Tuesday, October 24, 2006

through the looking glass

The sociological part of my treatise is yet to even find a single spot on a piece of paper, so here it is. Basically, I'd like to set out to say the following:

Humans in communicating are intensely aware of the way they are being seen by their partner in the communicating act. The speaker wants to convey his/her own meaning and nothing else except what he/she intends to convey. He/she constructs an image based on the way he/she assumes the partner is interpreting what he/she is saying. With every word, he/she may be aware of choices. This choice will sound southern; this choice will sound academic, this one will sound pretentious, this one is local vernacular; this one is actually bad grammar but otherwise ok. The speaker will choose the one that suits the occasion and choose the unmarked one if possible. The speaker assumes that all variants of any given construction have variation for a purpose: they carry extra meaning, extra association, as for example above. But the speaker most likely seeks to avoid unwanted association, seeks to do what is simplest, do what most others do in similar circumstances, as the price of going off on a different path is often unknown, often high, but generally not worth even thinking about when one is busy.

Thus all sound change is ultimately related to humans just doing what humans do: going from one place to another in the simplest possible way, not thinking too much about the route, doing what others do; paying attention to others' responses; making assumptions about the price of breaking the rules.

People aren't really all that complicated. Neither are grammars themselves. They have to be simple, or the millions of people who have to use them every hour would have more trouble than they do. The grammar of any given language is ultimately explainable and understandable, less complicated than it seems, as millions of people construct their own models of it, carry it around, and apply it to the above situation(s) thousands of times daily, and still have room in their brains to do all the other survival-oriented tasks that make thier day...

Having said that, I'm off to bed...

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