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Thread: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

  1. #1

    Default Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Formal semantics purports to be something like 'the study of structured meaning in human linguistic communication', I suppose.

    However, "all grammars leak". Our "meanings" are actually more idiosyncratic, more irregular, and (somehow) less ambiguous than formal semantics lets on, which is to say that the formalisms of semantics only loosely constrain communicative reality.

    But to say that entails () that it does constrain reality in some manner. This fact seems to manifest in a very strange way:

    Semantics, like mathematics, is not an 'evolved discovery' of some independent external thing or "law" but the outcome of rough cognitive patterns noticing rough cognitive patterns. This limits what we can say about the existence of formal semantics to the concrete; it really exists only in the brains that know of it, in other words. The aforementioned rough patterns are progressively refined and given further layers of abstraction - by these same brains.

    What I'm getting at is, formal semantics is inward-looking, and this impinges on productive, communicative semantics. The one continuously modulates the other, and moreover this happens automatically.

    Putting together all of the above, we come to the realization that formal semantics is ultimately the study of the effect of formal semantics on formal semantics. Semantics is actually meta-semantics, and so on.



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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Get Monty his PhD in post-modernism immediately.
    In all these papers we see a love of honest work, an aversion to shams, a caution in the enunciation of conclusions, a distrust of rash generalizations and speculations based on uncertain premises. He was never anxious to add one more guess on doubtful matters in the hope of hitting the truth, or what might pass as such for a time, but was always ready to take infinite pains in the most careful testing of every theory. With these qualities was united a modesty which forbade the pushing of his own claims and desired no reputation except the unsought tribute of competent judges.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Kids, stay away from linguistic studies. Do drugs instead.

    But yeah, I do agree with your conclusion that the study of formal semantics is only a study of the effects of formal semantics on formal semantics. I can't see it having much of a connection to reality(unlike maths). That's the main reason I dropped out of my masters last fall, I need real-world application in what I'm studying.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Yeah, it does smack somewhat of sophistry, maybe in a post-modernistic way, so I wanted to know if anyone could unravel any fallacies, omissions, or conflations in my reasoning. I mean, my exposure to semantics as a field is limited to a couple of old papers I happen to have read, so it could be that my cogitations have an insubstantial basis, in addition to being too many parts roughage than otherwise.

    Horetore, my impression was that you were doing a degree like Theory and Criticism, something under the heading of Philosophy at any rate. Or am I off-base? What was your exposure to linguistics?

    Disclosure: I'm at somewhere related to "clinical" linguistics at the moment. I'll get back to you all within the next few years if I can make it through to some sort of practice.

    If not, there's always contracting I suppose...
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    Dragonslayer Emeritus Senior Member Sigurd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
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    En sten kan ikke flyve; Mor Lille kan ikke flyve; Altså er Mor Lille en sten.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Yeah, it does smack somewhat of sophistry, maybe in a post-modernistic way, so I wanted to know if anyone could unravel any fallacies, omissions, or conflations in my reasoning. I mean, my exposure to semantics as a field is limited to a couple of old papers I happen to have read, so it could be that my cogitations have an insubstantial basis, in addition to being too many parts roughage than otherwise.

    Horetore, my impression was that you were doing a degree like Theory and Criticism, something under the heading of Philosophy at any rate. Or am I off-base? What was your exposure to linguistics?

    Disclosure: I'm at somewhere related to "clinical" linguistics at the moment. I'll get back to you all within the next few years if I can make it through to some sort of practice.

    If not, there's always contracting I suppose...
    My degree was called "International education", so I assumed it would be concerned with different educational systems, pedagogical philosophies and such challenges in different parts of the world. What it turned out to be, however, was constant nonsense about language trivialities, like why the human rights declaration is wrong because it isn't worded like a, say, african would want it(because, somehow, that's "oppression"). It was about form, not substance, which I see as a major feature of post-modernist and linguistic studies, particularly those where they try to influence reality. It was also so blatantly leftist it made me sick.

    Anyway, I don't see much of a problem with your OP. It's a logical conclusion to me. I'm sure a proper post-modernist will burn you at the stake for using gender-based oppressive discourse.


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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    En sten kan ikke flyve; Mor Lille kan ikke flyve; Altså er Mor Lille en sten.
    That was a critique of scholasticism, though.

