Re: [PALEO,LING] ] Re: Language, gesture, etc.

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 12:48:59 +1000

I wrote:
> > It still seems a long way from the sophistication of "real" grammar.
> > The number of possible tool forms seems limited (and is certainly finite),
> > for example, unlike the productivity of human language.

TK replies:
> Think back on the individual primary craftsman's
> world {the perosn who makes the tools that do the work}: have ye ever
> tried to catalog the tools in a blacksmith's shop [We have one here]. Here
> is a primary craftsman who, if he ain't got the tool, he makes one. He has
> an order for a particularly angled brace; to make the brace he needs to
> hold the bars in place; to holds the bars in place he makes a tool. Now it
> may be a pair of specifically angled tongs, and we, following Chenhall
> call them tongs. But they are the unique products of the blacksmith taking
> the syntactical materials at hand, angle irons, hammers, forges, and
> following the grammar of how braces are built, solders, welds, and bends
> them to produce a totally new material sentence. It may be slower than
> language, but it is no less grammatical.

Well, this all depends on how one defines "grammatical", of course,
but I think there are some clear-cut differences. Human industrial
"grammar" of the kind you refer to has vastly changed in complexity
in historical time; there is no evidence that the grammar of human
language has changed at all over the same period. This suggests to me
that they are different kinds of things, at least at a cognitive level.
I don't know if "industrial grammar" has been formalised enough for
a formal comparison to be possible, but I'm willing to bet on there
being significant differences there, too.

But then I did a comp. sci. degree, so "grammar" for me evokes ideas
like "context free" and "finite automaton" and "Turing machine" :-).

Danny Yee.