IF THIS IS TUESDAY, I MUST BE SPEAKING ARABIC.

I’m reading a book that’s alternately irritating and fascinating, Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich. It’s one of those “I decided to cure my first-world angst by impulsively moving to someplace new where I would be thrown into a completely unfamiliar environment and have to deal with raw authentic life and become a new, more mature person” books, and frankly my interest in the genre is minimal. But in this case the pretext for her moving to Udaipur in India was to learn Hindi, and along with the fairly banal account of what it’s like to learn a new language (“The more Hindi I understand, I find, the more perplexing my life becomes”) she passes along tidbits she picks up from linguists she interviews after her return to New York, and these are often quite interesting. Early on, she cites Michel Paradis, a neurolinguist who specializes in the psycholinguistics of bilingualism, on a couple of striking cases: an Austrian, “once fluent in German and Italian,” who after a head injury “was able to speak to his wife only in the remnants of his Italian, to his doctors only in what was left of his German,” and a Moroccan nun who after an accident “could still speak French and Arabic, but only on alternate days.” This last seemed so unlikely I googled for backup, and found the story with more detail in François Grosjean’s Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism:

In one case a forty-eight-year-old nun in Morocco, who was bilingual in French and dialectal Arabic, had a moped accident and became totally aphasic. Four days after her accident she was able to utter a few words in Arabic but could not speak French, although her comprehension of the language was quite good. However, two weeks later she spoke French quite fluently. One day later, much to the interviewer’s surprise, her French was extremely poor, and her Arabic was once again quite fluent. The next day, the reverse was true: poor, dysfluent Arabic and good spontaneous French. To add to this complex recovery pattern, whenever she had difficulties speaking one language, she had no problems translating into it. However, she could not do the reverse, that is, translate into the language she spoke spontaneously! Thus, her translating ability was completely divorced from her speaking ability.

The brain and language are both amazingly complicated, and I’m glad they’re starting to figure out the connections between them.

Comments

  1. There’s an extremely smart German-Swiss professor of architecture at Columbia who, after a brain operation, woke to find that he could speak only English.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    I used to have the original, in French. It looks like they did an excellent translation. The author was not raised bilingual from infancy but learned English by being sent to a school in England.

  3. Fascinating little post.
    This reminds me also of a story I heard:
    A man was brought up in Polish and then later (in his childhood) learnt English. He was, in effect, bilingual but, due to the fact that he lived in England, his English became the dominant language although Polish was always spoken at home.
    This man had a stroke last year. In the first few hours following the stroke, his dominant language, English, literally disappeared and he was only able to speak Polish.
    As his neurological condition improved his English slowly returned and became dominant again.
    Bilingualism is a wonderful phenomenon…

  4. The buzz-word compliant way of putting it is that language is an “emergent property” of the brain, where a large number of simpler functions and connections come together to make something new. It’s not so weird that the ‘day-of-the-week’ function is in the mix– after all, even a really smart parrot wouldn’t know that if today is Monday, then tomorrow is Tuesday…

  5. Speak for your own smart parrot.

  6. Speak for your own smart parrot.

  7. In the Grosjean passage I notice the word “moped” (mo-ped), which I know only from Germany as this. According to Duden, it’s a contraction of Motorveloziped (Veloziped, how quaint!) or Motor + Pedal (sounds like folk etymology: what most people would come up with if pressed). In what necks of the Anglophone wood are this word and its objective complement familiar?

  8. Cool! not the same but once I rad a story of a guy who after a stroke he began speaking with a British accent instead of his native american accent.

  9. Grumbly: You missed out on Jasper Carrott’s Funky Moped, for some values of “missed”?

  10. John Emerson says:

    I heard “mo-ped” as a kid in the early sixites in rural Minnesota.
    Then there’s the story about the American PhD mathematician who came out of brain surgery with an IQ of 85 and speaking Swedish.

  11. Des: I must have been watching some other TV program at the time. I thought the word might be familiar in GB, but it’s actually the USAmericans I’m wondering about. They wouldn’t have understood the song: “me moped”, indeed!

  12. @ Grumbly Stu:
    In Swedish, it’s fairly certain that the German loan moped from its first appearance in 1952 is understood as motor + pedal. “Velociped” had already been out of active use for a couple of generations. That should be the case for the German word, too, because they also have the motor + bicycle Mofa (Motor-Fahrrad) for what’s more like a motorized normal bike.
    @ John Emerson:
    In Sweden, the brain surgery story is of course of the guy who accidentally had 10% of his brain remaining instead of 10% removed. He wakes up, and says “Mor’n da!”, which is Norwegian for “Good morning”.

  13. marie-lucie says:

    Veloziped: this must be an adaptation of the (very old-fashioned) French word le vélocipède which was the original one for a bicycle. It soon became just le vélo, the word which is still the most commonly used in spoken French (in France), next to the more standard la bicyclette.
    In France the original mo-ped is la Mobylette, which has been around for decades. I have never used one but one of my uncles (an engineer) was instrumental in designing it.

  14. A moped* was in my lingo a bicycle with a small 2 stroke engine of about 1/2 a horse,it being the answer those that wanted traction and be mobile and go to the next village to see the mistress, but were short of cash, but as hp^ came into vogue the upgrade of having one made, then came the Velocette.
    * mo[torized]ped[al] [bicycle]
    ^ hp hire purchase now known as credit purchase

  15. moped low grade Motor cycle

  16. Words used by us clods rarely accepted by the informed literate and published ones as our mumblings very rarely understood unless tyheir is no alternative.

  17. “Mor’n da!”, which is Norwegian
    No it’s not, it’s a Swede’s idea of ‘stupid Norwegian’ similar to Americans laughing at Canadians for saying Eh? (and if you want me to post some stupid Swede jokes, I’m very ready & able).

  18. “Mor’n da!”, which is Norwegian
    No it’s not, it’s a Swede’s idea of ‘stupid Norwegian’ similar to Americans laughing at Canadians for saying Eh? (and if you want me to post some stupid Swede jokes, I’m very ready & able).

  19. John Emerson says:

    Omigod I have stirred the hornet’s nest of seething hatred that lies beneath the seemingly placid Scandinavian breast. Someone make popcorn.
    “A thousand Swedes run through the weeds….”

  20. John, there are kinds of pastry called Swedish and Danish, right? (There must be a Norwegian kind too, but I’m as little familiar with it as with the other two, not having lived in the north-east US of A). Anyway – do they have to be kept in separate glass compartments in the patisserie? Sort of like Scandinavian kosher? Is there a danger of spontaneous combustion, because they’re always fuming?
    Gosh, Germany is so boring by comparison. I’ve never seen Kirschstreusel stand up and shake its fist at the Rosinenschnecken.

  21. The English Wikipedia ‘Moped’ discusses the Etymology.
    Looking at the article Types of motorcycles, I am also familiar with the scooter, but not the feet forwards motorcycle or the underbone.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Pastries: In France, Danish-type pastries are called collectively viennoiseries – things from Vienna.

  23. And they do have excellent pastries in Vienna; it’s one of the few things that really impressed me about the city. (I had just come from Prague, which doubtless influenced my judgment.)

  24. John Emerson says:

    As I understand, the Swedes have mostly rutabagas.

  25. Danes call the pasteries vienerbrød — Vienna Bread.

  26. Omigod I have stirred the hornet’s nest of seething hatred that lies beneath the seemingly placid Scandinavian breast. Someone make popcorn.
    I could make rød grød med fløde if we’re going to be watching inter-Scandinavian rivalry. Or I could just go make a pot of boiled potatoes.

  27. The “Danish” is from Vienna, from back when Danish bakers went on strike for cash wages rather than the traditional room and board, and bakers from Vienna were brought in.

  28. I have some problems with aphasia on ordinary days, but that generally takes the form of drawing a total blank on the perfectly ordinary word that I am trying to put into a sentence at the moment. My family members usually refrain from teasing me about the circumlocutions that I have to come up with in order to communicate, but occasionally someone just can’t resist.
    The more interesting sorts of aphasia and dysfluency show up during my migraine prodromes and auras. There have been times when it was more or less impossible to produce English (which is my native language)at an intelligible level, but I could speak Danish without too much trouble. Unfortunately, being able to speak Danish in those situations is not especially useful, since I am the only member of my family who knows more than a few words of the language. There have also been times when I could not produce any spoken language (even though I could think in English or Danish at the time) but I could sign in ASL, which is not a language that I am remotely fluent in, but at least most of the rest of my household knows some ASL.
    Usually, though, I just produce unbelievably dysfluent English when I have a migraine coming on. The words come out in no apparent order, some of them repeated, extra ones freely thrown in. Morphemes are tossed around and end up lodging in places where they have no business at all, such as -ing on the end of a noun. Sentences often end with the word “is,” whether or not the sentence even needed a copula to begin with.
    “If the is that you paper that book and bringing me for it to me for the.” Might be how I ask for a book. My husband and older daughter hardly blink anymore.

  29. Mopeds known as mopeds are indeed common in the UK – or certainly England.

  30. “moped”: ‘behaved in a depressed way; dragged one’s ass around in an attempt to be infectiously sad’.

  31. There probably are “smart parrots”- parrots more intelligent than your average parrot.
    But are there ‘smart tape-recorders’? What’s the difference- other than mere complexity of structure and function- between a brain and a recording device?
    Sure, an apperceptive composition of cognition can be transcendentally deduced. But this subtly skeptical view of ‘thinking’ might still entail a machine capable of making holograms out of photographic slices, for example.
    Is there something to intelligence that CAN’T be mechanical?

