book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

Philosophy in the Flesh

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

Lakoff, George; Mark Johnson;

Philosophy in the Flesh

Basic Books, 1999, 624 pages

ISBN 0465056741, 9780465056743

topics: |  cognitive-psychology | language | philosophy | metaphor

A lengthy challenge to the philosophical assumptions underlying the Chomskian
position of the supremacy of syntax, leading to universal grammar and
everything else.

Mind as Embodied; Thoughts as Unconscious; Concepts as Metaphorical

The opening paragraph clarifies what is being attempted:

	The mind is inherently embodied.
	Thought is mostly unconscious.
	Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

The first is widely assumed in everyday discourse today.  The second is
gradually sinking into public consciousness. The third point is trickier;
Lakoff and Johnson had already spent a book (Metaphors we live by, 1980)
trying to establish it, and most of part 3 of this text is also devoted to
this cause.

The import of these three points are revealed over the rest of the first
chapter, but here's a pithy summary (from an interview by Lakoff):

	When taken together and considered in detail, these three findings
	from the science of the mind are inconsistent with central parts of
	Western philosophy, and require a thorough rethinking of the most
	popular current approaches, namely, Anglo-American analytic
	philosophy and postmodernist philosophy."

But more particularly, the book highlights how refuting these assumptions
invalidates the framework for Transformation grammar (Chomskyan


George Lakoff is a prominent linguist, and was initially an enthusiastic
and able contributor to the generative grammar movement.  By the late 1960s
however, he was pushing for expanding the model towards including more
semantic notions ("deep structure"), whereas Chomsky felt that the clean
lines of his theory would be tarnished by the amorphousness of semantics.
Chomsky started with the vision of syntax as autonomous of semantics (or
function), but provided a link to semantics via what he initially called
"deep structure".  At that point, Lakoff, Fillmore and many others felt
that this was the gateway to semantics, but Chomsky later repudiated any
role for semantics in grammar, thus leading to the bitter "linguistic wars"
with the generative semanticists in one side and the generative syntax
group under Chomsky and Fodor in the other.

Lakoff's main concern here, and also in his earlier books such as
Women, fire and dangerous things(1987), is to argue that language is
ultimately embodied, primarily by extending physical notions into the realm
of the abstract via metaphor.  This embodied mind position also denies
mind-body duality, and the possibility of "disembodied trascendent reason".

The nature of human reason

   These are three major findings of cognitive science. More than two
   millennia of a priori philosophical speculation about these aspects of
   reason are over. Because of these discoveries, philosophy can never be the
   same again.

   * Reason is not disembodied, as the tradition has largely held, but arises
	  from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily
	  experience.... the very structure of reason itself comes from the
	  details of our embodiment. The same neural and cognitive mechanisms
	  that allow us to perceive and move around also create our
	  conceptual systems and modes of reason. 4

   * Reason is evolutionary... not an essence that separates us from other
	  animals; rather, it places us on a continuum with them.  * Reason
	  is not completely conscious, but mostly unconscious.

   * Reason is not purely literal, but largely metaphorical and imaginative.

   * Reason is not dispassionate, but emotionally engaged.

Assumptions of western philosophy being challenged

THERE IS NO CARTESIAN DUALISTIC PERSON, with a mind separate from and
independent of the body, sharing exactly the same disembodied transcendent
reason with everyone else, and capable of knowing everything about his or her
mind simply by self-reflection. ...

There exists no KANTIAN RADICALLY AUTONOMOUS PERSON, with absolute freedom and
a transcendent reason that correctly dictates what is and isn't moral. What
universal aspects of reason there are arise from the commonalities of our
bodies and brains and the environments we inhabit. The existence of these
universals does not imply that reason transcends the body. Moreover, since
conceptual systems vary significantly, reason is not entirely universal.

NOT RADICALLY FREE, because the possible human conceptual systems and the
possible forms of reason are limited. In addition, once we have learned a
conceptual system, it is neurally instantiated in our brains and we are not
free to think just anything. Hence, we have no absolute freedom in Kant's
sense, no full autonomy. There is no a priori, purely philosophical basis for a
universal concept of morality and no transcendent, universal pure reason that
could give rise to universal moral laws.

NO UTILITARIAN PERSON, for whom rationality is economic rationality... Real
human beings are not, for the most part, in conscious control of-- or even
consciously aware of-- their reasoning.

THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL PERSON, who through phenomenological introspection alone
can discover everything there is to know about the mind and the nature of
experience, is a fiction. ... we have no direct conscious access to its
operation and therefore to most of our thought. Phenomenological reflection,
though valuable in revealing the structure of experience, must be supplemented
by empirical research into the cognitive unconscious.

There is NO POSTSTRUCTURALIST PERSON--no completely decentered subject for whom
all meaning is arbitrary, totally relative, and purely historically contingent,
unconstrained by body and brain. ... much of a person's conceptual system is
systems are not totally relative and not merely a matter of historical
contingency, even though a degree of conceptual relativity does exist and even
though historical contingency does matter a great deal. The grounding of our
conceptual systems in shared embodiment and bodily experience creates a largely
centered self, but not a monolithic self.

There exists NO FREGEAN PERSON--as posed by analytic philosophy--for whom
thought has been extruded from the body. That is, there is no real person whose
embodiment plays no role in meaning, whose MEANING IS PURELY OBJECTIVE and
defined by the external world, and whose language can fit the external world
with no significant role played by mind, brain, or body. ... Because a vast
range of our concepts are metaphorical, meaning is not entirely literal and the
classical correspondence theory of truth is false.  The correspondence theory
holds that statements are true or false objectively, depending on how they map
directly onto the world--independent of any human understanding of either the
statement or the world. On the contrary, truth is mediated by embodied
understanding and imagination.  That does not mean that truth is purely
subjective or that there is no stable truth. Rather, our common embodiment
allows for common, stable truths.

NO COMPUTATIONAL PERSON, whose mind somehow derives meaning from taking
meaningless symbols as input, manipulating them by rule, and giving meaningless
symbols as output. Real people have embodied minds whose conceptual systems
arise from, are shaped by, and are given meaning through living human
bodies. The neural structures of our brains produce conceptual systems and
linguistic structures that cannot be adequately accounted for by formal systems
that only manipulate symbols.

NO CHOMSKYAN PERSON, for whom language is pure syntax, pure form insulated from
and independent of all meaning, context, perception, emotion, memory,
attention, action, and the dynamic nature of communication. Moreover, human
language is not a totally GENETIC INNOVATION. Rather, central aspects of
language arise evolutionarily from sensory, motor, and other neural systems
that are present in "lower" animals.

... The fact that abstract thought is mostly metaphorical means that answers to
philosophical questions have always been, and always will be, mostly
metaphorical. In itself, that is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact
about the capacities of the human mind. But it has major consequences for every
aspect of philosophy. Metaphorical thought is the principal tool that makes
philosophical insight possible and that constrains the forms that philosophy
can take.

... we use [the methods of cognitive science and cognitive linguistics] to
analyze certain basic concepts that any approach to philosophy must address,
such as time, events, causation, the mind, the self, and morality.

In Part III, we begin the study of philosophy itself from the perspective of
cognitive science. We apply these analytic methods to important moments in the
history of philosophy: Greek metaphysics, including the pre-Socratics, Plato,
and Aristotle; Descartes's theory of mind and Enlightenment faculty psychology;
Kant's moral theory; and analytic philosophy. These methods, we argue, lead to
new and deep insights into these great intellectual edifices. They help us
understand those philosophies and explain why, despite their fundamental
differences, they have each seemed intuitive to many people over the
centuries. We also take up issues in contemporary philosophy, linguistics, and
the social sciences, in particular, Anglo-American analytic philosophy,
Chomskyan linguistics, and the rational-actor model used in economics and
foreign policy. 8


Every thought, every decision every act is base upon philosophical assumptions
[NOTE: This violates the principle that most thought/action is not conscious]
What is real - metaphysics What counts as knowledge - epistemology How the mind
works - philosophy of mind Who we are How we should act - ethics 9

[cognitive - AMBIGUITY of the term - some philosophers limit the term to only
conceptual or propositional structure - equate it with truth-conditional
meaning, external to the body 12

ETYMOLOGY:  cog+nomen = with name ]

rule of thumb among cognitive scientists : unconscious thought is 95 percent of
all thought. 13

the hidden hand of the cognitive unconscious uses metaphor to define our
unconscious metaphysics -- the metaphors used not just by ordinary people, but
also by philosophers... 14

  [unconscious metaphysics: self, time, events, causation, essence, the mind,
   and morality. ]

For the most part, philosophers engaged in making metaphysical claims are
choosing from the cognitive unconscious a set of existing metaphors that have a
consistent ontology.  14


Historically, philosophy has seen itself as independent of empirical
investigation.  brought into question by results in Cognitive science -
radically new view of how we conceptualize our experience and how we think -
consistent with empirical discoveries about the nature of mind.

