That men and women are the same is nonsense, of course, and the attempt to introduce a legal statute that declared that
they are the same was interrupted more than 100 years ago in French parliament by a loud vive la difference.
Gender equality is not a question of men and women being the same, but that they have equal rights.
The question of how people may communicate with one another, be they of different age, different social rank, different gender,
different ethnic affiliation, is a question of specific culture particularities. Upon wanting to be accepted as a
member of another ethnic, social, or national community, one thereby declares ones preparedness to accept its
culture specific particularities in mutual personal communication.
It is always important to stress in this connection, that shariah is not Islamic law, but caliphatic law,
and that there are furthermore several versions of shariah, just as that any legal statutes of a state,
whether caliphate or other, can be, and is indeed, frequently revised. It is just like the Codex Justinianus,
which is not Christian law, but a Byzantine code of law. Forcing an early mediaeval code of law upon a
modern social community means retrograding the socio-economic development of that community to the
corresponding mediaeval phase of underdevelopment.
|Date:|| ||17 June 2018|
|To:|| ||Facebook/ The Economist|
|Subject:|| ||Some thoughts on the crisis of liberalismand how to fix it|
Liberalism to me is the principle of social, economic, and political freedom,
that basically only has one limitation: the freedom of the one should not transgress
upon the freedom of the other. As the latter condition is not quite unambivalent,
this leaves considerable space for interpretation.
To my mind, however, the article does not provide a very convincing argument for
the currently increasing success of populism. This may, believe it or not,
lie in the widespread tendency towards rationalism in society.
In the non-human animal world, the social structure of a community is based on
instincts of each individual. Human beings differ from all other animals in that
they are capable of suppressing their instincts, which could lead to total chaos.
This was the anthropological crisis, as a result of which Homo sapiens almost died out.
However, one instinct amongst the humans was that they believed that everything
around them had its own soul or spirit. When something goes wrong,
the human thought that he did something wrong that angered the spirits.
And thus, the submission to one's instincts was replaced by a submission to
what one believed the spirits wanted. The social-organisatorial function of
instincts was replaced by belief-based ethical principles.
This, furthermore, had the advantage that, in parallel with ever more advanced
socio-economic developement (old stone-, new stone-, metal age, early civilization, etc.),
the ethical principles, be they religious, legal, or other developed correspondingly.
Now we come to our present times, in which an increasing tendency towards what each one
believes to be "rational" is suppressing general submission to formal ethical rules,
be they religious, legal, or other. One believes to know everything better.
I like to call this the second anthropological crisis, and to be honest,
I am not so sure how likely it is, that humanity will overcome this one as
successfully as it did the first one.
If not, humanity will come to its end not because of global climate warming or
spreading of an incurable disease, or whatever else, but simply because we will
no longer be capable of retaining social peace in our communities.
|Date:|| ||29 May 2018|
|To:|| ||Facebook/ Waruno Mahdi|
|Subject:|| ||The Spiderman of Paris|
Refugees are getting ever more problems, getting officially accepted in Europe or the US.
This is actually very strange, because the actual interests of the latter is in accepting and quickly
helping the refugees to integrate, learn the language and get a job as fast as possible,
i.e. with the least bit of burocracy as possible.
Why? because useless do-no-goods stay at home, do not have the guts and energy to dare go on a
long and dangerous journey over half the continent and/or across the sea on overcrowded capsizing boats.
Those who do get here are courageous talented people who any employer would just love to have.
Once in a while, they even end up as public heroes, like Mamoudou Gassama from Mali,
who became the spiderman of Paris, as I read in my daily paper
For those of you who do not understand German, see here:
|Date:|| ||28 April 2018|
|To:|| ||TIME Magazine <email@example.com>|
|Subject:|| ||David Kirkpatricks The Facebook Defect (TIME [Europe], April 23, 2018, pp. 16-27)|
For a month now I have been deeply amused by the entire public and medial hullabaloo around Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
All those horror stories about IT efforts to control the minds and missuse personal data.
Could somebody please whisper into their ears, that such efforts already existed since commercial advertisements appeared
in the print media in the 1840s. And when one refers to efforts to secretly control the minds, then already in the late 1950s,
research was being made to test ultra-short film commercials to be shown in cinemas before the main film,
that the viewer would not consciously notice, but that would nevertheless subconsciously enter his mind.
Meanwhile, online social media such as Facebook, but also Twitter, Mypace, etc. are operating.
Significant is that the service they provide is gratis. You do not have to pay to participate,
because all the costs are covered by commercials. So by participating for free, one thereby agrees to the commercials.
