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Generative Oscillation

A Cognitive Model for the Emergence of Language

 

Research Material for a discontinued PhD

DRAFT COPY ONLY

NOT READY FOR PRINT PUBLICATION

 

Thorold May

University of Melbourne

2004

 

 

Abstract: The GO model proposes a co-generative view of the emergence of language. Most conventional linguistics models conceive of language as a representational system of symbols which refer to events, either mental or external to the organism. This representational function is said to motivate the linguistic system and (depending upon the linguistic model) largely control its form. The GO (Generative Oscillation) model proposed here recognizes the representational role of language. However it notes that as the mental linguistic system itself becomes efficiently organized, it creates an internal logic and drive of its own. To some extent this internally motivated linguistic system is conceived to override the external motivation to represent another reality. Since the internal linguistic system is dynamic and generative, it may give rise to linguistic output which seems strange in an inter-human communicative context (or even within the reflective mind of the creator). Thus while the external communicative context can become a constraint on unmotivated non-representational "internal language", it might not eliminate it. The Generative Oscillation model proposes that actual language production is an oscillating compromise between the representational function of language and the mental "language bot" itself (i.e. an internal self-organizing system) which is generating language strings just because that is what language language bots do. As far as I know, the Generative Oscillation Model, or anything like it, had not been suggested before in linguistics at the time of writing. Some conventional linguists may find it a bit "off the wall".

 

 

note 1 : As the Generative Oscillation Model study progressed, it seemed unlikely that most supervisors would endorse this kind of theorizing in a PhD thesis, which was one reason for my decision to withdraw from the doctoral candidature that initiated it (I later obtained another PhD in an entirely different area). However, the general paradigm could well be quite productive. Many of the artefacts used for explanation were a kind of thought experiment, and expected to be discarded or modified later. I found this technique quite useful for navigating uncharted ideas (as many other thinkers have done in the past), but of course such constructs essentially inhabit a private world in the initial stages, and can only be made persuasive as they are gradually organized into a coherent system of argument tied the the known world. Readers are therefore forewarned to expect a strange ride, but also invited to dabble in the giddy enterprise of explaining the inner emergence of human language.

 

My present views (2012) about some elements of this theory (such as it is) have evolved considerably. For example, recent work on neural networks, and speculation in chaos/complexity theory, leads me to a much more nuanced view of "encapsulation" as discussed here.

 

note 2 : The early chapters on the GO model are heavily influenced by one particular book: Varela, Thompson & Rosch 1991 The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science & Human Experience, which sparked many of my own ideas. A mature study would obviously require greater referencing depth. The more conventionally linguistic later chapters are not yet fully integrated with GO, and some are little more than outlines.

 

note 3 : This document is about 50,000 words. It was work done towards a PhD in Cognitive Linguistics at the University of Melbourne, Australia (part-time) between mid-1990 and 1994. The research was eventually allowed to lapse for a number of reasons. The original thesis topic was Formulas, Repetition, Substitution & Ellipsis in Discourse Organization: the Limits of Creativity in Language. Research led to the present model.

 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Introduction // Chapter 1 The Emergence of Language in a Neural Network // Glossary for Chapter 1 // The Emergence of Language in a Neural Network // 1.1 Historical perspectives on language and mind // 1.2 Cognitive Science since 1942 // 1.3 Co-evolution in natural systems // 1.4 Biological brains, the environment; emergent worlds // 1.5 Repetition, sensitization // 1.6 Inclinations to action, habit // 1.7 Mind, idea, self // 1.8 Free will, Buddhist philosophy, cognitive science, remaking the self to re-examine nature // 1.9 Some consequences of mind-body dualism // 1.10 Non-representational patterns // 1.11 Intrinsic design and the applications of language // 1.12 Language defined as a representational system // 1.13 Language defined as a non-representational system //

 

Chapter 2 Artefacts of the GO Model // Glossary for Chapter 2 // Artefacts of the GO Model // 2.1 The parsing of perceptual frames for simultaneous processing // 2.2 Sequential, decision-directed processing // Iconic spaces, operators and processes in the GO model // 2.3 The Assembly Plane // 2.4 G-vortices // 2.5 Ard-ents and mord-ents // 2.6 Ard-ents and the genesis of intelligence // 2.7 Generalization, symbolization, categorization // 2.8 G-ripples // 2.9 Topics // 2.10 Attractors (dynamic systems attractors) //2.11 Harmonic resonance attractors // 2.12 Linguistic Harmonic Resonance Attractors (HRAS) // 2.13 Emergent g-vortices from competing g-ripples and perceptual frames // 2.14 The plane of conscious imagination //

 

Chapter 3 Aspects Of Repetition // Glossary to Chapter 3 //Aspects Of Repetition // 3.1. Introduction // 3.2 The concept of repetition // 3.3 Repetition as evidence: three perspectives // 3.4 Repetition as evidence: the scale of magnification // 3.5 Past studies of repetition in linguistics // 3.6. Uses of repetition in this study //3.7 Repeating entities as cohesive devices // 3.8 Relations among cohesive elements // 3.9 Cohesion and discourse presupposition //

 

Chapter 4 G-ripples // Glossary for Chapter 4 // G-ripples in the GO environment // 4.1 The Preservation of G-Ripples // 4.2 The Migration of G-Ripples // 4.3 The Boundary Properties of G-Ripples // 4.4 The Status of G-Ripples in Language Generation // Repeating Entities : general properties // 4.5. G-ripple variation // 4.6 Global G-ripples // 4.7. Local G-ripples // 4.8 G-vortex and g-ripple modification // 4.9 Local versus global repetition //

 

Chapter 5 G-vortices: perceptual and processing frames for cognition // Glossary for Chapter 5 // G-vortices: perceptual and processing times for cognition // 5.1 The life and death of a G-vortex // 5.2 The segmented nature of language generation // 5.3 G-vortices differentiated from intonation units // 5.4 Necessary properties of G-vortices // 5.5 Where do G-vortices come from? // 5.6 Visual perception as a template for the GO model // 5.7 The formative stages of a G-vortex // 5.8 The point of genesis for a G-vortex // 5.9 Competition and the emergence of G-vortices // 5.10 Constituent incorporation into G-vortices // 5.11 The internal structure of G-vortices // 5.12 Generative output of G-vortices // 5.13 Generative breakdown // 5.14 The Monitor Rule Drive and Language Variation //

 

Chapter 6 Words and Meanings // Glossary to Chapter 6 // Words and Meanings //6.1 Size limits of repeating entities // 6.2 What does a word codify? // 6.3 The meaning of meaning // 6.4 Encapsulated meaning // 6.5 Of cats and other things //

 

Chapter 7 Phrasal Formulas & Language Routines // [This and subsequent chapters are not yet properly integrated into the GO model. TM 1994] // 7.1 Conditions for formulaic preservation //7.2 The indexal properties of formulas // 7.3 Formulas and native-like speech // 7.4 Routinized Language // 7.5 The locutionary and illocutionary consequences of routinization // 7.6 Formulaic language in dyadic exchange // 7.7 Gambits // 7.8 Routines in social context // 7.9 Signalling human relationships: the formulaic imperatives // 7.10 Self-image: formulas to keep a pattern of constant remembrance // 7.11 Formulaic language in traditional and modern societies // 7.12 The preservation of formulaic routines in aphasic behaviour // 7.13 The formulaic construction of written language //

 

Chapter 8 Frequency // 8.1 Frequency in Language // 8.2 Ratio of pre-patterned to invented phrases // 8.3 Frequency: a performance phenomenon ? // 8.4 Frequency of compliment forms and meanings // 8.5 High frequency words in formulas // 8.6 Statistical predictability Vs specific likelihood //

 

Chapter 9 Language Acquisition : Evidence for GO factors // 9.1 The Problem of Morphogenesis and a Linguistic Analogue // 9.2 Words versus Sentences // 9.3 Formulaic units and chunking in language acquisition //9.4 Formulaic language as an instrument of enculturation // 9.5 Generalization processes in language acquisition // 9.6 L2 Usage: code switching as evidence for g-vortices? //

 

Chapter 10 Idioms // 10.1 Psycholinguistic studies of idiom frequency //

 

Chapter 11 Substitution //

 

Appendix I Glossary of terms used in the GO model // Appendix II Degrees Of Encapsulated Meaning // Bibliography and References for the GO model // Footnotes /

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Generative Oscillation Model

 

Thorold May
Melbourne 2004

 

 

"All that is daemonic lies between the mortal and the immortal. Its functions are to interpret to men communications from the gods--commandments and favours from the gods in return for men's attentions--and to convey prayers and offerings from men to the gods. Being thus between men and gods the daemon fills up the gap and so acts as a link joining up the whole. Through it as intermediary pass all forms of divination and sorcery God does not mix with man; the daemonic is the agency through which intercourse and converse take place between men and gods, whether in waking visions or in dreams."

 

- The wise woman Diotima of Mantineia in Plato's Symposium

 

 

Introduction

 

The Generative Oscillation Model explores a dynamic tension between forces which shape the generation of language, and which ultimately control the evolution of linguistic systems themselves. Some of these forces are found in the internal dynamic of language systems themselves, and some in the co-evolutionary accommodation of linguistic systems with external environments. The totality is held to be subject to laws which control the emergence of order in complex dynamic systems : the so-called "order at the edge of chaos" postulated by Complexity Theory <1>.

 

The crux of enquiry in this thesis is the question of why linguistic meanings are encapsulated <2> semi-permanently at word level but, in general, not in more extended strings of text. It examines the properties of that restricted class of formulaic phrases which have acquired some of the characteristics of permanent encapsulation, and considers what distinguishes such phrases on the one hand from single words, and on the other hand from strings generated uniquely in particular contexts.

 

Early chapters develop the idea that language is an independent, organic growth, but possessing a propensity to correlate, chameleon-like, with features in other environments (thought, perception). This process is seen to be not inherently representational, hence not strictly constrained by those other environments, but rather as fairly indiscriminate in its matching tendencies (although outcomes are patterned). Processes at this level are taken to be largely autonomic and quite unconscious. The internal dynamic of the system encourages a proliferation of language which obeys phrase structure rules but which has only accidental social functions. It is almost "weed-like"<3>.

 

The countervailing force to organic growth in language is taken to be the conscious manipulation which can come with topic, goal and social context. These forces move intermittently to harness language into deliberately representational patterns. Language at this level is patterned by many hierarchies of normative rules. Such rules reflect not only conventional relationships between the systems of language and other systems, but also mimic contingent and intrinsic properties of those other systems. Thus a formal context will be mimicked by formal language, and so on.

 

There are properties inherent in the organic growth of language, particularly repetition, which encourage extended formulaic structure. Repetition, by enhancing neuronal connections, is a vehicle for the encapsulation of a certain kind of meaning: that where the calibration of relationships is autonomic and almost instantaneous. However, there are also constraints on the extent of encapsulated constituents in a single process, mainly to do with limitations on reliability or ease of recollection.

 

Words formularize a set of relationships at a single address (i.e. by a single label). Each word meaning finds some optimum level of specificity which correlates with discriminated phenomena in perception and recalled detail in memory. As a consequence, some general properties of words are determined by organic constraints within the cognitive system itself.

 

Not only organic, but representational pressure may exist for the development of phrasal formulas. That is, the demands of social communication also encourage in certain instances the formularization of whole phrases. Language which requires some social calibration to be interpreted is a common source of such formulas. Compliments are a good example; (how can we know the worth of a compliment unless the phrase which carries it has a familiar social value?).

 

Also, repetition has a representational as well as an organic role. In social terms, partial repetition can initiate conversational strategies which are more adventurous than formulaic phrases. It reaffirms a topic of discussion, thus laying the basis for interpreting fresh propositions about ideas and perceptions, as opposed to encapsulated formulas.

 

The outcome of competing pressures in the organic and representational roles of language is, at both the generative and performance levels, not a smooth, uninterrupted flow of language. It is a stream of semi-encapsulated units which appear in utterance as intonation units and which the GO model refers to in their processing stages as g-vortices. G-vortices are close relatives to the perceptual frames well known in experimental psychology <4>.

 

The GO model posits two types (or at least two extremes) of cognitive processing activity. One is autonomic and almost instantaneous. It applies to the kind of encapsulated relationships found in formulaic structures, and at certain threshold conditions, in g-vortices. The second kind of processing is more linear and deliberative. It applies to the organization of g-vortices, or ultimately of intonation units, into extended utterance.

 

The lumpiness of linguistic performance over time, stemming directly from the cycle of tension and resolution just discussed, gives rise to the notion of generative oscillation.

 

 

 

Chapter 1 The Emergence of Language in a Neural Network

 

Glossary

 

[Because the GO model expresses a new paradigm, new terms have often been the shortest route to minimizing ambiguity and short-circuiting preconceptions. The glossary at the beginning of each chapter is intended to prime the reader for what follows. There is also a combined glossary at the end of the dissertation. Of course, many older expressions with historical baggage are also used. Where possible their intended meaning is indicated in the glossary as well. Note however that the glossary is indicative rather than difinitive. Concepts are often expanded in subsequent chapters.]

 

action [1] in the GO model refers to patterned activity in the brain or elsewhere which may or may not have correlates in other "observable" behavior. Thus "thought" is a form of action in this analysis. Action is governed by a shifting hierarchy of habits, and it is the interplay of actions within this immensely complex hierarchy which conveys a sense of mind as the resources in the organism shift first to one action sequence, then another. This paradigm is familiar in Buddhist philosophies.

 

Buddhist philosophies [1] Many references are made in this study to concepts from Buddhist philosophies. There is no intent here to promote Buddhism as a theology (nor is the writer Buddhist). It is just that many of the most systematic, lucid, and (as it happens) long-lasting insights into the nature of human cognition have come out of this very old tradition. It has more to contribute in this field than the Aristotelian notions which have dominated Western thinking.

 

co-evolutionary relationship [1] A nervous system cannot change without changing its environment. An environment cannot change without affecting dependant nervous systems. There is not a priori an ordered world external to the individual, nor a priori an ordered mind imposing logic on a chaotic world. Rather, a nervous system together with its perceptual apparatus grows and emerges in concert with an environment. It is the relationship between them which has structure and continuity. This is a view familiar to ecologists.

 

free will [1] is really the unfettered (and often unplanned) exercise of inclinations to action (habits) within a person, without regard to influences from and likely reactions from the wider environment. In a sense, nothing is less free than "free will". The Buddhist influence on this characterization is acknowledged.

 

GO model [1] is a hypothetical inner human environment within which the systems of language might operate. This environment is moderately elaborate, but in the end is no more than a working construct. It enables a dialogue about that which cannot be observed directly. Its real function in this study is to facilitate the understanding of complex processes, such as how repetition impacts on creative activity in language generation.

 

habit [1] effectively a neuronal highway leading to action, is not merely the easiest response pattern; it is the only one which will be followed in the absence of countervailing habit (possibly at a different level of organization). The notion of habit here is borrowed from Buddhist philosophy.

 

idea [1] as an artefact to be located in a "mind", is a cultural construct. In the GO model, following the Buddhist concept, "idea" is a specific subset of inclinations to action. Mind comprises the general set of such inclinations to action (see below). Historically, there are many perceptions of "idea". For example, before the seventeenth century in Europe, "idea" was often a property of godhead, not of the individual;(Boulton 1991).

 

inclinations to action [1] arise from habitual associations, ultimately associations or pathways among neurones. In a single life-form, these associations emerge from the way in which experience reacts with inherited biological design. They are not necessarily beneficial to the organism. The balance of inclinations to action must be adequate however to preserve the functional sufficiency of the organism.

 

language [1] is regarded in the GO model as an intermediate system between an inner ecology and an outer environment. However, the ecology of the inner human domain is considered to be a subsystem and a continuum of the outer environmental systems. This is not intended to imply a crudely mechanistic view. Mind, language and the environment external to the person are all subject to the same natural laws. Mind/body dualism which implies a metaphysical component is rejected.

 

language generation [1] though amenable to some conscious control, seems, as it were, to be programmed to operate (spoken or unspoken), regardless of any immediate survival need. It is not so much an act of representation as of habitual pattern-making. This pattern making is apt to take as its momentary mould any set of salient perceptions close to hand, a phenomenon recognised in the extreme as "idle chatter". Perceptions can be drawn from outer senses like sight or hearing, or inner senses of memory, emotion and so on;(the notion of inner senses is borrowed from the skandha or "aggregates" of the Buddhist abhidharma (commentaries)).

 

mind [1] is taken in the GO model to be a code label for the organised totality of established inclinations to action in an individual; (see action).

 

mind/body dualism [1] The unanalyzed cultural orthodoxy in almost all modern scientific behaviour is that a human being exists in two domains : the mind and the body. This behaviour contrasts with stated orthodox belief and constitutes one of the great hypocrisies of the age.

 

mindfulness/awareness [1] [ref. Varela et al. 1991:21] "derives from the Buddhist method of examining experience call mindfulness meditation... Mindfulness means that the mind is present in embodied everyday experience; mindfulness techniques are designed to lead the mind back from its theories and preoccupations, back from the abstract attitude, to the situation of one's experience itself.. We believe that the Buddhist doctrines of no-self and of nondualism that grew out of this method have a significant contribution to make in the dialogue with cognitive science."

 

self [1] as named by an individual is his possessive identification of an exclusive mind-body.

 

thought [1] is a form of action in the GO model.

 

_______________________

 

 

 

 

The Emergence of Language in a Neural Network

 

The chapter has begun by stating a number of premises in the form of a glossary, some of which may at first seem unsupported by familiar canons of linguistics, philosophy or general science. However care is taken to develop linguistic argument within a wider context of philosophical thought. The main body of the thesis later will in fact show that most of the premises have respectable origins, and synthesize to express a view of linguistics which is viable and productive.

 

1.1 Historical perspectives on language and mind

 

This thesis is a study of discourse which will attempt to marry empirical observation with a particular philosophy of mind. No philosophy arises in a vacuum, and in this instance it will be necessary to spend some time to establish a context for the approach adopted.

 

Assumptions which have governed the study of language are very nearly those which have governed the orthodox medical view of human beings in each age, a conjunction which can sometimes help us to guess at linguistic scholarship even where records no longer exist <5>. It is clear that there have been many paradigm shifts in these medical and linguistic views.

 

The nature of linguistic phenomena, and the mechanisms proposed to explain them, were essentially inseparable from beliefs about the nature of life, mind and intelligence until the ascendancy of behaviourist and structuralist methodologies in the twentieth century. These latter traditions eschewed the idiosyncratic speculation that often passed for research in the nineteenth century and earlier. They pursued a useful fiction (with varying rigour) which was also a discipline. This fiction was that what occurred subjectively - that is, beyond observable verification - was no business of science. A very great deal of organised knowledge has derived from this empirical positivism.

 

Gradually an understanding has also arisen however that to interpret the relative significance of objective observations, systematic recourse must be had to rational, hence subjective, evaluations. Some scholars have gone further to argue that models built from rational insights must anticipate balanced enquiry in the public domain. It is necessary, in other words, to decide rationally which questions need to be answered. The objective answers which are found, it is realized, cannot be separated from the subjective questions in which they are sourced.

 

Most recently, particularly in some areas of cognitive science, the paradigm focus has come full circle back to the human mind, but the overall intellectual objectives are shifting subtly. Traditionally,

 

"..Western philosophy has been more concerned with the rational understanding of life and mind than with the relevance of a pragmatic method for transforming human experience." [Varela et al 1991:218].

 

Now there is at least a tentative assertion that the ecology of cognition can yield something to systematic enquiry. Further, the enquiry itself may influence what cognition can achieve, (and an echo with quantum mechanics here may not be accidental).

 

This paradigm shift has been only slightly acknowledged in the practice of mainstream linguistics, but if history is any guide then it is bound to become a major preoccupation. The dissertation which follows is a very preliminary foray into the kind of refocussing in linguistics that might be necessary where the study of mind is an integral part of the study of our greater environment.

 

Rousseau's eighteenth century view that language originally imitated "cries of nature" is scarcely taken seriously today. However the belief that language is a symbolic representation of nature is very nearly universal. It has accompanied an almost instinctive popular feeling that mind and body are different realms, differently governed. Much more will be said on this topic later.

 

Cognitive representation is often defended vigorously as functional <6>. Johnson-Laird (1993:xi)proposes that

 

"thinking normally leads from one mental representation of the world to another in order to prepare the individual for the demands of life."

 

The sense of a purposive guiding spirit is very strong in this kind of statement, but its ontology forms no part of the explanation. Rather, there is an appeal to apparently logical process:

 

"..a causal chain leads from an object, A, to a pattern of energy impinging on an organism's sensory organs; there devices convert the energy into nerve impulses, and from them the brain constructs a further pattern, A1, in an internal symbolic notation that can be used to control action. The representation will be useful to the extent that it co-varies with the state of the world ad makes explicit those aspects of it that are relevant to action. The organism can avoid an obstruction, A, by virtue of the representation A1."

 

Johnson-Laird acknowledges that there have been critics of the representational approach (Husserl 1929; Edelman 1987; Gibson 1966) but responds somewhat impatiently that:

 

"[xiii] ..sooner or later a functionalist must abandon the endless rearrangement of leaves in the philosophical album and enter the psychological laboratory to test a theory of thinking based on mental representations."

 

So real men must push buttons. Some other hands-on artificial intelligence researchers have arrived at very different conclusions. Thus Varela quotes the robotics specialist Rodney Brooks from the AI laboratory at MIT:

 

[Varela et al. 1991:208] "In this paper I ....argue for a different approach to creating Artificial Intelligence ... We have been following this approach and have built a series of autonomous mobile robots. We have reached an unexpected conclusion (C) and have a rather radical hypothesis (H):

 

C: When we examine very simple level intelligence we find that explicit representations and models of the world simply get in the way. It turns out to be better to use the world as its own model.

 

H: Representation is the wrong unit of abstraction in building the bulkiest part of intelligent systems."

 

Many results from the representational/symbolic program can in fact be utilised by researchers from any tradition. The danger of the symbolic game, as I will try to argue in later chapters, lies in the assertion of rigid cause and effect between a system and its environment. It is one thing to observe correlations, perhaps very strong ones, between, say, a worldly event and a piece of language. It is quite another thing to say that the language can only be explained as a representation of the worldly event, and (if you are a Johnson-Laird) go on to write a computational computer program to give this connection the appearance of logical necessity.

 

In pragmatics, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and the whole general area of so-called applied linguistics (basically language teaching), reference to "language functions" is very common. Early, influential lists of language functions were compiled by Roman Jakobson (1960) and Dell Hymes (1962). There have been many since. All of these derived from an implicitly representational view of language which also asserted that human speech behaviour was by definition purposive and survival oriented. In short it was (and is) a neo-Darwinian philosophy. I cannot think of a major second or foreign language learning curriculum in the last thirty years which has not adopted the same approach.

 

Well, how purposive is language? The answer turns very much on who is asking the question and why. If challenged, most people most of the time can give a socially acceptable reason for having uttered something. In fact this is part of being a competent speaker of the language. The machinery of English itself (for example) comes extremely well equipped with a repertoire of purposive constructions, deductive operators, and so on. It is therefore perfectly reasonable for language teachers, sociolinguists and others to talk about language functions. However there is another, more biological level at which questions of purposive behaviour can be raised.

 

An argument will be developed in this thesis that both our speech and our post-hoc rationalizations of it are an inescapable part of being the biological systems that we are. We cannot, as it were, avoid using language once we have acquired it, though it might be restricted at times to private thought. If language does grow unbidden in our minds as surely as hair grows on our eyebrows, then the purely derivative, "functional" explanations of general linguistics are going to have rather restricted explanatory power.

 

1.2 Cognitive Science since 1942

 

A mechanistic attempt to dispense with the mind/body divide has been implicit in much cognitive research since about 1942. Coinciding with the rise to prominence of digital computers there has been a view of the mind as essentially "software in the computer". Varela (1991:8) documents the cognitivist world-view:

 

"Cognitivism consists in the hypothesis that cognition - human cognition included - is the manipulation of symbols after the fashion of digital computers. In other words, cognition is mental representation: the mind is thought to operate by manipulating symbols that represent features of the world or represent the world as being a certain way. According to this cognitivist hypothesis, the study of cognition qua mental representation provides the proper domain of cognitive science, a domain held to be independent of neurobiology at one end and sociology and anthropology at the other."

 

There are ironies in this mechanistic approach, not least that the insistence on representation creates two worlds quite reminiscent of the original mind/body divide. The cognitivist view also became enmeshed with a fairly extreme version of representational linguistics, emanating particularly from the M.I.T. school:

 

[Varela et al 1991:40] "1956 was clearly the year that gave birth to cognitivism. During this year, in two meetings held at Cambridge and Dartmouth, new voices ( such as those of Herbert Simon, Noam Chomsky, Marvin Minsky, and John McCarthy) put forth ideas that were to become the major guidelines for modern cognitive science.. The central intuition behind cognitivism is that intelligence - human intelligence included - so resembles computation in its essential characteristics that cognition can actually be defined as computations of symbolic representations."

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) research, which was the natural home of cognitivism, has had a long gestation of high promise and low performance. The relative lack of practical success in the most ambitious areas of AI has led to a re-evaluation of the original cognitivist position. Again, it is explained very well by Varela (1991:8) <7>:

 

"In the past few years.. several alternative approaches to cognition have appeared. These approaches diverge from cognitivism along two basic lines of dissent:(1) a critique of symbol processing as the appropriate vehicle for representations, and (2) a critique of the adequacy of the notion of representation as the Archimedes point for cognitive science.

 

"The first alternative, which we call emergence .. is typically referred to as connectionism. This name is derived from the idea that many cognitive tasks (such as vision and memory) seem to be handled best by systems made up of many simple components, which, when connected by the appropriate rules, give rise to global behaviour corresponding to the desired task. Symbolic processing, however, is localised. Operations on symbols can be specified using only the physical forms of the symbols, not their meaning. Of course, it is this feature of symbols that enables one to build a physical device to manipulate them. The disadvantage is that the loss of any part of the symbols or the rules for their manipulation results in a serious malfunction. Connectionist models generally trade localized, symbolic processing for distributed operations (ones that extend over an entire network of components) and so result in the emergence of global properties resilient to local malfunction. For a connectionist a representation consists in the correspondence between such an emergent global state and properties of the world; it is not a function of particular symbols.

 

"The second alternative ... is born from a deeper dissatisfaction than the connectionist search for alternatives to symbolic processing. It questions the centrality of the notion that cognition is fundamentally representation. Behind this notion stand three fundamental assumptions. The first is that we inhabit a world with particular properties, such a length, colour, movement, sound etc. The second is that we pick up or recover these properties by internally representing them. 'the third is that there is a separate subjective "we" who does these things. These three assumptions amount to a stong, often tacit and unquestioned, commitment to realism or objectivism/ subjectivism about the way the world is, what we are, and how we come to know the world."

 

Varela, Thomson & Rosch (1991) are concerned to establish that a non-representational view of mind is a viable starting point for scientific activity:

 

[1991:9] "We propose as a name the term enactive to emphasize the growing conviction that cognition is not the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind on the basis of a history of the variety of action that a being in the world performs. The enactive approach takes seriously then, the philosophical critique of the idea that the mind is a mirror of nature but goes further by addressing this issue from within the heartland of science."

 

Perhaps the most potent consequence of an enactive approach to science is that a unidirectional paradigm of cause-and-effect is no longer adequate. Phenomena co-arise. The effect, as it were, shapes the cause, and vice versa. As Varela et al. put it

 

[1991:172] "the enactive approach consists of two points: (1) perception consists in perceptually guided action and (2) cognitive structures emerge from the recurrent sensorimotor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided...[173].. for the representationist, the point of departure for understanding perception is the information-processing problem of recovering pregiven properties of the world. In contrast, the point of departure for the enactive approach is the study of how the perceiver can guide his actions in his local situation. Since these local situations constantly change as a result of the perceivers' activity, the reference point for understanding perception is no longer a pregiven, perceiver-independent world, but rather the sensorimotor structure of the perceiver (the way in which the nervous system links sensory and motor surfaces.)"


1.3 Coevolution in natural systems

 

I accept the basic philosophical premises adopted by Varela et. al., that is, the critique of the representational view of cogntition, and the proposal of an "enactive" alternative. Giving that acceptance a clear rationale however, especially in the context of linguistics, and exploring its consequences will take considerable argument.

 

The analysis in this thesis takes another, rather difficult step beyond the notions of enactive cognition. I propose that the forms of language, non-representational in their essence, can be consciously put to representational purposes in a social context. From this possibility emerges an underlying tension between language as an organic growth and language as a representational instrument. Why does this occur? No doubt the consciousness (if we wish to call it that), which commands a representational manipulation of language at one level, is itself mutually engaged with the environment: "God's radio receiver" of the 17th century (a popular view of mind at that time) is seen to be a self-modifying transmitter too. However, one effect of its action is to create a sub-domain of language use, a sort of dependent system, which is amenable to social control.

 

In choosing to examine any natural system it is not sensible to assume that it evolved selectively to survive in a static environment. Let us take some easily understood examples:

 

(i) Plants, animals, and the ratio of unstable atmospheric gases each use have quite clearly coevolved with the earth's atmosphere; (oxygen in the atmosphere has increased from about one part in a million to one part in five in the presence of life forms. Over four billion years the sun's luminosity has increased by 50% yet the earth's temperature has remained constant within a few degrees, also as a result of atmospheric interaction with life forms).

