• Enrique
    32
    I'm hoping to get some good discussion and insight on the evolution of language. I have basic ideas about the subject expressed in what follows, but I'd like to get some greater detail that might give me more clarity. If any of you guys can spot major errors in this account, or if you agree, elaborate on some aspect of it, that would be great! Or if you want to amicably argue with me, that's fine too.


    The nature of language became entwined with and transformed by technical concepts when it transitioned from representing concepts to someone to representation of something, an object or some such phenomenon in the environment, at which time the endpoint of verbal communication surpassed libido discharge, concordant mutuality or satisfactory behavioral responses and became a matter of correctness. Precision language probably began with quantitative measurement, the standardized approximation of dimensions with detailed visual gauging, hands, feet or mensurational devices, which gave objects more than just conceptual meanings, but also a sort of disanimate conceptual structure, a materialistically causal identity. This type of structural conceptualizing, due to the relatively constant gravitation and additional environmental properties of the planet, proved extremely practical technologically, and materialistic thought implicitly, perhaps even unconsciously, became the foundation for managing the logistics of population growth and eventually civilization, in settlement planning, management of the food supply, and elsewhere.

    Soon after the dawn of civilization, technical thinking had ascended to primacy as the fulcrum of human life, though still infused with many spiritual notions, and as writing became a form of speech, expressing the phonetics of verbalization in addition to its initial role as a pictorial schematic for systematically inculcating, inducing and preserving choice conceptual meanings, language grew to be more of a reflective mirror for the non-verbal problem-solving mentality of perception, observation and conception, at least in some social contexts. This conversion of precision thinking, evolutionarily synergized by quantification of the environment, into precision talking seems to have waxed institutional, formative to the construction of overall culture, with the filiation of literature as aesthetic narrative myth into the literary genre of philosophical narrative. Painstakingly crafting speech into lengthy writings provided a venue not only for richer symbolic meaning, but also for the ponderous cerebrations necessary in new efforts to effectively translate the partially unconscious and also at this time unregimented spontaneity of the non-verbal thought process involved in managing material causality into the non-precisional natural language that had organically evolved for both an aesthetic of striking immediacy and, by modern academic standards, a crudely "good enough" representing of concepts, not as an analytical instrument.

    Basic grammatical language resembling that of modern humans had likely coexisted in some way with perception, conception, observation and socializing for more than a hundred thousand years prior to the invention of writing, participating to some degree with the natural stimulation of concepts in fellow minds during communicative interactions, but though its forms coordinate with thought, the core mutations of pure natural language unfold partly independent of cognition, and features of verbal expression can transform rapidly whenever populations separate or a distinct sub-culture develops, even one as small-scale as a single family. Words blend, vocabularies expand or contract, sound production undergoes all kinds of phenotypic drifting, a phenomenon external to the baseline meanings and functions imposed by ecological adaptiveness and beyond the structural constraints of single minds or society at any given time. Furthermore, speech offers a large dose of pleasure and entertainment for many human individuals regardless of its particular content, attributable to a whole host of causes, and so it can on occasion traject towards maximized linguistic trait expression, its full capacity, via the naturally selecting impact of affect satisfaction and recreational bonding within relatedly emerging frameworks of both social norms and assertings of social distinctiveness. Simply put, humans like language, and so behavior often selects for its enhancement as it evolves.

    The most unique characteristic of human language is its creative potential, for the possible formulations accessible to human willpower by way of speech acts are practically unlimited. Humans not only take pleasure in language as a hub of self-meaning and identity, but variability in the instantiation of these highly conceptual pleasures is inexhaustible, and so speech provides a conduit to the diversifying of intentional behavior. Communicators innovate expression, these novel expressions continually shake up social arrangements in a way that gives not only verbalization but also the full-bodied experiencing of new thoughts, feelings and instincts a niche, and human nature reinvents itself as it constructs its linguistic architectures, a social phenotype infinitely accommodating to behavioral phenotypes. If we can say anything, we can at least in principle be anything we can want to be.

