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Winter symposium Aarhus (DK)

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1 Winter symposium Aarhus (DK) 29 -30.1.2007
Wolfgang Wildgen (University of Bremen) Minimal syntax: Comparison of meaning construction in everyday compounds and compounds in experimental poetry (Paul Celan) Winter symposium Aarhus (DK)

2 Linguistic and neuro-cognitive prerequisites
Part I Linguistic and neuro-cognitive prerequisites

3 Minimal syntax Simple or even minimal languages are a widespread but not well-defined phenomenon. Roughly speaking, the early stages of language acquisition, e.g. at the one- or two-word level, the foreign language competence of beginners, the pidgins and jargons used for special situations (e.g. bilingual encounters), the language of mentally handicapped persons and aphasics are only specimens out of a large field of reduced language usage. Beyond the human species (Homo sapiens sapiens), the linguistic skills of primates and the reconstructed language of Homo neanderthaliensis or even Homo erectus are possible candidates. The research on the language of primates trained by humans shows us that their language capacities have semantic compositionality, i.e. hey are able to put two (or more) meanings together to form a new complex. We call this minimal syntax.

4 Nominal compounds and bare nominal groups as candidates for minimal syntax
If we take a compound as a kind of utterance per se, outside of its possibly complex syntactic and textual context, its constituents are often conceptually simple (e.g. stems/radicals). Although these morphemes may belong to specific syntactic classes of the language in question, this feature has only a reduced significance for the construction of the meaning of the compound, i.e. the syntactic potential of the morpheme is dormant in the morphological construction. In the case of adjective+ noun and similar constructions, the way of semantic composition is comparable to that of compounds.

5 Temporal binding as the basic compositional principle
The binding process is one of temporal synchronization of neural assemblies, which form wholes (gestalts) from parts and one of desynchronization which distinguishes figure and ground. Cf. Engel (2004) This type of analysis concerns primarily the composition in perception, attentiveness and memory, but one may conjecture a parallel process for words (at least those related to perceptual information) and their composition in syntactic constructions. Temporal binding of neurons could be the equivalent of an object-concept. This is shown in slide 5.

6 The basic idea of temporal binding
Parts or features of a visual whole are linked by the synchronic firing of a set of neurons (an assembly) during a short time interval. In the example the parts and features of the cat and those of the woman are bound together by the internal synchrony of the assemblies 1 and 2 and they are distinguished by the asynchrony of these assemblies. From: Engel et alii, 1997: 572

7 Ambiguity and Binding Picture a is ambiguous. If it is seen as one face (and a candle in front of it) the zones (1,2) and (3,4) (see series d) are bound; in the case two faces looking at each other are seen, the zones (1,3) und (2,4) are bound. The binding may be recognized by the synchronic firing rates in the series d versus e. From: Engel, Fries und Singer, 2001: 707

8 Top down effects due to expectation and memory
The remembered object produces higher synchronization at the γ-level (30 to 60 Hz) At the left a Kanitza-triangle At the right a non-Kanitza-triangle If the tested person is instructed to recognize the non-Kanitza-triangle , the synchronization is higher for this configuration, although basic gestalt laws would predict the contrary. From: Hermann, Munk und Engel, 2004:349

9 “ ‘What’ and ‘Where’ are the basic questions to be answered in visual perception. Not only must we recognize what we are looking at, but also we need to know where it is in order to respond appropriately.” Gazzaniga u.a. (1998: 165) If spatial and dynamic aspects on the pathway “Where” are considered, primitive types of processes are combined with simply bound predicates and dynamic gestalts corresponding to what pops up in sentences must be implemented in the brain.

10 Restrictions on compositionality due to temporal binding
„The different firing rates that can be easily discriminated on a background of inherent noise and accidental synchronies may set a low limit to the number of objects that can be simultaneously bound.” Teisman (1999: 108) This restriction is even more dramatic in the case of process-schemata, as the results of catastrophe theory show. These already maximally complex processes exemplify the schemata for exchange (giving) and instrumental action. They contain as subfields the schemata of capture, emission, of beginning, end and stable existence.

11 List of archetypes with one to three attractors
Existing in time and space (one place) Coexistence 8n time and space (two place) Localistic relations: entering, leaving, being in (one place), changing from A to B (two place) changing from A to C via B (three place and further) Affecting (A affects/influences/touches/catches/... B) (two place) Effecting (A ejects/emits/creates/… B) (two place) Instrumentality (A affects C with the instrument B) (three place) Transfer (A gives C to B / B receives C from A) (three place) Causation (A causes C to affect/effect B) (three place)

12 Nonce-compounds in German
One can distinguish three major classes (cf. wildgen, 1982c): Symmetric (almost) compounds: Mann- Frau (,,man-woman") Dichterkomponist (,,poet-composer") Kardinal-Ökonom (,,cardinal-economist") Asymmetric compounds (the vast majority). As a general tendency one can say: generalizing (classificatory) constituents rather stand at the right, evaluative constituents at the left. Historically the first may be become suffixes the latter prefixes: Compounds with constituents containing one or two verbal stems: Arbeits-Begräbnis ("working burial") Horch-Angriff ("listening-attack") Anzapf-Versuch ("attempt to tap") Kontroll-Zwänge ("control restraint")

