Discussion

JIM

From where did the "me" language come?

BASIL

I did not expect to have to spell it out. If you had taken time to digest all that I said and (right or wrong) followed my chain of thought, my opinion on the matter would have become obvious. The crucial paragraph is: 

"The formation of successful cultural/social units requires a certain brain set that is reflected in the type of language that is used in a cultural/social, everyday setting. The autistic individual is the antithesis of the social being, emphasising the need for a concept of self and an ability to recognise human beings as the same species as ourselves for the formation of coherent social groups. This situation demands a concurrent evolution of a language compatible with these needs. The language of culture/society is dedicated to the survival of culture not the delivery of truth. " 

For the formation of the type of society we have had for thousands of years the human organism had to evolve a sense of self. It is obvious from the study of autism (Even when some autistic children learn to speak, it takes them a long time to use the words "I" and "me") that the existence of a model of the self- engendered by the brain is essential for  meaningful intercourse to take place between members of a group. Young monkeys that have been raised from birth on a wire surrogate mother with a bottle attached are slow to develop a sense of self, attack their own limbs and find it hard to integrate with other monkeys. 

Not only has there to be a sense of self , but in the case of an intelligent, language using animal, a method of communicating that sense of self. The greater the sense of self and the more efficiently this individuality could be communicated in the form of vocal communication the more complex the interaction within the group could become. The ability to appreciate and communicate the idea of individuality would be of great benefit, and those members of the group that possessed these qualities would come to dominate and pass their genes on to their offspring. The evolution of the "I", "me" language was necessary to facilitate the development of increasingly complex interactions between members of the group. 

JIM

 Let's see if I'm finally getting the right idea here: 

 "The formation of successful cultural/social units requires a certain brain set that is reflected in the type of language that is used in a cultural/social, everyday setting.” 

So, our brain set is REFLECTED in our language. Our "me language" (which is mistaken) is a REFLECTION of our brain set. Is our brain set, then, mistaken? 

BASIL

"Mistaken" is the wrong word. "I" language is useful in a cultural setting, and as far as survival goes no distinction is made between the real and unreal, all that is needed is a common consensus and/or belief for language to bring about great changes whatever its  source and nature. It is a matter of horses for courses. The  words "I", "me", when referring to external acts causes no confusion.   However, "I" applied to internal brain/body action runs into difficulties. Here it is not a matter of causing no confusion it is a matter of fact. "I" is a verbal symbol for the sense of self which by its very nature can't get jokes, even if getting jokes were possible. 

JIM

 And must it be thus, IN ORDER TO form successful cultural/social units? 

I think I understand why you say that a being with a "sense of self" would perform better (especially socially), and would therefore be "selected in" speaking in an evolutionary way. You have convinced me that, as others who view this from your perspective claim, the idea of a Self has survival value (whether true or not) and would therefore be retained. 

But there is still no explanation for how it could originally have arisen.You seem to understand exactly what I mean, because you say that language brings about changes, "whatever its source and nature."

But it is precisely its SOURCE that I must understand, if I am to buy into that perspective. 

Evolutionists typically use "random genetic mutation" to explain the source of such things without conceding the existence of any intention. Would you suspect that our language (with its sense of Selfhood), arose quite

accidentally and was then rewarded and/or selected for? Would that be an accurate representation of your position? 

BASIL

There are many theories concerning the origin of language. I won't go through them all here, but I favour the idea that the vowel sounds were derived from natural utterances such as the noises that were made under emotional stress (it seems vowel sound are processed in the right brain) and imitation of natural sounds (onomatopoeia) contributed to the production of proto-words. 

JIM

Were the original utterances acts of will? I doubt they were consciously considered beforehand and the initial utterances were probably spontaneous. 

BASIL

Certainly cries of pain would be spontaneous, but there may have come the time when a cut individual, who wasn't in pain, used the pain cry to indicate injury. Many animals use indicator noises - the question is when did a series of noises (sounds) move into the realm that we now would call descriptive language. 

