Panlingua, by Chaumont Devin, May 13, 1998.
Chapter 11, Implications.
If by this time you have failed to sympathize with the theoretical framework behind Panlingua, then I bid you read no further because this chapter assumes that Panlingua is fact.
The discovery of Panlingua has far-reaching implications. On the one hand it promises amazing new technological breakthroughs during Century 21. On the other hand it tells us some amazing facts about ourselves and our universe.
One of the most important deductions implied by the existence of Panlingua is that from the time men first spoke on this earth Panlingua has never evolved. The reason for this deduction is obvious. The separation of humans into isolated groups has consistently resulted in physical variations. Observe that we are not one but many races, yet Panlingua has remained exactly the same. All language works exactly the same way. We know this because of conformity to certain principles across many languages, and because there exists no spoken language that a healthy infant of any human origin cannot readily acquire.
Some of the major principles that are never violated across many languages are these:
1. No human language ever does ought else but to encode the acquisition or maintenance of various states by various things.
2. All human languages are made up of repeating frames of two basic types: noun frames and non-noun frames.
Let us now take a few moments to study this phenomena of state and framing more carefully. A noun frame consists of a noun and its dependents. The dependents of nouns are various kinds of noun modifiers, including adjectives, determiners, nouns that modify nouns, and whole clauses that modify nouns. These modifiers serve to tell us more about the nouns they modify--in other words to better distinguish or define their noun regents. Thus noun modifiers always indicate some state the things indicated by their noun regents are in. I use the term, "state," in a broad sense to include such states as, for example, being "the one who put out the fire" in noun frames such as "the man who put out the fire."
Notice that in all such noun frames the direction of "state flow" is upward to the noun regent, or head, and never downward from the noun. Recall that in the binary trees of syntax, regents are always parent nodes while dependents are their daughters. Thus the regent of a noun frame is always a single noun at the root of the binary subtree, or the "head" of the subtree, and this noun receives various states from its modifiers/daughters/dependents, which are positioned further down.
In non-noun frames, on the other hand, state flow is always down. In verb frames the explicit state of the verb passes to a dependent commonly designated its "patient. For example, in "The monkey ate the banana," the specific state of "ate," which is "eaten" gets passed to "banana," because it is the bana na that gets eaten. In sentences like "John loves Mary," this state flow may be less clear because John becomes engaged in the act of loving, and thus also changes state. But the explicit state of "loves" is "loved," and it is Mary that gets loved whether she likes it or knows it or not. Even more subtly, the explicit state of a prepositional phrase also passes downwards from the preposition to its object. For example in the phrase, "through the water," the water gets penetrated in a "through" manner. This is hard to see because in English there is no verb series for "through," such as: THROUGH, THROUGHS, THROUGHING, THROUGHED. But in fact if there was, it can be clearly seen by most native speakers that in "through the water" the water would get "throughed." Thus prepositions appear to be just a special class of degenerate verbs, and so it is natural that prepositional frames should belong to the same class as verb frames.
So in all human languages we always find repeating patterns of these two frame types, the one passing states downwards to its various noun dependents, and the other passing its states upwards to a regent noun. Understanding this is important in determining word dependency patterns when dependency might seem to work either way. For example, it may not always be intuitively obvious that in prepositional phrases the noun is a dependent of the preposition, and not the other way round. And knowing about the preposition-verb relationship reveals how dependencies work in phrases like, "right up the hill," where "right" and "hill" are both dependents of "up," "hill" as object, but "right" as adverb.
It may be that this particular feature represents either one of the last or else the last evolutionary modification applied to the kinds of Panlingua used by lower animals to arrive at the kind humans use. Thus an important research question that arises is: Can animals like dolphins, who understand various subject-verb-object combinations, also understand noun-frame constructions in which adjectives modify nouns?
Another feature common to all human languages is the presence of subordinate clauses. As an example, in the sentence, "To steal other people's property is wrong," the clause, "steal other people's property," is a whole separate thought unto itself which acts as the subject of the sentence--in other words a noun. As it turns out, all thoughts or clauses are nouns, and for these to fit into the binary trees of Panlingua it is necessary to treat them as such. The English "to" is just a function word indicating an infinitive type clause coming up, and yet it marks the place of a noun in Panlingua, as do pronouns such as "who" in phrases like, "the monkey who stole the bananas." It is natural that these markers be present because they reflect the underlying structure of language (in other words the familiar form of Mother Panlingua). Thus in order to step down from an upper to a lower clause two Panlingua atoms, or words, are required: a noun to satisfy the "thought is a noun" requirement of the upper clause, and a verb to satisfy the "at the heart of every thought is a verb" requirement of the lower clause.