 

(ii) There is evidence that the trichromatic ultraviolet sensitivity of bee vision and the colour in flowers coevolved (Lythgoe, J 1979).

 

(iii) Human language, human society and human biology seem to have also coevolved to an extent that make discussion of "nature Vs nurture" at species level quite sterile. Nature is not a constant.

 

 

1.4 Biological brains, the environment; emergent worlds

 

Biological brains and all systems with which they are associated are in a co-evolutionary relationship. A nervous system cannot change without changing its environment. An environment cannot change without affecting dependant nervous systems. There is not a priori an ordered world external to the individual, nor a priori an ordered mind imposing logic on a chaotic world. Rather, a nervous system together with its perceptual apparatus grows and emerges in concert with an environment. It is the relationship between them which has structure and continuity. This view will be familiar to ecologists, but sits uneasily with the traditions of analytic science.

 

1.5 Repetition, sensitization

 

Repetition, even accidental repetition within a nervous system sets up a kind of strengthened neural connection that multiplies the weighted possibility of even further perceived repetition along the same lines. That is, the system becomes sensitized to a certain pattern of stimulus, which in turn increases the likelihood that that stimulus will be responded to in an otherwise random bombardment of stimuli. The aural discrimination of phonemes in speech is an excellent example of such sensitization. Comparable, but unfamiliar sounds of similar duration are not discriminated (not "heard").

 

1.6 Inclinations to action, habit

 

 

Inclinations to action arise from habitual associations, ultimately associations or pathways among neurones (this is essentially a Buddhist description). In a single lifeform, these associations emerge from the way in which experience reacts with inherited biological design. They are not necessarily beneficial to the organism. The balance of inclinations to action must be adequate however to preserve the functional sufficiency of the organism. Habit, effectively a neuronal highway leading to action, is not merely the easiest response pattern; it is the only one which will be followed in the absence of countervailing habit (possibly at a different level of organization). Thus, the smoker will automatically reach for a cigarette unless competing inclinations, for example a generalized but potent inclination to self-preservation, intervene.

 

1.7 Mind, idea, self

 

"Mind" is taken in this discussion to be a code label for the organised totality of established inclinations to action in an individual. An "idea" would be a specific subset of such inclination to action. Action here refers to patterned activity in the brain or elsewhere which may or may not have correlates in other "observable" behavior. Thus "thought" is a form of action in this analysis; (once again, a Buddhist notion). An "inclination to action" in such a paradigm could be rephrased as "a tendency to form certain associations or patterns". Action is governed by a shifting hierarchy of habits, and it is the interplay of actions within this immensely complex hierarchy which conveys a sense of mind as the organism shifts resources first to one action sequence, then another. In such a context it makes little sense logically to talk of a mind-body dualism: both are ways of viewing a single emergent macro-system.

 

Similarly, "idea" as an artefact to be located in a "mind", is a cultural construct, and by no means universal. For example, before the seventeenth century in Europe, "idea" was often a property of godhead, not of the individual; (Boulton 1991). A human being in this schema was a sort of radio transmitter and largely an automaton for the will of God (or occasionally for evil spirits). Such a belief is still widespread. The consequences of competing views on this matter are profound for any society.

 

The mystical sects of most religions have always expressed humans as captive agents of another intelligence. The possible levels of captivity are also almost exactly represented in designs for computer networking: from the utterly enslaved dumb terminal, to quasi-autonomous machines dependent upon a central server, to exchange networks in which independent machines are facilitated by a universal network protocol. The copyright on an "idea" in each of these paradigms clearly varies, and with that goes a whole range of views on ultimate personal responsibility.

 

No matter how carefully constructed the arguments are on the topic of mind/body however, personal beliefs about it remain tenaciously resistant to change. In both Eastern and Western philosophies it is commonly taken that the naming of "self" by an individual is his possessive identification of an exclusive, persistent mind/body. Thus any threat to that individual's hierarchy of habits is a threat to self and will be resisted fiercely.

 

The disjunction between private belief and intellectual argument is sharply marked on questions of human self-identity. In a way, the intellectual argument was won long ago:

 

[Varela et al 1991:59] ".. all of the reflective traditions in human history - philosophy, science, psychoanalysis, religion, meditation - have challenged the naive sense of self. No tradition has ever claimed to discover an independent, fixed, or unitary self within the world of experience. Let us give the voice for this to David Hume's famous passage: "for my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular expression or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but perception.""

 

[60] "We believe that many non-Western (even contemplative) traditions, and all Western traditions, deal with this contradiction [the elusive self] by turning away from it, refusing to confront it, a withdrawal that can take one of two forms. The usual way is simply to ignore it .."

 

This dilemma is confronted directly in Buddhist philosophy, where the struggle to accept the perceived non-reality of self is a major part of Buddhist practice. Drawing on Buddhist traditions, Varela, Thompson & Rosch mount a quite persuasive argument that by learning to discipline the human mind in a principled way which involves subduing illusions of selfhood, one can in fact analyse many of mind's important properties. This author is not equipped, at least at present, to properly test such a possibility as a linguist. However the proposal is so intriguing that it needs to be recorded:

 

[1991:23,24] "What relevance does [mindfulness] have for cognitive science? We believe that if cognitive science is to include human experience, it must have some method for exploring and knowing what human experience is."

 

[24] "To get a sense of what mindfulness meditation is, one must first realize the extent to which people are normally not mindful. Usually one notices the tendency of the mind to wander only when one is attempting to accomplish some mental task and the wandering interferes. Or perhaps one realizes that one has just finished an anticipated pleasurable activity without noticing it. In fact, body and mind are seldom closely coordinated. In the Buddhist sense we are not present.

 

"How can this mind become an instrument for knowing itself? How can the flightiness, the nonpresence of mind be worked with? Traditionally texts talk about two stages of practice: calming or taming the mind (Sanskrit: shamatha) and the development of insight (Sanskrit: vipashyana). Shamatha, when used as a separate practice, is in fact a concentration technique for learning to hold .. the mind to a single object. Such concentration could eventually lead to states of blissful absorption; although such states were assiduously catalogued within Buddhist psychology, they were not generally recommended. The purpose of calming the mind in Buddhism is not to become absorbed but to enable the mind to be present with itself long enough to gain insight into its own nature and functioning. ..."

 

My own present analysis of "self" incorporates but also reinterprets the Buddhist/enactive view. I accept that searching in the domain of present sensation, my "self" is not to be found. As Kant, Derrida and the Buddhists have equally found for themselves, my interior present seems to be a shifting pastiche of ideas and sensations without a circus master.

 

Yet I do recall a definite self. To misquote Rene Descartes, "I remember, therefore I am". I have a vivid memory of walking down a dirt country road thirty-five years ago as the last rays of the sun turned the wheat fields to deep gold. The many parts of that memory have a unity and an "I" whom I somehow still possess is at the centre of it. To you, my reader, my memory is a mere collection of words on a page. Where is my self in the present therefore? Not yet made perhaps, but in the process of becoming. As these words hit the computer screen they are already past, and they have become a committed part of my past. The power of the meditation discipline (if it has the power claimed for it) will, I think, be a power to restrain the past, to govern habit and inclination, so that other realities have a chance to synthesise.

 

1.8 Free will, Buddhist philosophy, cognitive science, remaking the self to re-examine nature

 

In a sense, nothing is less free than "free will". Free will is really the unfettered (and often unplanned) exercise of inclinations to action (habits) within a person, without regard to influences from and likely reactions from the wider environment. The claim to free will is therefore frequently as much a claim to uncritical inertia as the action of an habitual devotee "submitting to the will of God". To innovate, to create, requires the exercise of an overriding order of will.

 

The relationship of creativity to human will is especially interesting. It is a paradox of all kinds of creativity that its most skilled exponents are those who understand and control the existing rules best, rules which are normally an embedded part of their own habitual behaviour. A true Picasso is a master-draftsman first, a Fawkner or Joyce has infinitely finer control of the language than the untutored reader who thinks that language is being massacred. The most devastating intellectual is the one who has mastered, then surpassed existing knowledge. This generalization extends to everyday experience. The most humble quip or insult depends upon control of a contrast with the normative pattern.

 

Some philosophies, and notably Buddhist philosophy, have recognized this paradox of will for at least two millennia. Mahayana Buddhism (and later developments like Zen) have developed quite practical techniques for disciplining and ordering the community of habits (especially habits of thought) within an individual. These procedures are said to effectively remake the person, as well as the emergent realities which flow from the co-evolution of a person and their environment. (In Buddhist parlance, the existence of a "self" is actually denied, and hence ceases to be an obstacle to change. An acceptance of this lays the foundation for proper development).

 

Western religions, philosophies and consequently, Western science have in some cases reached a point of recognizing the elusiveness of self;( Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre, Derrida, cognitives scientists like Minsky and linguists like Jackendoff). The reactions have been largely coffee-house intellectual (nihilism, existentialism) or a complete rejection of unhealthy introspection (American pragmatism). Prior to some recent developments in cognitive science (e.g. Varela, Thompson & Rosch 1991), the West has not generally taken seriously the pragmatic possibility of reshaping inner and outer environments to arrive at fresh insights into the character of language, of being, or of nature itself. There has been a failure to exploit the codependence of nervous systems and their environment,

 

1.9 Some consequences of mind-body dualism

 

Normal physical action by a person is readily understood as interaction with a larger environment. To chop wood is not to "represent" that larger environment, but to participate as a part of it. In so doing both the wood chopper and the larger environment are changed in certain ways.

 

There is a powerfully ingrained cultural habit in the European ethic which presumes that to think "about" some aspect of the larger environment is not to interact and grow as a part of it, as in chopping wood, but to "represent" it symbolically. That is to say, dreams are free. The universe is thus divided into a "real" or "objective" world external to the person, and an "imaginary" or "subjective" representation of the external world inside a person's head.

 

The consequences of this dualism are as profound and intractable as those contradictions which faced Ptolemaic astronomers who put the planet earth at the centre of the universe. This dissertation, like the Buddhist philosophy mentioned above, proposes a paradigm shift. It proposes to de-centre language from its status as a system of exclusively symbolic representations in human "minds"; (this is not to deny that symbol creation and manipulation remains one option). Language is no longer taken to be a mere mirror of an objective external reality. With that loss comes a surrender of privilege.

 

The privilege of the dualistic human is a claim to separateness of "self" from the laws and actions of external nature. Thoughts are private and timeless; only the act of speech makes them accountable by mapping them to a real world. By exempting a person from the discipline of reality by an act of will, the privileged self exercises great power, or at least, an illusion of power. There is an old saying that power corrupts, and perhaps this is what the Buddhists are about in dethroning self as a prelude to inner growth.

 

1.10 Non-representational patterns

 

What then is a design for language which is not representational? The partial answer is that it has a certain similarity to the action of chopping wood, and to the ability to chop wood. That action seems to be volitional, and the ability is learned. Another part of the answer is that language has a certain similarity to the action of breathing, and to the ability to breath. That action seems to be autonomic, and that ability is instinctual.

 

Neither the act of chopping wood nor the act of breathing encapsulate an external world in symbols. Rather they are both actions which show that the human is utterly embedded in the supposedly external world, and grows from it. To prevent such classes of action is to terminate life itself. Is it true then that to prevent those classes of action which we call thought and the generation of language is also to terminate life? We can not function as humans without these things, so it would certainly be the end of humanity. Is our humanity defined by a purely subjective and unreal imagination, a shadow play of external worlds? I think not. Language, thought, the whole apparatus of cognition are phenomena which are of and in the wider world. They are not modules which can be permanently decoupled somehow, or as in the conception of some cognitive scientists [] "downloaded" to another computer.

 

1.11 Intrinsic design and the applications of language

 

At this point it is necessary to draw a distinction between the intrinsic nature of language and the purposes to which it can be put. No reasonable person is likely to deny that a proper name like Thor May has a special relationship to a being whom the wider world identifies as Thor May, nor that a common noun may have a special relationship to a whole class of objects, say, chairs.

 

The effective argument here is that a chameleon lizard which changes its skin colour to blend with (to represent?) its surroundings remains nevertheless a real, live chameleon lizard, a distinctive part of the habitat whose disappearance would change that habitat forever. And so with language, whose surface patterns change constantly to apparently reflect inner and outer environments of the organism. For all its chameleon character, language remains a distinctive, wholly real phenomenon, and an integral part of the ecology of the human habitat.

 

1.12 Language defined as a representational system

 

The problem with defining language as an exclusively symbolic, representational system, is that where representation appears to fail, then either the linguistic model has to be redefined to fit some notion of reality (meet a certain kind of test of explanatory adequacy) or reality has to be reconceived to fit the model.

 

An example of the former would be the ever more elaborate fixes found in transformational generative grammars from 1965 on. The second stratagem is more subtle. We are familiar with the way in which each generation reinterprets history to fit an ideal of a remembered reality. The linguistic equivalent is well expressed by arguments deployed to defend the shifting philosophies of ontology: man possessed by god's spirit, man as a dualistic being of body & mind("self's spirit"), man as a mechanistic automaton (essentially the classical cognitivist view, shorn of finessing).

 

In each of these incarnations, the ways in which language represented the world was taken as evidence for the way the world was. For an Augustine (and many a living fundamentalist since) to challenge the biblical word was to challenge god. For a Cartesian rationalist, the link role of language between inner life and an outer environment was ipso facto proof of a mind-body dualism. For a pragmatic behaviourist, coherent expression had to represent a coherent world that the speaker plugged into.

 

For a cognitive scientist like Minsky, or a linguist like Chomsky, the patterns of language mapped the patterns of some assumed, real world so intimately that an "ideal speaker hearer" was supposed to be somehow more real, more significant than the messy beings who clutter up our coffee breaks.

 

1.13 Language defined as a non-representational system

 

The unanalyzed cultural orthodoxy in almost all modern scientific behaviour is that a human being exists in two domains : the mind and the body. This behaviour contrasts with stated orthodox belief and constitutes one of the great hypocrisies of the age.. Philosophers from Nietzsche to Sartre may have despaired of capturing the nature of self, yet Sartre says that "we are condemned to belief in the self" (Varela: p.60). A cognitive linguist like Jackendoff mutters that "consciousness is not good for anything" (The Computational Mind, p.26), yet cannot dispose of it:

 

[Varela et al 1991:69] "In our habitual and unreflective state of course, we impute continuity of consciousness to all our experience - so much so that consciousness always occurs in a "realm", an apparently cohering total environment with its own logic (of aggression, poverty, etc.). But this apparent totality and continuity of consciousness masks the discontinuity of momentary consciousness related to one another by cause and effect. .. the flame is passed from one candle to the next without any material basis being passed on. Taking this sequence as a real continuity however, we cling tenaciously to this consciousness and are terrorized by the possibility of its termination in death. Yet when mindfulness/awareness reveals the disunity of this experience - a sight, a sound, a thought, another thought, and so on - it becomes obvious that consciousness as such cannot be taken as that self we so treasure and for which we are now searching... Perhaps the self is an emergent property of the aggregates? .. At this point however, the idea is of no help. Such a self-organizing or synergistic mechanism is not evident in experience. More important, it is not the abstract idea of an emergent self that we cling to so fiercely as our ego; we cling to a "real" ego-self."

 

The net result of this dualistic orthodoxy is that scientific understanding has progressed by leaps and bounds in the realm of bodies and objects. Scientists have left the realm of consciousness to shamans and astrologers while continuing to act in their daily lives on the basis that another shadowy, parallel universe does in fact govern their fate. They argue persuasively for evolutionary processes in a physical world, yet offer neither a rationale nor a mechanism whereby some comparable evolution may have been enacted in the mental domain.

 

Scientists are not naturally dishonest people. We must conclude that the compartmentalization of their behaviour has stemmed from a dilemma which has seemed to have no practical solution. The dilemma has been a sense that mind is an active agent but somehow intangible, and therefore not accessible to normal modes of enquiry. At least one other tradition of study has concluded that the impasse faced by Western scholars can be broached:

 

[Varela et al. 1991:30] "From the standpoint of a mindful, open-ended reflection the mind-body question need not be, What is the ontological relation between body and mind, regardless of anyone's experience? - but rather, what are the relations of body and mind in actual experience (the mindfulness aspect), and how do these relations develop, what forms can they take (the open-ended aspect)? As the Japanese philosopher Yasuo Yuasa remarks, "One starts from the experiential assumption that the mind-body modality changes through the training of the mind and body by means of cultivation (shugyo) or training (keiko). Only after assuming this experiential ground does one ask what the mind-body relation is". .. We may notice that this viewpoint is resonant with pragmatism, a view in philosophy that is having a modern revival. The body and mind relation is known in terms of what it can do".

 

This dissertation proceeds from the position that language is indeed a link system between an inner ecology and an outer environment. However, it does not accept that language flows, like the river Styx between a sunny, predictable, living outer world and a Hades of mental images where the devil's laws hold and no man may enter. Nor does it see semantics as a craft which must somehow make its journey between these realms.

 

The ecology of the inner human domain is considered to be a subsystem and a continuum of the outer environmental systems which we observe and attempt to catalogue in all their complexity. In nature we note that within certain restrictive degrees of freedom, living systems grow wild even to the point of self-destruction (not least the human species). We see a proliferation of weird lifeforms in numberless sub-variations, and a detritus of evolutionary properties and appendages which have long ceased to be of value in living systems. Even the human genome, we are now told, is at least 40% historical junk (Varela, p.191).

 

If the observed world is an exuberant and sometimes irrational jungle of historical relics, and if the inner ecology of human beings is a part and continuum of this world, then it would be extraordinary if it alone were a model of economy and mathematically elegant solutions. This writer has always had trouble in taking seriously the claims for explanatory power made by comprehensive models of computational linguistics and formal semantics. We can expect to find potent regularities in inner human systems, as we do in outer nature, but the factor of random discontinuities can never be discounted.

 

The metaphor was used earlier of language as a chameleon lizard, changing its appearance to blend now with this environment, now that. The process of language generation, though amenable to some conscious control, seems, as it were, to be programmed to operate (spoken or unspoken), regardless of any immediate survival need. It is not so much an act of representation as of habitual pattern-making. This pattern making is apt to take as its momentary mould any set of salient perceptions close to hand, a phenomenon recognised in the extreme as "idle chatter". Perceptions can be drawn from outer senses like sight or hearing, or inner senses of memory, emotion and so on;(the notion of inner senses is borrowed from the skandha or "aggregates" of the Buddhist abhidharma (commentaries)).

 

If language is something which does not necessarily exist for a "purpose", but grows like topsy as an organic system between inner and outer human environments, then we can track its structures without expecting them to have an unexceptional relationship to any other system. We can look for relational regularities between language and outer perceptions, or between language and other cognitive systems without being too surprised when a particular interface seems to break the rules, or be barely productive. At such points there is at least the possibility that we have stumbled upon another of nature's accidents.

 

If language does not represent but merely correlates partially in some characteristic ways with properties of adjacent environments, then we can note the common properties of such correlation, and call it semantics, without expecting that the correlation will never be partial, distorted, or sometimes fabricated from quite disparate sources. These after all are common failures that we learn to live with in the everyday interpretation of language. Our linguistic models cannot exceed in perfection the failures of the linguistic systems themselves.

 

The most plausible biological explanation of language is that it is an organic growth, engaging with surrounding environments, reacting to all kinds of stimuli with extraordinary sensitivity, yet not bound in any total way to external patterns. Against this we have the simple observation as conscious beings that we do constantly use language in purposeful ways. We deliberately attempt to represent aspect of perceived reality with language, and will agree with a little reflection that our language is predictably influenced by all kinds of social contexts. Our analysis of language must therefore take into account that language is not inherently representational, but that much of the time it is used with a representational intent.

 

In the next chapter I set out to describe a hypothetical inner human environment within which the systems of language might operate. This environment, termed the Go Model is moderately elaborate, but in the end is no more than a working construct. It enables a dialogue about that which cannot be observed directly.

 

A prime function of the GO model in this thesis is to facilitate the understanding of how repetition impacts on creative processes in language generation. This in turn should lead to a greater understanding of why linguistic meaning is encapsulated at word level, but only intermittently and unreliably in phrases. Finally, moving from the complete formulaic encapsulation of words, to the partial encapsulation of meaning in phrases, the much looser organization found in extended discourse will be seen as a natural extension of the processes of generative oscillation.

 

 


 

 

Chapter 2 Artefacts of the GO model

 

Glossary

 

-ent [2] = entity. Used as a suffix for a class of GO artefacts.

 

ard-ent [2] autonomic rule drive; simultaneous processor and the source of filtering within a g-vortex; some analogy with the strict categorial rules of generative grammars. Ard-ent is a collective reference to the preset machinery of phrase structure and other clause-level constraints. As the constituents of an incipient g-vortex meet certain threshold conditions they are zapped for parallel processing by the ard-ent. The ard-ent generates something like a well-formed clause which is then manipulated as a unit by the mord-ent (monitor rule drive) for textual purposes.

 

assembly plane [2] a conceptual space in the GO model, useful for locating the interaction of model artefacts; no fixed defining properties.

 

attractor [2] essentially any factor which will influence the development of a dynamic system. Attractors (dynamic systems attractors) in the GO model are a concept borrowed directly from the "attractors" of mathematical chaos theory. A post (an "attractor") stuck in a river will shape the current flow downstream. More intriguingly, a "post", that is, a constant, stuck into any randomly developing (chaotic) environment will result in the emergence of ordered patterns, but not always the same patterns.

 

consciousness/awareness [2] Wallace Chafe notes the following as typical properties of awareness: [Chafe (1980b):11] Four properties of consciousness:

 

a) limited capacity

b) limited duration;

c) consciousness moves in "jerks" or "snapshots", not fluidly;

d) consciousness has a central focus and a periphery: an especially small amount of information is maximally activated.

 

The properties of consciousness identified by Chafe are precisely those noted by Nagarjuna two thousand years ago and elaborated into the sunyata of Mahayana Buddhism. Further, they match wonderfully the characteristics of perceptual frames described in neuroscience and adapted for the GO model.

 

g-ripple [2] repeating entity; provides cohesive ties in texts; selected g-ripples may be progenitors of g-vortices.

 

g-vortex [2] a linguistic mechanism analogous to visual perceptual frames of about 100 milliseconds duration. No specific claim is made for the duration of g-vortices, but an important subtype is said to contain clause-like constituents which are later projected into intonation units.

 

GO [2] generative oscillation model

 

HRA [2] harmonic resonance attractor; a compact way of describing the amplification of particular cognitive variables, their sympathetic resonance with elements in memory, and emergence from minor status to controlling influence in particular events. Harmonic resonance attractors acting on elements of language provide a principled way of talking about what language reflects of its co-environments.

 

mord-ent [2] monitor rule drive; linear processor and the source of filtering between g-vortices; major determinant of textual coherence. "Mord-ent" is a cover-term for the very eclectic variety of rules and decisions which may impact on language that is to be projected into surface strings. Mord-ent operations would normally correlate with the second, sequential type of processing, and the typical output would be a stream of intonation units.

 

perceptual frame [2] a cognitive unit which classically deals with sensorimotor rhythmicity and parsing. The GO model extends its use to linguistic parsing. The term is borrowed from the literature on neuroscience and psychology where, for example, one of the better known phenomena discussed is "perceptual simultaneity" or "apparent motion"; (refer Varela 1991:72)

 

plane of conscious imagination [2] a way of giving conscious thought, as opposed to unconscious mental activity, a location and identity in the notional cognitive geography of the GO model.

 

topic [2] interpreted as a quasi-linguistic entity in the GO model; it enters both into the linguistic system and other kinds of thought; provides a frame for matching sequences of linguistic g-vortices with non-linguistic ideas and objects. Topics act as mnemonic attractors (see attractors). Topics also offer a stable framework for matching coherent patterns of idea-against-language while linguistic constituents are shaped into linear phonetic output, or as phonetic input is decoded. Topics thus engage but are not fully defined by linguistic expression. There is always something more, such as background knowledge, to give them substance. They are never quite coextensive for speaker and listener.

 

waveform filter [2] a notional mechanism by which the ard-ent matches and edits the constituents of an emergent g-vortex. These constituents themselves would be recognized by linguists as collocating elements of a clause, but together are thought of physically in the GO model as a complex standing wave form.

 

 


 

Artefacts of the GO Model

 

The assembly of concepts dealt with in this chapter will be referred to collectively as the GO model (Generative Oscillation Model). The GO model is a speculative hypothesis about the cognitive organization of language. It makes deliberate use of iconic imagery as an aid to conceptualising linguistic processes, but stakes no strong claims about the relationship of such imagery to actual physiological processes. Consonant with the approach explained in Chapter 1, the artefacts of the GO model are intended to be compatible and interactive with the outer human environment. Later chapters will engage the concepts outlined here as analytic tools, and as instruments for articulating a coherent model of language generation.

 

Much of the GO model's power derives from a central proposal that the generation of language involves two different kinds (or extremes) of computational processing, which in turn entail radically different constraints and structures. The first kind is a subset of what is technically known as parallel processing, a procedure in which many problems are factored simultaneously but converge to a unified solution. It is proposed that simultaneous processing in language applies to small clause-like packets of information. A whole family of processing designs have in fact been developed with parallel architectures, but the differences need not concern us for the moment. The second kind of processing hypothesized for the GO model is sequential and more applicable to the organisation of extended discourse.

 

 

2.1 The parsing of perceptual frames for simultaneous processing

 

Faced with a perceptual event, any nervous system is limited by certain intrinsic problems. The near-simultaneity of parallel processing is a first major constraint. Even in such an awesome device as the human central nervous system only a finite number of variables can be usefully made salient in a working location for a finite duration. This parsing of mental activity has been discussed at some length by Varela, Thompson & Rosch (1991). Their discussion is worth reprinting:

 

[p.72.] "Is there any evidence for momentariness in the functioning of the brain? ... An examination of experience with mindfulness/awareness reveals that one's experience is discontinuous - a moment of consciousness arises, appears to dwell for an instant, and then vanishes, to be replaced by the next moment. ... [73] ... There is a literature in neuroscience and psychology that can be referred to as "perceptual framing", which deals with sensorimotor rhythmicity and parsing. One of the best known phenomena in this literature is called "perceptual simultaneity" or "apparent motion". For example, if two lights are shown successively with an interval of less than a period of 0.1 to 0.2 seconds, they will be seen as simultaneous .. if the interval is slightly increased, the flashing lights will appear to be in rapid motion. If the interval is increased further, the appearance of motion becomes distinctly sequential... .. It is well known that the brain has a periodic rhythm of activity... Since the dominant rhythm for the visual cortex is also about 0.15 seconds, it is natural to assume that there is a relationship between temporal framing and cortical alpha rhythm."

 

[75.] "Experiments such as these assume that there is a natural parsing in the visual frame and that such framing is at least partially and locally related to the rhythm of one's brain in the range of duration of about 0.1-0.2 seconds at its minimum. ... Everything that falls within a frame will be treated by the subject as if it were within one time span, one "now". .... Furthermore, it has become apparent the neurons in the central nervous system have a rich diversity of electrical properties based on ionic conductances that endow them with auto-rhythmic oscillatory properties... This entire cooperative activity takes a certain time to start and to culminate. Such oscillations/resonances can be seen as timing sensorimotor coordination (among other possible functional roles)."

 

[76] "..there is good evidence that the activity of a neuron in the thalamus and the cortex of mammals has a unitary time course of about 100 milliseconds following a burst of presynaptic input." [ TM: note the much coarser analogy from phonology, where speech articulation is tied to the thoracic rhythm of breathing].

 

The second major constraint on a nervous system is that it seems likely that the operational patterns (i.e. rules) for input and output to a given parsed frame will be established well before anything proceeds. Or in the parlance of fractal mathematics (which is probably what is at work here), the relevant "attractors" will be in place to filter probable outcomes. The reason for a an assumption of pre-set input filters is simply that in a single perceptual frame (or other cognitive equivalent) of maybe 100 milliseconds duration there is simply no time or mechanism for adjustment and learning.

 

If we make the intuitive leap in linguistics that clause or intonation unit boundaries derive from a mechanism which is analogous with the perceptual frames discussed by Varela et al, then categorial and other constraints that engage within a phrase structure would, in a given frame instance, also operate autonomically (rather than analytically, as with a foreign language student trying to recall a grammatical sequence).

 

The constrained number of inputs per unit of "frame" time, and the need for pre-set filtering rules both appear to accord very well with the behaviour of generative grammars with their strict categorial rule structures for outputting or decoding sentential clauses. Note that it is not claimed that phrasal processing "frames" are of 100 milliseconds or so duration. We just don't know. (As it happens, the duration of an unstressed syllable pronounced in English is about 150 milliseconds. That could reflect a gross motor (i.e. muscle) limitation, or it could be associated with a lower boundary of synaptic discrimination, as in vision).

 

2.2 Sequential, decision-directed processing

 

The second kind of processing envisaged for the GO model has a complimentary but quite different profile to perceptual micro frames with their simultaneous syntheses of new structure. Clearly many elements of language production are planned, manipulated in various ways or corrected in mid-stream. This kind of adjustment can occur at any level from morpheme to text, but in general there is most evidence for some kind of executive control in the macro ranges of organization, notably those above clause level. I have suggested that such executive control could not easily extend in any constant way into perceptual frames (or their equivalents) of tiny duration.

