[From Bruce Nevin (980330. EST)]
Bill Powers (980329.1505 MST)--
Bill Powers (980328.1243 MST)--
I find two things that I am controlling here, and I am working to avoid conflict.
1. I resist a response to something that I didn't say, so I try to re-say it until it is understood.
2. I want to get closer to the truth of the matter, so I modify my concepts according to insights and suggestions that come up in our dialog.
I think you're trying to make a distinction where there is no distinction.
Arcs and rings become cultural when you measure their radii. In Arabia,
they would be much smaller than they would be in America.
Also in Latin America, but this follows from a much simpler observation that the distance that is appropriate for them as interpersonal space in all respects is smaller than for them than for us, as seen in the distance apart that people have to be in order to carry on a conversation (I'm sure you've read Hall's entertaining and insightful books on this).
In some cultures they might not occur at all.
Either these people would have no common interests or their need for separation from one another would be so great that we would consider them agoraphopic. The people in one of Asimov's robot stories might qualify, who lived in complete isolation and made contact only by telecommunication devices. I doubt that there are any actual instances, and anyway all you would need would be something of sufficient common interest that control for proximity to it would overcome their control for distiance from one another. A people who were reduced to a population of two would qualify, it takes three to form an arc, but that is hardly a cultural matter, even by your reckoning.
My point is that emergent phenomena emerge
from the specific variables people perceive and control, and from the means
that are used for control.
I understand that, and I agree with it.
The point you seem to be making is that people do not control for making
arcs and rings; they are side-effects of the actual control process.
<in your second message>
You may be correct about the arcs and rings, although
there is no reason to suppose that people can't notice this phenomenon and
produce it on purpose.
Of course they can. I can say from experience that they sometimes do. But not normally, and not conventionally so in one culture but not at all in another. The forming of rings and arcs is not something by which people differentiate themselves from "those other people" over there.
language, the control is specifically for the forms and usages of language.
But is anybody controlling for language to come to any specific form? Is
the slow drift of meanings directed? At one level, we can say yes, people
do try to talk like other people and to be understood by them. But as
mis-hearings and misinterpretations occur, we see changes in language that
go unresisted. There is no restoring effort; the drifts just go on
indefinitely. So they are also side-effect of whatever is actually
controlled about language.
You are not disagreeing with me. To show that, I'll recast what you've said as affirmations that I might have said:
In language, the control is specifically for the forms and usages of language. But nobody is controlling for language to come to any specific form. The slow drift of meanings is not directed. At one level, we can say yes, people do try to talk like other people and to be understood by them. But as mis-hearings and misinterpretations occur, we see changes in language that go unresisted. There is no restoring effort; the drifts just go on indefinitely. They are side-effects of whatever is actually controlled about language.
You seem to be basing a distinction here on whether more than one person at
a time can perceive the same (or a similar) controlled variable. From my
point of view there is no difference: ALL perceptions are private. There
are no actually public perceptions. When we speak in a certain way to
achieve an audible result, we use our own private perceptual functions to
perceive either our own speech or that of others.
1. perceives the talk of others
2. makes generalizations about what they are doing
3. learns what it feels like to perform consistently with those generalizations
4. controls perceptions of those feelings
5. observes the performance that results from that control
6. compares own performance with the generalizations about that of others
7. adjusts the references for what it feels like to perform "normally" (continuing 3)
Step (6) is a relationship perception comparing perceptions of the behavioral outputs of others (or generalizations about them) with perceptions of one's own behavioral outputs. These three sets of perceptions are all private, of course. But as far as the perceiver is naively concerned those other people (and their actions) are out there in the environment. Furthermore, one's own actions are out there too, commensurate for comparison in the relationship perception, and, more importantly, "published" as it were in a form that those other people can and do recognize. That is the only sense in which something may be "public" in a universe of perceptions that ultimately are private. The distinction is between perceptions that I can have of myself but not of anyone else (and no one else is privy to mine); and perceptions that I have of others and of myself and that (it appears) others can have of me. Maybe there is a fallacy in identifying one's perceptions of one's own behavioral outputs as being commensurate with one's perceptions of other people's behavioral outputs (my saying of the word "hello" is the same word as your saying of "hello"), but if so it is a fallacy we all naively make, and must do so to live normally. Autism is an alternative.
Accept the distinction without seeing it as a naive realist commitment to "public" perceptions being "really" different in kind. We know better. But we're describing what people do when they don't care, which is most of the time.
You have called this additional process "imitation". Imitation and
repetition are not the same.
