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HTale
Bilingual Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5288 days ago

164 posts - 167 votes 
Speaks: English*, Arabic (Written)*
Studies: French

 
 Message 137 of 167
14 October 2007 at 8:23pm | IP Logged 
frenkeld wrote:


I don't really possess the concepts and terminology to give you a good answer, so I can only try to share my ill-defined suspicions why this is not the whole story.

One reason is that a fraction of the words we meet in speech can only be fully understood in context, and context seems to be neither vocabulary nor grammar, but some sort of "knowledge" about the situation being talked about.

Another reason is that if you open just about any sufficiently advanced grammar book, it seems to be as much about usage as it is about grammar.

There are a couple of others, but I'll stop here.

Now, I am no linguist, so I am not about to say that your list is missing "usage" and "knowledge", but somehow the idea of language being just "words and rules" seems suspiciously simplistic. Why don't we have reliable machine translation yet, after all?


I think I have already made the distinction - though not as clear as I would like - between the structure of a language, and what it is to be fluent. I provided my 'definition' of fluency, and I think what you stated falls under this topic. As far as structure is concerned, I think language itself as a system consists of both vocabulary and grammar (I find idioms problematic in this definition). The reason why there isn't a reliable machine translation is partly because of what you have stated. Also, note, that our brains are 'chaotic' (in the mathematical sense) - we are creatures that far surpass the complexity of even say, Deep Blue. A computer cannot 'fill in the blanks'. If we were to ask it 'where do you live', it will give the same response whatever the context. If I were to ask this question to a human living in London (my home city) and someone from Frankfurt I'd get two different responses (one denoting a region in London, one denoting a country/city). A translating machine is not emotionally wired, nor does it have that subtle knowledge of the language you obtain from childhood.

The real time usage is far more complicated than the structure itself (we have intonation, synoynmns (I say 'building site', but not 'building location' for instance), speed, rhythm). This is why fluency is so much more than a dictionary and grammar book.

Edited by HTale on 14 October 2007 at 8:25pm

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thirdearthinker
Diglot
Newbie
Hong Kong
paulie.nomadlife.org
Joined 5166 days ago

12 posts - 13 votes
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: Cantonese

 
 Message 138 of 167
14 October 2007 at 8:55pm | IP Logged 
HTale wrote:
I think everybody on this forum would agree that a language consists of grammar, and vocabulary.


If language is only grammar and vocab, then what are these?

- shaking (or nodding) my head
- waving my hand
- patting someone gently on the shoulder
- raising my eyebrow in response to something someone said

All of them convey meaning and communicate a message, yet none of them involve a single word.
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frenkeld
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5853 days ago

2042 posts - 2719 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 139 of 167
14 October 2007 at 10:03pm | IP Logged 
HTale wrote:
frenkeld wrote:
Another reason is that if you open just about any sufficiently advanced grammar book, it seems to be as much about usage as it is about grammar.


The real time usage is far more complicated than the structure itself (we have intonation, synonyms ..., speed, rhythm). This is why fluency is so much more than a dictionary and grammar book.


By usage I didn't mean "real time usage", but rather, borrowing the definition from Oxford English dictionary, "the way in which a word or phrase is normally and correctly used". You will find that many items in advanced grammar books are not declension tables or explanations of the meaning of various tenses, but rather a bewildering array of special cases falling under no general rule.

The above definition of usage overlaps with what Linguamor was saying about expressing things the way natives do.

Also, I may still be missing the distinction you are making, but if fluency in a language is more than vocabulary and grammar, why shouldn't this also be true of the language itself?


Edited by frenkeld on 15 October 2007 at 1:55am

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Linguamor
Decaglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5528 days ago

469 posts - 599 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Dutch

 
 Message 140 of 167
15 October 2007 at 1:22am | IP Logged 
frenkeld wrote:
... I may still be missing the distinctions you are making, but if fluency in a language is more than vocabulary and grammar, why shouldn't this also be true of the language itself?


I'm having a problem grasping the distinction too. My point all along has been that language is more than grammar and vocabulary, and that this "more" constitutes far more of what must be learned to be proficient in a language than the grammar and vocabulary does. The vocabulary and grammar of a language allows one to generate a set of grammatically correct utterances/sentences that is far larger than the set of utterances/sentences that would be acceptable to native speakers as "how we say it".

Even expanding the definition of vocabulary to include multi-word units does not change this.

Consider this French sentence and how just knowing the vocabulary and grammar of English would not allow a French speaker to produce a sentence with the equivalent meaning in English.

'Ce n'est pas parce que c'est en solde que ce n'est pas bien.'

Unless the French speaker has acquired this "semi-prefabricated chunk",

'Just because .........................doesn't mean .........'

he or she is likely to produce

'It's not because it's on sale that it's not good.'

rather than

'Just because it's on sale doesn't mean it's not good.'

