meaning as a function in time

20 02 2011

Just had some thoughts about meaning as a function in time. Help me out here. And I am thinking audio, as in speaking and listening, rather than writing, which is related but it involves a different modality.

We can listen to people talking, and somehow meaning is emergent, we make sense of the words as we go along. Too many words, too long, and we lose the plot. How long before we lose the plot? How many words… concepts…?

Before answering, be careful about our ability to package. That is, we say a few sentences, and somehow package them, compress them, into single words, thus enabling us to string together “paragraphs” and sections, so that an entire one hour lecture makes sense. This scalable aspect is another thing. I am here simply interested in the length of a sentence. I mean, we seem to have evolved “sentence”-length events in script, and I suspect this is a measure of our speaking/listening modality.

Also, because we have so many grammatical words in english and indo-european languages, as opposed to content words, I thought it might be useful to hear about characters, and thus bypass the word-concept compression trick we perform. So, how many characters can be juxtaposed to “make sense”?

(There’s something about breath here as well… how long we can speak. Definitely an interesting thought this, wrt meaning as a function in time. It all sprung out of counting, to music, an 8 bar rhythm as it happens. And the thought emerged out of considering the listening quality required to comprehend a symphony, with movements 20 mins long.)

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