I can see that there is a difference in that imitation requires imagining
how our own actions must look or sound from someone else's point of view,
whereas repetition involves only choosing a past perception as a reference
signal and making a present perception match it. Is that the difference you
have in mind?
Yes, but the remembered perception is not a particular past perception, it is a generalization about past perceptions. The difference between imitation and repetition is in step (2) above. Repetition involves another token of the same type, another instance of the same generalization. The child who says "unpark the car" is not producing the word "unpark" from memory, and her rendition of "park" involves phonemes that are generalized across her entire vocabulary, not particularized to the pronunciation of that word as a remembered perception.
The means for repetition are the reference values for controlling private
perceptions (e.g. pressure on the tongue tip) that result in behavioral
outputs that are public and conventional, that is, they are intended and
expected to be perceived in a certain way by others (e.g. the phoneme /d/
But why leave out the equally valid observation that they are intended to
be perceived (heard) by ourselves in the same way? It seems to me that
you're betting everything on kinesthetic control being the primary aspect
of speech that matters, with auditory control being relegated to an
auxiliary role. Why not say that we use our own kinesthetic control systems
(private) as our means of controlling our own auditory experiences (also
private), and that we use control of our own auditory experiences as a
means of controlling what we privately _imagine_ others to be hearing? That
seems simple and straightforward to me ...
OK, but as far as they are naively concerned, they are not imagining.
Concurrent parallel control of audition
could result in conflict, whereas control of audition by means of
controlling articulation would not. You are arbitrarily leaving out the
fact that at the same time we feel our articulations, we hear (or at least
imagine hearing) the audible result. The primary criterion for
communication can't be that the articulations feel right; it must be that
the auditory result sounds right, because that is all that others receive
from us. We will alter our articulations to make the sound come out right,
which shows that control of the sound is at a higher level than control of
the articulations. And we will not alter the sound we seek to produce as a
way of making the articulations feel right, which shows the same thing.
There are two empirical claims that I've made:
1. We can do without auditory feedback for a considerable time without any subjective experience of uncertainty or period of accommodation or reduction in quality of control. (You demand "sonagrams" to verify this last clause.)
2. By the time we hear, it's too late to correct the current phoneme. We can correct our speech for heard error only by repetition (N.B. as distinct from imitation).
It will be interesting to see what you find out about the experiments in
which the phonemes are disturbed.
Looks like I'll have to write a letter and/or telephone Houde. No answer yet.
* PROCLAMATION: *
* I do not claim that a culture, society, custom, convention, etc. *
* is "an agency outside of all individuals that somehow actively *
* influences the individual." A culture is not a control system. *
* A language is not a control system. *
I was so busy with the "outside agency" aspect of this proclamation that I
overlooked the meaning of the last two sentences. I'm sure you don't mean
either of them. Language and culture are products of control systems INSIDE
individuals: namely, the hierarchy of control systems. Neither could exist
without that hierarchy.
I mean precisely that a culture or a language is not a *control system* with perceptual inputs, reference values for perceptions, comparators, and effectors. The "proclamation" says nothing about how language and culture are related to control of perceptual input by individuals who enact and use them.
Language and culture are *products* of control processes. But no one individual possesses the whole of a language or of a culture. To borrow a metaphor from Hilary Putnam, there are two sorts of tools in the world: there are tools like a hammer or a screwdriver which can be used by one person; and there are tools like a steamship which require the cooperative activity of a number of persons to use. Accepting the tool metaphor for the moment, words, sentences, a language are tools of the latter sort.
Consider the immigrant to the United States from one of the more marginal European countries. She has lived here most of her life, working as a domestic. She never learned to speak English very well; she can no longer remember how to speak Estonian or whatever was the language of her childhood. It is upsetting to her to realize that she virtually has no language at all.
Consider the remnant speaker of a moribund language. There are a few other old people who remember how to say things using the language, but they use English on the rare occasions that they see one another. They can say things to a visitor engaged in the exacting art of salvage linguistics, describe things in the language, tell stories, sing songs, but because they no longer converse and they no longer use the language to accomplish things, there is nothing for young people to witness and get the hang of doing.
What is seemingly overlooked here is that language (or culture) must be
learned by a particular brain as a result of active processes in that
brain. It is not injected from outside.
How to participate in language and in culture must be learned by particular individuals as a result of active control processes within them and looping through their environments, which include one another. For an analogy, the knowledge of how to do contra-dancing is learned by individuals, but the contra-dancing is not inside any one of the people who have learned it.
