Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Language without verbs

Is it possible? can anyone find an example or try to find a way themselves? I know mrs king used it as an example in TOK and someone called her on it, but is it possible?


Wolf Man Jack said...

You not a language without verbs. Old English such a language because of how different the structure, but it impossible without verbs.
It still understandable, but hard. Problems without verbs. Everything incomplete sentances.
Ugh. Horrible.

Peter K. said...

what if the language were structured totally differantly, so you didn't have verbs, or nouns, and it was totally different. Although it does not fit w/ our typical idea of scentence structure, i think if we did not have that perception bias, we could maybe think of a way.

On a side note, i was able to understand wolf perfectly. but it may be because i had verbs i could imply.

Mike Phamalama said...

I don't know if this counts, but sign language is a language without spoken verbs? If that does not count, then can primitive sign language and limited talking count? (ie. pointing and grunting)

thc said...

I would say no becasue when I looked at Wolf's post, I could understand it only if I inserted verbs into where they should have been. Unless you are telepathic, I don't believe that you can have a language without verbs.

Jon Mohr said...

Would an African click language have verbs?

Vvyynn said...

Language without verbs possible. Sign language one, as African Click language maybe? Also, implied verbs not spoken, they implied. Thus it good. Phamalama also good point, primitive sign language good as well. That all for Vvinni. Bye.

Big E said...

I would like to point out that the only reason that these guys are understandble speaking without verbs is because they are only not using one verb: to be. Now, if we were to take sentences with other verbs, such as "See spot. See spot run. Run spot Run" it becomes "Spot. Spot. Spot" Or if you're anal and count spot as a verb it just becomes ".."(Of course I know spot wasn't used as a verb in those sentences, I was just joking) Regardless, I will give you another example of how language doesn't work without verbs.
This is the firts paragraph of the Wikipedia featured article for today:
"Operation Ten-Go (Kyūjitai: 天號作戰, Shinjitai: 天号作戦 ten-gō sakusen), also referred to as Ten-ichi-go (meaning Operation Heaven One) was the last major Japanese naval operation in the Pacific campaign of World War II. In April 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato, the largest battleship in the world, along with nine other Japanese warships, embarked from Japan on a deliberate suicide attack upon Allied forces engaged in the Battle of Okinawa. The Japanese force was attacked, stopped, and almost completely destroyed by U.S. carrier-borne aircraft before reaching Okinawa. Yamato and five other Japanese warships were sunk."
This is it wihthout verbs:
"Operation Ten-Go (Kyūjitai: 天號作戰, Shinjitai: 天号作戦 ten-gō sakusen), also as Ten-ichi-go (Operation Heaven One)the last major Japanese naval operation in the Pacific campaign of World War II. In April 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato, the largest battleship in the world, along with nine other Japanese warships, from Japan on a deliberate upon Allied forces in the Battle of Okinawa. The Japanese force and almost completely by U.S. carrier-borne aircraft before
Okinawa. Yamato and five other Japanese warships.

It obviously doesn't make too much sense.
Also, ASL has verbs. Peroid. Of course they are not spoken, because none of the language is spoken. But that has no effect on the fact that sign language does have verbs.
Also, I'm sure African click languages have verbs. Just because their phonetics are completley different from ours doesn't mean that they don't have the same needs of communication.
A True language with generative grammar cannot exist without verbs. Verbs are necesary to make complete thoughts. Otherwise you'd be just like genie(mentioned in another article) you could relate nouns to the corresponding objects, but do no more than that.
On a related note, there is a branch of people who propose a language called E-Prime. This is english without the verb "to be". This basicaly eliminates the passive voice, therfore being more concise.

Peter K. said...

Here's the main problem i see with this argument for the nececity of verbs, all of the verbless speech is jibberish, because it is in english. English does require verbs, but how can we know that it is impossible to have a language like that?

Big E said...

Because there it's just impossible. Verbs are the way in which we relate what nouns are doing. If we can only list and describe nouns, then it is impossible for the speaker to denote what the hell the nouns are doing. For instance without verbs it is impossible to portray the thought "The man ran to the fence and climbed it". The best you could do is "Man up fence". If someone came up to you out of context and said that, there no way that you could definitvly get "The man ran to the fence and climbed up it". It is not only hard, it would be impossible. There is no way to have a generative grammar without verbs. Technicaly speaking, you could have a list of nouns and ajectives, but since it does not have generative grammar it wouldn't be a language, it would just be a code.
There cannot be language without verbs!

Vvyynn said...

O, spelling and capitalization, what ever happened to the summers we spent by the docks?

I'm sticking by my claim that language can exist without verbs. Ooh! Idea! Pictures. Pictures are a perfect form of language, and the don't use verbs because...they can't. They can show a verb, however the question did not imply any restrictions to showing verbs. Thus, pictures are a form of language without verbs. And, Big E, you are correct. African Click Language does not count. Well, I'm going to go continue my march through the blog commenting on anything and everything.

a casnellie said...

