1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

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orthogon
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Re: 1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

Postby orthogon » Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:06 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
jc wrote:Neither does English; that's why we use a two-word phrase for the concept.
There's a joke I sometimes tell: "Italian has 18 words for pasta, but none for 'Speak up!' ". The BS being that English and Italian are alike in that neither have "a word" for it, but both have terms that clearly express the concept.

Arguably, English has far more words for pasta than Italian, given that what in English are specifically words for pasta, are more everyday words in Italian that mean things like "shells" or "strings".
Quizatzhaderac wrote:
orthogon wrote:it seems obvious to me that if a concept has thinginess, that it must be possible to express it in any language given the infinite combinatorial properties of language.
That doesn't follow. Arithmetic allows saying an infinite number of things, but only things about numbers; there in no way to express the concept of "cheese".

Good point: that wasn't really meant to be a one-line "proof", but rather a statement of the idea. I'm appealing to a sort of Turing Completeness of natural language, but I don't think you could ever necessarily prove it. I probably picked up the idea from the way Pinker talks about language as a "discrete combinatorial system" and grants such a system infinite expressive power.
Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Apart from anything else, even the languages that "have a word for it" must be able to re-express it in other terms; otherwise are we to believe that the dictionary writers simply throw up their hands when they get to that entry?

The "hypothesis" is that language significantly affects thought, not that the word is essential for the thought. There is a big difference between a concept being explainable in principle and being readily available to most speakers.

Again, I blame Pinker: he sets out a sliding scale of "Whorfian hypotheses", with one extreme being "we actually think only in language" and the other extreme being "our language(s) has no effect whatsoever on our cognitive processes". Both extremes are more of less strawmen, but I'm not completely clear exactly where Sapir and Whorf themselves stood on this scale, whether the two authors agreed, or whether subsequent Whorfians agreed with them.
Quizatzhaderac wrote:As you said, the act of sexual harassment came first, then a minority having a conception of it, then the term, then the term had it's effect by massively facilitating the spreading of the conception.

I think that's more a feature of the way in which ideas are disseminated and the importance that writing and speaking plays in the propagation of memes, which I put it to you is a sociological effect that's rather more obvious and less interesting than a putative psychological effect that's normally associated with Whorfianism. Given that language is by far the most powerful means of communication we have, and that all mass media are based on it, it's not in the least bit surprising that having a word for something helps the concept to spread through society. But it's not the only way - styles of dressing and hairstyles don't necessarily need words to become ubiquitous; awareness of a developing weather pattern, new skyscraper or pop song can be universal without anybody knowing what they're called.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

Kit.
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Re: 1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

Postby Kit. » Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:36 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Quizatzhaderac wrote:
orthogon wrote:it seems obvious to me that if a concept has thinginess, that it must be possible to express it in any language given the infinite combinatorial properties of language.
That doesn't follow. Arithmetic allows saying an infinite number of things, but only things about numbers; there in no way to express the concept of "cheese".

Good point: that wasn't really meant to be a one-line "proof", but rather a statement of the idea. I'm appealing to a sort of Turing Completeness of natural language, but I don't think you could ever necessarily prove it. I probably picked up the idea from the way Pinker talks about language as a "discrete combinatorial system" and grants such a system infinite expressive power.

There are two parts in this idea. The first one is that any thinginess can be precisely expressed in a human language, and Pinker himself seems to be skeptical of this part.

The second part is that the semantics of all human languages has the same basic building blocks, so if a thinginess can be expressed in one language, it should be expressible in any other one.

rmsgrey
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Re: 1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Jun 09, 2015 6:03 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:Given that language is by far the most powerful means of communication we have, and that all mass media are based on it, it's not in the least bit surprising that having a word for something helps the concept to spread through society. But it's not the only way - styles of dressing and hairstyles don't necessarily need words to become ubiquitous; awareness of a developing weather pattern, new skyscraper or pop song can be universal without anybody knowing what they're called.


Though usually what happens there is that a label develops and attaches to them even if it's not the official name. Twenty years ago (pause for me to feel my age) you could try describing a particular popular haircut to a hairdresser, and they'd nod and say "Oh, the Rachel" (named after the Friends character).

Less popular hairstyles might just be "the one in this picture" but the ones that are popular will get nicknames, if not formal names...

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Quizatzhaderac
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Re: 1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jun 09, 2015 8:06 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:that wasn't really meant to be a one-line "proof", but rather a statement of the idea.
I think you're right in we can eventually express any concept in any natural language in any other, but how efficiently is the significant issue.
I'm not completely clear exactly where Sapir and Whorf themselves stood on this scale, whether the two authors agreed, or whether subsequent Whorfians agreed with them.
It seems "Sapir–Whorf hypothesis" is something of a tvtropes-ism
wikipedia wrote:The term "Sapir–Whorf hypothesis" is considered a misnomer by linguists for several reasons: because Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf never co-authored anything, and never stated their ideas in terms of a hypothesis.
The thing about recursion problems is that they tend to contain other recursion problems.

dazeller
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Re: 1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

Postby dazeller » Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:39 am UTC

As a firefighter, I'm looking for an example of the word for "red" in a non-tonal language that has a word for "firefighter". Just to stay on the safe side in case my truck lifts off and hurtles towards someone on a layer of superheated gases. Any linguist out there that can help ?

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orthogon
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Re: 1531: "The BDLPSWDKS Effect"

Postby orthogon » Fri Dec 11, 2015 4:25 pm UTC

dazeller wrote:As a firefighter, I'm looking for an example of the word for "red" in a non-tonal language that has a word for "firefighter". Just to stay on the safe side in case my truck lifts off and hurtles towards someone on a layer of superheated gases. Any linguist out there that can help ?

I'm not a linguist, but I believe "red" is an example of such a thing.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.


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