(L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Creyeditor »

Some time ago, I was actually thinking about doing a thread on theoretical linguistic over in Teach & Share. I think for morphophonology it seems to be common among conlangers to support the historical generative approach of Blevin's Evolutionary Phonology. [but at the same time use Chomsky's SPE style ordered rules for synchronic phonological processes and some kind of surface-true constraints on syllable structure]. I think there are a lot of interesting alternatives to explore.

I just wanted to clarify a minor detail. The "metaphorical space-time dimension" you talk about is what many linguists call 'cognitive', right?
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Creyeditor wrote: 06 Mar 2022 19:27 Some time ago, I was actually thinking about doing a thread on theoretical linguistic over in Teach & Share. I think for morphophonology it seems to be common among conlangers to support the historical generative approach of Blevin's Evolutionary Phonology. [but at the same time use Chomsky's SPE style ordered rules for synchronic phonological processes and some kind of surface-true constraints on syllable structure]. I think there are a lot of interesting alternatives to explore.
There are people who don't think phonology evolves? Does God reach down and Babelise each baby anew?
I just wanted to clarify a minor detail. The "metaphorical space-time dimension" you talk about is what many linguists call 'cognitive', right?
*throws out hands and makes facial expression of resignation and ignorance*
There seems to be no limits to what linguists might call 'cognitive' - it's a word they like, but don't like to use the way that anyone else does!

But seriously: it depends.

"Cognitivism" in linguistics mostly really means mentalism - mental realism in more euphemistic, less theological-sounding costume. That is, it believes that there are real mental entities, representational structures that have some real existence in the mind, and that can act upon thought. These include "rules", "models", "metaphors", "images" and so forth.

When we talk about a "rule" in their sense - as something that not only describes linguistic behaviour but actively generate and shapes it - we can basically locate that rule in one of three different spaces.

Firstly, we can locate it within mental space: a private realm of space-time wrapped up and stuffed into each person's skull in some way as of yet inscrutable to science and philosophy. In this model, our linguistic impulses issues forth from some deep part of our mind, but cannot reach our tongue without first passing through a factory of grammar, in which rules take their turn, in an orderly fashion, to hammer out the linguistic impulse in their own way, forming the inchoate linguistic impulse into a well-formed grammatical sentence.

The first problem with this is that we're not aware of this happening. But the mental is essentially self-aware: if it's not "present to the mind", not observable in the mind by consciousness, then there's no reason to call it "mental". That's what mentality is - the things we actively think, feel, experience. So the most obvious hypothesis - that rules exist in the conventional mind - is very difficult to support in the face of simple introspection.

So we can retreat from this strong claim by hiding the rules in a sort of second mind, an invisible mind, which we might call the subconscious. Linguists aren't alone in wanting to construct this, of course - lots of cognitive processes could be described by invoking some sort of subconscious. The philosophical problem with this is that it's basically the equivalent of blaming everything on Zeus. The subconscious is concealed from investigation from the direction of physical, empirical approaches through neuroscience, because the subconscious is described in mental terms, which cannot be directly reduced to neurological phenomena. [plus, to the extent that we might form naive equations with neurology, actual neurology has completely failed to support the dogmas of theoretical linguistics]. Meanwhile, however, the subconscious is equally invisible to investigation from the direction of the mental, because, well, it's not conscious. The subconscious in this sense is essentially only knowable by consulting the works of messers Chomsky, Lakoff and company, who presumably have derived their knowledge from a combination of philosophical metaphysical deduction (directed internally rather than externally) and divine inspiration. And since the subconscious (in this sense) doesn't actually play any useful role in empirical studies of either neurology or behaviour, there's very little reason to believe in it.

