Can a man homestead a wave?

Lots to learn in the world

I sent a friend of mine the following quote I read in an article I found via Arts and Letters Daily. “The most celebrated Morgenbesser anecdote involved visiting Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, who noted that it was peculiar that although there are many languages in which a double negative makes a positive, no example existed where two positives expressed a negative. In a dismissive voice, Morgenbesser replied from the audience, “Yeah, yeah…””

Which I thought was a really neat quote, so I sent it to a linguist friend of mind. His response, “Oh, that’s deep — a linguist would say it’s about the pragmatic (“yeah, yeah” conveys an attitude, which, in trucking in irony, often does not mean what the words “mean”) versus the grammatical (“I ain’t got no woman” means what it means, math and logic be damned). They are two different “modules”, like molecular biology versus histology. The pragmatic is superimposed upon the grammatical — the grammatical is generated first, and then the pragmatic is laid on top. The pragmatic is what makes us real people. But in real life, it’s a dandy anecdote.”

Now, I try to be a renaissance man, interested and somewhat educated in all sorts fields, but when I read something like that, I stand in awe before the magnitude of human knowledge.