I think that we need to figure out what we're defining language as. I personally completely disagree with the idea that pictures are a form of language. If pictures can be language, what can't be language? I define language as a system with vocabulary and a set of grammatical rules. I believe that pictures lack the structure/rules/grammar that is an absolute necessity of language.

I also think biology strongly supports the idea that pictures aren’t language. There is a lot of strong evidence showing that Wernicke’s area of the brain is used for language comprehension, as when this area of the brain is damaged, a person’s ability to understand language is often severely impaired or lost (though the actual ability to speak isn’t – the words are just nonsense and meaningless). When using language, Wernicke’s area is active. When looking at pictures, it isn’t (shown through CAT scans, MRIs, etc). Pictures and language are two entirely different forms of information that the brain processes in entirely different ways, thus verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. really aren’t even applicable in pictures. We look at a picture and often describe/memorize/analyze it using language, but the actual picture isn’t language.

Anyways. I don’t think that a language can exist without verbs. I just don’t believe that it’s truly language. By eliminating verbs you eliminate adverbs and often times the need for articles. You can only describe nouns in a language without verbs. I think that a language without verbs would, often times, defeat the purpose of having language. Some evolutionists believe that one reason language came about is because it gives the ability to both plan ahead and recall the past. This is largely done through verb conjugation.

By the way, verbs being a necessity in language passes all three of the truth tests for me. I don’t know if that’s just me though.

Merry_Dip_Salad_Bunny said...

me no verbs. me caveman. you verbs? only nouns. me only nouns.

Well we could use different conjugations of verbs without their infinitives or certain forms that label them verbs; we could use adverbs if that would work?

Big E said...

No! You can't just go about by weaseling the definition of "Verb" to your desire. The world has come up with a definition for langauge, and a definition of verb, and the first cannot exist without the latter. Pictures are not a Langauge. Not all communication involves language. Communication without generative grammar does not use a language. Communication can exist without verbs, a language can't. ASL is a language, scherades is not. Chinese caligraphy is a language, pictures are not. Language is what we use to function. Cranium is a mildy amusing board game.

Big E said...

Also, adverbs are anything that modify verbs or adjectives, so technicaly speaking you would have adverbs, just not ones that modify verbs.

Vvyynn said...

Cranium is a very amusing board game. I'm currently undefeated. Anyhoo, I think I see where your comming from, E, and I guess I could accept that. However, for me a language is something we use to communicate, thus since pictures are a form of communication, pictures can be counted as language. I'd rant on about this, but I think it's really just an interpretive thing, and I don't feel like pushing it.

Cranium Rocks!

Peter K. said...

Ok, hypothetical situation:

What if a language were created that had a word for every possible combination of verbs and nouns. This would be a language, and it would not have verbs, or nouns for that matter. I think this is possible, even though it's not plausible.

Also, there have been many examples of Phrases that don't work if you simply drop the verbs, but i would challenge anyone to give me a phrase that i cant drop the verbs from, and at least get across the same message roughly. (i.e. "The man ran to the fence and climbed it" can become "man fast to fence, up and over." Although it's rough, it does create the same mental image, and thus it can be used for communication.)

Vvyynn said...

Yes. I think this works, however to go against everything else I've said here, I'm going to disagree, because I want to write.
Your example of the language would not work, because the language still uses verbs, they are just in a different form.

Anyhoo, Pictures. Click Click Shoot.

Peter K. said...

no verbs, see!
man: noun
fast: adjective
to: preposition
the: article
fence: noun
up: preposition
and: conjunction
over: preposition

these aren't verbs. thus, language w/o verbs!

a casnellie said...

Now put those words together in a coherent sentence. That's language.

Peter K. said...

Coherent: "Sticking together; cohering"
in other words, can it be understood? yes it can? just because it is not gramatically correct by our narrow minded english standards, doesn't mean it's not language. And it's obvious that proper english needs verbs, that's not what we're arguing. Oh, and for the hell of it:

"Now you: those words, together, in a coherent sentence. That language" haha

a casnellie said...

No, seriously. Put those words together. I've tried and I can't really do it justice. Maybe I'm just not a super word problem solver.

"Now you: those words, together, in a coherent sentence. That language" I can only get meaning out of that when I, by habit and in my head (and involuntarily), insert verbs into that sentence. When I really stop to examine the sentence, it is meaningless. If you gave that sentence to someone who was just learning the English language (but still had those vocab words), I bet it wouldn’t make too much sense as they would not have the previous knowledge of English verbs to use.

It's kind of like that thing that says the human brain can recognize most words as long as the first and last letters are correct (Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm). We can only recognize those words because we have seen them previously and, subconsciously, we can decipher the words. If I had never seen those words, however, I probably wouldn't have been able to read that. I believe that the same applies to the "Now you: those words..." thing. I can make sense of it because I have a lot of previous knowledge and practice in using verbs.

Big E said...

V's first comment: I'm sorry, but language is just not any form of communication. Although that may be used (incorrectly) is some cases in the common idiom, a language is defined as must being able to have a generative grammar.