    Of course behavior is influenced by many additional causes besides linguistic formativity, factors of environment, brain structure, perception, most of which are at least fractionally unconscious and which all involve constraints: what we want to be exists within boundaries partially outside of our purposeful control. So even as we intentionally create our world by arranging, rearranging, remaking society with the license afforded by our love of and tolerance for language use, our enriching cultures of behavior, even sometimes extremely new niches, can ossify into conventional rigidity, becoming foundational to human life, so that certain behavioral/cognitive archetypes such as the shaman, the warrior, the chief, the artist, the healer, take effect as human society with its linguistically platformed malleability evolves, supra-self psychological phenotypes traditionalized in categories of practice - war, religion, authority, etc.


    If anyone troubled to read that, tell me your opinions on this topic!
  • SophistiCat
    866
    The origin and development of language is a subject that has been extensively studied by linguists. Do you have any familiarity with that field, or are you trying to develop your own theory of scratch?
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    I’ve never offered this before on a forum. Skype?
  • iolo
    150
    I've read the various theories about language-development, and I think we'll never know. What I think is unarguable is that the various languages entrap us in archaic thought-world and make it extremely difficult to get out. Take the world 'I' for a start, and think how that concept shapes so much of our thought.
  • Enrique
    32
    Trying to figure out from a historical angle how culture, scientific theory, technical language and natural language intersect. Got some ideas from a well-educated friend, but I don't have any background in linguistics to talk about it in the formal terminology, been developing my own philosophical terms. My current viewpoint probably comes from a mixture of Nietzsche, Jung, Chomsky, Saussure, and Darwinian theory of evolution. As far as the current paradigm, don't have any knowledge of that area.
  • Enrique
    32
    If you guys want to get a better idea of where I'm coming from, give my blog a read at medium.com/@enrique5043 or search Eric Wizenhizen to find my page. Hope its not obtrusive to promote, thought it might lead to some good discussion either at this site or mine. If you want to comment on any of my blog posts, go for it!
  • OmniscientNihilist
    133


    when your see and realize that language doesnt actually exist then you will unlock the secret to what intelligence really is.

    then you will be able to create real artificial intelligence. which will take over humanity as the next step in the evolution of the universe
  • Enrique
    32
    Without language and academic discourse there is no cumulative or deconstructive, rational history and we're in a dark age.

    There's no point in inventing an A.I. that takes over humanity, we should optimize humanity instead. The irrationality induced freakouts of humans aren't any worse than an uncertainty induced freakout by a maxed-out A.I. Human enlightenment is better than any system of arbitrary, myopic, unrealistic rules to which A.I. can obligate the planet's future. I'm not kissing A.I.'s virtual butt as it munches the constitution and enslaves the species. lol
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    The nature of language became entwined with and transformed by technical concepts when it transitioned from representing concepts to someone to representation of something, an object or some such phenomenon in the environment, at which time the endpoint of verbal communication surpassed libido discharge, concordant mutuality or satisfactory behavioral responses and became a matter of correctness.Enrique

    What?
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    Precision language probably began with quantitative measurement, the standardized approximation of dimensions with detailed visual gauging, hands, feet or mensurational devices, which gave objects more than just conceptual meanings, but also a sort of disanimate conceptual structure, a materialistically causal identity.Enrique

    Why ‘probably’?
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    Soon after the dawn of civilization, technical thinking had ascended to primacy as the fulcrum of human life, though still infused with many spiritual notions, and as writing became a form of speech, expressing the phonetics of verbalization in addition to its initial role as a pictorial schematic for systematically inculcating, inducing and preserving choice conceptual meanings, language grew to be more of a reflective mirror for the non-verbal problem-solving mentality of perception, observation and conception, at least in some social contexts.Enrique

