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Lessons in language.

by kcurie Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 11:26:07 AM EST

The anti neocon vision is here: Piranha vision


Committed to an existence in which only observable experience is real, the Pirahã do not think, or speak, in abstractions and thus do not use color terms, quantifiers, numbers, or myths. Everett pointed to the word "xibipío" as a clue to how the Pirahã perceive reality solely according to what exists within the boundaries of their direct experience which Everett defined as anything that they can see and hear, or that someone living has seen and heard. When someone walks around a bend in the river, the Pirahã say that the person has not simply gone away but xibipío ‘gone out of experience,’  Everett said. They use the same phrase when a candle flame flickers. The light ‘goes in and out of experience.’

I still recall the first day that one  universals fell down. I was probably 10 and somehow I woke up and stand tall and tired.. My mom hug me up and said "come on.. it is not like you are going to work the fields"... I , of course, did not understand. "what do you mean , mom?", "Well I mean you are not going to harvest like your grandma at your age".. she answered. "When was that?" I replied. I was known in the family by my insistence of knowing when things happened instead of why things happened... and with numbers attached to them.. that's why I asked the numbers of all the buses that came by during six months at the age of 2 (The patience of my mother answering them was for sure breathtaking.) Once she provided a date I trusted her.. but how was that possible.. how?.. and I did not utter a word...I could not comprehend...until.. LIGHT  "Do you mean that there are children who do not wake up in the morning and go to school?" My mom smile back....There it was... my first cultural ethnocentric urban european belief smashed with a smile... at the age of 10...

Follow me below the fold...

From the diaries - whataboutbob


Actually I had had another encounter with a fallen universal which I refused to believe.. that had been at the age of 6-8...  I refused to believe in it since my dad did not provide an adequate number for when (if any) languages which used weird letters had appeared. I could not conceive that anyone could use  different letters than mine..  I could understand different languages..rearrange the letter to mean the same thing (like the English some people spoke with my dad) it just meant different order of the letters for the same thing... but different letters ???.. No way!! and the fact was completely rejected without any remorse.

So you may guess that I read with delight the linguistic analysis of the prianha language.. only 13 phonemes.. but so many pitches you can think they are singing all the time (I learnt that languages did not use only phonemes but also pitches to convey meaning.. but that was .. well five years ago? I was mature enough to accept it)

So today I want to share with you that another universal block I have always thought to be true may be at the verge of collapse...The universal traits of language that 99.9%  of languages share might be not universal...It has been considered that recursion in language.. the ability to introduce a sentence within a sentence within a sentence (like the ability to generate any number for 1, 2... and then apply recursion on... up to 3, 4,5 ..) was an universal trait of language. Actually Chomsky even defended that it was the only thing really universal and human.. it made us human. The fact that some cultures did not have recursion in numbers but did have them in language  (with the now famous numeral system known as "one, two, and many" of some african cultures) was more than enough (for me) to think Chomsky was right

Well check the link to the investigations with Everett among the Piranhas...

Thew New Yorker

The Pirahã, Everett wrote, have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for "all", "each", "every", "most", or "few", terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition. Everett’s most explosive claim, however, was that Pirahã displays no evidence of recursion, a linguistic operation that consists of inserting one phrase inside another of the same type, as when a speaker combines discrete thoughts ("the man is walking down the street", "the man is wearing a top hat") into a single sentence ("The man who is wearing a top hat is walking down the street"). Noam Chomsky, the influential linguistic theorist, has recently revised his theory of universal grammar, arguing that recursion is the cornerstone of all languages, and is possible because of a uniquely human cognitive ability.
Steven Pinker, the Harvard cognitive scientist, calls Everett’s paper "a bomb thrown into the party."

More surprising to me were the reports that they really did not have any art.. weird they do not do masks or figures (I thought) and yes indeed they actually do figures as any other culture.. but they only do figures of things that DO PRESENTLY EXIST. They spot a plane.. then they do one figure of a plane..and then forget forever until another plane appears. It is not that they do not have art. It is that they have an art vision which has nothing to do with us. Just like I have already learnt from my intense study of African Art Anthropology (private lessons)

And what about myths... They really do not like myths? Is it possible.. No narratives.. nothing... the universal I have been defending here for ages, false? well not so...nothing like a good Hollywood movie to check it...

That evening, Everett invited the Pirahã to come to his home to watch a movie: Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. (Everett had discovered that the tribe loves movies that feature animals.) After nightfall, to the grinding sound of the generator, a crowd of thirty or so Pirahã assembled on benches and on the wooden floor of Everett’s Indian room, a screened-off section of his house where he confines the Pirahã, owing to their tendency to spit on the floor. Everett had made popcorn, which he distributed in a large bowl. Then he started the movie, clicking ahead to the scene in which Naomi Watts, reprising Fay Wray’s role, is offered as a sacrifice by the tribal people of an unspecified South Seas island. The Pirahã shouted with delight, fear, laughter, and surprise and when Kong himself arrived, smashing through the palm trees, pandemonium ensued. Small children, who had been sitting close to the screen, jumped up and scurried into their mothers’ laps; the adults laughed and yelled at the screen.

