Noam Chomsky On The Evolution Of Language: A Biolinguistic Perspective

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Truth-out.org ~ September 2016. Human language is crucial to the scientific quest to understand what kind of creatures we are and, thus crucial to unlocking the mysteries of human nature.

In the interview that follows, Noam Chomsky, the scholar who single-handedly revolutionized the modern field of linguistics, discusses the evolution of language and lays out the biolinguist perspective — the idea that a human being’s language represents a state of some component of the mind. This is an idea that continues to baffle many non-experts, many of whom have sought to challenge Chomsky’s theory of language without really understanding it.

Journalist and ”radical chic” reactionary writer Tom Wolfe was the latest to do so in his laughable new book, The Kingdom of Speech, which seeks to take down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky through sarcastic and ignorant remarks, making vitriolic attacks on their personalities and expressing a deep hatred for the Left. Indeed, this much-publicized book not only displays amazing ignorance about evolution in general and the field of linguistics in particular, but also aims to portray Noam Chomsky as evil — due to his constant and relentless exposure of the crimes of US foreign policy and other challenges to the status quo.

C. J. Polychroniou: Noam, in your recently published book with Robert C. Berwick (Why Only Us: Language and Evolution, MIT Press 2016), you address the question of the evolution of language from the perspective of language as part of the biological world. This was also the theme of your talk at an international physics conference held this month in Italy, as it seems that the scientific community appears to have a deeper appreciation and a more subtle understanding of your theory of language acquisition than most social scientists, who seem to maintain grave reservations about biology and the idea of human nature in general. Indeed, isn’t it the case that the specific ability of our species to acquire any language was a major theme of interest to the modern scientific community from the time of Galileo?

Noam Chomsky: This is quite true. At the outset of the modern scientific revolution, Galileo and the scientist-philosophers of the monastery of Port Royal issued a crucial challenge to those concerned with the nature of human language, a challenge that had only occasionally been recognized until it was taken up in the mid-20th century and became the primary concern of much of the study of language. For short, I’ll refer to it as the Galilean challenge. These great founders of modern science were awed by the fact that language permits us (in their words) to construct “from 25 or 30 sounds an infinite variety of expressions, which although not having any resemblance in themselves to that which passes through our minds, nevertheless do not fail to reveal all of the secrets of the mind, and to make intelligible to others who cannot penetrate into the mind all that we conceive and all of the diverse movements of our souls.”

We can now see that the Galilean challenge requires some qualifications, but it is very real and should, I think, be recognized as one of the deepest insights in the rich history of inquiry into language and mind in the past 2500 years.

The challenge had not been entirely ignored. For Descartes, at about the same time, the human capacity for unbounded and appropriate use of language was a primary basis for his postulation of mind as a new creative principle. In later years, there is occasional recognition that language is a creative activity that involves “infinite use of finite means,” in Wilhelm von Humboldt’s formulation and that it provides “audible signs for thought,” in the words of linguist William Dwight Whitney a century ago. There has also been awareness that these capacities are a species-property, shared by humans and unique to them — the most striking feature of this curious organism and a foundation for its remarkable achievements. But there was never much to say beyond a few phrases.

But why is it that the view of language as a species-specific capacity is not taken up until well into the 20th century?

There is a good reason why the insights languished until mid-20th century: intellectual tools were not available for even formulating the problem in a clear enough way to address it seriously. That changed thanks to the work of Alan Turing and other great mathematicians who established the general theory of computability on a firm basis, showing in particular how a finite object like the brain can generate an infinite variety of expressions. It then became possible, for the first time, to address at least part of the Galilean challenge directly — although, regrettably, the earlier history [for example, the history of Galileo’s and Descartes’ inquiries into the philosophy of language, as well as the Port-Royal Grammar by Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot] was entirely unknown at the time.

