Monday, January 2, 2017

Has Chomsky advanced linguistics?

Surely the headline question has many aspects, and a short post can't take the mission of answering it correctly. Yet I am going to look into one quite recent paper published by Chomsky and three of his followers, to find out that the Chomskyan school is wrong in the most basics of language.
The paper is titled "How could language have evolved?" It seems to propose some of the important failures of the Chomskyan theory.
Take the use they do with "faculty of language". Is there a department - which is the meaning of "faculty" - of language in the human body, brain, or elsewhere? why no one other than the Chomskyans speaks of any "faculty" in the human sciences?
The answer is quite simple. No one other than Chomsky regards language as a department. Rather it is regarded as a collective name of  fitness and capability of producing meaningful patterns by voice, writing or signing. The common perception of language shared by most people and most non Chomskyan scholars is of the competence of performing acts that create meanings. If anyone is asked why one speaks, the answer would be something like "I want to say something", which can be translated to " I want to express a meaning that other will receive". All that has nothing to do with faculties, departments, offices. To speak is to perform acts that their principle lines and stages of execution are not different from any other act executed by human or by any animal.
The second failure I want to discuss is the Chomskyan definition of language. From their section "Conceptualizations of language" here is their definition:
"We maintain that language is a computational cognitive mechanism that has hierarchical syntactic structure at its core ",
So according to their definition, we never say anything about reality, about the world, what we do, see, think. What does one do when language is performed? One makes hierarchical syntactic structure. What components build this Hierarchical structure up? Are there words? Or what else could there be? Everyone in the world except a Chomskyn  would say "words". This word does not appear in this paper. 
As the smart four gang were discussing which term to use for the elements needed to build up their "hierarchical syntactic structure", the alleged "core" of language, they started invalidating "word". Such a simple common and clear term is unacceptable when a highly sophisticated paper is tuned for the sage and the wise. And they came up with "conceptual atoms of the lexicon". The word "lexicon" suggests they meant "words". 
The reason they used such an awkward phrase is the consistent tendency of the Chomskyan school to minimize the importance of the meaning in language. As long as meaning is but a marginal, side effect of language, "conceptual atoms of the lexicon", they can stick to the mystique belief that there is nothing more important than syntax. 
And flying on their mystique, they conclude that there is little to study about the evolution of language, as allegedly Syntax came ready some 70-100 millennia ago through genetics and did not change since. 
At these assertions lies the greatest failure of Chomsky. 
What is at stake in language, in linguistics, is meaning creating, not syntax. Meanings are carried by words, first of all by words. Syntax is a tool of editing the many meanings that words suggest to one comprehensive meaning. By no means can syntax be treated independently of the meanings that words have
 Back to my main subject, the evolution of language, the great failure of the above Chomskyan article is their absolute blindness to the importance of words, the importance of humans being able to pronounce the words, and therefore the main task of the research of language evolution: find out and describe how a chimpanzee-like ape shaped itself anew time after time again and again to become a speeker of endless meanings.
This is what I have done in my book "Sounds from the Garden of Eden", shown below. You can have it from Amazon.
                              
                                     
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ON THE HISTORY OF A LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGE FAMILIES

THE FAMILY TREE OF LANGUAGES IS WRONG - IT HAS NEVER SPROUTED

The third chapter of my book "Sounds from the Garden of Eden" discusses the theme of language relations. The common, widely accepted theory tells us that almost every language is a part of a family of languages. Like, for instance, English belongs to the Germanic family, which by itself is a part of the Indo-European family.
Every student of linguistics or anything that has to do with languages studies this theory as if it were an absolute truth.
The theory of language family was invented two hundred years ago to be applied to the language families then known, the Indo European and Semitic. later all languages of the world were assembled in families, and also in macro families, like the Afro Asiatic which connects 6 different families of languages, 5 from Africa, and the Semitic.
The theory principle is very simple. In the deep far past there was a language spoken by a quite small group of people. This language was split to two or more daughter languages, and those in their turn split to more granddaughters, and more splits were carried on until the contemporary state of language map has gained its form. The connections between the languages of a family are usually drawn to show a "family tree".

Here is the academic "family tree" of Semitic languages:      



  Though widely accepted, still this theory suffers weaknesses. For instance, this scheme shows at the same level the Ugaritic, the Canaanite, the Aramaic, the Arabic and the Ethiopian. But Ugaritic was spoken through the second millennium B.C. and passed away at about 1200 B.C. Canaanite, which comprises Biblical Hebrew and Phoenician was spoken starting two hundred years later, and Arabic appeared at the 5th century A.D. So why showing all this languages at the same level? And when and how did each language have connections with each other, if ever? the "family tree" is wrong in most  important aspects of the history of the languages.

