The purpose of this paper is to explain the subtle but powerful relationship between language and the environment. We will be using the subtle but powerful method of mathematical induction, and examining the subtle but powerful concept of minimal pairs in establishing phonemic contrasts in a language.
Consider the following minimal sets from two totally unrelated languages, Sindhi and Thai:
phənu 'snake hood'
phàa 'to split'
Notice that in both of these data sets, the phonemes we are contrasting via minimal sets are /p/, /ph/, and /b/. This is a subtle but powerful method. Next notice that both minimal sets contain a form glossed as 'forest'. This may seem to be coincidence, but it is really a manifestation of the subtle but powerful force exerted on language by the environment. By the subtle but powerful method of mathematical induction, a beautiful but difficult and often misunderstood form of reasoning, explained to us by our brilliant computer scientist friends to mean that if something is true twice you can assume it is always true, we see that all minimal sets contrasting /b/, /p/, and /ph/ will contain a gloss of 'forest'. The incautious reader may protest that English has no such minimal set containing a gloss for forest, but, foolish one, note that [ph] is not distinctive in English!!!
Next, we invite you to remember that forests around the world are being cut down at alarming and record rates.
With deforestation comes the loss of terms for things forestrial, especially words for forests. The next step is a loss of one member of innumerable minimal sets world-wide, and then loss of phonemic contrasts follows, wreaking havoc throughout many languages. This subtle but powerful argumentation leads us inexorably to the conclusion that we must protect forests everywhere, for the linguistic well-being of the world.
|Greenan, Kray Z. & Hopp, E. Monn||Sylvan College, Hawaii|