Can you talk as well as your granny?

  • 63 Replies
  • 14268 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Can you talk as well as your granny?
« on: 28/01/2013 15:48:12 »

On a radio programme this morning, some experts bemoaned the decline of the English language i.e. the standard of English used.  They offered many examples, but no insights.

The reason for the decline is simple: people use the language they are capable of using.  If their language has declined, then their minds have declined.

PS: The ability to spout jargon, including scientific jargon, does not count as good English

*

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 8748
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #1 on: 28/01/2013 22:08:44 »
I rather hope that I speak better than my granny: she's dead.
As far as I know, nobody actually measured how well she spoke (how would you do that?)
So it's not really possible to prove that the standard of English is falling: we have no objective record of how good it was.
While I'm rather cynical about the results from exams , they seem to indicate that children's grasp of English is improving.


Please disregard all previous signatures.

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #2 on: 28/01/2013 22:35:45 »
I can remember my grandmother was always nostalgic, with many stories, usually repeated over and over and over and over again.  Perhaps she was a better story teller than me, but had no sense of when she had already told a story.  And, as she aged, she frankly got quite senile. 

I presume each generation has its own slang, but people may also grow out of the use of slang as they get older. 

Media exposure is likely both good and bad.  I wonder how much the vocabulary expands with media exposure??

*

Offline Minerva

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • 73
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #3 on: 29/01/2013 06:59:40 »
I have a much different vocabulary to my granny-we all do-its not a decline just different.  Language changes and so it should, if it didn't we would all still be grunting.  You can see the changes in just a few hundred years by comparing the languages Chaucer and Shakespeare used to todays English.
I'm sure when ye became you and thine became yours there were loads of similar complaints about the "decline" sent to Ye Olde Dalye Mayle letters page........

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #4 on: 29/01/2013 07:17:15 »
Another point.
I don't believe any of my grandparents finished high school.

A couple of generations later, things have changed, and a much higher percentage of the children finish high school, and/or college. 

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #5 on: 29/01/2013 19:18:24 »
i can speak well good lol better than my granny im able to express myself yeah people have no trouble understanding what im like wos so big problem with that you dont like the way I talk im like whatever

*

Offline Minerva

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • 73
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #6 on: 29/01/2013 19:46:23 »
Innit..... ;D

*

Offline evan_au

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 4255
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #7 on: 30/01/2013 08:52:08 »
The French language has very high standards, and it is a matter of great national pride (even though some pesky English words keep trying to sneak in, like "le weekend").

However, I've noticed that English has very different standards - we are happy if we can understand what the other person wants to communicate. That makes English a very good second language, no doubt enhancing the ability for websites like Naked Scientists and other media to cross cultural boundaries, without imposing barriers of great proficiency.

Having said that, due to its history, English is full of inconsistencies that are a barrier to this international goal (as well as an impediment to native speakers). I think we are overdue for another spelling reform; with computer coordination, hopefully we won't be left with the colour/color clashes left over from our last attempt!

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #8 on: 30/01/2013 10:51:26 »
Having said that, due to its history, English is full of inconsistencies that are a barrier to this international goal (as well as an impediment to native speakers). I think we are overdue for another spelling reform; with computer coordination, hopefully we won't be left with the colour/color clashes left over from our last attempt!

Could one ever get Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, India, and Jamaica to all agree on the proper language?  It is hard enough to get different socio-economic groups in one country to use the same language.

Should a car have a hood and a boot, or a bonnet and a trunk?

It might take a while, but one could potentially homogenize the languages in 20 to 50 years.  Just hit the "proper" language heavily in schools, media, and publications.

Spelling and pronunciation of words could certainly be helped, especially with the incorporation of foreign words.  Although, certainly there are advantages of having heterograph homophones.

Ciao.....  [:o]

*

Offline Ophiolite

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • 718
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #9 on: 30/01/2013 12:19:30 »
Many of the rules of good English become embedded in the subsconscious of the native speaker over time. Consequently we can hear or read something and know it faulty, yet not necessarily know why. In that regard, shouldn't the title of this thread be "Can you speak as well as your granny?"

Does anyone else feel the use of 'talk' grates on them, or is this a false warning my subconscious has picked up? I ask this because I find the topic reminiscent of the view many have of their driving: the world is filled with two kinds of incompetent drivers, those maniacs who insist on driving too fast, and those incompetents who want to drive too slowly. So it is with lanaguage.
Observe; collate; conjecture; analyse; hypothesise; test; validate; theorise. Repeat until complete.