    Opinion expressed as fact. Where is your working? What are these ‘spiritual notions’?
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    This conversion of precision thinking, evolutionarily synergized by quantification of the environment, into precision talking seems to have waxed institutional, formative to the construction of overall culture, with the filiation of literature as aesthetic narrative myth into the literary genre of philosophical narrative.Enrique

    An extremely important event I reckon. You don’t seem to talk about narratives prior to writing though. Why not?
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    Painstakingly crafting speech into lengthy writings provided a venue not only for richer symbolic meaningEnrique

    Richer? Why? I don’t think so. Baby and bath water
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    If we can say anything, we can at least in principle be anything we can want to be.Enrique

    That doesn’t follow at all.
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    I like how you’re coming at this topic, but you seem to gloss over several areas and leap ahead without explaining your ideas. Also, some of the sentences are needlessly complex. The first quote I read twice and then thought ‘why bother!’ If you don’t put the effort in to aspire toward clarity I won’t beat myself over my own head with your words under the assumption you know what you’re talking about.

    Note: have you heard of the man with no language?

    https://vimeo.com/72072873
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    Still makes me tear up. When you really think about this guy ... wow!
  • Enrique
    32
    Sushi, your exasperation is funny. I should say that the original post is a short excerpt from a single chapter in a more than three hundred page book I'm writing. My post lacks quite a lot of context. The use of terms may make minimal sense to someone who hasn't read what precedes, but I thought it might still get some analysis going.

    Let's see if I can roughly clarify the basic idea. At first human language was blurbing until you had satisfied affect and rudimentary functional needs. Then human functioning became more technological and conceptually sophisticated. Though we don't have indisputable proof, this development of technical practice probably coincides with increased application of mathematical intuition in structural proportioning, measuring and counting. For the human mind, reality began transforming from an effect of animate entities and their wills, the prehistoric belief in spiritual essences as evinced by mythical narrative, to a world of disanimate objects, materialistic causality with a degree of inert subordination to human purpose. Humans attempted to express these new materialistic notions with natural language, which altered speech so that it became more precise, detailed description of the complex properties of objects rather than either blurbs, basic manners, crude labeling, statements of extremely simple causality, impressing the girls, or begging Zeus to spare you. Once writing became phonetic, a form of speech, the first literature was epic narrative, symbolic of a culture's values and steeped in ancient myth, Homer's Illiad is a good example. Eventually, meticulous reflections performed by increasingly philosophical authors advanced technicalizing common language into a specialized discourse, the first terminologically innovative and then academic discussions of the essential principles that make material objects and their behaviors predictable. This created a tension with spiritual traditions, and philosophers have perennially tried to harmonize concepts of matter and soul, ever since early antiquity, stretching language while seeking to make it work as an account of total reality, as a synthesis of technological, naturalistic, spiritual and ontological concepts.

    If we can say how to do it, we can do it if we really want to, but we are constrained to the instinctual, unconscious, rational, fulfilling and not self-defeating, that's what I mean. We're not so good at the not self-defeating part.

    Hopefully that makes more sense.
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    Too much jargon, not enough substance. No one will bother reading this book if it looks anything like this. You seem to have outlined oral tradition as non-technical and somewhat minimalist too (completely untrue). If you haven’t meant to outline oral tradition in that manner compared to written narratives then you’ve done a very poor job of showing this.

    Already I have serious doubts about your knowledge in this area and your capacity to articulate your point with any precision.

    Not exasperated? This area had fascinated me for decades.
  • Enrique
    32
    Sushi, I strongly disagree with your use of the word outline, my post is in paragraph form. Your notion of substance is rather vague, I profoundly doubt your ability to articulate exactly what kind of content would satisfy you. I'm disappointed, I expected more precision. lol j/k
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    What are you actually talking about here? Are you talking about the evolution of the brain? We can see that many other animals possess various aspects of human language - assuming you’ve done some research into cognitive neurosciences - yet we’re different in that we hold many different ‘lingual’ capacities in one brain where other sections of the animal kingdom have more splintered pieces.

