The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

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Summerlander
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The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Summerlander » 21 Jun 2016 00:56

There is a book by Noam Chomsky, called Syntactic Structures, in which he makes a good argument supporting the notion that language owes as much to instinct as it does to culture; and he provides examples where children seem to know certain rules about language which were never taught to them.

The likelihood of what is happening in childhood is that language is mapped onto a set of innate mental rules. The book I'm currently reading---Matt Ridley's Genome---contains a chapter about instinct and mentions experiments where pidgins have been turned into full-fledged creoles by children simply because they unconsciously demand the rules of grammar and coherent syntax.

In English, for instance, young children seem to intuitively know that the second verb in an affirmative sentence should go at the beginning if they are to turn it into a question. Nobody teaches them this rule, but they instinctively know it from being exposed to a few primary examples; then they assume, unconsciously, that it must be applicable to the questions they construct as they sense that such aids communication.

The older we get, the more we lose this instinct, hence why it is harder for us to learn other languages apart from our native one. If you were to learn mandarin now, you'd have to be told everything in order to understand it and be confident in using it to effectively communicate.
Last edited by Summerlander on 21 Jun 2016 09:36, edited 1 time in total.
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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Summerlander
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Summerlander » 21 Jun 2016 00:59

Knife wrote:Isn't that because children learn from observation? If they grow up hearing everyone talking don't they automatically learn some of those rules?


They certainly learn from their parents and culture still plays a role. But there are certain things that they pick up on without having been told. They'll inadvertently detect a linguistic pattern and apply it without being told by parents that such rule is part of the language. This is actually universal in all languages.

Of course, this innate propensity for assumption can also lead to errors, such as saying 'catched' instead of 'caught'. But there is an inner expectation for rules, an instinctive readiness to absorb a linguistic structure useful for communication.

When adults attempt to learn a second language, they require more attention and be more analytical---not so much instinct anymore. That's why people learn second languages quicker by socialising with native speakers than in the classroom where the context requires you to regard the rules in detail.

Knife wrote:Let's say an indonesian kid is born in London, the mother dies while giving birth but the kid is perfectly healthy and is transferred to foster parents. Will the kid have trouble applying the "second verb at the beginning"-rule? Will he have trouble with language because he has indonesian instinct instead of english instinct?


LOL! :-D

No! You've misunderstood. There is no such thing as Indonesian instinct or English instinct. What I'm talking about is more universal and an innate instinct to quickly adapt to the language they are first exposed to.

In the case you provided, the mother is Indonesian but the kid will become fully English linguistically because he is subsequently reared by an English foster family. The same would be true if an American kid was raised in Japan---he or she would be Japanese.

Knife wrote:If the kid picks up the rules of the language isn't it still being taught in some way?


Not exactly. Codebreakers during WWII were listening in on their enemies and learning about their strategies, but they were certainly not taught by the enemy. This is analogous to those instances where parents have not taught their children the rules but these have figured them out instead. ;-)

Knife wrote:Nature vs nurture y'all

(Or did I miscomprehend your post because of my dutch instinct?  :shock:  :mrgreen: )


I wouldn't say 'versus'. I'd say nature and nurture combining their influences. Even English speakers can break their rules over an innate understanding that regards a manner of speaking comprehensible nonetheless. For instance, the queen of England would regard the double or even tripple negatives in Ebonics---such as, 'Don't nobody go nowhere!'---as incorrect English, but such manner of speaking is agreed upon by the French and is still understood on a cosmopolitan level. 8-)

EDIT: By the way, this thread had mysteriously vanished a while ago so I had to repost it and luckily enough I salvaged the main points of your post, Sir Knife! :shock:
Last edited by Summerlander on 21 Jun 2016 09:37, edited 1 time in total.
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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Pilgrim
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Pilgrim » 21 Jun 2016 04:20

I had a language class where the professor taught inductively rather than the typical deductive classes for language. This approach to language was amazing experience. He taught Semantic Discourse Analysis.