It is probable that before the advent of verbal communication our ancestors used gestures  to communicate, and the question shifts to: were these gestures acts of will.? As organisms, we cannot do what we are not programmed to do, and the ABILITY to represent emotions and future events -maybe the wielding of a club to indicate a hunt was in the offing-would be genetically based. The problem is that we have to account for what are called "acts of will". We ask the same question as that asked about language: what is the SOURCE of "acts of will". 

It seems to me that acts of will are learned responses to what are for the main part unconscious motivators, otherwise acts of will would be causeless.(I don't want to get into the impossibly complex argument about free will, which, in passing, I am not a fan of)  The club wielding sets in motion the hunt, which is in response (this time) to a conscious feeling of hunger. 

At one point we moved from genetic evolution to the evolution of what Dawkins calls "memes". The ability to use language is genetically based but the evolution of a specific language is meme evolution. 

I believe we started off with a limited vocabulary, which through the influence of genetically based systems of cognitive organization led to the broad vocabulary we have now. The language of the hunter/gather is what I call natural language. I call it natural as I see it as being under the influence of a cognitive system that places objects of the same form in the same cognitive basket. This system is reflected in the language and behaviour of hunter/gatherers in the guise of homoeopathic and contagious magic and their expansive use of metaphor. To illustrate what I mean, here is a letter I wrote on the topic: 

“I hope I am not being a nuisance with all these emails. Having received your last message, and considered the topic we thought might make a good article, I have come to the conclusion that I do not have enough material to do a decent job. However, I do have a pile of notes that I believe would make an interesting read. The piece would still be concerned with the evolution of language, but it considers metaphor as a brain function, and explores the evolution of language (and specifically a family of words) through an expanding web of associations. 

Using the beating heart and the blood system as a multi- faceted perception, initially covered by a single utterance, the piece outlines the evolution of an expanding vocabulary which now contains words designating colours, fire, seeds and fruits, children, containers, names for the head, relationships, and as the ads say, much, much more. 

It may sound a little airy-fairy, the sort of reasoning used by our new-wave friends, but our new-wave friends have a lot in common with our ancestors, in that superficial likeness between objects or concepts are seen as ultimately significant . 

I back up my system of metaphorical associations with references to anthropology, everyday use of metaphor and the structures of languages I believe have not inherited words that belong to this specific family. I have found little indication of the word family in the African, Chinese and Native American languages, but could track a natural path through Europe, Turkey, South Asia, Japan and out into the Pacific. 

I attempted to put myself in the position of an ancient hunter, and thinking in a metaphorical manner, imagine what association he would have made. I had already formulated my heart/blood family of words, when I came across the following in Inuit (Eskimo) which seemed to indicate I was on the right track. (Inuit does not include the specific heart/blood family of words which I believe are based on a word akin to corcor/ purpur) but uses the same type of logic in the formation of a word family) 

Inuit for a red coal is uuma, Heart = uuman, 

Green wood = uumak,

Is alive = uumaruk,

Lively child = uumalaaktuk. 

I do not want to go into detail here, but I see the original "corcor" changing through shifts recognised by linguists. r---> l (n), c (k) ---->g (p)  etc, and the shortening or loss of one of the identical syllables. So we have corcor , corozon (Sp), calon (W), colon (Cornish), cor (L).(heart) 

Boy in french = garcon, in Aboriginal = kolcon.    

 Smiling face ( I believe our ancestors saw the heart shaped oval head as representing the heart outside the body and expressing emotions engendered by it) in Spanish is "coco". In Aboriginal, head is "Kokora" or "koko".

There are a number of words concerned with redness, blood and relationships in the Aboriginal language that seem to indicate a distant affiliation with languages such as Indo-European. 

It may be that the specifics are suspect, but I believe the general theory (new words arising by association) concerning the evolution of vocabularies is sound. 

The Eskimo example demonstrates how associations can give rise to abstract concepts such as life. 

I found the sound ST fascinating. I decided it sounded like the hissing then the strike of a small animal or snake. Through empathy it would have mirrored the hunter's in- and-out attack on a larger animal. SSSSS T SSSS T SSS... building up the courage then taking the opportunity to STICK, STAB, STRIKE. This emotionally charged part of obtaining meat contrasted greatly with the use of tools to butcher it. This would entail a much slower and continuous motion SLLLL SLLLL SLLL.   SLIT, SLICE, SLASH. 