This is particularly an issue with the idea of the rules factory, because taken naively it implies that each linguistic utterance must pass through this same, long sequence of processes in the subconscious before arising on the tongue - but a different sequence of processes from that that would be undergone by a thought spoken in a different language. Yet there is no neurological or behavioural evidence for each and every thought passing through any lengthy pre-conscious brain process, let alone a specific and repetitive, yet language-specific production process. This means that the subconscious-space model is difficult to reconcile with physicalism in any intuitive way, and at the very least means that descriptions like "this rule is applied before that rule" must be using words like "before" in some counterintuitive way - describing a sort of "logical chronology" rather than a temporal one.

An alternative way to address this problem is to instead move the rule outside the head. This makes "cognitive" rules something like a naive concept of physical "laws": the rules exist in an abstract space, separate from conventional space-time, and it is simply a fact about a language that utterances in that language "follow" or mirror one set of rules rather than another. The actual process by which the brain follows a rule can be left as a trivial side-question for psychologists or neurologists to address. However, this raises many questions: not only the normal questions of causality (and ontological imparsonimony) raised by any form of Platonism (and of course this is just linguistic platonism), but also the specific problems around the interraction around the normative force of rules upon thought raised by Wittgenstein.


So, "cognitive" (or Platonist) linguistics could be mentalist, "submentalist" or "pseudomentalist" (my terms), or transcendentalist. In the case of naive mentalism, the space-time of rule-ordering is the space-time of the mind; in the case of pseudomentalism, it isn't, but it is still a space-time identified by many as 'cognitive'; in the case of transcendentalism, it's not, but is instead a distinct external space-time that internal cognitive space-time in some way mirrors.



-------

By contrast, my theory is that people in Belfast use the word "runner", with an alveolar /n/ in the middle, to mean a person or thing that runs because:

a) 'run' has an alveolar /n/ in it
b) they're generally in the habit of sticking -er on the end of verbs to form agentive nouns.


The "cognitive" approach, whether "Cognitive" or "generativist" essentially has to acknowledge both these facts - that together are entirely sufficient to explain the phenomenon at hand - but then ALSO chooses to dress up in a heavy regalia of dogmas and leap headfirst into a metaphysical, conceptual and epistemological abyss, for no apparent reason beyond an inherited commitment to 19th century philosophical assumptions (mind-body dualism and Platonism). Essentially, Chomsky saw how Skinner looked to the philosophical breakthroughs of the early 20th century for support, and decided he could save The Old Ways by rewriting Kant in modern language...



EDIT: to clarify, "cognitive" processes are any processes involved in the processing of information to produce understanding and responses. They're the structure of thought, effectively, although there's no universal exact definition of what is and isn't included. Cognitivism does not entail mental realism, or mental Platonism - Platonic mental realism entails cognitivism, but not vice versa.

Mental realism is the idea that mental things actually exist, rather than being simply useful descriptions. Whether mental realism entails mind-body dualism (or whether mental things can be real while still being the same as, or dependent upon, physical things) is debateable. Platonism is the general approach that invokes abstract, 'ideal' entities outside of ordinary space and time that concrete entities partake in, are governed by, or emulate.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Khemehekis »

Question for Salmoneus: If scientistic neurologists and psychologists don't recognize a Subconscious today, how do they refer to the mechanism whereby most White people who take that infamous computer test score more accorately when they have to match the "positive" words and White people's names and match the "negative" words and Black people's names . . . than when they have to match the "positive" words and Black people's names and match the "negative" words and White people's names . . . because they are subconsciously a bit racist? I would like to know.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Khemehekis wrote: 07 Mar 2022 03:03 Question for Salmoneus: If scientistic neurologists and psychologists don't recognize a Subconscious today, how do they refer to the mechanism whereby most White people who take that infamous computer test score more accorately when they have to match the "positive" words and White people's names and match the "negative" words and Black people's names . . . than when they have to match the "positive" words and Black people's names and match the "negative" words and White people's names . . . because they are subconsciously a bit racist? I would like to know.
So, there's a bit to unpack there. First, there's the concept of "recognising a subconscious", which can mean various things. Obviously, lots of people, at least sometimes, "recognise a subconscious" in the sense of using the word "subconscious" to describe things that are not conscious but are related to conscious things in some way. This is different from the dogmatic position of saying that The Subconscious is a distinct metaphysical realm, substantially akin to the conscious realm (united in mentalism) yet distinguished from it by its opacity to direct introspection, and the contents of which act upon the contents of consciousness.