 

There are various kinds of processing design which might handle the manipulation of extended language strings. Some effective long-term mechanisms for parallel processor learning have been proposed. One of the best known is a mapping of inputs to outputs and back-propagating any error vectors for future reference (Rietman 1988:91). Just what a conscious decision might amount to in this paradigm is less easy to see. Perhaps, as was suggested in the discussion of mind in Chapter 1, it could come from the interplay of a hierarchy of habits. If we conceive of this decision outcome as an "attractor" or filter, then a dynamic array of such filters might be adequate to direct the output of extended text. Conventional digital computers are inherently linear of course, and so well adapted to sequential management. Whatever its normal mode of operation, the human brain can emulate linear processing, as it must with problem solving in formal logic or mathematics.

 

Although the actual design which implements it is unclear, the second kind of neural processing hypothesized here behaves in an open-ended linear manner, where the outcomes from other operations are organized as they become available, where elements may be held back, sequenced or promoted, and where all sorts of contingent conditions may be bought into play when it seems expedient.

 

This kind of processing seems inherently more congenial to the often loose management found in the diachronic organization of discourse. It would seem to be open to pragmatic considerations, and well-adapted for applying repair strategies where discourse, or even clause generation, breaks down.

 

Although I have suggested that the second, linear kind of processing is motivated in the GO model by internal linguistic considerations, something comparable has been found necessary in artificial neural networks which attempt to model human cognition. Let me draw a short quotation from a book by Ed Rietman (1988:10), Experiments in Artificial Neural Networks :

 

"The human brain provides an existence proof that massive parallel processing with billions of processing elements [100 billion logic units] is possible. Often in connectionist architecture the individual elements do not have much memory associated with them. Long term storage is accomplished by the interconnection of the processors themselves ... The processing units in most connection machines do not follow complex instructions or programs. Each processor is capable of only very simple action such as threshold logic. The entire connection machine is usually controlled by a host computer.." [my italics].

 

In other words, I have articulated such executive control as the second kind of processing. The presentation of GO assigns this control to a hierarchy of notional executive centres and processes which I will now briefly identify.

 

 

Iconic spaces, operators and processes in the GO model

 

2.3 The Assembly Plane

 

One iconic invention of the GO model is to propose a cognitive space, a work area called the assembly plane, in which the constituents for various linguistic operations are collected. The assembly plane has no defined properties itself, but normally features at the space where topics are projected into the linguistic code. Its purpose is purely to let us group a bunch of ideas together and talk about them in familiar locative language.

 

2.4 G-vortices

 

The perceptual frames discussed by Varela and others have some kind of experimental validity. Although GO will use that validity as evidence, I wish to project into the frame notion a number of hypothesized properties. Hopefully other evidence will emerge to support GO's frame elaboration, but to avoid ambiguity it seems best to rechristen the frame concept with a special name. In GO it will be called a g-vortex. One historical meaning of "vortex" seems especially apt:

 

"Vortex, in old theories, as in Cartesian philosophy, [is] a rapid rotatory movement of cosmic matter about a centre, regarded as accounting for the origin or phenomena of bodies or systems of bodies in space." [Macquarie dictionary].

 

Thus the g-vortex is a linguistic mechanism analogous to visual perceptual frames of about 100 milliseconds duration. No specific claim is made for the duration of g-vortices, but I will propose that an important subtype contains clause-like constituents which are later projected into intonation units.

 

2.5 Ard-ents and mord-ents

 

As the constituents of an incipient g-vortex meet certain threshold conditions they are zapped for parallel processing by the ard-ent (autonomic rule drive). The ard-ent is a collective reference to the preset machinery of phrase structure and other clause-level constraints. The ard-ent generates something like a well-formed clause which is then manipulated as a unit by the mord-ent (monitor rule drive) for textual purposes.

 

"Mord-ent" is a cover-term for the very eclectic variety of rules and decisions which may impact on language that is to be projected into surface strings. Mord-ent operations would normally correlate with the second, sequential type of processing discussed above, and the typical output would be a stream of intonation units. These processes will be explained in more detail below.

 

The concept of an ard-ent is not entirely fanciful. Again, Varela's discussion of perceptual discrimination is relevant.

 

[Varela 1991:77-78] "From an information processing point of view in contemporary cognitive psychology, form and discernment would appear to specify each other. Form can be seen as the arising of something distinct from a background .... On the other hand, neurophysiological observations indicate that the initial stages of perceptual organization ... precede the more cognitively related electrical correlates by some 100-200 milliseconds. This time difference might be just too fast for detailed attention except when training in attention has stabilized sufficiently to notice the difference." [My italics]

 

Thus, within a perceptual frame, discriminations can only be made where they are familiar to the point of being autonomic. This phenomenon is common enough in linguistics with problems of phoneme recognition. The fact that discriminations are made means that some kind of autonomic filtering is taking place. The ard-ent describes this process, and extends it to filtering not only perceptions from the external environment, but also "perceptions" from the inner environment of cognition.

 

My iconic description of what must be an immensely complex cognitive process here should be regarded, at best, as a kind of shorthand. It is nevertheless a useful shorthand whose slightly unfamiliar quality can remind us that the accumulated terminology of linguistics really performs a similar role. In Chapter 5 ard-ents are linked to the more traditional concept of linguistic meaning, as carriers for what I call encapsulated meaning, meaning which is stably coded and requires little or no further processing.

 

2.6 Ard-ents and the genesis of intelligence

 

At this point I believe the model has crystalized something of real explanatory power, and not just about language. All animals have autonomic behaviours. Most animals have contingent behaviours, and the more complex the animal the more complex its adaptive responses to an immediate situation. What non-human animals are unable to do, except in very restricted ways, is to learn adaptive behaviour to the point where it becomes autonomic. The striking thing about in humans is that with practice they can program extremely complex sets of stimuli to a point where they do become autonomic. The phrase structure rules of a language are perhaps the canonical example. Driving a car is another instance; and of course, the adherence to drilled routines by soldiers under fire is every general's dream. In other words humans evolved beyond some critical threshold where it became possible to translate mord-ent procedures into ard-ent filters.

 

Now here is the crunch. A herbivore spends all its time grazing to obtain enough nutrition. A carnivore has time to play at other things. Similarly, a complex animal with only a limited set of inherited ard-ent filters has to devote immense nervous resources to solving contingent problems on a one-off basis. My guess is that an animal which can translate complex but repetitive problems into ard-ent filter sets frees up those immense nervous resources for analytic activity above and beyond mere survival or propagation. Once the process begins it will become an accelerating spiral of cognitive resource economies. Herein, I believe, lies the key to the extraordinarily rapid emergence of human intelligence. Homo sapiens had built up huge central nervous systems to cope with increasingly complex survival needs. Suddenly these resources were left with idle time to make mischief. To borrow a computer engineering analogy, the moment biological ROMs <8> became biological EPROMs the species was unstoppable.

 

The hypothesis of intelligence from cognitive economy is attractive but extremely difficult to establish. Any proof would be indirect. If it could be shown, for example, that entirely base-generated language exceeds human processing capacity and violates know heuristic cognitive procedures, then the case for something like an ard-ent would be very well motivated. Once the ard-ent was accepted as a necessary processing instrument, then the terms of its own evolution would tend to support the intelligence proposal.

 

If the ard-ent code (not merely a linguistic device here) is indeed a key to cognitive economy, the next question is how may we wield it at will to automate even more, and free up yet more of our intellectual resources. There is a further intriguing possibility here. Is there some way, some form of training, that can enable humans to discriminate the constituents of ard-ents which have become embedded as instinctual behaviour? Can we unpack the cognitive instruction sets that run our very life systems, and having learned their secrets, reset them for optimal performance? Perhaps the Buddhist's know something with their mindfulness/ awareness disciplines of meditation <9>. And perhaps for a linguist, formulaic language, dwelling on the margin of ard-ent types, almost but not quite at the level of autonomic performance, can tell us something about the boundary rules applying to this seminal phenomenon.

 

2.7 Generalization, symbolization, categorization

 

Another relationship to be explored is that between the process of generalization (as well as its derivatives, categorization and symbolization) and ard-ent types. Both generalizations and ardents have the common property of packing constituents into a single address for storage, recall and manipulation. The difference seems to be that ard-ent filter sets are not instantiated easily (at least, not after infancy). They are either innate, require an intensive learning process, or are a synthesis of the innate and learned. Generalization seems to be a far more facile process, easily packaged, modified or abandoned. The question is, which was the chicken and which the egg, generalization or ard-ents? My guess is that ard-ents were the egg: they are found in life forms at all levels, whereas generalization may be a particular gift of humans. If this is so, then the process that saw the biological ROM become a biological EPROM, may also have culminated in the much looser packaging of the generalization process.

 

If encapsulated meaning in ard-ents represents the special case of autonomic processing and recognition, meaning of any kind expresses a loss of innocence. This could be expressed in strong form by a "natural law of uniqueness": The Law of Uniqueness states that that which is unique in all its parts is invisible to nature. The real claim here is that meaning is fundamentally linked to the design of the organism, and the mechanism by which it is encoded is categorization:

 

[Varela et al. 1991:176] "One of the most fundamental cognitive activities that all organisms perform is categorization. By this means the uniqueness of each experience is transformed into the more limited set of learned, meaningful categories to which humans and other organisms respond. ...

 

[177] "In the enactive view, although mind and world arise together in enaction, their manner of arising in any particular situation is not arbitrary. Consider the object on which you are sitting, and ask yourself what it is. What is its name? If you are sitting on a chair, the chances are that your will have thought chair rather than furniture or armchair. Why? Rosch [1976] proposed that there was a basic level of categorization in taxonomies of concrete objects at which biology, culture, and cognitive needs for informativeness and economy all met. In a series of experiments, Rosch et al. found the basic level of categorization to be the most inclusive level at which category members (1) are used, or interacted with, by similar motor actions, 2) have similar perceived shapes and can be imaged, (3) have identifiable humanly meaningful attributes, (4) are categorized by young children, and (5) have linguistic primacy (in several senses). .. The basic level of categorization thus, appears to be the point at which cognition and environment become simultaneously enacted."

 

Some other linguists have also begun to see the categorization process which is so obvious in language as a marker for more general cognitive processes, and as with this study, have been forced to invent iconic machinery to discuss it:

 

[Varela et al 1991:177] "Mark Johnson proposed another very intriguing basic categorization process. Humans, he argues, have very general cognitive structures called kinesthetic image schemas: for example, the container schema, the part-whole schema, and the source-path schema. These schemas originate in bodily experience, can be defined in terms of certain structural elements, have a basic logic, and can be metaphorically projected to give structure to a wide variety of cognitve domains."

 

178. "Sweetzer provides specific case studies of [Johnson's] process in linguistics. She argues that historical changes of meanings of words in languages can be explained as metaphorical extensions from the concrete and bodily relevant senses of basic-level categories and image schemas to more abstract meanings - for example, "to see" comes to mean "to understand"."

 

2.8 G-ripples

 

The operation of the GO model is pervasively influenced by g-ripples (repeating entities). That which is to be given significance in language is always framed by known, hence repeated, elements. The organization of language is largely a matter of what is repeated, when, where, why, by whom, how and how often. The GO model takes a much broader view of repetition than is normally found in linguistics, considering a cline from local (often idiosyncratic) g-ripples to the global g-ripples such as lexical items which have become formal, generalized tokens in the language. Repetition so important to this thesis that it will be treated in a separate chapter.

 

2.9 Topics

 

The assembly plane is segmented by quasi-linguistic topics. These more or less correspond to certain organizing ideas we have as we are speaking or listening. In other words, topics act as mnemonic attractors (see attractors below) and provide foci for the (imperfect) reflection of focused ideas by linguistic form.

 

Note that "reflection" here is intended to avoid the patina of volition suggested by "representation". In the GO model we talk about forms co-arising in interactive environments, rather than subjective phenomena being modelled, by definition, on objective phenomena (which begs questions of ontology). This is not to deny that a kind of autonomic matching or adjustment between systems may occur, or when appropriate, that the adjustment may be volitional (in the sense of will-to-action discussed in chapter 1).

 

Topics also offer a stable framework for matching coherent patterns of idea-against-language while linguistic constituents are shaped into linear phonetic output, or as phonetic input is decoded.

 

Topics thus engage but are not fully defined by linguistic expression. There is always something more, such as background knowledge, to give them substance. They are never quite coextensive for speaker and listener, just as (in the GO model) conditions for cohesion are never quite coextensive; (cohesion and coherence are dealt with in Chapter 3).

 

Note that because we are not dealing with parallel but unlike universes of body and mind in the GO model, but rather with an inclusive ecology which embraces the outer and inner human properties, it is no special problem for an entity like topic to participate in both language and "ideas".

 

2.10 Attractors (dynamic systems attractors)

 

Attractors (dynamic systems attractors) in the GO model are a concept borrowed directly from the "attractors" of mathematical chaos theory. An attractor is essentially any factor which will influence the development of a dynamic system. A post stuck in a river will shape the current flow downstream. More intriguingly, a "post", that is, a constant, stuck into any randomly developing (chaotic) environment will result in the emergence of ordered patterns, but not always the same patterns. A simple computer emulation of cellular behaviour described by Varela provides a good illustration:

 

[Varela 1991:88] "one of the most useful ways of capturing the emergent properties that various [connectionist] systems have in common is through the notion of an "attractor" in dynamical systems theory. .. Consider cellular automata ... a ring of cellular automata [which can have only two states, 0 & 1] acquires a dynamics by starting at some random state and letting each cell reach an updated state at each (discrete) moment of time in a synchronous fashion (i.e. all the cells reach their respective states together). ...even this simple, almost minimal network has rich self-organizing capacities.... dynamically these rings fall into four major classes of attractors.. A first class exhibits a simple attractor, which leads all cells to become homogeneously active or inactive. For a second .. class of rings the rules give rise to spatial periodicities, that is, some cells remain active while others do not. For a third class the rules give rise to spatio-temporal cycles of length two or longer. These last two classes correspond to cyclic attractors. Finally, for a few rules the dynamics seem to give rise to chaotic attractors, where one does not detect any regularities in space or time. ... in fact, it seems difficult for any densely connected aggregate to escape emergent properties; thus theories of such properties are a natural link for different levels of descriptions in natural and cognitive phenomena."

 

It is common enough in linguistics to talk of rules, constraints or filters. Connectionist theories would hold that in a massive connectionist system like the human brain, filters etc. are indeed attractors in the strict sense. In principle what a linguist will refer to abstractly as a "constraint" could have innumerable forms, from protein keys to synapse triggers to glandular secretions to harmonic electrical waveforms. In the complex processes of cognition all of these and more are likely to be involved. It is wildly beyond our technical ability to mathematically predict the interactive consequences of a few attractors in even simple lifeforms.

 

In the dynamic systems of natural language with their innumerable attractors of ever-varying significance, we can do no more than identify the most intrusive influences and the most general outcomes. Indeed, a certain level of indeterminacy is probably characteristic of the macro-system itself. Therefore discussions which follow in this thesis, and in any linguistic analysis, can never lay a truthful claim to precision.

 

2.11 Harmonic resonance attractors

 

"Attractor" is such a generally defined concept that more specific subsets of the class are needed for useful analysis. This is a good place to introduce a particular type which I will call "harmonic resonance attractors". In the GO model of language the notion of "harmonic resonance" often crops up as a way to describe certain effects of repetition, recall and synthesis; (other scholars have also found this term useful. See, for example, Hasan 1981, or Smolensky 1988).

 

The need for a model entity like harmonic resonance attractors arises from the observation that ideas, and language, often appear to be triggered by some minor event or recollection in ways that are quite disproportionate. The classic analogue for this in chaos literature is the butterfly in South America which causes a storm in the North Atlantic. Closer to home, it is in the same vein as a huge domestic fight being touched off by an innocent remark. In discourse we have the sudden branching into whole new topic areas as some apparently minor element of the conversation strikes a chord. Related processes might be at work sub-clausally in the quasi-random selection of particular phrase structures or expressions. This kind of discontinuity is not seriously broached in traditional linguistics, yet seems to play a major part in the generation of texts. At one level it might be predicted from the tension, the "generative oscillation", between representational language (that is, volitionally controlled language) and the ungoverned weed-like efflorescence of linguistic strings within the organism, as discussed in Chapter 1.

 

An interesting cognitive question here is what sort of mechanism could possibly generate the amplification of unexpected topics? There is a mathematical answer in the general behaviour of connectionist systems. However, the concepts are easier to handle if we think in slightly more concrete terms. For anyone acquainted with electronics, the whole thing has an uncanny resemblance to the tickler current of an NPN transistor which regulates a major current flow; (note though that transistor behaviour is entirely predictable). For anyone with an inkling of physics, the way in which vibration at a certain frequency will induce resonant vibration in nearby objects also seems to have its analogue in cognitive amplification. "Harmonic resonance attractor" puts the idea of an amplifier and sympathetic resonance together as a compact way of referring to the general cognitive mechanism I have been discussing.

 

2.12 Linguistic Harmonic Resonance Attractors (HRAS)

 

Linguistic HRAs can be differentiated for the way they interact with the properties of a g-vortex (phonological, semantic, and so on). For example, a particular g-vortex may contain the name Old Yank. We could say that a semantically tuned HRA is the mechanism which picks up a resonance of this from the g-vortex and amplifies it through the cognitive environments of memory and current usage (where it might excite a potential repeating entity). There could be sympathetic or antipathetic resonance from elements in memory. If we think of a g-vortex as a complex waveform, then it may be overlain by harmonic echoes which the HRA mediates, and amplified or diminished as a result.

 

2.13 Emergent g-vortices from competing g-ripples and perceptual frames

 

I have noted that language is always in an imperfect correlation with ideas, objects or topics. The GO model claims that such correlation as there is co-emerges regardless of planning, as a sort of natural growth in the system. However the correlation which does occur will be a property of certain attractors attaining salience, while others are minimised. Harmonic resonance attractors acting on elements of language provide a principled way of talking about what language reflects of its co-environments.

 

Among the most pervasive elements of actual language are repeating elements. Every new proposition is anchored in a scaffolding of g-ripples of some kind. In Chapter 3 I will consider repetition as a phenomenon, and some of the huge variety of variables that can acquire the status of g-ripple. If we take g-ripples as a general type, they have the special qualities of duration and accessibility in cognitive activity. If we ask where g-vortices come from, then a reasonable answer may be that they have their genesis in specially favoured g-ripples or other perceptual frames. Harmonic resonance attractors acting on a repeating entity could be one mechanism for articulating the emergence of a g-vortex and finally an intonation unit.

 

The context of the assembly plane adjacent to a topic may be considered a kind of cognitive soup, thick with incipient g-ripples from recent memory. Which of these will find their way into future utterance? The intuitive answer is those which have some relevance to the conversational topic. A close study of texts, particularly informal texts, will quickly show that this is not necessarily so in practice. Repetition is generally unconscious, and may relate to the topic, to rhyme or prosody, to grammatical felicity, or simply to being accessible in memory.

 

Classical linguistic models provide no mechanism for explaining, or even describing, how particular potential repeating entities come to be expressed in actual intonation units. The nearest attempt would be found in models of cohesion such as those of Halliday & Hasan (1976), but these seem to assume at least implicitly that cohesion is a volitional mechanism rather than an emergent property.

 

Let me propose that the mulligatawny soup of the assembly plane is no mill pond, but a whirlpool of harmonic waves with localised vortices of activity. Each of these vortices has, as it were, a dominant chord, sourced either from a non-linguistic perceptual frame (i.e. perceived by external senses like sight, or internal senses of thought), or from a latent linguistic g-ripple which has persisted from an earlier language exchange. These chords will be picked up and amplified or diminished by the harmonic resonance attractor mechanisms. As chords in the assembly plane become enhanced (others diminished), one will tend to become dominant. It will accrete harmonic overtones, in effect the collocating elements of what will eventually become an intonation unit. At a critical threshold this complex standing waveform attracts a burst of parallel processing in the shape of waveform filters from the ard-ent.

 

A waveform filter is a notional mechanism by which the ard-ent matches and edits the constituents of an emergent g-vortex to conform with the rules of a natural language. These constituents themselves would be recognized by linguists as collocating elements of a clause, but together are thought of physically in the GO model as a complex standing wave form.

 

As a full g-vortex emerges from this process, it is manipulated as a unit by a further set of waveform filters from the mord-ent, which extract a phonological interpretation and output it to the surface utterance. Alternatively, that output may be to what I will call the Plane of Conscious Imagination, for unless I am entirely atypical as a human being, a very large part of language production is directed to an internal monologue. I suspect that such monologue may play a large part in giving the human plane of conscious imagination its sense of logic and duration, properties at least as important to our well-being as dreaming. (For these reasons I am cautious about relying zealously on so-called conversational analysis between interlocutors to account for all the phenomena of discourse).

 

2.14 The plane of conscious imagination

 

The plane of conscious imagination is a way of giving conscious thought, as opposed to unconscious mental activity, a "location" and identity in the notional cognitive geography of the GO model. Note that the location is really a functional metaphor, as explained below. Consciousness is a slippery concept, and to anchor it I will have to make some links with an earlier discussion.

 

Chapter 1 explored at some length the philosophical problems of mind/body dualism and the elusiveness of self, as well as Buddhist and neo-cognitivist views of emergent awareness in connectionist systems. These latter views seemed to imply a thorough rethinking of most existing models of science. As Varela has noted (1991:8):

 

"Connectionist models generally trade localized, symbolic processing for distributed operations (ones that extend over an entire network of components) and so result in the emergence of global properties resilient to local malfunction".

 

It was suggested that any linguistic model which failed to take these questions seriously would be severely self-limiting.

 

The GO model opts unequivocally for an emergent view of language in which the inner and outer human environments grow together, are interdependent, obey the same natural laws, and are ultimately part of the same macro ecology. It could be called "the Gaia view of linguistics". However the GO model does treat the extreme globalism of early connectionist models with some caution. The systemic interdependence of inner and outer human ecologies need in no way preclude the existence of a multiplicity of sub-systems (language being one), and nested sub-systems within those again. Indeed the effective articulation of such complexity may require a degree of autonomy, as some cognitive scientists have discovered:

 

(Varela 1991:105) " ..brains are highly cooperative systems. Nonetheless, they are not uniformly structured networks, for they consist of many networks that are themselves connected in various ways. Minsky and Papert present a view in which minds consist of many "agents" <10> whose abilities are quite circumscribed: each agent taken individually operates only in a micro world of small-scale or "toy" problems. The problems must be of a small scale because they become unmanageable for a single network when they are scaled up".

 

Here a terminological note is necessary. The subsystems of cognition are certainly better thought of as functional systems rather than localised systems in a territorial sense. That is, functions in a connectionist environment tend to be distributed throughout the whole environment. Natural language, or at least the English language, is best adapted to describing geographic locations. The GO model surrenders to this geographic metaphor (there is little choice), but the unities we describe are really in non-dimensional space.

 

What populates the plane of conscious imagination? In the GO environment, ard-ent activities are clearly beyond normal conscious awareness, a factor which possibly enhances their reliability and speed. For highly trained responses, like phoneme discrimination, certain constituents can be consciously isolated at ard-ent speeds, and there is some suggestion that skilled mediators can extend this to other, usually opaque autonomic processes. There is no doubt however that many mord-ent activities and outcomes do extend into what we call consciousness.

 

Consciousness is accepted as a kind of privileged personal workspace in most cultures, including Western scientific culture. This makes it critical to almost any kind of evidentiary claim in linguistic models, yet it remains curiously little studied as a discrete mechanism in linguistics. One researcher who has paid some informal attention to consciousness is Wallace Chafe. He notes the following as typical properties of awareness:

 

Chafe (1980b):11] Four properties of consciousness:

 

a) limited capacity

 

b) limited duration

 

c) consciousness moves in "jerks" or "snapshots", not fluidly

 

d) consciousness has a central focus and a periphery: an especially small amount of information is maximally activated.

 

Chafe (1980b):13) Focuses of consciousness and spurts of language:

 

"A property of spontaneous speech ...is that it is produced, not in a flowing stream, but in a series of brief spurts. In listening to speech we apparently iron out its intermittent quality."

 

In his analysis Chafe has not had access (as far as I know) either to Buddhist philosophy or to neo-cognitivist connectionist models. Nor has he made a distinction between simultaneous and linear generative processes. Yet these omissions make his observations even more striking. The properties of consciousness identified by Chafe are precisely those noted by Nagarjuna <11> two thousand years ago and elaborated into the sunyata of Mahayana Buddhism. Further, they match wonderfully the characteristics of perceptual frames described in neuroscience and adapted for the GO model.

 

The fact that the pre-generative perceptual frames of the GO model are normally opaque to consciousness does not mean that entities which do broach consciousness should not share design features with other mechanisms of the language/cognitive environment. On the contrary, we know that biological systems adapt effective mechanisms to the widest possible range of environments. For the purposes of this model, that happily means that properties accessible for analysis in the plane of conscious imagination may well have analogues in less accessible cognitive environments.

 

Chafe could almost have been describing g-vortices. The "smoothing" noted in the second quotation applies equally well to language generation and to listening, and no doubt assists in maintaining an inner illusion of fluent discourse. For a linguist, this finessing of the flow of language in consciousness is as seductive as Shalom's seventh veil. Finding ways to relate it to the external evidence of intonation units (fragmentary or phrasal), and the inner evidence of processing fluctuation will be a major preoccupation of this study.

 

 


 

Chapter 3 Aspects Of Repetition

 

Glossary to Chapter 3: Repetition

 

 

coherence [3] within a topic entity is maintained linguistically i) in conventional reflection between g-vortices and ideas or objects, ii) by temporal consistency, and iii) by argument links between g-vortices. Although such linguistic conditions may be met, topic coherence at the idea level is always a matter of personal understanding, and can be influenced by many factors extraneous to language.

 

cohesion [3] conventionally refers to linguistic elements that form a tie across text by virtue of being repeated. Cohesion in the GO model environment refers to an implicit recognition by either speaker or listener that certain linguistic elements in play have been met before in some incarnation, or are about to be met again.

 

collocating indices [3] the contributing properties and relationships which give a linguistic element (such as a g-vortex or a word) its definition. Particular collocating indices from one linguistic element may repeat or assume greater or lesser weight in the balance of relationships in a succeeding linguistic element.

 

collocation drag [3] means that a g-ripple carries with it its whole evolutionary history of use and meaning for both speaker and listener. This multiplies the probability on reuse of eliciting other collocations (in whole or in part) that have occurred previously in the text, or in experience.

 

discourse presupposition [3] refers, in the GO model, to a latent repeating entity which was in the process of becoming a g-vortex but in which the generative process was aborted prior to surface expression.

 

latent g-ripples [3] remain invisible on the surface of the text while playing an important part in the cognitive process; (e.g. ellipsis).

 

mnemonic resonance [3] is the description adopted in this thesis for the mechanism which leads to a persistence in memory of an idea after use - or since we are talking linguistics, let us say of a linguistic element after use - and the heightened availability of this element to a progressing discourse for recall or for evoking a field of linguistic associations. A g-ripple is a product of mnemonic resonance.

 

repetition cluster patterns [3] words or phrases and/or syntactic patterns which do not usually have high density in an idiolect often occur in clusters through a corpus when they are used. Some of this clustering relates to topic concentration, but much is associated with mnemonic resonance.

 

g-ripple [3] (repeating entity); a form sufficiently codified to withstand mnemonic storage and reuse. A g-ripple may subsume complex associative relationships.

 

identity chain [3] [Hasan 1984] is made up of cohesive ties that all share the same referent(s), whether the ties in question are pronominals, reiterations, or instantial equivalents.

 

net of repeating entities [3] g-ripples which link within and across topic boundaries into g-vortices, acting in a way which creates cohesion. Cohesive nets of repeating entities can also participate selectively in building coherence, but need not.

 

net [3] a term used by Hoey (1991) to describe both the complete set of (cohesively) bonded sentences and any sub-set of them.

 

similarity chain [3] [Hasan 1984] a chain of cohesive ties where issues of identity cannot arise; for example, parallel processes or descriptions.

 

 


 

 

Aspects Of Repetition

 

3.1. Introduction

 

For the purposes of this analysis, I will take a much broader view of repetition than is normally found in linguistics, considering a cline from local (often idiosyncratic) repeating clauses or phrases to stable units such as lexical items which have become formal, generalized tokens in the language. This is not a chapter which proposes a neat solution to some small puzzle in a linguistic model. Rather, it outlines for further study some properties of a very general phenomenon.

 

3.2 The concept of repetition

 

A notion of repetition can be immediately understood, even by naïve observers. On closer inspection however, the concept turns out to be rather slippery. It is worth exploring the general characteristics of non-linguistic repetition a little in order to sharpen our approach to the linguistic variety.

 

If there is an event E which is repeated, then E is understood to exist only on the occasions of its repetition, not in the intervals between E1 and E2. If there is an object O which occurs repeatedly, then O is normally held to exist not only on the occasions of its appearance, but also during the intervals when it is not observed. At least, this is the working assumption of almost everyone in their daily lives, quantum quibbles about Schrodinger's cat notwithstanding. Now what about a cognitive entity such as a word. Is it an object or an event? Does it exist between spoken repetitions? If words have the status of objects, what about phrases or sentences? Do they exist between repetitions, or are they recreated from something else? The language of this thesis will often appear to presume not only the occurrence, but the duration over time of numerous entities. This is a convenient convention, no more, and exactly what we do every time an abstract noun is deployed.