*

Offline Minerva

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • 73
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #10 on: 30/01/2013 14:05:36 »
I wouldnt like to think of the world with a homogenous language-that sounds quite boring.  Languages have different strengths and weaknesses and so different uses - maybe the answer is to use specific languages for specific activities.  For example-Japanese is totally unambiguous and would be the perfect language for law, English has endless wonderful permutations but is ambiguous so maybe it should be the language of entertainment, French should be used for anything to do with food (because EVERYTHING sounds delicious in French) and so on......  [:D]  So we all become polyglots instead of homogenising..... [;)]


« Last Edit: 30/01/2013 14:08:15 by Minerva »

*

Offline imatfaal

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 2787
  • rouge moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #11 on: 30/01/2013 16:32:06 »
I wouldnt like to think of the world with a homogenous language-that sounds quite boring.  Languages have different strengths and weaknesses and so different uses - maybe the answer is to use specific languages for specific activities.  For example-Japanese is totally unambiguous and would be the perfect language for law, English has endless wonderful permutations but is ambiguous so maybe it should be the language of entertainment, French should be used for anything to do with food (because EVERYTHING sounds delicious in French) and so on......  [:D]  So we all become polyglots instead of homogenising..... [;)]

I love the result of all becoming polyglots rather than homogenizing - but would quibble the points.  English law thrives through its infinite potential for nuance, french cookery reigns supreme because it is taste and emotion driven not recipe bound, and whilst everything sounds sexy in russian it's so cold that by the time you have undressed you have forgotten what you were doing in the first place.


edited to correct grammar and spelling in this post of all posts
« Last Edit: 30/01/2013 16:34:02 by imatfaal »
Thereís no sense in being precise when you donít even know what youíre talking about.  John Von Neumann

At the surface, we may appear as intellects, helpful people, friendly staff or protectors of the interwebs. Deep down inside, we're all trolls. CaptainPanic @ sf.n

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #12 on: 30/01/2013 18:55:00 »
For example-Japanese is totally unambiguous and would be the perfect language for law,

Are you sure about that? Nihongo o dekimasu ka? Watasi no nihongo wa taihen warui, but I have heard that Japanese people only understand each other about 80% of the time because Japanese is so ambiguous. Perhaps that's more to do with them tending to miss out personal pronouns and leaving you to guess who's doing what, so maybe it can be tightened up a lot for legal purposes, but English can also be tightened up for legal purposes and is highly analytical.

It won't be long though before we have artificial intelligence at a level which means it won't matter which language you use, and anything legal will be stored in a completely unambiguous form with the potential to use concept codes which don't map directly to specific words in any language. Law itself will be derived from first principles through computational morality too, so monkeys won't be writing it any more either.

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #13 on: 30/01/2013 20:32:06 »
I do believe there would be a benefit of a common international language, as well as adoption of universal units and measures (USA?).  However, I don't see at least the few dozen dominant languages going away any time soon.

Accents are wonderful with guessing where a person is from. 
However, if a Jamaican, an Indian, and American, and a British person are all speaking the same language, shouldn't they be able to understand each other?

In a sense it doesn't make any difference whether a person uses aluminum or aluminium, or tires vs tyres, but it does make searches much easier if one is actually using the same word, unless you wish to have locale specific searches.

*

Offline Minerva

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • 73
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #14 on: 30/01/2013 21:59:19 »
Is that right about Japanese?  Wow - how disappointing-I don't speak it and only know one person that does and he waxes lyrical about its unambiguity..... hmmmm.

Regardless-I still think different languages are suited to different aspects of human life and the French bit was tongue in cheek and its hard to go very far with it without getting stereotypical and un pc ........ [:0]  I also agree with your point about English and the law-it is indeed flexible and that's a good thing (but that also allows for a lot of legal confabulation and convolution which allows the unscrupulous and greedy to tie things up in knots for years on end).

But think how much more interesting things would be if we learnt different subjects in different languages at school ..... get those neurons multiplying........
« Last Edit: 30/01/2013 22:00:56 by Minerva »

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #15 on: 30/01/2013 22:26:30 »
But think how much more interesting things would be if we learnt different subjects in different languages at school ..... get those neurons multiplying........
I tried that.
It took me a while to realize that autovalori and eigenvalues were the same thing!