Second: oh, lots of psychologists recognise The Subconscious in the latter sense. If I gave the impression that I only thought linguistics had a problem with cult-like factionalism labouring under an undue burden of superstition, pseudoscience and baroque inherited doctrines supported neither by logic nor by evidence, then I'm sorry: trust me, there are lots of psychologists who are frankly indistinguishable from shamans and homeopaths, and relying on the subconscious is the least of their problems. Though I would say that the hocus-pocus seems to be less dominant than it seems to be in linguistics.

I don't know how the subconscious features in cutting-edge neurology, but in general it's not conceptually integral as it can be in some models of linguistics and psychology, because neurology is a physical science concerned with the brain, not with the mind. Generally, the subconscous will arrive when psychologists take the results of neurology and try to interpret them in psychological terms. I'm sure that many neurologists do have all sorts of ideas, but they kind of stop being neurological ideas when they move to the mind rather than the body.

--------

As for the IAT, the first thing that should be said is that while it's not pseudoscience it's dangerously close to it: its results have very little reliability in empirical terms (it's difficult to replicate findings, even with the same subjects, and the results are easily affected by small changes in protocols), and produces some results that are difficult to reconcile with the pop culture interpretations of the test.

Having said that, taking it at face value what it shows is that some classificatory tasks are more easily performed than others. Supporters of the test argue that this is because certain concepts have a special affinity for certain other concepts in the behaviour of the test-taker; detractors of the test point out that it actually seems at least in large part because certain concepts are just more familiar than others, and unfamiliar concepts are harder to process. [eg, white people will also tend to 'associate' black faces with made-up words, and in name tests they will tend to fail to associate unusual names with positive qualities regardless of the usual ethnicity of the unusual name; this may explain why people regularly have different levels of "racism" depending on what language the test is administered in, and why people are much less "racist" when taking the test in a second language].

However, even if we accept the interpretation of differing affinities (I think psychologists usually use the language of "associations"), this does not imply a Subconscious in which those affinities can live. This is easy to see when we consider that it would be easy enough to build a purely physical system (eg an electronic computer) that could be trained to respond in exactly the same way as the "racist" human. Yet we wouldn't say the PC - or the marble-run, or the hydraulic system, etc - possessed a "subconscious mind". Indeed, I think scientific supporters of these tests tend to use terms like "implicit association" rather than "subconscious association", as the former is more descriptive and less theoretical.

Alternative theoretical approaches to things like implicit association might be:
- the association is real, but exists in the physical realm: some people are simply "hardwired" to be racist
- the association is not truly a real thing in itself, but is only a way of describing the emergent pattern of behaviour generated by some other real mental or physical entities


It may be helpful to compare a similar phenomenon: the way that children want eat ice cream.We could explain this by saying:
- there is a real entity, a "craving for ice cream" that lives in a magic place called The Subconscious, and continually interferes with the child's thought processes, inserting the thought "I want ice cream!" into their mind at sporadic intervals. But we can't see it in any way, because this is an invisible place.
OR:
- there is a real entity, a "craving for ice cream", that lives in a boring place called The Brain. It contributes the thought "I want ice cream!" to the thought process; but although it may be difficult to find this entity, which consists of some concrete pattern of neurological connections or electrochemical fluctuations, it could in theory be isolated by scientific testing, and potentially replicated.
OR:
- there is no such real entity as a craving for ice cream. We simply say that somebody craves ice cream when we see them eating ice cream a lot. This pattern of behaviour (or perhaps a pattern of thoughts resulting in behaviour) emerges as the result of complex processes - perhaps physical, perhaps mental, perhaps both - in which real entities interact, but there is no single specific entity that can be uniquely identified as "the ice-cream craving".