13 Nominal compounds in poetic language (Paul Celan)
Part II Nominal compounds in poetic language (Paul Celan)

14 The poet Paul Celan (his family name was Anschel) was born in Czernowitz (Bukowina) in He went to Paris in 1938 to study medicine but returned to Czernowitz in He stayed in Rumania until 1947 when he fled to Vienna and 1948 came to Paris to study German Linguistics and Literature. In 1959 he became lecturer (lecteur) of German at the École Normal Supérieure (ENS) in Paris. After 1961 he had to be treated in different psychiatric clinics. He committed suicide in Paris 1971.

15 Compounds in experimental poetry: analysis of some compounds in poems by Paul Celan (1920-1971)
Titles of collections: quantity Mohn und Gedächtnis (1952) 56 poems Von Schwelle zu Schwelle (1955) 47 " Sprachgitter (1959) 31 " Die Niemandsrose (1963) 53 " Atemwende (1967) 80 " Fadensonnen (1968) " Lichtzwang (1970) 81 " Schneepart (1971) 70 " Lichtgehöft (1976) 50 "

16 Variants of names for collections
The collection at left was finally named: Atemwende, the one at the right: Fadensonne.

17 Other compounds in the Celan corpus
Sprachwaage(NR) : language-weighing machine Sprachtürme (AW) : language-towers Sprachnebel (LZ) : language-mist/fog and with Wort (word): Worthöhlen (LZ) : word-caves Wortwaage (NR) : word-weighing machine Wortspur (AW) : word-track/trace Wordwand AW) : word-wall Wortsand (NR) : word-sand Wortwege (NP) : word-lanes Wortlitze (SP) : word-braid Wortschatten (SP) : word-shadow

18 Nonce-compounds as minimal utterances in titles of poem books by Paul Celan
Sprachgitter : SG (language−grid/fence) Niemandsrose : NR (nobody−rose) Atemwende : AW (breath(ing) / −turn / turnabout/reversal) Fadensonnen : FS (thread/fiber/wire−suns) Lichtzwang : LZ (light / candle−compulsion/ necessity/restraint) Schneepart : SP (snow−part) Zeitgehöft : ZG (time−group of farm buildings)

19 Choice of archetypes as fillers of the relational slot of a nominal compound
The construction may exploit generalized relational schemata (cf. section 3) and thus elaborate the basic binding structure (cf. section 2) If one simply takes the list of semantic archetypes with one or two attractors (cf. section 3), one obtains the following relational readings: a fence/grid is/coexists with language/linguistic phenomena a fence/grid becomes language/ a linguistic phenomenon a fence/grid ends/starts language language goes through a fence/grid a fence/grid captures language a fence/grid generates language The compound is compatible with more than one of these; the delimiting case (enter/start) is probably the most significant choice.

20 Distribution of heavy/central and restrictive/peripheral constituents
heavy constituent restrictive constituent Sprachgitter Sprache (language) Gitter (fence) Niemandsrose Rose (rose) Niemand (nobody) Atemwende Atem (breath) Wende (reversal) Fadensonnen Sonne (sun) Faden (thread) Lichtzwang Licht Zwang (compulsion) Scheepart Schnee Part (part) Zeitgehöft Zeit Gehöft (group of farm-buildings)

21 Proliferation of the type of nonce compound from the titles to the poems
In the collection: Atemwende we find: Atemseil (breath-rope) Atemkristall (breath-crystal) Steinatem (stone-breath) In the other collections similar compounds based on breath show up: Niemandsrose : Atembau (breath-fabric) Atemmünze (breath-coin/cash) Schneepart : Atemnot (shortage of breath) The continuous breadth (standing for life/soul) is broken down to limited forms or is lacking (Atemnot)

22 Further principles Key words of the author, which are statistically prominent (high recurrence) and which sketch the semantic frame of the poetry in question; Simple binary (rarely tertiary) binding patterns, which may be predicted using the hierarchy of semantic archetypes. Some inherent dynamic features of the constituents refer to relations/events and actions: relations :– part (in Schneepart), assembly of farm buildings (Gehöft) – thread (Faden) as opposed to disk (Scheibe) – negation, nobody (niemand) barriers: – fence (´Gitter) antagonistic actions: reversal (Wende), compulsion (Zwang)

23 Analysis of two poems by Celan
Aspen Tree, your leaves glance white into the dark. My mother's hair was never white. Dandelion, so green is the Ukraine. My yellow-haired mother did not come home. Rain cloud, above the well do you hover? My quiet mother weeps for everyone. Round star, you wind the golden loop. My mother's heart was ripped by lead. Oaken door, who lifted you off your hinges? My gentle mother cannot return. The poem Aspen Tree (cf.