I do think, however, there are great benefits of social/cultural exchanges, no matter what one is studying.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #16 on: 31/01/2013 16:22:13 »
I would say that a sign that language skills are declining is in the greater confusion that is apparent, the inability to draw distinctions.  For example, I have a hard time finding anyone who now remembers what a metaphor actually is, and that includes dictionaries.  They describe in great detail what a metaphor is, but they confuse it with a simile, even although they describe a simile and that description is different from that for the metaphor.  What they miss, is the significant fact that a metaphor is a sort of linguistic version of a set of scientific equations such as Maxwell's equations: i.e. a metaphor can be used to draw inferences and implications.

Another example is the German word doppelganger.  It had a very precise and specific meaning but now it's much broader and more general.

The home of precise definitions is, of course, science and philosophy, and these disciplines would collapse if scientists and philosophers became unable to see the fine distinctions.  This is the kind of degradation that, it seems to me, is happening with English.

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #17 on: 31/01/2013 19:26:08 »
Being able to describe language, and being able to use language isn't necessarily the same.

I certainly got a much better understanding of grammar including English grammar only after studying a foreign language in which things like person, place, and tense are discussed in great detail, as well as learning many roots and cognates.

Are colorful curses considered metaphors?  If so, then I've known some people that are very proficient with their use, albeit somewhat limited in the variety metaphors being incorporated in their speech. 

Certainly computers are changing the way things like math and spelling are learned.  No doubt language and grammar are also being taught differently now than ĺ of a century ago.

*

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 8748
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #18 on: 31/01/2013 20:43:41 »
  For example, I have a hard time finding anyone who now remembers what a metaphor actually is, and that includes dictionaries.   

I would have a hard time finding anyone who cared.
That's not a change in language (or even use of language) it's a change in society.

Perhaps Shakespeare is bemoaning the fact that people no longer understand words like "private"* and misuse them. I think it's not that people "get it wrong" but that they get it right, pretty much by definition.
Language changes.
The English your granny spoke was right, then. The English we speak is equally right, now.


* Go off; I discard you: let me enjoy my private: go off
Please disregard all previous signatures.

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #19 on: 31/01/2013 21:09:37 »
Metaphors and similes would be vital for fiction writing as they can be used to create visual images in the mind.

Visual media, however, may not use metaphors as frequently, at least not in the same way. 

Why start a movie with
"The man's face, striking with the deep canyons covering it, peered up to see the fireball in the sky, brighter than the sun."

When you can merely show a picture of the man and the event.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #20 on: 02/02/2013 15:42:13 »
In the first instance, there is such a thing as beauty, beauty of rhythm, music, of being able to express yourself "just so".  What language is being reduced to now is something purely functional and that suits machines which, of course, have no aesthetic sense.  This is not just a matter of taste, it's not just that I have a preference for the language of the past, it is that the language of the past simply was richer.  This is something which could actually be measured with machines.  It's like a modern orchestra which has  a small selection of standardised instruments, as compared with several hundred years ago when there were far more instruments and even the instruments such as the violin, were not standardised.  (One might observe at this point that the old Stradivarius violins are still thought to be unequalled for sound quality by modern violin makers.  And the same goes in fact for named cellos and other stringed instruments of the past.)

Of course, in all of this discussion one is apt to loose sight of the other function of langauge i.e. for thinking.  If you don't have language to think with then you can no more think than you can do physics without maths.  One of the main elements of language type thinking is the use of the metaphor - metaphors are not just poetic conceits, they are an important aspect of understanding.  When you try to cope with all the complexity and vastness of the world around you, you need to reduce things, to put things in a nutshell, to find the metaphor - this is the equivalent of discovering, say, Maxwell's equations which is a nutshell way of encapsulating the world of electromagnetic radiation.

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #21 on: 02/02/2013 20:29:14 »
In the first instance, there is such a thing as beauty, beauty of rhythm, music, of being able to express yourself "just so".  What language is being reduced to now is something purely functional and that suits machines which, of course, have no aesthetic sense.

Language always was functional and can sound beautiful even when the meaning is entirely banal, just as purely functional objects can be beautiful. If people want to use language for artistic purposes, the still can and arguably do: rap is modern poetry (though most of it is just piles of cliches).

Quote
This is not just a matter of taste, it's not just that I have a preference for the language of the past, it is that the language of the past simply was richer.  This is something which could actually be measured with machines.