If Fitch’s experiments were inconclusive on the subject of whether Chomsky’s universal grammar applied to the Pirahã, Jackson’s movie left no question about the universality of Hollywood film grammar. As Kong battled raptors and Watts dodged giant insects, the Pirahã offered a running commentary, which Everett translated: "Now he’s going to fall!" "He’s tired!" "She’s running!" "Look. A centipede!" Nor were the Pirahã in any doubt about what was being communicated in the long, lingering looks that passed between gorilla and girl. "She is his spouse," one Pirahã said. Yet in their reaction to the movie Everett also saw proof of his theory about the tribe. "They’re not generalizing about the character of giant apes," he pointed out. "They’re reacting to the immediate action on the screen with direct assertions about what they see."

But what about those so lovely myths that we have about our origin.. for sure they must have them... well actually yes.. this is their myth about their own existence come to being..sort of.

ORIGINAL MYTH OF THE PIRANHAS:

"IT has always been like this."

y punto pelota (as we say in Spain).

With art and narratives understood in the proper context they regain their footing...we again confirm that art is not universal in the European sense.. but in some kind of weird history joke it is used to define completely different things....but that was already known by me thanks to the above-mentioned private lessons. So I know that the thing  we call African Art has nothing to do with "Art"-The narrative we have created about Art. A mask is not art.. is another thing we do not know how to name it..and we call it art.. Mask are about personal and existential experiences, about rithuals.. a mask which is not used is not worthy, irrelevant..hanged in a wall..are you kidding? A mask in a museum, or any other figure goes against any basic meaning that most african communities give to their own so-called Art.

Something similar can be said about the narratives of the piranhas... the narrative of the piranhas is presencial..so their universe is existential.. no abstraction, no abstract myths to live by.. but an encompassing vision to describe the present.. used to follow a history line of events that happen in front of you... realism to the extreme.

Regarding feelings...well it seems from the reports that they have empathy (as any other culture documented up to date, good for the Star trek writters and mythology based on it), they have a complex social net..and a rather complex economic structure which has never "improved". It can also be checked that fear is agian unviersal.. thanks god for not destroying two universal the same day .
What about the other feelings some people think are universal like happiness, sadness... Somehow I really doubt that any of our complex abstract feelings exist there..But they still must recognize some patterns to generate narratives like in the movie. They recognaize empathy and fear... any other? what about the unviersal feelings in dispute? How can they be angry as we are? I am sure some pshychologists must be looking for something which looks similar to depression (bad joke I know.. but next time I am depressed I am really going to think about them... "of course they do not have any kind of depression, it is abstract" I will tell myself).

And finally.. to the big price... the universal gone.. the thing I really will have a hard time defending from now one: recursion..what about the possibility that language may not have anything particularly universal. Much more, what if it is not specially different from other animals comprehension except for the cultural part. What if recursion is not really biological stuff but something quite spread which must be kept there thanks to our culture...Well now it certainly can be...

I just have to wait to know the results of the experiments described in the article..which, as can be seen in the last block  I provide, are going extremely, extremely well...... sort of.

Fitch’s experiments were based on the so-called Chomsky hierarchy, a system for classifying types of grammar, ranked in ascending order of complexity. To test the Pirahã’s ability to learn one of the simplest types of grammar, Fitch had written a program in which grammatically correct constructions were represented by a male voice uttering one nonsense syllable (mi or doh or ga, for instance), followed by a female voice uttering a different nonsense syllable (lee or ta or gee). Correct constructions would cause an animated monkey head at the bottom of the computer screen to float to a corner at the top of the screen after briefly disappearing; incorrect constructions (anytime one male syllable was followed by another male syllable or more than one female syllable) would make the monkey head float to the opposite corner. Fitch set up a small digital movie camera behind the laptop to film the Pirahã’s eye movements. In the few seconds’ delay before the monkey head floated to either corner of the screen, Fitch hoped that he would be able to determine, from the direction of the subjects’ unconscious glances, if they were learning the grammar. ... "They’re going to do exactly what every other human has done and they’re going to get this basic pattern. The Pirahã are humans"humans can do this."

It quickly became obvious that the Pirahã man was simply watching the floating monkey head and wasn’t responding to the audio cues."It didn’t look like he was doing premonitory looking," Fitch said. "Maybe ask him to point to where he thinks the monkey is going to go." "They don’t point," Everett said. "Nor, he added, do they have words for right and left. Instead, they give directions in absolute terms, telling others to head "upriver" or "downriver," or "to the forest" or "away from the forest." Everett told the man to say whether the monkey was going upriver or downriver. The man said something in reply.

"What did he say?" Fitch asked.

He said, "Monkeys go to the jungle."

Fitch grimaced in frustration. "Well, he’s not guessing with his eyes," he said. "Is there another way he can indicate?"

Everett again told the man to say whether the monkey was going upriver or down. The man made a noise of assent. Fitch resumed the experiment, but the man simply waited until the monkey moved. He followed it with his eyes, laughed admiringly when it came to a stop, then announced whether it had gone upriver or down.

After several minutes of this, Fitch said, on a rising note of panic, "If they fail in the recursion one"it’s not recursion; I’ve got to stop saying that. ...

"This is typical Pirahã," Everett said soothingly. "This is new stuff, and they don’t do new stuff."

"But when they’re hunting they must have those skills of visual anticipation," Fitch said.

"Yeah," Everett said dryly. "But this is not a real monkey."

Do not worry .. if the subjects do not match your theory.. pick up the right subject.