With these intellectual tools available, it becomes possible to formulate what we may call the Basic Property of human language: The language faculty provides the means to construct a digitally infinite array of structured expressions, each of which has a semantic interpretation expressing a thought, and each of which can be externalized by means of some sensory modality. The infinite set of semantically interpreted objects constitutes what has sometimes been called a “language of thought”: the system of thoughts that receive linguistic expression and that enter into reflection, inference, planning and other mental processes, and when externalized, can be used for communication and other social interactions. By far, the major use of language is internal — thinking in language. Read more

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Towards A New Spur For EU Democracy Building Learn And Engagement ~ Final Report Phase 1

europeNew forms of Societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering as a New Spur for civic and democratic participation at EU level

The project was an initiative of Nea Smyrni municipality, a municipality located about 4 km southwest of central Athens, Greece, named so after the city Smyrna (today’s İzmir in Turkey), from where a large number of refugees arrived and settled in the Nea Smyrni area following the 1922 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
The municipality implemented the project with the support of the “Europe for Citizens” programme of the European Union.

The main goal of “SPUR” program was to highlight and assess both the value of solidarity and volunteering in the current context of economic and humanitarian crisis inside United Europe as well as to improve the conditions for civic and democratic participation of citizens providing them,as a New Spur, New forms of Societal and intercultural engagement for the enhancement of civic and democratic participation at national and European level.

These forms – away from extremist or populist movements and radicalized behaviors and beyond xenophobia, intolerance and any discrimination against the vulnerable or excluded people within EU societies and underprivileged and disadvantaged populations, which often include youngsters and people of non – EU origins :
a) Stabilize the social welfare, health, employment, education, environment, culture, etc. systems, which brutally affected in times of economic recession and poverty,
b) Protect further the fundamental rights, in particular of minorities,
c) Help restore law and civil parity for a decent living,
d) Promote and foster the economy and the development and finally,
e) Consolidate the faith, to the principles and values on which the European ideal is founded, in particular of the different types of Eurosceptics, and put forward the achievements of the United Europe and the cost of no Europe creating a new positive narrative for Europe and Europe integration.

Information about the four (4) non-formal education events: 
[Also visit the website of the project “SPUR” http://dnsspur.gr/en for the analytical programmes, videos and photos. Presentations: http://dnsspur.gr/en/presentations/

afisa-spurTowards a New Spur for EU Democracy Building learn and engagement.
New forms of Societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering as a New Spur for civic and democratic participation at EU level was funded with the support of the European Union under the Programme “Europe for Citizens”

Event 1
Participation: The event involved 155 citizens, including 119 participants from the city of Nea Smyrni but also from various areas of the city of Athens, capital of Greece, and its suburbs and municipalities of Athens (Greece), 5 from the Greek entity-partner IMEPO/Greece, 4 participants from the city of Brossac but also from other cities of France (France), 3 participants from the city of Porto de Mós, (Portugal), 8 participants from the city of Mali Lošin but also from other cities of Croatia, (Croatia), 2 participants from the city of Gdynia but also from other cities of Poland, (Poland), 2 participants from the city of Česká Třebová (Czech Republic), 2 participants from the city of Pazardzhik Region (Bulgaria), 1 participant from the city of Comune di Castel Goffredo (Ιτaly), 5 participants from the city of Primaria Municipiului Bucuresti (Romania), 3 participants from the city of Strovolos but also from other cities of Nicosia region (Cyprus), as well as 1 participant from the city of Amsterdam (Nederland)

Location / Dates: The event took place in Nea Smyrni (Greece), from 21/04/2016 to 22/04/2016

Short description: The aim of the event was “Citizens on the Move” for a New Europe with the following Topics for development
• Development of citizens’ understanding of the EU policy making-process, EU history, values and diversity
• Deepening of the discussion on the future of Europe and on what kind of Europe citizens want.

