Re: Machen Revisited

From: L. E. Brown (
Date: Thu Sep 18 1997 - 20:55:27 EDT

On Thu, 18 Sep 1997 15:16:35 -0400, Randy Leedy wrote:

>Perhaps a rule-based approach would help to clarify some things in
>early Greek learning, and it might be particularly effective in
>connection with learning forms. I'd like to see some specific,
>extended examples. But syntax (not to mention discourse structure)
>will always, I believe, defy the sort of complete scientific analysis
>that in purely scientific fields allows us to predict with a very
>high degree of accuracy the outcome of a given set of conditions, or
>completely and objectively to reduce a given outcome (e.g. a Greek
>paragraph) to its constituent parts and their interrelationships.

A hearty, "amen" here.

Let me add something to Randy's cogent observation that communication
is about more than the interrelationship between language elements.

My limited personal experience suggests that language is much larger
than its elements; meaning has nothing to do with "rules." (Isn't
artistic genius in part knowing how and when to violate the rules?)
Linguistic meaning is so thoroughly grounded upon a worldview that a
language's users hardly know it. (Might one even go so far as to
venture that perhaps the main reason for misunderstanding another
langauge is a failure to grasp the worldview encompassed therein?) How
can values, attitudes, judgments and nuances about which authors,
readers, speakers and auditors are scarcely even conscious ever be
reduced to "rules?"

By way of example, consider the change now occurring in Spanish re:
which "to be" verb should be used when describing marriage. <For those
who don't speak Spanish, there are two "to be" verbs: Ser, which
describes conditions [permanent] and Estar, which describes
characteristics [transient].

"Proper" Spanish grammar rules that one uses ser to predicate
marriage. After all, in the Latin American worldview--informed by
Roman Catholicism--marriage is a permanent condition. But as U.S.
culture continues to pollute Latin America, the divorce rate is on the
rise. As a result we now find even in proper Spanish publications the
use of estar to predicate marriage. Their worldview re: marriage is
evolving and so is the language.

There's no way that a rules based approach to grammar would ever
detect whether a person's use of estar to predicate marriage was due
to poor grammar, or was a reflection of the speaker's connection with
an evolving worldview.

* Recursion: See (Recursion) *

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