Furthermore, by participating in such a medium one automatically discloses one's opinion and tastes,
no matter whether that medium is called "Facebook" or other. In fact, this was already so in public email lists.
|Date:|| ||23 August 2017|
|To:|| ||FaceBook / Waruno Mahdi (August 23 at 12 pm)|
|Subject:|| ||Monkey selfie photographer says he's broke,
(the Guardian, 12 July 2017)|
> A US appeals court has debated whether or not a monkey can own the copyright to
> a selfie, while the photographer whose camera captured the famous image watched . . .
How stupid can some people with a degree in law get, to think that a monkey or any other (non-human) animal has "rights"?
Do hens have property rights on their eggs?, or sheep on their wool? A hen couldn't sell its eggs to buy fodder,
nor could a sheep cut and sell its own wool. And this monkey too needed a human to provide a camera and train it
to snap a shot just like an elephant or tiger is trained in a circus to do some tricks. The money the audience pays
to watch does not become property of the elephant or tiger.
A* F* Comment (August 23, 16:## pm):
> In my point of view, the egg belongs only to the hen and to nobody else!
> Same with wool, meat, skin/ leather. Its not property rights of humans,
> its stolen by humans.
Reply (August 24, 11:50 a.m.):
Dear A*, I understand and respect your point of view. But as an anthropologist I know why humans are fundamentally
distinct from non-human animals. The legal concept of property is a human intellectual construct that did not
even exist amongst humans in the palaeolithic, let alone amongst non-human animals.
Note also that taking away eggs, and even eating meat, is not a crime against nature. Many non-human animals eat
or steal eggs, and all carnivorous animals eat meat. Human beings are omnivorous, meaning they eat food of various origin,
including animal meat, and that since the very earliest existence of human beings.
The reason why vegetarianism arose is the development of industrial production of meat (and eggs), in which the
animals are maltraeted in a very cruel manner. I am also very much against that kind of animal husbandry,
which is why I understand the vegetarians. But I don't agree in their method, because the problem is a political one,
and the right way to fight it is legal prohibition of industrial-style holding and killing of animals.
|Date:|| ||29 April 2017|
|To:|| ||FaceBook / Andy Hsiu (4/28/2017)|
|Subject:|| ||Hold on tight |
> How Western civilisation could collapse.
One basic errror is considering industrialization to have been a feature of Western civilisation
(whatever that might be). The same rise of middle class culture not only happens wherever the
economy industrialises, it is also a condition for it. The main danger for the further development
of middle class culture is when conditions of free enterprise (and competition) are overturned by
monopolisation and cartels (i.e. when anti-trust legislation fails).
|Date:|| ||4 April 2017|
|To:|| ||FaceBook / Aboeprijadi Santoso|
|Subject:|| ||Zakir Naiks Men Paid Rs. 50,000 Each To Get Hundreds To Convert To Islam,|
Says Anti-Terrorism Squad
Religious conviction is a matter between the believer and God. So, somebody who pays money to let someone convert thinks
he can deceive God. He thereby demonstrates that he himself is a godless kaffir! (PS. aka infidel)
|Date:|| ||2 March 2017|
|To:|| ||FaceBook / Indonesian-English Prose, Poetry and Film|
|Subject:|| ||Arab idol 2017 Moslems|
One thing is still always bothering me about Shariah: Why do people think it is Islamic law?
It didn't exist yet when Mohammad lived, It was only introduced as a legal codex in the Caliphats,
and was constantly revised from one Caliphat to the other. It was thus a Caliphatic law,
and is not Islamic law in any way more than that for example the Codex Justinianus is Christian law,
or that the laws of Ashoka was Buddhist law.
|Date:|| ||15 July 2016|
|To:|| ||FaceBook / David Gil|
|Subject:|| ||true Moslems (June 1516, 2016)|
Jun 15, 2016 4:06pm'
Every religion has it's historical socio-political background, and develops along with changes
in the socio-political structure of the community, albeit, unfortunately very much too slowly.
There were early phases of development, when homo- and/or trans-sexuality was even considered
as something holy, and shamans of many ethnic groups in various parts of the world were so,
including some balian in Kalimantan and bissu of the Buginese. In later phases, it was the
other way round, and even under secular law in industrial countries of the West, homosexuality
remained a crime till relatively late in the 20th century. Hence homophobia in our times indeed
reflects a kind of retrogressive fundamentalism, Islamiic, Christian, or whatever else.
It is for this reason, that I don't like the terms liberal Moslem or "moderate Moslem.
For me they are the normal modern Moslems of our times. It is those fundamentalists,
who are not true Moslems.. BTW., I'm not a Moslem, and never was one.
Jun 16, 2016 12:13pm
> They're all Muslim, by definition. You can't choose your favourite "nice" Muslims and say
> that they're Muslims while all the others aren't.'