Dictionaries continue to grow bigger as new words are created, enriching language rather than reducing it. Shakespeare had to invent a lot of new words to get around the poverty of language in his day.

Quote
Of course, in all of this discussion one is apt to loose sight of the other function of langauge i.e. for thinking.  If you don't have language to think with then you can no more think than you can do physics without maths.

Thought is independent of language, although communication via language is crucial in training someone to think in the first place - those few who grow up without it (brought up by wild dogs, etc.) are severely retarded. When a thought flashes through your head, it does so without words and in a fraction of a second - you may then spend some time translating that thought into words in your head and reinterpret that back into thought again out of habit, but that is done as an add on to the original act of thinking, and it can help you check the logic of the thought due to the double convertion which may end up putting it into a different form. Many thoughts don't convert well into language though, and some are impossible to put in words, so if you relied on language to think you'd be severely limited.

Quote
One of the main elements of language type thinking is the use of the metaphor - metaphors are not just poetic conceits, they are an important aspect of understanding.  When you try to cope with all the complexity and vastness of the world around you, you need to reduce things, to put things in a nutshell, to find the metaphor - this is the equivalent of discovering, say, Maxwell's equations which is a nutshell way of encapsulating the world of electromagnetic radiation.

That is a meme: someone has asserted that metaphors are an important aspect of understanding and it has spread as if it is a fact. It is actually false. A metaphor is just a simile with the "like/as" part removed, thereby giving an idea greater impact due to its falsity, generating more excitement in the mind of the listener at the challenging of their existing beliefs and inviting them to consiter alternative realities. It's real significance is that there is something in common between two different things, though the thing in common may or may not technically be the same at all and is often entirely misleading.

*

Offline Ophiolite

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • 718
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #22 on: 03/02/2013 23:50:53 »
You do not need to know the distinction between metaphor and simile to be able to use them to great effect. I do not need to know the carbon content of a steel blade to use it with surgical precision.
Observe; collate; conjecture; analyse; hypothesise; test; validate; theorise. Repeat until complete.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #23 on: 07/02/2013 16:40:53 »

 A metaphor is just a simile with the "like/as" part removed,

I hesitate here, because this is so wrong that I'm not quite sure that you are not actually joking.  However, the definition you give here is precisely the wrong definition that I see in textbooks and dictionaries.

I heard an advertiser talk about the advert they had created to sell a car.  The advert used the image of a panther.  The advertiser referred to the image as a metaphor for the car.  In fact, it is not a metaphor.  Can you tell me why?  Also, can you tell me why it is a simile?

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #24 on: 07/02/2013 16:44:11 »
You do not need to know the distinction between metaphor and simile to be able to use them to great effect. I do not need to know the carbon content of a steel blade to use it with surgical precision.

You're in the wrong frame of reference here.  The anaology should be this: the difference between a simile and a metaphor is the difference between a scalpel and a pair of forceps; and if you cannot distinguish the difference between one tool and another then god help the patient!

*

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 8748
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #25 on: 07/02/2013 17:05:31 »
How many patients were killed by the transposition of metaphor and simile?
More seriously, people often use both forms effectively without knowing what the difference is.

BTW, can someone remind me which "law" of the internet explains why Pantodragon can't spell "analogy" correctly?
Please disregard all previous signatures.

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #26 on: 07/02/2013 20:18:55 »

 A metaphor is just a simile with the "like/as" part removed,

I hesitate here, because this is so wrong that I'm not quite sure that you are not actually joking.  However, the definition you give here is precisely the wrong definition that I see in textbooks and dictionaries.

I take it I've just read all the wrong books then. Well, even the best reference books can can contain huge errors and there are occasions in which most or even all of them do get definitions wrong to varying degrees, so it is fully possible that you have come up with better definitions of your own. The difficulty here though is that the meanings of these words don't look as if they will lend themselves to being narrowed down precisely from first principles through logical reasoning - it looks as if too much will be left to arbitrary decisions and could lead to many rival definitions which might be equally valid from a logical point of view. I haven't looked into their origins (beyond the Greek components), but that's typically an unreliable guide as the Greek components tend to be used in highly idiomatic ways, as indeed they are in this particular case. Perhaps you could spell your own definitions out clearly so that I can assess them for you in my capacity as a professional linguistician. I am always ready to throw away the books when they're wrong, so you'll get a very fair assessment from me.

