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Very interesting post... I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that words refer to world events. For instance the words "my dog" refer to what "my dog" typically looks like as she appears in my visual field. As these visual experiences occur day by day they form and shape my invariant "my dog" memory, composed of not one but a group of past visual experiences. I have an idea on how words might "call up" word meaning memories and vice-versa. What if both a word symbol and its corresponding experience (in this case a visual experience) were stored in the cortex as a particlar pattern of neural oscillation. In addition, both memories (the word symbols "my dog" + the visual memory of my dog) form a larger pattern of neural oscillation. Thus, the activation of the word symbol memory "my dog" would activate the larger memory (NO pattern). This larger memory would in turn trigger the remainder of that memory, including the memory of what my dog looks like. Or conversely, the sight of one's dog would trigger both the invariant memory of what my dog looks like as well as the "my dog" word memory -- again via this associative neural oscillation mechanism. Underlying this semantic retrival "model" is the idea that subjective experience, from a third person neural perspective, takes the form of neural oscillation patterns. Each and every stored experience (word symbol experience or word meaning experience) takes the form of a particular "NO" pattern. NO patterns to me are the perfect mechanism for storing and (quickly) retrieving associated memories from the neural substrate. Since both memories and NO patterns are associative in nature, perhaps memories ARE neural oscillation patterns. If so, then this would explain how a word could "call up" a past perceptual experience, and vice versa.
Commented Apr 12, 2011 on
Larger Than Ourselves
Larger Than Ourselves
Symbols can be "pure," referring to things within the symbolic system or that can be "applied," related to the real world. How did speakers and listeners come to understand that linguistic symbols are not pure, but refer to a reality beyond themselves? One of the big mysteries of language is al...
I think its well-put that language is essentially a "cooperative sharing of perceptions." In the writing of a sentence, the writer attempts to convey a thought, in hopes that those word symbols will re-create that same thought in the reader's mind. As Fish and Bolles point out, this thought often takes the form of a given perceptual scenerio, and the actions that occur within this scenerio. I also liked the point that words don't make sentences. Rather, it is the underlying thoughts/shared perceptions that drive the choosing of words, and the construction of sentences. My view is that what ultimately drives the construction, or interpretation, of language (i.e. spoken or written word symbols) is memories. These memories are often generalized perceptual memories. For example, the sentence "The ball jumped up and bit Sally." makes no sense not because this is an incorrect gramatical construct, but because the image conveyed by this sentence does not match the reader's or writer's perceptual memories of the actions balls normally engage in. My take on semantics generally is that word meaning is dependent largely upon the activation of the writer's, and then the reader's, perceptual memories. In other words, the rules of universal grammer (in my opinion) march to a stronger tune -- the rules of universal human experience (more specifically, a person's generalized perceptual memories).
Commented Feb 1, 2011 on
Here’s Your Sentence
Here’s Your Sentence
One thing Noam Chomsky gets right is his emphasis on the sentence. With a newspaperman for a father, I've always placed emphasis on the paragraph, but I'm persuaded that Chomsky's focus is right. The sentence is what makes language more than the cooperative sharing of perceptions. As usual ,...
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