Jun 16, 2016 12:52pm'
What I meant by true Moslems (ditto Christians, etc.) are those who are moving along with the times,
i.e. with modern socio economic development. Fundamentalists (of any religion) are retrograde, and ultimately
a loss for their own religious community.
Jun 16, 2016 12:57pm
> Well I also like the ones that move along more than the ones who are retrograde and fundamentalist.
> But I wouldn't call the ones that I like the "true" Muslims (or Christians or whatever).'
Jun 16, 2016 1:23pm'
It's not about whether one may like them or not. The success of a community in an ever changing world
is tied with it's capacity to keep up with economic development. You can't industrialise without modern expertise
and education, or by conservation of a medieval or even more primeval social structure. Religion provides the
ethical basis of a given community, so that fundamentalism forces a retrograde system of ethics, thus undermining
the process I referred to above. For me, that form of a religion, which does provide the ethical basis for needs
of the community in its efforts to keep abreast with the others, is the contemporaneously true form,
that being the actual function of religion. BTW, I am glad to observe, that I am apparently in agreement with the
policies of catholic Pope Francis.
|Date:|| ||17 May 2015|
|To:|| ||FaceBook / Paul Sidwell|
|Subject:|| ||Re: Decline of Ape Language Research (May 16, 2015, 6:48 pm )|
It's funny how some experts insist in using different terms for human "language" and animal "signalisation", but then speak of machine "language". Their main criterion is whether one can freely combine words into sentences (human & machine language) or cannot (animal signalisation). But even leaving aside whether doplphins can speak in sentences, the principle difference is to my mind that there is a distinct tit-for-tat correspondence between expression and meaning in animal as well as machine communication, but not in human. In the latter we have synonyms, homonyms, figurative speech, etc., all not possible in either animal signalisation or machine "language". The only particularity in signalisation of advanced animals (not only apes but even several bird species) is that one part of their vocabulary is inborn (instinctive), and the other part learned. This latter part of the vocabulary may difffer from one community to another, so that the "language" of some birds, apes, a.o. have dialects.
|Date:|| ||24 Nov. 2012|
|To:|| ||Gelora45 & wahana-news (mailing lists)|
|Subject:|| ||A*****: Iwa & Waruno Mahdi -The enemy is Islam: ..... (Nov 23, 2012, 7:55 pm )|
When you ran amok on Gelora45 on November 8 (message-## 114031 and 114034)
I decided I'd not excite you any further. I hoped, you perhaps had friends
or a partner nearby who might help you. But this seems either not to be the
case, or you proved impervious to their wellmeant efforts.
Nevertheless, I did not comment on your further antiislamic fits because
that obviously would not help either, while your "arguments" were just as
apparently not reaching any Islamic readers of the list either. But that
seems only to have riled you even more, so that you now even felt
necessitated to directly address me again by name in the subject text.
So I must apparently convince you once and for all, that you do not have
the slightest inkling of a chance to convince me that you are right.
As I already said before, I am not a Muslim, but an atheist. However,
on the one hand, as a traditional linguist, I am an anthropologist who
knows why human society has and needs religion, and on the other hand I
had the good fortune to receive a civil education that included learning
to respect people of other ethnic and religious identities.
Let me therefore explain to you why your "arguments" are quite worthless,
not because I hope you would understand, but just to demonstrate how
absolutely pointless it is to try to convince me of the contrary.
(1) With concrete regard to Islam, your "arguments" are unprofessional
and demonstrate that you have no knowldge at all about the subject.
On the one hand you cite some not more closely identified "hadith" as
source, apparently either not knowing from which hadith it is, or even
not knowing that there are several. Furthermore. not all hadiths are
canonic, and some may be recognized by one school (mazhab) but not by
other ones. All this apart fom the fact, that that the hadiths were
written after Muhammad was no longer there.
When you bring alleged quotations from the Qoran, you apparently do not
know that only the Arabic original is canonic, whereas any translation
can only serve as an approximate interpretation known as a tafsir.
In each language there can furthermore be several tafsirs that are not
identical. So if you want to quote the Qoran for example in English
translation as argument in a religious debate, you should state which
English tafsir you are quoting.
But if you really want to indulge in an in-depth analysis of the Qoran,
you should also know that there are several versions of the Qoran as well,
because scribal variations were introduced into the text at an early
period, besides that in the very earliest period after Muhammad had died,
there was even uncertainties about inclusion of some of the Suras.