----

Of course, whichever theory you go for, it's still another big interpretive step to describe any IAT association as "racism", since there's no robust correlation between IAT results and racist thoughts or behaviour in a conventional sense.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Khemehekis »

Thank you for your well-thought-out reply, Salmoneus. And I was surprised to hear that linguistics is more susceptible to pseudoscience than psychology. (There isn't enough consensus for Wikipedia to classify it as pseudoscience, but many scholars/academics, for instance, consider Freud's psychoanalysis to be pseudoscience.)
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Khemehekis wrote: 07 Mar 2022 16:19 Thank you for your well-thought-out reply, Salmoneus. And I was surprised to hear that linguistics is more susceptible to pseudoscience than psychology. (There isn't enough consensus for Wikipedia to classify it as pseudoscience, but many scholars/academics, for instance, consider Freud's psychoanalysis to be pseudoscience.)
Well, it's only my impression, of course - although I've been tangentially in contact with both linguistic and psychological academics, I'm not myself either, let alone both.

To be clear, though: I think pseudoscientific psychology is much more pseudoscientific than pseudoscientific linguistics is. Bad psychology is worse than bad linguistics. I also suspect that good linguistics is better than almost all good psychology, since let's be honest that entire field is built on less-than-sure foundations. But my impression is that the balance of good and bad psychology is better: there are more good psychologists, and the bad psychologists have less influence than the bad linguists. That's my impression. Freudianism, for instance, in a literal sense is total bunkum (and many Freudians are worse than Freud was!), but true Freudianism is now very much a minority ideology. Even 'psychoanalysis' in a broader sense - which is typically much less wedded to the metaphysics of Freud (many engage in psychoanalysis now not as a way of learning the truth, but as a way of stimulating reflection), and to the details of his dogma - has very much been challenged by more empirically-founded and less-speculative forms of psychology. I think Freud now tends to be seen the same way Marx is seen by many economists and left-wing politicians: he popularised some important ideas (most of which were not his own), played an important role in reorienting research programmes in new directions, and should continue to influence future work as an inspiration and source of interesting ideas, but his own work was methodologically questionable, and most of the details shouldn't be followed too closely.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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After all my wittering on, I do just want to come back to the actual question, and give a more substantive answer to what I think is "really going on", philosophically, with things like dentalization, if I don't think we should resort to ordered subconscious rules.

Broadly, I think people try to speak "well" - in a prestigious, fashionable, respectable, sexy way. In trying to do so, they often confront dilemmas, both because there is not a single universal exemplar of sexy/respectable/prestigious/fashionable living, but rather a choice between different and often conflicting styles, and also because any one style is understood inductively through the apprehension of various principles that nobody ever actually constructed as a coherent system of rules, and that can therefore conflict with one another.

In the case of the word "runner", I think that people who speak these dialects, are pulled in directions that we could characterise through the observations that it is fashionable to:
- use the verb "run"
- use the suffix -er to form agentive nouns from verbs
- use a phonetically and phonemically alveolar /n/ in the verb root "run", wherever it appears
- realise phonemically alveolar consonants as phonetically dental before a Vr sequence

That is, in trying to be fashionable, people feel an impulse to do the above things; when they fail to do the above things, they worry they are unfashionable, because they see fashionable people doing those things.

This does not require conscious or 'subconscious' theorising about the nature of fashion. In the same way, sunflowers instinctively turn toward the sun, but do not have a subconscious; so too, humans imitate the fashionable. Humans are capable of consciously formulating observations like the above, and this can alter how they act, but are able to act in such ways even without giving thought to such things (just as a robot could, despite lacking any sort of mind). Importantly this also means that the details of the observations are unimportant: often the same general impulses can be 'explained' by more than one possible formulation of observations, but since the written observations only describe the individual's social impulse, rather than generating it, we can be agnostic between equivalent formulations.