Quote
I heard an advertiser talk about the advert they had created to sell a car.  The advert used the image of a panther.  The advertiser referred to the image as a metaphor for the car.  In fact, it is not a metaphor.  Can you tell me why?  Also, can you tell me why it is a simile?

That's hard to do: if I go by the standard meanings of these words it would appear to be wrong not to call it a metaphor. I've done a little hunting to see if all the reference books I have are out of date, but I just find the same story everywhere I look. Even Wikipedia somehow gives the same definitions which don't appear to take your ideas into account, so perhaps you need to get along there to start an argument on the relevant discussion page(s).

*

Offline Ophiolite

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • 718
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #27 on: 08/02/2013 16:13:32 »
So tell me, as an expert in these devices, which did I use in the second sentence of my quoted post? You are being marked on this one.
Observe; collate; conjecture; analyse; hypothesise; test; validate; theorise. Repeat until complete.

*

Offline Lmnre

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 178
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #28 on: 09/02/2013 04:50:57 »
What about "future shock"? With transactions and conversations occurring at a faster rate, there's less time to talk. If you read novels or actual speeches from history, they talk as if they have all the time in the world. There really was more time for thought, speaking, listening, etc.

*

Offline Minerva

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • 73
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #29 on: 09/02/2013 07:30:45 »
There are the same amount of hours in a day as there always has been.  Certainly communication was slower previously but I don't think they necessarily had more time to converse and think.

*

Offline evan_au

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 4255
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #30 on: 09/02/2013 09:24:54 »
Quote
What language is being reduced to now is something purely functional and that suits machines which, of course, have no aesthetic sense.

I think you overestimate the capabilities of our current machines.
Probably the best current example of machine understanding of language is Google translate - and it can be clunky at times. (Other translators are probably smoother, but they have had more inputs from linguists, rather than being treated as a machine learning project.)

The structure of English is so perverse that it severely challenges the capabilities of our current machines and algorithms (as well as challenging the capabilities of many children). I have heard it said that Italian is better in this regard - less schooling is wasted on teaching the idiosyncrasies of the language - hopefully allowing students to go onto something more useful, like metaphor and literature.

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #31 on: 09/02/2013 09:54:13 »
The structure of English is so perverse that it severely challenges the capabilities of our current machines and algorithms (as well as challenging the capabilities of many children). I have heard it said that Italian is better in this regard - less schooling is wasted on teaching the idiosyncrasies of the language
Each language has both benefits and challenges.
Italian, for the most part, is a very phonetic language.  So, there is more or less a 1:1 translation between written and spoken words (except for very few foreign words).
 
Unfortunately, verb conjugations are a nightmare, at least for me.  And, while the rules are fairly strong for regular verbs, all the "common" verbs are irregular. 

Anyway, talking to ESL (English as a second language) students, they often find the English grammar somewhat easier that might be expected because there is so much flexibility in the language.
Should I say:
Word order often is irrelevant.
or
Word order is often irrelevant.

But, there are often subtleties that are difficult to translate.

In fact, one often does best not to translate in a foreign language, but to just start thinking in the foreign language.

*

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 6321
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #32 on: 09/02/2013 10:09:12 »
Thinking about metaphors and similes.

I had stated earlier that they are less important in visual productions.  However, I may have in fact been wrong. 

At least advertising makes heavy use of visual metaphors and similes. 
So, beer may be like a cold mountain spring.  Or, is it a blast from a freezer? 

In fact with the visual metaphor, one intends for the viewer to make a direct comparison between the two ideas. 

I think I'm beginning to agree that the subtle differences between A is B, or A is like B is generally unimportant, except in the cases where the differences are ambiguous enough that it could be construed as false advertising.

Although, perhaps the trick in advertising is to create an association between A and B, without ever stating it.  So, create an association between fun and intoxication without ever stating it, and thus it can not be construed as a falsehood.

*

Offline Lmnre

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 178
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #33 on: 09/02/2013 16:02:19 »
What about "future shock"? With transactions and conversations occurring at a faster rate, there's less time to talk. If you read novels or actual speeches from history, they talk as if they have all the time in the world. There really was more time for thought, speaking, listening, etc.

There are the same amount of hours in a day as there always has been.  Certainly communication was slower previously but I don't think they necessarily had more time to converse and think.

