Language Re-Visited

    Language itself is an organism that seems to exist as both a wave and a particle, just like light. One can look at grammar as it changes though time - this is diachrony. This change is part of what language is (unlike Logic or Math, which deal with the unchanging). Without change, a language would be a dead language, which actually is an oxymoron. For, a recording of a language is not the language. Latin, thus, is no longer a language. (If I only had a dog’s skeleton, I would not say I have a pet dog.)

    On the other hand, there is Saussure’s analogy of grammar being like the state of the board during a chess game. What move you should make next has nothing to do with the moves that had been made to get the pieces where they currently are. There is no momentum from the past effecting the present to go into the future. At least, not in chess - or, at least not the way computers would play chess together (unless they use statistics of one another’s tendencies). This is called synchrony. But this, I would argue, is not as relevant to Language as linguists seem to believe. It is a mere extrapolation. Not the 
linguistics experience.

    Before I end, I would like to make one last comment on how the components of grammar/Language blend. We talked about how phonemes (what we confuse for “letters”) are made up of distinctive features. In turn, phonemes can make syllables, which in turn can make metrical feet. And syllables or feet make words/lexemes, which then make phrases (we have entered into the level of syntax now), which make clauses and then sentences, which constitute the utterances of a  discourse (this is pragmatics). Likewise, one or more syllable or foot can make a morpheme. Sometimes, a phoneme alone can be a lexeme or morpheme. And sometimes, a distinctive feature alone can be a morpheme: in the word “man,” the pluralizing morpheme is the feature of fronting the position of the tongue on the “a,” thus making “men.”




What if there were a language where every distinctive feature had its own meaning (perhaps in the sense of onomatopoeia)? To what extent, and in what way(s), is this (im)possible?

Contents of this lecture:

  1. 1)Introduction

  1. 2)Phonology

3) Lexemes

4) Morphology

5) Syntax

6) Conclusion (you are here)

Diachrony                    Synchrony

made up of the

mechanisms,     like the waves,        data to give evidence of the mechanisms,

i.e, processes and tendencies                i.e, to infer their existence

in the grammar

etymological definition                    the specific definitions,

= spirit of the word;                            the secret to their unity being that they

“spirit” in the sense of life                        are all metaphoric extensions of the

THROUGH TIME, i.e,                                    etymological definition

literally, diachrony

to know your opponent is the        Sausure’s conception of language

sure way to predict the next                knowable being just like the present

move in chess, and therefore win            state of a chess board is not enough,

                                                                      is not the living essence, spirit, of Language

not graspable, yet you can get        the graspable snippets, which are just

the FEEL of it, can experience it -        conceptualization, which are just

to know this is to know a language        interpretations; diachrony itself, as a

from the inside, i.e, to be a living                concept, is not true diachrony; the essence

speaker of the living language,                        of synchrony is that it is a concept, not

to be truly fluent in it                                                the known itself

universals                                        particulars/the realm of becoming/illusion/


grammar theories = attempts to                the “sweepingness” of the theory must “scoop

conceptualize by making the most                up” the most data/partiuclars to be the most

general and sweeping concepts                        truth-like; this is the process of inferring

possible - the most general that can                        the diachrony from the synchronic bits,

stand without contradicting anything                            i.e, an attempt to overcome the conceptual

known is the best - but not because                                    by means of making a more open concept

it itself is true - as a concept it cannot

ever be true - but because as being

being the more general, is the most

encompassing, and therefore the

most universal-like, and hence the

most truth-like; this theory can only

ever be figurative

cannot be grasped/conceptualized,        synchrony = conceptualization,

but can be gotten the feel of,                        and thus only an interpretation

known through getting in touch                            of the part of a gigantic unknown

with something from the unconscious,                        whole


                                                                        prescriptive grammar is an IMPOSITION

                                                                                on the inner living organism of

                                                                                        language, with a conceptualization of

                                                                                                what must be imposed in something

                                                                                                    being concept, that’s alive, and comes

                                                                                                from something broader than

                                                                                    consciousness, from behind it,

                                                                from the source of words... the mind.

NOTE: I ask here that you return to the section on LEXEMES AND PHILOSOPHY and (re-)read the second part of it. Thank you.