to distinguish the fish
from the water. When I lived in Greece, I went through a period of being
very negative about aspects of Greek culture. What I was doing was
projecting things I didn't like about my own culture and character, the
better to dissociate myself from them. That was a crude application of
the effect I mean. Conversely, though in a different domain, something
that is problematic for one theory but not for another suggests that
some artifact of theory or formalism is at the basis of the apparent

(Avery Andrews (920439.1358) ) --

Where grammaticality judgements come from is an interesting
question. I suspect that they are a side effect of the operation of
machinery whose purpose is to reduce the range of available meanings
of an utterance, so that it will be easier to figure out which of the
remaining possibilities is the intended one. The grammar for example
tells us to group a demonstrative with the following rather than the
preceeding nominal material, so we know what `that' is modifying in:

John gave the student that article

but it follows from this principle that

John gave the student article that

gets no meaning

It is specious to say the second example gets no meaning because to say
so presupposes that it would occur in native English, and it would not.
What might occur that is superficially like it involves error and
interrupting correction, for example:

   John gave the student <?> article--that! [pointing]

An "an" could be coalesced with the coda of the last syllable of
"student," and "the" could POSSIBLY be articulated so poorly as not to
be audibly distinguished from the final t of "student." In any case, the
intonation represented graphically by the dash, and the timing of body
language, make this clearly different from what you intended. Only a
system not controlling for the perceptions that speakers of English
control for could generate your second example as intended (transpose
the "that" after the noun). Irrelevant, immaterial, and (speaking with
special precision here) incompetent.

Too many discussions of grammar turn on an argument that goes something
like this:

  Here's a set of formal rules that generates structures that we
  find in sentences people actually use.

  It also generates these other structures, but for them there are
  no corresponding sentences that people use.

  There must be a convention or principle that blocks or filters
  out the unwanted ones.

  Here's one. And it also works for these other examples that I
  didn't tell you about before (I was saving them for this part of
  the paper). The principle (or convention) is independently
  motivated. Unless someone finds a counterexample, it must be

I submit that such systems of rules fail to represent (or describe) the
perceptions that users of English are controlling in their use of
English. And that is why they need all these ancillary principles and
conventions, just as Ptolomaean astronomy needed its epicycles. I
suggest that they appear to be universal (to the extent that they do)
only because they are artifacts of the tools used. When you wear green
tinted glasses, you're in the Emerald City of Oz.

(Greg Williams (920430) ) --

Yes, ecstatic experiences are very distracting.

Even remembering involves interpretation in terms of other remembered
perceptions of other kinds of experience. Rather like the difficulties
attendant on dream recall. So it is not all the fault of language. A
great deal of interpretation and fitting to categories goes on without
any attempt at verbal description.

Sometimes there is no (conscious) memory. It is as though one went
unconscious. (From another perspective, I suppose one identified with
lower levels, which are unconscious when attention is at a higher
level. Perhaps that is only an analogy.)

Sometimes there is memory of a dual experience, of some processes
(a convenient if dubious label is "the personality") undergoing all
sorts of reactions of fear, joy, calling out for help, vs some other
sort of perspective that simply witnesses the former together with that
which it appears to be encountering. For example, the latter may appear
to be simple witness of the same sort, and the absolute neutrality of it
(perhaps the experience of being objectified) has a lot to do with the
reactions of terror, etc.

But I'm sure you have lots of descriptions like that in your library.
And I realize you know full well that it's rather another matter in the
flesh, so to speak. As the farmer in the old joke put it, you can't get
there from here; you have to go there first.

John gave the student article that

gets no meaning

It is specious to say the second example gets no meaning because to say
so presupposes that it would occur in native English, and it would not.

The hypothesis I'm proposing is that it does not occur in native English
*because* it gets no meaning by the normal operations of the perceptual
system described by the grammar. This could be false, but it isn't specious.

   (currently andrews@csli.stanford.edu)