Grammar is always a project

Human grammar is always a project. — It is not to say we are forever learners. It is to say that grammar never is a program, though there have been attempts to make such a picture.
■→Wiktor Jassem quotes Paul Postal:
Grammars are represented in human neural systems and provide implicit knowledge of the language they define. A grammar is thus in certain ways analogous to a computer program in that it is a formal system partially determining the behaviour of a physical system.

Nature and information

Neurophysiology began applying the phrase information processing to human bodily structures in the 20th century, much in rejection of ■→vitalist ideas. Bergson’s ■→élan vital was the last significant effort, and vitalism remains branded a “bio-theology” by ■→Joseph C. Keating Junior. The side effect has been in emphasis on program approaches to the human being, whereas natural language is not option-driven.

The word ■→feedback emerged around 1860, for mechanics. Also today, it is often associated with machines or devices, and interference.

The truth is that intrinsic feedback has been indispensable for biological functioning, and the term applies to the human species; of course, not as machines. For insight into own inner function, feel welcome to consider the Grammar Weblog, ■→Mind practice. The word feedback does not have to mean an opinion, or whatsoever criticism.

Program and feedback

Common sense, a loop can be open or closed. Open-loop biological processes go their course as inbuilt instruction requires. They compare with programs. Closed-loop processes are feedback.

We talk about open or closed loops, since all biological programs depend on feedback for enactment, including the DNA for active protein. Feedback is the nature’s way to delimit on programs, as live organisms need to sustain in variable environments. Excess program would thwart the ability to react or adapt.

Reliance on feedback increases with function complexity. In humans, already spinal motor neurons make information pools, and further activity depends on intrinsic feedback. To compare, trees can’t walk, and there is no intrinsic feedback scope in stone.

The relevant instinct for feedback capacities is that for self-preservation. In speech and language, the requirement for feedback capability approximates a natural drive. The requirement is not a program.

For the proportion on program and feedback in language, we can compare ■→spoonerisms. The slips of tongue are segmental, and this is about the scope the nervous system allows for the open loop or program, in language.

Natural feedback

Biologically, intrinsic feedback is a natural closed-loop capability over open-loop sequences within own body. Part the capability remains outside interoception; otherwise, it is interoceptive or exteroceptive. Much of this feedback competence remains a potential to act, where the course of activity is not predetermined.

Making notes for example, we may think about marking our written content for further use; we yet have the choice to do this after another stage in the work, or even to change or abandon the idea altogether. Artificial intelligence would depend on algorithmic routines.

A feedback approach to language is no recourse to vitalism, its mesmeric or magnetic belief. Further, person neural specificity excludes human speech and language from successful external management. Successful management incurs no information loss, interference, damage, or hindrance, to the person whose brain language faculty it is. Artificial intelligence works upon external command and depends on options.

Natural grammar

Natural grammar is a set of regularities representative of a natural language. A representative regularity is capable of guidance for standard and correct language use.

A program is determined from beginning to end, whereas natural language is infinite. There is no way to calculate all possible linguistic forms or structures, and there is no genetic program to produce literature. Natural grammar is not, by any means, analogous to a computer program.

Potential criticism

Feedback approaches to language do not rid of the human person. Therefore, some of the arguments against vitalism might re-emerge, in reaction to a feedback approach. Mr. Keating quoted a behaviorist, F.B. Skinner:
Vitalism has many faces and has sprung up in many areas of scientific inquiry. Psychologist B.F. Skinner, for example, pointed out the irrationality of attributing behavior to mental states and traits. Such ‘mental way stations’, he argued, amount to excess theoretical baggage which fails to advance cause-and-effect explanations by substituting an unfathomable psychology of ‘mind’.

The cause-and-effect behaviorist approach can give only a very limited picture for speech and language. This picture never will be “purely scientific”, as it is not objectively representative. Feel welcome to read:
■→Human brains, parameters, and devices

Feel welcome to American poetry and USA civics, also in translation to Polish: according to a behaviorist stand, such things should not be; they are motivated by own, human mind, and there is much more to language than stimulus and response. Well, the world is going to be fine without behaviorism.

■→This text is also available in Polish.


The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

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Świat może i nigdy nie widział jej oryginalnego pisma, jeśli jej umiejętność została wzięta za nadnaturalną. Zapraszam do Wierszy Emilii Dickinson w przekładzie Teresy Pelka: zwrotka tematyczna, notki o inspiracji greką i łaciną, korelacie z Websterem 1828 oraz wątku arystotelesowskim, Rzecz perpetualna — ta nie zasadza się na czasie, ale na wieczności.

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