By S. Altmann
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Extra info for Band Theory of Solids - An Intro. from the Point of View of Symmetry
By a systematic comparison of human speech and communication in infrahuman species, furthermore, some unique features of natural languages may then be singled out as potential defining properties (Hockett, 1963). Language may also be explored as a purely formal system. , rules for concatenation of atomic elements like phonemes into complex strings of morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences. (Chomsky and Miller, 1963; Chomsky, 1965; Hockett, 1966). Formal structure can thus be examined without any reference to specific "natural" communication settings.
We want to question the psychological relevance of such an approach. We are under no obligation to conceive of the utterance as an autonomous entity. Nor are we obliged, on the basis of available research on concept formation and thinking, to assume that the word "infant" evokes an invariant conceptual process across diverse linguistic and nonlinguistic contexts. The autonomy of linguistic units such as words is an issue to be explored by empirical research rather than lexicographical legislation.
A complete knowledge of the language system, including the phonology, the semantics and the grammar cannot tell us a priori which of the indefinitely large number of possible sentences can be construed in accordance with the rules will actually be employed. This latter is verbal behavior. We may, according to such a perspective, conceive of a given natural language as an abstract system existing within a collectivity, this collectivity being defined by a given speech community. Syntactic and semantic rules will then be conceived of as characteristics of the system rather than rules for processing of language operating inside the individual speaker-listener.