Everett dismissed the man and asked another Pirahã to come into the hut. A young man appeared, wearing a green-and-yellow 2002 Brazilian World Cup shirt, and sat at the computer. Everett told him to say whether the monkey was going to go upriver or downriver. Fitch ran the experiment. The man smiled and pointed with his chin whenever the monkey head came to rest. The computer crashed.

By the next morning, Fitch had debugged his software, but other difficulties persisted. One subject, a man in blue nylon running shorts, ignored instructions to listen to the syllables and asked questions about the monkey head: "Is that rubber?" "Does this monkey have a spouse?" "Is it a man?" Another man fell asleep mid-trial (the villagers had been up all night riotously talking and laughing" a common occurrence for a people who do not live by the clock). Meanwhile, efforts to get subjects to focus were hampered by the other tribe members, who had collected outside the hut and held loud conversations that were audible through the screened windows.

....

One Pirahã man seemed to make anticipatory eye movements, although it was difficult to tell, because his eyes were hard to make out under the puffy lids, a feature typical of the men’s faces. Fitch tried the experiment on a young woman with large, dark irises, but it was not clear that her few correct glances were anything but coincidental. On the fourth day, Fitch seemed to hit pay dirt. The subject was a girl of perhaps sixteen. Focussed, alert, and calm, she seemed to grasp the grammar, her eyes moving to the correct corner of the screen in advance of the monkey’s head. Fitch was delighted, and perhaps relieved;

well.. thanks god for that girl....Luckily I just have to wait for the results... and somehow trust them?... well you know what... I will quit saying that the universal grammar is universal.. and that's it.. It is easier and I can safely ask:

"When was that?" I can calmly answer myself..."It was when you were 31 years old... in a boring weekend following links at dailykos."
So now that I have a date.. it must be true.

Display:
I did a review of a lingusitic article for the community.. I want a clap in my back to tell me... not to do it anymore you nutty boy..

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 02:56:47 PM EST
Clap, clap, tap, tap!  If I knew how, I would draw your picture with a halo.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:20:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had all hands full with my own diary projects, so I only got to read your diary and not to participating in the comments. but here are my late kudos! interesting stuff.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 11:18:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, that´s it?  I read your diary first and all you do is debunk and ruin my comfortable universal myths?  You could have let me down slowly, with a series...  
;)
:-p
:)
Now you have to update us on the results.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:18:43 PM EST
as soon as they appear.. but somehow I laughed so much at the problems with the experiemtn that I will look at the results in a very different way .. LOL

whatev er you can say about Pranahas.. they really have a monty Pythn flavour to their humour...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:20:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, now.... they've not been debunked, merely modified. Someone will think of some way to incorporate this.
by lychee on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:38:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Discoveries like this can be both beautiful and disappointing. They help to refine theories and show us what is and isn't working, but they can also disprove theories we really liked. But just because a language doesn't actively use something doesn't mean the "universal" rule governing it is meaningless. If the concept can be understood, wouldn't that imply the construct exists somewhere in that person's brain.

It's been a looooong time since I studied linguistics, so excuse me if I'm a little rusty regarding Chomsky's theories.... I still have his "On Language" sitting on my shelf, maybe it's time to finish it....

Historical linguistics and universals are what make linguistics so much fun.

by lychee on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:21:28 PM EST
Brilliant..

I could not agree more.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you.

Unfortunately, once I get going with linguistics, I don't shut up. :) No reply is needed to this, I'm just babbling now and have to get this out or I'll be thinking about it all week.

Honestly, do not give up the idea that a universal grammar exists. It just may have dimensions to it we haven't considered. (Kind of like the English grammar rule i before e, except after c. You could set up a rule stating recursion occurs in all human languages except in those where the people have this other construction, or this specific view regarding time, etc.)

You can always use this important linguistic rule: When all else fails, set up a word class. (Kind of a cop-out, but it does come in handy.) You have two groups of nouns that follow completely different phonological rules? Set up word classes. You have two languages that treat recursion differently? Set up grammar classes and see what other research comes in. :)

All right, I'll stop.

by lychee on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:55:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But just because a language doesn't actively use something doesn't mean the "universal" rule governing it is meaningless.

Well, no, but it does suggest that what we think is hardware is really software and learned behaviour.

To use a crude analogy - just because your processor does floating point maths doesn't mean that your software has to use the floating point feature.

The gotcha is the 'universal' concept. It seems to be a bit of a blunt instrument for describing a complex set of related phenomena.

In this case there's not enough information to decide if there genetic differences, which would be interesting enough in itself, or whether the differences are learned.

Perhaps a more interesting question is - whose perceptual grammar is more complex? Ours, or theirs?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:18:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It may be that any ultimate universal rules will have to look at what's possible, rather than what is, although there's still always the chance that a culture's perspective on the world could preclude a rule from surfacing in the actual language. Maybe there's a wide pool of rules possible in every language, but we have a limit on how many rules can actually be used. (That sounds like a way to cheat and call a nonuniversal rule universal, but I guess the way around that would be to see if you could teach the concept to someone whose own language does not have it-- and have them use it fluently--, as "what's possible" gets into cognition. It's almost like the pool of possible consonants, there are several, and each language uses certain sounds. Forget for the moment about a limit on how many can be used. But in theory anyone can learn how to pronounce any consonant. So the universal rule might not be "all languages use / s /," but rather "all languages use consonant sounds from this specific pool." That is horribly general, but that's what universal rules are, massive generalizations.)