 

Interval duration itself is tricky. If X is repeated, then its occurrence in a time frame must have been punctuated by a period of non-X. At least two serious difficulties arise with this simple proposition. Firstly, is repetition an artefact of the observer, or of an operation? You are watching a computer monitor. The image is steady. In fact an electron gun is retracing the image thousands of times a second. Is the assertion of repetition therefore always a statement relative to a particular frame of reference (in this case, either the observer or the electronic process)?

 

The second difficulty is a paradox of inclusion. You turn off the moving cinema image, which to your eye has appeared seamless. The film, when you examine it, is a series of frames, and adjacent frames seem to be the same, repetitions in fact. Yet any two frames separated by twenty others are clearly different. At what increment do we say that the description of repetition no longer occurs? Or perhaps I know you as a person. I have a name for you, anticipate your behaviour with some success and have some confidence that you are the same person today that I met yesterday. Yet a biological treatise tells me that you are a crawling mountain of cellular organisms, millions dying off at any given moment and others being born, so that the whole squishy heap is replaced at regular intervals. Are you a repetition of some prior self <12> ? It all seems to turn on scale (as in magnification) and the perspective from which we deal with a particular phenomenon.

 

The problems of perspective and scale affecting a view of repetition are central to linguistics. Few linguists have sorted out in their own minds whether they are the person watching the computer monitor or the electronics technician, the cinema buff or the laboratory developer, the speaker's friend or the biologist.

 

3.3 Repetition as evidence: three perspectives

 

Let us suppose that two linguists are studying discourse processes. What will they consider to be evidence? One is an enthusiast for Conversational Analysis. He analyses transcripts in fine detail and develops an elaborate model of dyadic exchange. He sticks to the transcript evidence and consciously avoids speculation about cognitive processes.

 

Repetition here is strictly a matter of people saying things twice, and its significance, if any, is defined as a property of the text. For example, a text may "have" cohesion, meaning repeated or anaphoric elements. The relationship of text cohesion to thought, memory, or even to understanding is none of the first linguist's business. This man is the heir (though perhaps not fully aware of it) to a tradition of scientific behaviourism which has dominated Western thought for much of the 20th Century and generated an impressive body of research.

 

The second linguist has been influenced by currents of rationalist thought. She may concede the tidiness of the first linguist's model, but find its interpretation distorted or sterile. Yes, the conversational analyst, within the special selectivity of his model, may trawl up repeating elements from a text, but so what? What significance do they really have for speaker and listener? Are they inserted by design? At what level (morpheme, word, clause, topic..) does a speaker have conscious control over her language generation, including repetition? And what about the torrent of inner, unspoken, often fragmentary language that washes the edge of her consciousness day and night? Surely other people experience this? Surely public spoken language is part of the same ocean as this inner voice, and cannot properly be interpreted in isolation?

 

The two linguists clearly have different perspectives, which will deeply affect the questions they ask and the answers they accept as meaningful. The behaviourist claims to be objective. The rationalist will admit subjective evidence. Both implicitly accept an ontological dualism which goes back to the mind-body debates of the European Enlightenment, and earlier.

 

A third view, implicit in the Madhyamika Buddhist tradition of mindfulness-awareness, rejects the dualist position. This has recently been adopted by some cognitive scientists such as Varela, Thompson & Rosch (1991), and is also making an impact in certain areas of general psychology. In this view language (and thought) is not representational, not symbolic. It is an emergent property of vast, dynamic nets of relationships among systems of neurones, and among ecological systems which include but extend beyond the individual. This third position is close to my own, but much of what follows will initially cover more familiar perspectives.

 

3.4 Repetition as evidence: the scale of magnification

 

The introductory section raised the question of scale. I remarked that a human being could be regarded as a squishy heap of cellular structures, endlessly replicating themselves. Our sense that our friends (indeed, ourselves) are the same people from day to day stems from viewing them as unified structures rather than as an aggregate of short-lived cells. In fact the whole is more than an aggregate of the parts, and this is true through a whole series of stages from subatomic particle, to molecule, to cell, to body part, and so on.

 

The point is worth making because it holds as well in the conceptual structures of language as anywhere else in nature. It is critical to what counts as explanation in a model of language.

 

For example, the formulaic phrase "you know" occurs 975 times in a 130,000 word corpus which I am studying. The repetitions of "you" or "know" taken individually (i.e. at a lower level of organization) could not reveal the significance of the combination. Potentially conflicting explanations of this phrasal repetition might be attempted respectively at the level of discourse context, or at a more embracing level of societal context, or in the general psychological context of language repetition, or at an ecological level encompassing the interrelationships of societal, cognitive and specific discourse functions. Generative, functional-systemic, discourse and sociolinguistic models have all settled on different levels of explanation for repetitive phenomena, and not surprisingly may differ on what is seen to be significantly repetitive at all.

 

3.5 Past studies of repetition in linguistics

 

Repetition has been almost ignored (under that label) in syntactic research, although grammatical rules themselves catalogue a type of repetition, and studies of anaphora etc. approach the more regular forms of lexical repetition. Less regular repetition, and that occurring above clause level has held little interest for sentential grammarians.

 

The mention of repetition has become fairly common in various kinds of text and discourse studies. Some discussion of this (Halliday & Hasan 1976, Hoey 1991, and others) occurs in a later section of this chapter.

 

Text linguists will mention repetition in the context of cohesion, and what they discuss generally are words with some informational salience in an utterance which can be shown to have applied at some prior place in the utterance. This is said to create a "tie" which in some way assists communication. Whether this tie enters into the consciousness of the interlocutors is moot. They may also note the reuse of a syntactic structure when it occurs in close proximity (usually greater proximity than the word ties), and prosodic repetition relating to intonation, rhythm or rhyme.

 

Such text analyses will not often speculate on the "tie" status of a highly grammaticalized item such as the, probably the most repeated word in English, on the grounds that it is syntactically motivated. This would be another judgement about applying explanatory scale. We could query the judgement by noting that every word in the language is an encoded unit that has been set aside for global repetition. At what point does a lexical repetition cease to be important as a cohesive tie?

 

3.6. Uses of repetition in this study

 

This thesis tries to make no a priori assumptions about the repetitive status of particular linguistic elements. It begins by recognising that repetition is a complex phenomenon with a whole range of consequences depending upon whether it is global (as with codified lexical forms), contextual (within the topic reach of a particular discourse) or proximate (within the purview of something like short term memory).

 

It also attempts to account for the paradox of inclusion by treating all linguistic elements which may be unitary at one level of operation, as potentially reducible to clusters of collocating indices - in effect the contributing properties and relationships which give that element its definition. Particular collocating indices from one linguistic element (such as a g-vortex or a word) may repeat or assume greater or lesser weight in the balance of relationships in a succeeding linguistic element. For example, the force of you in "you should come" will have a quite different weight from you in "you know".

 

The broadest notion of repetition can be articulated by a very general linguistic entity, already identified in chapter 2 as the g-ripple or repeating entity. . For example, I have just argued that lexical items at the micro level are concatenations of collocating indices of various weights. The g-ripple (repeating entity) is a form sufficiently codified to withstand mnemonic storage and reuse. A g-ripple may subsume complex associative relationships.

 

Hypotheses about the general properties of repeating entities promise to be very productive. More discussion of g-ripple properties will be pursued later. For the moment an initial example will give a sense of the possibilities. Some iconic imagery will assist the description here. I propose that repeating entities "migrate" across cognitive space in language generation, and that they introduce collocation drag into the generative process. Collocation drag means that a g-ripple will carry with it its whole evolutionary history of use and meaning for both speaker and listener. This multiplies the probability on reuse of eliciting other collocations (in whole or in part) that have occurred previously in the text, or in experience.

 

Take the following, from a genuine conversation:

 

a) I want a trannie mum for Christmas

 

b) Want a cup of coffee mum

 

These utterances occur twenty-three lines apart in a corpus. Both are pseudo-quotations, "recalled" by the mother forty years after the event. Neither has the simple meaning we might infer out of context. The first is in the context of an inquisitive boy who takes everything electronic to pieces and reinvents it. The second introduces a trick coffee pot which "talks back". The linguistic point is that [I] want X has "migrated" for reuse in the discourse, and carried with it connotations of electronic trickery.

 

Collocation drag is a symptom of very interesting cognitive processes. A probably related phenomenon is that words or phrases and/or syntactic patterns which do not usually have high density in an idiolect may occur in clusters through a corpus when they are used. Various items seem to have characteristic repetition cluster patterns. I have found much evidence for this, both informally and in a large corpus of Australian speech. Some of this repetition stems from concentration on a particular current topic of conversation, as might be expected. Much however, seems to derive from more fundamental cognitive processes that I have called mnemonic resonance.

 

Mnemonic resonance is the description adopted in this thesis for the mechanism which leads to a persistence in memory of an idea after use - or since we are talking linguistics, let us say of a linguistic element after use - and the heightened availability of this element to a progressing discourse for recall or for evoking a field of linguistic associations. A g-ripple is a product of mnemonic resonance.

 

At this point it may lend perspective if I return to tracking some of the more conventional analyses of repetition, particularly notions of cohesion in recent traditions of British textual studies. This material pays special attention to the (cognitively) more complex phenomenon of repetition expressed through various kinds of equivalent or related substitution.

 

3.7 Repeating entities as cohesive devices

 

Since about the time of Halliday and Hasan's Cohesion in English (1976), cohesion has been a major area of study in British text linguistics. Earlier work concentrated on identifying a large number of cohesive categories. The following set is typical:

 

[Hoey 1991: 8, from Hasan 1984:202] Categories of lexical cohesion:

 

a) General           i)  repetition                   leave, leaving, left           

 

                          ii) synonymy                  leave, depart                

 

 

  iii) antonymy                 leave, arrive                

 

                         iv) hyperonymy               travel, leave (including co-  

                                                                                  hyponyms, leave, arrive)      

 

                         v) meronymy                 hand, finger (including       

                                                                                  co-meronyms, finger, thumb)   

 

b) Instantial        i) equivalence                the sailor was their daddy   

 

                        ii)  naming                     the dog was called Toto        

 

                        iii) semblance                the deck was like a pool    

 

 

Later work by Hasan in particular concluded that categories of cohesion were less significant than their collective interaction in a text:

 

[Hoey 1991:16] "Hasan's contribution to answering the question of the relationship between cohesion and coherence is twofold. Firstly she provides evidence that greater insight into text can be achieved if one abandons the classificatory view of cohesion in favour of an integrated approach, and secondly, she shows that it is the contribution of ties that is significant, not their occurrence in isolation. ..."

 

Winter (1974) chose to treat cohesion more inclusively than Hasan and others and, crucially, to relate it to repetition:

 

[Winter 1974:79 from Hoey 1991: 16] "[Winter's] interest is in how the grammar of sentences contributes to their interpretation in context. For him, therefore, it is much more important to recognise the common function of the variety of cohesive ties than to distinguish them, the common function being to repeat. As he notes:

 

"A commonplace observation that everyone can make for themselves is that many clauses are repeated, either partially or (almost) entirely, in speech and in writing, the most obvious kind of repetition being the very common partially repeated structures of the clause. This repetition may however, be disguised by the grammatical form which it takes; that is, either by substitution, by deletion, or by a combination of both forms. [Winter 1979:101]."

 

" ... what Winter counts as repetition is broader than, for example, Halliday and Hasan's category of reiteration. He uses the term repetition to stand for ellipsis (which he prefers to refer to as deletion), substitution (the label used by Quirk et al. 1972, to describe what Halliday and Hasan term as reference) and lexical repetition (broadly equivalent to Halliday and Hasan's reiteration)."

 

These quoted models may be familiar to many readers. Their mention here is to identify a common ground which can be approached for different levels of explanation. Hoey's summary of Winter's views is also useful;

 

[Hoey 1991: 20]:

 

<> "If cohesion is to be interpreted correctly, it must be interpreted in the context of the sentences where it occurs.

 

<> We are more likely to arrive at a satisfactory account of how cohesion works if we concentrate on the way repetition clusters in pairs of sentences.

 

<> It is the common repeating function of much cohesion that is important, not the classificatory differences between types of cohesion.

 

<> There is informational value to repetition, in that it provides a framework for interpreting what has changed.

 

<> Relations between sentences established by repetition need not be adjacent and may be multiple."

 

The present study is congenial to many of Winter's and Hasan's (later) observations. However, it goes further even than Winter in treating repetition and cohesion as very general phenomena which become significant in a multiplicity of ways. There would be a difference in emphasis in interpreting some of Winter's points above. Whereas Winter, Hoey and Hasan are essentially interested in the surface properties of text, this writer is interested in the cognitive properties which coexist with those surface patterns.

 

Whereas previous models have assumed repetition to occur solely in actual generated discourse, this study accepts the likelihood that what it terms repeating entities may remain latent _ that is, remain invisible on the surface of the text while playing an important part in the cognitive process. Ellipsis would be a non-controversial example, but it could be argued that even non-recoverable repeating entities are significant items of cohesion and coherence for both speaker and listener.

 

Incoherence in spoken or written discourse is readily apparent to interlocutors, but the defining properties of overall coherence have remained much more intractable for linguists than markers of cohesion. There is a good reason for this. Traditional analyses have considered coherence a subjective quality (in the mind of the decoder), but cohesion as an objective (i.e. observable) property of generated text. As [Hoey 1991: 11] says:

 

"..coherence is only measurable in terms of a reader's assessment. This allows us to make a simple distinction..... We will assume that cohesion is a property of the text, and that coherence is a facet of the reader's evaluation of a text. In other words, cohesion is objective ...".

 

The present study differs. I made the point earlier that it was possible to reject the subjective/objective dichotomy in favour of an emergent view of consciousness in which cognition and the apparent external world co-generate our realities, including language. For the problem on hand (coherence and cohesion) we can note that if cohesion is a significant property of text, then it is also a significant property of mind, though we may not yet have properly explained that significance. Equally, if coherence is a property of cognition (in ways not yet well understood), then it will be represented somehow in the relationship between text and cognition. One link in that relationship may well be latent repeating entities. The analysis to follow will offer some rationale for this position.

 

A sense of topic coherence is maintained linguistically i) in conventional reflection between g-vortices and ideas or objects, ii) by temporal consistency, and iii) by argument links between g-vortices. Although such linguistic conditions may be met, topic coherence at the idea level is always a matter of personal understanding, and can be influenced by many factors extraneous to language.

 

Interlocutors recognise that clauses (one output of g-vortices) conform to strict rules internally, and are able partly on that basis to find them meaningful. The perceived unity of an extended discourse however is not essentially dependent upon syntactic rules (although their violation inter-clausally can cause considerable confusion). Rather, a text is considered to be coherent if, amongst other things, it conforms to topic reference in ways that may be idiosyncratic, but which remain comprehensible to and accepted by speaker and listener. It is common for much of a topic reference to remain latent, that is, non-explicit. Hence my earlier reference to the importance of latent repeating entities.

 

One easy way to grasp this argument is the extreme example of the double entendre conversation. Think of a politician talking in code, or a woman fishing for the attention of a man where convention forbids her to proposition him directly. Both may be insistent, repetitive and logically progressive within the sub-text. In fact, this sort of thing also infuses normal discourse in a multiplicity of ways, so that an eavesdropping stranger will find much of what he hears only sparsely meaningful. The linguistic analysis which deals only with the surface text will be as poorly informed as the spy with his ear to the wall.

 

There is a second kind of discourse unity which is non-topic dependent, although it draws heavily on topical reference, and that is cohesion. Within and across topic boundaries, g-vortices are linked by a net of repeating entities (g-ripples) which also create cohesion. A rough definition of cohesion in the GO model environment would be an implicit recognition by either speaker or listener that certain linguistic elements in play have been met before in some incarnation, or are about to be met again. It is not required that these visitations have any propositional connection, and their individual importance may range from trivial to consuming interest. Thus while some repeating entities may do their work beyond conscious attention, cohesion is a quality that carries direct interpretive significance for each of the communicating parties.

 

Cohesive nets of repeating entities can participate selectively in building coherence, but need not. It is possible in theory to have a text with a very high cohesive index but a very low coherence index, that is, a poor integration of topics. In plain language, such a text could contain many repeated propositions, but little logical argument to sustain them. It may be a curious fact of human psychology that many people relate positively to a high cohesive index, but negatively to an excessively coherent presentation. This is my informal observation (although some colleagues have expressed skepticism). It may be that while coherence entails a certain logical coercion in interpretation for a listener, cohesion merely offers the warm inner glow of recognising tokens, and leaves the listener to interpret them as he will. Hitler wasn't the first or last demagogue to exploit this kind of preference.

 

3.8 Relations among cohesive elements

 

Although, as I have argued, cohesive nets may lack a logical connectedness sometimes, those texts which are highly coherent are also likely to have closely integrated cohesive nets. Hasan has proposed two kinds of cohesive chains which are relevant to this question:

 

"Hasan (1984 quoted by Hoey 1991: 14) reports the results of research into the relationship between coherence and cohesion in children's writing, the level of coherence being measured in terms of reader response. She shows that there is no easy correlation between the number of cohesive ties and the degree of coherence awarded a text by readers. She concludes that a better explanation of the way cohesion contributes to the recognition of coherence lies (in part) in the fact that cohesive ties form chains that interact with each other; this interaction she terms cohesive harmony."

 

"Hasan (1984; with Halliday 1985) recognises two general classes of chain: the identity chain and the similarity chain. Both types of chain, but particularly the identity chain, override the careful subcategorizations and distinctions that make up much of the earlier work on cohesion... An identity chain is made up of cohesive ties that all share the same referent(s), whether the ties in question are pronominals, reiterations, or instantial equivalents... Similarity chains are chains of ties where issues of identity cannot arise, for example, parallel processes or descriptions. ... if three occurrences arise of someone running away, there will be a similarity chain formed between the occurrences or ran away, irrespective of whether the same person did the running on each occasion."

 

Hoey (1991:92) takes the linking notion further with his proposal for cohesive nets:

 

".. network already does heavy duty in systemic linguistics in a quite different sense; the term that will be adopted here to describe both the complete set of bonded sentences and any sub-set of them is, therefore, the related one of net."

 

The general concepts employed by Hasan and Hoey here are very instructive in their patterned outline of how texts hang together. Once again however, the surface textual analysis seems to this writer to lack some crucial insight. We are, as it were, in a mountain lookout, with a great panorama of industry spread across the plain below, but we don't really know what it means. We don't understand the forces which give rise to what we are witnessing, and have no credible way to predict how it might change and develop. I will now try to take a one tentative step down the mountain to the plain, to the level of human cognition where it is all happening.

 

3.9 Cohesion and discourse presupposition

 

The discussion of latent repeating entities made the point that they may play a part in connotation, that is, in the sub-text of discourse. We mentioned the double entendre conversation. A more formal linguistic expression of these ideas is found in work on discourse presupposition. The notion of the latent repeating entity as an organizing device has explanatory power in this context. I will borrow Hoey's cohesive net, but cast it more widely to embrace latent repeating entities. Consider a conversation on a familiar topic between two intimate friends, perhaps husband and wife:

 

+ Tomorrow          [The meeting is on tomorrow. I'll be late home]             

 

- Are you sure?     [ Are you sure the meeting will be on?]                     

 

+ George was late again   [As you know, George is only late when he goes to divisional headquarters, and that is always followed by a  meeting.]                                                   

 

- OK. I'll talk to Wendy. [I'll talk to Wendy to put off our dinner party.]            

                                                                 

Linguists would identify the material in italics as discourse presuppositions, or in Are you sure? as ellipsis. Formal grammars have an insoluble problem with discourse presuppositions since they are not manifest in generated strings and may be paraphrased in any number of ways. Are they therefore non-linguistic in spite of their controlling influence on the strings that are actually surface generated ?

 

In the GO model a discourse presupposition is a latent repeating entity which was in the process of becoming a g-vortex. This process would normally entail the accumulation of a critical mass of collocating indices (associations) until at a certain threshold an intonation unit was generated. In a discourse presupposition, the generative process is aborted prior to surface expression. What triggers abortion here? Informally we know that an omission (say, ellipsis) is possible because the interlocutors can both supply the missing surface language. In cognitive processing terms, we could say that the threshold for surface generation has been raised, making it unlikely to occur. The GO model mechanism would be a special executive signal that substantive indices in the normal g-vortex do not need to be communicated.

 

Is the cohesive net among fully generative g-vortices (i.e. ones which produce intonation units) usually more complete than the cohesive net amongst expressively truncated g-vortices (i.e. discourse presuppositions)? On the contrary, it seems to me that the latter net is so secure that elements are permitted to remain latent. Even the most explicit language contains discourse presuppositions, and therefore a latent cohesive net.

 

The ratio between latent and manifest cohesion is surely significant however. I hypothesise that the overall cohesive index is normally highest where the latency potential in cognitive processing is greatest. In plain language this would mean that where shared knowledge between participants is greatest, cohesion will also be greatest, and that unexpressed cohesive factors will be much more important than the surface markers of cohesion.

 

 


 

Chapter 4     G-ripples

Chapter 4     Glossary

 

unitary conceptual code [4] may be the unitary lexical code of a word, the recognised value of a phoneme, the stable concept of a class, such as "noun", or a fixed relational identity, such as "subject". A unitary conceptual code is typical of global g-ripples.

 

g-ripple distribution types [4] g-ripples may be global or local. Local g-ripples may be subdivided into proximate and contextual repetition.

 

proximate repetition [4] is taken to be that which occurs within several intonation units of the original formulation.

 

contextual repetition [4] is that which both interlocutors will recognise as a re-presentation of some element of the current discourse, or of a closely related discourse.

 

global repetition [4] is codified repetition with generic application throughout the speech community. A global g-ripple has by virtue of its survival been shown to have clear communicative value and definable application. Lexical items are good examples of global g-ripples.

 

local repetition [4] local g-ripples may be subdivided into proximate and contextual repetition types. Local g-ripples incorporate global g-ripples in the form of words etc., but mark them with a special properties. Local g-ripples are subject to the whole range of interference which afflicts real time behaviour.

 

g-vortex dispersal processes [4] occur in g-vortices after ard-ent processing. G-vortex constituents are picked up, attenuated or amplified by mnemonic resonators, and recorded as indices in long term memory.

 

formula migration loss [4] is a process which may occur if the g-ripple is a relatively complex structure, such as a formulaic expression, and there is internal change or loss before repetition. Examples might be a syntactic reordering of elements, or a loss of accretions that had been uniquely salient to the source g-vortex.

 

 


 

G-ripples in the GO environment

 

The g-ripples of the GO model can only be understood by exploring their behaviour from at least four major perspectives:

 

4.1 The Preservation of G-Ripples

 

After a g-vortex has been processed and output as an intonation unit, it does not normally appear to be retained in memory as a single entity. Elements of it however may well be repeated in subsequent g-vortices. What are the properties of a g-ripple which lead to its excision in memory from a dispatched g-vortex and projection as an independent element into the mental space of the assembly plane?

 

4.2 The Migration of G-Ripples

 

What is the behaviour of a migrating g-ripple within the mental space of the assembly plane? Possible changes, for example, could include a shift in the weighting of its collocation indices, perhaps due to various effects of mnemonic resonance (or, in plain English, slight shifts in its recollected meaning). If the g-ripple is a relatively complex structure, such as a formulaic expression, there may be a syntactic reordering of elements, or a loss of accretions that had been uniquely salient to the source g-vortex. We could call this "formula migration loss".

 

It is altogether probable that there are general cognitive constraints which pattern the behaviour of such migrating g-ripples. Psychological studies of recall might help with understanding these processes, but would certainly have to be reinterpreted from a new perspective. In particular, it would be necessary to relate recall to the actual language of preceding dialogue.

 

4.3 The Boundary Properties of G-Ripples

 

Let us hypothesise that there is a pre-processing stage for g-vortices as the elements enter into proximity; (refer to the later discussion on g-vortices). Further, hypothesise that there is always a given population of available g-ripples with potential to enter into association with the projected g-vortex. If these hypotheses hold, then what are the boundary properties of current or projected g-vortices as they encounter the available pool of free-floating g-ripples in the assembly plane? That is, under what initial conditions is a g-ripple permitted to associate with a g-vortex?

 

Further, what is a productive balance between topic pressures like relevance, social constraints like syntactic and lexical appropriateness, coherence constraints from the preceding g-vortex, and the availability in recent memory of usable g-ripples carrying perhaps an emotional charge, as well as their own detritus of collocation drag? Are the boundaries of projected g-vortices (as opposed to the current g-vortex) particularly susceptible to penetration and infection by proximate g-ripples? We are dealing here with gross tendencies of course. Actual cognitive/physiological responses are minutely sensitive:

 

[Varela et al 1991:93] "..neuronal responses become highly context-sensitive .... Even a change in posture, while preserving the same identical sensorial stimulation, alters the neuronal responses in the primary visual cortex, demonstrating that even the seemingly remote motorium is in resonance with the sensorium."

 

4.4 The Status of G-Ripples in Language Generation

 

Since any proposition essentially adds a predicate to known information, it may be reasonable to suppose that g-vortices are actually constructed from selected g-ripples. If so, once a g-ripple evolves to participate in or as a g-vortex, what is its status ? How will its collocation indices affect or be affected by the freshly emerging environment? What part do such g-ripples play in generative breakdown by projecting unsuitable collocations? What is the balance of influence between long-distance g-ripples (i.e. mnemonically remote) and g-ripples which are more temporally proximate in source to a salient g-vortex? What is the balance between g-ripples which are high on topic coherence, and those whose resonance is more (say) phonological than semantic? (.. for example, the first draft of these notes was full of involuntary, silly repetitions such as "g-ripples can only be understood by understanding their behaviour").

 

Answers to the many questions posed in this section will not emerge immediately. Raising such queries however is a useful early step in formulating a research agenda for the GO model.

 

Repeating Entities : general properties

 

4.5. G-ripple variation

 

Repeating entities (g-ripples) show a range of properties and behaviours across a cline from local to global distribution. It is a contention of this thesis that this type-range holds a key to link the rule based properties of language generation with the adaptability of these rules to the pragmatic demands of an ever changing speech community.

 

4.6 Global G-ripples

 

Those g-ripples which achieve global distribution tend to be marked with some kind of unitary conceptual code. This may be the unitary lexical code of a word, the recognised value of a phoneme, the stable concept of a class, such as "noun", or a fixed relational identity, such as "subject". Global g-ripples of this kind are productive for repetition to the extent that the class of events to which they refer is common in a family of sociolects or registers.

 

4.7. Local G-ripples

 

Local g-ripples incorporate global g-ripples in the form of words etc, but mark them with a special properties. Whereas a global g-ripple has by virtue of its survival been shown to have clear communicative value and definable application, local g-ripples are subject to the whole range of interference which afflicts real time behaviour. Thus a local g-ripple may be communicatively dysfunctional for reasons such as inappropriate insertion into a pragmatic context, or stylistic violation arising from the repetition of a word which is intrusive in current memory (what I term a subset of mnemonic resonance).

 

Local g-ripples moreover show greater variation than global g-ripples both in extendibility (whole phrases may be repeated) and in the manipulation of contributing collocation indices at the micro level.

 

The field of local g-ripples may be subdivided into proximate and contextual repetition. Proximate repetition is taken to be that which occurs within several intonation units of the original formulation, and contextual repetition that which both interlocutors will recognise as a re-presentation of some element of the current discourse, or of a closely related discourse.

 

4.8 G-vortex and g-ripple modification

 

It seems likely that most potential g-ripples are subject to important modifying influences very soon after their original application in a g-vortex. In the model used here we find it useful to visualise that modification as part of the g-vortex dispersal process, where its elements are picked up, attenuated or amplified by mnemonic resonators, and recorded as indices in long term memory. It may be that the literal reproduction of proximate phrasal g-ripples can occur when they are occasionally reprocessed as intonation units prior to digestion by the mnemonic resonators for long-term storage.

 

Global g-ripples have the characteristic of course of retaining a set of defining features in long-term memory: a word keeps its semantic & phonological indices etc., a phrase structure retains its categorial rules, and so on. Between the persistence of global forms and the dispersal of proximate forms, there must be a continuum of modification, and one goal of the GO model must to explicate and explain the mechanisms of that continuum. This is a matter both of model hypothesis, and of testing processes against empirical data.

 

Historically, where linguists have discussed repetition their attention has been drawn to its occurrence in specific texts, and in the few cases where a distinction has been drawn between local and long-distance repetition (e.g. Hoey 1991), it has still been expressed as a range across a few clauses to a span of, say, the chapters in a book (Phillips 1985). This is a useful comparison, but in real life forms of repetition extend in a continuum from the utterance to the idiolect to the language as a whole. The GO model stresses this with the notion of global repetition - essentially codified repetition with generic application - and claims it as a basis for language development.

 

4.9 Local versus global repetition

 

At the immediate level of discourse production interlocutors do reveal differences of use between proximate and contextual repetition, and the formalised repetition of global g-ripples. This variation takes many forms. For example the generic, unmarked quality of global g-ripples may render them merely the reserve constituents for evolving g-vortices as they assemble fresh propositions, whereas proximate g-ripples are likely to have more salience (other things being equal).

 

The attractions of proximate repetition can also create problems however. It may intrude dysfunctionally as an autonomic response in the generative process, leading to anocolutha, or more frequently to a rather inept match between the intended message and its linguistic expression .

