Thursday, 20 February 2014

Tom Bartlett On Thought

Tom Bartlett at 10:37 on 19/2/14 wrote to sys-func:
There are different types of thought, not all of which fit easily with a notion of inner speech and which relate to internalised speech in different ways.

The other day on the plane I thought:
"That attractive woman opposite me is picking at the bobbling on her jumper; I often do that; she looks quite style conscious, perhaps she knows if picking the bobbling off will improve or spoil the look of the jumper in the long term; perhaps I could ask her and so pass the journey in an enjoyably flirty manner." (Of course I didn't.)
I thought all of this in an instant and without language as a mediating (formational?) tool and would suggest that such a thought would be possible to those "without language" (I know this is dangerous ground, but it's an idea worth pursuing...).

At other times I do have extended periods of inner discourse (though I often mutter it out loud, much to the embarrassment of my wife and kids). On these occasions language and meaning arise together and I am very aware of stress patterns etc. (as I am now as I think and write this almost simultaneously). But this is only one form of thought and one relation between thought and language.

To put the problem in a nutshell, is anyone suggesting that those born deaf do not think or that they think in signing? To repeat a question from yesterdebate, did Helen Keller not think until she "had language"? Or were her thought processes some kind of language, which developed and altered her way of thinking? Might (some forms of) thought then be internalised interaction but not necessarily "linguistic"?

Alternatively, do higher primates think? Or does simply being aware of being afraid, without naming the emotion, count as thought?

Blogger Comments:

[1] As the quote makes plain, what Bartlett thought was language: a mental projection of meaning, and so, by definition, would not be possible for those "without language".

[2] The notion that language can "arise" without meaning is nonsensical.

[3] Signers mentally project the ideas of language, just like any other meaners.

[4] If SFL is any guide, our fellow higher primates, as Sensers, are Mediums of the four general kinds of mental process: perception, emotion, desideration and cognition, though what they project through desideration and cognition are not the ideas of language — unless, like Kanzi, they are language users.  They do use protolanguage though, which means the distinctions of their inner domain of experience, cognition and desideration, are cross-coupled with the distinctions of their outer domain of experience, intersubjective and objective, yielding the four microfunctions.

David Rose On "Semantics As A Mirror Image Of The Grammar"

David Rose posted (apparently unsuccessfully) to sys-func at 11:30 on 18/2/14 and then (successfully) to sysfling at 15:41 on 19/2/14:
My point is that this is a description of the meanings made in the grammar. A point you are making (I think) is that relations between meanings in grammar and meanings in discourse are not one-to-one, but many-to-many. You see the semantic stratum as organising grammatical choices, to realise higher level meanings. This is quite different from the model I have been questioning, in which semantics is held to be a mirror image of the grammar. But it is not so far from the theory of discourse semantics.

Blogger Comments:

[1] Ideationally, the lexicogrammar construes experience as meaning, where 'construe' means “construct semiotically, transform into meaning” (Halliday 2008: 2); and in terms of stratification, the lexicogrammar realises meaning.

[2] In the SFL model that challenges Rose, semantics isn't "held to be a mirror image of the grammar".  In congruent realisations, sequences are realised by clause complexes, figures by clauses, and elements by groups/phrases, for example.  But in the case of grammatical metaphor, the realisation relations can vary considerably, as when a semantic figure is realised, not as a ranking clause, but as participant in the function structure of a clause, or as the Qualifier of a nominal group that realises a participant; and so on.  Some helpful quotes from the ideational perspective:

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 26):
Thus when we move from the lexicogrammar into the semantics, as we are doing here, we are not simply relabelling everything in a new terminological guise. We shall stress the fundamental relationship between (say) clause complex in the grammar and sequence in the semantics, precisely because the two originate as one: a theory of the logical relationships between processes.
Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 237):
Of course, what we are recognising here as two distinct constructions, the semantic and the grammatical, never had or could have had any existence the one prior to the other; they are our analytic representation of the overall semioticising of experience — how experience is construed into meaning. If the congruent form had been the only form of construal, we would probably not have needed to think of semantics and grammar as two separate strata: they would be merely two facets of the content plane, interpreted on the one hand as function and on the other as form.