Sunday, February 11, 2007

Language Acquisition - Part 3: Deep Structure Hypothesis

In Part 2, I asked: How closely related are the physiological and biological formation of a being with the language being used? Some hypothesis in Linguistics try to make a kind of "unified grammar" for all languages known to humankind. I will use such hypothesis to support my confirmative view that language is influenced by physiology.

All languages we learn are based on VERBS, NOUNS, ADJECTIVES, ADVERBS. All languages!! Isn't that a curious observation. So maybe this is just a coincidence?! Can you try making up your own language that defies that trend?! What could be a totally new way of language?! You might be surprised how tough answering the aforementioned question will be!

In the field of Linguistics, the deep structure hypothesis states that all human languages share what is called a "deep structure". It is also stated that human languages only differ in what is called the "surface structure". So somehow, there can be a systematic match-and-replace procedure to translate one language to another. Google Translator provides one such automated translation service.

To illustrate this idea, I have provided an example. Check the picture below:

Notice that once we establish the relative positions of the lexemes (lexeme: basic construct of a language) of any language, we can replace every word with its dictionary translation to provide a whole translation. Say, in the example given below, we replace the verb "eaten" with "thrown". All we need to do is replace the verb with its equivalent verb in other languages to produce a translation.

This striking resemblance between all human languages raises my doubt whether or not, this "deep structure" is actually engraved in our biology and physiology. Could a human mind innovate a totally different method for language construction?! Could we create a language that needs some more elaborate form of processing than match-and-replace?! And the most challenging question is: Could we create a language that is impossible to translate into any of today's known human languages?! - A language that defies the rules of the "deep structure".... If not, does that mean that the "deep structure" is the only way a language can be?!

For this reason, if a professional happens to find an old scripture belonging to an ancient civilization, they naturally start by matching the language lexemes. Its almost the only way we know languages to be. The question that comes to my head, if we happen to come by a scripture made by some aliens (roughly, beings with different biological build than earthlings) would our methods of language analysis still be able to make sense of that scripture found?! Lets face it, scientists have difficulties analyzing animal language - those animals that are anatomically very similar to us. It would be a disaster to meet up with anatomically different beings!

In this series:
Language Acquisition - Part 1: General Discussion
Language Acquisition - Part 2: The Influence Of Physiological Formation
Language Acquisition - Part 3: Deep Structure Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 4: Ambiguities
Language Acquisition - Part 5: The Problem Of Representation
Language Acquisition - Part 6: Linguistic Determinism Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 7: Possible Applications For The Investigation

1 comment:

Tololy said...

Ah. These series of posts reminded me of my Linguistics class, which I enjoyed tremendously but absolutely hated the professor.

I would love to contribute with something of value, but I have to brush up on my linguistics. I remember being as fascinated as you are with the Deep Structure Hypothesis.