All this, of course, only concerns your use of formal textual quotations
as arguments. Another problem is interpreting the text, because even for
straightforward texts there can be various interpretations. This is
particularly so because, as I will presently explain in the second part,
a religion constantly develops with time, and in so doing it is also
frequently compelled to re-interpret canonic texts. Just one example:
Charles Darwin's theory of biological evolution was at first rejected
by the Christian churches which continued to interpret the Genesis
literally. Today however, Darwin'stheory is taught in just about all
Christian schools, and so-called creationism is only still upheld by
some fundamentalist sects.
So, you see, even if you would literally quote the Qoran from an
original version of the Arabic text, you would still not be able to
declare what a "good Muslim" in your interpretation should be. That
would be like if you quoted the description of the first seven days from
the Book of Genesis and declared therefore, that to be a "good Christian"
one had to be a creationist. You would then have a second problem, of
course, because you already declared that was Mother Theresa. Now Mother
Theresa was a Catholic, whereas the creationist sects I know of are
(2) Quoting excerpts from canonic texts, even if done prefessionally,
quite generally cannot serve to characterize followers of a religion.
When an animal as intelligent as the human being (Homo sapiens) emerged
as result of evolution, it almost died out. Why? Well all non-human
animal species have one thing in common: their behaviour is completely
regulated by instinct. When for example two stags (male deer) fight for
a mate, they charge at each other with their antlers. But to prevent that
young stags become invalids before really having fully developed, there
is an instinct, that the weaker of the fighters will soon realize that
it would lose, and then reveals the most vulnerable part of its neck to
the superior opponent. This is a signal that says "I give up", and the
opponent instinctively stops attacking. If it didn't, it would have
meant total crippling, if not death, of the weaker opponent. But this
never happens, because animals are fully subject to their instincts.
Humans are different from other animals in that they are capable of
overriding their instincts. So when an enemy goes down on his knees and
surrenders, he might still get killed. If that were not so, we would
not need the Geneva convention on treatment of prisoners of war.
In general, of course, relations and behaviour within a social community
of animals covers countless instincts, and the more complex the community,
the more complex all those instincts become. This would be particularly so
with humans. That is why, when they could suppress their instincts, that
deregulated their social behaviour and almost caused total extinction.
But humans developed something that is known as "mystical logic".
They believed there were spirits in all the things and beings, and
when something went wrong, they assumed that they had somehow
displeased the spirits. Gradually, the former system of instincts
that regulated their social behaviour was replaced by a system of
beliefs about what the spirits liked and what they disliked.
An automatic obedience to instincts was replaced in its regulatory
function by conscious obedience to a system of beliefs.
This was also necessary for another reason: the structure of non-human
animal comunities is constant and invariable, it being determined by
said system of invariable instincts. Human society, however, can change
and develop, and the development of ever more advanced material culture
and economic productivity also requires growth and change of the social
structure. Consequently, the system of behavioural rules governed by
belief must develop too. With development of social stratification and
then of civilization, the beliefs developed into fullfledged religions.
It is clear, of course, that religions too must develop. When new socio-
economic developments leads to political conflicts in the community, this
will also be accompanied by religious conflict. When one part of society
supports a change in the socio-economic and political structure, while
the other does not, this will cause a split in the religion as well.
In short, a religion is not some stiff immutable system, but an extremely
flexible one that conforms to ever newer circumstances much more than is
generally realized. How long ago was it, that women were not allowed to
vote in general elections, or be soldiers, or become CEO-s (chief executive
officers), etc.? In these decades we are witnessing women gradually being
allowed to become Christian priests and even bishops. Etc., etc.
So you see, it is pointless to try provide some fixed formal definition
of a religion by literal quotations from some canonical text.
And even if you insist on doing so for yourself, you I hope at least
realize now from the above, that you don't have the least bit of a
chance to convince me to decide what a "good Muslim" is based on some
such literal quotations.
The Qoran was written during the early Middle Ages, and contributed
to socio-political stabilization of feudal statehood in Arabia. The
long period of colonialism caused a conservation of feudal relations
in large parts of the Middle East. Commodity economy and an urban
middle class only began developing slowly, so that even today, we
witness besides a modern Islam also substantial fundamentalist forms.
That has nothing to do with being either "good" or "bad" Muslims,
but merely with cultural adaption to modern socio-economic culture
or failure to do so.
I will now stop here, and hope you don't expect me to react to any
further attempts to explain to me what a "good Muslim" is supposed to
be like in your opinion.
|Date:|| ||4, 6, & 7 Nov. 2012|
|To:|| ||Gelora45 & wahana-news (mailing lists)|
|Subject:|| ||A*****: Jihad-martyrdom suicide killer's mother: "My son was ..... (Nov 4, 6:26 am & 7:51 pm; & |
6, 2012, 7:45 pm)
< I have deleted three items here, because I considered them not interesting >
|Date:|| ||6 Dec 1997, 17:21 MET|
|To:|| ||EvolutionLanguage (mailing list)|
|Subject:|| ||Re: on humanness of language|
> Sent by: R.G.