Now, the problem with these impulses is that they are contradictory: they both encourage dentalisation before agentive -er (since this meets the criteria for dentalisation), AND discourage it (since that meets the criterion for how to pronounce the root). How is this resolved?

However they feel like. Specifically, this will depend on how strongly each person feels each impulse, which is a sociological issue rather than a psychoanalytic one. Which observation best fits fashion? What sort of fashion does each observation fit? There is no inherent way to tell in advance how people will resolve this. But they must resolve it, by the weaker impulses yielding to the stronger, and this will result in each individual following one of four paths (depending on which observation they choose to defy), one of which equates to the belfast dentalization rule. Over time, as more and more people choose one particular solution, and hence come to act in the same way, and as those people and hence that way is determined to be fashionable, a fifth, more concrete observation (and hence impulse) is added:
- fashionable people have a phonetically alveolar /n/ in the word "runner".

This impulse solidifies the social trend toward that specific solution to the dilemma in that particular dialect (dialects diverge as people resolve these sociological dilemmas differently in different places, yielding localised differences in fashion that become self-reinforcing).

In this model, "ordering" is not necessary, and hence there doesn't have to be a space or time in which the things are ordered. Instead, there is only 'priority', which has a concrete form in the linguistic judgments of the individual (and which in any case only has narrative weight, rather than seeking to reflect an ontological reality).

[this model even allows people to have "rules" that are directly contradictory on their face! This is useful when we try to accept that people are not simply emulating a single, pure standard language, but are simultaneously pulled in many different directions, in ways that may vary depending on their social context: with this model, we don't not need to assume people always dramatically "switch" from one set of rules to another (though we can accept that happening as a possibility, for instance with two totally different languages), but rather we only have to assume that within the same set of impulses certain impulses become stronger in certain situations]



[the evolutionary reasons for trying to be sexy are obvious. On the psychological level, my suspicion is that this process operates through the confluence of habit and self-information: people habitually act the way that they believe they generally act; and people generally believe themselves, in at least some regard, to be awesome. (anyone who makes any choice for themselves is demonstrating a certain level of arrogance!) Since I am awesome, it stands to reason that I generally act the way awesome people act, which is to say that I come to believe that I generally act in the way that I believe awesome people generally act. And if I believe I generally act that way, then by force of habit I will in fact do so. Of course, it's all a little more complicated than that, because we can have contradictory self-images, and of course it's entirely speculative, but it's a neat little theory...]
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Very interesting posts! (As per usual.)
Salmoneus wrote: 07 Mar 2022 20:47Since I am awesome,
Also a good out-of-context quote.

Khemehekis wrote: 07 Mar 2022 16:19Thank you for your well-thought-out reply, Salmoneus. And I was surprised to hear that linguistics is more susceptible to pseudoscience than psychology.
I don't know about how psychology compares to linguistics, but you really notice something going when you start noticing many linguists write papers with the apparent purpose of exemplifying a theory, a pre-existing model, rather than sharing interesting data, or going from the data to a small model that generalizes it. Papers where the conclusion is pretty much "...and this is how X language is a good example of assumption Y in Z theory". That top-down approach to linguistics has struck many a conlanger as strange... It seems to have value in much of the world of linguists though.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Nortaneous »

Khemehekis wrote: 07 Mar 2022 16:19 Thank you for your well-thought-out reply, Salmoneus. And I was surprised to hear that linguistics is more susceptible to pseudoscience than psychology. (There isn't enough consensus for Wikipedia to classify it as pseudoscience, but many scholars/academics, for instance, consider Freud's psychoanalysis to be pseudoscience.)
My impression is that it's less that linguistics is more susceptible to pseudoscience than psychology and more that in linguistics, unlike in psychology, there's anything else for the pseudoscience to contrast with.

