Hyperarticulation, a guess; Clark's levels; Mania

[From Bill Powers (931012.2000 MDT)]

Bruce Nevin (9312.1501) --

Yes, identifying precise reference signals for phonemes would
require more than the pair test.


The variation of reference signals in actual speech (as opposed
to the isolation of hyperarticulated targets) brings in the
other factors.

In Martin Taylor's proposed scheme, a morpheme or whatever we end
up calling it would be traced out in phoneme-space as a path that
starts out toward one phonemic target, then veers off toward the
next because the next target is set up before the first target is
reached, and so on through the morpheme-event. The actual path
would be the outcome of (1) the timing with which each new
reference-phoneme is set after the previous one is set, and (2)
the loop gain of the control systems. If the speech-event were
slowed, there would be more time for the actual phoneme to change
toward each new reference-phoneme before the target was changed
again; if the loop gain were raised, the correction of the
phoneme toward the new target would be faster and get farther in
the same time-interval. The path through phoneme-space would come
closer to the successive targets in either case.

So we could view hyperarticulation as involving (1) or (2) or
both, without any change in the reference-sounds for the
phonemes. If we could find the right metric for phoneme space
(perhaps using one of the time-domain perceptual models), we
might be able to deduce the reference-setting from the
acceleration of the phoneme components toward the new values,
even if they never actually get there during real speech. If the
guess above is right, we would find that the target phonemes are
always the hyperarticulated (within reason, for that speaker)
versions. We have to remember that hyperarticulating "by" for a
Southerner might come out "Ah said _baaaaah_".

One prediction suggests itself. There is one phoneme-reference
that will probably be reached more closely than any other: the
last one in a morpheme that ends an utterance. As the final
target-phoneme is not immediately replaced by another one, the
error-correction might proceed farther toward the actual
reference value even with no change in loop gain. So the
prediction under the above guess would be that the terminal
phoneme in an utterance would approach more closely than the
others the hyperarticulated form. Ditto for the terminal phoneme
in spaced-out words. This should occur without any special
attempt to hyperarticulate.


Bob Clark (931012.1730 EDT) --

I've made several attempts to address your "difficulties," but
I find I'm trying to guess the sources of the problem(s).

My basic problem, Bob, is that you seem to be classifying the
names of perceived behaviors rather than the basic neural/mental
processes required to produce those behaviors. I don't see
"Mechanical Skills" or "Person Skills" as defining basic mental
(or control) processes, but more as classifications of control
behaviors according to the context in which they occur.

If there are basic types of perceptions and control systems to go
with them -- an unproven but attractive hypothesis -- then we
would expect to see the very same types of perception and control
in all contexts, whether a person is dealing with things or
concepts, inanimate nature or other living systems. I think it
likely that ALL the levels of perception and control are involved
in ALL behaviors of an adult person, regardless of context or
subject matter.

Consider the level I call "relationships." Relationships are
typically referred to with prepositions: on, beside, under,
after, because of, inside, and so forth, as well as by
quantitative terms like greater than, equal to, symmetrical with,
etc.. You can say that the potential energy of a rock at the top
of a mountain is greater than that of the same rock at the foot
of the mountain, a statement containing one major relationship
perception -- greater than -- and several subsidiary ones. Or you
can say that you feel more at ease when your friends are
supportive of each other, a much more complex relationship but
still a relationship. In my scheme, both require the ability to
perceive (and often control) perceptions of the same level:
relationships. This type of experience appears in all contexts.

You classify perceptions having to do with physics as belonging
to Mechanical Skills, and those having to do with how people get
along as People Skills, so in your scheme there is nothing in
common between the implied control processes -- they are at
different levels simply because the subject matter is different.
Yet I see the capacity to perceive relationships as essential in
either context.

To me, this means that there isn't anything unique about your
classifications. People skills vs. mechanical skills could be
covered by slicing the pie differently: for example, one-actor
skills vs. multiple-actor skills, or skills in dealing with
predictable versus unpredictable behavior of other entities. The
basic problem with verbal taxonomies of behavior is that we have
so many different ways of verbally classifying the same things
that the same territory can be covered with many alternative
schemes, all of which seem to apply perfectly as soon as you
think of them.

I don't know if you remember our earliest days in the second
subbasement of the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital, before we
moved to the V.A. Hospital. We had a portable blackboard on
which, at our weekly meetings, we started listing terms for
perceivable and conceivable things, shuffling lists of words
around, looking for some natural kind of hierarchy. But every
time we would come up with what seemed a reasonable scheme, one
or the other of us would come back the next week and say "Wait a
minute -- this would make just as much sense if we took this top
level and stuck it in the middle, and moved the bottom up to the
top." It all depended on what you were thinking of as examples.
Is nourishment a subset of organic materials? Or is it that
organic materials are a subset of nourishment, when you consider
not only human beings but bacteria? Are objects an example of
sensations, or are sensations an example of objects (of
awareness)? Or is awareness an object, since we can perceive it?
Or can we perceive it?

