Language, lists and learning LO20553

Leslie Lax (
Tue, 2 Feb 1999 23:59:29 -0800

Linked to : Is learning our earnest? LO20533

John Gunkler wrote:
>>May I offer you a small suggestion for better communicating
>>with us on this list?
>>Please stop trying to create words in English. I know that
>>Afrikaans is your native language. So isn't it presumptuous
>>of you to try to invent English word usage -- and then to lecture
>>us on why you did so?

Initially my gut (immediate) reaction was to agree with John. English
exists as a language with very definite word usage so why not use what is
there. But the very awkwardness of At's question had the desired effect.
Moving from dissonance to exploration.

[ If I remember correctly, entropy production is catalysed by dissonance.
And, I do buy that entropy production is necessary for creativity - At's
explanations have been challenging and enlightening, and put into
different words what others have been saying for some time - words that do
make sense for me. ]

I began to think a little more about his post - reading it carefully and
trying to understand my understanding of it.

I also began to think about language. English is not that standard.
There are, I believe, significant differences in understanding of some
common English words (take "learning" for example). These varying
differences are based on common usage, mental models, context and the
like. Geographically, the English language is also interpreted
differently, take for example the differences between United States
(American is FAR too colonial a term - what about the "other" Americans -
Mexico, Central and South, as well as far north?) English, Canadian
English, British English and Australian English. To actually understand
each other, we need to develop a shared understanding of what words mean -
some more than others. Developing these shared meanings requires that we
define words and try to explain our use of these words, and yes, sometimes
even justify our use of them.

It also occurs to me that language is fluid and evolving. Sometimes we
have to coin new expressions and words to describe things we did not have
before. Sometimes we redefine existing words so that they make more sense
in our own temporal context. Given all this, I see no harm in using
innovative ways to communicate, and would encourage all to do so where
doing so helps in developing our understanding and contributing to our

On a very specific note - At, please continue with your posts. Heavens
knows I would likely not be able to follow you in Afrikaans. I would have
even less success with Leo, and almost none with Winfried. As for Latin
based languages - I'd be totally lost. So please, those for whom English
is not a first language, contribute what you will as best you can. We are
all the richer for it, and sometimes you can show us Anglophones a thing
or two about our own language.

Still learning,



Leslie Lax Kelowna BC

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