Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Chronically curious モ..

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Telepathy as a precursor to Language?

Lori Markson's talk's been getting me thinking a lot about the whole word learning thing. Is there or is there not something like the mental lexicon? By this I mean, is there (or not) a specific competence that involves learning and storing something like words? Coming back (again, *yawn*) to Relevance theory, it appears to be the case that when we communicate, what we do is to provide information that would cause the other person to entertain a certain proposition, along with its truth value. Here's a halfbaked idea. Imagine a (Fodorian) pre-language world. The language of thought is in place, but there isn't yet any overt language; speech, sign language or anything. Imagine now that the requirements of Relv. Th. is in place. I'm thinking of a world in which there is communication, but this is not yet codified in somethig like speech. Nevertheless, it is the case that I can provide information that would cause the other person to entertain a certain proposition, along with its truth value. In fact even now we do this all the time. What comes next? [Insert Just So Story of your choice here] I'm guessing it could be anything. If every time I held up a stick I did so in a context in which you clearly interpreted it as representing me, my holding up a stick would not be terribly different from a "word" (arbitrary, standing in a particular relation to me). Probably the commonly used conceptual "units" were the earliest to be codified into words. Probably thats why they are shared across cultures. Probably if people started off from scratch, they'd do something similar. I remember reading from when I was quite little (and I mean absurdly young) that these two infants made up a babble language. Makes sense from this point of view... it's as if they made up their words as they went along. Which implies, that before the Word, there was probably still communication. We have a word for that, and it fetches you a tidy 17 on the scrabble board (without bonuses).

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