 

Both local and global repetition may be used for emphasis, or manipulated by various kinds of substitution and ellipsis. Where the change is conventional (e.g. regular ellipsis) global properties can be invoked; where it is idiosyncratic, local adaptation will be at work.

 

But most critically, proximate and contextual repetition are used as a frame of known information against which new information may be assigned significance. This gives local material privileged status in the genesis of almost every proposition.

 

 


 

Chapter 5 G-vortices: perceptual and processing frames for cognition

 

Glossary chapter 5

 

g- [5] a suffix used to mark term usages as specific to the GO model, as in g-vortex.

 

ard-ent [5] (autonomic rule-drive entity) is an autonomic adjustment mechanism in which, beyond certain threshold conditions, there is triggered a filtering, adjustment and packaging of relational sets, rather like bringing an orchestra into tune. Finally, there is a point where optimal conditions are met, that is, where meaning encapsulation can proceed.

 

"prediction" [5] is used in the GO model not in a deterministic sense, but in the sense of evolving harmonies which should mutually adapt and merge at some future point.

 

"critical processing" [5] of a g-vortex refers not to the prior location of constituents in a way that makes them immediately accessible, but rather to the fusing of a fresh pattern which is recognised to have unique meaning.

 

encapsulated meaning [5] in the GO model refers to a configuration of relationships which has become formularized, that is, which requires no internal analysis or adjustment prior to use.

 

g-vortex [5] (for GO model purposes) is a mechanism in mental space whereby an assembly of linguistic elements are given definition as an encapsulated meaning (see glossary). Encapsulated meanings may be translated phonetically for transmission external to the speaker, and/or may become constituents themselves to larger ensembles. The g-vortex mechanism is analogous to a perceptual frame typically containing (in language systems) clause-like constituents. [refer Macquarie dictionary: Vortex, in old theories, as in Cartesian philosophy, a rapid rotatory movement of cosmis matter about a centre, regarded as accounting for the origin or phenomena of bodies or systems of bodies in space.]

 

perceptual frame [5] cognitive unit which classically deals with sensorimotor rhythmicity and parsing. It has a minimum visual parsing interval of around 100 milliseconds. The GO model extends its use to linguistic parsing, but makes no a priori claims about the linguistic parsing interval. The term is borrowed from the literature on neuroscience and psychology where, for example, one of the better known phenomena discussed is "perceptual simultaneity" or "apparent motion"; (refer Varela 1991:72)

 

intonation unit [5] is the minimum unit of contiguous utterance. It is a piece of verbal behaviour, a unit of message transmission, and a presumed outcome of complex processes that are not verbal and (in all probability) not entirely linear. A g-vortex is not formally equivalent to an intonation unit.

 

predictive organization [5] is used in the GO model not in a volitional sense, but in the sense of evolving harmonies which will mutually adapt and merge at some future point.

 

 


 

 

 

G-vortices: perceptual and processing times for cognition

 

5.1 The life and death of a g-vortex

 

The GO model conceives of two main kinds of transitional entities in the assembly plane, g-ripples and g-vortices. G-ripples can embrace almost any kind of phenomena connected with language, and may have analogues in other areas of cognition. They can be local or global, simple or complex, selected for processing or (it is hypothesised) remain latent. A g-ripple is a vehicle, in other words, for carrying some kind of encapsulated meaning and set of relationships in cognitive time and space.

 

The g-vortex as formulated in the GO model evolves from a g-ripple, but differs in function and ultimately in design. Those g-ripples which are able to evolve into g-vortices would constitute a special subset of the class. A g-vortex is not an essentially passive vehicle, but a temporary processing centre to bring together a controlled collection of linguistic indices and to meld them according to strict rules into a form which encodes communicative significance, which in fact we recognise as language.

 

There are clearly many ways to envisage the physicality of a g-vortex. I prefer to think of a floating population of latent g-vortices in any assembly plane. I see their genesis in individual g-ripples whose resonance charge has been heightened by the proximity of sympathetic resonance in preceding g-vortices, and which begin to accrete compatible indices from memory and more proximate sources in a kind of harmonic dance. At a certain critical threshold a complex standing waveform will coalesce - the form which has operational potential as a full g-vortex - and if this coincides with a vacant slot in the discourse stream, the latent g-vortex will attract a further configuration of filtering waveforms from the ard-ent (autonomic rule drive). This will force a coded output to phonological form (or internal monologue or hand signalling or whatever).

 

What happens to the g-vortex when its moment of glory has passed? Its decay is probably a natural consequence of the subtly shifting tide of sympathetic resonance about a particular g-topic in the assembly plane. Briefly its own emanations will have the power to excite other contextual g-ripples, which begin to build their own g-vortex potential.

 

This general description could be elaborated in various directions. For example, we might envisage a series of standing "resonance attractors" in the assembly plane, which, sensitised to particular kinds of indices in the g-vortex (or any passing g-ripple), would pick up constituents in a kind of mnemonic resonance matching procedure, amplifying or diminishing them, and generally encode the history of an index item (with its collocating associations) in long term memory.

 

5.2 The segmented nature of language generation

 

For GO model purposes, a g-vortex is a mechanism in mental space whereby an assembly of linguistic elements are given definition as an encapsulated meaning (see glossary). Encapsulated meanings may be translated phonetically for transmission external to the speaker, and/or may become constituents themselves to larger ensembles. Although the output of a g-vortex may be translated into linear phonetic form via intonation units, the critical processing of linguistic elements is hypothesised to occur for the most part simultaneously; that is, to take advantage of the parallel processing capabilities of the central nervous system. "Critical processing" refers not to the prior location of constituents in a way that makes them immediately accessible, but rather to the fusing of a fresh pattern which is recognised to have unique meaning.

 

There must be finite and simultaneous data access for a parallel processing operation with a specific outcome like a clause. This constraint may be supported by the analogous 100 milliseconds or so which it takes to minimally discriminate visual information (Varela 1991:73). Analogy is claimed here for the process, not the actual duration of frames (which would need some clever research design to determine empirically). For all this qualification however, the GO model proposes a stream of g-vortex "time bubbles" rather than an unbroken flow of text generation.

 

The modular character of g-vortices also raises the possibility that a number of finite processing constellations may develop simultaneously. If so, this introduces a new flexibility into the generative process and suggests alternative explanations for many intractable problems in earlier models.

 

There is no reason to suppose that the class of objects called "g-vortex" is particular to language, although linguistic g-vortices undoubtedly have special properties. I have already noted the extensive psychological literature on the similar concept of perceptual frames (Varela 1991:73).

 

There is of course independent evidence that language processing does take place in short bursts, most notably the division of the linear, phonetic output into intonation units, but also a host of psycholinguistic experiments on everything from the recollection of phrases [], to the time differentials in processing certain kinds of syntactic strings [], to studies of L1 and L2 acquisition [Wong-Fillmore 1976...]. Text/discourse linguists have also widely concurred on selecting the intonation unit as a basic unit of analysis, with the inference that it is the basic unit of production.

 

5.3 G-vortices differentiated from intonation units

 

A G-vortex is not formally equivalent to an intonation unit. An intonation unit is the minimum unit of contiguous utterance. It is a piece of verbal behaviour, a unit of message transmission, and a presumed outcome of complex processes that are not verbal and (in all probability) not entirely linear.

 

For the researcher to confine himself to the intonation unit is almost precisely equivalent to behaviourists of a generation ago confining themselves to supposedly observable behaviour - a procedure that can yield much useful information, but is so ultimately limiting that the relative significance of what is observed is bound to be distorted out of all proportion. By proposing the g-vortex therefore, the GO model implies a claim that a theoretical model is a tool for achieving insights and predictions which purely behaviouristic models cannot match. This is not intended to exclude appeals to empirical evidence of course.

 

5.4 Necessary properties of g-vortices

 

If a g-vortex is finite in time and space, then it must have a genesis, it must have internal structure and dynamic, it must have boundary properties to regulate the input and output of information, and it must have regular characteristics of decay, or perhaps, the selective preservation of certain of its elements. In exploring the possible configuration of all these properties we will blunder down many blind alleys, but also stand to gain real insights into the cognitive dynamics of language generation. 

 

5.5 Where do g-vortices come from?

 

Substantial processing is required to assemble the constituents of a g-vortex into a well-formed syntactic string, properly ordered, thematically sound, semantically sensible, pragmatically appropriate and set with a phonological translation. Although such processing may be largely simultaneous, the question arises as to whether there is a pre-processing assembly stage. Again, recourse to processes of visual perception may suggest some answers.

 

5.6 Visual perception as a template for the GO model

 

How do we actually select the constituents of those minimal 100 millisecond frames in visual perception? It is common experience that only certain salient features in the vision field are registered, (hence the classic example from psychology texts of looking at a clock face but not "seeing" the clock tower). Further, how do we select for the frame that will instantly follow the point of current attention, and the one which will follow that again? Evidently what is happening within frames is a process more related to matching and recognition than gross filtering of all stimulations from the optic nerve.

 

We could say that vision occurs in three stages. First there is a priming process, with input both from the optic nerve and from internal cognitive resources. The second stage is the convergence of a perceptual frame for processing to extract a finite packet of recognizable perceptual relationships. The third stage is the association of sequences of these perceptual packets in memory/awareness to generate a sense (an illusion?) continuity in vision. If these stages seem reminiscent of the GO model parameters for natural language generation, it is no accident, and I will return to that theme presently. Consider though how the optic priming itself occurs:

 

[Varela 1991:94-95] "The optic nerve connects from the eyes to a region in the thalamus called the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and from there to the visual cortex. ... It is evident that 80% of what any LGN cell listens to comes not from the retina but from the dense interconnectedness of other regions of the brain. Furthermore, one can see that there are more fibers coming from the cortix down to the LGN than there are going in the reverse direction. To look at the visual pathways as constituting a sequential processor seems entirely arbitrary; one could just as easily see the sequence moving in the reverse direction."

 

[p96] "Thus at even the most peripheral end of the visual system, the influences that the brain receives from the eye are met by more activity that flows from the cortex. The encounter of these two ensembles of neuronal activity is one moment in the emergence of a new coherent configuration, depending on a sort of resonance or active match-mismatch between the sensory activity and the internal setting at the primary cortex."

 

[p96] " ..the basic mechanism of recognition of a visual object or a visual attribute could be said to be the emergence of global state among resonating neuronal ensembles... In fact Stephen Grossberg has pioneered a detailed analysis of such adaptive resonant neuronal networks; the skeleton of one known as ART (from adaptive resonance theory). [Carpenter, G & S. Grossberg (1987) A massively parallel architecture for a self-organizing neural pattern recognition machine, Computer Vision, Graphics and Image Processing 37:54-115]. .. all the rules of ART describe emergent properties of parallel network interactions."

 

[p98] "If we take the notion of a heap or pile (skandha) as a metaphor for the emergent configurations of a neural network, we will be led to think of the aggregates as resonant patterns in one moment of emergence. Such resonant patterns do take time to arise, since they involve many cycles of back-and-forth activity among all participating local networks." [My italics]

 

5.7 The formative stages of a g-vortex

 

What is the linguistic equivalent of an optic nerve for language generation? There is of course aural stimulation, which could be expected to interact with the central nervous system in ways comparable to optic stimulation acting on the thalamus region. Unlike vision however, the language mechanism outputs signals to the external environment. If we adopt the Madhyamika Buddhist view here of inner and outer environments as a continuum, and of thought merely as another "sense organ", then the reversal of interaction between inner and outer is inconsequential. The substitute and/or complement for aural stimulation in speech production can be a form of thought. It will be convenient to refer to that thought as the class of topic-ents. Another set of the "resonating neuronal assemblies" (cf. Grossberg) in this equation will be what I have termed g-ripples.

 

5.8 The point of genesis for a g-vortex

 

I have defined an approximate environment for the emergence of g-vortices: a g-topic setting the context with, as it were, a fundamental harmony, and a proximate population of easy recollections, snippets that (linguistically) I have called g-ripples. They could also be thought of as "musical bars" which individually, at certain points, resonate with the dominant chord. It remains to identify the point about which a g-vortex emerges, the grain of irritation that gives rise to a pearl. The nature of that point is not transparent to casual reflection, but I hypothesize that it is always a fragment of what I will call encapsulated meaning, essentially in the form of a g-ripple.

 

Encapsulated meaning in the GO model refers to a configuration of relationships which has become formularized, that is, which requires no internal analysis or adjustment prior to use. Just as we can use a car, or for that matter a formula like e=mc2, without being aware of, let alone understanding the components, so we can use words and other linguistic devices in an unanalysed manner. G-vortex synthesis is actually the process of generating new encapsulated meaning in the special environment of language. There does seem to be an information processing limit to the way in which meaning can be encapsulated in this way, and the degree to which it endures. Sentences can easily exceed the limit, and phrasal formulas are on the very margin (see later chapters on formulaic language). Within the g-vortex frame however, the process itself is constrained and regular to the point of being autonomic.

 

In a very literal sense, a g-ripple with its encapsulated meaning is "given information". The process of adding to that given information to form a new whole is very reminiscent of the classic structure of a proposition with its argument (given) and predicate. This is not to say that every g-vortex or projected intonation unit is a full clause (it certainly isn't), but the parallel seems too close to be accidental.

 

At any given moment there must be a staggering amount of "known" information able in theory to compete as a g-ripple seed to a fresh g-vortex. Clearly this plethora will be filtered by the adjacent g-topic and the preceding discourse. Other hierarchies will also play a part. The g-ripples germane to known information to be inserted into a g-vortex will tend to be proximate or contextual, rather than global g-ripples. Those contextual g-ripples activated by background knowledge may in fact be potent long-term mnemonic indices or formulas with personal as opposed to generic application.

 

The preceding patterns have been noted from many research perspectives. One is Information Theory with its interest in the ratio of known to new information which is optimal for humans in an information packet []. It also tells us that new information can only be interpreted in the context of known information, or in linguistic terms, the meaning of the marked constituent is constrained by its relationship with unmarked constituents.

 

Research into distributed processing has equally found that a particular ratio of old information is a prior condition of new syntheses.

 

(Varela 1991:87) "The most thoroughly explored learning rule [in connectionist literature] is "Hebb's Rule." In 1949 Donald Hebb suggested that learning could be based in changes in the brain that stem from the degree of correlated activity between neurons: if two neurons tend to be active together, their connection is strengthened; otherwise it is diminished... After the learning phase, when the system is presented again with [a] pattern, it recognizes it, in the sense that it falls into a unique global state or internal configuration that is said to represent the learned item. This recognition is possible provided the number of patterns presented is not larger than a fraction (about 0.15/N) of the total number (N) of participating neurons. Furthermore, the system performs a correct recognition even if the pattern is presented with added noise or the system is partially mutilated." [My italics].

 

The significance of Hebb's rule for the genesis of g-vortices may be not only that the seed for a new g-vortex must be a g-ripple, but that the overwhelming bulk of information in its total formulation must be "known" (i.e. previously encapsulated) in some sense.

 

We are accustomed in linguistic analysis to confining meaning to linguistic parameters. The idea of encapsulated meaning as a set of relationships which require no analysis prior to use is not obviously restricted to language. If those relationships are translated to, say, a standing wave form with defined harmonic properties, it is not so difficult to see them relating to other subsystems of the cognitive environment. For example, it also seems a reasonable hypothesis that the g-ripple which emerges for embellishment into a g-vortex will typically have found some special resonance with the prevailing g-topic. The process of harmonic accretion will be discussed separately. Whatever the statistical tendencies however, it is clear from experience that conversations do break down, or turn wacky, so it must also be the case the g-topic/g-ripple match is overridden at times.

 

 

5.9 Competition and the emergence of g-vortices

 

There is no a priori reason to suppose that g-vortex formation occurs without competition, at least in the initial stages. In early connectionist models the simultaneous emergence of competing patterns would have been difficult to account for. This was precisely because activity was thought to be massively distributed. The modular g-vortex articulates a solution similar to that proposed by Minsky and others:

 

[Varela 1991:106] "Minsky and Papert argue that there are virtues not only to distribution but to insulation, that is to mechanisms that keep various processes apart. ...The more distributed .. operations are, the harder it is to have many of them active at the same time without interfering with one another. These problems do not arise however, if there are mechanisms to keep various agencies insulated form each other.. these agencies would still interact, but through more limited connections, such as those of sequential, symbolic processing."

 

It is likely that final generation of a current g-vortex is accompanied by the emergence of constituents for one or more g-vortices to immediately follow. The richness of such preparation may well vary with the familiarity of the g-topic, the nature of the discourse and even the verbal aptitude of the individual speaker, but it is difficult to imagine fluent speech without a good deal of predictive organization. "Prediction" is used here not in a deterministic sense, but in the sense of evolving harmonies which should mutually adapt and merge at some future point.

 

The competition amongst potential g-vortices will actually facilitate a queue of information packets ready to take the next parachute jump. Again, such a process has been considered by researchers at a general cognitive level. Varela et al. argue that the creative enacting of significance out of an apparently chaotic situation is the product of a "fast dynamics" that underlies the configuration of neuronal ensembles..

 

[Varela 1991:272; note on Ch.8, p.175-6] " It should be noted that this fast dynamics is not restricted to sensorial triggers: the oscillations appear and disappear quickly and quite spontaneously in various places of the brain. This suggests that such fast dynamics involve all those sub-networks that give rise to the entire readiness-to-hand in the next moment. They involve not only sensory interpretation and motor action but also the entire gamut of cognitive expectations and emotional tonality, which are central to the shaping of a moment of action. Between breakdown these oscillations are the symptoms of (rapid) reciprocal cooperation and competition among distinct agents that are activated by the current situation, vying with each other for differing modes of interpretation for a coherent cognitive framework and readiness for action. On the basis of this fast dynamics, as in an evolutionary process, one neuronal ensemble (one cognitive sub-network) finally becomes more prevalent and becomes the behavioural mode for the next cognitive moment. When we say "becomes prevalent" we do not mean a process of optimization but rather a process of consolidation out of a chaotic dynamic."

 

More tangible evidence for something like g-vortex queuing comes from the speech behaviour of people under stress in an emergency, "getting ahead of themselves" trying to explain, so that the order of presentation becomes confused. This sort of queue jumping is so common in the language related motor activity of typing that many word-processing programs have a special function to exchange reversed alphabet letters; (obviously the "encapsulated meaning" set is at a lower level of organization here than clause generation).

 

5.10 Constituent incorporation into g-vortices

 

Two kinds of questions we can ask about the constituent selection of g-vortices are: i) what are the elements, and ii) how do they enter into g-vortices? The first question has received a great deal of attention from conventional linguistics in clause-level grammars (though not knowingly in the context of g-vortices of course). The second question is in a sense an artefact of the GO model, hence unstudied, but has the potential to yield much useful information.

 

I have already argued that the candidates for g-vortex incorporation might be repeating linguistic entities, and indirectly, topic related ideas or recollections, and responses to the external environment. Ideas and external environmental responses themselves will probably be filtered by the emergence of linguistic co-formats - words or expressions - which will also be drawn from some subset of the g-ripple population.

 

If we consider the g-vortex type which is a proto-clause, then clearly many classes of constituents go into its construction. Each constituent brings its own set of associative conditions, in effect its encapsulated meaning, or what I have elsewhere called "collocation drag". Thus the presence of certain constituents will be mutually restrictive (or attractive). Some constituents will be common to all g-vortices while others are idiosyncratic to varying degrees.

 

The harmonic wave metaphor is once more a useful way to think about the attraction of constituents to a g-vortex in formation. Assume each element to have its characteristic harmonic profile which will blend or clash with the dominant theme and its myriad harmonic overtones. Indeed the local environment of the g-vortex in its formative stages could be supposed to broadcast echoes of its harmonics, exciting and amplifying near-latent chords in memory and in contextual g-ripples.

 

5.11 The internal structure of g-vortices

 

Whatever the vagaries of delinquent g-ripples, and despite the often loose organization of discourse across time, there is no doubt that the internal organization and management of g-vortices in their final configuration must be very highly structured. If there really is a Chomskyan-type Universal Grammar, in a GO-type model the g-vortex must be the channel for it. The autonomy of syntax in such an environment is perhaps defensible to an extent that has simply become non-credible in the undifferentiated territory of classical grammars. There is a sense in which the cellular nature of the g-vortex combined with (as I have suggested) only a limited autonomy in the incorporation of constituents can permit a quite finite number of powerful rules and constraints to act in a highly predictable manner; (the constraint filters themselves will be "encapsulated meanings"). The output of any given g-vortex may at times lack grace, but the generative machine itself is fast and fairly reliable, while any lumpiness can be finessed by directing appropriate g-ripples into subsequent g-vortices.

 

5.12 Generative output of g-vortices

 

What is the device which triggers a g-vortex from latency to output? I have said that a g-vortex is the synthesis of a new encapsulated meaning. In surface language strings we have a clear sense of this kind of encapsulation in phrases, clauses and sentences. In cognitive processing terms there must be threshold conditions which trigger the filtering, adjustment and packaging of relational sets, rather like bringing an orchestra into tune, and there must be a point where optimal conditions are met, that is, where the encapsulation can proceed. In the GO model this autonomic adjustment mechanism is called the ard-ent.

 

Environmental factors external to a g-vortex might also precipitate its use for intonation unit generation. One factor would seem to be communicative pressure. If a listener is around we project language into speech; if no one else is available we project it into thought. As every beginning meditator learns, not to think of this and that takes ferocious concentration. Equally, not to generate language is almost impossible. With a demand as insatiable as this, the quality of available material might not always be up to scratch.

 

5.13 Generative breakdown

 

Breakdowns of generative outcomes are frequent in live speech. Existing models have to explain this by referring to unspecified "performance problems". What the g-vortex does is to give us a way to account for such failure in more detail. Although the generative processing of the g-vortex is autonomic and usually works as advertised, we can see from the many fragmentary intonation units output by speakers that the constituents assembled by projected g-vortices are at times insufficient to generate complete clauses, whereas at other times they incorporate enough material to generate a continuous stream of two or more clauses. In certain cases the ordering of g-vortices into linear intonation units may be disrupted.

 

If a given g-vortex is due for the next parachute jump, it may be sucked out by communicative pressure as soon as the preceding one is cleared, regardless of whether the equipment quota is fully stocked up, or occasionally overstocked where mnemonic harmonies have offered special largess. If there are competing latent g-vortices, it may be the case that none are entirely suitable to the task. One which is not fully focused, or is not altogether suitable for the discourse organization, may nonetheless have a dominant potency for extraneous reasons (e.g. an emotional charge) and trigger syntactic processing.

 

One area of generative dysfunction is likely to be found in the incorporation of unsuitable g-ripples. In the GO model it is suggested that g-ripples have their own dynamic charge, or dominant harmonic wave, invested in some sense from mnemonic resonance. Under certain conditions this charge may be sufficient to breach barrier conditions, trigger the processing of an essentially unsuitable g-vortex, and thus hijack discourse outcomes. The problem could arise either from g-ripples with powerful emotional or other associations, or from weakness and instability in the communicative environment itself: people who are embarrassed, or have nothing in common etc. This sort of diversion would also help account for the fairly erratic topic switching common to informal conversation.

 

5.14 The Monitor Rule Drive and Language Variation

 

Any student of discourse will soon notice that well-formed clauses are sometimes assembled hesitantly from a succession of fragmentary intonation units. This kind of assembly differs from the apparently effortless fluency of internal g-vortex production. In effect, encapsulated meanings are incorporated into the new g-vortices at a lower than usual level of organization. There is an appearance that normal clause-like g-vortices are substituted by a sort of manual override of the autonomic system, similar to what happens when foreign language students assemble "correct" sentences in a classroom exercise; (that is, an analogue of Krashen's 1977 Monitor Model).

 

I hypothesize that such a procedure for producing clauses has the potential for more variable outcomes than g-vortex formation. For example, it seems intuitively more likely to be influenced by ephemera: sociolectal fashion, register, situational context and other elements which are less inclined to have rigid encapsulated meanings themselves.

 

If there is a "manual override" of the kind suggested here then the GO model must acknowledge some form of executive process. There are various ways of envisaging this. We come up against philosophy again. The mind/body/free will approach evades the issue by simply positing a controlling spirit or mind. Like the appeal to godhead itself this poses explanatory problems of an infinite regression (where is "mind" grounded?).

 

Another apparent solution is also a regression of nested systems in which the behavior of each encapsulated system is determined by the next level of hierarchy. Thus if A, B and C are subsystems (say, three words), then the meta-system M may contain an encapsulated rule which says the relationship between A, B and C will always have the form S (say, a sentence). Fortunately for humans,life is not quite so simple.

 

Earlier I noted that the amount of information that could be processed for encapsulated meaning in one step seemed to be limited. The "seven bit limit" of information theory comes to mind []. In language the stability of encapsulation above word size seems to diminish rapidly over time (we rarely recall whole sentences or paragraphs verbatim) and although rule sets like phrase-structure rules seem quite complex, they may in fact be "societies of agents" (c.f. Minsky), each operating within a very limited domain.

 

It does seem that different constituents of a g-ripple, or encapsulated meta-meaning, apply differentially within the same g-vortex. Thus if we think of a word as a small encapsulated system of standing waveforms (to continue the GO metaphor), then that harmonic relating to word class will resonate with the comparable harmonic in other lexical items, while that at a frequency for a derivational morphemes like the plural marker will respond to like matches, and so on. Any one of these filters can rule the word out of context for a particular g-vortex.

 

There is no principled reason that encapsulated meanings could not be nested indefinitely in certain systems. (In fact, in another domain, the accelerating and terrifying complexity of modern industrial societies seems to require just that, so that most participants are lost from early childhood. They remain oblivious to most embedded meanings and operate at a level of faith or magical belief, drugged by illusory mass media explanations. 80% of people can't program their digital watches, and have trouble reading or writing much more than a grocery list. This will not change).

 

However in language generation there are a self-limiting constraints on the embedded complexity of g-vortices. One limit is the transparency of the information package to whoever has to decode it. The semantic effect of embedding meanings to n layers is a loss of specificity. In face to face human intercourse we have sociolectal rules to set an optimal range for generality: not too vague and not too pointed.

 

Another limit is the real-time pressure for the projection of g-vortices into the phonological form of intonation units. This pressure, and the generative breakdown it occasionally leads to, have already been discussed. Once an intonation unit has been uttered it creates, as it were, an irreversible marker in real time which must be sequenced in a linear fashion by another intonation unit. This linear progression creates its own imperative for some kind of rational ordering, that is, the ordering we expect of a coherent discourse.

 

The sequencing of discourse is very different from the organization which goes into a g-vortex, cum intonation unit, cum phrase or clause. This difference is clear even to casual inspection, and in spite of the best efforts of conversational analysts like van Dijk (1978) to propose a "discourse grammar". I believe that it arises from the rather different cognitive processing demands involved. For example, the ordering of discourse occurs at a speed which is orders of magnitude less than that involved in g-vortex formation. It involves contingent problems of logic and social modulation that are simply not amenable to encapsulated rules of autonomic processing in very narrow g-vortex domains.

 

The "manual override" of discourse processing need not, in fact, be anything as exotic as a spiritual free will. The extended time frame leaves ample opportunity for the kind of learning by back-propagation envisaged in many connectionist models. It is possible to interpret the more formal requirements of discourse organization, such as logical inferencing, temporal agreement, culturally prescribed presentation etc. as special constrained cases of distributed processing. Overall however, the mord-ent (monitor rule drive), as this whole area of operation is referred to in the GO model, is much more variable, extensive and open-ended than the ard-ent (autonomic rule drive) which operates into g-vortices.

 

I have contrasted the internal-processing of a g-vortex (autonomic, highly constrained, very fast) with mord-ent processing, which allows many features of extended discourse that seem variable, idiosyncratic and subject to all kinds of contingent adjustment. Fluency, for example, may quite dysfunctional in many social contexts.

 

In practice the level of constraint in mord-ent processing seems to extend through a spectrum. There is no doubt that restrictions on sentences, even very long ones uttered over a number of intonation units, are very severe, and thoroughly encapsulated by any competent speaker of the language. Across sentences even formal requirements like tense agreement are often violated, while across paragraphs almost anything within interlocutor social tolerance may hold.

 

 


 

 

Chapter 6 Words and meanings

 

Glossary for Chapter 6

 

word [6] a small, fairly stable system. To codify a word in the GO model is not to make any claims about other worlds, so ontological problems of representation are avoided. It is to note that one small system has certain internal characteristics, and certain fairly constant relations with the macro-systems of language, with other internal cognitive environments and with the environment which is external to the whole organism. A word co-occurs with other systems as a sort of natural growth, a fungus or weed or parasite which finds a congenial niche in the ecosystem.

 

meaning [6] The meaning of meaning is a notorious maze, but usually used by linguists in a "common sense" way, being the way of their unanalysed world-view. "Meaning is what a word denotes" would be a typical definition. Implicit in this is the mind/body assumption, the representational approach to language. It makes little sense from the viewpoint of an emergent philosophy which does not envisage different worlds of mind and body to treat denotative meaning as some kind of reified entity.

 

Encapsulated meaning [6] is a statement about very special relations, namely a set of relations that can be used as an unanalysed block within a cognitive system. That is, the complex of values represented by that relational block are known to the system and can be used rapidly, without further processing.