If only we knew more about language history and proto-languages, which was the one (or were the few) from which other languages evolved, we could see how and when various proposed rules popped up. Wishful thinking, I know. Well, with efforts to save theories like glottochronology, maybe we'll eventually learn something....

Another theory for the hell of it-- maybe the Piranha language once had recursion, but eventually got rid of it because the concept wasn't needed, kind of like a language shedding noun declension endings because the prepositions alone were enough.

by lychee on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 07:28:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another theory for the hell of it-- maybe the Piranha language once had recursion, but eventually got rid of it because the concept wasn't needed, kind of like a language shedding noun declension endings because the prepositions alone were enough.

I would consider this a bombshell if the linguists were saying "wow, these people are using language in a way we've never seen with structures we've never seen" rather than saying "these people don't use particular language structures that we believed all languages did in fact use." As it is I'm not too impressed because lack of use of a structure in the brain does not prove lack of presence in the brain (along the lines of your theory). I believe the brain is quite malleable, but with some very, very hard constraints.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat Jul 7th, 2007 at 06:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that many..r eally.. you would be amazed at the plasticity...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jul 7th, 2007 at 09:31:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What bombshell? It's totally possible for a language to dump a feature it no longer needs. That's nothing new.
by lychee on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 12:41:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was my point...

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 04:20:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then I'm not quite sure I understand your post. You have the section from my post about the language dumping a feature it no longer needs, and then you have "I would consider this a bombshell if...." Is "this" referring to the idea of losing an unneeded feature? If not, what are you referring to when you say "this"?

(My post sounds kind of snippy, but it's not meant to be-- I'm honestly trying to clear up what I'm not understanding. Really.)

by lychee on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 01:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I said bombshell I meant the way in which I think kcurie was taking it - I think he believes this shoots serious holes through the universal language theory, whereas I'm pretty sure it does no such thing, and only would if the researchers had found novel language usage structures in the people they were studying that had never been seen before.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:25:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not sure the brain works that way. If we look at the development of the visual cortex in humans and cats.. it is more like.. I would be ready hipotetically to do this.. if it doe snot happen.. I am also hypothetically ready to this and this and this...

And if those three or four five things do not happen.. ok I will mind my busniess doing other things.. but then do not expect any relevant input on this or that function..

SO language could be similar.. but more disperse and networked that the primary visual cortex...I can do a lot of stuff.. you culture pick up.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 12:55:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spoken language processing occurs in two distinct areas of the dominant hemisphere.  

Broca's Area is associated with the motor cortex.  Dysfunction in this area produces difficulty in enunciating words and sentence production.  Reading and comprehension do not seem to be affected.

Wernicke's Area is associated with the sensory cortex.  Dysfunction produces garbled, profuse, inaccurate, rapid, and incomprehensible speech.  Patients can talk fluently, what they say makes no sense.  

What this suggests is Language Processing, in toto, is an Emergent Phenomena absolutely requiring a basis in the brain's neurology ('hardware') but also ancillary higher-order psycho-cultural ('software') structures.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 01:33:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(You're such a smartass.)  How does "Emergent Property" not equal "LO!  A Miracle?

"Emergent Property" is an ontological descriptive term of an observable end-result of a process requiring necessary observable or definable initial conditions AND observable or definable necessary praxiological operations on those conditions.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 02:09:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More complex than that even.

This two areas you describe are ver well known and do indeed perform certainly clear fucntions in language

But language processing , from writing to devleopment of sentences includes vast areas of the cortex not realted with those two.

Broca andd Wernicke are some kind of focal points  for the movement of the mouths/language physcial apparatus and for audotory input.

They are the most external parts of speech processing... something like the primary and final points of the process... Generally, the brain has very specific target areas before proceeding (or the first point of reception from external areas) to project activity to non-brain areas... moto cortex, visual priamry cortex and so on...

So, the ability to speak and process auditory cues comes from the ability of certain parts of the brain to do their primary fucntions by training. If you do not train those areas, they just mind their own business... and still it is only the surface of language processing since it is the part related with output-movement and input-auditory (people do nto know that but a fundamental part of speech is to understand auditory cues, this is why two areas are needed to link the external apparatus with the more complex language processing). But this is only the surface of the processing.. in the same sense the primary visual cortex is only the first stage of visual pattern recognition.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 02:15:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly why I limited my post to Spoken Language.

It is my understanding _f_MRI has disproved the old reductionist axiom of a specific location for a specific process.  Instead there is a heirarchy of processing where specific areas, such as Broca's, are dedicated to doing the predominate amount of the work while relying or shunting various 'subsidary' tasks to other neuological features, areas.  Some of these latter are 'specialists' and some are 'generalists.'

(As always, correction requested.)

A pleasure, indeed.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 02:33:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right indeed.. it is more like a network of points requiring more energy at certain points ...
but some very specific areas deeicated to gather the information and produced an specific output (ot input in the case of the auditory cortex or the priamry visual cortex).

It seems that the most perpherial parts of the brain must be hihgly trained at the first stages of development.. and then proceed to get fairly fixed activity. Those areas can be studied in great detail..and the effects of the environment on this areas (learning) can be studied by doing experiments.

Since these specific areas have a high plasticity and highly depend on external input we just guess that the other parts that we see light-up in the fMRI are like mega-complex network of subunits workign hierarchialy and much more plastic than those peripherial areas.