  32. “If the is that you paper that book and bringing me for it to me for the.” Might be how I ask for a book. My husband and older daughter hardly blink anymore.
    Isidora: what you relate about your intervals of aphasia and dysfluency is extremely interesting as regards bilingualism, in fact language, speech and understanding in general. If I understand you rightly, your family has been able to adapt so as to understand you, at least some of the time. Isn’t this a clear example of how sense is something that is jointly constructed by speakers and hearers? Information isn’t just “there” to be “passed on”, like you pass the salt.
    One thing wasn’t quite clear to me: in these intervals of dysfluency, are you (sometimes, always?) aware of the dysfluency just from hearing what you say, or do the reactions of other people help you to notice what’s going on?
    In that connection, I will say that I personally do not believe much can be learned about language by investigating mathematical models of grammar rules producing sentences that are then parsed by hearers. Something can be learned, but not very much. In the sentence “if the is that you paper …” that you gave, no formal grammar could ever explain how sense can be made of that – but I easily believe that sense is made, as you describe. Such a grammar would have to be so complicated that it loses its very plausibility as a model of “what’s actually happening when we speak”. A model is supposed to be simpler, not more complex than what is being modeled.
    Until a few years ago, I kept buying the newest versions of ViaVoice, a software product from IBM. It is one of those speech recognition programs that you supposedly train to “take dictation”, by reading a few set texts several times into a microphone. The idea is that the program will recognize how your speech patterns match with the set texts. From then on, it should be able to transform your speech patterns into pre-recorded patterns of vocabularies that come with the software. So all you have to do is sit back and dictate, while the program types for you.
    The trouble is, every time I had a slight cold, the program didn’t work at all. Sometimes, even without my having a cold, it wouldn’t work right, and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I speak English and German, and my speech patterns and accent change slightly from day. Yet no one with whom I spoke on such days had difficulty understanding me, and I had no difficulty understanding myself when playing back my recorded voice. The program uses sophisticated mathematical frequency-analysis and pattern-recognition techniques, and each new version contained more and more sophisticated stuff, yet it can’t understand me when I have a slight cold. That’s why I stopped buying it.
    Your description of how your family members can understand you more or less when you’re “dysfluent” reminded me of my final verdict on this ViaVoice stuff. I that more and more “mathematical sophistication” when trying to understand how language works leads to a dead-end. At least this kind of “mathematical sophistication” does. I think it might be instructive to look for *direct* models (explanations) of the communication situations you describe – not *deviant* models, as one might call them, that say “here I am in my mathematical sophistication, and now I will explain the situations you describe as deviations from me”.

  33. deadgod: Is there something to intelligence that CAN’T be mechanical?
    Suppose that there wasn’t, i.e. that intelligence is mechanical. I bet you mean that as a particular application of the claim “everything is mechanical (physical)”. Well, I would agree with this last claim – but would have to add that because “mechanical / physical” applies to everything, it explains nothing.
    Instead of fruitlessly arguing for the nth time about whether intelligence is mechanical or not mechanical, why don’t we stop to examine what “mechanical” is supposed to mean? It seems obvious to me (after reading Edgar Morin, La nature de la nature) that it is our understanding of “mechnical / physical” that is hampering us here, not our lack of understanding of what “intelligence” is. “Mechanical / physical” covers a lot of very strange stuff – namely everything in the universe that we have learned about so far, as well as the stuff to come. Isn’t it rather silly to content ourselves with a primitive, reductionist understanding of “mechanical / physical”?

  34. By reductionist I mean the conventional goal of “science” as very many people imagine it: “knock the stuffing out of things, identify the illusions and discard them”. The Enlightenment was supposed to be the Disillusionment. But even back then certain people saw difficulties with such a program.
    Perhaps we need to get past the illusion that we are disillusioned. Lots of folks have been trying to do that, for a long time. Take only the title of Latour’s book: We Have Never Been Modern.

  35. Everybody likes the Danes.
    (Nowadays.)

  36. AJP: Not as much as they used to, with Nasty Pia pulling the strings and the stuff about Iraqi asylum seekers. As an import to NL, I consider Danmark and the Danish at least as much as a cautionary tale as a role model.

  37. michael farris says:

    “Everybody likes the Danes”
    Except for this guy….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBcJZ3-cJKc

  38. Michael, was that on tv in Poland? They are really good detective stories, according to my wife.

  39. Michael, was that on tv in Poland? They are really good detective stories, according to my wife.

  40. Oh, Des, we a have a Stupid People’s Party in Norway, too. Their platform is no immigrants, no tolls on the lots of new roads they’re going to build and free laptops for school-age kids.
    In Norway they love the Danes, the people, but are slightly wary of the Swedes. Swedes think Norwegians are nouveaux riches and tasteless,that Norway is the Texas of Scandinavia (I heard someone say that). Norway had a general election yesterday. I wonder if anybody won? They like coalitions.

  41. Oh, Des, we a have a Stupid People’s Party in Norway, too. Their platform is no immigrants, no tolls on the lots of new roads they’re going to build and free laptops for school-age kids.
    In Norway they love the Danes, the people, but are slightly wary of the Swedes. Swedes think Norwegians are nouveaux riches and tasteless,that Norway is the Texas of Scandinavia (I heard someone say that). Norway had a general election yesterday. I wonder if anybody won? They like coalitions.

  42. The Enlightenment was supposed to be the Disillusionment. But even back then certain people saw difficulties with such a program.
    I’m reading about that right now in Isaiah Berlin’s “The Counter-Enlightenment,” where he talks about Vico and Hamann and Herder and all those guys who saw difficulties with the program. People sometimes think Berlin was taking their side (I remember being quite taken aback by his long and quite favorable piece about the repellent Joseph de Maistre some years ago), but as Roger Hausheer says, he was just stress-testing the Enlightenment: “In true empiricist fashion he subjects the Enlightenment to the most devastating reaction against it, namely the ferocious and continuing reaction against it. Here history is the equivalent of the scientist’s laboratory. There is no better method for exposing flaws in rationalistic constructions. Wherever these appear to break down before the onslaught, Berlin concedes that the Enlightenment must give ground… In particular, it is to the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers that we may trace Berlin’s acute sense of those exclusively human forms of knowledge and insight which comprise the greatest and most valued part of our human lives.” Thanks for suggesting Berlin, maxim!

  43. John Emerson says:

    Lugubert, BTW, we’re all kidding about Swedes. You can still come around. A.J.P. is just like that sometimes.

  44. Lugubert don’t mind me, I’m not Norwegian, of course I love Swedes, all Swedes (Emerson only likes titled Swedes who have their own castle and coat of arms). We need a Swedish voice here, I keep saying that. And a Finn too. Bulbul speaks Finnish.

  45. Lugubert don’t mind me, I’m not Norwegian, of course I love Swedes, all Swedes (Emerson only likes titled Swedes who have their own castle and coat of arms). We need a Swedish voice here, I keep saying that. And a Finn too. Bulbul speaks Finnish.

  46. Who are “the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers”, Language? This is a term I haven’t come across before.

  47. Who are “the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers”, Language? This is a term I haven’t come across before.

  48. John Emerson says:

    I primarily like the noble d’Ohssons and the noble Gyllenhaals (Maggie and Jake). I especially like the part when they have their henchmen behead someone. I can’t get enough of that.
    Scarlet Johansson, though cute, is a plebian, probably of serf descent. If she had any class she’d have a real name, not just that silly -sson concoction. Many brutish Scandinavian serfs and villeins have emigrated to the US in order to escape their sordid pasts.

  49. According to the Wikipedia, the notion was disseminated by Isaiah Berlin. But it also mentions that the word Gegenaufklärung appears in Nietzsche.
    Anyway, the “dead hand of France” is the bad guy:
    Berlin argues that … Counter-Enlightenment thought did not really ‘take off’ until the Germans ‘rebelled against the dead hand of France in the realms of culture, art and philosophy, and avenged themselves by launching the great counter-attack against the Enlightenment.’ This reaction was led by the Konigsberg philosopher J. G. Hamann, ‘the most passionate, consistent, extreme and implacable enemy of the Enlightenment’, according to Berlin.

  50. Who are “the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers”, Language?
    Like I said, Vico and Hamann and Herder and those guys. Read the Wikipedia article Grumbly linked for more.

  51. I am now going to deviate from my customarily dispassionate, lucid and convincing contributions, to make a redneck comment.
    Acording to the Wikipedia, Berlin characterizes Hamann (in the book Hat is now reading) as
    ‘the most passionate, consistent, extreme and implacable enemy of the Enlightenment’
    In a long recent comment thread, it became abundantly clear that although Hamann may be any and all of these things, he is primarily unintelligible. I hope Hat will tell us what he thinks about Berlin’s discussion of Hamann. My point is this: could it be that Hamann is one of those people like Kant, Derrida, Heidegger whose main function in the history of ideas is to have written works of impenetrable obscurity? This has provided small groups of academics with a specialty turf all of their own, for which there is little competition.
    The interesting thing is, these specialists can be the exact opposite of the writers they study. I have read a great number of “secondary literature” works on Kant that are excellently presented, and are full of fascinating ideas. The writings of Kant himself either put me to sleep, or irritate the hell out of me because I can’t figure out what he’s talking about.
    When you consider that both Derrida and Heidegger themselves are known to be perfectly capable of lucidity (my testimony on Heidegger’s printed lectures. Hat’s on Derrida), it makes you wonder if they are not being deliberately difficult in their works. It may be that every once in a while a large philosophical animal feels compelled to drop an enormous stinking load. A perhaps unintended consequence is that all kinds of useful beetles and bacteria can make a living in it.
    Eat or be eaten, write or be written about. It’s all a big ecological cycle. I am blinded by a revelation: the Great Chain of Being is a flush chain!!