[contrast with "a priori" philosophy p. 22]


faculty psychology: faculty of reason - separate from and independent of what
we do with our bodies (perception, motion).  [Modularity of Mind thesis]

Cartesian / Chomskyan : the autonomous capacity of reason is what makes us
essentially human, distinguishing us from all other animals.  [This view
predates evolutionary theory]

Evolutionary view: reason uses and grows out of bodily capacities such as
perception / motion.

Our sense of what is real [METAPHYSICS] depends crucially on our bodies and
sensorimotor processes 17

Neural beings must categorize

Even the amoeba categorizes things into food and nonfood... We have evolved to
categorize - if we hadn't we wouldn't have survived

Categorization is for the most part, not a part of conscious reasoning.

100 bn neurons, 100 trillion connections.

Often a dense structure in brain will connect to another dense structure via a
sparse set of connections... e.g. eye: 100 mn light-sensing neurons, ==> 1 mn
fibers going to the brain.  i.e. info in each fiber constitutes a

A small percentage of our categories have been formed by conscious acts of
categorization, but most are formed automatically and unconsciously...

PROTOTYPE: Human categories are conceptualized in more than one way, in terms
of what are called prototypes.
[IDEA: More than one way: Pustejovsky's multiple-inheritance qualia lattice
  or lcp; Gardenfors' dimensions]

Each prototype is a neural structure that permits us to do some sort
of inferential or imaginative task relative to a category.

 - TYPICAL-CASE prototypes are used in drawing inferences about category
    members in the absence of any special contextual information
 - IDEAL-CASE prototypes allow us to evaluate category members relative to
    some conceptual standard.
	(contrast 'typical husband' with 'ideal husband').
 - SALIENT EXEMPLARS are used for making probability judgments

Prototype base reasoning constitutes a large part of of our reasoning.

Linguistic hedges

Most categories are also matter of degree (e.g. tall people) - also have
concepts characterizing degrees on some scale... with norms of various kinds
for extreme cases, normal cases, not quite normal, etc.  Such graded norms are
called linguistic hedges e.g. very, pretty, kind of, barely, and so on
[Women,Fire & DT].

Container metaphor for categories - hides conceptual prototypes graded
structures / fuzzy boundaries.

EMBODIED CONCEPTS Trivial sense: realized neurally, in a part of our body
Strong Sense: concepts are distinguished by their inferential capacity - is
a part of (or makes use of) the sensorimotor system of our brains.

claims of western philosophy - human reason and concepts are mind-, brain-,
and body-free 22

Colour concepts are interactional - arise from interactions of brains,
bodies, reflective properties of objects, and electromagnetic radiation.
There is in the sky or the grass no blue-ness or green-ness indep of our
retinas and brains. 24

sky is blue - but does not even have a surface - colour is not related to
"thing-ness" in the world

since colours are not things or substances, metaphysical realism
fails... subjectivism in its various forms - radical relativism and social
constructionism - also fails since colour is created jointly by our biology and
the world, not by our culture (which is significant - but as a part of this
interaction). 25-6

Colour debate in Philo: Thompson 95; Varela, Thompson Rosch 91

Basic_Level Categories

Basic level is usually the middle level of category, not too broad, not too

    chair - furniture: chair : rocking-chair
    car - vehicle : car : sports-car

Rosch and others mid-70s - middle-level categories are "basic"

1. The basic-level is the highest level at which we have a single mental
   image - can't get an image of "furniture" but can do for bed or chair.

2. Basic = highest-level at which categ members have similar shapes

3. uses similar motor actions for interacting with categ members

[NOTE: does this really hold?
    1. - image? or concept?
    2. shape? or function?
 Also doubtful is the claim on p. 30 - link between part-whole structure of a
 bio genera ==> basic-level categories
    See also Foundations of Mind
    critique of "basic-level" categories]

Most of our knowledge is organized at the basic level. 29
     actions: walking, swimming, grasping
     social: family, clubs, baseball teams; social actions - arguing
     emotions: happiness, anger, sadness

Spatial Relations

row "across" a round pond - 90 deg, ok; 45 deg - maybe?? 15 deg - not!

trajector - landmark relations : butterfly in garden
[NOTE: LO w.r.t. RO]

container schems: "In" - bounded region - e.g. "in the garden" = 3D region
     boundary, inside and outside - gestalt structure - all three are defined

Source-Path-Goal schema:
    trajector moves from source to goal along path

Bodily projections: FRONT
  - see from the front (animals)
  - move in direction of front (car)
  - interact with other objects or people (TV or table)
relative to us: tree or rock English - facing us;
			     Hausa - facing away from us

these relations are not "there" in the world - is part of our bodies.

