Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Words, words, words! (and a puzzle)

I have some thoughts.

One of these thoughts is about plurals.

The plural of nemesis is nemeses (nem-iss-seas). Which follows standard rules of English grammar.

But THEN, the plural of premise is premises (prem-iss-is OR prem-iss-seas), sometimes pronounced with the long E sound as well. why is this? why? is this incorrect? or just an anomaly?

Following this train of thought, what about promise? why is the plural, promises, never pronounced prom-iss-seas? Why the inconsistency? not that i mind, but....but why?

these are the things i took notes on today in linguistics, rather than taking notes on what was actually happening during the lecture.

in said class, we talk a lot about the origins of language (this IS going somewhere, i promise). The funny thing is that none of the theories we discuss even acknowledge the possibility of creationism. it's always: "when did we split from the primates and start speaking intelligibly?" "how did the hominid's brain grow enough to be able to comprehend and create language?" Dear everyone, you do know that evolution is a Theory, yes?

there are two camps on this issue: one is that (A) language is innate; we are born with the ability to use and understand language. the other is that (B) language, like any other skill (piano, tying shoes, writing), is entirely learned. Children learn to speak purely through imitation.

There's far more evidence to support claim A. Children are clearly born knowing certain things about language that they are never taught. For instance, how do we all know to say "big red balloon" rather than "red big balloon?" no one taught us this. in fact, studies have proven that "motherese" ("look, say 'doggy!'" "BALL, timmy, that's a BALL.") is completely useless. we do not need parents or anyone else to label things for us to figure out what they are. How do we know that something "out" of the box can be "near" it, but something "in" it can't? Who teaches us these things? No one. Our brains are clearly hardwired with these concepts. Read about pidgins and creoles, if you wish to know more--it's fascinating!

The POINT is, language is clearly inherent. "BUT," the psycholinguists cry, "how did it begin? when did we evolve to develop this magnificent skill?" And that is when i laugh. Because if anyone were to look at the possibility that we didn't evolve, but perhaps knew these things from the beginning, there would be no confusion. Were they to accept that maybe we came from a Father who always spoke to us, and we to him, there wouldn't be any question at all. OF COURSE it's innate. And what's more, it's eternal. No one else in class brings up these points, though. And i wonder if there are a large number of us, silently laughing at all the head-scratching scientists.

And people think religion doesn't make sense.

In other news, can you decode these pictures? this was our in-class assignment today. we were given sentences and told to try and draw pictures of them. then we showed our pictures to other classmates and tried to figure out what they meant. very few of us succeeded. and yes, my artistic renderings may be terrible, but it's an intriguing point.

If you give up, the sentences are in the comments!


  1. 5. (or the picture with the food/lady/machinery?)
    Necessity is the mother of invention.

    6. (or the picture of the tigers)
    All tigers have stripes.

    7. (or the picture of the clouds/clock)
    If it doesn't rain this afternoon, we'll have a picnic.

    Language is incredible.

  2. HA! Awesome. I got: 6. Track a tiger, 7. Come rain or shine. Way off.