  52. John Emerson says:

    Hamann is not now institutionalized the way those others are. No one is required to read Hamann. Was he ever? I incline toward thinking that he was just a seriously eccentric writer.
    Also, you forgot Lacan.

  53. Dijkstra on machine intelligence: “The Fathers of the field had been pretty confusing: John von Neumann speculated about computers and the human brain in analogies sufficiently wild to be worthy of a medieval thinker and Alan M. Turing thought about criteria to settle the question of whether Machines Can Think, a question of which we now know that it is about as relevant as the question of whether Submarines Can Swim.”

  54. In the sentence “if the is that you paper …” that you gave, no formal grammar could ever explain how sense can be made of that – but I easily believe that sense is made, as you describe.
    As a graduate student in the field, I’m pretty heavily invested in the idea that formal grammars and theories of language learning are worth pursuing. :) So I feel obliged to point out that most generative linguists (chomskian, if you prefer) would not feel that their theories need to (wholly) account for the production and comprehension of disfluent sentences like this. That doesn’t mean that they don’t think anyone can make sense of them, but that when you do, you aren’t using the same mechanism you would use for normal speech.
    This fits my intuition pretty well, and I’d be interested to hear what others think. Typical sentence comprehension is almost effortless, but I feel like understanding a disfluent sentence like this requires me to gather up the word meanings and actively try to fit them together into a coherent message.
    Isidora, as a linguist, I have to say that that’s a fascinating situation. I bet it’s a huge pain to have to actually deal with, though. :-/

  55. Aidan: there’s a big difference between wild thoughts and unintelligible strings of words.
    But I can now tear away the veil of ecological analogy. What is unintelligible to me may be intelligible to others, and vice versa. So what? We don’t expect ourselves to be able to eat grass, just because cows can and we like milk. There’s nothing wrong with obscurity. Someone always turns up who can process it into something edible.
    I stick with my charge of deliberate obscurity. A premium is placed on judicious, elaborate prose in academia. I think the occasional philosopher is clever enought to cut a silent deal with his lesser colleagues. “I’ll write obscure things from time to time that will give you and your students enough material for dissertations and learned articles of your own. That increases my reputation, and yours too.”
    That is also environmentally friendly. Live and let live, scribble and let scribble, publish or perish.

  56. Also, you forgot Lacan
    I initially had him on the list, then struck him off. Two dead French hands in the same sentence might give the impression I took them as seriously as the German philosofists.

  57. CL, we learned probably a majority of what is interesting about the functioning of the mammalian body from its pathologies, especially how it fails when put under stress; every programmer who has written anything vaguely complicated knows that a real understanding of the system comes from dealing with it successfully when things have gone wrong, from fixing difficult bugs, and that an understanding in broad strokes is only the most basic of what you need in that context.
    I would personally be shocked if the human capacity for speech, for written and for sign language were at all different. I expect that imperfect child language acquisition, adult second language acquisition and how it differs from normal child language acquisition, and the disfluencies of normal speech arise will figure hugely in our eventual understanding of the subject.

  58. What is unintelligible to me may be intelligible to others, and vice versa. So what? We don’t expect ourselves to be able to eat grass, just because cows can and we like milk.
    A perfect Counter-Enlightenment sentiment. You’ve been reading Herder, haven’t you? Admit it!
    As for Hamann, I just got to the part where Berlin calls Kierkegaard “Hamann’s most brilliant and profound disciple,” for what that’s worth.

  59. Aidan, absolutely. I agree that studying when and how things go wrong can be extremely informative. My point was not that comprehension of disfluent sentences isn’t interesting or that we don’t need to worry about it, but that it’s quite probable that it requires a different set of processes, and that some those processes don’t need to be part of a model of normal sentence processing. As Grumbly pointed out, that would just make the model cumbersome and overly complex.
    Instead, it might be that general cognitive abilities can be recruited when the language processing system cannot produce complete or useful output. This is what I meant when I said that I feel like understanding a disfluent sentence requires me to gather word meanings and then try to fit them together. I might be getting the word meanings by the usual processes, but I can’t parse them into a good sentence or make sense of the message without conscious thought. Normal sentence comprehension doesn’t require conscious thought, so it doesn’t make sense to build that into our model. Is that a bit clearer, or am I just babbling? :)

  60. most generative linguists (chomskian, if you prefer) would not feel that their theories need to (wholly) account for the production and comprehension of disfluent sentences like this. That doesn’t mean that they don’t think anyone can make sense of them, but that when you do, you aren’t using the same mechanism you would use for normal speech.
    What is the scientific definition of this “normal speech” that the science of formal grammars is intended to help elucidate? Surely the definition is not: “normal speech is what our formal grammars can explain, everything else is somebody else’s business”??
    I don’t see that a clear line can be drawn between “normal” speech and examples such as Isidora gave. Surely the most interesting thing about the productivity of language is the diversity produced, not the quantity (which is trivially a countable set) – a diversity portions of which can be understood by some people and not by others, under various and sundry conditions. How can those capacities and conditions be characterized? With mathematical models even, as far I’m concerned – but what’s on offer, apart from Chomsky & Co.? Does Chomsky overwhelm just because he did a bit of mathematics, and not that many people can, except to follow what he did?
    The topic of formal grammars was exhausted in the early 60s – in the computer science field, anyway. For each regular, context-free etc. node in the Chomsky “hierarchy”, the parser type was characterized. Finito. What would be really interesting to me is some kind of model for language production and understanding that is formal-grammar-free. Why is understanding always treated as an epiphenomenon, i.e. the ability to parse? The very enterprise of generative linguistics seems to me to be seriously vitiated by the fact that it axiomatically severs the de facto link between production and understanding.
    Normal sentence comprehension doesn’t require conscious thought
    It that a Chomskian viewpoint? You push what is “obvious” into the subconscious, where it is no longer obvious – and then you explain it with mathematical models?
    Well, “normal sentence comprehension” certainly requires something – a something on which a great deal of light might be shed by considering Isidora’s examples.

  61. Grumbly: There’s surely still some doubt about the best choice of parser for weakly non-context-free grammars, and Gazdar showed (only decades after Chomsky claimed to have shown) that human language was non-context-free.
    Everyone else: Apologies for that terminology.
    Grumbly again (and Aidan if he’s interested): There is also the Montagovian tradition of using lambda calculus and hacked-up versions of first order logic to devise computable (and indeed computation) theories of language that are not mostly driven by syntax. (As Sapir didn’t quite point out, a grammar is a bug not a feature.)
    Blackburn and Bos have a textbook account of this school; it is very cool and the only prerequisite is to know a little Prolog. (I am only toward the beginning: that was as far as I got before Boris got sick and stopped sleeping.)
    Please don’t be too put off at the thought of all the logic: hackish logic is a much more sensible and less brittle or ideological tool than you might imagine…

  62. Surely the definition is not: “normal speech is what our formal grammars can explain, everything else is somebody else’s business”??
    Hardly! You’re right that there’s no clear distinction, but just because we can’t find a boundary doesn’t mean we have to assume that both ends of the spectrum are dealt with the same way. For me, the important distinction is that a native speaker would rate a sentence like Isidora’s as highly unacceptable, and would have difficulty understanding it. Again, it’s not impossible to extract meaning, but my intuition is that it requires a level of conscious effort that is not necessary when I hear a sentence like “Please pass me the book.”
    Why is understanding always treated as an epiphenomenon, i.e. the ability to parse?
    I don’t think this is the case. I may be biased, because I hang around with a fair number of psycholinguists, but it seems to me that there are a lot of people interested in how we parse linguistic input and how this is related to formal syntax. It’s true that many syntacticians don’t worry about this too much, but I think there’s a growing tendency to take it into account.
    It that a Chomskian viewpoint? You push what is “obvious” into the subconscious, where it is no longer obvious – and then you explain it with mathematical models?
    That seems a bit harsh. Psycholinguistic research has shown good evidence that we process language very fast and very automatically. Perhaps I’m accustomed to different terminology, but that doesn’t sound like a conscious process to me. We are certainly conscious of the output of the processing system, but under normal circumstances, not of the processing itself.
    I have to run to class now, but perhaps we’ll be able to continue this later…

  63. marie-lucie says:

    There are many cases when we need to process other people’s disfluent speech: with small children, for instance, or people who are struggling to learn the language we speak. And we ourselves can easily produce disfluent speech if we are struggling to communicate in a language with which we are unfamiliar. In each case what we hear or produce is different from what we have internalized, but I don’t see how what we are using is not our own language capacity.
    Similarly, as I am writing this I am more conscious of how to put the words together than if I just said “How are you?” or “please pass the salt”, or even if I were talking about the topic in conversation with one of you, and I think that if I were writing a poem I would be even more conscious of my linguistic activity, but I am sure I would still be making use of the same language capacity.
    (CL: I am a linguist, though not a Chomskyan)

  64. CL: That seems a bit harsh
    It’s all in the name “Grumbly”. I speak roughly sometimes only because I like a little action to spice up the routine exchanging of pleasant remarks. Des, above, has suddenly taken me up. I wasn’t really expecting that at this precise instant, so I’ve got to think fast and do some reading.
    Please continue later, while grappling with “hackish logic” I’ll be out of your way.
    Des: the best choice of parser for weakly non-context-free grammars
    Sure, I wasn’t denying that different kinds of parser can have turned up, or variously tweaked versions of known types. I perhaps should have said tout court that I think too much stress is being put on syntax. What about semantics? More to my point, why this distinction “syntax / semantics”, in this way? I am actually trying to ask pre-mathematical questions about the “mind-sets” involved in particular mathematical models of language, i.e. concept-theoretic questions, hold the math details if possible. It is always possible and appropriate to discuss such matters without getting heavily involved in the math. It’s because I myself used to so enjoy getting heavily involved, that I’m now so eager to avoid it.
    Ever since I worked my way up the greasy pole at a MacDonald’s in 1977, I have to restrain myself when I enter one nowadays to get a coke. When I see disorganization and cluelessness behind the counter, I feel an urge to leap over it and help get things running smoothly by pitching in.
    I’m not put off by logic at all. The Blackburn and Bos looks interesting, with software to go along with it. The last time I had something like that was with Barwise / Etchemendy: Language, Proof and Logic.