> > Sent by: Waruno Mahdi
> > Yes, for some reason, people say "language" when they mean "human
> > language", but then think nothing of saying "machine language"
> > (which is quite "non-human").
> What is non-human about machine language? It is invented by humans
> for devices used/designed by humans. Humans input to the machine, the
> machine communicates in its own way (machine language) to other
> components, the machine outputs to varying degrees of user-friendly
> formats. All these are very human stories seems to me.
The stories are human alright (even very much so :-)), and the
machines are human-made and human-operated, so far so good. It is the
"language" of these machines that is non-human, for many reasons.
The trivial ones are: |
||words in machine language, like in non-human animal signaling,
have strictly defined meanings, in human language they are
characterized by polysemy (as a consequence, machine language
and non-human animal signaling cannot tolerated
homonyms/homographs). In non-human animal and computer signaling
systems there is a finite, concrete number of well-defined meanings
for each of which there is a defined expression. In human language
the meanings are not strictly defined and numerable like that, and
there is no such strict tit-for-tat relationship between symbol and
symbolized (we have synonyms, metonyms, homonyms, figurative speech,
||machine language, like non-human animal signaling systems, cannot
change without loss of functionality. When a new version of a
machine language is introduced (new dialect in animal signaling),
it cannot be used with older machines, whereas the new machines
cannot handle old programs unless the old language persists as
subclass of the new version. Human language, on the other hand,
not only changes without stop, but each speaker is constantly
code-switching between several social dialects, including the
age-group dialect of the own generation, that of the previous
generation, and optionally a professional slang, a regional
dialect, etc. (S)He can also cope with situations in which
several of these dialects are mixed. Machines would go into a
stupor, from which they can only be extricated with a reboot.
Analogically, we may even understand a foreigner speaking broken
English, or a drunkard. Machines likewise play dead in such
situations. In some European languages you can say "he didn't
go, they went him" (meaning "they made him go"), although it is
just as ungrammatical as it is in English. Machines don't put
up with such disdain for syntax. |
||machine language does not distinguish styles (archaic, poetic,
bookish, colloquial), and I don't think non-human animal
signaling systems does either, although it is imaginable
for the animals, that signal quality may express emotionality
or some other condition. |
So you see, machine language is much more animal (non-human-wise),
than it is human. After all, you can also talk with your pet. In
fact, I've seen pet dogs and cats communicate with their owners much
more "human"-ly than my computer does with me (or anybody's computer
with anybody :-)). When compared with human languages alone, machine
language comes closest to artificial languages (e.g. Esperanto),
but this will only last so long one doesn't use such an artificial
language as natural language. The moment one does that, it will
transform into any normal flexible, variable, changing,
idiosyncratically irregular, dialect-diversifying natural language
(look what happened to Hebrew since the founding of Israel), because
only then does the "human touch" come in. |
Those were the trivial points. The point that I see as being the
principle (not just principal) one is: |
||Every utterance in a human language first of all establishes
a social relationship between speaker and listener/reader, i.e.
it is an act of social communication, and only secondly,
optionally, does it convey some informative content that can be
inferred by a formal analysis of the code. Even when you are reading
a lecture, you are establishing yourself as lecturer and your
listeners as students, and, depending upon whether you strike a
more mentoring or a more jovial tone, you also indicate how you
would like to see this lecturer-student relationship. It doesn't
matter, how many percent of your students will understand your
lecture. They'll all understand the social part of the message.
Being impersonal in one's speech is not easy (or, when it comes
naturally, one should perhaps consult a psychiatrist). That is
perhaps one reason why speaking announcements into the intercom
requires appropriate training (try let some unschooled layman
announce something over the intercom). In machine language it is
the other way round. It is the formal content that counts. The
flowers may be inserted after special "comment" signs for the
benefit of the (human) programmer. Such a "comment" sign indicates
to the machine that it should ignore everything that follows in that
And connected with this point is another: |
||withdrawal from human language communication can lead to mental
depression. One form of mobbing is that none of the colleagues
speak with the victim anymore. But if nobody uses a computer,
it doesn't suddenly break down. Non-human animals, in this
regard, seem to be closer to humans than machines are.|
The main reason why people consider machine language to be closer to
human language, seems to be that both have syntax and, as a consequence,
the limited number of available words can be organised into more
or less complicated meaningful sentences, and varieties of these can
in turn be ordered in sequence to build lengthy monologues (programs).