It is really as amazing as you indicate... and more :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:55:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe this is why some people, blind from birth, still cannot see (as normal seeing people do) when their ability to "see" (with the eye) is technically restored. The part of the brain that processes visual stimuli must be trained to do so from birth or it loses the ability to really "see."  The up side of blindness is that this part of the brain usually becomes devoted to doing something else better.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 11:14:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And then there are the 'polarized' kittens!
Kittens with access to only vertical (or horizontal) stimuli during their early life will be incapable of seeing lines of the other orientation later in life. Lots of hits refering to these results without actual references to the original research... But here is an original source, that seems to confirm the effect as more than an urban legend: http://www.brain.riken.jp/bsi-news/bsinews29/no29/research2e.html
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 06:20:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I knew this experiemtns.. Actually they are much more complex. for example.. if the cat is raised over the gorund and it is not allowed to touch the floor while watching.. no matter that he is able to detect horizontal and vertical lines.. he would not be able to walk.. becasue he cann ot coordiante visionand movement.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 07:33:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about the experiments in which an adult wears "inverting" glasses and the brain (reversibly) adjusts after a few days of headaches?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 07:40:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure how astonishing this is or should be. Apparently (according to the narrative of events set up for us by the Western observers) when people of our culture meet the Pirahas, there is culture shock and misunderstanding. And beneath the observers' narrative there is even more real misunderstanding, because they use experimental methods that are way off beam (even if fun) like King Kong or animated monkeys on a screen.

(BTW, the Pirahã man was simply watching the floating monkey head and wasn't responding to the audio cues could quite probably be construed as universal, given the standard behaviour of Western TV-viewer couch-potatoes).

Haven't these people lived for generations out of mind in the same very specific environment, isolated from other cultures? Aren't our "universals" built from migration and mixing, confrontation and cooptation of cultures? Haven't anthropologists already placed these questions high on their list of priorities?

But the biggie :

what about the possibility that language may not have anything particularly universal.

I think you're referring to Chomsky, and what you mean is universal structural characteristics. Does it matter if Chomsky is wrong?

Much more, what if it is not specially different from other animals comprehension except for the cultural part.

Er, what cultural part would that be? Animals have culture, at least, they have learned behaviours. What we have no evidence for is that they have symbolic language. The Pirahas do. Their language may be oral and pitch-based, and tied to their immediate environment in space and time, (I won't say simplified because we might well find that they possess a wealth of distinct terms for what it is useful for them to distinguish), but words for river, this tree or that plant, this animal or that person, are symbolic (without going into terms like "spouse", which is perhaps what you mean by the "cultural part"). Whether language has universal structure as Chomsky proposes is one thing. That symbolic language is universally human is another.

Thanks for a fascinating diary. (It's got a date on it... ;))

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 03:53:39 PM EST
I try to convey in the diary  that actually, the part about art,a bout anrratives, about movie, and about myths is not really astonishing.. It is of course astonishing if you have always lived in a western-city world and do nto even know that once upon a time (100 years at most) a vibrant agrucultural society used to live among us...In a word.. if you do not know a jot about anthropology and human beings.

But I try to express the opinion that I indeed agree with the author of the report for the New York Observer that if Piranhas do not have recursion ,as it seems they do nto have, it is indeed exceleltn and great science 8and surprisign in the present framework).. soem other cases where recursion were put in doubt but accepted as given will be relooked.

It is like the data that makes the stuff about universal grammar interesting again...

Lychee put it better than me. either , they reorganize the theory or come up with a   good explanation.

The most intriguing part , of curse, and where I do not ahve my ideas quite clear up  is about languane in animals and the cutlural implications. It is consiedered that monkeys do indeed can get symbols... and they do refer to objects by the symbolic structure. You can train a monkey to speak basic words with hand langauge.

So, Piranahs language is much more complex than monkey, but they key difference is not recursion.. it is still the complexity of the cultural universe...

And that's what it makes the question of universal grammar so interesting... becasue with  Chomskty it somehow got slightly detached for cutlure.. so we had two sides of the same coin interacting.. and now probably allt his vision will have to be rethought.

Is there some way to say that human language is unqiue more than by the mere complexity of the culture associated?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 04:51:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IANAL (where L = Linguist), but I never considered Chomsky's universal grammar as more than an interesting hypothesis. I realize it became a cornerstone of a view of humanity for some. My point was that it's not really necessary. You know, recursive structures are what separate humans from animals... Hmmm.

I suggest that symbolic language is human-specific, you reply (without refs) that "it is considered" monkeys are capable of using symbols. We could probably argue about that, but I don't see the point. In your example, the monkey has to be laboriously taught. It's the spontaneous generation of structured symbolic language that is human. (The Pirahas may use simpler structures, it doesn't matter).

I don't particularly care about the human/animal distinction. I'm not fighting desperately to preserve it. But I think the good old jump in the size of the neocortex produced a cognitive leap that includes structured symbolic language and cultural complexity.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 03:46:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some interesting subtexts in the article having to do with loss of faith (loss of faith in God or religion, loss of faith in Chomsky) and through it the abandonment of the frame through which we view the world, allowing one's vision to be clearer....