  65. Des, my Prolog years are far behind me, and they’re going to stay that way for a few decades to come. On the upside when it comes to AI-winter languages, my Lisp is coming along nicely, though.

  66. m-l, I have a bad habit of using ‘linguist’ and ‘syntactician’ as though they imply a generative approach or a roughly Chomskyan viewpoint. Please call me out on this if you notice it! I know it’s not fair usage. It just happens to be the case that the academic circles I’ve been traveling in thus far have a generative grammar, UG approach to the subject.
    …what we hear or produce is different from what we have internalized, but I don’t see how what we are using is not our own language capacity.
    Let me take a step back. I think I’ve failed to articulate my assumptions, and it’s confusing people, me included. :) Sorry!
    I agree with Grumbly that we regularly encounter language that falls on a spectrum from fluent to disfluent. I think that our linguistic system consists of many different subsystems, and that these can be recruited seperately, as needed, in comprehension and production. (I know that some of this is sticky theoretically, and I’m not trying to take a strong position, just articulate the assumptions that underlie my earlier comments. They may or may not be valid. :) )Comprehending fluent speech could then require a different set of subsystems than comprehending disfluent speech does. I would assume that there is overlap between the subsets used at the two ends of the spectrum, and that what that overlap consists of depends on how and why the speech we’re processing is disfluent.
    What I’m most interested in modeling first, then, is the set of subsystems that operate when we’re processing speech from the ‘fluent’ end of the spectrum. This model doesn’t embody the whole of our language capacity, but rather its operation under ideal conditions. I assume that it operates at a subconscious level because of its speed and automaticity, but that it presents its output to the higher-level, conscious cognitive processes. If conditions are less than ideal (we’re struggling to understand a foreign accent, or the words seem strung together haphazardly, as in Isidora’s example) we are at least forced to recruit other subsystems subconsciously, and at most forced to give up on the subconscious linguistic processing, take whatever we’ve managed so far and deal with the rest consciously. The second is my intuition about what is going on in Isidora’s example.
    Does that make my position a little clearer? Are there still problems with it? (I’m sure there are, so let me know what you think!)

  67. CL: That seems a bit harsh
    It’s all in the name “Grumbly”.
    Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally. You’re making me think. It’s good for me!

  68. John Emerson says:

    We should give out cards to the non-Chomskyian linguists sometime before the Night of the Long Knives.

  69. Everybody likes the Danes.
    (Nowadays.)
    So those cartoons aren’t much of a problem anymore? ;-)
    How long did it take before they finally stopped boycotting Danish merchandise in various parts of the Middle East? Or have they? A quick Google just now seemed to indicate that not everyone has lost interest. (Sorry, for my ignorance, but for the last couple of years the limited time I have for news-reading has mostly focused on domestic political issues in the US and on major world events. “Saudi Arabia stops boycotting Danish dairy products and insulin” isn’t a high-interest story over here, and I’ve had too much of my attention on keeping my 3yo from accidentally poisoning herself for a long while now to follow Danish news the way I would like to. My daughter is way too adventurous for her own good, or anyone else’s, but it is highly entertaining watching her linguistic development.)
    And I just had a really weird thought…All three of my children had to receive speech therapy before the age of three for “isolated expressive speech delay.” They could understand English spoken to them as well as, or even far better than, average children their age, but they were speaking at a level normal for children 6mos to 1 year younger. The therapist posited that that it was caused by oral hypo-sensitivity in my older daughter. She had no idea what caused my son’s speech delay, (although when he was 9 we found out that he has Asperger Syndrome), and I don’t think my little daughter’s therapist ever had a theory on the etiology of the delay.
    It just suddenly occurred to me to wonder if their isolated expressive speech delays could be related to whatever is miswired in my brain that causes the dysfluencies and aphasias that I experience. If an adult (in a monolingual context) were to present with the symptoms they did (able to understand language quite well but not able to speak anywhere near normal level), would it be labeled as dysfluency or aphasia?

  70. “I’m reading about that right now in Isaiah Berlin’s “The Counter-Enlightenment,” where he talks about Vico and Hamann and Herder and all those guys who saw difficulties with the program. People sometimes think Berlin was taking their side (I remember being quite taken aback by his long and quite favorable piece about the repellent Joseph de Maistre some years ago)”

    As regards Berlin’s essay on de Maistre, I rather liked it, and was also grateful for the epigraph from Hugo:

    Un roi, c'est un homme équestre,
    Personnage à numéro,
    En marge duquel de Maistre
    Écrit : Roi, lisez : Bourreau. 

    As for the counter-enlightement, for me, the most important observation of Berlin’s was that, paradoxically, the Enlightement thinkers shared with the conservatives and Christian theologists of all kinds one fundamental approach: that all really important questions could be formulated, and that they all have answers that are not in contradiction with each other; as compared to this fundamental assumption it was not as important whether the answers were revealed by God, or were discoverable by science, or both, or whether all of them were knowable. Both the Enlightement thinkers and their early critics were living in a universe that could, in principle, be understood inside a single, non-contradictory, philosophical system. Enter people like Machiavelli, saying that one can’t be an efficient ruler and have a clear conscience, or people like Herder or even Montesquieu, saying that every culture can be only understood in its own terms.
    That was, for Berlin, at the root of both the Romantic movement and his own understanding of life as a tragic choice, not the search for a way to both eat and preserve the proverbial pie. What makes the choice tragic, in the original sense of the word, is that you have to reject something to have something else. This, I think, was the reason Berlin was trying to “stress test” the Enlightement and was so interested in its critics and in all manner of “against the current” thinkers, looking at pieces of knowledge that didn’t fit with one or other fundamental choice made by the main stream.

  71. Isidora: what you relate about your intervals of aphasia and dysfluency is extremely interesting as regards bilingualism, in fact language, speech and understanding in general. If I understand you rightly, your family has been able to adapt so as to understand you, at least some of the time.
    Do keep in mind that they’ve had nine years or more to get used to it. I’ve had migraines much longer than that, but the speech problems didn’t become prominent until sometime between nine and ten years ago, and then it took even longer for me to figure out that they were associated with the migraines.

    One thing wasn’t quite clear to me: in these intervals of dysfluency, are you (sometimes, always?) aware of the dysfluency just from hearing what you say, or do the reactions of other people help you to notice what’s going on?
    I am absolutely aware of the dysfluency. Sometimes it does take someone else in the family to tell me what it means — i.e. I that I am experiencing a migraine prodrome. (I’m often not at my most perceptive during neurological disturbances that severe.)
    When I am producing dysfluent speech of the sort and severity that I gave an example of, I honestly don’t believe that I am thinking in English — or in any language. I would have to say that I am probably thinking in images, spacial relations, desired actions, etc. Even under ordinary circumstances, a rather large percentage of my thoughts are of that nature and have to be translated into English or some other language before they can be uttered. So what may be happening during migraine prodromes is that I am using thought completely divorced from language and then the neurological disturbance compromises my translating faculties. When I try to force language out, the result seems to be something along the lines of accessing my English lexicon but not the syntax, and you get sentences like the example I gave. (By the way, that was not a real example. But it is pretty much in the spirit of the thing. I should also note that the prosody is way off when I’m talking like that. I suppose I should swallow my embarrassment and record myself during of one of those episodes. I shall definitely take the time to figure out what type of thought I am using.) I can often reduce the dysfluency by slowing down and concentrating, but it tends to slip out again, rather like tics in Tourette’s Syndrome.
    When I can’t speak at all, I believe there is something quite different going on. There are times when I know exactly what I want to say, and it is formulated into a perfectly grammatical English sentence — and I can’t utter it. It feels to me like akinethesia (inability to move), but it is the muscles needed for speech that I cannot access even though I want to.
    As far as being able to speak in Danish reasonably well while having horribly disordered English — I don’t have much insight into it. It doesn’t happen as often, and it’s been a while since the last episode. If it ever happens again, I’ll try to pay attention and see if I can learn anything.
    I can relate to your issues with ViaVoice. I used it some a long time ago, and it worked pretty well. However, I realized years ago that my accent, which had always been unstable, was becoming more and more difficult to control and that it would not be something that ViaVoice would be able to deal with even though the people around me could. Everyone wants to know where I’m from. I no longer live there, but I was born and raised in Illinois. I started noticing in high school that if I am around someone with a moderate accent for even a couple of hours, I start unconsciously — and often unavoidably — taking on aspects of their accent. I can’t do the accents intentionally if I want to, and I have difficulty not doing them when I’ve been exposed to one. It’s really very embarrassing. I suppose the good part of this is that, as long as I have a native speaker for a model, I can acquire a reasonably intelligible accent quicker than a lot of people. Of course, this is only good if I have learned a useful amount of the language in question. Otherwise I find myself explaining something like, “No hablo español,” and having people not believe me.