The psychometricians have a line that the existence and substantial heritability of g (the general factor of intelligence, measured by IQ tests and claimed to correlate with such things as surveys by managers of the job performance of their direct reports) is one of the most solid, if not the most solid, results in the entire field of psychology. AFAIK this is not entirely false, but it's a double-edged sword - if you reject the psychometricians' claims about their general factor of intelligence, shouldn't you reject the whole field?
Salmoneus wrote: 07 Mar 2022 20:47 In the case of the word "runner", I think that people who speak these dialects, are pulled in directions that we could characterise through the observations that it is fashionable to:
- use the verb "run"
- use the suffix -er to form agentive nouns from verbs
- use a phonetically and phonemically alveolar /n/ in the verb root "run", wherever it appears
- realise phonemically alveolar consonants as phonetically dental before a Vr sequence

That is, in trying to be fashionable, people feel an impulse to do the above things; when they fail to do the above things, they worry they are unfashionable, because they see fashionable people doing those things.
Couldn't the root form preservation constraint (the OT people have a term for this which I've completely forgotten) be analyzed as part of an (at times countervailing) impulse toward comprehensibility, not necessarily about fashion at all?
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Post by Salmoneus »

Yes (although I'd argue that presenting yourself as someone who is good at communicating is also a way of being sexy). Alternatively, you could bring in a concept of learnability: some complex linguistic behaviours, like morphophonological alternations, are probably genuinely harder for human brains to master, and offsetting the desire to be a sexy is a contrasting desire to be lazy and not make your brain work too hard.

So, if we imagine a more extreme potential alternation, like 'velars become voiced labials before /Vr/', we'd expect "work" to yield "worber", but people might not want to say this because:
- dude, did he say 'worber'? Someone who worbs? Oh, you like worbing, do you, freak? What the fuck is this guy's problem!? Hey guys, have you meant my friend The Worb Guy, he has a mental problem!? [a direct fashion constraint]
- sorry, did you say 'worber'? Sorry, what's a 'worber'? I haven't come across that word. [a communicative constraint]
- "worker" - wait, no, that's not what Fonzy said, what did he say? wor...ger? wor...per? Oh, bugger it I'll just say 'worker' they'll know what I mean [a learnability constraint]

But I think that the fashion constraint is probably usually stronger and more widespread, because even the smallest difference can be picked up on as a possible boost or demerit to your sexycoolness (particularly among teenagers who often obsess over sexycoolness 26 hours a day), whereas concerns over learnability and communicative clarity only really kick in when you're dealing with quite extreme behaviours. Particularly because both those concerns are often directly overridden by sexycool, since it can be sexycool to be incomprehensible (hello Benicio del Torro) or to superrogatorily demonstrate your brainpower (hello erudite conversation).
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Salmoneus wrote: 07 Mar 2022 01:45There seems to be no limits to what linguists might call 'cognitive'
Indeed, "cognitive linguistics" can mean several different things depending on who's (claiming to be) practising it. And then there's Cognitive Linguistics (capital initials), which is apparently pretty much entirely based on disagreeing with other cognitive linguists on everything. Not that I really know much about any of these, but it's worth noting that there's really no simple answer to the question of what that word even means in linguistics.

I think Freud now tends to be seen the same way Marx is seen by many economists and left-wing politicians: he popularised some important ideas (most of which were not his own), played an important role in reorienting research programmes in new directions, and should continue to influence future work as an inspiration and source of interesting ideas, but his own work was methodologically questionable, and most of the details shouldn't be followed too closely.
Incidentally, another figure I've seen compared to Freud in almost exactly the same terms (but within the realm of linguistics, obviously) is Chomsky.