Also, on a less esoteric level, some important academic criticisms of Chomsky here, like this:

Steven Pinker, the Harvard cognitive scientist, who wrote admiringly about some of Chomsky's ideas in his 1994 best-seller, "The Language Instinct," told me, "There's a lot of strange stuff going on in the Chomskyan program. He's a guru, he makes pronouncements that his disciples accept on faith and that he doesn't feel compelled to defend in the conventional scientific manner. Some of them become accepted within his circle as God's truth without really being properly evaluated, and, surprisingly for someone who talks about universal grammar, he hasn't actually done the spadework of seeing how it works in some weird little language that they speak in New Guinea."

and this:

When Fitch and Everett met in Porto Velho in July, two days before heading into the jungle, they seemed, by tacit agreement, to be avoiding talk of Chomsky. But, on the eve of our departure, while we were sitting by the pool at the Hotel Vila Rica, Everett mentioned two professors who, he said, were "among the three most arrogant people I've met."

"Who's the third?" Fitch asked.

"Noam," Everett said.

"No!" Fitch cried. "Given his status in science, Chomsky is the least arrogant man, the humblest great man, I've ever met."

Everett was having none of it. "Noam Chomsky thinks of himself as Aristotle!" he declared. "He has dug a hole for linguistics that it will take decades for the discipline to climb out of!"

Myself, I'm quite sympathetic to the Sapir-Whorf school, so my perception is likely colored by that, but it seems illogical to assume that the two theories can't exist side-by-side.  I don't mean to discount all of Chomsky's life's work or his theories (IANAL either) but it seems dangerous to me for one frame, one theory, one person to hold such sway over any discipline.

Everett is saying something similar about language and about theories-of-language (or, by extension, about theories about practically anything):

Everett, who two weeks ago posted a response to Pesetsky and his co-authors on LingBuzz, says that Chomsky's theory necessarily colored his data-gathering and analysis. " `Descriptive work' apart from theory does not exist," he told me. "We ask the questions that our theories tell us to ask."

We think within our frames.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 05:36:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
teaching monkeys is becoming some kind of stantadrd procedure.. int he same article there is a reference about how the experiemtns proposed was also done with chilren and monkeys... I just deleted thought it would not be interesting...

The dispute is actuallu mroe about what language mweans thatn the fact that monkeys can lear symbols.. but is symbols language. No, and that is in dispute

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ape_language

Gee... I should have not delated the part of the experiemtn with monkeys.

But, basically, summing up.. yes the vision of the universal grammar of Chomsky was considered more than an hypothesis.. in the sense way that the great consensus of the 50-60's joining darwinian theories and genomics still cosntitute more than a teory..but some kind of gospel at the way we look at the world.

But , while the great consensus on biology is clearly flawed and there are hundreds of data about extinctions about embryo development ,about new emergence of capabilities whcih beceom basically flat form then on, about ecological networking about early stages of life and drastic symbiotic jumps that make it clear tthat a change is going to happen in the paradigm, with Chomsly was none of it...that's why I put it like I did... no sorrow though :) I agree with you ont he vision of cultural language.. I just thought there was an universal core... it seems that this could not be the case.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 07:37:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
symbols, semantic behaviors, and concept attainment.

from On Language, "On Cognitive Capacity"

There has been much discustion of the so-called 'innateness hypothesis," which holds that one of the faculties of the mind, common to the species, is a faculaty of language that serves the two basic functions of rationalist theory [competence, coherence]: it provides a sensory system for the preliminary analysis of linguistic data [performance], and a schematism that determines, quite narrowly, a certain class of grammars [syntax]. Each grammar is a theory of a particular language, specifying formal and semantic properties [words] of an infinite array of sentences [strings]. These sentences, each with its particular structure, constitute the language generated [predicted] by the grammar. The languages so generated are those that can be "learned" in the normal way. [i.e.] The language faculty, given appropriate stimulation, will construct a grammar; the person knows the language generated by the constructed grammar. This knowledge can then be used to understand what is heard and to produce discourse as an expression of thought within the constraints of internalized principles, in a manner appropriate to situations as these are conceived by other mental faculties, free from stimulus control [e.g. behavioral conditioning].

[1977:12-13, emphasis added]


UG is essentially an attempt to pair ideation to language performance rather than to deconstruct recurring modalities or to differentiate syntax. at this level of observation, in usage, "recursion" -- "internalized principles" of communication processing -- ought to be understood as an unconscious capability to reproduce and manipulate symbolic terms presented by the preceptible environment (auditory, verbal, visual) to the language learner.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 08:35:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no spontaneous generation of symbolic language. The Pirahas learnt it as children just as laborously as Koko or Washoe.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 11:30:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One day your blank slate myths will be torn down too.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 04:21:01 PM EST
I hope not !!!!!

it is wstill holding.. unviersal gramamr recieved a blow...

Argghhh

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 04:43:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So how does the "Blank Slate" not equal "LO!  A Miracle!" everytime a 2 year old acquires a sentence?

8-p

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 01:47:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe it was Margaret Mead who stated at the end of one of her books (Growing Up in New Guinea, maybe)that human personality is infinitely malleable.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 05:18:21 PM EST
I guess she also said:

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has." -----

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 05:21:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My favourite quote.. no doubt about it...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:43:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A nice blog for Language issues is Language Log.

Related posts there : Roeper on recursion and The enveloping Pirahã brouhaha

(And Firefox's spell checker doesn't recognises blog nor Firefox. Duh.)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:24:42 PM EST
It is indeed a brouhahaha.. Love the link!!!