    A post-modernist would question your assumption that the term "mother" can be applied to an individual. We must understand her as an individual entity with relations to other individual entities! And we must of course question the discourse which enabled you to refer to a rock as a stone.
    Last edited by HoreTore; 04-10-2014 at 08:42.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    @Sigurd:

    You're saying misuse of the transitive property, I guess. But I don't see that I even used the transitive property at all?
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    It was about form, not substance, which I see as a major feature of post-modernist and linguistic studies, particularly those where they try to influence reality. It was also so blatantly leftist it made me sick.
    I think what you encountered would be called semiotics rather than linguistics (by the people involved, to get around the fact that linguistics could probably be considered a subset of semiotics), or maybe even something rather different.

    My impression is that most linguists are just interested in describing regularities within and between languages, and how people use them.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Interestingly enough very young children can distinguish seperate languages if they are raised in families with more languages, they will start speaking both naturally. I think it has more to do with the rythem of the spoken language.

    Has little to do with your question of course, but language is math alright.
    Last edited by Fragony; 04-10-2014 at 09:34.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    I think what you encountered would be called semiotics rather than linguistics (by the people involved, to get around the fact that linguistics could probably be considered a subset of semiotics), or maybe even something rather different.

    My impression is that most linguists are just interested in describing regularities within and between languages, and how people use them.
    Yeah, it was sociologists who tried to use linguistics as a tool for understanding the workings of society.

    Keep to your books, nerds.

    I really object to the trend where every disipline seems to try to make their disipline universal. Pedagogy, for example, isn't just confined to the classroom according to pedagogs. Oh no, pedagogy should be seen as the ultimate philosophy of life. I've lost count of the number of times I showed up to pedagogy lectures only to listen to nonsense about how pedagogy solves everything in society.

    The way academic work is financed these days should take a large part of the blame for that, though. When you get more money for this sort of behaviour, of course we will end up seeing more of it.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by HoreTore View Post
    Yeah, it was sociologists who tried to use linguistics as a tool for understanding the workings of society.

    Keep to your books, nerds.
    They kinda did, they studied proverbs mostly, you don't think of it as they are now deeply rooted in society. If you look at seafairing nations like the English and the Netherlands and pay attention to it you can find a lot of the everyday lingo comming from a seafairing/trading society. A lot of proverbs in American English are related to the civil-war and the age of colonism. A lot can be found in language if you are looking for it.
    Last edited by Fragony; 04-10-2014 at 09:49.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Fragony View Post
    They kinda did, they studied proverbs mostly, you don't think of it as they are now deeply rooted in society. If you look at seafairing nations like the English and the Netherlands and pay attention to it you can find a lot of the everyday lingo comming from a seafairing/trading society. A lot of proverbs in American English are related to the civil-war and the age of colonism. A lot can be found in language if you are looking for it.
    Linguists are of course mainly concerned with the study of language and literature.

    The problem is that a hefty number of them, like Derrida, wants to use the methods used for analyzing literature to study society. This has lead to all sorts of nonsense, like giving support to alternative medicine and other pseudo-science cranks.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    There ought to be more dissociation between conceptions of literary studies and linguistics.

    There's a fairly large difference between something like this, and some high-falutin interpretation of Proust - and syntax and phonology might as well be perpendicular.
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    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by HoreTore View Post
    Linguists are of course mainly concerned with the study of language and literature.

    The problem is that a hefty number of them, like Derrida, wants to use the methods used for analyzing literature to study society. This has lead to all sorts of nonsense, like giving support to alternative medicine and other pseudo-science cranks.
    I never heard of Derrida so can't comment on that. But studying the literature of the time as it uses. I often completily mistaked dead serious with sarcasm and irony, does paint a picture of society. My favorite screwup, forgot which book it is, but the author was mocking the fact that a young boy was buying a pickle, something someone with some standing never ought to do. I mistook it for sarcasm but my teacher explained that it wasn't sarcasm at all, the author was serious about it. Count the times that you use an expression without knowing where it actually came from. You will need an extra hand to count them.
    Last edited by Fragony; 04-10-2014 at 10:05.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Fragony View Post
    I never heard of Derrida so can't comment on that. But studying the literature of the time as it uses. I often completily mistaked dead serious with sarcasm and irony, does paint a picture of society. My favorite screwup, forgot which book it is, but the author was mocking the fact that a young boy was buying a pickle, something someone with some standing never ought to do. I mistook it for sarcasm but my teacher explained that it wasn't sarcasm at all, the author was serious about it. Count the times that you use an expression without knowing where it actually came from. You will need an extra hand to count them.
    This isn't what I'm talking about.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by HoreTore View Post
    This isn't what I'm talking about.
    I know, but working around facts to come to a conclusion isn't very new no. Of course there is a lot of nonsense floating around. But I wouldn't dismiss things all too fast, it can tell a lot, even if it's nonsense it's still of value. These musings don't really belong in the thread, save for communicative language and actual language.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Monty, the way I look at it...