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Summerlander
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Summerlander » 21 Jun 2016 09:44

Sometimes learning inductively is the best way as it can help one to acquire a good feel for the language and a semantic discourse analysis would certainly aid fluency. It's no good knowing so many words when you haven't got a clue about their multiple applications in social contexts. You can definitely spot a good teacher when you see one. ;-)
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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Pilgrim
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Pilgrim » 21 Jun 2016 09:54

My spouse has Cantonese as first language as a child, by the way. Im going to use this benefit to my diversity next time that someone brings up my kind of interracial marriage agaist me! :lol:

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Summerlander
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Summerlander » 21 Jun 2016 10:10

That's a good idea! A bilingual relationship has another flavour of interest! :-D
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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Knife
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Knife » 22 Jun 2016 20:37

Summerlander wrote:
LOL! :-D

No! You've misunderstood. There is no such thing as Indonesian instinct or English instinct. What I'm talking about is more universal and an innate instinct to quickly adapt to the language they are first exposed to.

In the case you provided, the mother is Indonesian but the kid will become fully English linguistically because he is subsequently reared by an English foster family. The same would be true if an American kid was raised in Japan---he or she would be Japanese.

I wouldn't say 'versus'. I'd say nature and nurture combining their influences. Even English speakers can break their rules over an innate understanding that regards a manner of speaking comprehensible nonetheless. For instance, the queen of England would regard the double or even tripple negatives in Ebonics---such as, 'Don't nobody go nowhere!'---as incorrect English, but such manner of speaking is agreed upon by the French and is still understood on a cosmopolitan level. 8-)

EDIT: By the way, this thread had mysteriously vanished a while ago so I had to repost it and luckily enough I salvaged the main points of your post, Sir Knife! :shock:



THERE'S NO WAY, AINT NOBODY GOING NOWHERE NA-AH! :mrgreen:

Haha I'm glad I misunderstood. Had to make sure though. It's wonderful how our brain is made for immediate expansion.
And yea, nature and nurture go hand in hand, although I'm tend to believe more in nurture for a lot of things. I can't back it up tho. It's just my biased opinion.

And yea your response flew all the way to another tread. :?: :?: :?: :shock: :shock:
Inherit the earth

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Summerlander
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Summerlander » 23 Jun 2016 10:31

Yeah, I have no idea how that happened! :lol:

It's fine to believe in the overriding power of nurture, anyway. As a parent, if you somehow learned that your kids inherited certain disadvantageous instincts (not necessarily to do with language), you would do all you could to countermand them.

And you could probably succeed in altering their innate default modes, too. Your genes don't have to dictate who you will become---especially when you're aware of the propensities involved.

Sometimes, of course, there is nothing we can do if the physiological constraints are too strong. Like in Broca's aphasia, for example, where the relevant part of the brain that's malfunctioning or damaged can render an individual unable to understand or use all but the simplest grammar, even though the ability to understand sense remains unaffected.

For instance, a Broca's aphasic can easily answer questions such as 'Do you use a hammer for cutting?' but has great difficulty with: 'The lion was killed by the tiger. Which one is dead?' The second question requires sensitivity to the grammar encoded in word order, which is known by just one part of the brain.

Damage to Wernicke's centre tends to have the opposite effect---people affected by this tend to spout a senseless stream of words.

An example of a genetic condition that affects linguistic ability is Williams syndrome, caused by a change in a gene on chromosome 11, in which affected children are very low in general intelligence, but have a vivid, rich and loquacious addiction to using language. They employ long words, sentences and elaborate syntax in spite of their mental handicap.
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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deschainXIX
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby deschainXIX » 24 Jun 2016 16:06

Fascinating! This ties into the discussion on consciousness in "The Shocking Truth," particularly if we adopt the assumption that consciousness is basically semantic and syntactical. It definitely operates with the same basic rules and properties of language--definition, separation, categorization, relation, action. As we've speculated in the aforementioned thread, and as is becoming an increasingly attractive postulation to me, it's highly possible that we are so "conscious" because of our propensity for society. Our conscious minds are instinctually set up to understand language because they operate within the constraints of linguistic definition, separation, categorization, relation, action... in short, conceptualization.