But, although we do not seem to know of any non-human animal signaling
system with elaborate syntax, I don't think we should as principle
exclude the possibility of syntax in animal signaling at sub-human
levels. I don't know, for one, whether one can safely exclude syntax
in whale and dolphin signaling (I'd be grateful for comment from
biologists in the know). I also don't know what came first in human
evolution, syntax or conscious social organization (other than by
Apart from that, of course, machine language syntax differs from human
language syntax as indicated in (2). When Sapir said that all grammars
leak, he meant grammars in human language. Machines cannot cope with
leaking grammars. Theirs don't .
Regards to all, Waruno
|Date:|| ||Mon, 24 Nov 1997 18:07 MET|
|To:|| ||EvolutionLanguage (mailing list)|
|Subject:|| ||Man or Woman?|
Hi, I just subscribed and was pleasantly surprised to see a lively
discussion on whether "Man" or "Woman" invented language going on.
I not so long ago answered a query on LINGUIST List about men's and
women's language style. To avoid cluttering up space here with an
encore, here's where anybody interested can find it:
(see next message below)
I fully agree that women are considerably more proficient in
the use of language, and that one reason for that is indeed
perhaps that hunting and stalking requires quietness and patience.
Another factor perhaps is, that although hierarchies exist in
both gender groups, arguments about who has the say are much more
detrimental in hunting and domain-defence than in foraging and
child-care. So here too, it seems important for men to learn to
hold their tongue until the opportunity comes when it is safe to
Nevertheless, I don't think this has any bearing upon which
of the two genders started it all. I think that human social
behaviour, insofar as it differs in principle from the animal,
was first learned in child sibling heirarchies resulting from
over-long childhood. Human language, insofar as it differs in
principle from animal signalization, must too then, have begun
among children. As a woman would give birth again long before
her previous child(ren) reach(es) adulthood, the ratio of
number of children to number of women is too high for women
alone to care after the children, and sibling hierarchies
must take over part of the chores.
I think therefore, that youth slang and the tendency among
children to form PigLatin-style secret language are attavisms
of an early state, when children started modifying vocal
signalization in a social organisatorial context (animal
social structure is taxonomically invariant, in humans it
is culturally variable).
Regards to all, Waruno
This was originally meant as response to the query by K* E*
in LINGUIST 8.1463 #1, but as it got longer and
longer, I thought it might interest others too, so I'm volunteering it
as discussion topic to open opportunities for critical comments from
which perhaps not only the queriant and I myself would profit.
> 1.Do you believe that it is women who do all the gossiping? I feel
> at times that men gossip as well and not less than women.
No, gossiping is probably just as important for men as it is for
women. It is just that men are perhaps less talkative than women,
and, perhaps more important, men are in the average less proficient
than women in expressing themselves linguistically (and when words
fail us, we may be prone to letting fists speak).
In my opinion, gossiping is a biologically ingrained human (male AND
female) characteristic, and performs the same function among humans as
"grooming" does among apes. It is a way of maintaining friendly social
relations. There was a major publication which touched on the topic
Robin Dunbar, 1996, Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language.
(I'm merely citing him for your information. I don't necessarily agree
with everything that is said there).
Some years earlier, there was a French book on the role of gossip in a
socio-linguistic perspective. I unfortunately do not remember the
names of the author(s) or the title, but I remember that there was an
elaborate review article on it in the news magazine Der Spiegel
(Hamburg), somewhere between 5 and 12 years ago. Perhaps you can still
find it by going through the annual indexes of Der Spiegel from 1985
till 1992. (actually I've not missed a single number of Der Spiegel
since May 1977, but I don't think it was before 1985).
> 2. Do you think that women`s speech styles differ from that of men
> due to biological reasons or solely due to socio-cultural factors?
I think that there are both biological as well as socio-cultural
factors, so that one should perhaps be careful about jumping too
quickly to conclusions about giving either the one or the other the
priority. To begin with, one must of course be careful when one
speaks about "men" and "women", because such classifications typically
contain generalizations which have much in common with popular
clichés. In reality, both "men" as well as "women" encompass
extremely wide ranges of temperament, character, behaviour, which
partly overlap, so that you will find members of the one group,
behaving like the more typical ones of the respective other group.
So, when I talk about "men" and "women", I'll simply assume that there
is something like a "typical man" and a "typical woman", serving as
"archetype" of their respective gender groups. Basically, the idea is
like this: I assume that one needs two logical stages to construct the
actual situation. Stage one involves gender polarization in
personality characteristics of "men" vis-a-vis "women". Stage two
involves diversification within each of the two groups, resulting in a
partial overlap. Both stages I see as consequence of Darwinist
evolution which led to the formation of Homo sapiens sapiens. But in
the concrete context of your question, we can tentatively limit
ourselves to the theoretical state resulting from stage one alone.