The ST sound may well have come to represent the abstract concept of a discontinuum and the SL. a continuum. A SLAB of meat is cut into STEAKS, a walk is broken into STEPS, STRIDES. The break  up of a flowing in speech or movement, STAMMER, STUTTER and STAGGER. The  point of change START, STOP.  A large piece of material  can be broken into STRIPES or cut into STRIPS. 

The word SLEIGHT as in sleight of hand, used to mean skill in using tools. SLAUGHTER in Icelandic SLATUR, is meat that has been cut up - butchers meat. SLATE is an easily separated rock and SLEAVE means to separate.  It is possible that SLOT and SLEEVE were the names of the initial cuts to a carcass - the SLOT down the middle and the SLEEVES up the limbs. 

The  SLIMY SLUG SLIPPED SLOWLY down the SLOPE 

Of course, all this may be crap and coincidence, but it illustrates how vocabularies and the onset of abstract thought could have come about. After I had gone through my Oxford Dictionary for ST words and noted them all, I returned a week later to find I'd missed one, ST itself. I was very pleased to note that it was an exclamation to drive away an animal, or urge one to attack. 

JIM

Thanks for the clear explanation of how you see the origination and development of language. I can see what you mean about associations. I guess I will not get my answer about what could explain the emergence of the concept of an observing self, other than the existence of an observing self. 

Quite possibly this is just a mental block on my part. 

BASIL

The concept of self arises from the fact that the human organism registers, through perception, a body, and a body that appears to work in concert with intention. On a social/cultural level this concept of self is fortified by receiving a unique (well, almost unique) name, and certainly a unique place in the group, emphasising the organism as an individual entity. The memetic inheritance of the word "I", as I emphasised in a prior message, is useful in the cultural/social context, and when a human organism reports to another human organism that "I" did so and so, although the statement may be erroneous in a neurological sense, it is an efficient and non-ambiguous delivery of a piece of information on the level of social/cultural intercourse. 

As the sense of self is a PRODUCT of perception ( a  product of observing), by its very nature it cannot perceive. 

This is why I believe Dave is so wrong in his assertions about couching ideas in everyday language. The ideas are understood on a different level using different rules of acceptance. To say that everyone understands what"funny" means, does nothing for the elucidation of the meaning of "funny". ( Everyday language is full of assumptions and feelings parading as facts) Couching the ideas concerning humour and laughter in everyday terms, and in terms of "I" or "him" or "you", does not help in the understanding of these phenomena if by their very nature the statements are erroneous. What is useful, functional and causing no ambiguity in one realm (social/ cultural language) may be useless and meaningless in another. 

 

JIM

Okay, here is my final question. 

intro:

Evolutionists speak of genetic mutation, without acknowledging the presupposition of an EXISTING (perhaps created?) gene. Could there be any evolution (micro or macro), without this pre-existing gene? No. 

"a body that appears to work in concert with intention." 

My question:

Could this  phrase have any meaning, without presupposing BOTH a concept of intention AND an active observer to notice (be fooled by) the appearance of working in concert? 

 

BASIL

This is an example of the inadequacy of language, especially everyday language in explaining neural phenomena.

If I could give a full answer to this question I would be the toast of the scientific world. 

It brings to mind the idea of the homunculus. Look around and you will experience an image of your surroundings   (Straight away this is not a true statement, and you can see how we run into difficulties when we talk of individuals and not brains)The assumption is that this image is observed in the same way as you assume "an active observer" notices the coincidence of intention and action. But what, who, observes the image. To observe   the image there must be a system akin to vision inside the brain, the vision of the homunculus (The little man inside the head) But this gives rise to the absurd situation in which we have an infinite number of homunculi stacked inside one another like a nest of Russian dolls.( An observer to observe the observer to ....) 

It all boils down to the idea of ultimate causes or sources. A cultural ultimate cause is God. The neurological  answer to this particular problem, God knows.


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