Purpose, language

[From Rick Marken (971028.0800)]

Jim Dix (971027) --

it appears that the group may be private.

No. We're public. I think we've just got sort of a reverse "Field
of Dreams" problem here. I thought that when the voice of Shoeless
Joe PCT told me to build my PCT website
(http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/) he was saying "If you build it,
they will come". But
my hearing is apparently getting worse as I get older. What he
actually said was "If you build it, they'll think you're a bum":wink:

Nevertheless, I would like to add perhaps a minor change to
your thoughts, lest we get the impression of a teleological
nature to control systems (or to life, for that matter).

If you can get me to think that the nature of control systems
(or life, for that matter) is _not_ teleological (purposeful)
you will have added a _major_ change to my thoughts;-)

purposeful behavior is not a necessary feature of a particular

Yes. Dead organisms does no behave purposefully;-)

I take it the theory you are pursuing deals only with
behavior that can be considered purposeful.


Alternatively, one must make the assumption that the behavior
is purposeful in order to achieve the results one gets from it.

It is not a good idea to _assume_ that any behavior is purposeful.
What we do is start with a guess that a particular behavior (like
the behavior of one of the squares in my "Test for the Controlled
Variable" demo at
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/ControlDemo/ThreeTrack.html) is
purposeful. Actually, we start with the
hypothesis that some variable (like the position of one of the
squares on the screen) is under control (purposefully maintained
in a fixed or variable reference state). If the variable is
under control then disturbances to that variable will be resisted.
So we test for control (purpose) by disturbing the variable that
might be under control (doing something that would have a pronounced
effect on the variable if it were _not_ under control) and looking
for _lack of effect_ of the disturbance. This is what is done in
the Test for the Controlled Variable demo, though this disturbance
Test is applied to the behavior of all three squares simultaneously.
The purposefully moved square (if there is one) is the one that
is influenced "least" by the disturbance applied (by the computer)
to its movement. This Test makes it possible for the computer
to determine which of the three squares in the demo is being moved
intentionally (on purpose). The behavior of the two squares that
are not being moved intentionally is an unintentinoal (_non-
purposeful) side effect of the actions (mouse movements) that
produce the purposeful behavior of the intentionally moved square.

Bruce Nevin (971027.)

Just so, English speakers are controlling two words, the and
an, each of which has two target pronunciations, one before
vowels and one before consonants. They are not controlling four
words "thuh", "thee", a, and an (more, if you include
contrastive stress).

Are you saying that there is some difference between a "target
pronunciation" and a "word". If I am controlling for four different
"target pronunciations" ("thuh", "thee", a, and an) then I'm
controlling for four different perceptions. What's wrong with
calling those perceptions "words"?

The point at issue is Bill's suggestion that these are separate
words, and that controlling the perception "syllables begin with
a consonant" had nothing to do with it.

I think Bill's point was that a rule (like "syllables begin with
a consonant") is not necessarily what is controlled. If people
tend to begin syllables with consonants (and use "an" to do it
sometimes) they are probably controlling for hearing a consonant
sound at the beginning of a word. The rule is a side effect of
this control process. But all this is speculation; linguists
have to develop tests to see what variables speakers are
actually controlling for when they speak.




Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net

Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net