Thank you. I should have said that, in olden days, circumstances allowed for more attention toward thinking, speaking and listening.

We are so "connected" nowadays (it supposedly being a good thing) that it diminishes our attention for old-fashioned speaking and listening. Someone driving on a highway talking on their cell phone while trying to get the news on the car radio has much less attention to pay toward face-to-face communication with the person next to them than would someone driving a horse and buggy.

Cell phones are a well-known curse for vacationers, as one cannot refuse to bring it with them and cannot refuse to answer a call from the boss. Not too long ago, going on vacation actually meant going on vacation (sadly now a thing of the past).

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #34 on: 09/02/2013 16:17:18 »

 A metaphor is just a simile with the "like/as" part removed,

I hesitate here, because this is so wrong that I'm not quite sure that you are not actually joking.  However, the definition you give here is precisely the wrong definition that I see in textbooks and dictionaries.

I take it I've just read all the wrong books then. Well, even the best reference books can can contain huge errors and there are occasions in which most or even all of them do get definitions wrong to varying degrees, so it is fully possible that you have come up with better definitions of your own. The difficulty here though is that the meanings of these words don't look as if they will lend themselves to being narrowed down precisely from first principles through logical reasoning - it looks as if too much will be left to arbitrary decisions and could lead to many rival definitions which might be equally valid from a logical point of view. I haven't looked into their origins (beyond the Greek components), but that's typically an unreliable guide as the Greek components tend to be used in highly idiomatic ways, as indeed they are in this particular case. Perhaps you could spell your own definitions out clearly so that I can assess them for you in my capacity as a professional linguistician. I am always ready to throw away the books when they're wrong, so you'll get a very fair assessment from me.



You don't get meanings from dictionaries, you get them from experience.  A child does not use a dictionary and manages to grasp some quite difficult concepts before it is old enough to be able to use a dictionary.  We are all equipped to be able to leanr as children learn.  Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #35 on: 09/02/2013 16:21:04 »
So tell me, as an expert in these devices, which did I use in the second sentence of my quoted post? You are being marked on this one.

You've lost me.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #36 on: 09/02/2013 16:23:31 »
What about "future shock"? With transactions and conversations occurring at a faster rate, there's less time to talk. If you read novels or actual speeches from history, they talk as if they have all the time in the world. There really was more time for thought, speaking, listening, etc.

The modern phenomenon of the "motormouth" can only occur when people give up thinking and just rely on memory.  If as you say there is less time for thought, then there is simply less thinking being done.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #37 on: 09/02/2013 16:26:06 »


I think you overestimate the capabilities of our current machines.
Probably the best current example of machine understanding of language is Google translate - and it can be clunky at times. (Other translators are probably smoother, but they have had more inputs from linguists, rather than being treated as a machine learning project.)



It is rather pertinent to the discussion: you are being too literal here.  Literalness is symptomatic of the malaise that leads to a degradation of language and in particular, to an inability to understand and use metaphor.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #38 on: 09/02/2013 16:29:42 »


I think I'm beginning to agree that the subtle differences between A is B, or A is like B is generally unimportant,

This reduces English to the level of mathematics which is a language which is virtusally devoid of meaning.

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #39 on: 09/02/2013 21:01:53 »
You don't get meanings from dictionaries, you get them from experience.  A child does not use a dictionary and manages to grasp some quite difficult concepts before it is old enough to be able to use a dictionary.  We are all equipped to be able to learn as children learn.

Of course we can learn that way, but we rely on other people to put us right when we get the wrong idea about the meaning of a word and use it incorrectly. If no one ever tells us and we never notice that we're using it differently from other people, we just go on using it wrongly. If you aren't sure you understand the meaning of a word properly, it's a good idea to check it by looking up a dictionary as it will often come as a surprise to find out that you've been making significant communication errors over many years or even decades. It is also a good idea after checking a few dictionaries to assume that the error was your own and not that all the books are wrong - the books represent the standard meanings of words as they are used by most people and it is unlikely that they have all got a definition wrong while you have got it right by guessing at the meaning as a child.

Quote
Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

In the light of what you've just told us, I can well believe that.

*

Offline Ophiolite

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • 718
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #40 on: 10/02/2013 03:26:08 »
So tell me, as an expert in these devices, which did I use in the second sentence of my quoted post? You are being marked on this one.
You've lost me.
Your subsequent posts answered the question for me. You are correct in your ability to distinguish between metaphor and simile. The rest of the world is mistaken.
Observe; collate; conjecture; analyse; hypothesise; test; validate; theorise. Repeat until complete.