The third chapter of "Sounds from the garden of Eden" suggests a very different principle to describe and explain that history.
The great similarity between the various Semitic languages misled scholars to conclude that all these languages branched out from one ancestor. Yet here, we must be guided by
the Fundamental Rule of Languages History:
every language, without exception, is the result of merging features of earlier or neighboring languages.


This scheme shows the connections over time between the languages, while the thickness of lines suggests the assumed connection strength.

0.  Laguage system in the area where Semitic language were spoken, preceding the earliest evidence.
1 . Earliest Semitic dialects.             undocumented

2.  Old Akkadian, Eblaite,  2700 B.C.E. 2350, B.C.E, Contributing languages: Mainly extinct Semitic dialects Sumerian, other languages.
                                                                                                       
4.   Akkadian (Babylonian, Assyrian).   2000 B.C.E. Contributing languages: Old Akkadian, Sumerian, other Semitic dialects.                                                                                                                                  
5.  Ugaritic.  1500 B.C.E. Mostly Semitic dialects, Asia Minor languages, Akkadian.

7.  Hebrew and Phoenician 1000 B.C.E.. Biblical Hebrew. 700  B.C.E.   Cotributing languages:  Semitic dialects, Ugaritic, Egyptian, Archaic Greek, Hittite.
                                                             .
8.  Old Aramaic. 900 B.C.E. Contributing languages: Mainly extinct Semitic dialects, Akkadian, Hittite.

9.   Trans-Jordanian and Arabian desert languages. 900 B.C.E. Contributing languages:   Hebrew, Aramaic, other Semitic dialects.
                                                              
10.  South Arabian languages. 500  B.C.E. Contributing languages: Mainly Semitic dialects, Akkadian, probably African languages.
                                                                                                                 
11. Classical Arabic. 500 C.E. Contributing languages:  Most of contemporary Semitic  dialects, Persian,      other contemporary languages.
                                                                                  
13.  Ge'ez  400 C.E. Contributing languages: South Arabian and other Semitic dialects, African languages.
                                                                                                                
The main insight that should be read in this scheme is that the languages did not branch from a single common stem, but instead, each language is always, the consequence and result of of mergers of traits of, from, other languages. And when we look at the history of any family, we must bear in mind that the similarity of the languages is the result of mergers of close dialects.
When Semitic dialects merged with a non Semitic language, namely Sumerian, (and later with African languages)  the resulting language, the Akkadian, showed  many differences compared to all other Semitic languages: Akkadian lost all guttural consonants, unlike any other Semitic language, and the verb in Akkadian, just like in Sumerian is at the end of the sentence, opposing all other ancient Semitic which start the sentence with the verb.
What does the "tree" explanation do with such facts? Nothing at all. It puts Akkadian at east and all other languages at west, pretending to have resolved this problem.
By no means is it true that Classical Arabic of the 5th century C.E. has the same roots in the ancient extinct Semitic dialects as Old Akkadian or Ugaritic. The traits that seem common to the languages of different generations were transformed through mergers which always inflict changes, and the seemingly sameness of  characteristics is a kind of deception that scholars are fed with due to use of written characters that camouflage the great differences of real speech.
Here I have dealt with Semitic languages, but the same insights must be taken to all language families. There in no exception:
every  language, without exception, is the result of merging features of earlier or neighboring languages.
The "family tree" must be substituted with a scheme that takes into account all traits of a language, not excluding traits introduced to the language by ex-family languages, because in many cases, like that of Akkadian, such influence is fundamental.

Monday, November 14, 2016

This blog is dedicated to a new, absolutely new way of accounting for the evolution of language. The former posts gave the readers first clues to my attitude to language evolution. Here I show the book's table of contents. All three chapters, and especially the second take different roots in explaining the developments of human evolution and language evolution.
  