    If you’re just referring to something along the lines of cultural ‘memes’ (Dawkins) in combination with an innate language facility (Chomsky) then where and when are you talking at this progression from lower to high contrast language? From a biological perspective we can view the progress of human development reasonably well by observing how children acquire language - Refer to link above about some commonly held misconceptions about language acquisition and age.

    What I find interesting is how feral children brought back into civilization cannot fully acquire what we colloquially refer to as ‘language’, yet the Mexican guy (the man with no language) could acquire language at the age of 28. This, I believe, indicates that much of what we call ‘language’ is more about our naturalistically acquired relation to the world about us. Meaning girls brought up by wolves in a jungle grew up in a world where ‘tables’, ‘windows’ and other such mundane items of human civilization, were absent from their conceptual world (the wolf world). The guy from Mexico was fully embedded in the human civilized world so he had a conceptual, non-worded, understanding of the functionality of various mundane items such as ‘tables’, ‘windows’ and ‘chairs’, so he was able to bind these lived experiences with symbolic meaning.

    One particular interest if mine is the role of memory, language, narrative and writing. Oral traditions are quite capable of holding encyclopedic knowledge. We’ve become more and more reliant upon physically recorded data over the eras though.
  • Enrique
    32
    These are the ways of defining human language that I immediately think of: grammar, vocabulary, phonetics, aesthetics, rationale, meaning, function, and of course they are all classifiable as a mental process, so understanding largely depends on theories of brain structure, cognition and behavior, though I think studying written records of historical memes along with cultural imagination can be revealing also. My basic knowledge leads me to believe that the forms of human grammar are constrained to a relatively narrow set of possibilities. When humans speak, they are riffing within the bounds of some structural parameters, and I think these parameters are more like a facet of thought's intuitive frame of reference than a strictly linguistic construction as sentence diagramming and the study of literature might incline theory towards alleging. I doubt grammar is a completely distinct functional module, a purely symbolical arbitrariness separate from thought, but represents in some measure the essence of how humans conceive the world. Grammatical structure is perhaps one of the conditions for higher level thought.

    This could certainly be disproved, but my opinion is that every facet of language and thought besides grammar involves extreme plasticity, to the extent that the whole duration of the universe's existence cannot exhaust the current possibilities for substance/consciousness instantiation, let alone the total possibility. This assumes the concept of totality even refers to a reality, as Aristotle's prime mover might be an artifact of our earthbound intuitions, an illusion.

    I agree that the encyclopedic potential of the human mind is astounding. Some people can memorize hundreds or thousands of pages of literature. I think this ability is closely tied to written language though, its more possible to remember hours of writing than hours of speech. This is maybe one of the reasons why myth exists, errors continually entered orally transmitted narratives until these stories did not reference what anyone had ever experienced.

    Human development is a fascinating topic that I haven't studied much. I think it would be nice if a more Freudian paradigm came back into the mainstream instead of the force average behavior paradigm. The mind has some extremely unintuitive qualities that radically defy common sense until closely analyzed.
  • Gregory
    144
    Wittgenstein seemed to refute the idea that there are words that can't be translated between languages. We can't get into each others heads and know how it feels to use a certain idea. However, we can get a general sense of what something means, and this would apply to all languages.
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    I think this ability is closely tied to written language though, its more possible to remember hours of writing than hours of speech. This is maybe one of the reasons why myth exists, errors continually entered orally transmitted narratives until these stories did not reference what anyone had ever experienced.Enrique

    Look up Lynne Kelly.
  • Enrique
    32
    Goes to show that typical modern mentality isn't really much different from prehistory in some ways.