Peter: Thats a form of conjugation. Verbs would still be present. Also, out of context, we would not really know what's going on with the man and the fence. It is not only rough, it is impossible to decisvley deduce what the sentence is actually trying to say. Was the man driving or walking quickly? Did the man climb or jump? Of course if we give you a sentence you can modify it to "sorta" make sense, but out of context this simply wouldn't work.
Peter again: I've already shown that just because some meaning can be deduced out of it doesn't make it a "language". In case you missed:
Communication is not necesarily, and does not necesarily include, Language.
Also: I assume that when you say "narrow minded english standards" that you mean "Narrow minded standards of every language ever used ever in the history of man."
Alysha - I couldn't have said it better myself. Gratzi.

Vvyynn said...

Okay. Let me catch my mind. There we go, it was in my back pocket all along. Oh, that cvrazy mind.

So what are we writing about? Language? Verbs? Right.

I think that all language is is taking words, and applying meaning to them. Thus, without a....gah I give up. I'm tired of arguing, and this'll only create more holes. You win, Big E. This doesn't me I'll cease my quirky introjections though. Oh, No. They will live on!

lisaking said...

I just have to jump in and say that I LOVE this thread. You are already getting at the heart of the problems of knoweledge that surround language as a way of knowing.

Just to add to the fun, what is it that separates human language from animal language? Is it syntax, or is it the ability to communicate abstract thoughts? And if it is the latter, does that validate Vinny's hypothesis that pictures can, indeed, be language?

Vvyynn said...

I would say that there is nothing different between our language and animals language. Let me explain before you dig into my claim, Big E. Simply because we see animals as communicating in a series of barks, yelps, grunts, meows, does not mean they aren't speaking to eachother. Remember how little of the visual spectrum we see? Well, and please correct me if I'm wrong, we hear about the same of the "Sound Spectrum" if you will. It has been proven that elephants emit a low frequency sound, that the human ear cannot pick up. Who are we to say that they are not speaking, with or without verbs? It is only our egotistical human mind that causes us to think that animals do not have a language. If animals did not have language, then we wouldn't have language (because I hate to burst your bubble, but we're animals). I hope I've made my point elloquent.
Thus...I have nothing more to add to my picture argument. I believe it, others don't, get used to it.

Big E said...

Well, if you allow me to beat the beaten dead horse further.
What separates Human language from that of the animals is generative grammar. As we all know, pictures can be used to portray abstract thought, even more so than language. But whats even more apparent, I think, it that there is no end to the number of ways the same message could be said through different pictures, as well as no end to the number of different interpretations drawn from the same picture. In this way A language is like a function. That is to say that in a langauge (this is with generative grammar here, as it is a requirement for langauge) there is generally a one to one correalation between the Domain (the thought to be expressed) and the Range (the way the thought is to be expressed). Now you will all argue that there are several sentences that can be interpreted several ways, as well as several different way to say the ame thing. However, for all intents and purposes, and when comparing it to other forms of communications, I think my analogy passes. So there it is. Generative grammar. Generative grammar. For goodness sake will someone please listen to me when I say generative grammar!

Aqua said...

YES. You can have an expressive language without verbs.

Verbs describe the state of a noun. This makes them similar to an adjective.

For example:
A. The dog runs.
B. The running dog.

These both convey a similar idea.

A. The dog is fast.
B. The fast dog.

The verb and adjective forms are almost interchangeable.

The main difference is that in the verb form (A), the dog is a given, and it is asserted as new information that the dog is in the act of running.

In the adjective form (B), the running dog is the given, and no new information is asserted.

If a hypothetical language were to have the ability to indicate what information is new, through another grammatical mechanism, then verbs would be wholly unnecessary.

eh-tonton said...

Hi everybody, hi Peter.

I remember that I saw an interview (video or text, this I don't remember) of Paul Fromer, the father of the con-lang "Na'vi" for James Cameron's movie Avatar, in wich Dr. Fromer mentions about a linguist, a woman, american if my memory is good, who invented a spoken language without verbs.

Cause here we are: Peter's question from the beginning was not "can we remove verbs from English?" It was "would it be possible to have a language without verbs? and is there any?"

Tell me if I'm wrong Peter.

I'll try to find the name of this linguist (youtube-> interview Paul Frommer).


eh-tonton said...

And here it is:


linuxlover55 said...

I think it could be done. I read a Star Trek book where these aliens had a language without verbs. When the Universal Translator translated it, it was a lot to do with feelings such as "compliance," when ordered to do some thing, "feeling of remorse," as opposed to "I am sad," etc. It was very interesting.

Sample: "Query: not-you cause of death to Horr-Sav-Frerin?"
"Response: Not-I cause of death to Horr-Sav-Frerin. Cause of death: accident. Signs of innocence in all."

Of course, no actual texts of the language were provided, just the translations. But hopefully this is interesting. And Kelen looks interesting, eh-tonton. Good example.

Trent Pehrson said...

Jack and Jill in a previous hill ascent for the purpose of water procurement.
Jack in a previous fall with a resultant coronal break, and Jill in a subsequent analogous tumble.