language and mind

May 1, 2011

They might have it

Filed under: language, language use — Tags: , — teresapelka @ 11:16 pm

Accounts on UFO sightings are usually graphic depictions of flashing flying objects. Imaginations are shaped by the movie industry along with the simple circumstance that aliens would be envisioned as animate life forms able to fly up to the Earth and make shimmer, that is, behave unlike humans.

I am not a supporter of the ETH, that is, the extraterrestrial hypothesis. My focus here is on an aspect of life in the Universe to have gained recognition for a universal – the actuality that all languages have syntaxes.

Probably everyone has been through the experience of being told to keep their thinking matter in proper order when putting it on paper. The formal savoir faire tends to dwell on sequencing words; the systemic bent in language receives less recognition.

I would not try to tutor first graders in the deep and surface structures unless avoiding a firing squad – then you blame the squad, anyway. Still, it would take a firing squad to make me tell kids ‘just to follow the order’ or ‘just remember this’ (obviously, the squad would deserve becoming terminated).

Words have more than one meaning. Working words out takes seeing how they relate. A ‘book’ might mean printed and bound sheets of paper. An ‘open book’ might have nothing written about it. A ‘booking’ could be of no librarian care. ‘The book’ might be an entirely different ‘chapter’ or ‘story’. Telling students just to remember to put words like elements in a kind of linear order happens not to work.

Syntax might be viewed as ‘the way in which linguistic elements are put together’ (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, 2005). This ‘connected or orderly system’ (ibidem) can work only as a ‘regularly interacting or interdependent’ set, however. Words having many denotations and various roles, form becomes part the meaning. Not one word smith’s writing would activate a spellchecker that relies on a strictly fixed word order.

Well, if there are any guys out there able to fly up and make shimmer, they could have an idea about the concern ;)

‘Travelers in Grammar – The Whole Journey’

Please feel welcome to visit my poetry corner:

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