I love brohahha.. I certainly hope one day it will spread to a new evolution-devleopment framework for paleonthology and biodiversity, system thinking for medicine and that it will also apply to general relativity.... I think it is probably used  overstretchingly.. inventing concept after concept to fit the data.. dark matter, dark energy.. and so on and so on and so on..

I love brouhaha. Although it is nto that much having a brouhaha data as accepting it exists...paradigm change.

Thanks god we still have thermodyanmics rock-bottom theory.. otherwise.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:49:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"They're not generalizing about the character of giant apes," he pointed out. "They're reacting to the immediate action on the screen with direct assertions about what they see."

Does he think Westerners generalise about the character of giant apes?

I suspect if you asked Westerners what they thought King Kong told them about the character of giant apes they might look at you a little strangely.

It's possible he means that there's no abstraction going on - which is more like conceptual indirection than recursion. And there's also no attempt to build a model based on universals generalised from those abstractions.

Both of those seem to be a very Western speciality. I'm not sure other cultures are quite as keen on them as we are, so if he's thinking they should be universals - he's just being very Western about it.

Personally I like the recursion of a monkey watching a monkey watching a virtual monkey.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 06:28:59 PM EST
I wonder if it also has to do with exposure to movies and special effects. Maybe the researchers were expecting the Piranha to act as if they couldn't tell it wasn't a real ape....
by lychee on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 07:35:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More generally, we're conditioned to believe that narrative is reality - even if only temporarily, while we're watching it unfold.

I think the not-generalising quote is very interesting because it reveals a raft of assumptions and prejudices.  

In the West we seem to be trained to construct narratives almost from birth. It's fun to realise that what looks like an inevitable process is very culturally conditioned.

There's no real reason why we should have to meta the world - but we seem to do it by default in the West, and get social points for doing it better than others.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 6th, 2007 at 08:14:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great reading, kcurie! The part about the 13 phonemes and the multiple pitches made me think of the research by Alfred Tomatis. In one of his books he discribes some research he did on language. He found that each language has it own and recognisable frequence pattern, that distinquishes from other language.

He also did some interesting experiments (writen from memory). He let an American pianist play a Tsaikowsky peace and recorded it. Then the pianist had to wear headphones and had to play the same piece again. However, this time the music was filtered through a Russian frequency pattern and they were amazed how different in quality the piece was played.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 7th, 2007 at 02:03:40 AM EST
Do linguists who embed in such communities record everything spoken and then report a complete dictionary (even based on sound record), speech grammar rules, common expressions?

I'm also surprised that the anticipation experiment did not involve a gain of some sort (especially if interference from other sources of interest was at play). When hunting/fishing the anticipation gain is obvious (food :) but I find it lacking in the experiment description.

by Laurent GUERBY on Sat Jul 7th, 2007 at 06:15:16 PM EST
grammar experiments thought in western accaaademia are not easy to translate.. theya re thought for western accademia..

the same goes for most of the reprots on pshychology and brain imaging.. alwasy the same urban kind of guy..

Bring and fMRI to the piranhas.. now!! :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jul 7th, 2007 at 09:32:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant grammar in the general sense that is the structure of the spoken language.

From your answer I infer that no one is properly recording the language of these communities: no sound recording, no dictionary, no nothing, am I right?

by Laurent GUERBY on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 09:58:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They do record sounds, phonemes, structures.. but hsi language has so many pitches.

It is very difficult to  make a dictionary when the language is so different ins tructure... and abstract thoughts is no present.

In my comment I just meant that most neurobiological research of nay kind is done always in western-city cultures..so all the results are by default, biased.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 12:50:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess most of the words in a dictionary (for most language) designate concrete things so that part should be easy here.

As for abstractions the documents linked don't say much so I can't really understand what it's all about :).

At least some of neurobiological research is funded by advertisement companies so I guess if they don't have dollars they're not interesting :)

by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:48:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i wonder if any study has been done of the notes of the scale being used in different languages.

it'd be interesting to knowif brits hang out in C sharp, fr'example, or how many octaves mandarin uses, on average.

maybe some people in every culture just have more tuneful voices than others, maybe it goes wider...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 09:05:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sounds like the piraha people have little need for recursion, they actually are more reality-based than the investigators!

is it possible our western rational-analytic approach is a blunt tool, created more to make denial easier, than to seek 'objective' answers?

maybe the hidden premise we operate from, is that to survive in the complex, cognitively incoherent reality we have supported, we need to create virtual constructs that purportedly help us to explain a fundamentally inexplicable universe?

iow, perhaps the piraha are creating and reflecting their reality more honestly than we do, and possibly they even wonder what we fear so much, that we feel the need for linguistic universals to be so vital, and so traumatic when revealed for what it is, another illusion we ascribe magical powers to, just another....myth?

i bet these piraha have a lot less mental problems than we do!  sounds like they have more time to 'waste' on idle pursuits like chatting and laughing till the wee hours also...

the students are studying the teachers, wouldn't it be fascinating to hear their own private opinions on the motivations of the researchers?

no software, no crash!

great stuff kc....

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 05:21:54 AM EST
I love it... thinking along the same lines
Yes I do nto see the piranahas needing or udnerstanding a pshychologists in aprticular.

And i would love to hear them talk about it... there is also a subhisotry int he article about how a lot of times they jsut invent new things to keep the researcher happy... !!!!!

