John Cowan wrote:
> Peter T. Daniels scripsit:
> > Do we define "phoneme" no more generally than "a phoneme of a given
> > language is ..."? If we did that, how would we be able to identify the
> > phonemes of a previously unanalyzed language?
> >From what I understand, linguists do not deal in phonemes any more,
> except in the restricted sense in which physicists deal in Newtonian
> physics: a useful approximation of pedagogical value that is known to
> be inadequate to explain the phenomena.
> Nor do I see how phonemes (as opposed to "the phoneme") can be defined
> without reference to a particular language.

I didn't ask you to define the phonemes of a given language; I noted
that a definition of "phoneme" exists and is applicable to the defining
of phonemes of a language. But no such definition of "grapheme" is

> > Note that, mutatis mutandis, such a definition of "phoneme of a given
> > language" wouldn't even work.
> No more it would. But then writing, unlike speaking, is consciously
> learned behavior; learned, furthermore, with reference to a specific
> tradition. When the tradition is lost, all such judgments become
> correspondingly uncertain, taking on the status of reconstructions
> rather than primary data.

That's exactly why the -eme notion isn't applicable to writing.

> If you don't like my pirating of the term "grapheme" for this purpose,
> I invite you to provide a substitute term.

What purpose, term for what?

BTW if you know who you pirated it from, please let Gerhard Augst know
-- he wrote a rilly big book about it & couldn't decide.
Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...