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  1. #11
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Dawnstorm, agreed. Fact and theory are different. That's a given; e.g., Lawyer: Is that fact or a theory? That apples fall, and they do, well, that's a fact, a truth, not a theory, or a hypothesis.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    A physicist's intuition about, say, gravity is nowhere near anything a scientist would call data.
    Right. Intuition has nothing to do with gravity, but it does lead to a hypothesis.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    a linguist's intuition about language can be considered data.
    How does that relate to hypothesis v. theory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    ... the researcher's frame of reference, so that a "theoretical approach to the data" is often called a theory.
    Yes.

    And :
    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    He's talking about the theoretic underpinnings, about the theoretic approach, behind the Sapir-Worf hypothesis, not so much about the hypothesis itself. I think he's using the term "theory" rather than "hypothesis" in an attempt at language economy. "Sapir-Worf theory" seems to me not to be synonymous to "Sapir-Worf hyothesis", but to "the theoretical underpinnings of the Sapir-Worf hypothesis". This is not uncommon in meta-theoretical discourse.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    Within the social sciences, "theory" tends to mean subtly different things, depending on wether you speak of a body of knowledge, or an approach to research design. These topics don't seem as relevant in areas where the data doesn't consist of human "meaning".

  2. #12
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Dawnstorm: "a linguist's intuition about language can be considered data."

    I want to talk a bit about intuition versus data.

    Data in linguistic is smth else than data in science: intuitive/synthetic data (does not represent a fact in the real world) versus real-world data (measurable facts). Or: scientific data are measurable facts. Linguistic data is more complicated to define because of the diverse levels of abstractness - it is what we think we know about language.


    An intuition cannot be considered data in Science (Math, Physiscs...). In Philosophy and Linguistic, intuition is a form of knowledge independent of experience or reason.This is why, intuitive data is not given too much attention by scientists, where reason is the basis of all research.

    Both kinds of data are important to combine for best result in a research project- even in linguistic, biological issues help explain the evolution of language. Sometimes, scientific data (measurable facts) may be an impediment to making the "obvious" (ie, intuitive) inferences about a certain condition, like for instance in medicine: measuring the health-related quality of life. There, attempts are made more and more at reconciling the scientific and intuitive perspectives of assessment to ensure that the research is taken seriously. I once had to do a project on Socio-Geography, where I compiled both statistics and intuitive data (through questionnaire and so on) for a more reliable outcome.
    Last edited by bianca; 10-Aug-2007 at 15:29.

  3. #13
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    How does that relate to hypothesis v. theory?
    Where linguists talk about phones, they have pure data. Where linguists talk about phonemes they don't. That's because what distinctions people make when hearing/speaking depends on what they learned as a child. The result is that the important distinctions are interpretative behaviour, often unconsciously so. A phonologist may be an expert, but his hypothesis aren't hypothesis at data, but they're the attempt to recreate parsing behaviour. It's not so much:

    independent data --> hypothesis

    as:

    informal expectation --> formalised.

    Or:

    Everyday guesswork --> hypothesis.

    How to approach this? With statistics and context (corpus linguistics) or expert's intuition on competence and performance (Chomsky)? Neither of the approaches is arbitrary, yet neither leads to hypotheses in the same way that observing falling apples does.

    For example, I'm skeptical about a progression from hypothesis to theory in the "theory of evolution" sense. Popular theories tend to find their way into the "culture", in twisted and mutated form perhaps, but they'll change expectation. But this in itself is a problematic position (see positivism vs. critical theory).

    Scientists look for hypotheses with explanatory force. In the social sciences (including linguistics), explanatory force equals the discovery of unacknowledged conditions of behaviour. But, should such a hypothesis become common knowledge, the explanatory force translates to a productive force. The hypothesis has become a cultural tool rather than a theory; something that can itself be subject to hypotheses.

    I'm wondering to what extent it makes sense to talk about "theories" (in the sense: "theory of gravity, evolution etc.") in the social sciences. Hypotheses about language acquisition, for example, will add to the roster of pedagogic methodology, which in turn will change what language learners are exposed to. The question that leads most to confusion is the question about universals, here.