  72. maxim, thank you very much for that concise summary of the mindset of Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment thinkers on knowledge. I think I will be trying to find the time to look into that subject. I think it will interest my husband as well.

  73. Isidora, as a linguist, I have to say that that’s a fascinating situation. I bet it’s a huge pain to have to actually deal with, though. :-
    As a linguist it is fascinating. As a practical issue, it is a pain. Even more so is my son with Asperger’s. Any Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comes with some degree of communication disorder. As a linguist*, I find this aspect of my son utterly fascinating. As one of his primary caregivers, I find it somewhere between frustrating and maddening.
    *I’ll let you-all render judgment on whether I am actually a linguist or not. Whatever I am, I am definitely nowhere near your league. I received a B.A. in Linguistics magna cum laude from Indiana University in 1994. But I got married shortly after graduation and we started a family. I never got the chance to do graduate work, and probably won’t. I’ve been a housewife and homeschooler since then and have not had much time to keep up with changes in the field.
    As a graduate student in the field, I’m pretty heavily invested in the idea that formal grammars and theories of language learning are worth pursuing. :) So I feel obliged to point out that most generative linguists (chomskian, if you prefer) would not feel that their theories need to (wholly) account for the production and comprehension of disfluent sentences like this. That doesn’t mean that they don’t think anyone can make sense of them, but that when you do, you aren’t using the same mechanism you would use for normal speech.
    I think I’d probably agree with you. And I know that my husband would: he’s a computer scientist ;-) Actually, I know he does, because he saw stu’s post last night and commented to me that it is quite possible for there to be a Platonic grammar with various less than perfect utterances based on it that could still be understood. Actually, he said it far better than that, but I am up way past my bedtime and can’t really think straight.
    This fits my intuition pretty well, and I’d be interested to hear what others think. Typical sentence comprehension is almost effortless, but I feel like understanding a disfluent sentence like this requires me to gather up the word meanings and actively try to fit them together into a coherent message.
    Um, yeah. With an example as extreme as mine, it definitely requires one to gather up the word meanings and actively try to fit them together into a coherent message. Context helps. Practice also helps. My immediate family generally have the benefit of both. I think I’ll ask my husband and daughter in the morning whether I am more difficult to understand (in that state) than our 3 year old. I’m afraid I already know the answer.
    Where I might disagree with you is about exactly how useful the formal grammars are. I have the feeling that most of what we were taught in college was pretty Chomskian. I know that our course in syntax was entirely Chomskian. And I just didn’t get it. I got an A in the class, so I must have understood the material at some level, but it just never felt right. Generative grammar seemed very sterile and rigid to me when applied to natural languages. And Universal Grammar just didn’t seem to be good sense, especially when we were being told that all possible phonemes were hard-wired into the child’s brain from birth but only the ones used in the ambient language(s) would be switched on as the child acquired language.
    There would seem to be something to this idea, because most people have significant trouble with phonemes or phones that do not occur in their native language. However, there is a truly vast number of sounds available in the world’s languages, and some of them are decidedly (and delightfully) peculiar. I have a specific example in mind involving variously aspirated final stops (all of them separate phonemes) in a certain language, but I won’t post it here unless I can find out which language it is and have the data. That would involve finding the textbook that it is in. That is not going to happen tonight. I suppose an example along the same lines would be the palatalised consonant series in Russian. (My accent is far better than my Russian or my Church Slavonic, and I have not studied the history of the language, but I know that plenty of people here know Russian and the historical development of Slavic languages and will be kind enough to correct me if I am wrong.) It is my impression from what my husband has told me of his classes in contemporary Church Slavonic that the soft consonant series developed through a phonological process a very long time ago. Those are separate phonemes from their hard counterparts. And since they are phonemes in one or more languages, Universal Grammar tells us that we are all hard-wired with little switches to turn that palatalized [t] at the end of pamyat’ either on or off. Somebody
    please tell me that there is no way on this earth that I could have possibly have received that idea from any of my professors or textbooks! Tell me that I totally misunderstood some crucial points about the concepts underlying Universal Grammar, because I certainly believed that that was what UG meant in practical terms when applied to phonetics and phonology.
    Generative phonology worked for me, though, even though syntax didn’t. I suppose that it should seem equally artificial to take the data, analyze it, and come up with a set of rules — rules placed very carefully in the right order so that the UR that is run through the rules comes out correctly, but it worked, and it felt right. I wonder if this is because phonological patterns are built up over time as the language changes. That would make rule-ordering in generative phonology actually an exercise in diachronic linguistics. (Am I making the least bit of sense here? I’m too tired to know.)
    Anyway, I may simply not have been taken deep enough into the Chomskian framework to really “get” it. On the other hand, I’m not certain whether or not I was ever presented with non-Chomskian theories. I would greatly appreciate if those of you familiar with alternate frameworks to view linguistics through would be kind enough to point me in the right direction.
    Sorry for the long post. I have a bad habit that way.

  74. John Emerson says:

    You are really quite well in our league. There really are only a few professional linguists here. We’re mostly just amateurs, in eithe rthe good or bad sense of the term.

  75. maxim, thank you very much for that concise summary of the mindset of Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment thinkers on knowledge. I think I will be trying to find the time to look into that subject. I think it will interest my husband as well.
    Isidora, thanks for that generous comment. I actually feel uneasy about having produced this impression of trying to describe “mindset of Enlightement and Counter-Enlightement”; what I was in fact describing was my personal impression from reading Isaiah Berlin, and what was the most interesting idea that I had found there, in my understanding. As for the mindsets and such, I am definitely not qualified to make generalizations of the sort (but I sometimes do overstate my case, for argument’s sake).
    I would be glad if what I wrote could produce more comments about Berlin’s views and my understanding of them. How this fits into the larger picture of modern humanities I would not know. What I like about Berlin is his elegant prose (which is in fact most often that of hard-working editors publishing his lectures — he was famous for publishing little by himself).
    Another thing that could make Berlin interesting for me — besides his interest in, and personal connection to, Russian literature — is that his biographer, Michael Ignatieff, has a fighting chance of becoming our next Prime Minister :-)

  76. Sorry for the long post.
    Please don’t apologize. Your comments are some of the most interesting I’ve seen around here (or anywhere else), and I’m pleased as punch to have you on board. You should definitely record yourself, and you might think of writing up your experiences—they’re very uncommon, and you’re a good writer. As for the “linguist” thing, in a better world you and I (BA with joint Russian/linguistics major, MPhil in historical linguistics over 30 years ago) would be simply interested amateurs; in this absurd world we find ourselves in, where everyone is expected to learn the basics of physics and astronomy in high school but the facts of language are taught only in linguistics classes that only a few college students take, we count as auxiliary members of the Linguistics Brigade. We few, we proud, who know the linguistic equivalent of “the earth goes around the sun and not vice versa”!
    And maxim, that was a useful little summary of one way to look at Berlin’s approach. I must disagree, however, about his elegant prose being “most often that of hard-working editors publishing his lectures”; he doubtless needed editing, like everyone else, but I have read and heard nothing to suggest that he was not an excellent writer himself. You can’t, as they say, make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

  77. he doubtless needed editing, like everyone else, but I have read and heard nothing to suggest that he was not an excellent writer himself
    He doubtless was, and what one reads in his (very interesting) biography by Ignatieff confirms that his works are permeated with his unique personality. What I was referring to is that, as his friend Maurice Bowra had put it, “Though like Our Lord and Socrates he does not publish much, he thinks and says a great deal and has had an enormous influence on our times.’. That, and the fact that some of his larger works, especially “The roots of Romanticism”, were originally transcripts of lectures that required more than usual amount of editing. In other words, the elegance is most definitely Berlin’s, but I just felt the editors needed to be mentioned and had apparently overdone it. Thanks for the correction, Hat.

  78. Isidora, thanks for that generous comment. I actually feel uneasy about having produced this impression of trying to describe “mindset of Enlightement and Counter-Enlightement”; what I was in fact describing was my personal impression from reading Isaiah Berlin, and what was the most interesting idea that I had found there, in my understanding. As for the mindsets and such, I am definitely not qualified to make generalizations of the sort (but I sometimes do overstate my case, for argument’s sake).
    Well, even if it was only your “personal impression from reading Isaiah Berlin,” the most interesting idea you found there is a very interesting idea to me, and I think it might be relevant today in certain circles.
    Being a Christian family and homeschoolers, we see a lot of “Creation Science” popping up in the textbooks. [making my dirty-look face] Proponents believe that everything in the Bible is literally true and scientifically accurate and use very shoddy science to attempt to prove it.
    My husband and I have talked back and forth a lot over the years about what things can be known and what methods they can be known by. He feels that some things can be known only theologically and some things can be known only scientifically, and he has never felt any cognitive dissonance over this stance. I am thinking that it might be rather enlightening (I really didn’t intend the pun) to get some sense of the historical development of thought about whether or not revealed truth and scientific truth can be at odds or not. It could give us some context to put the contemporary mess in.
    Similarly, I’ve been wanting for a while to look into certain of the theological beliefs current around Darwin’s time ever since I read something that seemed to indicate that there was a belief or doctrine around that time that the extinction of (or any change in) any species was contradictory to Biblical truth as set forth in Genesis. If that is truly the case, then Darwin got a bad rap based on some very stupid and incorrect theology that most Christians would never consider believing today. I need to spent the time to track this down to find out the specifics of it and uderstand the meaing of it. Putting things in their historical and cultural context can make a huge difference.