Sounds from the Garden of Eden: How Vocal expressions Evolved to Language
Table of Contents

Chapter 1 | Primordial Circumstances 7                                      
The Magic of Words 7
1. The Scientific Approach. 8
2. The origin. 13
3. Factual Evidence. 15
4. What are we looking for? 19
5. What was the starting point? 25
6. What category of problem is it? 29
7. The Effects of Bipedalism. 33
8. A Foot Unable to Grasp. 36
9. Why do we use sound, of all means
of communication? 40
10. The Initial Motive for Vocal Communication. 47
11. Additional Necessary Conditions, and the
Roles of Survival Demands and Intelligence. 49
12. Evolution-related Problems. 52
13. Brain Size Increase is the Outcome of
Information Processing Activity and
New Functions. 70
13-1. Why did the brain size of chimpanzees,
elephants, and humans increase? 74
The effect of diet on brain size. 76
Does body mass affect brain mass? 77
13-2. How did the elephant’s body
and brain size evolve? 80
13-3. The Reason for a Brain’s Increase in Size. 82
13-4. The Reason for Human Brain Size Increase. 84
13-5. The Branching of Two Species from
a Common Ancestor. 84
To conclude. 89
14. Interim Conclusion. 90
                                        A major point in this chapter is the issue of brain growth. The brain is not a food processor as many scholars suggest. Read this chapter to find out among other issues the true cause to the enlargement of the brain. (human's and all other)

Chapter 2 | The Evolution of Speech 93
1. What must be accounted for? 93
2. The Sequence of our Arguments. 96
3. A Phonological Explanation of the Vocal Tract. 103
4. The Beginning: Guttural Sounds. 111
4-1. Early Australopithecine Sounds. 112
4-2. Baby Sounds. 119
4-3. Distress Sounds of Adults. 125
4-4. The Phonetics of Currently Known Languages. 126
4-5. The Evidence of Arabic. 132
4-6. Arabic vis-a-vis Ancient Semitic Languages. 134
4-7. The Evidence of Sumerian. 140
4-8. Guttural Sounds as Linguistic Fossils. 143
5. The Process of Analogous Expressions
Acquiring Symbolic Properties. 146
6. Real Words of a Primitive Language. 159
7. Analogous, Symbolic, and Verbal Expressions
of Homo habilis. 164
8. The Origin of Phonology. 167
9. The Course of Evolution of Sounds into Phones. 174
10. So how did expressive sounds
become phones? 179
To summarize this section. 182
11. Utterances, Phones, Words. 183
12. Phones as Parts of the Structure
and Function of Language. 186
13. Labial Sounds, the Origin of Consonants
and Vowels. 195
An interim summary 199
14. The Diversification of Sound Expression—the
Emergence of Lingual and Palatal Sounds
and the Origins of Consonant-vowel Sequences. 200
15. The Transformation of Sounds into
Consonants and Vowels. 207
16. The Emergence of Early Consonantal Sounds,
and of Vowels. 212
17. The Emergence of Vowel Integration. 215
Speech consisting of phones was a trivial,
accidental effect of evolution. 222
18. An Interim Summary. 223
19. A Theory Based on Both Assumptions
and Facts. 225
20. Language’s Evolutionary Stage at the
Time of the Emergence of Homo Sapiens. 227
21. The Emergence of Words. 232                                          
22. The Evolution towards Modern
Languages—Part I. 237
23. Phonetic “Inflection”. 246
24. The Progress towards Modern Languages,
Part II. 251
25. Diversification, Categorization,
and Symbolism. 262
26. The Evolution of Parts of Speech—
the Forming of Prepositions and Conjunctions. 267
27. The Origins of Prepositions. 272
28. The Evolution of Speech Parts—
Verbs and Nouns. 281
29. Further Notes on the Evolution of Verbs. 295
30. A Further Analysis of Words and
the Evolution of Word Categories. 300
31. The Statistics of Biblical Hebrew Consonants. 308
Biblical Hebrew letters supposed pronunciation 310
32. Brief Notes in the so-called “Emergence”
of Syntax. 321
33. The so-called “Emergence” of Syntax. 326
34. Words as Syntactic Fossils. 328
35. The Role of Syntax. 333
36. The Main Features of Syntax. 334
37. The Abstract and Metaphoric Nature
of Language. 346
                                                This second chapter develops a phonetic theory to account for the evolution of language, suggesting that human evolution as a whole was most of all constrained by the development of speech.