    In blunt terms, there isn't enough consensus in the social sciences that hypotheses can be said to have reached "theory status" (like, say, gravity), without first naming your philosophical position on fundamentals, such as "Are there universal features?", "How much can you infer from statistics?", "What is the role of interpretation in the creation and testing of hypotheses?"

    Does this make any sense?

  4. #14
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Where linguists talk about phones, they have pure data. Where linguists talk about phonemes they don't.
    Phones nor phonemes are hypotheses, though, but they do factor into a theory about language; that language is systematic, that there are patterns.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    I'm wondering to what extent it makes sense to talk about "theories" (in the sense: "theory of gravity, evolution etc.") in the social sciences. Hypotheses about language acquisition, for example, will add to the roster of pedagogic methodology, which in turn will change what language learners are exposed to. The question that leads most to confusion is the question about universals, here.
    Ooh. Now there's an interesting spin. How so?

    Yes, these are questions that either are hypotheses in themselves or lead to hypotheses: "Are there universal features?", "How much can you infer from statistics?", "What is the role of interpretation in the creation and testing of hypotheses?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    Does this make any sense?
    Well, I'm still trying to figure out how data can be considered a hypothesis. Call me thick.

  5. #15
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    ... intuition cannot be considered data in Science (Math, Physiscs...).
    You can--if you can quantify it. Which is what Chomsky did. (Psst. He called intuition innateness. You can't see it, touch it, smell it, or taste it, but you can definitely quantify it. The patterns are there.)

  6. #16
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    OK, when findings resonate with our intuitions they become data/facts, but until then, intuition is a mere hypothesis. In the field of language, on the other hand, intuition can be data. It follows that an aesthetic datum exists. This is based on the fact that there is no absolute truth that defines our world. Science and Art appraoch the same reality from different angles, and define 'truth' in different ways. Take for instance the concept of the world and its interpretation by Science versus Art. Scientific data that define this concept are quantifiable, while aesthetic inquiries into it observe how imagination changes the concept of the world. What underlies this sense of the powerlessness, even irrelevance of contemporary Art is the determination, firmly embedded in the fabric of modern society, that reality is elsewhere, as one might say, and that its centers of power are - digital, technological, economic and so on.

  7. #17
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Phones nor phonemes are hypotheses, though, but they do factor into a theory about language; that language is systematic, that there are patterns.
    No, neither phones nor phonemes are hypotheses; I agree with that.

    But take, for example, the range of sounds classified as "s" and the range of sounds classified as "z". You can describe the actual phone in physical terms using machinery and frequency analysis. Your avarage listener makes that distinction on a daily basis, distinguishing between "seal" and "zeal". Dialects differ in the area of overlap, and in some dialects there may exist no difference at all. The difference is relevant on a speaker as well as a hearer basis. So what's going on here? Do people have a single entity "s" or "z" they hear/produce? Do they have different concepts: "s-sound" + "voiced/unvoiced"? Do they follow childhood notions of imatating ssssnakes and beezzzzz?

    Whatever people do, they have - at the very least - habits that make them behave in a certain way. They may have explicit/discoursive theories about their habits, too. ("S like sssnakes, z like beezzz.") The thing is that distinguishes a phonem is "meaning". And meaning has to be attributed. A scientist classifying phones into phonemes is not fundamentally different from a speaker/listener classifying phones into phonemes. Or maybe it is?

    Alienating phonemes into a range of phones is a methodology of uncovering hidden rules of creation of meaning. But the rules are the product of human behaviour.

    It is possible that scientific hypothesis clash with folk-hypothesis (as you may call them): In my mother tongue, German, I've learnt the difference between "ä" and "e", in writing. I went around assuming there's a difference in pronunciation, but frequency analysis shows that - in most modern dialects - there is none. "Bären" (bears) sounds exactly like "Beeren" (berries); only in situations where the difference is topical is there a real difference in the pronunciation (i.e. in schools, when making clear the supposed difference). It is very hard to exorcise the idea that there is no difference. I heard a difference that wasn't there.