  79. John Emerson very kindly said: You are really quite well in our league. There really are only a few professional linguists here. We’re mostly just amateurs, in eithe rthe good or bad sense of the term.
    So are you an amateur in the good sense or in the bad sense? :-)
    And on a more serious note, how am I to know when you are being serious and when you are joking, or is that something that I will simply get a feel for over time?
    And also on a serious note, in many ways I am very much out of my depth here. I have never so much as considered reading Nabakov or Proust or a lot of other authors that many of you seem to know intimately. I haven’t read enough in the way of philosophy either. (I’ve always considered the latter a very serious deficit in my education.) I’m not saying that I couldn’t do these things (I,m pretty sure I still have the brain cells left), but that I haven’t, whether because of oversights on the part of my teachers or complacency (and distraction — did I mention how much mischief our little one gets into?) on my own part since finishing school. So a lot of the discussion here is very interesting, but the topics and quite a few of the names are often entirely new to me.
    I don’t actually speak very many languages. In fact the only foreign languages that I could have ever read literature in were Danish and Latin, and those have both gone rusty. I think I need to start subscribing to Danish podcasts again to see if I can edge my fluency upwards – or at least improve my accent. I had this absolutely horrible moment several months ago when I was saying something in Danish and suddenly realized that I sounded noticeably American. I didn’t use to sound that way, but I guess fifteen years will do that to you.

  80. *sigh*
    I just wrote a nice long response to your comments about UG, Isidora, but then my browser froze and I lost the whole thing. I’ll try to get around to making some comments later. For now I have to go try to figure out how what little kids know about number agreement!

  81. michael farris says:

    “how am I to know when you are being serious and when you are joking, or is that something that I will simply get a feel for over time?”
    Pretty much yeah, but there are times when the old timers aren’t so sure either.

  82. Trick is, he writes the jokes in dark purple.

  83. And also on a serious note, in many ways I am very much out of my depth here.
    As someone with at the very best a fragmentary and superficial knowledge of most things discussed here (the formal background is IT, engineering and some applied maths) I can personally attest to this forum being very tolerant and lots of fun for strangers like myself.

  84. *sigh*
    I just wrote a nice long response to your comments about UG, Isidora, but then my browser froze and I lost the whole thing. I’ll try to get around to making some comments later.
    Ack, I’ve lost posts that way before, and it’s…well, you know. I eventually started saving my epic posts during composition in an editor on my computer. It’s still possible to lose them, but fairly difficult, almost to the point of requiring talent.
    I would genuinely appreciate it if you can make the time to reply later, as the topic interests me.
    For now I have to go try to figure out how what little kids know about number agreement!
    You could come to my house and have a field day. (Pun intended.)
    Are you “figuring this out” from direct observation or from previously collected data? Or from reading other people’s work on the topic?
    Hmm…Maybe I’ll see what my little kid knows about number agreement. She could use some quality time, and I could use some entertainment.
    What I wish I knew was what little kids know about gender. She’s taken to referring to her big brother as “she.”

  85. I am thinking that it might be rather enlightening (I really didn’t intend the pun) to get some sense of the historical development of thought about whether or not revealed truth and scientific truth can be at odds or not.
    Biblical literalism or inerrancy would be a difference between mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations.
    I had this absolutely horrible moment several months ago when I was saying something in Danish and suddenly realized that I sounded noticeably American. I didn’t use to sound that way, but I guess fifteen years will do that to you.
    My grandfather emigrated from Denmark when he was seventeen. When his sister turned fifty, which I understand has special significance for Danes, she traveled to America for week-long visit. He had forgotten Danish and could not communicate with her. (When I was in Denmark the older people couldn’t speak English, although the younger ones, my parents’ age and younger, were nearly fluent.) But gradually Grandpa’s Danish came back, and by the end of the visit they were able to speak.

  86. in many ways I am very much out of my depth here.
    I am frequently out of my depth here. When Grumbly and Noetica (where’s Noetica?) get going on philosophy, I just watch the ball whiz over the net. The best thing about having this blog is all the commenters who know so many different things than I do. And there are no strangers here; anyone who shows up gets offered a drink and a place on the divan (which is infinitely long and curved so that everyone can talk to everyone else — I had to have it specially made).

  87. Please don’t apologize. Your comments are some of the most interesting I’ve seen around here (or anywhere else), and I’m pleased as punch to have you on board.
    Thank you so much for the very warm welcome, Hat. It is appreciated. People tend to get the impression that I am extremely outgoing, but I am actually pretty timid and insecure on the inside where it often doesn’t show.
    If you want to get into an interesting discussion with me, start something on the linguistic peculiarities that appear in Autism Spectrum Disorders. They are quite fascinating. I am far from being any sort of expert, but I’ve had first-hand experience with Asperger’s. And if I could go back to school, I think I might try to specialize in language in ASD’s, trying to understand it primarily as a linguist rather than an SLP would (even though I think I will need training in Speech-Language Pathology) and with an eye towards eventually developing practical ways for people on both sides of the spectrum (i.e. both Autistics and Neurotypicals) to use that knowledge to facilitate the cross-cultural communication difficulties that occur. It’d be both fascinating and useful work. I think it is also unlikely ever to happen.
    At one time, I really would have loved to have become fluent in American Sign Language and spent a career studying it as a linguist. The language still utterly fascinates me.
    You should definitely record yourself, and you might think of writing up your experiences—they’re very uncommon, and you’re a good writer.
    I ought to get around to recording myself and my observations on my experiences. The world can never have too much data. You never know who might find it and make some sort of connection. I wish I had recorded my children. I at least have some transcriptions that I made of my eldest hanging around somewhere waiting to come to light again. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a record of her signed vocabulary. She made up a number of signs herself in addition to the ASL that I taught her, and I remember one time when a new sign showed up out of nowhere and I spent a solid three days figuring out the meaning of it. I also have a couple of really funny incidents that I remember from when my children were still learning language. I’ll have to make sure that those get recorded in writing: they’re too good to lose.
    As for the “linguist” thing, in a better world you and I (BA with joint Russian/linguistics major, MPhil in historical linguistics over 30 years ago) would be simply interested amateurs; in this absurd world we find ourselves in, where everyone is expected to learn the basics of physics and astronomy in high school but the facts of language are taught only in linguistics classes that only a few college students take, we count as auxiliary members of the Linguistics Brigade. We few, we proud, who know the linguistic equivalent of “the earth goes around the sun and not vice versa”!
    Well, I’m glad to be part of the Linguistics Brigade. It’s afforded me great pleasure over the years, and one of these days I’m going to get around to teaching my husband the basics of linguistics. He actually knows much more than the average guy just from being married to me for all this time, but we’ve never really gone through it systematically.
    Now that you point it out, it is a bit absurd that college-bound seniors are expected to know physics, calculus, etc. but not basic linguistics. Frankly, I don’t think that most undergraduates even know that the field exists. So much of the time, if I tell someone that I majored in Linguistics, they ask, “Oh, what language?” Then I have to explain that my degree is in Theoretical Linguistics and I was taught how to look at a language, take it apart, understand how it work, and put it back together again. Mm. That kind of makes it sound almost like almost like Auto Mechanics, doesn’t it?
    I’ll admit to being a bit jealous of anyone who got to study historical linguistics. I discovered the concept of historical linguistics as a Junior in high school (in British Literature class) and knew from that moment that I wanted to major in linguistics. So I chose a good university with a good undergrad linguistics program. It was great, and I loved it, and I miss the place, but they really didn’t (don’t?) teach historical linguistics at IU.
    I do have to say that I was pleased to receive the linguistic department’s newsletter last year and discover that they now have over 60 undergraduate students in the department. That may sound small, but at the end of my first semester, my Chichewa instructor, a graduate student in Linguistics from Malawi, invited his class to a Christmas party at his apartment. There were several faculty members there and I asked them how many undergraduates there were in the department. I knew that it was a small department, but I was shocked when they started conferring with each other and tallying up the names of undergraduate linguistics students on their fingers. The answer was twelve.

  88. in many ways I am very much out of my depth here. I have never so much as considered reading Nabakov or Proust or a lot of other authors that many of you seem to know intimately.
    Psst, Isidora! I’ll tell you secret. I myself don’t know beans about a lot of the stuff that gets discussed – but that doesn’t always stop me from making waves. At least that gives me something to surf on for a while. What I like about the Hattery is that everybody here thinks and plays around. I even like the little routine which has established itself, in which I make some wild, huffy-puffy, accusing generalization about “linguistics”, and marie-lucie raps me on the knuckles with her common sense.
    There was a particular reason why I responded to your post. Not just because it was so interesting, as Hat said – but also because I thought too many people would hesitate to respond because it was so personal. I didn’t want your contribution to get lost for such a reason, so I pitched in with a will. This is an example of how one can mobilize, at the Hattery, all kinds of resources in oneself that have nothing to do with having read Proust. I have a kind of Fearless Knight feature that absolutely adores rushing in where angels fear to tread. My agent actually bills me as Bozo the Clown II, but that’s just marketing hype.
    Last night, in connection with your sample sentence,

    “If the is that you paper that book and bringing me for it to me for the.”