Chapter 3 | On Language Relations 351
1. Introduction. 351
2. Comparing Hebrew and Hausa. 355
2-1. Phonology. 356
2-2. Verbs. 361
2-3. Plural Form. 367
2-4. Noun-forming. 369
2-5. Adjective-forming Patterns. 370
2-6. Definiteness. 371
2-7. Pronouns and Demonstrative Pronouns. 371
2-8. Evidence of Hausa and Chadic Languages’
Relationship with Semitic Languages. 372
2-9. A Comparison of Vocabularies. 379
• Kinship term 379
• Number names 380
• Color names 380
2-10. Conclusion. 380
3. More Notes on pro Afro-Asiatic
Phylum Arguments. 382
4. Morphemes that can be Attributed to Common
Ancestry. 386
5. Languages’ Relations and Family Resemblance. 393
Phonetic Changes 396
Vowel Changes 396
Syntactic Changes 396
6. Every Language, without Exception,
is the Result of Merging Features of
Earlier Languages. 399
7. The Evolution of Semitic Languages. 405
Index of terms 425
Index of authors 435
Index of Languages 438
English Bibliography 441
Hebrew Bibliography 452
Annex 455
                         The third chapter argues that the common view of proto languages and language families is wrong, and in order to explain correctly the relationships between languages we must find out all the contacts any language had. The proto and family terms are no more than preferring some past contacts to all other during the language history.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The making of a word
 Etymology  is very popular. Almost everyone enjoys suggesting and learning of words' origins. We know the popular etymologists, and the professional. An instance of popular etymology we find in the Hebrew Bible. The name of the Israelite leader Moses was in Hebrew 'Moshe'. The Biblical writer  tied this name to the Hebrew root 'masha', meaning  "take out of the water", as the story tells about the daughter of Pharaoh who found the baby Moses in the river and brought him to the Egyptian palace.
But surely, the Semitic research revealed  that 'moshe', or Moses is a biblical version of the Egyptian word for 'child', or 'son'.
Are we satisfied with this resolution? and the Egyptian word, where had it come from?
When we look for a word at the etymological dictionary, there is a list of the word's preceding forms in ancient languages, as well as cognates in contemporary languages.
The word 'child' resulted out of Gothic 'kilthei', meaning 'womb'. the word 'chip' came from Old Saxon 'kip', meaning 'axle', 'stave'.
Still I have to ask, are we satisfied with such resolutions, when we look for the origin of language?
While usually linguists meet their wishes if they succeed to show the complete net of connections within the language family, one cannot be satisfied with such results, as they never go beyond a shallow depth.
The most ancient samples of written language, of 5 thousand years ago, and even the mostly doubted reconstructions of proto languages, never take us to to anything really different from nowadays spoken languages.
Do we have to accept that speech has emerged so much very similar to our own way of speaking?
Such an assumption must be rejected. Everything we know about the evolution of human beings must tell us that speech originated very differently from spoken languages.
Yet the etymology of historic languages must not be neglected, as it does hold some hints directing us to our end.
And those hints are unfortunately skipped, almost always, almost by all scholars working in this field.
 Those hints are easy to be skipped, as they look obvious, very much obvious, not worthy of reminding.
That every word is a consequence of similar, preceding word, - so what? and the changing of 'k' to 'ch', again, what's the news?
But when we collect such hints in very many languages, and we identify a common pattern of regular and constant changes in all languages, namely that the changes of the phonetics of new words that result from preceding words have only one direction, like that of the 'k' to 'ch': From the back of the vocal tract to its front: From the throat to the front part of the tongue and lips - then you get something of importance.
In my book (shown below) I brought an abundant evidence showing the transformation of speech from the back of the vocal tract to its front to be a principal fact of the evolution of language, neglected so far by all scholars.


    

Friday, October 28, 2016

What is the essence of language?
What are we doing when we speak? 
Is it "grammaring" as must be derived from the Chomskyan school?
or "gossiping", as suggested by many scholars who try to theorize background conditions that were either necessary for or much more than that, did in fact cause language originating? 
In order to answer the two questions at the article beginning, one should first of all listen to oneself and any other speaking person, just to find out the obvious, an obvious so many linguists and erudite people ignore. 
It is meaning  that whoever speaks wants to deliver.
Speech is intentional and voluntary. It has nothing to do with any kind of automation, biological necessities, or any other compulsions not directly connected to the performing of the actual act of speech. 
A person starts speaking in order to deliver whatever meaning one has in mind, and all means of expressions, including words, grammar, gossip, voice raising, and whichever speakable means and ideas will be utilized in order to make the meaning in mind well expressed. 
As I did in the first post, I add here a paragraph from my book "Sounds from the Garden of Eden" (shown below), that reveals the connection between speech and animal expressions, 
based on the centrality of meaning.

