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Michael Tomasello on human language … Новости … Or, to settle down 31st of March, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 02:49

Michael Tomasello has a couple of papers at his home page “for your reading enjoyment.” I came across him by means of an article (in German) summarising his ideas, and for me it’s a pleasure to read him. He Ridiculously pretty girl, wearing balloons! writes on much the same themes as the Chomster, and the contrast between the two is startling. E.g, he mentions this from the start in his explanation of what model of language learning he goes for (and this is exactly the sort of thing Chomsky avoids in initially presenting his ideas, and deals with haltingly and mostly unsatisfactorily later):

[…] Other clear examples are such well-known idioms as kick the bucket and spill the beans, which have a little more flexibility and abstractness as different people may kick the bucket and they may do so in past, present, or future tense–but we cannot, with the same meaning, kick the pail or spill the peas. It turns out that, upon inspection, a major part of human linguistic competence—much more than previously believed—involves the mastery of all kinds of routine formulas, fixed and semi-fixed expressions, idioms, and frozen collocations. Indeed one of the distinguishing characteristics of native speakers of a language is their control of these semi-fixed expressions as fluent units with somewhat unpredictable meanings (e.g., I wouldn’t put it past him; He’s getting to me these days; Hang in there; That won’t go down well with the boss; She put me up to it; etc.; Pawley & Syder, 1983).

And it’s all so data-oriented; for those of us interested in the details of language as she is used, Corpus linguistics is the best thing since someone came up with the idea of a dictionary, and his examinations of children learning languages are just as attractive.

For your actual amusement, here’s a great page; it’s in Русский, based in Estonia, and is full of such unparalleled greatness as a a motorbike made out of balloons, the woman dressed in balloons to my right (mmm, ridiculously pretty girl dressed in balloons, why doesn’t life offer this sort of thing more), Spiderman made out of balloons, and other fantastic things.

Word of the day: aterrizar is Spanish for to land a plane; cf. French aterrir.


I like the balloon creations. I have an image of a small dwelling somewhere, where neighbours are constantly disturbed by the squeaky noises associated with Balloon sculpture, and disturbed in a different sense by the sight of attractive young women dressed in balloon outfits. God bless the internet, if not for it, this sort of thing would have to wait till Channel 4 recommissioned Eurotrash to get any sort of International exposure.

God bless it, indeed. And I do hope the local villagers don’t take it on themselves to try and drive the balloon-twisters out of town with, (of course, depending on how much of a feel for the occasion they have) pins or pitchforks …

I wonder if she’d blow you.

I suspect she’s one of those joy-killers who expect the use of a rubber for it.

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