Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remark 2

The Builder

In this remark a primitive "language" is introduced in which a word (interpreted as a command) evokes a simple response: a builder shouts a word - the "name" of a type of building stone - and a helper brings a stone of that type to the builder. Were the desired stone in view of both the builder and the helper, the builder could perhaps just as well point to it while simultaneously shouting any sound in order to attract the helper's attention. So, this scenario reinforces the idea of a word as substituting for pointing. However, later remarks will raise various issues about that seemingly reasonable concept.


This example again demonstrates the role of action in the operation of language. We often think of language as a means of communicating information. But in this example, in addition to wanting to convey to the helper information as to which type of stone is required, the builder also wants the helper to execute an action. Augustine's concept of teaching a language by associating a word and an object can result in a helper who can understand from the command what stone the builder desires, but how does the helper learn to respond to the command by bringing the stone to the builder? This question will be addressed in subsequent Remarks.

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