*

Offline evan_au

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 4255
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #41 on: 10/02/2013 03:31:25 »
As well as the dictionary definition of metaphor, there is also a neurological definition of metaphor:
  • What structure(s) in the brain recognises an underlying relationship between two objects or concepts that on the surface seem dissimilar?
  • ...and rewards us for finding them?

Researchers have found through fMRI that some similar regions of the brain light up when presented with metaphor in both verbal and visual forms. There is a suggestion that some of the regions may differ depending on which senses are invoked in the similarity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroesthetics#Visual_Metaphors

The fact that similar metaphors are sometimes adopted across several different languages and culture may suggest an underlying neurological connection between the concepts - or maybe they reflect that concepts like war are so common across multiple languages and cultures that they are an inevitable participant in metaphor... See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_metaphor

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #42 on: 10/02/2013 23:00:21 »
I haven't given metaphors a lot of thought before, but it strikes me now that they would have been used from the earliest of times as a means to allow primitive language to evolve into more complex language, thus allowing new vocabulary to evolve out of existing words where to begin with the same word would have been used for two different things, one of those usages being metaphorical. When we talk of attacking someone's point in an argument we're still essentially using a metaphor which for reasons of economy has never evolved into a specialised term in its own right. "Attempting to invalidate" would be the correct literal way to express the same idea.

I've been thinking a bit more about visual metaphors too, and it now strikes me that there's something missing which makes it impossible to distinguish simile from metaphor in these cases: there is nothing stating "this is like" to make it a simile, but there is also nothing stating "this is" to make it a metaphor unless you depict a fusion of two things. I don't remember the car advert in enough detail to know if it fused the car with an animal or if it just jumped between the two ideas, but if it did the latter it could be described as simile or metaphor depending on how you read it. It might be best to think of it as allegory, but it isn't so important to make these distinctions as it is in language where it is clearly stated that something is or is like something else.

It also occurs to me that if you call a simile a metaphor, or a metaphor a simile, that isn't necessarily wrong as you may be using the term as a metaphor itself. "The poem fired off a machine gun blast of stunning metaphors" could thus be correct even if the poem contained no metaphors at all, though it would not be fully valid any more than any other sentence containing a metaphor is - they are all literally wrong, but they are literarily correct.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #43 on: 11/02/2013 16:42:49 »


Of course we can learn that way, but we rely on other people to put us right when we get the wrong idea about the meaning of a word and use it incorrectly.

Quote
Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

In the light of what you've just told us, I can well believe that.

This is autism speaking.  The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.  This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.  So, I repeat, you learn your langaue in interaction with other people, not from dictionaries.

Your final comment either shows that you have not read many of my posts, or that your own language skills are insufficient to allow you to appreciate the very high level of language skills that pantodragon has.  Indeed, if the rest of the people on this forum rely upon dictionaries as much as you do, then pantodragon's superior language skills are ample evidfence learning through interaction is far more successful than learning from a dictionary.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #44 on: 11/02/2013 16:43:29 »


I'm glad you appreciate me at last.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #45 on: 11/02/2013 16:45:16 »


Researchers have found through fMRI that some similar regions of the brain light up when presented with metaphor in both verbal and visual forms. There is a suggestion that some of the regions may differ depending on which senses are invoked in the similarity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroesthetics#Visual_Metaphors



The problem here is that the researchers must first know what a metaphor is and must provide evidence that they know, and all evidence suggests that this is unlikely in this day and age.

*

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • 116
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #46 on: 11/02/2013 16:47:29 »
there is nothing stating "this is like" to make it a simile, but there is also nothing stating "this is" to make it a metaphor unless you depict a fusion of two things.

This is not the difference bewteen a simile and a metaphor.  There is a great deal more to it than just pre-fixing the word with one or other of the phrases "this is like" and "this is".

*

Offline BenV

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1503
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #47 on: 11/02/2013 17:29:50 »


Of course we can learn that way, but we rely on other people to put us right when we get the wrong idea about the meaning of a word and use it incorrectly.

Quote
Personally, I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I have used a dicitionary to get the meaning of a word.

In the light of what you've just told us, I can well believe that.

This is autism speaking.  The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.  This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.  So, I repeat, you learn your langaue in interaction with other people, not from dictionaries.