 

collocation drag [6] in a word is a collective reference to various kinds or correlations which exist for the indices (constituents) of the word. Some of those correlations will be specific to language (e.g. "cat"=noun), some will be filtered heavily by other cognitive systems (e.g. emotional associations from childhood), while others will relate more directly to recent sensory stimulation from an external environment (e.g. the creature stalking along my back fence).

 

collocation index [6] is an identifier in the GO model for each correlation which a word has with systems external to the word.

 

weighted value [6] refers to the relative power of each collocation index in a word to invoke associations ("resonance") with elements in other systems. The weighted value of a collocation index is not a fixed value in most cases (strict categorial values like word class may be an exception). It seems likely that weighted values move within a band or range

 

phrasal formula [6] A clause whose meaning is not entirely encapsulated prior to processing, but whose constituents have a powerful mnemonic resonance which will make processing outcomes more rapid and assured than for a contingently generated phrase. The level of meaning encapsulation in phrasal formulas varies greatly, and they may not form a properly definable set.

 

 


 

 

Words and meanings

 

6.1 Size limits of repeating entities

 

Why is it that, globally, we claim to remember words rather than sentences? There is no doubt that whole sentences are frequently repeated in the short range of a discourse, but with the exception of a few frozen idioms they do not appear to achieve global recognition. Some linguists (Pawley 1985) claim that we also remember a large repertoire of phrasal formulas without which native-like language behaviour would be impossible. The claim is intuitively appealing, but curiously difficult to demonstrate with the kind of rigorous evidence which is available for the lexicon. They key to this mystery, I suspect, lies in just what it is we remember about words.

 

6.2 What does a word codify?

 

In the GO model, a word is a small, fairly stable system. Relative stability is what makes it viable as a global repeating entity. Smallness is an important property, and recalls Minsky's "society of agents" in neural networks [quoted in Varela 1991], operating with great efficiency exactly because the defined territory of each agent is relatively simple. Criteria of internal efficiency must be matched by certain external combinatorial properties. Varela (1991:105), referring not merely to word micro-systems, explains that

 

"the task, ...is to organize the agents who operate in these specific domains into effective larger systems or "agencies", and these agencies in turn into high-level systems. In doing so, mind emerges as a kind of society".

 

Dualistic philosophies must discuss meaning in terms of representation. To codify a word in these terms is to specify that it represents certain fixed and defined properties of another world. Every element of the representation is arbitrary however. It is arbitrary in English that "we" has two letters, and that it can be inclusive or exclusive of the speaker. This claim to arbitrary representation has always created problems. Why should words represent certain properties of other worlds but so manifestly fail to capture the whole quality of experience, no matter how skilled or inventive the speaker? Why do meanings continue to be negotiable, and slightly different for each interlocutor while, say, mathematical phrasing is not ... and so on.

 

Other philosophers have recognized a problem with the symbolic process, but lack insight into a mechanism which can overcome it.

 

[Varela et al. 1991:232,3] "Contemporary philosophy is replete with ... examples of how things are empty of any intrinsic identity because they depend on forms of designation. Hilary Putnam has even devised a theorem in formal semantics to show that there can be no unique mapping between words and the world: even if we know the conditions under which sentences are true, we cannot fix the way their terms refer. Putnam concludes that we cannot understand meaning if we hold on to the idea that there is some privileged set of mind-independent objects to which language refers. Instead, he writes, "`Objects' do not exist independently of conceptual schemes. We cut up the world into objects when we introduce one or another scheme of description. Since the objects and the signs are alike internal to the scheme of description, it is possible to say what matches what."

 

[233] "[Putnam] also argues against the very notion of properties that exist intrinsically (i.e. non-dependently), a notion that lies at the basis of objectivism. ...Putnam argues that this classical idea, combined with contemporary scientific realism, leads to the complete devaluation of experience, for virtually all of the features of our life-world become mere "projections" of the mind. The irony of this stance ... is that it becomes indistinguishable from idealism, for it makes the lived world a result of subjective representation. ...Yet despite this thorough critique of objectivism, the argument is never turned the other way round. Mind-independent objects are challenged, but object-dependent minds never are. ....The interpretationists - pragmatists or otherwise - also do not challenge the groundlessness of the concepts and interpretations themselves; rather they take these as the ground on which they stand. This is far from an entre-deux and far from Madhyamika."

 

To codify a word in the GO model is not to make any necessary claims about other worlds, so ontological problems of representation are avoided. It is to note that one small system has certain internal characteristics, and certain fairly constant relations with the macro-systems of language, with other internal cognitive environments and with the environment which is external to the whole organism.

 

If the word's small internal system is dynamic, and has a certain restricted autonomy, then is is no great philosophical mystery if the ways in which it reacts with its external environment also fluctuates within certain limits. Over time, that fluctuation can be more dramatic. Because words do endure but change it is not unreasonable to compare them to other encapsulated systems found in nature. The genetic code is an attractive starting point, and there are few areas of research that have seen such seminal re-evaluation as genetic evolution. It now seems that the organism gains or loses far more by the presence of a single gene than its isolated substance might ever suggest. We can only suspect the same of words and other linguistic properties:

 

[Varela et al 1991:188] 188. "Genes are clearly linked together, and so it is not really possible - not even by some smart trade off - to treat an organism as merely an array of characters or traits. The fact that the presence of a gene does not result in the manifestation of an isolated trait, except in a few remarkable cases (such as eye colour) is known to biologists as linkage and preiotropy. Genetic interdependence .. is ... not a linear array of independent genes (manifesting as traits) but a highly interwoven network of multiple reciprocal effects mediated through repressors and depressors <13>, exons and introns, jumping genes, and even structural proteins."

 

[188] "Perhaps the most dramatic cases of genomic wholeness (in macro-evolution rather than ontogeny) are the drastic discontinuities on how species change over time <14>, known as punctuated equilibria. This much-discussed idea has essentially dispensed with the idea of evolutionary gradualism ... The fossil record does not look incomplete; intermediate forms often simply cannot be imagined. ...Transitions must be a matter of global rearrangements involving cooperative effects and genetic exchanges. Such effects can be shown to appear in simple cases even in the absence of any selection."

 

A word in the context of utterance typically (but not invariably) correlates with some aspect of a particular time, place and situation or a relationship amongst these. The correlation may be with internal or external environments. This is different from saying that a word "represents" something in a secondary, derivative manner. Rather the word co-occurs as a sort of natural growth, a fungus or weed or parasite which finds a congenial niche in the ecosystem. In the GO philosophy there is no particular reason that a word or string of words cannot sprout up at a given moment unmotivated by any environment external to the self-propagating language "weed" itself (though having appeared it may well be rationalized with the world, post hoc). The same argument applies diachronically to linguistic rules and constraints of various kinds. Such possibilities have remained unconsidered in the functional, representational models of conventional linguistics but they are quite consistent with with recent reinterpretations in the biological sciences:

 

[Varela et.al. 1991:196] "One of the more interesting consequences of [the] shift from optimal selection to viability is that the precision and specificity of morphological or physiological traits, or of cognitive capacities, are entirely compatible with their apparent irrelevance to survival. ... much of what an organism looks like and is "about" is completely under-determined by the constraints of survival and reproduction. Thus adaptation (in its classical sense), problem solving, simplicity in design, assimilation, external "steering", and many other explanatory notions based on considerations of parsimony not only fade into the background but must in fact be completely re-assimilated into new kinds of explanatory concepts and conceptual metaphors."

 

Although the radical deviation of language behaviour from our model criteria of elegance might now be excused as the cussedness of nature, we can still sensibly ask statistical questions about what words co-occur with what configurations of other environments, be they of memory or perception. We can note whether my word/experience correlations match well with yours. We may observe that generated language can stimulate reaction in other environments, such as interpersonal action, or memory.

 

6.3 The meaning of meaning

 

There is scarcely a book on the philosophy of language which does not treat "meaning" as a central currency of the discussion. To speak of words in this domain on must first peg out a claim on meaning. The meaning of meaning is a notorious maze, but usually used by linguists in a "common sense" way, being the way of their unanalysed world-view. "Meaning is what a word denotes" would be a typical definition. Implicit in this is the mind/body assumption, the representational approach to language.

 

It makes little sense from the viewpoint of an emergent philosophy which does not envisage different worlds of mind and body to treat denotative meaning as some kind of reified entity. I have trouble with statements of the following kind (taken from Gazdar, Klein, Pullum & Sag 1985:6):

 

"..it is uncontroversial (or should be) to assume that the specification of a relation between the expressions of a language and their meanings is a central goal of linguistic theory."

 

In GO terms this is tantamount to speaking of "a relation between the expressions of a language and their correlations". But correlations with what? Correlations are a relation. The proposition is incoherent.

 

What is of interest are the correlations between an expression and other elements within the systems of language. These relations are classically referred to in part as syntax and in part as semantics. Relations between a linguistic expression and other systems of cognition, such as memory, have sometimes been termed semantics, and sometimes pragmatics. Relations between a linguistic expression and external environments ("use", as Wittgenstein would say) have commonly been called pragmatics.

 

In the GO model all of these relations are part of a common ecology. A change in one may influence the others in unpredictable ways (cf. chaos theory). They are all legitimate objects of study, and they are all approached without a priori assumptions about truth conditions etc. It may well be that certain truth conditions (i.e. constant relations) hold with the minutiae of linguistic expressions at certain times, but language is a wild weed that will forever break out of our English gardens.

 

6.4 Encapsulated meaning

 

Earlier I briefly discussed the notion of encapsulated meaning. This is rather different from general academic use of meaning in its referring or denotative sense. Encapsulated meaning is a statement about very special relations, namely a set of relations that can be used as an unanalysed block within a cognitive system. That is, the complex of values represented by that relational block are known to the system and can be used rapidly, without further processing. Normally such a known relational set will be given a simple label as its reference address. A word is such a reference address. Since, with encapsulated meaning, a set of relations themselves are encoded by a label, it is coherent to rewrite Gazdar et al to say that the specification of relations encapsulated by the expressions of a language is a central goal of linguistic theory.

 

The significance of encapsulated meaning to the lay use of meaning is an interesting one. My own suspicion is that when the cognitive processing conditions for a state of encapsulated meaning are satisfied and addressed with a label, then humans will generally feel that they "know the meaning" of that label. Although the GO model itself is not dependent upon this observation, if true it has real consequences for the philosophy of language. It is already employed pragmatically: the doctor who gives your illness a name (which is probably as vacuous as a placebo) is playing on our psychological habit of assuming that every name encodes a validated set of relationships.

 

6.5 Of cats and other things

 

"Cat", as I use it in a conversation, does not normally relate in my plane of conscious imagination to a class of creatures. It is true that I have a word "cat" in my lexicon, and that if any member of a certain class of creatures impinges upon my vision, then this word "cat" will be apt to pop into my speech. The correlation is between the word and the type of stimulation is high in this abstract sense. It is not the only correlation for cat; others might relate to burglars, jealous women and persons in a St Louis jazz mode.

 

This label "cat" then can excite a recollection of many correlations. Some of those will be specific to language (e.g. "cat"=noun), some will be filtered heavily by other cognitive systems (e.g. emotional associations from childhood) while others will relate more directly to recent sensory stimulation from an external environment (e.g. the creature stalking along my back fence). In the GO model all of these correlations are referred to collectively as the collocation drag of a word label. Each correlation has a collocation index and each collocation index has a relative weighted value.

 

The weighted value of a collocation index is not a fixed value in most cases (strict categorial values like word class may be an exception). It seems likely that weighted values move within a band or range. Thus in a technical discussion the weighted value of emotional indices relating to "cat" might be diminished, while in a child's playgroup they would be increased. Note that these values are relative within the set of correlations which have the embedded meaning "cat".

 

Over time two things can vary about the label "cat". Firstly, the overall embedded meaning may associate so often with contingent experience that it becomes a very common word in a lexicon, so easily brought to mind that it may even drop into conversations inadvertently. Secondly, a particular collocation index (or indices) within the embedded meaning may correlate so often or so strongly with an aspect of contingent experience that this index acquires a higher default weight than that found, say, in the general speech community. Cats used to eat my pigeons, which gave that collocation index of "cat" an unfortunate patina in my usage.

 

Diachronically, it is the clustering of such strengthened associations about a strong locus which can make it mnemonically worth while to label the whole set with a new generalized lexical code (i.e. with a word label). I could have invented a new word to use when outraged by pigeon eating cats. A question arises as to the complexity of correlations that may be suitably labeled within a single embedded meaning.

 

 



Chapter 7 Phrasal formulas & language routines

 

*** This and subsequent chapters are not yet properly integrated into the GO model. TM 1994 ***

 

7.1 Conditions for formulaic preservation

 

In earlier chapters I argued that there seemed to be natural processing constraints that limited the bulk of permanently encapsulated meaning in language to single lexical addresses. Words, not syllables or morphemes, nor clauses appeared to be the preferred format for global repeating entities which had a close correlation with phenomena in other, non-linguistic environments. The section on language acquisition (Chapter 9x) also explores a suggestion by Rosch (1976 in Varela 1991:177) that ".. there was a basic level of categorization in taxonomies of concrete objects at which biology, culture, and cognitive needs for informativeness and economy all met." This was mentioned by Rosch in the context of categorization, but she might well have also been talking about the linguistic unit of encodement, the word, as well.

 

Notwithstanding the importance of single words as encapsulated linguistic units, there is ample evidence that under certain conditions more complex strings of language are preserved intact in memory over long periods and reused as recognizable units. I will develop the theme later that these strings actually constitute a wide variety of constructions and that the strictness of their internal organization spans a range from the very nearly contingently generated to frozen forms that operate in most respects as single lexical units. This motley assembly may not even form a definable set in linguistic terms. At least for the more obviously formulaic members of the company however, it is important to ask what particular properties enable their preservation against the general preference for word-length encodements.

 

Logically, there are three possible types of environment that could especially promote the long-term encapsulation of clause length strings. That is, they could be favoured by properties of the internal linguistic environment, by the general, non-linguistic cognitive environment, or by certain recurrent conditions in the external environment. Hostile factors in any one of these environments could inhibit the preservation of formulaic strings.

 

The general cognitive evidence would seem to suggest that a mere history of collocation amongst certain words is usually insufficient to guarantee their association in every usage. If this were not so, then words would have extremely restricted degrees of freedom and the generation of unique strings would be exceptionally difficult. Therefore, there has to be some extra circumstance to render the association of formulaic elements very easy to recall and use.

 

Recurrent social context is the most visible correlation with most formulaic language, so it is hardly surprising that it is also the most studied. There are a great many habits, work practices, customs, rituals and delicate human relationships which become predictable to members of a culture, and are accompanied by forms of language which are well known to all the participating parties.

 

Although I have repeatedly raised the proposition that language will grow wild within us, regardless of attempts to fence it off, there is no question that enculturation includes as a central element an internalized discipline on what to say, when, where and in what manner. The ethnography of formal human interaction implies perforce the study of a great deal of formulaic language. Most of the quoted observations which follow stem from such environments. Whether formulaic strings play a major part in more relaxed exchanges is another matter. A few linguists (Pawley 1983, 1985, Chafe 1980) have been strongly attracted to the idea that they do. Others have found the evidence more equivocal.

 

7.2 The indexal properties of formulas

 

To the extent that Pawley's (1985) phrasal formulas are a global linguistic reality, it would seem that like words, they too must be bundles of abstracted indices. Is each formula defined by a single embedded meaning? Or is there a meta=set of embedded meanings that is less integrated than a word, but somehow more integrated than a normal sentence string? There is no black and white answer to this. Some differences from a word are immediately evident. There is not a single lexical address for a phrasal formula and this surely will mean processing differences from truly embedded meanings.

 

The bundled indices of a phrasal formula will not be retrieved in a single step by a unitary lexical code, but through a chaining process where use of a particular word stimulates the recall of previously collocating word-indices, not necessarily in the original order, nor necessarily complete, but still recognisably "native-like" in the pattern of association. In other words, the mnemonic retrieval of a word has a guaranteed shape (even if some internal weight of certain contributing indices is overlooked or misconstrued). The mnemonic retrieval of a "phrasal formula" has no such guaranteed shape to be labeled, and as a surviving entity in mind is therefore likely to remain mostly beyond conscious recognition.

 

Because of their complex structure, the correlation phrasal formulas have with adjacent environments vary. A familiar but not yet ossified formula may allow individual lexical items in its makeup to separately relate to the context.. Thus, while "will you marry me?" may be a cliché, even culturally demanded, its elements remain sensitive to contextual adjustment;(are there girls who answer "no" to "will" but "yes" to "would" ?). The particular context where that set of four words applies is common, but not common enough to have yielded a single lexical label. The meaning is not entirely encapsulated prior to processing, but a powerful mnemonic resonance will make processing outcomes more rapid and assured than for a phrase like "than for a phrase".

 

On the other hand, a frozen expression like "kick the bucket" has most of the encapsulated qualities of a single lexical item and can in fact be substituted by one (die). This means that it can be used almost globally in situations where "die" is appropriate, but rarely where "kick" or "bucket" would otherwise correlate independently with an experience.

 

7.3 Formulas and native-like speech

 

Pawley has claimed that to learn another language is to learn to speak in a native-like manner, and that this means learning vast numbers of phrasal formulas. In truth, to be native-like requires much more than this. As Pike (1981) noticed, "reality" is a concept which acquires its currency for each person within the context of a system of cultural perceptions (Pike's emic level). An outsider, perceiving etic (pan-systematic) distinctions which are invisible to the cultural insider (e.g. Samoan /p/ Vs /b/) must learn to submerge these and work at the emic level to act in a native-like way. Coulmas (1981a:8) also noticed that

 

"many routines, especially politeness routines, defy interpretation on the basis of word meanings alone and without knowledge of cultural habits, customs, attitudes etc."

 

Indeed, the mere interpretation of routines is not sufficient for native-like performance. Because so many of these expressions are tied to dyadic exchange, their manipulation is an instrument in power relationships, solidarity, and other social currency; (Tannen & Oztek, 1981:46).

 

My feeling is that linguistically Pawley is both right and wrong. One certainly must learn a major subset of the encapsulated meanings of a language, that is, the words, phrase structures, phonological & prosodic correlates etc. The analytic problem that I sense with phrasal formulas is that they may not form a definable set.

 

Between the invariance of "kick the bucket" and the contingent generation of "than for a phrase" may lie a whole continuum of possible phrases with different powers of mnemonic resonance among their constituents. The best that a novice language learner may hope for is to gradually become familiar by osmosis with those phrase formulations which correlate most closely with a particular cultural ambience. As a bower-bird exercise a linguist might collect lists of phrase formulations whose meanings seem to be more encapsulated than others, but it will not necessarily be the case that they show common linguistic properties or clear criteria of selection. These are empirical questions.

 

None of the preceding should imply that the style and idiom of any speech community does not have its own cultural distinctiveness. It is obvious enough that formulas, familiar collocations, sentence stems etc. are an outcome of language flourishing in particular micro and macro environments. The grammatical but inappropriate strings invented by linguists in their model games are a kind of etic level (c.f. Pike) with little relevance for the native speaker.

 

7.4 Routinized language

 

While the general formulicity of phrases in the language may be in doubt, there is no question that highly routinized situations tend to correlate with routinized language. Sometimes this is insisted upon to avoid ambiguity, as in air traffic control. Sometimes it is a defensive response to convey maximal information with a minimum expenditure of time or emotion, as with the heart specialist counseling an endless queue of dying patients who have similar aetiologies. Most often it is the simple but delicate matter of preserving social harmony with utterly predictable but inoffensive formulas of cultural exchange (Verschueren 1981, Tannen & Ostek 1981, Coulmas 1981).

 

[Coulmas F 1981a:6] "Routines are a means of guiding a person's normal participation in social interaction. Viewed from the interpretive side, they constitute standardized links between what people actually say and what sort of communicative functions their utterances serve to perform."

 

Even deception often requires the camouflage of routine utterance, although as Verschueren (1981) reminds us, lying is amongst the most creative of language behaviours:

 

[Verschueren J 1981 The semantics of forgotten routines in Coulmas F 1981a:134] "The production of conversational routine requires a high degree of automaticity. Whereas lying requires a conscious messing around with the propositional content of a statement-like utterance, and whereas commanding involves a conscious act of the will, replying "You're welcome" to "Thank you" is largely automatic. Therefore, if we agree that a human action typically results from a conscious impulse of the will, we have to conclude that routine utterances are less central instances of linguistic action than, say, lies or commands or even many acts of being silent."

 

7.5 The locutionary and illocutionary consequences of routinization

 

From the 1960s John Searle (1969, 1975) and others began to distinguish the content of utterances in terms of locutionary and illocutionary force.

 

"The locutionary act we may ..equate with the utterance made in its logical sense, and locutionary force as determined by grammatical mood... The illocutionary significance of an utterance concerns its significance as communicating the speaker's attitudes, feelings or beliefs viz a viz some event or state of affairs.."; [Edmondson W, 1981a:276].

 

It is clear enough that all utterance carries both locutionary and illocutionary force in some measure. The interest of such distinctions lies less in their occurrence as such than in the range of their variation. Routinization, formularization, or in the extreme, grammaticalization, must have major consequences for the nature of speech acts <15>.

 

The following is an extract (CH 1979:9:1a) from a corpus of casual utterance:

 

CH: The point is then #

 

what does he live on #

 

in the meantime #

 

until he gets the next job #

 

This extract contains two formulaic units, the point is (then) and in the meantime, which segment the total utterance in a way which seems to identify them as discourse markers, (note that each line represents an intonation unit). The point is does more than make a cohesive link to preceding argument. It specifies the illocutionary force to be assigned to all of what follows. In the meantime does something similar with the main clause, what does he live on. Bracketed between these two formulas, what does he live on acquires particular rhetorical prominence. Manes & Wolfson (1981a:129) were also struck by the rhetorical function of formulaic framing remarks. Their example:

 

S. This is delicious. You have to give me the recipe.

 

A. It's easy to make.

 

Manes & Wolfson (1981a:129):"Because framing remarks serve the purpose of focusing attention on the object of the compliment or of intensifying the compliment in some way, they must be seen as part of the entire discourse unit, which includes the framing remark(s) if any, the formulaic compliment, and any response."

 

Here is an even more striking use(CH 1979:9:1b) of formulaic manipulation:

 

A: I'm not talking about #

 

going and getting a job #

 

myself. #

 

I'm not talking about that. #

 

I'm talking about us #

 

going on unemployment relief. #

 

Consider how this would differ from, say, the near paraphrase of

 

Actually, going and getting a job isn't my point ..

 

Immediately one would recognize that the sociolect had shifted (more genteel, querulous), and that the illocutionary force was greatly diminished.

 

The power of the formulaic I'm (not) talking about comes not merely from a confrontational directness, but from the evocation of other occasions in which it has been used in the heat of argument. Here it is repeated in a parallel formation to contrast going and getting a job with going on unemployment relief. Here the substantive clauses themselves are parallel structures, and frequent enough in the sociolect to also approach the status of formulae.

 

Such structures operate on a different illocutionary plane to a deictic reference like [CH 1979:9:1c], which is drawn from the same context, but usable for that moment only, and without any of the evocative associations of a formula or rhetorical framing by parallelism:

 

C:...I think I'll put the milk in. [..talking about her coffee].

 

A different illocutionary effect again is evident in (CH 1979:9:1d) :

 

A: We'll .. sit here #

 

and talk.#

 

C: Yes= #

 

that'll be better. #

 

Here is a woman of the petit bourgeoisie and a working class woman, instinctive enemies, exchanging niceties with all the finesse of trained diplomats. This coded transaction is possible precisely because every element is formulaic and drained of personal colour. Even the deliberative timing of the tone groups seems designed to minimize any chance of misunderstanding.

 

The argument that I have been making in this section is that entirely unique utterance, without a prior history of formulaic phrases (not merely words), could not possibly meet a large part of our communicative needs. We depend upon the earlier contexts of formulaic phrases to modulate the illocutionary force of current usage. Such modulation may contrast the clichéd with the unique to obtain rhetorical prominence (rather as stress is used). It may draw upon earlier contexts to set an emotional tone. It may exploit the certainty of cultural interpretation attaching to a formula to avoid conflict in delicate encounters. It may perform any of a large number of other sociolinguistic functions which are instinctively recognized by active members of a speech community.

 

The flip side of formulaic function in decoding illocutionary force may be that firm evidence (or even intuition) that a particular phrase does have a recognized social calibration could be suggestive evidence of its formulaic status. To establish such a claim it would be necessary to show that the lexical meanings of the phrase constituents taken separately, together with modal modification etc., were not sufficient by themselves to account for the illocutionary force of the phrase taken as whole. At the extreme of frozen expressions of course, dependence on the totality of the expression is easy to establish: "erosion of its literal meaning is one way in which an expression can turn into an idiom." [Coulmas 1981a:5]. Most cases however are more ambiguous.

 

7.6 Formulaic language in dyadic exchange

 

A characteristic of formulaic phrases is that their fixed character itself often does affect the dyadic options of the exchanges in which they are embedded. A formula given may require, as it were, a formula to be traded in return. The possible replies to "How are you going?" are severely constrained in the courteous repertoire. These patterns have now been explored at some length by conversational analysts []. By and large the catalogues of such exchange patterns have been interpreted in purely pragmatic terms. Little real attention has been paid to a suggestion by Ferguson (1981) that the process itself could be in some sense innately sourced:

 

[Charles Ferguson 1981 in Coulmas F 1981a:22] "..it is surprising that the intense interest amongst linguists and psychologists in the innate aspects of human linguistic competence, innate devices for acquiring language and the like, has not led towards consideration of innate predispositions to the use of interjections and ritualized exchanges in which a given formula triggers an automatic response."

 

Ferguson's suggestion returns us to complementarity explored in this thesis between language as self-generating biological "weed" and language as a vehicle for social action. His innovation is to propose that the self-generating behaviour goes beyond the internal focus of individuals, and spills over into apparently inherent properties of sociolinguistic systems.

 

The very existence of a large repertoire of formulas in a sociolect could be prima facie evidence of some innate predisposition to construct and preserve encapsulated units more extensive than single lexical units. From this perspective, social conditions would not merely give rise to formulas which met particular functional needs. Rather the social condition would suppress a constraint which had prevented phrasal formulas from emerging in less stable environments.

 

7.7 Gambits

 

One example of a type of social environment which has nurtured a very large number of formulaic structures is found in the management of conversation and discussion. Some researchers have termed a class of regular conversational strategies "gambits", and classified them into an extensive range of subtypes. Keller's work on this is particularly useful:

 

Keller E Gambits: Conversational strategy signals in Coulmas F (1981a:97) "Most commonly and most overtly, gambits refer to semantic information. They serve to signal that the stretch of utterance to follow is to be taken in a particular manner, for instance as an opinion, or as a piece of unpleasant realism. Gambits thus do not signal specific meaning, as propositions or idioms do, but a general frame within such meaning can be conveyed."

 

I find this description a bit misleading since, as the main text argues, gambit frames do indeed help establish the significance, notably the illocutionary force, of utterances to which they attach. Nevertheless, Keller's collection of gambit types outlined below makes a useful checklist.

 

 

Gambits listed for semantic function [Keller:98,99]

 

1) Major semantic field indicators

 

a) Congruent major semantic field: I have a question on that..

 

b) Incongruent major semantic field:

 

i)Initiation: This reminds me...

 

ii) Return to main topic: In any case..

 

2) Various aspects of a topic

 

a) A list:

 

i) beginning: first of all

 

ii) middle: another thing is..

 

iii) end and finally..

 

b) A main aspect : the main thing is..

 

c) A surprising aspect: believe it or not..

 

d) An unpleasant aspect: let's face it..

 

e) An emphasized aspect: The main thing is..

 

3) Opinion

 

a) Guessing: my guess is..

 

b) An opinion: I'm pretty sure that...

 

c) A conviction: I honestly feel..

 

d) A personal viewpoint: to my mind..

 

e) A personal evaluation: as far as I can tell..

 

f) Personal circumstances: in my case..

 

g) Confidential information: just between you and me..

 

4) Action strategy

 

a) A suggestion: Why don't you do the following

 

b) A plan: What we have in mind is..

 

5) Subject expansion

 

a) Expanding a point: In a case like this..

 

b) Adding items: and another thing..

 

c) Giving a reason: for this reason..

 

d) Explain a result: as a result..

 

e) Positive contingency: if and when..

 

f) Negative contingency: Unless..

 

g) Restatement: What I mean to say is...

 

h) Appearance and reality: It may seem....but actually...

 

6) Subject evaluation

 

a) Reservations: Yes, but don't forget..

 

b) Taking into account: Allowing for the fact..

 

c) Seeing the other side: all the same...

 

7) Argumentation

 

a) Generalization:

 

i) High frequency: Most of the time

 

ii) As a rule: in general..

 

iii) Low frequency: Once in a while..

 

b) Exceptions: as an exception..

 

c) Examples: to give you an idea...

 

d) Summarizing: in short...

 

 

Keller (1981a:112)observed that

 

"Discourse between various individuals is evidently facilitated if the various participants are advised of the psychological "mode" the speaker is in, with respect to opinion, plans etc.".

