[b-greek] Re: Discreet vs prototypical categorization

From: Kimmo Huovila (kimmo.huovila@helsinki.fi)
Date: Sun Oct 22 2000 - 06:16:10 EDT

clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
> on 10/21/00 12:19 AM, Kimmo Huovila wrote:
> > Fuzziness implies scalarity, right? I am not sure what you mean here.
> Kimmo,
> We agree on a lot of things but this is where we part ways. Fuzziness IMHO
> does NOT imply scalarity. Let me use two illustrations one drawn from Greek
> phonology and another from telecommunications.
> In Greek phonology there are a number of distinctions that might have been
> quite fuzzy in the spoken language. Take the distinction between C/K or
> perhaps S/Z or O/W, or A/H/EI. These are just a few examples. These
> distinctions may be fuzzy in spoken language but the phonological categories
> are still discrete. There is important information bound up with these
> distinctions and to treat them as scalars is going to get you into big
> trouble.

I wonder if you might have misunderstood me. Even here fuzziness implies
scalarity. But it does not follow that, on a phonological level, the
phonemes may not be discrete. This is just one more illustration of the
principle I mentioned earlier, that of languages using discrete
categories to describe scalar phenomena. The scalarity here is, of
cource, found in the phonetic level. C will "flow" into K in terms of
phonetics in a scalar way, even though as phonemes they are separate.
The solution, in my opinion, is not to throw the scalars away, but to
find their proper place.

I think that fuzziness implies scalarity just because, by definition, in
a fuzzy category one can set up a scale of better and worse
representatives of a fuzzy category. That is what fuzziness is all

The same goes for your modem example. The fuzzy analog data is
interpreted as discrete bits, but nevertheless the scalarity is there at
the analog level (frequency).


> Another example:
> Most of us use modems to talk on the b-greek list, right? A modem* is faced
> with the problem of sending and receiving digital data, 0's and 1's using an
> analog technology which is not particularly suited for digital information.
> When the modem reads the incoming data, the difference between a zero and a
> one is actually quite fuzzy but it is most definitely not a scalar
> phenomenon. If the modem fails to translate the rather fuzzy incoming
> pattern into discrete categories then the whole system breaks down.
> I think that semantic/pragmatic categories can be fuzzy at the edges and
> still be used to represent discrete semantic/pragmatic features of the
> language. I think that we will find that all semantic/pragmatic categories
> are fuzzy but not all are scalar.
> In short, I do not think that fuzziness implies scalarity.
> --
> Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
> Three Tree Point
> P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062
> *This modem information is 15-20 years old so think of it as a metaphor and
> not a current description of modem technology.

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