Now, the gender polarization of economic roles at a certain stage in
the evolution of hominid subsistence seems to lie at the beginning of
the way towards Homo sapiens sapiens. It seems to have been a direct
consequence of upright locomotion, leading to a narrowing of the
pelvic bone and hence also a narrowing of the birth passage. Hominids,
developing ever larger brains because of additional motoric problems
to be dealt with in manipulations with hands which became free
(bipedal locomotion only needed the feet), had to have smaller heads
at the moment of birth. The solution of this contradiction was an ever
more prematurely born baby, which was totally helpless at birth, and
fully occupied the mother for a long period after birth. The
lengthened period of childhood (premature birth, in combination with
more to learn to be adult) had as consequence, that females became
pregnant again before earlier-born children could vie for
themselves. Consequently, females were fully occupied with newborn
babies and tied down in their movements by children at various ages.
This required a differentiation of economic roles. Hunting and defence
of territorial domains, requiring greater mobility became the
responsibility of males, whereas females specialized in more
stationary pursuits, particularly foraging of vegetable food (and care
for mentioned children). This economic cooperation within the
community, between hunting males moving at large, and foraging females
representing the community's "homebase", combined with the
circumstance that mothers of newly-born babies, needing additional
food while stilling the baby, is physically handicapped in gathering
food, and thus depends on food sharing, all this must have served as
the basis for the development of a "humane" form of community, being
in contrast to "animal" community where the strongest one typically
snatches the lion's share of the food.
What does this have to do with gender-specific speech behaviour? It
would take too much space to answer that in detail, but there are two
(1) The basic difference between humans and animals seems not to be
intelligence, use of tools, affinity to art, or many other criteria
which may have formerly been brought into consideration, but that the
social organization of an animal community is biologically determined
(and thus specific for each species), but in human communities it is
culturally determined (in one and the same species of Homo sapiens
sapiens one may find monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, exogamy, endogamy,
etc., matrilinear/patrilinear descendance
reckoning. matrilocal/patrilocal organization, etc., egalitarianism,
despotism, etc.). As literature reference for the basic proposition one
may probably take
Sherwood Washburn in Scientific American 203/3:63-75 (1960),
(2) Vocal and other signalization in animals serves as a basic medium
for maintainance of social relations within the community, and it is
my contention, that this is also true in humans. In view of point (1)
it is obviously clear, that vocal signalization of humans
(i.e. "language") must be just as totally more complex and flexible
(and just as much an exponent of culture rather than of the biological
taxon) than animal signalization, as the culturally variable social
organization of humans is in comparison to the taxonomically invariant
one of animals.
Marshal Sahlins in ibid., 76-87 (1960).
One aspect of this is that speech variation served as social markers.
At early stages of development, there apparently was age-group
specific and gender specific speech variation, and soon afterwards
also profession-specific speech variation (the secret language of
shamans probably the oldest). Even today, there still are languages,
in which some words in the vocabulary are different, depending upon
whether the speaker is a man or a woman. With development of
civilization, and further differentiaions in society, there appeared
also further variations, particularly social class speech varieties
and the interaction between these and regional or local dialects. I am
preparing a paper on this point (2), scheduled for presentation in
I think, from this one can gather a rough idea of why male and female
characteristic speech developed on biological principles. In all this,
please don't forget that I have only restricted myself to "stage one".
Including "stage two" only makes things more complex, and more
confusing, but essentially, one will always have to return to "stage
one" to arrive at the essential biological principles that are
operative in the matter. Now about the socio-cultural factors.
This is actually also partly clear from the role of language in social
organization, and the culturality of this latter. There is a further
moment which is perhaps important here. The division of economic roles
between males and females, animal-hunting by males, plant-foraging by
females, apparently had as consequence that animal husbandry
originally became a male profession, and plant agriculture a female
one. And although there practically are no communities which are
purely plant agricultural or purely cattle growing, it did happen that
either the one or the other was economically prevalent in various
neolithic communities. It has been suggested, that this may have led
to patriarchal or matriarchal principles becoming prevalent in the
social organizations of the respective societies. But as war became an
ever more determining factor in the maintenance of social and ethnic
supremacy, and war, like hunting, was typically (though not always)
reserved for males, this seems to have led to the male social
preponderence we find throughout history since the beginnings of
> 3. Do you think that women should change their style of talking to
> gain more respect?