 

The widespread use of gambits was evidenced by one study (Barker, Adams & Sorhus 1974) which identified 500 gambits commonly used in North American English. The sources were: 1) slightly over half from 10,000 sentences of Canadian English speech (131,536 words) collected from boardroom-type discussions (28 people, 60%), and 2) from media discussions or interviews (275 people; 40%)

 

Notwithstanding this impressive collection, my own doubts about the notion of phrasal formulas as a definable set have been echoed by Keller (1981:96) in the context of gambits:

 

"During data collection it became evident that it is impossible to have a complete list of gambits. This is because these expressions often consist of verbal or nominal elements that allow of morphological and syntactic manipulation. For example, the gambit "I think so" can easily be permuted to "I thought so", "I would think so", " I might think so"..."

 

In the light of such manipulation, the relaxation of constraints on encapsulation suggested above must be selective. We seem to be dealing with phenomena which allow some of the mnemonic and processing economies of fully encapsulated lexical units while permitting limited adjustments for morphology, tense etc. in particular contexts.

 

7.8 Routines in social context

 

The view that "..linguistic conventions and routines are essentially a social phenomenon," (Coulmas 1981a:4) may be somewhat unbalanced. However, because formularized rituals do arise in standard situations, a common approach to their study has been to categorize them by social context, participants, or communicative function. Many of the scholars who have troubled to record such routines have been ethnographers with an eye to social function, rather than linguists alert to syntactic and other regularities in the language used. The observations are often insightful, but only suggestive in terms of language patterning.

 

Politeness routines have been one rich source of ethnographic observation, as my extensive quotation from Coulmas (editor, 1981a, The structure and use of politeness formulas) indicates. Compliments are an example of such a politeness sub-set, and one which turns out to be extremely subtle:

 

[Manes J & Wolfson, 1981] "..reinforcement and/or creation of solidarity appears to be a basic function of compliments in our society. It is the recognition of this function which allows us to understand why it is that speakers seem to prefer conventional patterns in compliments. If anything in the compliment or the way it is worded creates social distance, the expression of solidarity which is the raison d'etre of the compliment may be vitiated. The use of a formula helps avoid this potential difficulty...By using one set of very general lexical items the speaker lessens the possibility of inadvertently emphasizing differences in group membership."

 

From a linguistic point of view, the most intriguing quality of compliments is their masquerade of creative behaviour:

 

[Manes & Wolfson 1981:127] "Our students' and our own expectation that compliments would be more varied than they actually proved to be indicates that speakers think of complimenting as a creative speech activity...Why then should we be surprised to discover that compliments are formulas ? Firstly, the formulas for these other speech acts are overtly taught, whereas compliments are not.. Second, compliments have a much broader function than the other formulas mentioned since they often appear as part of, or even in place of, thanks, greetings and good-byes. ..[Also]..compliments are very often preceded or followed by framing remarks.. [Also]..compliments are not specifically required at any definite point within an interaction.. Finally, the complexity of the rules for formulating compliments obscures their underlying regularity and even simplicity."

 

It would seem from the comments of Manes & Wolfson that we need to draw a careful distinction between linguistic creativity and staged but conventional "surprise" in the management of social exchange. Their discussion is also a reminder that while certain language formulas are actually taught, linguistic convention is largely unconscious. This is where the nexus of social pressure and linguistic form becomes interesting, since the unconscious nature of the latter suggests that it has its own internal logic.

 

What a compliment (or insult) really does is to inform the beneficiary that I, the speaker, have an internal rating scale for one kind of behaviour, appearance or whatever, and that I am placing present observations at point X on the scale. If the question of why I am making a particular rating becomes uppermost, then a subtext of flattery (or aggression) must also be decoded. Once this scaling factor is recognized by the linguist, then the formulaic nature of complements is seen to be actually necessary. A scale with no standard cannot be interpreted. The tokens of that scale, its ostensible source of creativity, really don't matter. When they said that actress Bo Derek was "a ten" everyone understood immediately. Another, gentler age might have compared her to a summer's day.

 

The standardizing pressure on compliments must also apply to politeness language in general. Politeness is after all the application of a standard to human behaviour. With a little reflection one can see that similar factors will come into play where any kind of calibration in language is pertinent. This covers a huge range of language activity, from colour terms to expressions of degree, comparison, manner, and many other properties. Often a single lexical item will suffice (as with colour, generally), but in other instances periphrastic expression will seem socially normal. Think, for example, of the many pseudo-comparative formulas which actually convey manner: as mad as a hatter, more hide than Jessie the elephant etc., or of degree: he was head and shoulders above the rest of them, she almost/barely/easily made it.

 

Calibration is also inseparable from our interpretation of the veracity or value of utterance. Cultural stereotypes apply here (English understatement, Italian exuberance), but also in the classification which we apply to general acquaintances. The boy who cried wolf! syndrome is a factor in all verbal exchanges. Most people most of the time wish to live within the social and linguistic calibration applied by their peers. One way to ensure that is to at least partly formularize utterances.

 

 

7.9 Signaling human relationships: the formulaic imperatives

 

The artefacts change in human societies, the technology is different in each age, but the dimension of relationship between and among human beings is in many ways a closed set of phenomena. It is true that some societies are more democratic than others, that the divisions of labour vary, that the status of women and children vary, that the respect accorded to age may be critical or a matter of indifference. These are gross cultural variables. However, the personal relationships which give them expression are found through the full scale of intensity in every community. An unfaithful spouse may stoned to death in one society or lionized in another, but he or she is still an adulterer, and there will be language to describe it in each instance. More prosaically, the daily currency of request, command, advice, opinion and so on is so common and so universal that anyone learning a foreign language is well advised to gravitate immediately to the relevant formulas which are bound to exist, and which will encapsulate his basic survival needs in the new environment.

 

I find it slightly odd that although sociolinguistics has accumulated terms such as register and domain to describe the distribution of specialized language, there has never really been a focus on the difference between that language which expresses universal, constant relationships (as in human interaction), and that language which must deal with contingent change in impinging environments (as in explaining new processes). The former is surely the home of most formulaic expression.

 

The linguistic persistence of formulas has been occasionally noted by ethnographers, as in Ferguson (1981:32):

 

"Politeness formulas, in so far as they constitute a folk literature genre similar to proverbs, riddles and nursery rhymes, tend to include archaic forms and constructions which have disappeared from ordinary speech..".

 

Not unrelated to this would be the diffusion of politeness formulas:

 

Ferguson (1981:32) There is a "..strong tendency for the structure and use of politeness formulas to diffuse with other elements of culture across language boundaries. Thus, for example, a striking number of Arabic greetings and thank you formulas have spread along with Islam to speech communities which have not shifted to Arabic."

 

Ferguson's particular example needs to be treated with some caution here. The expressions he refers to have almost certainly piggybacked on the special diglossic role of Arabic in Islam. The nearest contemporary English examples might derive from the ubiquitous products of Hollywood (have a nice day ..).

 

7.10 Self-image: formulas to keep a pattern of constant remembrance

 

Homeostatic devices are defined by a self-correcting capacity to maintain equilibrium with impinging environments. All living organisms are homeostatic in this sense, and many of their subsystems work on the same principle. Human language processing comprises a complex of systems which permit a slightly (but only slightly) unstable balance to be struck between homeostatic forces and other forces which admit new constraints (allow, in fact, encapsulated ard-ents to be constructed or modified). In other words, over time a language is able to some extent to establish a modified level of equilibrium based on fresh criteria. This fully accords with the concept, discussed in Chapter 1, of linguistic and non-linguistic systems co-evolving. Such co-evolution is however restrained by stabilizing factors. Formulaic phenomena have a part to play in this in recognizably personal ways.

 

I have already mentioned the role of formulaic constructions in modulating the constants of interpersonal relationships. Within the person there is an equal need for continuing processes of moderation. When things fall apart too badly, we say that a person is mad: the internal homeostatic mechanisms of cognitive processing have, as it were, lost the plot.

 

There is every reason to suppose that formulaic ritual is as critical to preserving internal coherence as it is in the external domain. Coulmas (1981a) observes of the anthropologist Goffman (1967, 1971) that he "...has convincingly demonstrated that the social function of ritual is not only to uphold authority, but that it serves an important function in giving men confidence and behavioural certainty."

 

One tends to think of personal routines in this context: the daily ritual of bodily functions, of eating, going to work and so on. However, the linguistic correlates can be equally marked, and often quite monadic even if the fiction of an interlocutor is maintained. Prayer is an obvious example - few activities could be more formulaic - while keeping a diary or even singing in the shower might be other observable manifestations. More central are probably the private mantras that we repeat to ourselves almost without being aware of it. The man who talks in his sleep, or the old lady who people say is crazy because she talks to herself are only performing out loud what everyone else does in an intermittent private monologue. As with spoken language, one senses that such monologues are likely to show great personal variation in content, coherence and duration. Most of us have experienced (I guess) phrases that go round in the mind like a gramophone record with a stuck needle, and the psychodramas (daydreams of romance, revenge etc.) that take us over occasionally for minutes at a time, (and seem to be projected in eerie caricature by the products of Hollywood).

 

It is a linguist's conundrum that this whole world of other-language, which assuredly does much to shape actual spoken language, seems beyond the reach of any permanent, empirical record. In the co-evolutionary paradigm of course, life & art will be imitating mind, as mind imitates life & art (does Hollywood give the dreams of the masses a perverse coherence?).The behaviourist tradition is to dismiss anything as slippery as this, but the price is always a distorted interpretation of the significance of observed behaviour

 

Regardless of the register, an individual's language to self or to others has constant properties which do much to define that individual. Not least amongst these properties are the recognizable turns of phrase, the favourite expressions, in short the considerable formulaic content of any idiolect. The same is true for communities, from subculture to national culture. It is all a matter of remembered identity. Although idiom does imply a history of partial repetition, its very persistence also makes it a vehicle for semantic innovation within recognized frameworks, so the linguist cannot treat it in an entirely synchronic manner (Chafe 1970).

 

7.11 Formulaic language in traditional and modern societies

 

The timeless routines of traditional societies are a favourite theme of tourist promotion. There is at least a superficial impression that farming, villager and hunter-gatherer communities censor innovation of all kinds, and identify ritual with keeping the natural equilibrium in a cycle of fertility, seasons, man's place between clay and god. There is ample evidence of the mnemonic value of formulaic language to oral storytelling, and the sacred prohibitions on varying those utterances which invoke the gods, community values and anything attaching to the organization of ritual relationships. (Contemporary survival of these attitudes is found in fundamentalist/legalistic interpretation of sacred texts, from Marx's Das Kapital to the Bible or the Q'ran to the Ramayana to national constitutions). Anthropologists on six month sabbaticals have, not surprisingly, often latched onto the constants of indigenous organization and reinforced a picture of communities gelled in aspic. These ethnographic generalities have also found their way into linguistics:

 

Coulmas (1981a:11) observes that "..generally, frequency and distribution of routine formulae are determined by two factors: the social organization of the speech community, and the structural make-up of its language...The more tradition-oriented a society is, the more its members seem to make use of situational formulae."

 

This study has already determined that formulaism of one kind or another is deeply embedded in the language of post-industrial societies like English-speaking Australia. It is seen to be indispensable to the calibration of relationships of all kinds. There should be no difficulty therefore in finding a similar role for it in traditional cultures. The question is really whether these cultures preclude the scope for linguistic innovation to a greater extent than modernised, literate, TV-drugged communities. There are real empirical difficulties in giving any kind of objective answer to this. My own subjective impression from experience with such communities in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands is that the relative simplicity of daily routines can be compensated by a cultivation of verbal playfulness and guile that would leave many a city slicker with his foot firmly in his mouth.

 

Although I see no a priori case for assuming a larger proportion of formulaic expression in pre-industrial cultures than in the post-industrial kind, it may be the case that particular cultural styles and traditions encourage formal patterns of a certain type. This claim has been made by Tannen & Oztek (1977 in Coulmas 1981a:10):

 

"Apparently there is ...a wide span of variation as to the total number of commonly used formulae: Greek has fewer fixed formulas than Turkish but many more than English. In Lithuanian routine formulae are found to be even less frequent than in English'."

 

These are ethnographic observations and almost certainly apply to those formulas which are recognized as fixed expressions in the language. Such expressions are only a small part of the formula-family discussed in this thesis, so any linguistic assessment attaching to the Tannen & Oztek observations would need a much closer look at the totality of language use in these cultures.

 

7.12 The preservation of formulaic routines in aphasic behaviour

 

Certain formulaic language of greater than single word length does appear to be preserved in memory and processed in a manner which is more typical of unitary lexemes than generated phrases. The evidence for this arises from the behaviour of some aphasic patients:

 

[Charles Ferguson 1981a:22] "..it is worth noting the evidence that aphasics with lesions in the left hemisphere who have trouble with speech in general may use ritualized politeness formulas, like the related hesitation forms, non-referential introducers and conventionalized interjections with impressive fluency."

 

In GO model terms, these patient have access to an ard-ent (autonomic processing) mechanism for these formulas, but have lost the capacity to generate new g-vortices, or to call on the linear organization of the mord-ent process. Such aphasic behaviour is a kind of evidence for the different processing requirements of encapsulated meaning and meaning which is still to be synthesized.

 

7.13 The formulaic construction of written language

 

The initial motivation for formulaic speech construction - rapid assembly of discourse stretches with a minimum of processing time - would appear to be more significant in spoken than in written language. We might therefore predict a higher incidence of formulaic construction in the spoken medium on psychological grounds. However, since predictability plays such a large part in comprehension, and since the generally more complex ideas found in written material may create their own pressures for modular (as opposed to atomic) construction wherever possible, it may be that written text also has a high formulaic component. In fact, we know this to be the case in many instances. Note particularly that much written material has to do with routine, repetitive material : hence, for example, the "boilerplate letter" types of large organizations.

 

The pressures for language standardization are much more powerful in written language than in the spoken form. This is reflected not merely in a regularization of spelling, syntax etc., but also in conformity to recognized styles. I have already mentioned the corporate pressure to boilerplate texts. This is merely one extreme of a dynamic tension between claims to personal originality and writing to various levels of formulaic demand. We expect a business letter to follow strict protocols, and would be lost if motor car repair manuals were not as predictable in expression as, say, spoken air traffic control. Less formal mediums may convey some illusion of originality. Print journalism hovers artfully, just beyond our recognition threshold of overtly formulaic construction (there seems to be a point at which predictability becomes intrusive). The most interesting cases of creative subterfuge (fraud?) however are to be found in fictional writing. There is more than mushy sentiment to the runaway popularity of Mills & Boon romances, as against the minuscule sales of, say, James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Readers will simply not tolerate too much invention. One is reminded of the pseudo-creativity which was noted in the discussion on spoken compliments. It may be, as Coulmas says (1981a:2), that "competent language use is always characterized by an equilibrium between the novel and the familiar." Finding that equilibrium though is a matter of very fine judgement.

 

 


 

Chapter 8 Frequency

 

*** chapter unfinished ***

 

8.1 Frequency in Language

 

Frequency applied to language strings (as opposed to, for example, phonology) is repetition per unit of time, or repetition per arbitrary unit of text.

 

It is known that all speakers use a limited repertoire of words with high frequency. After reviewing a number of studies, Aitchison (1987:7) has suggested that an educated adult is unlikely to know less than 50,000 and may know as many as 250,000 words (including derivatives). However, the number of words we use commonly in speech is only a fraction of this. For example, a corpus of (mostly) one individual's speech used in the present study contains approximately 134,700 words (16 hours continuous) collected over the period of a week, but only 6600 of these words are unique. In other words, this person had an average repetition ratio of 20.4 per word per 16 hours . In fact, of course, an even smaller collection of words (especially grammatical function words like “the” and “a” make up the vast majority of those repetitions with a cline of frequency for the remainder.

 

A very interesting question is whether speakers also use a limited repertoire of collocations, phrasal formulas or idioms with high frequency. The estimates of vocabulary (as opposed for formula) size have mostly depended upon statistical projections from the recognition of dictionary entries. Note that recognition vocabulary may be significantly different from vocabulary used to generate language, which is restricted by active recall, social appropriateness and many other caveats.

 

However, even the crude dictionary method is not available for estimating the number of phrasal formulas in an individual's repertoire. If I had firm parameters for defining what a phrasal formula was, I could conceivably count the number of formulas used in the corpus mentioned above. There have been attempts to measure the number of collocations in corpora by setting arbitrary criteria (Smadja 1993). Such statistics can establish nothing certain about the number of formulas or “sticky” collocations that an individual might have available for recognition or use (any more than I can be sure of one subject's total vocabulary from the 6600 words used over a week).

 

We have seen in earlier chapters that there is actually no a priori way to define what constitutes a formula or collocation. Language strings appear to comprise a range of units extending from the wholly encapsulated (requiring a minimum of processing for recognition or use) to loose collections of constituents which have sufficient resonance in some elements (e.g. meaning associations) from past experience to reassemble for repeated usage.

 

8.2 Ratio of pre-patterned to invented phrases

 

[Coulmas F 1981a:9] "We do not have at our disposal many data or measurements as to the ratio of pre-patterned and newly invented phrases in extemporaneous speech". However... "Sorhus (1977) studied a corpus of over 130,000 words of spontaneous Canadian speech, and she came to the startling result that in daily conversational exchanges an average of a fixed expression every five words is a normal rate....The focus of her investigation was on hesitation phenomena..and...she realized that one of the functions of many of these phrases is "to give the speaker time to find words for his ideas;" i.e. they are fillers. (Sorhus 1972:214)"

 

[Coulmas F 1981a:4] "it is common knowledge in semantics - or rather information theory - that frequency of occurrence and meaningfulness are inversely related; thus, as they are used more and more they mean less and less (c.f. Chao, 1968:73). Relative frequency of occurrence - a factor completely ignored in competence linguistics - can therefore be considered an intrinsic feature of linguistic units."

 

8.3 Frequency: a performance phenomenon?

 

[Coulmas F 1981a:6] "Frequency of occurrence and routine are allegedly performance phenomena. Yet...they they have an impact on the meaning and meaningfulness of expressions; and meaning... belongs to competence."

 

8.4 Frequency of compliment forms and meanings

 

An observation by Manes & Wolfson was that:

 

Out of 686 compliments, 22.9% make use of nice and 19.6% use good. Both have weak semantic loads. Only three other adjectives, beautiful, pretty and great appear in more than 5% of adjectival complements: pretty (9.7%), beautiful (9.2%), great (6.2%). In the remaining 30% of complements, 67 different adjectives occur, most only once. [Manes J & Wolfson N 1981* The Compliment Formula in Coulmas F 1981a:117]

 

8.5 High frequency words in formulas

 

<> How often do high frequency words participate in formulae?

 

Refer: [Pawley 1983, 213]. Note the number of frequently used morphemes or words and list the sentential expressions in which a sample of these elements participate.

 

<> Occurrence probability of new sentences.

 

[Coulmas F 1981a, p.1] "So prevailing was the study [over the last two decades] of the.. essential property of language to allow the production of ever new sentences that the assumption that every sentence has an occurrence probability of close to zero was never questioned, much less put to a rigorous test. This assumption may have obscured the fact for many that much of what is actually said in everyday interaction is by no means unique. Rather, a great deal of communicative activity consists of enacting routines making use of prefabricated linguistic units in a well-known and generally accepted manner."

 

8.6 Statistical predictability Vs specific likelihood

 

[Edmondson W 1981* On saying you're sorry in Coulmas F 1981a:275] "We may distinguish between the predictability of the use of a particular linguistic expression to perform a particular communicative act, and the predictability that a particular communicative act will be performed in particular circumstances."  

 

 


 

 

 

Chapter 9 Language Acquisition : Evidence for GO factors

 

*** This chapter is unfinished ***

 

9.1 The Problem of Morphogenesis and a Linguistic Analogue

 

The central problem of biology is form. Why do the constituent elements of an organism assume the relationship to each other which gives that creature or plant its overall dimensions and behaviour? In 1802 William Paley posed the problem in his Natural Theology by asking what we should think upon finding a watch while walking on the heath. Though we might suppose that, say, a stone had been there forever, we would naturally conclude that the watch had had a maker (in Paley's surmise, the Divine Hand).

 

The theory of Darwinian evolution claimed to have solved this problem. Undoubtedly adaptive pressure is an important factor in the evolution of forms, but a close review of biological mechanisms has persuaded some scientists that it is no more adequate than Paley's Divine Hand to finally account for morphogenesis. The analytic bent of molecular biology has revealed the phenomenal complexity of known forms but failed to explain their ultimate design. One simple analogy has been to note that understanding the molecular constituents of water tells you nothing about why it goes down a plughole in a vortex (that is, why it assumes that form and behaviour in that environment).

 

There is a quite recent argument from Complexity Theory, based on the behaviour of what are known as random Boolean networks, that order will emerge spontaneously in any complex dynamic system which is initially unordered, and that this order will be constrained by a number of "attractors" (emergent patterns which resist perturbation or mutation). A universal constant is that the number of attractors to emerge in a system is roughly the square root of the number of elements in the system. For example, the 100,000 genes in the human genome give rise to 254 cell types (credibly close to the square root value of 370); (Lewin 1993:30).

 

A sense of where Complexity Theory fills a gap in morphogenesis can be had from this quoted discussion between the biologist, Brian Goodwin and science writer Roger Lewin:

 

(Lewin 1993:36) : "Molecular biologists discovered that the linear sequence of nucleotides in DNA specifies precisely the linear sequence of amino acids in proteins .... No one doubts its importance, but they committed the error of imagining that, similarly, the linear sequence of genes in a genome specifies the genesis of the form in an embryo, analogous with a computer program... [but]... There is no genetic program for development, no program which guides the system through its morphogenetic transitions ...[rather] ...Genes set the parameter values ... Meaning that they produce component parts of the system within a range of values. The morphological transitions then are consequences of the cycle of dynamics generating geometry and geometry modifying dynamics. This gives us a "free lunch" view of morphogenesis."

 

Goodwin goes on to demonstrate that many appendages with no apparent function that arise in the life cycles of organisms are a direct mathematical property of the iterating equations in a complex dynamic system. This is done by modeling the actual life cycles of these organisms on a computer; (e.g. he has modeled the "useless" ring of hairs that emerges at one point in the development of Acetabularia acetabulum, a variety of algae). Darwinian evolutionists have been forced to guess that the many "non-functional" forms in nature are a sort of historical detritus from failed evolutionary "experiments", rather than a necessary outcome of the systems themselves.

 

I have referred to biology and Complexity Theory here at some length because the principles involved are general to all natural systems. There is surely no biological growth more luxuriant and diverse than natural language. The patterns of natural language have certainly been subject to mathematical analysis of a kind, but continue to elude any kind of linear characterization. The race to write a computer program which will generate a natural language seems as far from fruition as ever. Could it be that the wrong kind of mathematics has been applied, that the project is doomed from the outset?

 

The more I look at the myriad patterns of natural language, the more they look to me like a branch of fractal geometry. The iteration of forms has a certain sameness, yet an infinite variation within degrees of freedom. There is an inherent indeterminacy in the process which will prevent any outcome at a given moment from being predictable. This is not merely a matter of representing symbolically the kaleidoscope of experience. Rather there is a sense that even if the "represented reality", the meaning, itself were constant, the form of expression would vary as an internal property of the linguistic system.

 

Further, this "useless" variation in performance has its analogue in the grammar of languages. The langue and parole, or competence and performance distinctions which have seemed so important to linguistic theory this century, perhaps conceal an underlying unity of principle. No programmer working by the conventions of a linear logic would ever produce the grammar of English or the meander of casual conversation, but the pattern of both may both be ultimately explicable in the strange geometry of Complexity Theory with its emergent attractors.

 

Goodwin asserts that there is no program for a genome to project an organism into its adult form. Rather the form emerges from the cycle of a geometry (set by genetic parameters) acting, modifying and reacting with the dynamic of growth itself. Amongst linguists, one of the great extant mysteries is the process of language acquisition. Chomsky amongst others has argued strenuously that the "poverty" of a child's verbal experience is entirely insufficient to give rise to the complex order of a mature linguistic system. On this basis an inherited "language faculty" with built in, pre-determined systems has been posited. This looks remarkably like the assurance of neo-Darwinians that

 

"when the DNA sequence of an organism was known, all would be evident ... "The assembly instructions are written in the genes""; (Lewin 1993:35).

 

My guess about language acquisition is that both the "nature" (Chomskian) and "nurture" (behaviourist) people are on the wrong track. Rather the language acquisition process looks suspiciously like another complex system developing from relative chaos through the mediation of emergent attractors. It is not a predetermined process. Certainly the "attractors" (cognitive and environmental parameters) which give the developing system its initial slant critically determine that it will turn into a natural language and not something else. However, the dynamic which tracks these interactions is unlikely to be susceptible to the linear, causative explanations which sound so plausible in existing linguistic and psychological studies, but somehow never quite pin down all the variables, are never quite replicable. What such studies are not designed to accommodate is the internal self-modifying dynamic of the system itself.

 

9.2 Words versus Sentences

 

There seems to be a good deal of evidence that the units of initial language acquisition are words, not sentences, nor more atomic elements such as derivational morphemes and phonemes []. Whatever a baby is doing when it is babbling, it seems unlikely that it comes up with, say, the fifty odd phonemes of English in all their pristine complexity before uttering a word of the language. In fact, the achievement would be impossible in principle when we recall that the phoneme acquires its definition within a relational set which can only be expressed in words []. Unlike words, phonemes or syllables cannot be correlated with any aspect of experience in the external environment. Their meanings are entirely system-internal.

 

Thus even if mature language is not necessarily "representational", as I have argued, it is certainly the case that an incipient infant language system cannot emerge without the repetitive correlation of experience from an external environment <16>. This is consonant with the needs of all other kinds of child development and adult self-maintenance, from walking to musical appreciation (neither of which are seen as representational), so must be seen as an ecological requirement for the system rather than a description of its function.

 

Earlier chapters have identified words as small systems and as globally repeating entities. What is the compositional nature of the words learned by babies and chimps? Clearly they do not carry the baggage of collocating indices which characterises the mental lexicon of a mature language user. Infant words must be coded as very simple index sets indeed: a phonological shape and a personally familiar, narrowly bound set of correlations with experience.

 

With the paucity of encapsulated meaning one would predict that the use of language would require a proportionately greater cognitive effort on the part of the child. Indeed it is well observed in the literature that a very large part of mental activity in the first five years of life is occupied by language concerns. That preoccupation has been put down to the effort required to learn the code, but it is at least arguable that much processing energy is absorbed by the sheer inefficiencies of communicative practice.

 

Of course, the miracle is that so much meaning does become encapsulated so quickly. Ageing adults are noted for their capacity to substitute experience(read, old encapsulated routines) for innovation. Whatever the actual biological expression of the GO model's g-vortices, it seems that the threshold for extracting from such patterns to autonomic (ard-ent) processing becomes rather higher after puberty.

 

9.3 Formulaic units and chunking in language acquisition

 

The universal experience of parents in L1 is that their children utter single words first, then juxtapositions of two or three words before demonstrating the real rudiments of syntax. Likewise apes in experiments learn single words first, and only controversially appear to progress a little beyond. However, some more routine aspects of language formulation may be short-circuited in child acquisition by learning formulaic constructions directly.

 

The ratio of formulaic language to directly generated strings at different stages of child language, as in adult language, has never been reliably determined and may be indeterminable. Child formulaic competence is certain to be quantitatively less than that of adults, purely on the basis of experience. It seems reasonable to hypothesize that every individual throughout life continues to accumulate a repertoire of syntactic strings which he has found appropriate for expressing certain ideas in the particular domains of his language experience. However, the rate of accumulation may well diminish for biological reasons. Again, these are empirical questions, but not easily determined.

 

Priscilla Clarke (1990, private communication) set out to find direct evidence of chunking in child language acquisition, but finally concluded that the evidence was at best equivocal. Others have been more sanguine (Hakuta 1974, Bates 1976). Lilly-Wong Fillmore (1976) proposed such a stratagem for child L2 learners, and is quoted with approval by Coulmas (1981b:361):

 

"Children learn ... properties [of formulas] by memorizing set expressions holistically rather than by penetrating their structure. It has been observed that set expressions play an important part in language learning (Wong-Fillmore, forthcoming; Peters, forthcoming).

 

Apparently, memorization of chunks of complex linguistic material before internal grammatical analysis is a necessary stage. Children use complex units before they are able to break them down and isolate their individual parts. In many cases, awareness of internal structure is preceded by competent usage. Set expressions may, on occasion, remain unanalysed until adult age simply because correct usage does not require analysis.

 

"Adult learners, instead of trying to use the language, often try to understand it. The proportion of analytic and holistic learning is very different for them as compared to children. In a sense, the order of automation and analysis is reversed. The analytic efforts of adult learners may thus be an obstacle to automization." [Coulmas (1981b:361)]

 

9.4 Formulaic language as an instrument of enculturation

 

It has also been argued that formula usage is an explicit part of a child's enculturation experience:

 

[Ferguson 1981 in Coulmas F 1981a:33] "Gleason and Weintraub (1976) claim that routines are acquired differently from the rest of language in that they are explicitly taught by parents, who promp their use with the markers Say and later What do you say? and who ask after the occasion What did you say?...They point out that bye bye, which is the earliest routine to be learned, may even be marked by Say when the child is too young to speak and is only expected to open and close its fist in a primitive motion of waving. Firth (1972:23) refers to similar observations in Baganda children being drilled in the movements and gestures of greetings and farewells even before they could speak."