    Maybe this hunter-gatherer knowledge was empirical in a sense, but I would doubt it was what we would call scientific. We have theories describing mechanistic laws of nature, while prehistoric humans had mythical narratives, and there is a categorical difference between these views, though apparently a comparable mnemonic role. Its like Enlightenment Deism vs. polytheistic Animism, the further back you go in human history, the more spiritual entities are seen as modifying the essence of natural order. Spirituality has never vanished as the technical progresses because spiritual phenomena are real, but the theory-based design of a doppler radar evinces a completely different perspective and mutational dynamic than orally transmitted myth, even though they are addressed to some of the same events.

    Maybe we could compare ancient and modern thinking by saying that in both cases the degree to which belief is oriented towards supernatural or functional explanation depends on context, and though society is still a combination of both outlooks, the arrangement of contexts has changed. Churches can be sacred spaces like the caves of prehistoric France, and the technological mindset has expanded from a relatively narrow array of everyday practices situated in a fundamentally spiritual cosmos to the introduction of a specialized class that spends almost all of its time conceiving nature in exclusively technical ways and educating the population to conceptualize much more mechanistically. Scientific theorizing is not in contradiction with spirituality in general, it is a crucial professional context of practical non-spiritual problem-solving.

    Maybe the reason science and religion are always in such conflict is because they tend to become similarly corrupt or predatory, and are more than willing to acknowledge the hypocrisies of their traditional rival while refusing to recognize their own. Superficial rancor to keep humans fighting as a diversion from making power structures and institutions more sane, ethical and fair I suppose. Ooh, big rebel maybe lol
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    My point was they stored an encyclopedic knowledge equal to, well ... an encyclopedia. Kelly herself didn’t believe them until she tried it for herself.

    It is fairly clear, and partly in line with your thinking, that as mnemonic techniques were replaced by more concrete means of passing on information, and or cultures/landscapes changed, that information became distorted and the emotional content carried on in the form of deities - a key function of all mnemonic techniques is the need for vibrant emotional imagery.

    I’m not denying for a second that writing was a huge paradigm shift for humanity. I would argue against writing being the only means of accurately passing down information from one generation to the next. We’re far more orientated toward narrative functions within emotional laden themes than to abstract symbolism.
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    To add, I think a thorough investigation into the deaf children of Nicaragua would help you define what you mean by ‘evolution of language’. It is literally the only instance we know of where a language was created from scratch. Some of the studies done there show quite clearly that in its early forms (first generation speakers) the adults were unable to hold two abstract concepts in focus at the same time! They were able to learn from others as the language developed. What my big question here is is whether the new generation of speakers developed the ability to combine abstract concepts independently or, and I believe this to likely be the case, they simply imported these concepts from existing deaf languages.

    This presents us, if my belief in the development of these complex sentences was imported, with an unanswered question of how long it takes a newly born language to develop the ability to combine complex abstract concepts. If my initial belief is wrong then we will know that it merely takes a generation to develop such combinations - making this ‘ability’ essentially innate to all humans yet minutely dependent upon continuous and playful interaction between individuals. This would then bring me to ask how many people speaking a language is ‘optimal’ for developing these complex combinations.

    Then there is the fascinating case of the Piraha language and its extremely fluid lexicon (if you can call it that!)
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    Maybe this hunter-gatherer knowledge was empirical in a sense, but I would doubt it was what we would call scientific.Enrique

    Roughly speaking it was. Animals were/are divided into categories in much the same way as other more ‘scientific’ cultures would have recorded in writing/illustrations. It’s clear enough from what Kelly reports that it was more than mere necessity that led to these investigations. They recorded knowledge out of pure curiosity about animal/insect anatomy because humans are curious creatures.

    I wouldn’t say their level of knowledge and classification would differ a great deal from ancient Greece in the amount of accumulated information about categories of flora and fauna - there is, quite obviously, no ‘written’ hard evidence for this.
  • Enrique
    32
    Then in what sense did hunter-gatherers believe their myths?
  • I like sushi
    1.7k
    What are you talking about?
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