    Basically, science has taken a folk-hypothesis and falsified it: in most contexts, there is no discernible systematic difference between "ä" and "e". This hypothesis would not be relevant if we didn't make the distinction in the first place.

    Ooh. Now there's an interesting spin. How so?

    Yes, these are questions that either are hypotheses in themselves or lead to hypotheses: "Are there universal features?", "How much can you infer from statistics?", "What is the role of interpretation in the creation and testing of hypotheses?"
    You'll probably qualify for a noble prize or two if you find a consesus-compelling answer to this question:

    How do speaker's/listener's expectations about language differ from scientific hypotheses about them?

    In short: Apples falling to the ground do not depend on human cognition; speech does and so does the creation of hypotheses. Is it possible for humans to divise hypotheses about meaning without recourse to "empathy"? "Meaning" like "consciousness" has not yet been explained by scientists.

    Well, I'm still trying to figure out how data can be considered a hypothesis. Call me thick.
    The idea is that what makes a phoneme a phoneme and what makes a hypothesis a hypothesis are similar phenomena in that they both depend on cognition. In short, I could hypothesise that what makes a phoneme a phoneme is a hypothesis on the part of a speaker/hearer:

    1. Locating s vs. z on a scale.
    2. Expecting a word on the sound identified.
    3. Recognise word from a database.
    4. Semantic testing in context.
    etc.

    Does this describe scientific methodology? Everyday methodology applied in speech recognition?

    Where hypothesis can tranform into generative templates without thorough testing, self-fulfilling prophecies are to be expected. Because lay people can attempt to understand scientific hypotheses and make them apply in future behaviour.

  8. #18
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    ... intuition is a mere hypothesis.
    Do you mean to say that it doesn't exist?

  9. #19
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Do people have a single entity "s" or "z" they hear/produce? Do they have different concepts: "s-sound" + "voiced/unvoiced"? Do they follow childhood notions of imatating ssssnakes and beezzzzz?
    Those are questions linguists have asked already that have formed into hypotheses that have later been used as stepping stones towards theories, not truths, theories. What's important is why they asked those questions and what they planned on doing with the answers they got.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    A scientist classifying phones into phonemes is not fundamentally different from a speaker/listener classifying phones into phonemes. Or maybe it is?
    Well, I believe the idea is that scientists look for a way to explain how speakers know that, say, phonemes exists, that they belong to a system that has a pattern that can generate new patterns. The human sound represented here by orthographic "p" not only varies slightly among speakers of the same language, it's not the same "p" sound for speakers of other languages. Some have aspirated p's, other have unaspirated "p", and yet others have plosive p's, like English. But all those languages have one thing in common: a "p" sound. Like Plato's idea about the cup. There are the cups we know; they have different shapes, colors, and textures, and not all are use for milk, some for water, others for wine, and yet others for juice. But they are all cups. It's in their function and distribution that we begin to quantify their existence. The same holds true for language data. Function and distribution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    Alienating phonemes into a range of phones is a methodology of uncovering hidden rules of creation of meaning. But the rules are the product of human behaviour.
    Phonemes are distinctive units. Nothing more, nothing less. They, like numbers in math, are tools.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstrom
    It is possible that scientific hypothesis clash with folk-hypothesis (as you may call them): In my mother tongue, German, I've learnt the difference between "ä" and "e", in writing. I went around assuming there's a difference in pronunciation, but frequency analysis shows that - in most modern dialects - there is none. "Bären" (bears) sounds exactly like "Beeren" (berries); only in situations where the difference is topical is there a real difference in the pronunciation (i.e. in schools, when making clear the supposed difference). It is very hard to exorcise the idea that there is no difference. I heard a difference that wasn't there.
    There may have been a difference at one time, earlier on. A similar example comes to mind; e.g., how about you? and what about you? Today, most teachers I know and come across feel they are interchangeable; however, at one point in time, not too long ago, they weren't. How about you? meant/means how do you feel about that? That is, what are your feelings, not what are your thoughts?:i.e., what about you? means what do you think about that.