So this presence of lower clauses in all human languages is a competitor for the honor of "last evolutionary step" in the evolutionary development of Panlingua--that is if Panlingua actually evolved at all.
And this brings up a very good question: Having now gotten some clearer idea of the great complexities of the human linguistic apparatus, is it any longer possible to believe in Darwinian evolution driven by natural selection at all? The devil lurking in all of this is the obvious fact that if language is such a powerful advantage as it is, and if animals like dogs, apes, parrots, and dolphins all possess linguistic capabilities that are so close to human language as to differ only in minor details, and if language can in fact evolve, then obviously at least some of these animals should be using language as we do, but in fact they are not. This fact is so obvious and flies so blatantly in the face of accepted evolutionary theory that it raises fundamental questions and doubts.
But for the moment let us assume that the Darwinian model is correct. Now the biologists tell us that our DNA is 96% identical to that of a chimpanzee. But what is the most significant difference between humans and chimpanzees? Granted chimpanzees are more physically robust, the lengths of the limbs don't match, details of the feet are different, etc., and these physical differences must account for at least part of the difference in DNA. But what does this tell us about language? It tells us that those parts of the human linguistic apparatus that differ from those of a chimpanzee must be accounted for by less than 4% of the genome. And it tells us that all the sequences of human DNA that differ from chimpanzee DNA should be suspected of encoding human linguistic capability. Furthermore, for animals like apes, dogs, parrots, and dolphins--namely those animals that have near-human linguistic abilities--any DNA sequences found in common among them should be suspected of encoding language if they are not also found in other animals.
And if human language is not evolving, and if conscious intelligence and awareness is coupled to language, then anything modern man can do at this time could have been done by the first human beings. In other words, if it were possible to go back in time and snatch an infant from Homo sapiens sapiens of 120,000 years ago and bring him/her up in an American home, then his/her chances of making it through college would probably be just as good as those of anyone else in the modern world. It may well be that the only differences between us and Homo sapiens sapiens of 120,000 years ago are cultural. This might also fly in the face of many of the assumptions of mainstream anthropology.
Unfortunately it is not yet possible for us to analyze the DNA of those first beings who spoke words as men. But if we could, and if we found that even they showed this %4 difference with chimpanzees, as the fact that language has not changed would indicate, then we might be forced to live with another hypothesis about ourselves, namely that because of the large difference of %4 between earliest humans and modern apes, it would appear that man has not evolved slowly and steadily from speechless subhuman into modern man as we once supposed, but that some kind of quantum evolutionary leap has occurred. The question would then be what caused this leap, and whether it would still be possible to believe in the Darwinian model, at least for the case of man.
But if we are willing to carry the correspondence between language and intelligence even further, then yet other mysteries will unfold. This is because if language can be linked to intelligence, then life itself can be linked to intelligence even more. Show me any living thing and I will show you intelligence. Even the most humble bacterium is in some way a master of complex chemical and electrical processes, and perhaps even other manifestations of intelligence of which we are not yet aware. But although there can be no doubt that these processes require an intelligence as yet beyond the bounds of modern science (none of us has ever been able to design and build a working bacterium), most of us would probably not attribute consciousness to such intelligence. But if language and intelligence and life are all inextricably one, then there must exist linguistic processes at work even within the most primitive of life forms. We can see this because linguistic equivelants exist for all the manifestations we are able to observe. For example, "If the environment is too salty, do process x. If the temperature is too high, then do process y." Etc. For some of us it would seem difficult to understand how such a consistent equivelance could exist without there being in fact some real correspondence.
And we will observe that although the "lowest" forms of life exhibit an intelligence greater than our own conscious intelligence, this intelligence is internal rather than external, and subconscious rather than conscious. But as animals express greater and greater physical sophistication there coefficient of external intelligence keeps rising higher and higher as well until at last it culminates in the highly linguistic intelligence of man. And yet despite this external expression of linguistic intelligence, it is impossible to determine whether in fact the cells of the human body are in any way really more intelligent than so many bacteria. It would seem that they are, but how can we really know?
And if language and intelligence and life are all really one, then what has been happening on this planet over the past three billion years must be a kind of "crawling out" of intelligence and life from living organisms. But remember, there are no guarantees that this is as far as it will go. Is man the ultimate linguistic machine? Maybe not. Computers are beginning to handle the intracacies of language even as I write, and it may not be long before they are able to do so as well or better than men. We know that in humans language has reached an evolutionary stalemate. Language has not been evolving over many thousands of years. So what does this mean if we extrapolate the trend? The answer is obvious, and I leave its formulation as an intellectual exercise for the reader.