Event 2
Participation: The event involved 151 citizens, including 117 participants from the city of Nea Smyrni but also from various areas of the city of Athens, capital of Greece, and its suburbs and municipalities of Athens (Greece), 5 from the Greek entity-partner IMEPO/Greece, 4 participants from the city of Brossac but also from other cities of France (France), 5 participants from the city of Porto de Mós, (Portugal), 2 participants from the city of Gdynia but also from other cities of Poland, (Poland), 1 participant from the city of Česká Třebová (Czech Republic), 3 participants from the city of Ljubljana (Slovenia),5 participants from the city of Pazardzhik Region (Bulgaria), 2 participants from the city of Comune di Castel Goffredo (Ιτaly), 3
participants from the city of Primaria Municipiului Bucuresti (Romania), 3 participants from the city of Strovolos but also from other cities of Nicosia region (Cyprus), as well as 1 participant from the city of Amsterdam (Nederland)

Location / Dates: The event took place in Nea Smyrni (Greece), from 11/05/2016 to 13/05/2016

Short description: The aim of the event was “Defining the local good – Searching the European good” with the following Topics for development
• Promoting innovative opportunities of democratic and civic participation
• Reinforcement of already existing instruments for participation in civic dialogue at local and EU level.

Event 3
Participation: The event involved 152 citizens, including 122 participants from the city of Nea Smyrni but also from various areas of the city of Athens, capital of Greece, and its suburbs and municipalities of Athens (Greece), 5 from the Greek entity-partner IMEPO/Greece, 2 participants from the city of Porto de Mós, (Portugal), 4 participants from the city of Gdynia but also from other cities of Poland, (Poland), 1 participant from the city of Česká Třebová (Czech Republic), 1 participant from the city of Ljubljana (Slovenia) ,5 participants from the city of Pazardzhik Region (Bulgaria), 1 participant from the city of Comune di Castel Goffredo (Ιτaly), 3 participants from the city of Primaria Municipiului Bucuresti (Romania), 3 participants from the city of Strovolos but also from other cities of Nicosia region (Cyprus), 4 participants from the city of London (United Kingdom) as well as 1 participant from the city of Amsterdam (Nederland)

Location / Dates: The event took place in Nea Smyrni (Greece), from 14/06/2016 to 16/06/2016

Short description: The aim of the event was “Creating long immersion volunteering youth networks” with the following Topics for development
• Local community-minded young citizens as educated and experienced in dealing of the European sides of social issues, empowered to make more informed decisions and take meaningful action as members of the European society who weigh in on issues that impact the democracy in EU

Event 4
Participation: The event involved 179 citizens, including 145 participants from the city of Nea Smyrni but also from various areas of the city of Athens, capital of Greece, and its suburbs and municipalities of Athens (Greece), 5 from the Greek entity-partner IMEPO/Greece, 2 participants from the city of Brossac but also from other cities of France (France), 5 participants from the city of Dublin (Ireland), 5 participants from the city of Mali Lošin but also from other cities of Croatia, (Croatia), 4 participants from the city of Gdynia but also from other cities of Poland, (Poland), 1 participant from the city of Česká Třebová (Czech Republic), 3 participants from the city of Ljubljana (Slovenia), 1 participant from the city of Comune di Castel Goffredo
(Ιtaly), 3 participants from the city of Strovolos but also from other cities of Nicosia region (Cyprus), 4 participants from the city of London (United Kingdom) as well as 1 participant from the city of Amsterdam (Nederland)

Location / Dates: The event took place in Nea Smyrni (Greece), from 11/07/2016 to 12/07/2016

Short description: The aim of the event was “Learning critical EU social and political issues” – “Particular Interests and Social Partnership” with the following Topics for development
• The Disability, Ecology and Migration Strategies based on societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering as a new spur for EU Democracy
• How people with particular interests harmed by the EU could be equal active citizens in Union
• The accessible pathways for Eurosceptic individuals to ensure an inclusive and participative democratic life at EU level
• Innovative models of cooperation between state, governmental and national institutions, the economic sector and voluntary unions of citizens

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Oxford Union ~ Yanis Varoufakis – Full Address & Q&A

Yanis Varoufakis is an academic economist who was a member of the Greek parliament between January and September 2015. He represented the ruling Syriza party and held the position of Minister of Finance for seven months.
See: https://yanisvaroufakis.eu/

About the Oxford Union Society: The Oxford Union is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. Since 1823, the Union has been promoting debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe.
See: http://www.oxford-union.org/

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Adele Peters ~ Meet The Man Building A Plastic Bottle Village In Panama

When Robert Bezeau moved from Montreal to Panama in 2009, one of the first things he noticed was the trash: the beaches surrounding the island where he lived were lined with plastic bottles. In a year and a half, working with volunteers, he estimates that he collected more than a million bottles for recycling.