This does not require conscious or 'subconscious' theorising about the nature of fashion. In the same way, sunflowers instinctively turn toward the sun, but do not have a subconscious; so too, humans imitate the fashionable. Humans are capable of consciously formulating observations like the above, and this can alter how they act, but are able to act in such ways even without giving thought to such things (just as a robot could, despite lacking any sort of mind).
Just to be clear: you're saying that human brains are capable of observing behavioral patterns in other humans, generating impulses based on such observations, and in turn causing us to act in certain ways based on those impulses - without the conscious mind being aware of the whole process? So you're just objecting to the use of the term "subconscious" (or "the Subconscious"?) to describe such processes? Or does this get a pass under "'recognis[ing] a subconscious' in the sense of using the word "subconscious" to describe things that are not conscious but are related to conscious things in some way"?

In any case, I'd say a human reacting to fashion is actually vastly more complicated than a plant reacting to sunlight: the former requires memory of numerous observations on said fashion, while the latter is an immediate response to a fairly simple physical stimulus. Now, we can of course program robots to produce a wide variety of reactions to potentially vast amounts of data (in some ways even more than our own brains are capable of handling) - but they (so far) don't have a consciousness, so there's no point in talking about their "subconscious" either. And if they ever do develop a consciousness, then they'll probably be conscious of all their internal workings in ways we aren't, unless they're specifically programmed not to be. But at some point we may have to ask the question of how we define a "mind" in the first place, if that definition is going to keep including human minds but excluding machines.


Sequor wrote: 08 Mar 2022 00:33I don't know about how psychology compares to linguistics, but you really notice something going when you start noticing many linguists write papers with the apparent purpose of exemplifying a theory, a pre-existing model, rather than sharing interesting data, or going from the data to a small model that generalizes it. Papers where the conclusion is pretty much "...and this is how X language is a good example of assumption Y in Z theory". That top-down approach to linguistics has struck many a conlanger as strange... It seems to have value in much of the world of linguists though.
There's this idea that merely describing data (i.e. languages) isn't Scientific enough; we have to have a Theory which Explains the data (i.e. why languages are the way they are). Which has, in my view, led to a lot of completely pointless arguments and just plain childish bickering between various factions of linguists, each accusing everyone else of being "unscientific" or otherwise Doing Linguistics Wrong.

Now, as Sal points out, theories which attempt to explain languages - or human language in general - in terms of various "subconscious" processes (or whatever we want to call them) in the mind have the problem that such processes are at least currently unobservable. A possible counter to that, though, might be that e.g. Einstein's Theory of Relativity explained a whole lot about the universe in terms of stuff that wasn't observable when it was published, either, but several of the things he predicted have been observed since (as the technology for making the relevant observations has developed). Then again, to the extent that these "subconscious" processes could ever be objectively observed, they would certainly correspond to some form of neurological activity, and from what little I understand of neurology, it does indeed seem that things are a lot more complicated than, say, Chomsky's neat, ordered formalisms.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Omzinesý »

Baltian languages form the past tense by changing the last vowel, which also encodes person. What IE morpheme does the Baltian past tense derive from?
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Vlürch »

Is it true only one natlang (Finnish Romani) uses <ȟ> for /x/?

Wikipedia suggests that being the case, but I could've sworn there was at least one other language somewhere in Europe that used it, and IIRC it was for the same sound too, but now I can't actually find any other language using it except Dakota, which obviously isn't in Europe and also uses it for a different sound.🤔 I thought maybe it was used in some small Slavic language or something, or in the romanisation of some Slavic language that uses Cyrillic, but it doesn't even seem to be used in the (common) romanisations of any languages that use any writing systems other than the Latin alphabet either AFAICT, which is really surprising.