    I suddenly remembered a dream I have often had over the years, and had again even in the last 2-3 weeks. Now that I am describing it, it sounds very strange. It’s so apposite in this connection as almost to excite suspicion of being contrived.
    Anyway, in the dream, I am reading a book. I suddenly notice that the text is full of typos and incomplete sentences, in fact on its appearance it’s gibberish. And yet I am understanding it. I can clearly see the individual letters, format etc., they shouldn’t make sense but they do.

    “If the is that yu) paper
          1. that book 123 …
    and bringing me for. It (sic) it to me ;))) for the.”

    For some reason I get very excited about this, and think “I’ve got to finally write this down and tell somebody”. I’ve had the dream so often that I know I’m dreaming, and am very careful about waking up, so I don’t forget the text. I usually manage to enter a half-waking state, but there’s never pencil and paper handy, so I’ve never been able to write it all down.
    This seems to me to resemble your experience of “dysfluency”. What you are saying isn’t making sense, on the surface of things, but it does make sense. You recognize this, and can comment on it later, but not at the time.
    When I wrote my original comment on yours, I wondered why I was asking you if you were, of your own accord, aware of the dysfluency as it happens. I felt like there was a particular reason for my asking this, but couldn’t figure what it was. I now think that I had this dream at the back of my mind.

  89. SnowLeopard says:

    Isidora, my wife suffers from incapacitating migraines, and she and I have also noticed an effect on her language abilities. She doesn’t lose command of syntax in the way you describe, but she finds it extremely difficult to find words for what she wants to say, and she both speaks very slowly and has difficulty understanding rapid speech when she has a migraine. Often she just gives up and resorts to a gesture or saying one or two words. We’ve always interpreted this as just one facet of the migraine’s overall debilitating effect (her movements and reaction times also slow dramatically), so it’s interesting to think about it as affecting language specifically while leaving other functions somewhat intact.
    I’m another of those utterly unqualified to comment here, and delete somewhere between 50% and 75% of my previewed remarks without saying anything, for fear of not knowing enough or not adding enough value to the discussion, but I second those who welcomed your remarks as thoughtful and interesting.

  90. My grandfather emigrated from Denmark when he was seventeen.
    Mine came from Denmark when he was 2, but when he was 7 or 8 (I think), they returned for a year-long visit with family. He grew up in America in a community where he spoke both Danish and English until he moved away and got married to an American.
    When his sister turned fifty, which I understand has special significance for Danes, she traveled to America for week-long visit.
    He had forgotten Danish and could not communicate with her. (When I was in Denmark the older people couldn’t speak English, although the younger ones, my parents’ age and younger, were nearly fluent.) But gradually Grandpa’s Danish came back, and by the end of the visit they were able to speak.
    When I returned from Denmark, I could speak Danish, but my Grandfather had basically forgotten it.
    That seems to be about the pattern of English fluency that I noticed in Denmark 20 years ago. If nothing’s changed, they start learning English in 5th grade (not certain excactly what age that is.) They start German in 7th.
    Another generational difference: I was always careful to use the formal pronoun when addressing anyone past middle age, but as far as I could tell, the younger generations have more or less abandoned the use of the second person formal pronoun.
    Isidora said: I am thinking that it might be rather enlightening (I really didn’t intend the pun) to get some sense of the historical development of thought about whether or not revealed truth and scientific truth can be at odds or not.
    and Nijma responded: Biblical literalism or inerrancy would be a difference between mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations.
    To an extent, yes. Mainliners tend away from inerrancy and Evangelicals tend toward it. But a formal doctrine of inerrancy among Protestants doesn’t go further back than the 19th century. My sudden and unexpected interest in the work of Isaiah Berlin doesn’t have to do with Biblical Inerrancy, although you were very right to point out that that doctrine is where the contemporary issues in American Christianity over whether the Bible is entirely scientifically accurate and other related issues come from. (Actually, it was one of those “Duh, I should have realized the connection to that doctrine; where is my brain today” revelations, so thank you, because now I probably will be looking out to see how this all ties into the eventual rise of Inerrancy.) Whether or not one has any stake in Inerrancy ) the issue still presents itself to Christians today of how science and religion relate and co-exist in our minds.
    My interest is in the possibility of learning something about what the minds of the day several hundred years ago believed about whether revealed truth and scientific truth could conflict with each other and to possibly trace the development of those currents of thought over a couple of centuries.
    And while writing this, I’ve realized that I actually learned about epistomology in the post-Reformation centuries when I was in college. What I can’t remember is whether the class ever addressed the particular issue of what assumptions or beliefs various philosophers and theologians may have had about whether or not revealed truth and scientific truth could ever be in conflict. I’ll end up feeling pretty stupid if I get out my textbooks and notes from the class and find that the issue was addressed clearly and I wasn’t interested enough in it at the time to take any notice.
    What would actually be extremely helpful to me, would be to have a look at what Russian thinkers have had to say on the issue of science versus religion. Other Slavs would be useful in the same way, as would Greeks and Christian Arabs. I think that this discussion might have taken different turns in those cultures than it did in the West because it would have been engaging with a different Church.

  91. Well, hey, if Hat is frequently out of his depth on his own blog, then I don’t have any excuse for not feeling at home here. And it’s a pretty interesting place to be even when I don’t understand what is going on.
    @Grumbly Thanks for breaking the ice. It didn’t occur to me that other readers might find it too personal to tactfully comment on. If it had been too personal, I would not have posted it. It seemed apropo to the anecdote connected with the title of the post, and I figured people would find it interesting. Thanks for charging in.
    That’s very interesting about you reading in your dreams. Often when I read in my dreams, I read the same thing a second time, (third and fourth often) but the words have changed each time. I can’t force the meaning to stick.
    And if you’ll indulge me in a intriguing matter related to both dreams and migraines — and presumably to brain function — but not to language, then I will relate that I have suffered from nightmares, sleep paralysis, and hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations (all of them are clustered neurological phenomena – just try Wikipedia: you’ll learn what you need to know) from childhood with increasing frequency. Sometime after I was started on a drug for migraine prophylaxis the nightmares and the rest started to subside. I haven’t had a true nightmare (as opposed to a bad dream) for years. Nor do I experience sleep paralysis or hypnogogic hallucinations every night any longer. I have never believed that this was a coincidence. The human brain is an interesting thing.

  92. Isidora, my wife suffers from incapacitating migraines, and she and I have also noticed an effect on her language abilities. She doesn’t lose command of syntax in the way you describe, but she finds it extremely difficult to find words for what she wants to say, and she both speaks very slowly and has difficulty understanding rapid speech when she has a migraine. Often she just gives up and resorts to a gesture or saying one or two words. We’ve always interpreted this as just one facet of the migraine’s overall debilitating effect (her movements and reaction times also slow dramatically), so it’s interesting to think about it as affecting language specifically while leaving other functions somewhat intact.
    Well, I wouldn’t say that it affects only my language while leaving everything else intact. In my post describing my migraines, I only talked about the effects on language because it was was similar in some ways to the effect on the language faculties of the brain-damage cases described in Hat’s original entry. (That must be one of the few times in my life when I managed to keep a comment entirely on topic.)
    You mentioned that your wife’s reaction time and movement are dramatically slowed. How dramatically? Like watching someone engaged in tai chi? I have an awful lot of physical effects that come and go during a prodrome. Off the top of my head I can think of slow movement, inability to move, slurred speech, shuffling gait, waxy flexibility. Not all of those are there in any one episode.
    Someone I know suffers from migraine with aura, and her auras include hemianopia – loss of half of the visual field.
    I can certainly relate to your wife resorting to gestures or just a word or two. Sometimes that’s the most efficient thing.
    Both of you have my sincerest sympathy. Severe migraines are truly brutal for both the patient and their family. I hope your wife at least has access to adequate pain relief during the migraines.
    Have either of you read the book _Migraine_ by Oliver Sacks? It’s been years since I read it, but it is absolutely fascinating. Anyone interested in just how odd the human brain can be would also find it fascinating, even if they don’t have migraines.

  93. Have either of you read the book _Migraine_ by Oliver Sacks?
    Thanks for reminding me of that, Isidora! My fiancee suffers migraines, and I should really read it for something else besides. Here’s a review, by Auden, for with those with access to NY Review archives. (Those interested in the piece who don’t, shoot me an email.)

  94. SnowLeopard says:

    Severe migraines are truly brutal for both the patient and their family.
    Quite true. Medication has been completely ineffective and the only time in her life that has been free of migraines was the second and third trimesters of her pregnancy. Fortunately our baby girl is an old and thoughtful soul who gracefully takes just about everything in stride.
    By dramatically slow, I mean for example that words or footsteps (or small clusters of them) might be spaced by gaps of one to several seconds. Tasks like cooking, driving, or crossing a busy street that may require quick reflexes are completely out of the question. Haven’t read the Sacks book, so thanks for the recommendation.