We scribbled and erased and interchanged and substituted for
months, and eventually the whole project just collapsed. Only
when it collapsed did I realized the nature of the problem: we
were trying to think of a hierarchy of control based on words,
whereas the real system had to be based on the perceptions that
the words were trying to indicate: on neural signals that stood
for experiences, not on the names we gave to those neural

That's when I started to learn about analog modeling, analog
computers, analog simulations (although then the word was
analogue). I learned how signals could be made to depend on other
signals via computing functions, without ever being converted
into symbols. I began to see how all these control processes
could work directly with the signals, how the signals themselves
must be what we experience and control. Even the words we were
shuffling around were just more signals, attached arbitrarily to
other signals. I saw that to understand the control processes we
had to look beneath the words, directly and in silence, at the
analog processes that took place without any need for symbol
manipulation as an intermediary.

I bring this up now because I have never been sure that you
shared these realizations; neither am I sure that you share them
now. The way you're approaching the definitions of higher levels
takes me back to our days scribbling on that blackboard looking
for the right words. It's likely that I was never able to
articulate what I had seen about words versus perceptions -- it
wasn't until shortly before completing BCP that I first
tentatively thought of the category level as a place where words
could enter the picture as names of categories, 11 or 12 years
after we parted company (and when I realized that categories and
names, too, are perceptions). And I never have been able to
communicate well the way in which one looks past the words at
their meanings, which are the perceptions themselves. This
concept, which is at the heart of PCT, doesn't seem to get across
to many people when I try to explain it. So I can't blame you
for, seemingly, not getting it either.

In my attempt to define levels, I have tried to find types of
perceptions first, then terms that seem descriptive of them. I
have been looking for simple obvious things -- obvious once you
manage to notice them as aspects of perception instead of
projecting them into a taken-for-granted objective outside world.
I have been looking for types of perception that are so
fundamental that they appear in all of experience, no matter what
you are doing, no matter what kind of environment you're in, and
no matter what kinds of systems you encounter in that
environment. And no matter what you say about them, or call them.
I'm not totally sure that the hierarchical idea is right, or if
it is, that I have identified all the levels or got them in the
right order. But the one thing I am sure of is that PCT is about
controlling the world of direct perception, not words about
perceptions (except of course when we use some perceptions as
indicators of others).

For the most "general" interpretation of the verb [generalize],
My Dictionary gives: "generalize, -ized,-izing. v.t. 2. to
infer (a general principle, trend, etc) from facts, statistics,
or the like." And also: "infer, v., to derive by reasoning;
conclude or judge from premises or evidence."

If you start with "general" (in my dictionary), the first
definition is "of or pertaining to all persons or things
belonging to a group or category." Just to follow one trail,
"category", we find that the first two meanings refer to a
classificatory system, or a basic classification of terms.
"Classification" leads to various forms of "class", and under
"class" we find "1. A number of persons or things regarded as
forming a group by reason of common attributes [etc.]." A "group"
is "1. any collection or assemblage of persons or things;
cluster; aggregation." And "collect" is "1. To gather

You can go on from there with other branches, starting with other
key terms like "attribute" or "all". The circles soon become very
tight; the dictionary runs out of words. As you keep following
the trail through the key words, you feel that you're getting
close to something basic, but just as it seems you're about to
get there the dictionary loops back into itself and you're back
where you started.

The dictionary is of no use at all in helping us to understand
the experiences that all those words try to communicate. When you
follow up on definitions of definitions in the dictionary, you
always end up in circles, and the circles always occur at the
interface between words and perceptions. After following any
chain as far as you can, it all comes down to either knowing what
perception a word indicates, or not knowing. No dictionary can
help you over that barrier. Either you understand what a category
or group is -- that is, you can recognize one when you perceive
it, before you know what name to apply -- or you don't. If you
can't recognize a group or assemblage, you can't know what
"group" or "assemblage" refers to. What such terms refer to is
not a word, but a perception.

From this it seems that "Generalizations" do not necessarily
all belong to any one level.

