[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play [was: Emergent Behaviorsspawnedfrom...]

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Thu Sep 22 17:18:32 CEST 2005

"Amanda Walker" <amanda at alfar.com> wrote:
> On Sep 17, 2005, at 5:35 PM, Sean Howard wrote:

>> But it turns out that language is innate, so much so that a
>> Japanese kid growing up in the Bronx will learn English with an
>> accent.

> That's false.  An ethnically Japanese kid, growing up in the Bronx
> with Bronx-speaking parents, will grow up with a Bronx accent just
> like anyone else in the neighborhood (having an accent from
> growing up with Japanese-speaking parents would be learned
> behavior).

I didn't really mean to derail the discussion with something so
minor, but I didn't explain myself particularly well. My point is
that a Japanese kid could have a New York accent, meaning that all
languages are learnable by different cultures and races. The
specifics may be different, but language itself is functionally

>> The specifics of language may be less important than the
>> structure of it, which is built in. Every language has objects,
>> nouns, subjects, etc.

> Yes and no.  For example, Japanese has parts of speech that
> English does not, and vice versa.  However, there are certain
> common elements, which is where Chomsky got his idea of "deep
> structure" (with "transformational grammar" being his attempt to
> map deep structure to surface syntax and phonology, something that
> was never entirely successful).

Wow, I guess everybody has read his language stuff but
me. Ironically, it is his political writings which would be more
interesting to this list.  Something like "Manufacturing Consent"
would be amazingly insightful into how to run and control a
community. What are gamers other than willing participants of
propaganda? Read any game previews recently? :)

For the record, Japanese doesn't really have anything different from
English. For instance, it's verb final, but English is perfectly
understandable like that ("To the store I went, and it exploded").
Japanese has implied subjects, but we merely overuse pronouns to
make up for it ("I went to the store and bought a toy. It was
nice."). Japanese has formal language, but so do we ("Good Morning,
sir" vs "Wassup!"). The biggest hurdle and difference is reading
kanji, but written language is nothing but a learned behavior, while
language structure is innate.

> The general consensus in academia (general, mind you--these are
> areas of active study) is that the capacity for language is
> innate, but that the details of any particular language are
> learned, and that native language acquisition happens during a
> particular developmental period.

Which was my point, though I worded it extremely poorly. My point is
that language IS innate (you said it wasn't). It really just boils
down to how important those details are. Are the differences between
Japanese and English the important part, or the overwhelming
similarities? I guess it depends on whether you are trying to teach
someone a second language, or are trying to talk about the human

Actually, that makes a good metaphor for this discussion in general.
Nature vs nurture. Structure vs details. Abstract vs concrete. Good
vs evil. Madness, I tell you. Madness.

> Learning a second language is a different process than learning
> the first.

Tell me about it. :) On the bright side, learning a third language
isn't that bad.

- Sean
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