"shared meanings" agreement and communication

Bruce,

I've followed interest, but not with sufficient care, your discussion with Bill and Rick.

I'm not sure this comment is pertinent, but for whatever it is worth,....

I've noticed that the term "shared" has been used in the discussion. In a literal sense it may be impossible to "share" values, meanings, understandings. But, people do seem to come to what they at least _think_ are agreements. And, they act on what they percieve to be these agreements. And, while the more I poke about at the edges of linguistics the less prone I am to conjecture about such issues, it never-the-less seems plausible that communication is only possible in terms of some measure of agreement between the agents doing the communication. Statistically it seems to me that it could easily be demonstrated that in some situations it is more likely than not that communication is taking place, and this in tern might led one to think that as a basis for communication there is a high order of agreement between the agents.

Bill Williams
  UMKC

···

-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce Nevin [mailto:bnevin@cisco.com]
Sent: Tue 7/8/2003 10:00 PM
To: Williams, William D.
Cc: bn@cisco.com
Subject: RE:more Economic Education, and much more

I am in full sympathy for your plight but am tangled in other surf for the
next few weeks, and it appears that I would have to read through quite a
bit of those threads even to be able to stick an oar in. I'll see what I
can do, Bill, but that's what's happening.

  /B

The kinds of 'agreement' presently under discussion are

1. Being structured in the same way so as to be capable of controlling language perceptions.

2. Being organized so as to speak and recognize structure-perceptions of the same language. Input functions and output functions organized the same way. Bill is challenging this with his proposition that our ways of constructing the perceptions could be quite different. One of many shoals that this runs aground on IMO is the ability of observers to see evidence of identical organization and construction of perceptions by more than one observed person.

3. Reliably recognizing language structures (phonemes, syllables, morphemes, words, phrases, etc.) spoken by another. This is demonstrated by ability to repeat verbatim (without imitating).

I suspect you are thinking about

4. Agreements about meanings.

That's another kettle of squid.

  /Bruce

I meant to conclude: 'agreements' of the first 3 kinds that I enumerated are prerequisites without which we cannot use language to communicate and work toward agreements of the 4th kind. This may not be just what you meant by the the above, but it is something like it anyway.

                 /Bruce

···

At 01:51 PM 10/31/2003 -0600, Williams, William D. wrote:

communication is only possible in terms of some measure of agreement between the agents doing the communication.

Bruce,

My comprehension of the issues in Linguistics is nearly non-existant. But, it appears to me that there may not be an intractible problem involved.

I saw today a review in Nature 3 October

Eve V. clark 2003 _Constructing a Language: A usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition_ Harvard U Press p. 760-1.

It sounds as if based upon the review that work is going on that avoids the problems of what I understand to be much of the Chomsky type program.

If learning a language is, in part, a process of reaching an agreement then the old issues about "shared" perception may go away, or at least change. I could be entirely mistaken here, but perhaps understanding the process of "reaching an agreement" might provide the escape from an atomistic individualism.

Bill Williams
  UMKC

I agree.

If you get time, look back through the archives for discussion of Martin Taylor's proposals about convergence on social conventions. Also his presentation on the video of the CSG conference in, I think, 1993.

Thanks very much for the citation -- I'll look for the book! Do you have institutional access to Nature on line and can you send me the PDF of the review? If not, or if you don't have time, that's OK, I'll check with some other friends who may.

         /Bruce

···

At 05:45 PM 10/31/2003 -0600, you wrote:

If learning a language is, in part, a process of reaching an agreement then the old issues about "shared" perception may go away, or at least change. I could be entirely mistaken here, but perhaps understanding the process of "reaching an agreement" might provide the escape from an atomistic individualism.