You have compared the two levels of ring-formation, the control of proximity, and the higher level setting the reference for proximity, to the two levels of pronunciation. There is time to readjust the reference level for proximity in the course of recognizing a potential collision. The comparison might work better for culture-specific manners of making a communicative gesture (for example, pointing with the chin vs. with a finger for example, or saying "no" by (a) rotating the head on a vertical axis, left and right, (b) briefly elevating the chin while rolling the eyes upward and producing an apical click (tsk), (c) rotating the head on a horizontal axis projected through the nose, left and right), since the time scale is slower. The higher level of control for head movements is I guess imagining what the shifting visual field and proprioceptive sensations must be for the people from whom the child learns, and reproducing those perceptions as imagined. There is no corollary of auditory feedback (children do not consult mirrors or observe their shadows to learn these communicative competencies).
In speech, I propose, there is a similar process going on. A higher system
that wants to produce the sound of "L" acts by setting a positive reference
level for (among other things) the kinesthetic system that controls the
pressure of the tongue against the roof of the mouth (just where depending
on the language one learns). Each auditory phoneme-control system adjusts a
set of kinesthetic/proprioceptive reference signals in this way. At
still-higher levels, a syllable-control system sets consecutive patterns of
reference signals for phoneme-control systems, and a word-control system
sets consecutive syllable reference signals. That's the general idea,
anyway, whether or not these are the right levels.
Yes. That's linguistics.
We can recognize many different voices
and accents as saying "the same thing" even though the articulations vary
greatly from one speaker to the next. The only real test would be to see
whether a linguist could tell whether another person was speaking with or
without masking of auditory feedback, when the linguist did not know what
was intended to be heard (this rules out your test in which you tried to
recognize your own recorded speech). The actual words might be perfectly
recognizable (at a higher, auditory, level), but the articulations might
prove to be quite different, as different as they are when different people
Sorry, this seems to me a bit incoherent.
I was listening for differences of the sort that distinguish one dialect or accent from another. "Saying the same thing" i.e. not slipping to another phoneme or word was not the issue. It was a long text that I read, and an unfamiliar one. You couldn't in fairness say that I missed hearing differences in pronunciation on account of knowing what words were intended: the text was still an unfamiliar one, and in any case word identification was not the issue, dialect-level shifts of pronunciation were the issue. Lacking auditory feedback and having to rely on tactile cues only, I expected that my tactile references would drift by an accumulation of error during the time of the exercise. To my surprise, this did not happen. Remember, I was not then trying to prove the point that I am now defending, I expected the opposite to happen. I was not listening for "a perfectly good L" I was listening for a shift from the way I normally say it: it would still be "a perfectly good L" but sounding perhaps like "L" in a different dialect.
If there was a scatter of articulations around average and mean positions, but the averages and mean positions did not shift through time, why, that is simply normal pronunciation. Looking at sound spectrograms would indicate a change, not if there was a scattering (there always is), but if the envelope of the scatter shifted.
This would allow us to propose that there are two ways of speaking, one
through control of felt higher-order patterns, and the other through an
intermediate auditory control system that, in turn, sets the articulatory
I'm a bit lost here. Sounds like you mean three levels?
felt higher-order patterns--you mean syllables, words, constructions?
intermediate auditory control system
This would be similar to the case of loss of proprioception in
limb control. In fact, even animals can learn to control their limbs
without proprioceptive or kinesthetic feedback. Since the animals can still
reach out and touch a target that they can see, the experimenters conclude
that this kinesthetic/proprioceptive feedback is unnecessary. What they
overlook, of course, is that the _quality_ of the reaching and touching
actions has been radically reduced. In the normal animal, there is
proprioceptive control that produces vastly better results than the purely
visual control in the experimental preparation. But if one is attending
only to the qualitative or categorical result, no difference can be seen.
The target is "touched" in either case.
As a parallel, it is possible that when auditory feedback is masked, the
kinesthetic patterns of speech change greatly, but that when the resulting
speech (recorded) is heard by the auditory systems, no significant
differences are heard. For example, the tongue might press five times as
hard against a somewhat different place on the roof of the mouth, yet a
"perfectly good L" would be heard. Judging only from what is heard, the
observer would guess that the articulation has not changed at all, and thus
that the auditory feedback is unnecessary, or at best a side-effect.
My impression is that a sonic spectrograph can show changes in articulation
much too fine to be heard. This is shown by the range of formant ratios
that the spectrograph can reveal but which are heard as the same phoneme.
If this impression is correct, then my argument is strengthened: what
_sounds_ like the same articulation could actually result from very
different articulations. The best way to judge whether articulation control
is primary would then be to insert disturbances of the heard speech and
see, using a sonograph, whether the articulations immediately change.
I guess this brings us back to the same issue: what are the facts?