Surrounded by piles of bottles, Bezeau started wondering if they could be used for something new—a building material for houses in what he calls the Plastic Bottle Village. In a new short documentary from Mel Films, filmmaker David Freid visits Panama to see one of the houses now under construction.

Read more: https://www.fastcoexist.com/meet-the-man-building

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Piet de Kleijn – Combinatiewoordenboek. Nederlandse substantieven met hun vaste verba

Derde, sterk vermeerderde druk
1352 pagina’s
ISBN 978 90 361 0384 8
Euro 65,00
2014

Eerste druk 2003
Tweede (gewijzigde) druk 2006
Derde (gewijzigde en uitgebreide) druk 2013

U kunt het Combinatiewoordenboek hier bestellen: http://rozenbergps.com/piet-de-kleijn

Inleiding
Woorden worden meestal gebruikt in combinatie met andere woorden: in verband met, houden van, zich afvragen of, boodschappen doen, hard werken, prettige vakantie. Zoals uit deze voorbeelden blijkt, kunnen diverse woordsoorten (voorzetsels, zelfstandige naamwoorden, werkwoorden, bijwoorden, voegwoorden, bijvoeglijke naamwoorden) combinaties aangaan. Omdat in het Nederlands zelfstandige naamwoorden en werkwoorden de twee meest voorkomende woordsoorten zijn, ligt het voor de hand dat combinaties van deze twee woordsoorten zeer frequent zijn.

In Nederlandse woordenboeken kan men woordcombinaties vinden. Maar woordenboeken, hoe uitgebreid ook, geven maar een zeer beperkte weergave van het totale taalaanbod. Dat geldt voor alle aspecten van een taal en dus ook voor de combinatie zelfstandig naamwoord + werkwoord. Daarvan wordt, ook in de grootste woordenboeken, maar een kleine gedeelte opgenomen. En behalve beperkt, is de vermelding nogal willekeurig en soms onlogisch. Criteria voor het al dan niet opnemen van verbindingen worden nergens genoemd.

Door mijn werkzaamheden als docent Nederlands als tweede taal en als vreemde taal was het mij duidelijk geworden dat voor anderstaligen – ook voor de vergevorderden – het gebruik van de juiste combinatie van zelfstandig naamwoord en werkwoord moeilijk is. Daarnaast was er het gegeven dat deze categorie, maar ook hun docenten en de samenstellers van lesmateriaal, niet konden beschikken over een degelijk overzicht van genoemde combinaties.
Dat leidde in 2003 (herdruk 2006) tot de publicatie van het Combinatiewoordenboek van Nederlandse substantieven met hun vaste verba. De doelgroep was in de eerste plaats de anderstalige, maar tegelijkertijd wilde het Combinatiewoordenboek een min of meer volledig woordenboek zijn. Dat had iets tweeslachtigs.

In deze derde uitgave is resoluut gekozen voor een algemeen woordenboek dat voor het Nederlands een beschrijving probeert te geven van de gangbare vaste verbindingen tussen zelfstandige naamwoorden en werkwoorden: geld beleggen, uit de regering treden, een ruit sneuvelt, een vis spartelt, de vlag hangt slapt, de tafel staat ergens, smeergeld krijgen.
Ten opzichte van de eerste en de tweede druk betekent dit dat de beperkingen die daar waren ingegeven door de niet-Nederlandstalige gebruiker zijn komen te vervallen. Deze beperkingen hadden te maken met het totale aanbod van werkwoorden, met het aanbod van synonieme werkwoorden en met het aanbod van werkwoorden die tot het formele taalgebruik behoren.
Het gevolg van genoemde verruiming is dat deze derde druk ruim 15.000 werkwoorden meer telt dan de twee voorafgaande, een toename van meer dan 30 %.
Het totaal aantal werkwoorden, gekoppeld aan een zelfstandig naamwoord, bedraagt nu 52.623.