I don't think so. That which the French call "la difference" not only
underlies reproduction since pretty low in the evolutionary scale,
but, as I tried to explain above, it also led to the development of
that particular something by which humans differ from animals. In
human society, language plays an essential role in the maintenance of
social organization, and the relationship between male and female is
an extremely complex and contradictary one. But when we speak of the
respectedness of men and the respectedness of women, we should perhaps
differentiate between some culture-independent basics resulting from
the biological, and secondary culture-specific features which have
Let's begin with the former. Here, men are respected as men, amd women
are respected as women, each having their own respective roles. The
differentiation of economic roles at the beginnings of the
evolutionary development of Homo sapiens sapiens seems to have given
men the greater physical strength, and women the greater physical
endurance. A women may seek the protection and provision only a man
could give her, and a man may seek the security and comfort only a
woman could give him, both being vital for the respective other. In
cultures, in which neither gender has exclusive social preponderance,
mature women enjoy a respected status just as much as mature men, but
again, the woman will not normally be repected the way a man would be,
and vice versa (here too, with some exceptions). Their economic roles
too, serving as basis for the social respect they get, may be
different. In some communities in Africa and in Southeast Asia
(perhaps elsewhere too?) men do the manual productive labour, and
women trade at the market and bring in the money (it is usually safer
kept in their hands anyway, as they are less prone to squander it,
philandering through the pubs etc.).
From a purely biological point of view, the only actual problem comes
from "stage two", the differentiation among members of the same sex,
as a result of which one may find an efemminate minority in men, and a
masculine minority in women. These may be inclined to achieve the
respected position normally accorded to members of the respectively
opposite sex. In an open and democratic society it is probably their
good right to do so. But they are the exceptions which prove the rule
(otherwise they would not need to strive for that other status). In
any case, however, men-specific and women-specific speech style would
be crucial in maintenance of the respective male-specific and
female-specific respected status, and the cross-over candidates will
only have to take up that respectively opposite speech style, and it
will probably be in their biological nature to be inclined to do so.
As for the super-imposed culture-specific element, it may of course
seem opportune, in societies with marked male social preponderence,
for women to "copy" male speech style in order to achieve equally
respected status. But this would be a most unsatisfactory solution,
first of all for the women themselves (unless they belong to that
masculinely inclined minority), because it would mean denying one's
own natural inclinations and leading an artificial life. The attempt
would perhaps deserve double respect, but it is not something I would
recommend or consider preferable. The actual problem here lies in the
social organization, not in the speech style, and any real progress in
the social position of women in such cases would in my opinion have to
be fought out on the social rather than on the linguistic front, so
that women may be respected as women, and not as imitation men.
Sorry if this got too long.
Regards to all, Waruno
|Date:|| ||12 Mar 1997 17:07|
|To:|| ||Linguistic Prehistory Archaeology mailing list <arcling>|
|Subject:|| ||Evolution of language: how much?|
Thanks to Larry Trask for pointing out the problem.
I've been meaning to get hold of that book, because from the
title it seemed to me to be on the right track. Language (human) is
in my opinion too, not primarily to convey information (that's just
a means or carrier for the primary function), but to establish and
maintain social relations.
I'm disappointed now to hear that the author fell for the clichee
that human language differs from animal only in the articulateness
of phonology and intelligence of content. Give a chimp or a dolphin
the eloquence of a parrot, and lo we have human language. But already
at first approximation one must note, that dialects in animals variate
only in the plane of expression (symbols), not in the plane of content
(symbolisée). Even in the vervet monkeys, the clan-specific aggression
alert cries differ only acoustically, not semantically. Human languages
differ even in expression of physically fixed phenomena (what _blue_ is
in English, is expressed as _sinii_ and _goluboi_ in Russian, being
here two NOT synonymous names of colours, "deep/dark blue" and "clear/
/royal blue" respectively, just as that that which English calls _blue_
and _green_ is apparently one colour in some languages)
The "closest" animals come to humans here can perhaps be seen in the
higher primates which have been observed to develop a somewhat more
sophisticated system of acoustic and gesticulative signalization (even
in the plane of content) in captivity, as compared with conspecifics in
their natural habitat. But then, we did after all evolve from apes, and
our forbears must obviously already have had some screws loose topside
as regards signalizational capacity, in order that something like us
In my opinion, the difference between human and animal language lies
in the difference between humans and animals, and the crucial criterion
here seems to be neither intelligence, nor use of tools (an animal always
uses a tool only to facilitate the fulfillment of a task or to have fun,
only a human uses it to make life difficult, like eating noodles with
chopsticks (China) or a fork (Italy), without even cutting to size(!)),
or aesthetic affinity (see bower bird, weaver bird), etc.
It is that the social structure of an animal community is taxonomically
given, whereas that of a human community is culurally variable (see
Sahlin in Scientific American of 1960). It evidently takes language
of the human variety to maintain a culturally defined social structure