    Language change is something every linguist takes into consideration. S/he must because language is not constant--as much as prescriptivists (not a bad bunch) would like it to be. Language it's fluid; it's liquid. It changes, so its history must figure as a natural part into modern analyses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    Basically, science has taken a folk-hypothesis and falsified it: in most contexts, there is no discernible systematic difference between "ä" and "e". This hypothesis would not be relevant if we didn't make the distinction in the first place.
    True, but first we need to know if there was a distinction or not, and then move forward from that hypothesis.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    You'll probably qualify for a noble prize or two if you find a consesus-compelling answer to this question:

    How do speaker's/listener's expectations about language differ from scientific hypotheses about them?
    Probably in exactly the same way the expressions of artists, be they painters, writers, software developers, etc. deviate from their audience's / critics' interpretations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    In short: Apples falling to the ground do not depend on human cognition; speech does and so does the creation of hypotheses. Is it possible for humans to divise hypotheses about meaning without recourse to "empathy"? "Meaning" like "consciousness" has not yet been explained by scientists.
    Why does cognition need enter the picture, though. Math is numbers. Symbols. Language is sound. Symbols. Those tools reveal have patterns, right?


    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    The idea is that what makes a phoneme a phoneme and what makes a hypothesis a hypothesis are similar phenomena in that they both depend on cognition. In short, I could hypothesise that what makes a phoneme a phoneme is a hypothesis on the part of a speaker/hearer:

    1. Locating s vs. z on a scale.
    2. Expecting a word on the sound identified.
    3. Recognise word from a database.
    4. Semantic testing in context.
    etc.
    The poor phoneme. Just because we can't see, touch, etc a phoneme doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Distinctive features exist (See previous discussion in "p"), and bundles of them reveal different phonemes; add a feature and you get a new phoneme, deleted a feature a yet another new phoneme, realize those bundles phonetically and you get phones, sounds. Distinctive features are the DNA of a language's sound system. They stem from physiology. Heck, if DNA is a hypothesis, then you, me, and every other living thing on this plant are, dare I say it, designed by intelligence; i.e., God, and not by our biology--which is what language also stems from. Biology is a science, in the true sense of the word, and it's quantifiable. So too is Language. Biological.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm
    Where hypothesis can tranform into generative templates without thorough testing, self-fulfilling prophecies are to be expected. Because lay people can attempt to understand scientific hypotheses and make them apply in future behaviour.
    Ah, and so we are back to intelligent design It's all about persuasion, isn't it, this hypothesis v. theory synonymy.

    Great discussion, Dawnstorm.

    ______________
    By coincidence, I'm into the first chapter of The GOD delusion by Richard Dawkins.

  10. #20
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Do you mean to say that it doesn't exist?
    In saying that intuition is hypothesis, I mean that intuition can be seen as a subconscious hypothesis about what might happen, and it incorporates contextual or general truths. The intuition about gravitation incorporates the general truth of things reaching the ground when they fall. In other words, emotions may have a role in driving 'hunches', but also does critical reflection.


    There is a basic correlation between hypothesis - intuition - theory:

    Once a scientific or linguistic hypothesis is formed, one has to figure out how to test its theory. This, usually, is where the human intuition also comes in.

    To the limits of logic, intuition opens for new perspectives or possibilities, without distortion due to prejudgment or linguistic usage. Logically, scientific therories should be observable, verifiable, or pass the empirical test. However, according to Henri Poincaré (F. philosopher of science), scientific theories cannot be verifiable nor falsifiable empirically only. This is because science makes use of generalizations that go beyond the experience (language + intuition??). For Husserl - one of the founders of phenomenology -, we only need to call on language when we come to describe the results of our investigations. Ideas stem from intuition, from an unconscious linguistic system of signs. Descartes said that one can only arrive at pure intuition through the 'reduction from language'. This is because language describes what is already present to consciousness before the advent of any signs.

    Seen in the semiotic context, scientific theories are hypotheses (Poincare) - because they are tarnished by language.

    Defining any object (theory, hypothesis and so on) is basically a matter of discourse. Different forms of discourse tackle this prodigious machinery of the will to truth from different positions. One can go rock bottom with it or deal with it more lightly.
    Last edited by bianca; 12-Aug-2007 at 08:02.

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