  95. I recognize your description of “dramatically slow.” We’ve been there and done that. Still doing it, actually, but it’s been a long time since I stopped in the middle of crossing a street.
    There may be something you can do to help your wife move more at least somewhat more fluidly. Something that works for me is to have my husband place a hand gently but firmly on (one of) the affected limb(s). It often allows me to move at a slow pace rather than to remain frozen. We’ve even found a way to keep me walking slowly rather than intermittently. Your mileage may vary. I got the idea a couple of years ago when I was reading Autistic blogs and came across the concept of Facilitated Communication. The validity of the practice is very hotly debated, but I tried applying a couple of the basic techniques to my situation, and it’s helped. What I need to do now, is see if I can find a reliable practitioner’s handbook. It’s a good thing that you brought my mind back to this, because I been trying (and completely failing until today) to remember the keywords I needed in order to track down further information.
    If I get some further information on this, is it ok if I drop you a line privately? You are perfectly welcome to follow the link to my private e-mail. Not that I would wish these sort of problems on anyone, but it does make me feel like quite a bit less of a freak to actually talk to someone who has seen firsthand the same type of migraine symptoms that I have. I just can’t tell you how stupid it has made me feel at times to not be able to move. Your wife is also more than welcome to contact me. If the baby and the migraines aren’t keeping her too busy.
    By the way, I had that happen too with the migraines getting better during pregnancy, but in my case it was only during the third trimester. My OB predicted it for me.

  96. SnowLeopard says:

    Not familiar with Facilitated Communication, but her migraines always coincide with muscles seizing up in her neck, shoulders, and back. Applying intense pressure and massage to reduce the muscle tension sometimes mitigates other symptoms to a limited degree. She reports that light pressure in certain areas (which generally correspond to acupuncture points) often feels like an electric shock.
    Further private contact would be welcome. I check the linked e-mail address less often than some others, but will keep an eye out. We may also be interested in your perspective on home-schooling, since my wife is certified both for elementary education and as an art teacher and we’ve considered home-schooling our daughter when the time is right.

  97. Approx 3 billion people [maybe more] use 26 markings called letters, and they have created a million plus legal and unintelligible words in English and that does not include the unknown amount in the other written Indo European styles plus rules galore to help everyone to get on to the same meaning to be processed by the brain. Sound waves have to be transformed into pulses so that the brain can process them, same for Light it must so transformed.
    So to my small mind it is indeed fortunate that we can actually communicate some ideas.

  98. Alright, here it goes. I should warn you at the outset that I’m quite low on sleep, so if I don’t make any sense please feel free to ignore me or to ask clarification questions. :)
    Isidora: And Universal Grammar just didn’t seem to be good sense, especially when we were being told that all possible phonemes were hard-wired into the child’s brain from birth but only the ones used in the ambient language(s) would be switched on as the child acquired language.
    Isidora: Somebody please tell me that there is no way on this earth that I could have possibly have received that idea from any of my professors or textbooks!
    Isidora, your impression about UG isn’t completely off-base, but it doesn’t really reflect the state of current research, either. What you described is basically the ‘principles and parameters’ theory. I’m not sure when it was cutting-edge, but I think we’re talking late 80s, maybe early 90s. The idea is that languages are structurally very similar (Universal Grammar), and that their differences are along specific, constrained dimensions. If that is true, then kids might learn so fast and well because they are born ‘expecting’ (not consciously, of course) to have to learn certain things about their language. As they gather input they can start checking off the things they need to know: head-initial or head-final, no wh-raising, raise one wh-item or raise as many as you want… Similarly, the idea was that kids were born able to hear any phonemic distinction that any language uses, and that after listening to language being spoken around them for a little while, stopped paying attention to distinctions that aren’t relevant in their language. For instance, English-learning babies stop attending to the difference between aspirated and unaspirated t (the t in ‘top’ vs. the one in ‘stop), but babies learning Hindi keep paying attention.
    With respect to phoneme acquisition, more recent research shows that this seems to be how it works for some distinctions (specifically, the easy, common ones, like b/p or t/d), but that for harder phonemic distinctions (acoustically less salient, and less frequent among the world’s languages) it’s sort of the opposite. With those, it looks like children learning languages where they’re important have to tune in to the distinction, rather than everyone else having to learn to ignore them.
    As far as the idea of UG goes, I think the current debate, at heart, is about whether babies are born with a cognitive system dedicated to language or not. If you think that they aren’t then you have to argue that all the nuances of language either follow from biological facts (e.g. the human ear isn’t sensitive enough to pick up that distinction, so of course it’s not phonemic in any language), or are learnable from the input. This is a hard argument to make, because the linguistic input can vary a lot from child to child, even, say, within a particular town, but they all wind up speaking the same language. If you think that children are born with some kind of dedicated cognitive system, then you can argue about exactly what’s included, how it’s structured and how it relates to the adult language capacity.
    There are a number of interesting cases where a particular word meaning (I’m thinking of certain quantifiers, but I can’t remember the exact argument off the top of my head) or structure seems like it ought to be very difficult or impossible to learn based on the evidence children get. Since these are facts about the adult language, they get there somehow, and the question of whether they are learned, innate (in one sense or another), or some combination thereof is something that I find fascinating.

  99. Isidora: Are you “figuring this out” from direct observation or from previously collected data? Or from reading other people’s work on the topic?
    Options 1 and 3, I suppose. I run studies, mostly working with kids under about 3, and as a graduate student I certainly spend a lot of time reading! I just started a new study today, as a matter of fact, and that’s why I’m so sleep deprived.
    The fun part about this is that I get to do a little bit of everything: serious scientist thinking, cutting and pasting (the scissors-and-construction-paper sort), audio and video editing and hanging out with 1-3 year-olds. :)

  100. CL, thanks so much for the detailed response.
    I will respond, but not tonight/this morning *looks guiltily at the clock*
    Good luck with the new study. It sounds fun. And you even get to give the kids back when your done ;-) (Not that I really mind being with one or more of my kids more or less 24/7, but sometimes it’s nice to talk to adults. My intellect does seem to be much more awake than it was a couple of days ago, before I started posting here.)

  101. Isidora: “Saudi Arabia stops boycotting Danish dairy products and insulin”
    Did anyone know the Saudis were boycotting insulin?
    I forgot that everyone hates the Danes now, sorry. A Swedish friend of ours did a cartoon of Mohammad as a Roundabout dog that got Sweden and him in some trouble too.

  102. Isidora: “Saudi Arabia stops boycotting Danish dairy products and insulin”
    Did anyone know the Saudis were boycotting insulin?
    I forgot that everyone hates the Danes now, sorry. A Swedish friend of ours did a cartoon of Mohammad as a Roundabout dog that got Sweden and him in some trouble too.

  103. AJP, few things give me more dependable pleasure than your ever-changing moniker.

  104. Damn, now I’ll be too self conscious to do it. I meant to say elsewhere that that ‘Steve’ may not have a Ph.D. in linguistics, but I’m pretty sure Language Hat does. I also heard he won a Nobel prize and the NY lotto too, lucky guy.

  105. Damn, now I’ll be too self conscious to do it. I meant to say elsewhere that that ‘Steve’ may not have a Ph.D. in linguistics, but I’m pretty sure Language Hat does. I also heard he won a Nobel prize and the NY lotto too, lucky guy.

  106. Grumbly Stu, I’ve not looked in on this thread recently, and missed your response.
    No, I wasn’t asking rhetorically nor, especially, under the assumption that ‘intelligence is mechanical’ = ‘everything is mechanical’ (though, depending on “mechanical”, I suppose everything is). And indeed, without a comprehensive definition of “mechanical”, saying everything is, or many particular things are, ‘mechanical’ would be to say: nothing.
    You’re pretty quick to reduce a question to straw ‘reductionism’ and to knock the stuffing out of absent illusions.
    What I meant to mean was: when a parrot imitates, it performs something like a tape-recorder’s playback function. But a difference, or what might be a difference, is that when a tape recorder plays back, a finger has ‘to tell’ it to execute that function. The ‘finger’ of a parrot is already IN the parrot (though, of course, it can be manipulated, as any person attached to a finger on a tape recorder’s buttons can be manipulated, from outside itself- by, say, an ornithologist, in the case of the manipulated parrot).
    But parrots don’t only reproduce sounds; they solve parrot-problems: how to get this nut open or the bark off the top of those bugs, which predator to fear, where and how to build a nest, and so on. Parrots can be given tasks they don’t come across in environments not manipulated by people, like: the ball is under which cup?– tasks requiring ‘intelligence’, when children are given them to do.
    Let me ask the question differently: with respect to intelligence, and EXCLUDING quantity, what’s the difference between parrots and children?

  107. “Enlightenment: freedom from self-imposed restriction.”
    Well, of course there are “difficulties with such a program”; I think: no “difficulties”, no “program”!

    “Perhaps we need to get past the illusion that we are disillusioned.”
    Are so “very many people” laboring under this illusion??
    Certainly, to say that ‘we are under illusions’, to identify a particular “illusion”- like, that “we are disillusioned”-, is ALREADY to have begun to undertake, at least within a small frame, Kant’s “program”. (When one says “X is an illusion”, one is committed to having already demonstrated to oneself that X is not an accurate account of some particular thing; one is “free” from ‘having restricted oneself’ by or to THAT inaccuracy, that “illusion”.)
    If scientificity means ‘demonstrating the illusory nature of accounts’, I don’t think “problems” with ‘being scientific’ can be indicated or disclosed in a way NOT ‘scientific’. (How would one name a particular issue with ‘being scientific’ a “problem” without ‘demonstrating something illusory’?)
    As far as the supposed irrationality- the appeal to irrational demonstration- of Heidegger and Derrida, that’s “canard science”: pointing at the ‘nudity’ of a closet full of clothes.
    And claims that Kant, Heidegger, and Derrida are ‘unreadable’ or ‘unintelligible’? That would be to shout “ready-to-wear” in a street full of emperors.
    —————
    language hat, another defense of (the) Enlightenment would be that of Habermas. He thematizes this defense in direct conflict with Nietzsche et al. in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. His argument is that “modernity” is ‘incomplete Enlightenment’.

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