are language conventions natural?

	Wed, 15 Sep 1999 10:54:18 -0400 (EDT)

on the issue of whether language conventions are natural:

| 	In Cognitive Psychology, there has been alot of talk by a guy 
| named Chomsky that while a particular form or dialect of language (i.e. 
| Spanish or English) is constructed, there is some sort of "language 
| instinct" that we are born with.  The implication is that there are some 
| natural basics common to everyone such as syntax and grammar.  


Chris and all: The point above is really wonderfully relevant. We're
jumping ahead here, but why not? (During an introductory section in a
course it's good to open up all the big issues as a way of anticipating
everything that's coming at us in the next few months.) Some of the more
radical modernists (Gertrude Stein always; William Carlos Williams often)
and almost all the postmodernists, are truly going to say that there is no
"natural" language at the level of syntax and grammar. The language
writers (featured in our course in chapter 9--our wild concluding chapter)
will make a big social and political statement about this: by making a
certain set of conventions seem natural, people insisting on a certain
kind of 

			or understandability
			or legibility

oppress those of us who try to use words differently. Fascinating stuff,
no? - Al

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