Date: Wed, 13 Sep 1995 17:31:04 CDT


Subject: Re: Pronounciation of Oxymoron -Reply


No, my position has not changed. All of the "real" that we have _conscious_

access to is a product of some sort of construct-building, because thinking

is construct-building. When we produce syllables (e.g., in the string

'nu-cu-lar' or the string 'nu-klee-ar') we are using "physically real"

neurons and muscles without "thinking" about how or where precisely to

place peaks and valleys in the amount of muscular energy applied to the

speech mechanisms. What I was doing was playing around the dichotomy

between "physical reality" and "mental reality." You're absolutely on

target in your comments about degrees or "remoteness" in abstractions.

The article on the psychological reality of the phoneme was written by

Sapir, in French; I haven't looked at it in years, but my recollection

is that he was attempting to deal with what we do _un_consciously as we

differentiate between phonemes. Recent work with infant perception of

speech tries to get at that phenomenon by pairing a "high" vowel (/i/ or

/e/) with a low vowel (/a/ or /o/) [second formant having high versus

low frequency]. When the infant looks at the light when it hears /i/

and looks at the ball when it hears /a/, it is not engaging in the

kind of abstraction that we adults do when we differentiate between /nit/

and /nat/, but both the infant and the adult respond to something

"physically real" in the vowel sound uttered. The adult can assign the

sound to a phoneme class but the infant can't. And go from one idiolect

to another and adults might mis-hear "not" as "naught" because of the

different "hard-wired" phonological systems in the two idiolects. DMLance