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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Symbol Usage Date Pushed Back | Main | One Year On »

Comments

Michael

Thanks for this very illuminating post.
Do you plan to extend the discussion of Hurford's paper to further posts? I think his viewpoint resonates nicley with what you wrote about Speech as a means of directing and sharing attention and conscious awareness in several fo your earlier posts. I think it would be interesting if you further explored the similarities between Hurford's proposals, your own concept of the function of speech, and Michael Tomasello's (and others) theory of "shared intentionality".

Thanks,

Michael.
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BLOGGER: It is very unusual for me to have plans for this blog. I have been posting to this site for a little over a year now, and when I started I had no idea how it would go. I was quite unsure that there would be enough material to keep going. Yet I have been able to plug along and certain themes have emerged, one of the most important being that language works by directing a listener’s attention hither and yon. Since Hurford seems to say that mammals have been thinking for millions of years by privately directing their attention to this or that phenomenon, I assume I will have further occasion to mention it.

gorgo marchetti

What Bolles reports here is very intriguing. “One kind of mental predicate serves as given background information about the thing concerned, while the other represents new information about it”. This two-part structure reminds me of what I have always held to be the one of the fundamental basis of thought (if not “the” fundamental one).

Think about (one of) the simplest instances of thought (by thought I mean here the general possibility of relating two elements): noun+adjective (e.g., “red flower”). To be able to form this very simple thought, you need a “background” or “topic” (call it whatever you want, anyway, something on which you can mentally, perceptually build something else). Then, on this basis you can perform all the (mental, perceptual, etc.) operations you want.

In my opinion, the necessary operations for this two-part structure are:

a) focusing on something (say, X, that is, the topic)
b) keeping mentally present, by means of memory, X so that
c) the next (attentional, perceptual, mental, etc.) operations are performed using X as their basis or boundary

In this way you get not only the noun-adjective relation, but also some other very general and common form of relations such as subject-verb, verb-object.

According to my analyses, the fundamental mechanism that makes this two-part structure possible is a sensory-motor one.

Giorgio Marchetti

Robin Shannon

Firstly, as I understand it (though I do not, myself, deal very much with syntax) is the evidence for the claim that nouns and verbs are not universal is equivocal at best. Certainly there have been several alternate analyses of the evidence put forward which seem to be more generally accepted than the original claims.

Secondly the idea that language is not strictly propositional is hardly new or controversial. The work of Giles Fauconnier may be of particular interest in terms of the new information-old information division you are talking about here (although many other research paridigms also make great use of this eg. LFG, DA, DFG, etc, etc.)

anni

wat a stupid website

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