    Semantics has not evolved through studies (like math)... Instead the language has evolved, and semantics are doing it's best to explain and categorize it.

    It's an artificial structure used to explain something very much NOT artificial, that also is evolving (language, in all its forms).

    Also, I see language a little as a garden. You try to control it, but no garden will ever look the same, the year after. No matter how much you try.

    Does that mean we should do no gardening? Of course not! The gardening is needed to be able to communicate ourselves to our surrounding, with any hope of being understood.

    Thus, semantics isn't useless, still. It's very much needed.

    If it changes the way we think... Of course it does.

    The semantics we used, are what we have learnt that most people around us would accept as being [whatever].

    Take "water", being raised in Hawaii, you see it as warm and bath friendly. Possibly shark infected. Move to Sweden, and the same word translates to something that is cold, often icy, and not shark infested. Move to the Sahara, and you learn that it's sparse and getting enough of it can be a problem...

    Moving back to Hawaii, you will still use the word "water", but your own concept of what it is has changed tremendously... And you will react when people around you still automatically refer to it as something warm and plentiful, as it now contradicts with your understanding of it.

    A silly example, but I hope it helps explaining my point.
    Last edited by Kadagar_AV; 04-10-2014 at 18:09.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Formal semantics purports to be something like 'the study of structured meaning in human linguistic communication', I suppose.

    However, "all grammars leak". Our "meanings" are actually more idiosyncratic, more irregular, and (somehow) less ambiguous than formal semantics lets on, which is to say that the formalisms of semantics only loosely constrain communicative reality.

    But to say that entails () that it does constrain reality in some manner. This fact seems to manifest in a very strange way:

    Semantics, like mathematics, is not an 'evolved discovery' of some independent external thing or "law" but the outcome of rough cognitive patterns noticing rough cognitive patterns. This limits what we can say about the existence of formal semantics to the concrete; it really exists only in the brains that know of it, in other words. The aforementioned rough patterns are progressively refined and given further layers of abstraction - by these same brains.

    What I'm getting at is, formal semantics is inward-looking, and this impinges on productive, communicative semantics. The one continuously modulates the other, and moreover this happens automatically.

    Putting together all of the above, we come to the realization that formal semantics is ultimately the study of the effect of formal semantics on formal semantics. Semantics is actually meta-semantics, and so on.



    Feedback?
    Martin and Nakayama summarize these efforts as falling into four sets of "rules."

    Semantics -- the study of meaning attached to a single word/term

    Pragmatics -- how meaning is created in the mind of the receiver of such terms

    Syntactics -- how words are put together into utterances

    Phonetics -- how the sounds of these words are formed


    Your comment strikes me that you are blending semantics and pragmatics
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus Fermanagh View Post
    Martin and Nakayama summarize these efforts as falling into four sets of "rules."

    Semantics -- the study of meaning attached to a single word/term

    Pragmatics -- how meaning is created in the mind of the receiver of such terms

    Syntactics -- how words are put together into utterances

    Phonetics -- how the sounds of these words are formed


    Your comment strikes me that you are blending semantics and pragmatics
    Good example. I think most people read him right, YOU however think he was too vague in his use of "semantics".

    I guess not everyone categorize the word the same way Martin and Nakayama does, right?

    In effect however, his use of "semantics" have been more useful than your suggestion of "pragmatics", as he if using that then would have lost quite a few members behind (like me).

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    I'll add to what I mean, but it's also a new thought:

    We add more advanced structures depending on the target audience, and how well we think they will understand what we try to put across, from my brain to the receivers brain.

    "Uh, gimme that" works wonders sitting with a GF at a breakfast table, when you want her to pass the salt.

    "Excuse me, Sir. Would you mind passing the salt" would do the same job at a formal dinner setting with someone random.

    I never seen such courtesy in speech as between allied military contingents meeting. Most likely because everyone has a sharp loaded rifle at hand, so people really want to make sure to be understood correctly and non-offensively.

    Why do you think the army or police teach their members to call pretty much anyone "ma'm" or "sir", or the equivalence?