Body usage may be higher in other languages - e.g; Mixtec - no concept
of "on":
 - on the hill ==> located head hill
 - on the roof of the house ==> located animal-back house
	[NOTE: Is "animal" a "basic-level" category here??  yet we can image
	 it's back]
 - i am sitting on the branch of the tree ==> i am sitting arm tree 35

Image-schemas in language

linguistic structures - based on small number of primitive
	- part-whole	            - contact
	- center-periphery          - adjacency
	- link		            - support
	- cycle		            - balance
	- iteration	            - near-far
			            - straight-curved
	- forced motion (push/pull/propel)
	- orientations: vertical, horizontal, front-back 35

As yet, we do not have any neurophysiological evidence (e.g. PET /
fMRI) that mechanisms in perception and movement are also used in
abstract reasoning.

	[NOTE: But should cite imagery results in conceptualization -
	 when we think of an object, the same perceptual areas of the
	 brain light up that are at work when we see it. - Fisk? ]

computational models in NTL have been built for
  * spatial relations - in, on, over, through, under.
  * bodily movements - grasp, pull, lift, tap, punch
  * aspectual concepts rel. to structure of actions - starting, stopping,
    resuming, continuing, and also those indicated grammatically (as in "is
    running", or "has lifted"). 36


Christopher Johnson:
   work on metaphor acquisition in children - based on Shem corpus -
   utterances of a child named Shem [MacWhinney 95] - attempts to discover
   the age at which Shem used the verb "see" in the metaphorical sense of
   "know".  Prior to using metaphor, Shem goes through a stage in which the
   knowing and seeing domains are conflated - "Let's see what is in the
   box" - and later develops into full metaphorical usage such as "I see
   what you mean" - only when the child is able to distinguish the two
   conceptual domains.  Other metaphorical extensions - e.g. "illuminate" -
   is learned later based on the primary conceptual metaphor 48

Theory of Conflation:
Period of CONFLATION (young children): subjective (non-sensorimotor)
experiences are
regularly conflated with co-occurring sensorimotor experiences - and for a time
children do not distinguish the two.  Strong associations are built up.
Later, stage of DIFFERENTIATION - when children can separate
out the domains, but some of these links remain.  Source of "warm smile", "big
problem" or "close friend". 46

Grady : Theory of primary metaphor : those that arise naturally through
conflation, have minimal structure ==>
Complex metaphors form from these primary metaphors via conceptual blending.
Universal early experiences lead to universal conflations ==> lead to universal
conceptual metaphors.

[NOTE: This is not completely culture-independent - note the role of time in
the Aymara - recently came to power in Bolivia]

List of Primary Metaphors

Table of primary metaphors p. 50-54 : (notice "Is" and "Are")

  * Affection Is warmth: They greeted me warmly
	  [TEMPERATURE (sensorimotor) to AFFECTION (subjective) -
	  based on : Feeling warm while being held affectionately]

  * Important Is Big: Tomorrow is a big day [maps from SIZE (sensorimotor) to
	  IMPORTANCE (subjective) based on child's experience that big things
	  e.g. parents, are important.
	  [IDEA: this is more likely to reflect a possibly innate part of the
	  perceptual system - bigger objects deserve more attention]

  * Happy Is up: I am feeling up today [Explanation is weak]

  * Intimacy Is closeness: We have been close for years, but we are beginning to
	  drift apart.
  * Bad Is Stinky: This movie stinks

  * Difficulties Are Burdens: She's weighed down by responsibilities

  * More Is Up : Prises are high; stocks fell

  * Categories Are containers: Are tomatoes in the fruit or vegetable group?

  * Similarity Is Closeness: These colours are close.

  * Linear Scales Are Paths: John's intelligence is way beyond Bill's.