24 The poem has five strophes and each one begins with a minimal utterance, either a compound or a noun phrase: Aspen tree (Espenbaum) Dandelion (Löwenzahn = lion tooth) Rain cloud (Regenwolke) Round star (Runder Stern) Oaken door (Eichne Tür) The first line is always completed by a sentence, two of them being questions. The second verse of each strophe (stanza) has “my mother” as recurrent topic.

25 Todesfuge (fugue of death): Beginning of the poem: 1952
Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night drink it and drink it Weiße Milch Sprachgitter (language grid): Beginning of the poem: 1959 Augenrund zwischen den Stäben. Flimmertier Lid rudert nach oben, gibt einen Blick frei. Eye-round Cilium-animal

26 Analysis of the compounds
In the new poems (after Celan’s move to Paris), the compounds are nonce compounds and in general enigmatic: “Todesfuge” (Todestango) refers to a piece of music (Fuge/Tango/ …) and associates it with death. Historically one may reconstruct a coexistence (or precedence) in time of music playing and killing in the concentration camp; but in general the semantic relation remains one of association. “Eye-round” is like a nonce transformation of “round eye” with an inversion of word order. Cilium-animal could be a real animal, but the immediately following “Lid” (lid) shows that the compound describes metaphorically a body part following the schema: body parts are animals. In general very basic types of association like binding processes are used to give meaning to the compounds.

27 Some conclusions Minimal utterance structure is something underlying not only the grammar of every speech-event, showing up in conversation, in answering questions, in understanding disrupted speech, etc. It also constitutes a cognitive plateau, on which many semiotic processes stand in linguistic, gestured and visual communication. The complexities of lexical knowledge and the intricate difficulties of syntax are like supplementary layers which often hide the basic structures ( as the associative cortex hides the brain stem). In innovative poetic communication this basic plateau shows up very clearly. There are two pathways one may chose to elaborate this plateau:

28 Augment and make the message more complex by using a more elaborated lexicon (beyond everybody’s active lexicon of ca. 10,000 items). Introduce new or mostly unknown words. Deconstruct ritualized complicated patterns and build up new, yet unusual linguistic patterns. This technique makes the construction of meaning less determined and leaves more choices of interpretation to the audience. It is clear that in order to guarantee some kind of communication between writer and audience, the new systems must contain lawful (predictable) patterns, which can be learned quickly by an experienced audience. Construct a deeper architecture of topics organized in clauses, simple and complex sentences; descriptive, narrative and argumentative chains. These techniques are less adequate in the case of poetry. Add so called poetic super-patterns, such as rime and enforced rhythms (meter). If these have no effect on the construction of meaning they remain decorative.

29 Bibliography Ballmer, Thomas T. and Wolfgang Wildgen (eds.), Process Linguistics. Exploring the Processual Aspects of Language and Language Use, and the Methods of their Description, Niemeyer, Tübingen. Celan, Paul, Gesammelte Werke in fünf Bänden. Dritter Band. Gedichte III. Prosa. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Celan, Paul, Mohn und Gedächtnis. Vorstufen-Textgenese-Endfassung (bearbeitet von Heino Schull unter Mitarbeit von Christiane Braun), Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main. Nielsen, Karsten Hoidfelt and Herald Pors, Index zur Lyrik Celans, Fink, München. Pors, Harald, Rückläufiges Wortregister zur Lyrik Paul Celans, Fink, München. Fleischer, Michael, Nomenhäufigkeitsverteilungslisten zur Lyrik von Paul Celan. Statistik der Substantive und ihrer Komposita, Verlag: Die Blaue Eule, Essen.

30 Gazzaniga, Michael S. , Richard B. Ivry and George R. Mangun, 1998
Gazzaniga, Michael S., Richard B. Ivry and George R. Mangun, Cognitive Neuroscience. The Biology of the Mind, Norton, New York. Gil, David, 2006a. Early Human Language was Isolating-Monocategorical-Associational, cf. Wildgen, Wolfgang, 1982a. Catastrophe Theoretic Semantics. An Elaboration and Application of René Thom's Theory, Reihe: Pragmatics and Beyond: III, 5, Benjamins, Amsterdam. Wildgen, Wolfgang, 1982b. Makroprozesse bei der Verwendung nominaler ad hoc-Komposita im Deut­schen, in: Deutsche Sprache, 3: Wildgen, Wolfgang, 1982c. Zur Dynamik lokaler Kompositionsprozesse. Am Beispiel nominaler ad hoc-Komposita im Deutschen, in: Folia Linguistica, 16: Wildgen, Wolfgang, Archetypensemantik. Grundlagen für eine dynamische Seman­tik auf der Basis der Katastrophentheorie, Reihe: Methoden und Ergebnisse der Sprach­wissenschaft, Narr, Tübingen. Wildgen, Wolfgang, Dynamic Aspects of Nominal Composition, in: Ballmer und Wildgen, 1987:

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