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Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:59 am
by metal56
Actually I was meaning to type 'dribble', to link back to 'drool', but now that you've bought it up, what's so unforgivably nasty about 'drivel'?
Semantic prosody lesson needed?

Wellcum back!

Posted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 6:04 am
by fluffyhamster
fluffyhamster wrote:I suggest you try to get hold of Corpus-based Language Studies: An Advanced Resource Book (McEnery et al, Routledge 2006) for the paper it contains by Robert de Beaugrande, in which he defends empiricists from...
Here's the bit that I was thinking of specifically, from that paper of Beaugrande's:
Another of Widdowson’s polarities we might deconstruct is the one between ‘knowledge’ in ‘the mind’ versus ‘behaviour’, the latter term perhaps reminding language teachers of behaviourist pedagogy and Skinnerean behaviourism.5 But linking a large corpus with behaviour and behaviourist methods would be flawed for at least two reasons. The more obvious reason is that the behaviourist ‘audio-lingual’ method with its pattern drills and prefabricated dialogues was based on mechanical language patterns more than on authentic data; it equated language with behaviour in order to reduce language, whose relative complexity it could not grasp, to behaviour, whose relative simplicity seemed ideal for ‘conditioning’, ‘reinforcement’ and so on; and the method was backed up by heavy behaviourist commitments with in general pedagogy and by the prestige and authority of American military language institutes, where ‘drills’ are literally the ‘order of the day’. Nor does Sinclair advocate a teaching method whereby learners parrot back corpus data; on the contrary, he has expressly counselled against ‘heaping raw texts into the classroom, which is becoming quite fashionable’, and in favour of having ‘the patterns of language to be taught undergo pedagogic processing’ (1996).

The more subtle reason is that corpus data are not equivalent to ‘behaviour’ in the ‘externalised’ sense which Widdowson’s polarities imply and which is often encountered in discussions of pedagogy, e.g., when a ‘syllabus’ ‘identifies’ ‘behavioural skills’ (Sinclair 1988: 175). Instead, they are discourse, and the distinction is crucial. External behaviour consists of observable corporeal enactments, of which the classic examples in behaviourist research were running mazes, pulling levers, and pressing keys. Discourse is behaviour in that externalised sense only as an array of articulatory and acoustic operations, or, for written language, of inscriptions and visual recognitions; and no one has for a long time — certainly not Sinclair — proposed to describe language in those terms, nor does a corpus represent language that way. When discourse realises lexical collocability and grammatical colligability by means of collocations and colligations, the ‘performed’ continually re-specifies and adjusts the contours of the ‘possible’. In parallel, ‘knowledge’ in ‘the mind’ decides the significance of the ‘behaviour’. Sinclair’s true position is that these operations are far more delicate and specific than we can determine without extensive corpus data. Moreover, analysing corpus data is less equivalent to observing behaviour than to participating in discourse.
The McEnery book only quotes from the beginning of the paper until the end of the above excerpt. You can read the paper in its entirety at:
http://www.beaugrande.com/WiddowSincS.htm

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 5:10 am
by jotham
Okay, so this shows me some important differences between functionalists and behaviorists: that functionalists don't see or describe speech in behavioral terms, such as pulling levers — in other words, of "physical enactments," like tongue and throat movements, etc. Also that the behaviorists didn't acknowledge or employ the perplexity and completeness of human speech when trying to "condition" people: this explains their simplistic mechanical drills, which I also knew functionalists didn't endorse. But I don't think these things address what I was talking about. I said that functionalists don't see or describe speech as thought or thought processes. In so doing, they would have to think of speech as a series of instincts or reactions, which point is similar to the behaviorists.

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:13 am
by fluffyhamster
You seem keen to put people into distinctly labelled groups, Jotham! I'll try to get back to you soon with some more substantial comments (mainly about some things you said earlier in the thread), but I don't have time right now to post anything substantial enough to be thought-provoking (that translates as 'I have to go read up on things for a few days and then marshall whatever thoughts I might have' LOL).