  * Organization Is Physical structure: Hod do the pieces of this theory fit

  * Help Is Support: Support your local charities

  * Time Is motion: after her arrival, the days flew

  * States Are Locations: I'm close to being depressed and the next thing will
	  send me over the edge.

  * Change is Motion: My car has gone from bad to worse lately.

  * Actions Are self-propelled motions: I'm moving right along ono the project.

  * Purposes Are destinations: He'll make it, but he isn't there yet.
	 ["make it" is mine - what metaphor is it?]

  * Purposes Are Desired Objects: I grabbed the opportunity.

  * Causes Are Physical Forces: They pushed the bill through congress.

  * Relationships are Enclosures: Our relationship is beginning to seem confining.

  * Control Is Up: Don't worry, I'm on top of it.

  * Knowing Is Seeing: I see what you mean

  * Understanding Is Grasping: I just can't grasp transfinite numbers.

  * Seeing is Touching: She picked my face out of the crowd. 54

Why don't we have metaphors going the other way (e.g. "too much" means "too
Narayanan: Because senorimotor domain is more complex - and projections from
this complex domain to the relatively simpler subjective domain - are one-way

primary metaphors are INEVITABLE - because [Hebbian] learning occurs in the
	brain based on co-activation 57

[IDEA: Grasp,v. - literal(15) vs non-literal(8)
       Pull - 55 vs 8
       Push - 59 vs 17
       See - 617 to 605 (18 senses; top 2 senses 200)
       Look - 274 vs 165
       Pick - 17 (picked her successor +sense 3,4) to 5 (pick flowers/mushrooms+sense5).
          SENSE 4: "pick a fight/quarrel" - is this semi-idiomatic?
		CLASS OF metaphorically productive idioms?


Complex Metaphors are- built from primary metaphors through conceptual blending

 - Life is a journey - [The Latin "curriculum vitae" - course of life]: Found a
	direction in life, not knowing which way to turn
 - Love is a journey - We have come a long way, but the relationship is not
	going anywhere.  we are at a crossroads - may have to go our separate
Complex metaphors are do not have direct experiential grounding - but based on
	grounded primary metaphors

[IDEA: may also be grounded - need to map feature spaces of subjective
experience and sensorimotor journey - overlaps - IDEA FOR PROJECT in COG SEM?]

Novel metaphors - e.g. "We are driving down the fast lane on the freeway of
love" - blend the Relationship Is Containment, Love is a journey ==> Love
relationship Is a Vehicle, and lovers are travellers. Fast lane - brings in
speed and danger connotations. 66

[Related to the notion of conceptual blending Fauconnier et al]


 - entirely symbolic - symbolic concepts related to other concepts via formal
    symbol manipulations -
 - symbols of thought are internal representations of external reality,
    objects, properties between them, categories.
Both views:  MIND is an abstract computer program that can run on any
     "hardware" - disconnected with the body specifics. THOUGHT is literal,
     with no room for imagination / metaphor.

Embodied (Second-Generation) Cognitive Science

conceptual structures arise from sensorimotor
experience, giving rise to "motor schemas" and "image schemas".
	    [H. Gardner 1995: The Mind's New Science] 77

Differ vastly in the "a priori" assumptions made by traditional approaches.
More than assumption, there is a
     commitment to make sense of a vast range of phenomena that included
     polysemy (systematically related linguistic forms), inference, historical
     change, psychological experiments, poetic extensions of everyday language,
     gesture, language acquisition, grammar, and iconicity in signed
     languages. 80
It is all made sense of by conceptual metaphors, image schemas, and radial
categories - and by no other theory of concepts yet proposed

[IDEA: What about GARDENFORS?]

Generalization of metaphorical mappings

"Love is a journey" ==> enables many mappings

POLYSEMY : words like crossroads, stuck, and dead end - all from travel domain
	 - meanings in the love / purpose domains --? metaphoric POLYSEMY

NOVEL CASE : "driving down the fast lane on the freeway of love"

DEAD METAPHOR refutation - PSYCHOLINGUISTIC : [Albritton 92] - Love Is A
Physical Force metaphor (She knocked me out.  I was bowled over. There was a
magnetism between us.) [83]
Experiment: Involved literal sentences about love, interspersed with "(3) The
attraction between John and Martha was overwhelming.  (4) Sparks flew the
moment they first saw one another."  In priming tests, participants were much
quicker in identifying (4) when primed by (3) than by more literal sentences.

