[Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

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grislybairn
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[Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

Post by grislybairn »

Hello board,

I made a mental connection between two concepts today. On the one hand, there is that somewhat canonical set of Q-words variously referred to as the Five Ws, the Aristotelian Septem Circumstantiae, and so forth. Using Aquinas's formulation from the Wikipedia article:
For in acts we must take note of who did it, by what aids or instruments he did it (with), what he did, where he did it, why he did it, how and when he did it.
On the other hand, there is the traditional triad constituting the deicitic centre: I, here, now!
My realization was that the latter map nicely to a subset of the former: Who, where, when?
So then I asked myself, and am now asking you, whether there exist corresponding... let's call them default baselines for the rest: With what, what, why, how?
Some candidates occurred to me; none of them seem quite as fundamentally fitting as the three precedents. As this is intended as a brainstorming thread, though, I'd rather keep those to myself for now, so as not to risk derailing any of your own trains of thought. Do feel free to pick more precise definitions of any of the terms involved as seems needful and suitable.

So, have at it! :)
Salmoneus
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Re: [Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

Post by Salmoneus »

Ah, Ye Olde Conlange Table of Correlatives... natural languages are often less regular than Esperanto, in this respect.

Esperanto, incidentally, has nine sets, rather than your seven or English's five: who/which, where, when, what, how, why, whose, what kind of, and how much. The exact set of 'most basic' questions will vary depending on the language, of course. For instance, you could also break 'why' into at the very least material causation and telos (because of what vs for what purpose). And you follow the English assumption that actions require a 'what' question ("what did you do?"), as though actions were objects. And so on.

In terms of your answers: 'I' doesn't really fit with the others, because personal identity doesn't employ the usual distinctions of English deixis. [on the one hand, 'here' and 'now' apply to all things close to the deictic centre, whereas 'I' applies only to the speaker (and cross-linguistically, the speaker can be far from the deictic centre!); on the other hand, English deictics only have one centre and degrees of proximity, whereas 'you' and 'she' are not related to closeness to deictic centre at all]. A more logical answer to a 'who' or 'which' question is 'this one' or the like. ['this guy' might be me, but more often is someone nearby...]

As for corresponding proximal deictics for the other questions: with this, this, for this reason, and in this manner.
grislybairn
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Re: [Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

Post by grislybairn »

Salmoneus wrote: 18 Jul 2021 20:15 'I' doesn't really fit with the others, because personal identity doesn't employ the usual distinctions of English deixis. [...] A more logical answer to a 'who' or 'which' question is 'this one' or the like.
"I" does fit with the other two when we interpret each in the more concrete context of the utterance in which they occur, rather than the less concrete context of proximal to an arbitrary origo - in the vein of "the person, place, time from which the utterance originates". Your point that this choice of centre is still ultimately an arbitrary one is well taken, though. For one thing, it is at best a default rather than an invariant. The Wikipedia article illustrates this by means of an answer phone message, in which a statement like "I'm not here right now" presumably refers to "the place where and the time when the phone is ringing", or some such, instead. For another thing, it is bound to be a matter of cultural convention, at least to a point.

Regardless, what I'm looking for here are indeed ideas for other such defaults. That they will be situationally and culturally and whathaveyouly conditioned just means that there won't be a single right idea, but that it'll be matter of better and worse, and a subjective one at that. Otherwise it wouldn't be much of an occasion for a brainstorm, of course!

Alas, simply applying that "whence the utterance originates" formulation across the board is less than productive. For example, applying it to "the instrument" would appear to yield "vocal tract", which does not seem like a promising default for "with what", does it. :P
grislybairn
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Re: [Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

Post by grislybairn »

Ah, I came across a paper just now that delves into the underpinnings of the matter at hand:
In 1979, Perry published "The Problem of the Essential Indexical" in which he combined his work on philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. Essential indexicals (I, here, and now) are parts of language that cannot be paraphrased away. They are seen as locating beliefs and are essential to understand the speaker's belief.
It may be a little while before I get around to properly digesting it, though.
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Re: [Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

Post by Salmoneus »

It should be born in mind that philosophy and linguistics operate at different levels - it's rarely wise to assume language works the way philosophers assume language 'should' work.

