Patterns in the Mind, summative essay on Ray Jackendoff's book on language and human nature.

Essay by caseybUniversity, Master'sA+, September 2003

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Patterns in the Mind

"The argument for the construction of experience..."

This is easier to explain if thought of as, "nothing comes from nowhere." I found this scribbled in my notes next to construction of experience. Being a child of ex-hippies, this is not a difficult concept for me to grasp. I have always participated in and heard discussions about everything happens for a reason, everything has a deeper meaning, what does this mean to you, etc. So, applying this to how language works is easy.

First, we construct from the information we receive. Language is not just hearing or listening. It is something different for each person. Each person perceives spoken language differently, due to various factors, facial expression, intonation, body language, etc. Two people could construct totally different meanings from the same comment. Looking at written language, the same applies. When reading, a person can construct meaning from punctuation, word choice, bold/italicized words, reading in between the lines, etc.

We take these bits of information and make mean something to us.

Besides these factors, we have to organize the perceived information into our patterns of mental grammar. We actively put the information into our mental grammar. Without mental grammar the perceived information would have no meaning or not make any sense, for example, when hearing an unknown foreign language spoken.

Music is a good example of the construction of experience. I have never been a fan of heavy, hardcore metal. I like to call it angry music. It reminds me of someone who is angry at life. To me it is noise. However, to a metal-head, it probably gets them pumped up or it might be motivating before a game or race. Song lyrics can hold certain meanings or memories for different people. We put perceived information together...