Your final comment either shows that you have not read many of my posts, or that your own language skills are insufficient to allow you to appreciate the very high level of language skills that pantodragon has.  Indeed, if the rest of the people on this forum rely upon dictionaries as much as you do, then pantodragon's superior language skills are ample evidfence learning through interaction is far more successful than learning from a dictionary.

Pardon my frankness, but this is arrogant nonsense.  This may apply to an extent in spoken commuication, as if you hear a new word you can simply ask what it means.  If you're reading and you encounter a novel word, then "the way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not" is irrelevant.  If I'm reading and I don't understand a term, I look it up.  Usually in a dictionary.

If you define words differently from other people, lets say "competition" and "cooperation" as examples, and simply expect people to understand and adopt your definition, then you're not a good communicator, and do not display "superior language skills". In fact, by not using accepted definitions of words (such as those definitions you find in a dictionary), you occlude meaning and create confusion.

*

Offline Minerva

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • 73
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #48 on: 11/02/2013 17:50:12 »
This is autism speaking.  The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.  This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.

Offensive AND ignorant.....not a nice combination. 

People with autism are not a homogeneous group and their experiences of this world are individual.  There is most certainly not an underlying common symptom such as "low awareness". 

*

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 1505
    • View Profile
Re: Can you talk as well as your granny?
« Reply #49 on: 11/02/2013 19:58:38 »
This is autism speaking.

I'm not so sure about that. Maybe you should get yourself assessed by an expert instead of making wild guesses about that too.

Quote
The way you know if you're using a word correctly is by observing if you have been understood or not.

You can be misunderstood repeatedly for years or decades without realising it. People may appear to understand you, but they may understand what you're saying quite differently from what you intend to say, such as a person I've encountered who kept going on about his bowel when he thought it meant bladder. He got a lot of funny looks from people, but I was sufficiently perceptive to realise what he meant where everyone else had failed over many decades. He'd have learned a lot sooner if he'd looked it up in a dictionary, but of course no one's going to look every word up just in case they've been getting it wrong - life's too short.

Quote
This is communication, but it requires high levels of awareness of other people.  Autistic people, of course, have very low awareness and are therefore unable to detect whether or not they have been understood.  So, I repeat, you learn your langaue in interaction with other people, not from dictionaries.

Of course you learn your language from other people and not from dictionaries, but when you're arguing about the meaning of a technical term and all the books disagree with you, it makes sense to assume that the books are more likely to be right than you are.

Quote
Your final comment either shows that you have not read many of my posts, or that your own language skills are insufficient to allow you to appreciate the very high level of language skills that pantodragon has.

I've read all your posts in this thread, and in general you're doing okay here (though I can't vouch for your other threads). You've only tripped up on metaphors and similes and painted yourself into an awkward corner on that point, but I expect it'll dry some day. It would be easier though just to admit you were wrong about something rather than trying to make the rest of the world adjust to accommodate your error. Your reading of other people is pretty poor though - huge lack of perception there, old boy.

Quote
Indeed, if the rest of the people on this forum rely upon dictionaries as much as you do, then pantodragon's superior language skills are ample evidfence learning through interaction is far more successful than learning from a dictionary.

Ample evidfence? Indeed. Well, I'm lazy when it comes to looking up dictionaries too and avoid doing so wherever possible, but when I do feel an overwhelming need to look them up I don't make the mistake of assuming that my theory about the meaning of a word acquired from my interactions with other people is better than the theory of the many expert lexicographers who have researched widely to try to pin down the real meaning(s).

Incidentally, you might also have noticed that you were actually the first person here to mention dictionaries, telling us that most of them are wrong about metaphors and similes. That suggests that you were the first to look them up, and you rejected what you found there. I only started looking them up after you put doubt into my mind as to the meanings that I'd theorised these words had based on my interactions with other people, and after doing so I kept an open mind as to whether they or you were right.

This is not the difference bewteen a simile and a metaphor.  There is a great deal more to it than just pre-fixing the word with one or other of the phrases "this is like" and "this is".

Well, I'm still waiting to hear your superior definitions, but for some reason you're withholding them. Your failure to supply them appeared to indicate that you realised you were wrong. But maybe you're right though and just have some kind of problem with sharing, so I'll continue to leave the door open to the idea that you've got something worth hearing and hope that you won't continue to keep it to yourself.