[I was going to give the famous philosophical thought experiment on indexicality, but I see that your link already covers it. I'd forgotten that was Perry. It's worth reiterating, though, that from the philosophical point of view the amazing thing about indexicals - particularly personal pronouns - is that they provide information that cannot be provided by any description. Most descriptions are essentially commensurable - you can paraphrase one description with another. To tell you that someone is tall, I don't have to say 'he is tall', I can give you a bunch of other facts (he can reach the highest items on supermarket shelves, he often sees the bald spots on the top of people's heads, his trousers are much longer than they are wide, yesterday he ruffled the hair of a man sat on a branch of a tree, he frequently ducks when entering houses, and so forth) and you can deduce the fact that he's tall. Arguably, there comes a point when the number of facts you know is so great that you can't reasonably deny that the man must be tall. But with indexicality, adding non-indexical facts doesn't seem to help. Perry can follow the mystery shopper for days, learning all sorts of things about his habits and lifestyle - he eats the same food as Perry, he shops in the same places as Perry, he even goes through the shop in the same order as Perry, he wears shoes with the same treat-pattern as Perry... but it's perfectly reasonable for Perry to know all these things and NOT know that the shopper is Perry. Even being told the shopper's name is 'John Perry' may only provoke 'woah, that's so freaky, that's my name!'... the additional indexical fact, "... and that person IS ME", has to be added explicitly. Indexical information is not contained within other propositional information, but is an independent series of facts about the world (or about the individual's place in it).
This is very confusing and exciting for philosophers, particularly of an Ideal Language orientation. The paradigm of language for the philosopher is the indicative proposition, and everything else tends to be explained as deviations from that paradigm - the way most philosophers these days approach a puzzling sentence, like 'I love you!', is to translate it into an equivalent paraphrase that looks more like an indicative proposition. ["I love you" looks like an agent is doing an action to a patient, so the naive assumption is that 'love' is some sort of 'internal' action you perform involving mental states. Or maybe it's a relationship, which could be paraphrased with an existential (A relationship of love obtains between us; I am in a state of love toward you). Or maybe it's actually shorthand for behavioural predictions, and can be paraphrased 'I will support and protect and nurture you', or just 'I am predisposed to cuddle you'. Or maybe the paraphrase needs to be more extreme, and 'I love you' is really shorthand for something like 'I am in an emotional state equivalent to that that I am in when I kiss someone' or the like. There's no agreement, but most modern philosphical positions on the question can be regarded as different attempts to paraphrase - or 'analyse' - the problematic proposition (or pseudo-proposition, depending on your inclinations).] Indexicals are exciting because they can't easily be paraphrased (i.e. analysed); instead, they seem to 'point' toward an actual external world. Indexicals are the "you had to be there!" of philosophy - a suggestion that some things cannot be learnt from books...

However, none of this is really that important for linguistics. In linguistics, indexicality is almost the norm - sure, some academic linguists have gotten so caught up in pseudoanalyticist modelling that they something forget this, but fundamentally indexicality isn't weird or exceptional in actual language. Many people assume, in fact, that indexicality is the most fundamental part of language - the part that evolved first, and is learned first (give a child an apple and a banana, and they will probably learn to say they want 'this' and 'that' (indexical) long before they say they want the 'apple' or the 'banana' (categorical)). And in reality, most if not all actual utterances have at least implicit indexicality...
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Sequor
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Re: [Brainstorm] The Seven Qs versus the Deictic Centre

Post by Sequor »

grislybairn wrote: 18 Jul 2021 17:35On the other hand, there is the traditional triad constituting the deicitic centre: I, here, now!
My realization was that the latter map nicely to a subset of the former: Who, where, when?
So then I asked myself, and am now asking you, whether there exist corresponding... let's call them default baselines for the rest: With what, what, why, how?
There exists a term for them, "correlatives", but see below...

You can find a table of English correlatives in Zompist's online LCK, and also tables for Spanish, Italian and German in translations of the LCK into those languages. A table for Latin can be found in Allen, Greenough et al.'s early 20th-century grammar, and, in much greater detail, on Wiktionary as an appendix.
Salmoneus wrote: 18 Jul 2021 20:15Ah, Ye Olde Conlange Table of Correlatives... natural languages are often less regular than Esperanto, in this respect.
I'm amused by how this use of "correlative" for these rows and columns of pronouns and pronoun-like things seems to be limited to 1) Latin/Greek grammars (where the usage originated, if you remember that one time I even found a small basic table of them in a 1844 Latin grammar, 15 years before Zamenhof was born...), 2) Esperanto, 3) conlangs (likely due to the influence of Zompist's online LCK). The word seems to be mostly used in another way in regular linguistics and learners' reference grammars... namely pairs of words (usually conjunctions or adverbs) that go together in grammatical constructions, like "so X that Y" and "although X, nevertheless Y". For some reason, in spite of being present in Latin/Greek grammars, it doesn't seem to have spread around much for the table. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that Latin correlative words are very often used in this way, in pairs...
Salmoneus wrote: 21 Jul 2021 11:57Indexicals are exciting because they can't easily be paraphrased (i.e. analysed); instead, they seem to 'point' toward an actual external world. Indexicals are the "you had to be there!" of philosophy - a suggestion that some things cannot be learnt from books...
I really don't have much of a mind for philosophy, but this bit you wrote really amused me.
hīc sunt linguificēs. hēr bēoþ tungemakeras.
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