[NOTE: Could also have been because (3) was more proximal? ]

SYNCHRONIC CHANGE - Sweetser: conceptual metaphor provides "routes" for
possible changes of word meaning over the course of history.  Worked on
"seeing is knowing" - data from wide
swathe of Indo-European langauges. PROTO-IE root *weid ("see") develops in
Greek as eidon, "see" and oida, "know" (root of Eng. idea).  In English,
becomes both vision words witness and knowledge words wit and wise.

[  IDEA: PROJECT: Comparative etymological study - Indian Langs?
   "we will see ; dekhenge ; dekhchhi ;"   ]

Just as you can't judge Don Bradman by his last innings, it would be a
travesty to pass a verdict on Advani on the strength of his final stint at
the crease. - Swapan Dasgupta, "Usual Suspects" column, Pioneer, 1/1/06

PUN: Lankans' bad run continues. - Pio 1/1/06]
ToI Cal 1/1/06
Maoists caught on wrong foot in maoist minefield
Central Teeth for states' Maoist battle

Unconsciously performed gestures accompanying speech (also thought, see exam
halls, designers at work) - trace out images from the source domains of
conceptual metaphors.  E.g. "can't decide whether to stay home or go out" -
gesture - palm up - moving up and down alternately - weighing choices 86

Conflation: child initially does not use see in the "see what i mean" sense -
this enters her lexicon at later stage.


[Chomsky's] early transformational grammar was a reinterpretation
of the linguistics from among others:
  - his teacher, Zellig Harris, from whom he appropriated the idea of
     syntactic transformations and the idea of headed constructions (what is
     now called X-bar theory)
  - Roman Jakobson - the idea of distinctive features (474)
and over the years he has incorporated additional ideas from John R. Ross,
James McCawley, Paul Postal, George Lakoff, and others with whom he has had
fundamental disagreements.

Cartesian basis for Chomskyan position

Chomsky's view of language is based on a Cartesian conception of the mind,
discussed in Cartesian Linguistics (Chomsky 1966) - key components as adapted
by Chomsky:

- Separation of Mind and Body
- Transcendent autonomous reason: Reason as a capacity of the mind,
    not the body.  Reason as independent of feeling, emotion,
    imagination, or motor capacity
- essences - every kind of thing contains an essence that makes it the
    kind of thing it is.
- rationality defines human nature - there is an universal human
    nature, an essence shared by all and only by humans.  What makes human
    beings human - the only thing that defines their distinct nature -
    is their capacity for rational thought and language.
- Mathematics as ideal reason
- Reason as formal. Ability to reason is the ability to manipulate
    representations according to formal rules for structuring and relating
    these mental symbols.  Logic is the core of this rational capacity, and
    Mathematics is the ideal version of thought, because it is the science of
    pure form.
- Thought as language. Descartes (in letter to mersenne)
  conceptualizes thought metaphorically as language, with complex
  ideas put together out of simple ones, as sentence are made out of
  words.  Universal reason makes possible a universal language, which
  would of course have an universal grammar. Language too would be
  mathematical and therefore purely formal.
- Innate ideas. Descartes argued that the mind must have implanted in
  it by God certain ideas, concepts and formal rules that could not
  have been acquired via experience (letter to Mersenne, Jul 23,
  1641). These a priori structures are just given to us and are
  possessed by all rational creatures.
- The method of introspection.  Just by reflecting on our own ideas
  and the operations of our own minds with care and rigor, we can come
  to undertand the mind accurately and with absolute certainty.  No
  empirical study is necessary.

Language as Logic

Chomsky's "Formalist view of language" - a system of symbols in which
individual symbols are individual linguistic elements and well-formed symbol
sequences are sentences.  Principles for combining symbols or transforming
symbol sequences into other symbol sequences constitute the "syntax" of the
formal "language".

Language is not "Formal" Language

FORMAL language - developed in logic - Emil Post
  The symbols of a formal language are meaningless - needs model theory to give
  meaning. e.g. x = 5; y=7; x+y = 12 - are all meaningless unless we have a
  model theory that defines =, +, etc.

The word "language" in "formal languages" - a metaphorical conception of
systems of formal symbol strings - made Chomsky's metaphor appear natural to
adherents of formalist philosophy.  Indeed, Chomsky took it not as a metaphor
for modeling natural language syntax, but as a truth.

language must be independent of
 - memory
 - attention
 - perception
 - motion and gesture
 - social interaction and culture
 - contextual knowledge
 - communication needs of users

Syntax, on this Chomskyan account, is the creative part of the human mind.  It
creates, from nothing external to itself (autonomous), the structures of
language upon which rationality is built.

