Free-will, determinism, and complementarianism

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@NIU.BITNET)
Fri, 3 Jun 1994 22:55:00 CDT

John O'Brien's references to complementation in physics (Niels Bohr)
and in psychology (William James) deserves at least a footnote from
Bloomfieldian linguistics. The principle of complementary distribu-
tion is a tool for phonemic analysis. A short definition might say
that two different but similar sounds can be considered members of
one phoneme if they never appear in the same phonetic environment.
Using John's words, that makes those two different sounds
"actually mutually exclusive representations of a third `thing' -
which acts to provide a common unifying structure of some unknown sort
to the mutually exclusive opposite manifestations." That third thing
is a unified class of sounds, the phoneme. (My only argument with
John on this would be about those words "some unknown sort".)

A stupid way of looking at the result is to say that traditional
linguists do some sort of magical hocus pocus so that they can say
that two things that they know are really different are THEREFORE
the same thing. Which may be why some folks tear their hair out when
forced to look at linguistics, just as some of us tear our hair out
when forced to look at numbers and statistics. (Not me: I got into
anthro through linguistics in the first place, but before that I was
a food chemist enjoying the use of statistics all the time.)

mike salovesh anthro dept northern illinois univ
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