 

9.5 Generalization processes in language acquisition

 

The overgeneralization which is so marked at certain stages of rule rule acquisition by children may be a sign of the same process which (apparently) makes them more successful at incorporating formulaic language than adults. The earlier discussions of encapsulated meaning concluded that there was probably a limit on the number of features that could melded for autonomic processing at a single level. This was not to exclude the possibility of nesting encapsulations, as with phonemes within syllables, syllables within words. A line seemed to be drawn somewhere around the word-size limit. That limit could also be connected global categorization patterns proposed by Rosch (1976):

 

[Varela et al. 1991:177] "Rosch .. proposed that there was a basic level of categorization in taxonomies of concrete objects at which biology, culture, and cognitive needs for informativeness and economy all met. In a series of experiments, Rosch et al. found the basic level of categorization to be the most inclusive level at which category members (1) are used, or interacted with, by similar motor actions, 2) have similar perceived shapes and can be imaged, (3) have identifiable humanly meaningful attributes, (4) are categorized by young children,, and (5) have linguistic primacy (in several senses). .. The basic level of categorization thus, appears to be the point at which cognition and environment become simultaneously enacted."

 

It may well be that Rosch's criteria are more consistently met by words than by formulaic phrases. Although Rosch includes the behaviour of children in her criteria, it is very likely that their own selective criteria for processing have not stabilized into adult patterns prior to their initial language acquisition. This might afford them the opportunity to incorporate relatively large units of language, speculatively associated with very loosely defined social situations. It has to be stressed though that this is no more than an hypothesis.

 

9.6 L2 Usage: code switching as evidence for g-vortices?

 

The phenomenon of code switching is difficult to account for in classical unitary grammars. Not only do speakers switch languages, hence rule systems, but they switch in mid-utterance, or sometimes mid-clause. The g-vortex concept renders this process explicable, and even predicts it as probable under appropriate conditions. We can anticipate that any given g-vortex will be monolingual since autonomic parallel processing proceeds according to an integrated set of rules. There is no reason however why g-vortices processed from different rule sets could not cohabit on the assembly plane and be selected by the monitor rule drive into a coherent stream of text.

 

Code switching is known to be influenced heavily by factors such as register and sociolinguistic domain, with one language favoured for, say, official business and another for family affairs. These differences will of course be reflected in the sensitisation of g-ripples leading to the coalescence of a g-vortex waveform with the configuration to attract waveform filters from either L1 or L2 language centres.

 

 


 

 

 

Chapter 10 Idioms

 

*** This chapter is unfinished ***

 

10.1 Psycholinguistic studies of idiom frequency

 

Needham (1990) has defined idioms as common phrases whose intended meanings are different from their literal interpretations. Since many idioms are phrases which can also be interpreted literally in the right context, the interaction of literal and figurative potentials has provided a handle for psycholinguists to test theories about the cognitive processing which applies to each kind of string. These studies are of interest to the GO model since one could hypothesize that idioms as encapsulated meanings would be processed more quickly and be less context dependent for interpretation than literal strings.

 

A number of models have been proposed for idiom processing:

 

i) Idiom List Hypothesis (Swinney & Cutler 1979)

a) idioms are stored in a list separate to the lexicon;

b) literal string analysis proceeds first;

c) if literal analysis fails, processing shifts to "idiom mode" and figurative meaning is recovered from the list.

 

ii) Lexical Representation Hypothesis (Swinney & Cutler 1979)

a) idioms are stored as single long words in the standard lexicon;

b) during interpretation, individual words are accessed and decoded through standard syntactic & semantic processing;

c) lexicon look-up of the idiom as a "long word" proceeds simultaneously with b);

d) the literal and figurative (idiom) interpretations of the string are competitively evaluated.

 

iii) Figurative Priority Hypothesis (Gibbs 1985,1986)

a) storage as for the Lexical Representation Hypothesis;

b) figurative (idiom) processing proceeds first;

c) literal processing occurs only if a figurative meaning fails to fit the context.

 

Swinney & Cutler favoured the Lexical Representation Hypothesis on the grounds that decision times for idiom strings were faster than for literal ones (an outcome that would also support the assignment of idiom structure to GO's autonomic rule drive). Gibbs suggested that a context which permitted interpretation of the idiom would render additional, literal interpretation unlikely. To the extent that literal/figurative ambiguity goes unrecognized (as it generally does), common experience would seem to support Gibbs, although a few restricted registers (media headlines, jokes) are chronically ambiguous. However Needham (1992) points to studies which suggest that

 

".. there appears to be no strong evidence that the principle of mandatory lexical access to all senses of words does not also apply to the case of words in idiomatic phrases;" (Seidenberg, Leiman & Bienowski 1982; Swinney 1979; Cacciari & Tabossi 1988).

 

The bar in this view occurs at the point of propositional structuring for the lexical meanings.

 

If idioms are processed as unanalyzed units, a question arises as to how a listener might decode an anaphor which seemed to refer back to some element internal to the idiom. Needham (1992) experimented with this possibility. He asked, for example, what happens if an anaphor with no application to the idiom itself refers to beans in he spilled the beans. We should approach this question with the caveat that such a reference would be marked in normal dialogue (although Needham ignores that).

 

Needham's experiment presented subjects with a series of sentences, each followed by a test word. Some sentences contained an idiom incorporating the test word, some had non-idiom clauses also containing the test word, and control sentences did not contain the test word at all. Subjects were asked if they recalled the test word. The test word was thus acting as a potential anaphoric link, and the question was whether their recollection time into the embedded idiom would be the same as that into a normal clause.

 

Response times for the idiom, anaphor and control conditions were not significantly different (on the statistical scale used). However the error rate for normal anaphor reference was 24.4% compared to 33.1% for idioms and 33.3% for the control. Needham took this to mean that the anaphor string was fully activated in memory, but that individual constituents of the idiom were not:

 

"when subjects encountered idiomatic expressions containing potential anaphors of the previously mentioned items, they did not appear to complete searches for the referents of those anaphors, a process which they did complete for the matched non-idiomatic expressions;" (Needham 1992:13).

 

He concludes that further research will be necessary to establish how quickly the literal processing of idioms can be terminated by the recognition of figurative meaning; (i.e. Gibbs' figurative priority hypothesis is not assumed).

 

There seem to be a number of risks involved in interpreting an experiment like Needham's. Firstly the error results showed a 30% variation, surely indicative of something, but no absolute difference of procedure between idiom and normal clause processing. As with most psycholinguistic experiments, the meaning of the results is equivocal. Secondly, he controlled the processing structure by feeding the text in a linear, predetermined order and rate onto a monitor screen. Although this correlates with the linear stream in which we hear text, it is not self-evident that decoding must proceed accordingly. Read text, for example, is not so rigidly perceived. More crucially, it is not clear that at all the cognitive processing which precedes text generation, or the interpretive reconstruction which follows perception, involves such linear considerations. Finally, where a marked meaning or ambiguity is suggested by the presence of a contextual anaphor, there is no guarantee that the resulting analysis (or reanalysis) is typical of the procedure followed in unmarked situations.

 

 


 

 

Chapter 11 Substitution

 

*** chapter outline only ***

 

Initial concepts:

 

<> what is constant in substituted elements?

 

<> what changes?

 

<> what are the common semantic/syntactic/pragmatic elements between prime and substitute?

 

<> near synonyms & relatives of substitution: metaphor, analogy, synonym, antonym, rhym, anaphor, comparative, euphemism

 

<>why does substitution occur? :- style, collocation, euphemism, design properties of recollection,

 

 

 


 

 

 

Appendix I Glossary of terms used in the go model

 

 

[n] signifies source chapter

 

-ent [2] = entity. Used as a suffix for a class of GO artefacts.

 

action [1] in the GO model refers to patterned activity in the brain or elsewhere which may or may not have correlates in other "observable" behavior. Thus "thought" is a form of action in this analysis. Action is governed by a shifting hierarchy of habits, and it is the interplay of actions within this immensely complex hierachy which conveys a sense of mind as the organism shifts resources first to one action sequence, then another

 

ard-ent [2] autonomic rule drive; simultaneous processor and the source of filtering within a g-vortex; some analogy with the strict categorial rules of generative grammars. Ard-ent is a collective reference to the preset machinery of phrase structure and other clause-level constraints. As the constituents of an incipient g-vortex meet certain threshold conditions they are zapped for parallel processing by the ard-ent. The ard-ent generates something like a well-formed clause which is then manipulated as a unit by the mord-ent(monitor rule drive) for textual purposes.

 

ard-ent [5] (autonomic rule-drive entity) is an autonomic adjustment mechanism in which, beyond certain threshold conditions, there is triggered a filtering, adjustment and packaging of relational sets, rather like bringing an orchestra into tune. Finally, there is a point where optimal conditions are met, that is, where meaning encapsulation can proceed.

 

assembly plane [2] a conceptual space in the GO model, useful for locating the interaction of model artefacts; no defining properties.

 

attractor [2] essentially any factor which will influence the the development of a dynamic system. Attractors (dynamic systems attractors) in the GO model are a concept borrowed directly from the "attractors" of mathematical chaos theory. A post (an "attractor")stuck in a river will shape the current flow downstream. More intriguingly, a "post", that is, a constant, stuck into any randomly developing (chaotic) environment will result in the emergence of ordered patterns, but not always the same patterns.

 

co-evolutionary relationship [1] A nervous system cannot change without changing its environment. An environment cannot change without affecting dependant nervous systems. There is not a priori an ordered world external to the individual, nor a priori an ordered mind imposing logic on a chaotic world. Rather, a nervous system together with its perceptual apparatus grows and emerges in concert with an environment. It is the relationship between them which has structure and continuity.

 

coherence [3] within a topic entity is maintained linguistically i) in conventional reflection between g-vortices and ideas or objects, ii) by temporal consistency, and iii) by argument links between g-vortices. Although such linguistic conditions may be met, topic-ent coherence at the idea level is always a matter of personal understanding, and can be influenced by many factors extraneous to language.

 

cohesion [3] conventionally refers to linguistic elements that form a tie across text by virtue of being repeated. Cohesion in the GO model environment refers to an implicit recognition by either speaker or listener that certain linguistic elements in play have been met before in some incarnation, or are about to be met again.

 

collocating indices [3] the contributing properties and relationships which give a linguistic element (such as a g-vortex or a word) its definition. Particular collocating indices from one linguistic element may repeat or assume greater or lesser weight in the balance of relationships in a succeeding linguistic element.

 

collocation drag [3] means that a g-ripple carries with it its whole evolutionary history of use and meaning for both speaker and listener. This multiplies the probability on re-use of eliciting other collocations (in whole or in part) that have occurred previously in the text, or in experience.

 

collocation drag [6] in a word is a collective reference to influence from various kinds or correlations which exist for the indices (constituents) of the word. Some of those correlations will be specific to language (e.g. "cat"=noun), some will be filtered heavily by other cognitive systems (e.g. emotional associations from childhood), while others will relate more directly to recent sensory stimulation from an external environment (e.g. the creature stalking along my back fence).

 

collocation index [6] is an identifier in the GO model for each correlation which a word has with systems external to the word.

 

consciousness/awareness [2] Wallace Chafe notes the following as typical properties of awareness: [Chafe (1980b):11] Four properties of consciousness: a) limited capacity b) limited duration; c) consciousness moves in "jerks" or "snapshots", not fluidly; d) consciousness has a central focus and a periphery: an especially small amount of information is maximally activated. The properties of consciousness identified by Chafe are precisely those noted by Nagarjuna two thousand years ago and elaborated into the sunyata of Mahayana Buddhism. Further, they match wonderfully the characteristics of perceptual frames described in neuroscience and adapted for the GO model.

 

contextual repetition [4] is that which both interlocutors will recognise as a re-presentation of some element of the current discourse, or of a closely related discourse.

 

critical processing [5] of a g-vortex refers to the fusing of a fresh pattern of constituents which is recognised to have unique meaning. It is not a reference to the prior location of constituents in a way that makes them immediately accessible

 

discourse presupposition [3] refers, in the GO model, to a latent repeating entity which was in the process of becoming a g-vortex but in which the generative process was aborted prior to surface expression.

 

encapsulated meaning [5] in the GO model refers to a configuration of relationships which has become formularized, that is, which requires no internal analysis or adjustment prior to use.

 

encapsulated meaning [6] is a statement about very special relations, namely a set of relations that can be used as an unanalyzed block within a cognitive system. That is, the complex of values represented by that relational block are known to the system and can be used rapidly, without further processing.

 

formula migration loss [4] is a process which may occur if the g-ripple is a relatively complex structure, such as a formulaic expression, and there is internal change or loss before repetition. Examples might be a syntactic reordering of elements, or a loss of accretions that had been uniquely salient to the source g-vortex.

 

free will [1] is really the unfettered (and often unplanned) exercise of inclinations to action (habits) within a person, without regard to influences from and likely reactions from the wider environment. In a sense, nothing is less free than "free will".

 

g- [5] a suffix used to mark term usages as specific to the GO model, as in g-vortex.

 

g-ripple [2] repeating entity; provides cohesive ties in texts; selected g-ripples may be progenitors of g-vortices.

 

g-ripple [3] (repeating entity); a form sufficiently codified to withstand mnemonic storage and reuse. A g-ripple may subsume complex associative relationships.

 

g-ripple distribution types [4] g-ripples may be global or local. Local g-ripples may be subdivided into proximate and contextual repetition.

 

g-vortex [2] a linguistic mechanism analogous to visual perceptual frames of about 100 milliseconds duration. No specific claim is made for the duration of g-vortices, but an important subtype is said to contain clause-like constituents which are later projected into intonation units.

 

g-vortex [5] (for GO model purposes) is a mechanism in mental space whereby an assembly of linguistic elements are given definition as an encapsulated meaning. Encapsulated meanings may be translated phonetically for transmission external to the speaker, and/or may become constituents themselves to larger ensembles. The g-vortex mechanism is analogous to a perceptual frame typically containing (in language systems) clause-like constituents. [refer Macquarie dictionary: "Vortex, in old theories, as in Cartesian philosophy, [is] a rapid rotatory movement of cosmic matter about a centre, regarded as accounting for the origin or phenomena of bodies or systems of bodies in space."]

 

g-vortex dispersal processes [4] occur in g-vortices after ard-ent processing. G-vortex constituents are picked up, attenuated or amplified by mnemonic resonators, and recorded as indices in long term memory.

 

global repetition [4] is codified repetition with generic application throughout the speech community. A global g-ripple has by virtue of its survival been shown to have clear communicative value and definable application. Lexical items are good examples of global g-ripples.

 

GO Model [1] is a hypothetical inner human environment within which the systems of language might operate. This environment is moderately elaborate, but in the end is no more than a working construct. It enables a dialogue about that which cannot be observed directly. Its real function in this thesis is to facilitate the understanding of how repetition impacts on creative processes in language generation. “GO” stands for “generative oscillation”.

 

GO [2] generative oscillation model

 

habit [1] effectively a neuronal highway leading to action, is not merely the easiest response pattern; it is the only one which will be followed in the absence of countervailing habit (possibly at a different level of organization)

 

HRA [2] harmonic resonance attractor; a compact way of describing the amplification of particular cognitive variables, their sympathetic resonance with elements in memory, and emergence from minor status to controlling influence in particular events. Harmonic resonance attractors acting on elements of language provide a principled way of talking about what language reflects of its co-environments.

 

idea [1] as an artefact to be located in a "mind", is a cultural construct. In the GO model, following the Buddhist concept, "idea" is a specific subset of inclinations to action. Mind comprises the general set of such inclinations to action (see below). Historically, there are many perceptions of "idea". For example, before the seventeenth century in Europe, "idea" was often a property of godhead, not of the individual;(Boulton 1991).

 

identity chain [3] a term used by Hasan (1984); it is made up of cohesive ties that all share the same referent(s), whether the ties in question are pronominals, reiterations, or instantial equivalents.

 

inclinations to action [1] arise from habitual associations, ultimately associations or pathways among neurones. In a single lifeform, these associations emerge from the way in which experience reacts with inherited biological design. They are not necessarily beneficial to the organism. The balance of inclinations to action must be adequate however to preserve the functional sufficiency of the organism.

 

intonation unit [5] is the minimum unit of contiguous utterance. It is a piece of verbal behaviour, a unit of message transmission, and a presumed outcome of complex processes that are not verbal and (in all probability) not entirely linear. A g-vortex is not formally equivalent to an intonation unit.

 

language [1] is regarded in the GO model as an intermediate system between an inner ecology and an outer environment. However, the ecology of the inner human domain is considered to be a subsystem and a continuum of the outer environmental systems. Mind, language and the environment external to the person are all subject to the same natural laws. Mind/body dualism is rejected.

 

language generation [1] though amenable to some conscious control, seems, as it were, to be programmed to operate (spoken or unspoken), regardless of any immediate survival need. It is not so much an act of representation as of habitual pattern-making. This pattern making is apt to take as its momentary mould any set of salient perceptions close to hand, a phenomenon recognised in the extreme as "idle chatter". Perceptions can be drawn from outer senses like sight or hearing, or inner senses of memory, emotion and so on;(the notion of inner senses is borrowed from the skandha or "aggregates" of the Buddhist abhidharma (commentaries)).

 

latent g-ripples [3] remain invisible on the surface of the text while playing an important part in the cognitive process; (e.g. ellipsis).

 

local repetition [4] local g-ripples may be subdivided into proximate and contextual repetition types. Local g-ripples incorporate global g-ripples in the form of words etc, but mark them with a special properties. Local g-ripples are subject to the whole range of interference which afflicts real time behaviour.

 

meaning [6] The meaning of meaning is a notorious maze, but usually used by linguists in a "common sense" way, being the way of their unanalysed world-view. "Meaning is what a word denotes" would be a typical definition. Implicit in this is the mind/body assumption, the representational approach to language. It makes little sense from the viewpoint of an emergent philosophy which does not envisage different worlds of mind and body to treat denotative meaning as some kind of reified entity.

 

mind [1] is taken in the GO model to be a code label for the organised totality of established inclinations to action in an individual; (see action).

 

mind/body dualism [1] The unanalyzed cultural orthodoxy in almost all modern scientific behaviour is that a human being exists in two domains : the mind and the body. This behaviour contrasts with stated orthodox belief and constitutes one of the great hypocrisies of the age.

 

mindfulness/awareness [1] [ref. Varela et al. 1991:21] "derives from the Buddhist method of examining experience call mindfulness meditation... Mindfulness means that the mind is present in embodied everyday experience; mindfulness techniques are designed to lead the mind back from its theories and preoccupations, back from the abstract attitude, to the situation of one's experience itself.. We believe that the Buddhist doctrines of no-self and of non-dualism that grew out of this method have a significant contribution to make in the dialogue with cognitive science."

 

mnemonic resonance [3] is the description adopted in this thesis for the mechanism which leads to a persistence in memory of an idea after use - or since we are talking linguistics, let us say of a linguistic element after use - and the heightened availability of this element to a progressing discourse for recall or for evoking a field of linguistic associations. A g-ripple is a product of mnemonic resonance.

 

mord-ent [2] monitor rule drive; linear processor and the source of filtering between g-vortices; major determinant of textual coherence. "Mord-ent" is a cover-term for the very eclectic variety of rules and decisions which may impact on language that is to be projected into surface strings. Mord-ent operations would normally correlate with the second, sequential type of processing, and the typical output would be a stream of intonation units.

 

net [3] a term used by Hoey (1991) to describe both the complete set of (cohesively) bonded sentences and any sub-set of them.

 

net of repeating entities [3] g-ripples which link within and across topic boundaries into g-vortices, acting in a way which creates cohesion. Cohesive nets of repeating entities can also participate selectively in building coherence, but need not.

 

perceptual frame [2] a cognitive unit which classically deals with sensorimotor rhythmicity and parsing. The GO model extends its use to linguistic parsing. The term is borrowed from the literature on neuroscience and psychology where, for example, one of the better known phenomena discussed is "perceptual simultaneity" or "apparent motion"; (refer Varela 1991:72)

 

perceptual frame [5] a cognitive unit which classically deals with sensorimotor rhythmicity and parsing. It has a minimum visual parsing interval of around 100 milliseconds. The GO model extends its use to linguistic parsing, but makes no a priori claims about the linguistic parsing interval. The term is borrowed from the literature on neuroscience and psychology where, for example, one of the better known phenomena discussed is "perceptual simultaneity" or "apparent motion"; (refer Varela 1991:72)

 

phrasal formula [6] a clause whose meaning is not entirely encapsulated prior to processing, but whose constituents have a powerful mnemonic resonance which will make processing outcomes more rapid and assured than for a contingently generated phrase. The level of meaning encapsulation in phrasal formulas varies greatly, and they may not form a properly definable set.

 

plane of conscious imagination [2] a way of giving conscious thought, as opposed to unconscious mental activity, a location and identity in the notional cognitive geography of the GO model.

 

prediction [5] is used in the GO model not in a deterministic sense, but in the sense of evolving harmonies which should mutually adapt and merge at some future point.

 

predictive organization [5] is used in the GO model not in a volitional sense, but in the sense of evolving harmonies which will mutually adapt and merge at some future point.

 

proximate repetition [4] is taken to be that which occurs within several intonation units of the original formulation.

 

repetition cluster patterns [3] words or phrases and/or syntactic patterns which do not usually have high density in an idiolect often occur in clusters through a corpus when they are used. Some of this clustering relates to topic concentration, but much is associated with mnemonic resonance.

 

self [1] as named by an individual is his possessive identification of an exclusive mind-body.

 

similarity chain [3] a term used by Hasan (1984); it is a chain of cohesive ties in which issues of identity cannot arise; for example, parallel processes or descriptions.

 

thought [1] is a form of action in the GO model.

 

topic [2] interpreted as a quasi-linguistic entity in the GO model; it enters both into the linguistic system and other kinds of thought; provides a frame for matching sequences of linguistic g-vortices with non-linguistic ideas and objects. Topics act as mnemonic attractors (see attractors). Topics also offer a stable framework for matching coherent patterns of idea-against-language while linguistic constituents are shaped into linear phonetic output, or as phonetic input is decoded. Topics thus engage but are not fully defined by linguistic expression. There is always something more, such as background knowledge, to give them substance. They are never quite coextensive for speaker and listener.

 

unitary conceptual code [4] may be the unitary lexical code of a word, the recognised value of a phoneme, the stable concept of a class, such as "noun", or a fixed relational identity, such as "subject". A unitary conceptual code is typical of global g-ripples.

 

waveform filter [2] a notional mechanism by which the ard-ent matches and edits the constituents of an emergent g-vortex. These constituents themselves would be recognized by linguists as collocating elements of a clause, but together are thought of physically in the GO model as a complex standing wave form.

 

weighted value [6] refers to the relative power of each collocation index in a word to invoke associations ("resonance") with elements in other systems. The weighted value of a collocation index is not a fixed value in most cases (strict categorial values like word class may be an exception). It seems likely that weighted values move within a band or range

 

word [6] a small, fairly stable system. A word has fully encapsulated meaning, and is identified by a single lexical address although it may have many constituent collocational indices. To codify a word in the GO model is not to make any claims about other worlds, so ontological problems of representation are avoided. It is to note that one small system has certain internal characteristics, and certain fairly constant relations with the macro-systems of language, with other internal cognitive environments and with the environment which is external to the whole organism. A word co-occurs with other systems as a sort of natural growth, a fungus or weed or parasite which finds a congenial niche in the ecosystem.

 

 

 


 

Appendix II Degrees Of Encapsulated Meaning

    Name Nested
    encapsulation
    Fully
    encapsulated
    High potential for
    encapsulation

    Accessible for
    temporary
    encapsulation
    Not accessible for single meaning encapsulation
    processing
    level
    morpheme word clitics, clausal formulas wff. intonation unit variable; +clause strings; anacolouthon; slowly extracted expressions
    address
    label
    minimal minimal near-predictable outcome within g-vortex successful autonomic processing by g-vortex processing boundary invoked by g-vortex: length or
    complexity exceeded
    boundary marking
    single (bound) single (free) multiple but strong; duralble inter-resonance links multiple; contingent inter-resonance links multiple IU boundaries; +/-; single tonic boundary
    repetition phonemic phonemic, prosodic prosodic prosodic prosodic, lexemic, syntactic, topic close
    popover root
    dependent
    . . . .
    ellipsis
    n/a . . . .
    substitution no . . . .
    repair ? full lexeme . . . .
    referential
    dependence
    . . .. . .
    topic dependence . . . . .
    presupposition . . . . .
    linking . . . . .

 

 


 

 

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Footnotes

 

1. See Roger Lewin, 1993 (Complexity: Life on the edge of chaos, UK: J.M. Dent Ltd, Phoenix) for a non-technical introduction to these ideas.

 

2. Encapsulated meaning in the GO model refers to a configuration of relationships which has become formularized and which requires no internal analysis or adjustment prior to use in the cognitive system. That is, the complex of values represented by that relational block are known to the system and can be used rapidly, without further processing.

 

3. Skeptics are invited to apply a short test to themselves. Try NOT to think of any language for five minutes. Trained meditators will know the problem. I can't do it unless absorbed in some motor activity like drawing.

 

4. For example, see Varela,F E. Thompson & E. Rosch (1991) The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science & Human Experience, Cambridge MA: MIT Press; p.73

 

5. For an interesting survey of these parallels see Bouton, Charles, 1991, Neurolinguistics : Historical & theoretical perspectives

 

6. "Functionalism [is] the doctrine that what is crucial to thinking is not the physical makeup of the brain, not nerve, synapse and neurotransmitter, but the organization and functioning of mental processes and representations." Philip Johnson-Laird, 1993:xi, Human and Machine Thinking. This is one view. In truth, "function" and "structure" have accumulated more definitions of convenience than any other terms in the human sciences.

 

7. Varela F, E Thompson & E Rosch 1991, The Embodied Mind. The extensive quotations from this book which follow are a very sincere form of flattery. The Embodied Mind has done much to crystalized and inform my own thinking.

 

8. ROM = read-only memory: no alteration to a ROM is possible. EPROM = erasable/programmable ROM: an EPROM may be erased and reprogrammed with new information. However this requires special procedures, again a good analogy with the human ard-ent.

 

9. "Mindfulness/awareness" describes the management of phenomena impinging on consciousness while the subject is in a meditative state. Buddhists claim that advanced practitioners can indeed study and control autonomic processes. Refer especially to the Madhyamika tradition of Mahayana schools, and Zen derivations.

 

10. "The idea of an Agent originated with John McCarthy in the mid-1950's, and the term was coined by Oliver G Selfridge a few years later, when they were both at MIT. They had in view a system that, when given a goal, could carry out the details of the appropriate computer operations and could ask for and receive advice when it was stuck. An Agent would be a "soft" robot, living and doing its business within the computer's world." [Alan Key (1984)]

 

11. [Varela 1991:219,220] "..the teachings of no-self - the five aggregates, some form of mental factor analysis, and karma and the wheel of conditioned origination - are common to all of the major Buddhist traditions. At this point however we come to a split. The teaching of emptiness (sunyata) ... according to the Buddhist tradition itself as well as to scholarship , did not become apparent until approximately 500 years after the Buddha's death, at which time the Pranjnaparamita and other texts that expound this doctrine began to appear....In approximately the first half of the second century CE, the Prajnaparamita teachings were put into a form of philosophical argument by Nagarjuna .. Nagarjuna's stature in Mahayana and Varjayana Buddhism is enormous. His method was to work soley by means of refutation of the positions and assertions of others...Buddhist non-dualism, particularly as it is presented in the Madhyamika (which literally means "middle way") [is the] philosophy of Nagarjuna".

 

12. These questions have been posed in other contexts of course. Varela et al (1991:65) bring the matter up in a discussion of the Buddhist abhidharma (commentaries): "We might ask, `what do the cells that make up my body have in common with the cells that will make up my body in, say, seven years?' And, of course, the question contains its own answer: what they have in common is that they both make up my body and therefore make up some kind of pattern through time that is supposedly myself. But we still don't know what that pattern qua the self is : we have simply gone around in a circle. "Philosophers will recognize this little vignette as a variation on the example of the ship of Theseus, which every so often has all of its planks replaced. The question is, is it the same ship or not? And philosophers ... deftly reply that there really isn't any fact of the matter one way or the other. It all depends on what you want to say ... For something to be the same .. it must suffer some change, for otherwise one would not be able to recognize that it had stayed the same. Conversely, for something to change there must also be some kind of implicit permanence that acts as a reference point ...

 

13. " Compare genetic repressors etc. to the GO model concepts of mnemonic resonance mediated by ard-ents and mord-ents.

 

14. If there are "drastic discontinuities in how species change over time" we should not be too surprised, for similar reasons, to find drastic discontinuities in how languages change over time. Equally however, fossilization is common in nature: [Varela et al 1991:192] ".. some [animal] groups not only stay around but remain with little changes, even though their environment has from our vantage point changed dramatically."

 

15. This belief in the illocutionary significance of certain formulae types is not shared by Edmondson (1981a:275)"We may distinguish between discourse-internal illocutions...and interactional lubricants, which are realized in verbal behaviour but do not have illocutionary significance...Such interactional lubricants, which one may term "gambits" (Beneke 1975, Edmondson 1977 [German L refs.], Keller 1981) are therefore not communicative in the technical sense meant here."

 

16. see for example the case of the "wild child" Genie in Curtiss (1977)

 

 

 

 

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