Syntax is instantiated in the brain but is causally independent of all
nonlinguistic aspects of the brain.  The brain is seen as having an
"autonomous" syntax module.  To be autonomous, it cannot be affected
causally by input from any "not purely syntactic" parts of the brain -
no inputs that could have a causal effect from any of the above
(memory/attention / sensory-motor / cultural etc).

[IDEA: possibly the notion of intention is first expressed in syntax
and then generates logical form?]

Autonomous language capacity or "faculty"

Chomsky views the study of animal communication as irrelevant to any study of
the language capacity.

[The notion of a separate language capacity (or faculty) is widely opposed
among neuroscientists, e.g. see Gerald Edelman's
Bright Air,Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind:  there is no  neural
subnetwork that does not have inputs from other parts of the brain
that do very different things.  p.209]

purely syntactic essence - a set of parameters shared by all languages
and known innately by all humans - leaves out many features of most
human languages, for example, evidential systems, classifier systems,
politeness systems (Brown and Levinson 87), spatial relations systems
(Talmy 83), aspectual systems, and lexicalization systems (Talmy 1985b
"Lexicalization Patterns").

Working linguists study all aspects of language - meanings of words
and constructions, pragmatic, semantic, and discourse constraints on
the use of constructions, classifier systems (above list,481)... give the
highest priority to the "Distributional Generalization Criterion",
that the statement of generalizations
is, full descriptive adequacy. (482)

Chomsky appears to doubt that all this other stuff can be precisely
studied in a scientific manner at all
==> To study something scientifically is to study it using the tools
    of formalist philosophy - else not rigorous, and therefore, not

Unexplained syntax example: Main-clause constructions

Main-Clause constructions: a class of constructions that occur
mostly in main clauses e.g.

	Here comes the bus (deictic locative)
	Is he ever tall! (inverted exclamation)
	What a fool he is!
	What idiots we were! (wh-exclamations)
	who on earth can stop Jordan (rhetorical questions)
	it's raining, isn't it?
	It isn't raining, is it? (reversal questions)

But Lakoff 87 points out that such "main clause" constructions can
appear in final-position subordinate clauses:

  I'm leaving because here comes my bus.

But while both because- and if-clauses take similar ordinary clauses
  I'm leaving because my bus is coming.
  I'm leaving if my bus is coming.

only because takes the main clause construct

* I'm leaving if  here comes my bus.

  The Bulls will win because who on earth can stop Jordan?
* The Bulls will win if who on earth can stop Jordan?

But no one can stop Jordan would work with both because and if.

Also although-, except-, since-, and but- clauses take such main
clauses.  But not all main-clause constructions
go even with because - e.g. imperative or simple question clauses:

  * you're upset because go home! [imperative syntax; no subject or auxiliary]
    you're upset because i told you to go home! [indicative syntax]
  * i'm curious because who stole the money? [interrogative]

A generalization to explain this would be of the form: Constructions
of type A can occur in subordinate clauses of type B under conditions
C.  If such a generalization exists, is it a "purely syntactic" one?

There is such a generalization.  First, the main-clause constructions
that can occur in subordinate clauses are those thay convey statement
speech acts, either directly or indirectly.  All the constructions
listed have this property.  In fact, even interrogatives (e.g. "who
wants to watch a really dull movie?") can be a rhetorical q conveying
"no one wants to watch a dull movie".  Both the negative and the
interrogative can occur in because-clauses, but only when the
interrogative construction is a rhetorical question
    i'm curious because who ever would want to steal the money?
(contrast with interrogative form above).

But this distinction (type A) - whether a question is a q or a rhetorical
statement is a matter of pragmatics! So it is PRAGMATIC generalization
that unites the syntactic constructions!

And as for the type B clauses in which these constructs can appear as
the final adverbial subordinate clause, the clauses introduced by
because, although, except, since, and but - are all either reasons
for some X, or reasons for not X (e.g. I would stop but who's tired?)
So here the generalization is SEMANTIC in nature.

Thus, a prima facie syntactic phenomenon, namely which syntactic
constructions occur in which final-position adverbial subordinate
clauses, is governed by semantic and pragmatic conditions.

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2012 Jun 06