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:21 pm
by jotham
Perhaps I should have said functionalism and behavioralism(?) instead of functionalists and behavioralists, since it's the ideas I'm trying to track down, not people. But those words just seem a bit awkward, slower to read or say, and even more jargon-laden than it already is. I always like to track down ideas since I know that ideas have consequences. When you get down to the main roots of what particular beliefs or theories are, it explains and even predicts the positions taken on a host of issues. Most people may be familiar with the issues and different positions, but don't contemplate the origin or cause of such positions. It's what they say about history: without a proper understanding of it, you become ignorant of the present, your role, and your sense of continuity with the past — floating in the wind, aimless, and without purpose.

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 7:43 am
by fluffyhamster
Wow, I said 'substantial' twice in my insubstantial post above (not that this one will be much meatier). :o

It's important to try to trace the history of ideas, but there comes a point when I am no longer really that interested in what e.g. Chomsky (or indeed his opponents) did or didn't say.

Maybe one thing to realize in this particular debate is that each side seems to want to label the other as holding beliefs that make humans appear too "predetermined" (or whatever the appropriate word would be), appear unfortunate products of their culture versus their genes, and I don't see how all this (especially generativist formalisms) helps teachers or learners to make sense of the language in front of them, or to sense and follow (indeed sometimes bend or break) the "rules".

But I suppose we could still ask why Chomsky seems to consider (or why anyone would consider) it so awful that we be products of our cultures as much if not moreso than our genes (regarding the language(s) that we come to speak in our lifetimes).

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 2:38 pm
by jotham
fluffyhamster wrote:But I suppose we could still ask why Chomsky seems to consider (or why anyone would consider) it so awful that we be products of our cultures as much if not moreso than our genes (regarding the language(s) that we come to speak in our lifetimes).
Ideas have consequences. One group thinks that logic uses language as a tool to express its own [i.e., logic's] entity. The other group thinks that language itself — through culture and interaction, etc. — forms our logic and thoughts, which don't have their own entity apart from language. Why is that attractive to some people? Because if logic were an entity on its own with no human power — i.e., language — to form it, then that gives credence to the idea that there is right or wrong and that one carves a path to that which is right through the function of logic, which can't be easily manipulated by humans through words, and so becomes immoveable. Inherent in the concept of logic is truth. Those whose positions end up on the "wrong" side of the coin when logic is applied will naturally be attracted to theories that downplay the concept of innate, immoveable logic and that give credence to fluid, evolutionary relativism. Theories asseverating that words are superior to, mold, and give rise to logic will win their respect.
The Soviet Communists and tyrants eagerly embraced the work of the behaviorists and used their theories extensively to control the "thoughts" of the people and even reality itself through propaganda, the art of playing with words. If logic, thoughts, and opinions are merely a product of words and language, then you are morally justified in changing the language around to make thoughts and reality line up with whatever the dictator desired, without being unduly subject to some universal standard out of the dictator's control. Changing words could never be considered a lie or immoral, since words precede logic and thus create logic, or truth. In fact, there could be no such thing as solid truth; words create it, change it, or destroy it at will. These authoritarians discouraged people from reveling in deep thinking and logic, which makes people individualist, helps them ground themselves by discovering and expressing their true identity and personality (i.e., genes) apart from the common group or culture, and encourages them to discern nuances and even judge the validity of mangled words and statements by an innate standard, that of the exercised use of logic. These authoritarians wanted them, instead, to be formed by language, by reveling and memorizing the language and clever use of words in their propoganda books and always engaging in social functions, organizations, and groups controlled by authorities (which encourages character formation through language, interaction, and group think), and diminish the time spent in quiet solitary, which encourages thought and individualism.
I suppose the what's-more-important-logic-or-words debate may be part of the reason extreme linguists can't stomach grammarians use of judgment or logic to prefer certain phrasings of language as clear or effective. That represents a right or wrong in language and makes language a tool or vehicle of one's innate logic. Then logic becomes superior, the focusing point, and the words must be employed or formed in such a way to even hope to match the greatness of the original, brilliant thought. Indeed, grammarians think of language as a vehicle and servant of logic and thought and try to teach people how to effectively use that tool to best express their individual logic and personality.
The linguists, however, think that words are just words, and none of these words is any greater than any other; none of them can express a thought or truth any better than another set of language, because language creates "thoughts" — it doesn't describe pre-existing ones. Since no words are any better than others, they say, we should leave language alone and let language evolve the "thoughts" and "truth" in whatever impartial way it sees fit or by the roll of a die. If the die rolls 1, so what? If it rolls 6, it won't matter, because the resultant "thoughts" aren't right, wrong, or great — they're merely a servant of language.

Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:27 am
by fluffyhamster
Sure, you can draw a distinction if you want, in evolutionary and also now general terms, between "thought" (preverbal ~?) and "its" eventual verbal expression...not that any of this has ever prevented people from arguing over things other than usage, or aids feral children to get by without even a first language etc etc.

Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:15 am
by jotham
I've been reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), the most popular American novel in the 20th century, which is being made into a movie next year (starring Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie). Last night, I read a passage that made my eyes pop out as it seems germane to the topic we've been discussing. She's describing how a government panel decides to get rid of patents and copyrights and this was one member's rationale when assuring another member, who was jittery about the idea:
Genius is a superstition, Jim...There's no such thing as the intellect. A man's brain is a social product. A sum of influences that he's picked up from those around him. Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what's floating in the social atmosphere. A genius is an intellectual scavenger and a greedy hoarder of the ideas which rightfully belong to society, from which he stole them. All thought is theft. If we do away with private fortunes, we'll have a fairer distribution of wealth. If we do away with genius, we'll have a fairer distribution of ideas.
In case anyone's confused, this isn't Ayn Rand's sentiment. She's demonstrating how governments can go amuck embracing and honestly following the train of this kind of thinking — which she despises — to their natural end...or one of their natural ends. Ideas have consequences.

Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 8:16 am
by metal56
<I've been reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), the most popular American novel in the 20th century, which is being made into a movie next year (starring Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie). >

If it was the most popular novel of that century, why did they wait so long to turn it into a movie?

<A man's brain is a social product. A sum of influences that he's picked up from those around him. Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what's floating in the social atmosphere.>

Sounds like a Behaviourist writer.

Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 9:16 am
by Stephen Jones
The fact that jotham thinks it significant that a piece of cultish rubbish should be starred in by the leading PR man for an even more rubbishy cult, founded by another second-rate novelist, tells us quite a lot.

Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 9:34 am
by metal56
Stephen Jones wrote:The fact that jotham thinks it significant that a piece of cultish rubbish should be starred in by the leading PR man for an even more rubbishy cult, founded by another second-rate novelist, tells us quite a lot.
A lot.

Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:36 pm
by jotham
metal56 wrote:If it was the most popular novel of that century, why did they wait so long to turn it into a movie?
It was actually in the works, maybe in the 70s (she died in 1982). She was very implacable: she wanted to make sure her philosophy shined in the movie, and that they didn't just show the plot. Because she was so unwielding, I think the producer decided to do away with the project or something. So they couldn't do anything until she was dead, I guess. Another of her famous novels, The Fountainhead, was made into a black-and-white movie in 1947. It contained important philosophical speeches, and the director at that time worried that audiences couldn't bear or handle it. I loved that courtroom speech: it was the best part of the movie for me. I wish she were directing the upcoming movie. I'm afraid Hollywood will put more emphasis on plot than philosophy.
Sounds like a Behaviourist writer.
That designation of the dialogue would be correct. That was what she (and Chomsky) were fighting at that time — and more successfully in the USA. She wrote the novel in 1957. During this period, (before Reagan's denunciation of the evil empire), many American intellectuals were admiring the communist Soviet models (and the socialist German model previously). Of course Ayn Rand herself isn't behaviorist; she's just showing dialogue of people spouting off that philosophy because she saw it around her every day, and it still exists today, uncomfortably common — though not as popular as it once had been.

Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:55 pm
by jotham
Stephen Jones wrote:The fact that jotham thinks it significant that a piece of cultish rubbish should be starred in by the leading PR man for an even more rubbishy cult, founded by another second-rate novelist, tells us quite a lot.
My opinion of most of Hollywood actors' and actresses' personal philosophy and life isn't very high. My point was only to show that it won't be some little unheard-of, documentary-like movie no one ever watches. It's influence and reach could be significant.

Posted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:12 am
by metal56
She was very implacable: she wanted to make sure her philosophy shined in the movie, and that they didn't just show the plot.
So propaganda and marketing is what she wanted, right?