This can also be interpreted the other way around: what you are
defining as "levels" are each actually entities formed from words
referring to many basic levels of perception, one of which is the
ability to perceive generalizations, or as I call them,
principles. The fact that generalizations or principles appear as
a necessary component in many of your levels suggests that the
basic perception is that of the principle level, for the opposite
does not hold: Neither "People Skills" nor "Mechanical Skills"
appear across sets of principles, because the term principles
applies in other contexts like "Things equal to the same thing
are equal to each other" and "What goes around comes around,"
which may or may not be applied to people or nonliving systems.
If you can't perceive in terms of principles, you can't
generalize either about interactions among people or interactions
among physical variables. The capacity to perceive in terms of
principles is fundamental in all contexts. "People skills" are
Avery Andrews (931012) --

... reading the article on mood disorders in the recent
Scientific American issue on the brain caused me to wonder what
`mania' and `depression' were for, and it occured to me that
perhaps they are exaggerated and inappropriate states of the
reorganization system, mania being reorganization at the
program level (swirling plans, impulsive decisions), depression
at a higher (principle?) level. e.g. you can't do anything
because you don't know what anything's for, do you.

I had the privilege a couple of years ago of reading a book
manuscript (never published) by a woman who suffered from a manic
condition. She sent it to me, saying that control theory seemed
to help her understand what was going on. Her description tallies
with your idea: continual reorganization, mainly at the program
level, with ideas and strange complex reasonings flooding in at a
greater and greater rate until finally chaos set in, so severe
that only drugs could restore some kind of normalcy. Her
depression about principles also fits your idea, more or less.
But this woman was aware of what was going on, and gradually
found out how to regulate her life to avoid setting off the
endless reorganization. One of her vital decisions was not to try
to get the book published -- it was itself a product of her mania
-- and to focus her ambitions on living a simple and ordinary
life. The main intrinsic error that drove this higher-level
reorganization was her utter distaste for the effects of the
drugs she had to take. She hated the manic episodes, and equally
she hated the loss of caring and intellect that the drugs
produced. So she invented, in effect, a new self with a new set
of goals in life that didn't arouse the uncontrollable
reorganization. I haven't corresponded with her for some time:
I'm not part of the new life.
Best to all,

Bill P.

[Martin Taylor 931013 14:30]
(Bill Powers 931012.2000)

... a morpheme or whatever we end
up calling it...

The use of this term brings up a whole new set of problems. Since we seem
to be getting nowhere in understanding each other's views on the phonetic-
phonemic-word_category issue, perhaps your introduction of the morpheme
issue might shake things up in a useful way.

The concept of "morpheme" is tied in with that of meaning. Loosely (I don't
know a tight definition) a morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of
language. Morphemes come in free and bound varieties. "Gentle" is a
free morpheme, and so is "man", but "-ly" is bound, because it does not
occur on its own, but only in combinations like "gentlemanly".

A morpheme is a morpheme because it can be segmented out of whatever word
it is found in, and used elsewhere with much the same effect in all places
it fits. If the effect of a letter or sound string is appreciably different
in a new context, then the string is said to be a different morpheme. It is
the meaning aspect that is critical about morphemes.

To a child learning the language, initially every utterance consists of
a single morpheme. There are no parts that can be reused elsewhere with
much the same effect. If the child could say (and mean) "gentleman,"
that word would have no connection with "gentle" or with "man." (Rumour
has it that some Southern USA people get to adulthood without learning
that Damnyankee isn't monomorphemic). There are only the unitary meaning
complexes associated with each individual sound pattern.

As the child matures, the perceptions segregate. The sound patterns
become differentiated into parts that can be used in different contexts.
They become individually controlled perceptions. The observer then hears
multi-word phrases being spoken. They are perceived by the observer to
be multiword because the child uses the parts to what seems to be the
same effect in different situational and verbal contexts.

Of course, we observers can't know what perceptions the child is controlling,
but we can observe the consistencies of its outputs. As I tried to
establish in Durango, these consistencies DO mean something when we are
observing social interaction that approaches convention (as does language).
The child develops consistencies of output, controlling for its own perception
of those consistencies, because it reorganizes until what it does verbally
serves to control its perceptions of other people acting as it wishes to
see them act. An observer can see the consistencies and can legitimately
analyze the developing artifact that is the child's approach to the language
of its social group.

Morphemes (to me) have a much less categorical flavour than do phonemes or
words. I find it much easier to consider them as existing in a feature
space that relates to the non-verbal perceptions of its "meaning", whereas
words and phonemes belong in categories. There are no topological neighbours
in a category space, but there are in the underlying feature space.

Most of the discussion on the side of Bill and Rick has concentrated
on topologically continuous spaces. Bruce, and to some extent I, have
tried to separate out the different effects that happen at these different
perceptual levels, but Bill and Rick have insisted on squashing those
attempts. Maybe a consideration of morpheme (feature space) versus word
(category space) may help. Then we can perhaps deal with contrast effects
more effectively, rather than have all of us that have hair continue in
danger of losing it.