The following is a paragraph from chapter 2 page 184-185

One of the leitmotifs of this study is the comparison of
chimpanzee and human utterances. Its major point is the
profound difference between the vocal aspect of chimpanzee
utterance, and that of human speech. Scholars are struggling
to account for these differences, using sophisticated abstract
models.
Yet another aspect of the comparison has not been mentioned
in any model I have heard of, and is not sufficiently discussed:
the similarity of human and chimpanzee utterance, since
both are holistic. Any sound utterance, of either humans
or chimpanzees, is holistic. Every human word, just as any
expressive sound of an ape, is a holistic utterance. In other
words, neither human words nor a chimpanzees’ expression
can be divided into smaller units of meaning. The metaphoric
sense of the word is irrelevant here, since a metaphor is not
an inherent part of the meaning, but an additional meaning.
The word “they”, which can refer to any group of people, once
uttered under specific circumstances, has a single, indivisible
meaning. This is also the case of apish sound expressions.
Despite being rich in sounds, each refers to a single intention, the anticipatory of meaning.
Human words are parallel to apish utterance not by the
extremely different manner of sound generation, but by the
unity of intention in these two different types of utterances.
This similarity must lead to a major conclusion regarding the
evolution of speech. In order to start linking these two extremely
different types of utterances, and bridging the seemingly
unbridgeable difference, one must first accept that they are both
holistic and indivisible. Having established that speech must
have originated from guttural sounds, using the conclusions of
our examination so far, we can further link apish expressive
sounds and human ones by establishing that verbal utterance

invariably preceded the forming of phones.

Below is my book title, available on Amazon.


                                                         

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sounds from the Garden of Eden


This blog will bring a new way of thinking of and theorizing the subject of the origin and evolution of language. The blog is based on the content of the new book shown above.
  When I started thinking about language evolution, I asked myself what could be said for granted about the subject. And three things came up: the first were the languages spoken today, which are quite well known and described. 
The second was the first evidence of written languages of 5 thousands year ago, ancient Egyptian and Sumerian, of which what is most important for us is the fact that they were in many aspects very much similar to modern languages.
The third sure fact that I could point out were...the voices of monkeys and apes. 
As those troubling themselves with our subject know, the very famous Noam Chomsky has been desperated in advance of any hope of finding evidence for the evolution of language, and he dedicated much of his late writing to convince us there is no chance to find any evidence, and it all started by an accidental mutation in one person that made him so smart  that enabled him and his many off springs to develop language out of their brilliant minds. Surely this is an absolute non understanding of biology and evolution whatsoever, and we can summerize that Chomsky is not relevant for our subject.
The factual evidence supporting the theorizing of the evolution of language is abundant. much more abundant than the evidence supporting the big bang theory. What needed is to collect the relevant data. 
For example, what could have been the first sounds of the descends of chimpanzee like ape out of which hominins evolved? 
When I faced my first factual result, I realized  that the mission I was taking on was to bridge the gap between the guttural sounds of apes and the modern speech which consists mainly on articulating sounds using the tongue, a practice which is practically absolutly absent in apes as well as in all animals. 
The theory developed in the title book, and in part in this blog, is new and unprecedented in many aspects, of which one very important is the developing of a phonetic theory that outlines the principle events that took place during the evolution of human beeings and language.  

The rest of this post is a paragraph from chapter 2, page 111. It prefaces the discussion about guttural sounds:

 4: The Beginning: Guttural Sounds.
The first chapter dealt with the timeframe within which the origin
of Language must be sought, concluding that the evolution
of language has no initial starting point in time. Neither the
emergence of written language, early painting, earliest stone
tools, nor the earliest fossilized hominid skeletons are hard
evidence of the emergence of speech. Therefore, we must begin
our story with the earliest stage of human evolution, namely the
beginning of bipedalism, which turned the primordial ape into
a hominid, or better still, an Australopithecus. In other words,
we must rely on hard, concrete facts, avoiding unsupportable
speculations, when we come to draw the outlines of our theory.
In this section, we shall provide evidence to show that the
earliest human expressive sounds were guttural. We use the
following assumptions:
• Early australopithecines could generate no other sounds.
• These are the sounds produced by a baby during its first
months of life.
• An adult in distress, losing the ability to utter words, resorts to
guttural sounds.
• The history of many languages reveals transformations from
guttural sounds to front-mouth sounds.
The phonetic evolution hypothesis, which is the core of the
present work, is that speech evolved from guttural to tongue
sounds. We must refer to it as a hypothesis, since it deals with
the distant past, yet, as opposed to the claims that followed the
publication of my previous book, this is no mere speculation,
but the inevitable course of the evolution of speech. The
earliest sounds available to earliest speakers were undoubtedly
guttural. .