I don't think I was thinking of Esperanto <ĥ> because Esperanto isn't even a natlang, but I guess that might be a possibility...?
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Creyeditor »

French Wikipedia says it's used in Lakhota as well.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Lorik »

Russian Wikipedia says <ȟ> represents [X] in Lakhota.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by sangi39 »

I Lorik wrote: 05 Apr 2022 19:03 Russian Wikipedia says <ȟ> represents [X] in Lakhota.
It also says it's used to represent the laryngeal fricative in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet, and does give a source for that, but I imagine it's rarely used and only found in Finnish documents (does any Uralic language even have that sound?) so finding it being used might be tricky
Vlürch wrote: 05 Apr 2022 16:51 I don't think I was thinking of Esperanto <ĥ> because Esperanto isn't even a natlang, but I guess that might be a possibility...?
Apparently carons can be used in place of circumflex's in Esperanto, so it might be that
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Salmoneus »

Omzinesý wrote: 19 Mar 2022 10:40 Baltian languages form the past tense by changing the last vowel, which also encodes person. What IE morpheme does the Baltian past tense derive from?
Short version: fuck knows. The Baltic preterite is from the aorist with the suffixes either -e: or -a: depending on verb class. I can find people talking about how the division into two classes might have happened (it was complicated, involving aspect and voice), and how they line up with the Slavic forms, but I can't find anything on where they might have come from (beyond a barefaced *-st>*-e:).

Your best bet might be studying Studia z historii czasownika litewskiego. Iteratiwa. Denominatiwa by Ostrowski, which I've seen several people mention as relevant here, but I can't help you there, I'm afraid.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Omzinesý »

Salmoneus wrote: 05 Apr 2022 23:18
Omzinesý wrote: 19 Mar 2022 10:40 Baltian languages form the past tense by changing the last vowel, which also encodes person. What IE morpheme does the Baltian past tense derive from?
Short version: fuck knows. The Baltic preterite is from the aorist with the suffixes either -e: or -a: depending on verb class. I can find people talking about how the division into two classes might have happened (it was complicated, involving aspect and voice), and how they line up with the Slavic forms, but I can't find anything on where they might have come from (beyond a barefaced *-st>*-e:).

Your best bet might be studying Studia z historii czasownika litewskiego. Iteratiwa. Denominatiwa by Ostrowski, which I've seen several people mention as relevant here, but I can't help you there, I'm afraid.
I think it goes beyond my skills to try reading a Polish book generating through my negligible Russian skills.
But thank you anyway.
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Vlürch »

Creyeditor wrote: 05 Apr 2022 18:18French Wikipedia says it's used in Lakhota as well.
I Lorik wrote: 05 Apr 2022 19:03Russian Wikipedia says <ȟ> represents [X] in Lakhota.
Interesting that it's a different language from Dakota, I always thought they're just different names for the same language for some reason. Nice that it's used for basically the same sound (even if velar and uvular fricatives aren't identical, of course), but if it's not used in Europe in any other language except Finnish Romani... hmm. I mean, it's cool when the orthographies of languages use unique letters, but it's kinda frustrating because I could've sworn some other language in Europe used it haha. And huh, apparently it's used for the uvular fricative in Dakota too. Guess my reading comprehension is literal ass, because somehow I was left with the impression that the Wikipedia article about Ȟ said it's used for a pharyngeal fricative in Dakota... [>_<]
sangi39 wrote: 05 Apr 2022 19:12It also says it's used to represent the laryngeal fricative in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet, and does give a source for that, but I imagine it's rarely used and only found in Finnish documents (does any Uralic language even have that sound?) so finding it being used might be tricky
The linked paper simply mentions the diacritic being used for especially strong fricatives, and it's not in the actual alphabet of any Uralic language, so that's probably not the context I'd remember it from even if I guess it could be possible that I might have seen it in that context.🤔
sangi39 wrote: 05 Apr 2022 19:12Apparently carons can be used in place of circumflex's in Esperanto, so it might be that
Hmm, in that case, maybe it really could be that I'd seen it in the context of Esperanto somewhere and misremembered it as being used in some European natlang (other than Finnish Romani).

Thanks for the answers!
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Re: (L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Khemehekis »

Is the onio- in the word "oniomania" cognate with the English word "own"?
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