I do think they seem to create a reality more honestly than we do.. that stroke me when I first learned the histories that everett explined... not the raw data of the language (interesting as it is).. but living with them seems to give this sensation.

But the msot interesting part for me is about the virtual reality. we create this reality with language too.. but language coudl be completely cultural.. it would be some kind of self-sustained universe... but ont he other hand.. they have developed a virtual world completelya ttached to the gorund.. while we did not...

And on the other hand brain plasticity being enormous still keeps some basic features that I like to see.. they still like movies.. presencial.. but movies :)

Love the comment melo.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 07:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
not wanting to go all 'noble savage' on you, but there may have been an element of choice in this rendition of reality without projection or conditioning, without 'ifs' and 'maybes'.

certainly it would seem like a mental amputation of sorts, to give up our beautiful power to imagine vertical mental architecture, to conjure concepts, to stroke and stimulate our intellects into ever more interesting and acrobatic contortions, but at the end of the day, perhaps it distracts us from reality as much as enrich it.

certainly anthropological research has become less culturally insensitive and supremacist since mead's day, but i still feel compelled to point out indigenous peoples' lifeskills are usually much more ecologically appropriate than the first world's, and they usually respect the earth as a living organism, on whose mercy and grace they humbly depend.

movies are a good way to open their cultural windows, as they can grok without having to immediately react, which might be difficult with regard to pride and dignity, quite difficult to maintain in the face of a culture so obviously tech-superior.

i am very grateful for the insights i get from your sharing, kc, your comments often bring a fascinating (and funny) depth to some of the politico-sociological-economic discussions here at ET.

and your spelling is truly original!

i see a picture of you aflame with an idea and leaping across the room to batter your keyboard into instant communication compliance, damn the torpedoes...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 04:01:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hwa tar you takl ing abuto? kcriet ype; jus t fien  -

A plusare

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 04:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are youjkingem?

aplusure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 12:51:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doe snot.

Aspluree.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 01:01:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hey, lessons in language, FOR REAL!

language...a cunning use of sound vibrations to send lymph and cerebro-spinal fluid deeper into the irrigation of command-control centres...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 08:02:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say anthropologists is the less white supremacist  of the crowd.

Neuorbiologists and evolutionary pshychologists have a very narrow notion of culture..and certainly are generally clueless about these issues..

So I agree with you completely.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 12:52:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
certainly anthropological research has become less culturally insensitive and supremacist since mead's day, but i still feel compelled to point out indigenous peoples' lifeskills are usually much more ecologically appropriate than the first world's, and they usually respect the earth as a living organism, on whose mercy and grace they humbly depend.

I don't think anthropology is quite as bad as that, although I was an anthro grad student so I'm a tad biased.

A lot of work, including a lot of work from a long time ago, pointed out just what you said about ecological appropriateness and whatnot.  A lot of VERY early work was devoted to proving that people in other cultures are just as intelligent as Western people, that biological racism was full of bunk, and that culture rather dramatically shapes how people think about and relate to each other and to the world.

"Aren't these people and their culture just so great and amazing" has long been a more common sentiment, and nearly as problematic a sentiment, as "Look at what these bizarre savages are doing!"

But the fact is that it's really, really hard to really study and think about cultures different from one's own, no matter where they are.  There have been major arguments about this from the beginning of the discipline, and there still are today.  One of the founding principles of American Boasian Anthropology was Cultural Relativism, but even that is horribly problematic - but if even extreme cultural relativism is somehow inappropriate, then what the heck are we supposed to think?  Nobody knows.

by Zwackus on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 07:14:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 04:55:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a friend who was an anthropology undergraduate in the UK. He once told me a story about a classmate of his who had heard of the traditional method to slaughter pigs in the Spanish countryside, so off she went for some "fieldwork" to try and film it. Unfortunately, she didn't go at the right time of the year. So, when she found suitable villagers and asked them "can you slaughter a pig for me?" they said "no, but we can slaughter a goat". So she filmed that.

I was reminded of this anecdote earlier today, when Helen suggested replacing "running bulls" with running goats in the Salon.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 05:17:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminded of the Mid East investor trading EVERYTHING through Merrill Lynch in Lebanon ( a long time ago...).

He couldn't be seen to be trading "PorkBellies" futures so Merrill apparently had the contract notes print out "ChickenBellies" instead.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 06:43:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it's just dud research, and after closer investigation it will become apparant that the researcher has not understood something or has completely misconstrued things. That happens in the social sciences, doesn't it? In fact Mead was a famous victim of it, IIRC.

I'd bet against this thing being true. It's so extraordinary that it almost has to be a mistake.

by wing26 on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 11:19:00 AM EST
There's a dispute over whether or not Mead was duped, how much she was duped, and why she was duped.  It's not so simple of a story.

But dud research does happen.  

by Zwackus on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 07:06:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this fascinating diary has been resonating in my subconscious all day, and just now catching up with the comments, i had a flash...

what if we sang to each other before we learned to speak?

we learned to paint images before we learned to write words, n'est-ce pas?

music is to image, as speech is to text...

music entrains consciousness, speech compresses it-

actually the word or concept of consciousness is singular, but it seems impossible to conceive that way, except as a label.

becoming conscious perhaps is admitting plurality...

i'm sure sven would have some fantastic neuro-chemical take on this!

and rg will have some brilliant pre-textual image :)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 09:00:30 PM EST
Hey, you jumped into ma heed!

See you ever sooner!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 09:10:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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