As for nature and nurture, I think this is the way to look at it--and note that no matter how you look at it, physiology is all. Anatomy sets the end caps, the limits to human potential. The varieties of human potential are constrained within a range of anatomical possibility. It is impossible to defy the gene. Anything otherwise is absurd. We behave in a certain way only if the gene has not forbidden it--indeed, only if the gene has allowed it. As soon as we make alterations to our anatomy via technology and science, things are going to get very strange for the mind indeed. Our concept of the world will change so radically, we cannot even begin to speculate about imagining it.

If the minds of children are so impressionable with rule-based language, are they very good at picking up things like computer coding languages and mathematics? Or do these things, particularly the latter, require in addition an ability to think in abstract and idealistic terms that only adults are capable of? Mathematics, after all, isn't just a matter of mindlessly applying rules to a system to produce a sentence; particularly more advanced forms, like calculus, require a degree of creativity and soft contemplation before procedure.
Well said.

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Summerlander
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Re: The Marriage Between Language and Instinct

Postby Summerlander » 24 Jun 2016 21:06

deschainXIX wrote:Fascinating! This ties into the discussion on consciousness in "The Shocking Truth," particularly if we adopt the assumption that consciousness is basically semantic and syntactical. It definitely operates with the same basic rules and properties of language--definition, separation, categorization, relation, action. As we've speculated in the aforementioned thread, and as is becoming an increasingly attractive postulation to me, it's highly possible that we are so "conscious" because of our propensity for society. Our conscious minds are instinctually set up to understand language because they operate within the constraints of linguistic definition, separation, categorization, relation, action... in short, conceptualization.


Fuck! You're absolutely right! I'm gonna have to link this to that thread because I do want it to express all sorts of viable possibilities. Thanks for the input, pal! :-)

deschainXIX wrote:As for nature and nurture, I think this is the way to look at it--and note that no matter how you look at it, physiology is all. Anatomy sets the end caps, the limits to human potential. The varieties of human potential are constrained within a range of anatomical possibility. It is impossible to defy the gene. Anything otherwise is absurd.


So, in essence, genes dictate potentials and don't necessarily predict perceived limitations. There is definitely much to learn in this area and I would urge scientists to be careful with their conclusions. What you said certainly makes perfect sense though, physiology, whether one likes it or not, has a degree of determinism which is only anthropically uncertain based on what the organism is environmentally exposed to.

deschainXIX wrote:We behave in a certain way only if the gene has not forbidden it--indeed, only if the gene has allowed it. As soon as we make alterations to our anatomy via technology and science, things are going to get very strange for the mind indeed. Our concept of the world will change so radically, we cannot even begin to speculate about imagining it.


I am absolutely awed by it. 8-)

deschainXIX wrote:If the minds of children are so impressionable with rule-based language, are they very good at picking up things like computer coding languages and mathematics? Or do these things, particularly the latter, require in addition an ability to think in abstract and idealistic terms that only adults are capable of?


I imagine they'd have the same level of reception which requires guidance somewhere down the line as they are error-prone. If, for instance, they perceive that most past tense verbs end in 'ed', they might assume that it's 'goed' until they learn 'went'. Perhaps it's similar with mathematics.

deschainXIX wrote:Mathematics, after all, isn't just a matter of mindlessly applying rules to a system to produce a sentence; particularly more advanced forms, like calculus, require a degree of creativity and soft contemplation before procedure.


Then again, sometimes children use their imagination and enjoy being creative. Exposure to abstractionism might help them here.
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava


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