Een aantal lemmaʼs (zelfstandige naamwoorden) is in de derde druk niet meer opgenomen. Dat betreft hoofdzakelijk zelfstandige naamwoorden die deel uitmaakten van de in de derde druk niet meer teruggekeerde groepen ʻbeeld- en geluidsdragers’, ʻleestekens’, ʻmuziekinstrumenten’ en ‘uitgaansmogelijkheden’.
Er zijn slechts acht nieuwe substantieven aan de derde druk toegevoegd: beleg (militair), bezit, bezitting, bodem, collecte, dam, dijk en eigendom.
Daarmee bedraagt in deze derde druk het totaal aantal behandelde zelfstandige naamwoorden (lemmaʼs) ongeveer 2800.

2 Doelgroep
Dit woordenboek wil dus in de eerste plaats een bijdrage leveren aan de Nederlandse lexicologie in de vorm van een boek van vaste verbindingen (zelfstandige naamwoorden en werkwoorden). Voor de Nederlandse taal bestaat zo´n woordenboek  niet en de bestaande algemene woordenboeken hebben, zoals gezegd, voor deze verbindingen – noodgedwongen – maar zeer beperkt aandacht.

Een substantieel overzicht van genoemde vaste verbindingen heeft echter meer dan alleen lexicaal belang. Iedere taalgebruiker en met name schrijvers, tekstschrijvers, vertalers, docenten en  taalleerders (moedertaal, tweede taal, vreemde taal)  kunnen dit woordenboek raadplegen als zij bij een substantief zoeken naar het best passende werkwoord. Als zij, in concreto, zich afvragen welke werkwoorden bij abortus of bij euthanasie horen, of er synoniemen zijn voor de bal rondspelen, of er een informeel en een formeel equivalent is voor het bedrijf sluiten,  of er een sterker alternatief is voor het leger werd verslagen, wat het tegenovergestelde is van een beloftenakomen, welke geluiden en bewegingen vogels en zoogdieren maken, hoe de regen naar beneden kan komen en hoe sneeuw zich kan gedragen,  welke behandeling kledingstukken kunnen ondergaan, welke werkwoorden gebruikt worden voor de productie van dranken en met welke werkwoorden de geluiden en bewegingen van de zee  beschreven kunnen worden.

Read more

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Piet de Kleijn ~ Alexander – Leerboek uitbreiding Nederlandse woordenschat anderstaligen

alexander16,5 x 24 cm
457 pag.
€ 30,00
ISBN 978 90 5170 406 8
NUR 620

Sleutel bij Alexander, Leerboek  ter uitbreiding Nederlandse woordenschat anderstaligen – Docentenboek
45 pagina’s
ISBN 978 90 5170 415 0
Euro 4,00
2005

Price: €4,00

Voor de beheersing van een vreemde taal is kennis van woorden, van veel woorden onmisbaar.
In deze herziene, geactualiseerde en uitgebreide uitgave van Alexander worden ruim 1800 woorden aangeboden, verdeeld over 23 thema’s.
Voorbeelden van thema’s zijn: het lichaam, kleding, wonen, handel en industrie, sport, de nieuwe media.
Bij de 1800 woorden veel en gevarieerd oefenmateriaal. En veel teksten waarin de te oefenen woorden zijn opgenomen.
Voor individueel en klassikaal gebruik.
Met een afzonderlijk antwoordenboekje.

Alexander gaat ervan uit dat de gebruiker van dit boek de elementaire Nederlandse woordenschat beheerst.

Bestel Alexander: http://rozenbergps.com/piet-de-kleijn-alexander

Bestel Sleutel bij Alexander: http://rozenbergps.com/sleutel-bij-alexander

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    Rozenberg Quarterly aims to be a platform for academics, scientists, journalists, authors and artists, in order to offer background information and scholarly reflections that contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue in a seemingly divided world. By offering this platform, the Quarterly wants to be part of the public debate because we believe mutual understanding and the acceptance of diversity are vital conditions for universal progress. Read more...
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