    
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luke
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6115 days ago

3133 posts - 4351 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 141 of 167
15 October 2007 at 6:33am | IP Logged 
I'm reminded of the experience of knowing all the words I'm hearing, and understanding the grammatical constructions being used, but still having difficulty attaching meaning to the sound. Am I the only one who has had this experience? Was it from studying the nuts and bolts of the language with a program that thought, "that's all there is to it", rather than a program that focused on meaning and communication?

Edited by luke on 15 October 2007 at 6:34am

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HTale
Bilingual Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5288 days ago

164 posts - 167 votes 
Speaks: English*, Arabic (Written)*
Studies: French

 
 Message 142 of 167
15 October 2007 at 1:51pm | IP Logged 
thirdearthinker wrote:
HTale wrote:
I think everybody on this forum would agree that a language consists of grammar, and vocabulary.


If language is only grammar and vocab, then what are these?

- shaking (or nodding) my head
- waving my hand
- patting someone gently on the shoulder
- raising my eyebrow in response to something someone said

All of them convey meaning and communicate a message, yet none of them involve a single word.


I have already conceded (or rather, in the beginning clearly stated) that the use differs from the structure.
1 person has voted this message useful



HTale
Bilingual Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5288 days ago

164 posts - 167 votes 
Speaks: English*, Arabic (Written)*
Studies: French

 
 Message 143 of 167
15 October 2007 at 1:59pm | IP Logged 
Linguamor wrote:
frenkeld wrote:
... I may still be missing the distinctions you are making, but if fluency in a language is more than vocabulary and grammar, why shouldn't this also be true of the language itself?


I'm having a problem grasping the distinction too. My point all along has been that language is more than grammar and vocabulary, and that this "more" constitutes far more of what must be learned to be proficient in a language than the grammar and vocabulary does. The vocabulary and grammar of a language allows one to generate a set of grammatically correct utterances/sentences that is far larger than the set of utterances/sentences that would be acceptable to native speakers as "how we say it".

Even expanding the definition of vocabulary to include multi-word units does not change this.

Consider this French sentence and how just knowing the vocabulary and grammar of English would not allow a French speaker to produce a sentence with the equivalent meaning in English.

'Ce n'est pas parce que c'est en solde que ce n'est pas bien.'

Unless the French speaker has acquired this "semi-prefabricated chunk",

'Just because .........................doesn't mean .........'

he or she is likely to produce

'It's not because it's on sale that it's not good.'

rather than

'Just because it's on sale doesn't mean it's not good.'

    


Well again, I'm just repeating myself. The structure per se is elementary. Its use is distinct - in my opinion - from the structure because meaning entails far more than vocabulary and grammar. Meaning emits from conscience - this is why, Frenkfeld, computers can't produce accurate translations.

Linguamor, you've totally missed the point, and I say this with all due to respect (I've heard your sound clip for French :-) ). However, as I have already stated; a language consists of grammar and vocabulary - there does not exist *a* grammar. Now I pray every one agrees on THAT one :-D
1 person has voted this message useful



FSI
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5269 days ago

550 posts - 590 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 144 of 167
15 October 2007 at 2:20pm | IP Logged 
luke wrote:
I'm reminded of the experience of knowing all the words I'm hearing, and understanding the grammatical constructions being used, but still having difficulty attaching meaning to the sound. Am I the only one who has had this experience? Was it from studying the nuts and bolts of the language with a program that thought, "that's all there is to it", rather than a program that focused on meaning and communication?


I don't think this is so much due to using an FSI v. Assimil-type issue, but rather one of simply getting more exposure to the natural, every day language. I'm pretty sure this would be an issue no matter which program you used, as there isn't a program in existence that'll give any learner more than a handful of examples available in any given language.

It's like Linguamor's example with the French above. Knowing the individual pieces of the sentence is only half the battle; one must also know how certain combinations give rise to particular meanings that go *beyond* the point-blank grammar/vocab structures. The only way to do this is to get more exposure - through books, through talking people, through television, movies, radio, papers, etc. If not, we forever look at the L2 through the prism of how sentences (and meaning) are constructed in our L1.

This happens to me almost every time I read a page of anything new. I discover sentence structures I wouldn't have used to express meanings I already knew. Or alternatively, I discover how existing structures give rise to meanings I'd never have thought of, but which a native, of course, would have understood. Sometimes the structures are radically different, to the point where I wouldn't have understood the sentences had I heard them whiz by in speech, while others only differ slightly from how I'd have expressed them myself - but the differences add up, and they draw the lines between native speakers and non-native learners. It's something we can only conquer with more exposure.

Edited by FSI on 15 October 2007 at 2:31pm



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