    Semantics has more to do with the situation, and how well we know our target audience... Than anything else.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus Fermanagh
    Your comment strikes me that you are blending semantics and pragmatics
    I think I see why you got that impression. However, I see it as a principled distinction between formal semantics - a system for describing verbal meaning - that is derived at and abstracted from communicative semantics, or the concrete verbal meaning induced in both listener and speaker/conveyor by a particular utterance or other such linguistic unit.

    The difference between communicative semantics and pragmatics is that pragmatics is context, particularly social context, serving as a filter for formal semantics, while communicative semantics (as I am conceiving of it) is the archetype from which formal semantics emerges, just as the axioms of deductive logic emerge from concrete experiences of some regularities present in natural phenomena. My idea is that whereas deductive logic is analogous to causality, formal semantics is analogous to itself, such that it inherently forms a sort of recursive spiral into itself. Thus, formal semantics is really only studying how formal semantics affects communicative semantics in a metasemantic way, and how this in turn affects formal semantics to transform formal semantics...but what does all that tell us about meaning 'in the wild'?

    It might help to rephrase my original notion in terms of the Sub-Goldilocks Principle and cognitive insensitivity:

    The human brain is sensitive to patterns, more so than most any other creature, yet it is simultaneously dull. Suffice to say here that being good enough to discern complex regularities in the environment while being crude enough to gloss over the true variation that abounds is highly advantageous for us humans.

    Now, take the circle. In our environment, there are only what we will come to call ovals, yet by analyzing the properties of what we will come to call ovals we are able to arrive at the conception of a special oval with special properties. On the other hand, we then see no problem in labeling some of the ovals around us circles, because approximation is not just tolerable but necessary - we are perpetually Sub-Goldilocks. Thus ovals become ovals become circles.

    To schematize the idea, then: concrete > (concrete-as-)abstract > abstract-as-concrete

    With formal semantics, then, I suggest that the case is that the shape of the concrete melds into an especially broad generalization - but there are no ovals for this generalization, only circles, and the circles are actually spirals turned on their side, so to speak. Thus Meaning becomes Meaning' becomes Meaning'', but inward-looking unlike the sort of meaning that is exchanged between communicators.

    Hence, formal semantics as a system representing linguistic meaning is a 'gerrymandered compromise with itself'.

    That's my understanding at the moment.


    @Kadagar: OK, but that's not really what I was getting at.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 04-10-2014 at 20:17.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Isn't the title a tautology?

    Our genes maybe in the basement but it does not stop us chosing our point of view from the top.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Monty, would you then, in layman's terms, explain your thinking....

    Preferably in English, OR any semantics, that is adequate on an international board with English used as a rule.

    It starts to look like a circle jerk of people of English speaking heritage being somewhat to obsessed with their own intellectual superiority, for having read a book somewhere, possibly without having actually understood it.

    I always thought true genius (specially on semantics) is making something incomprehensible be comprehensible.

    Do I error?
    Last edited by Kadagar_AV; 04-10-2014 at 21:55.

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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Papewaio View Post
    Isn't the title a tautology?

    If you dig deep enough into most philosophical theories (and not a few in the social sciences) you will see that they DO boil down to a tautology or at least a tautological assumption.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Assume to make an ass of u and me.

    We call these hypothesis in science
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    En sten kan ikke flyve; Mor Lille kan ikke flyve; Altså er Mor Lille en sten.
    All I can say is that my Swedish derived surname is Stenbeck.
    Our genes maybe in the basement but it does not stop us chosing our point of view from the top.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    "Semantics, like mathematics, is not an 'evolved discovery' of some independent external thing or "law" but the outcome of rough cognitive patterns noticing rough cognitive patterns. This limits what we can say about the existence of formal semantics to the concrete; it really exists only in the brains that know of it, in other words. The aforementioned rough patterns are progressively refined and given further layers of abstraction - by these same brains."

    I think the part about maths is a fallacy. Semantics are going to be highly culturally linked. Maths will be lightly linked.
    Our genes maybe in the basement but it does not stop us chosing our point of view from the top.
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    Putting together all of the above, we come to the realization that formal semantics is ultimately the study of the effect of formal semantics on formal semantics. Semantics is actually meta-semantics, and so on.



    Feedback?
    I think when we combine this with what we learned about the TTBS this basically means that formal semantics are self-conscious.

    And this in turn implicates that either we have found another sentient species or humans are formal semantics.


    "Topic is tired and needs a nap." - Tosa Inu

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Philosophical Ramblings Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Papewaio View Post
    All I can say is that my Swedish derived surname is Stenbeck.
    All I can say is that you tell it to a Norwegian.

    You really want a cookie?

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