Semantic Patterns

Alexander Liss

03/01/99

 

 

Basic Patterns *

Creation and Maintenance of Pattern Space *

Semantic Patterns of Language *

Some Semantic Patterns of Ancient Hebrew *

Pattern Generation *

Pathways into Pattern Space *

Written Languages *

Travelling of Patterns *

New Systems of Patterns *

Patterns and Decision-making *

 

 

Many theories of the working of our mind can be described uniformly with a set of relatively simple concepts: There is a stream of sensory information, which has patterns. We memorize these patterns as a set of special images. We use these images in a decision-making process. When patterns change, the set of images follows.

 

Basic Patterns

A. Damasio in "Descartes Error" describes the formation of connections of neurons in a brain, which reflect the structure of the signals, which arrive to the brain from inside the body. This web of connections forms an image (a model) of the body in the brain. When the mind is looking for a solution of a problem, it does not need to experiment with the actions of the body, it does experimentation with this image - model of the body. This speeds up the decision-making process enormously. In the case, when this image-model is not sufficient, the mind has to initiate some minor activities of the body (small muscles' contractions, small changes in hormonal mixture, etc.) to gather additional information.

External stream of sensory information is a basis for another set of images - a model of an external world. Many of them are formed in early childhood simultaneously with some images of the body. They are the basis of our self-perception as social creature. Among these images are images of parents. These images shape our perception together with images of body.

All new images are related to these basic images. These images of the body and society participate in the organization of any internal and external sensory information - we perceive the world through these images. We can understand each other so well, because we have similar basic images.

Participation in social activities, especially perpetual communication with help of a language, brings a special stream of sensory information, which is shaped already by some system of images. This is a system of images, which is shared by the members of immediate society.

Some of these images are shared by the larger society. Among them are images (concepts) embedded in a language.

We suspect, that animal mind works in a similar way - forming images, which correspond to patterns of sensory information. However, people, being social creatures, perfected this system by perpetual communication and by the use of language.

 

Creation and Maintenance of Pattern Space

Patterns-images do not exist in a mind in isolation.

First, they are interrelated because of their common origin - they are different patterns of the same sensory information. The closer is sensory information, which patterns are extracted to form two different images - the closer images are.

Second, they are connected by their usage as tools of analysis of incoming new sensory information - each time they are used together a new associative link is formed (how well it is memorized is a different subject).

Patterns-images form a Pattern Space.

Language based communication is a major source of new patterns-images; it is a tool of expansion of a Pattern Space.

Speech is a structured stream of sounds. The sensory information produced by this stream is associated in our mind with other sensory information, some raw and some associated with patterns-images. This double set of information is a base of a new set of patterns-images. Some of these images are kept in temporary storage. Some find their way into more permanent storage (because they are important for survival, simply strong, we met them before many times, etc.). Speech is "designed" to support this image creation activity.

The moment creatures of a group get busy with the process of pattern extraction (image creation) in a perpetual communication each with other, they form a special entity, which members improve their decision-making process. These creatures "think together", while creatures outside this group do not have this advantage. In our opinion, this ability to "think together" is a main factor, which makes people more effective than animals.

 

Semantic Patterns of Language

While we learn a language, the language guides in some degree the formation of patterns-images in our mind. This guidance is what we call semantic structure of a language.

The structure of images (concepts) of an intelligent person is developed far beyond the structure, which we acquire with a language. Hence, we can describe embedded in a language semantic structure with help of other concepts. This description can bring better understanding of the internal structure of a language.

Definitely, it is possible to have a different description of the same structure, based on a different set of concepts. Such description can bring better understanding of a language.

We analyze concepts embedded in a language through the structure of words, word combinations, usage, special structures as verb, etc.

It is important to understand semantic patterns built into a language. They are different in different languages and they should affect the way people of different native language think.

Obviously, one who uses a few different languages has an access to a few sets of different semantic structures; this makes one's thinking more flexible.

In many languages, semantic units related to pronouns can be presented with help of following concepts:

They are different in different languages.

In English language, there are present only following different semantic units related to pronouns:

In old English and in Russian languages there are two semantic units related to a recipient, one is an individual recipient and the other is a recipient, which is a group. In Russian language, gender differentiation of the third party goes as far as it can. In Hebrew language, a recipient is differentiated according to a gender.

The semantic structure embedded in English verb is largely independent from the structure embedded in the system of pronouns. In Russian and Hebrew languages they overlap. In Hebrew language they overlap so much that pronoun is omitted in a phrase, because it can be derived from the form of a verb.

Many languages embed the difference between the concept of accomplished activity (which came to its result or its end) and an activity in a process. Also, they embed a concept of abstract action - an action perceived as a unit in a space of special objects "actions". This seems to be an advanced tool of thinking.

English language embeds also concepts of relation between an action and the process of speech, which mentions this action. This semantic pattern does not exist as an embedded concept, for example, in Russian language.

 

Some Semantic Patterns of Ancient Hebrew

From the reading of ancient Hebrew texts, one can arrive to understanding of a few unusual concepts embedded in the language. Understanding of these concepts can bring better understanding of these texts and appreciation of difficulties of their translation.

It seems that message recipient is differentiated in this language not so much by a gender, as by the employed form of control of situation.

We can differentiate two forms of situation control. One is aggressive, trying to make use of any opportunity. The other is a creation of opportunities, shaping the stream of relatively random events.

These two forms are easily identified (at least in ancient society) with male's and female's forms of control and activity. They are used in ancient Hebrew language accordingly, except in some cases, the usage diverges from the association with a gender and goes according to this basic concept. It is especially visible in plural forms - there is a differentiation of a recipient, which is a group, into two classes. It would be wasteful for the language to carry a special concept of a group of recipients, which consists entirely of women. How often can one use this concept? Nevertheless, the related structures exist in the language in a fully developed form.

For a modern person it could be helpful to learn these concepts consciously, which ancient people absorbed with the language.

 

Pattern Generation

The system of pattern - a Pattern Space, is a web of patterns, all rooted in memories of sensory information (personal and social) and interrelated through their usage. Originally, there is no logic in it and the mind works with it through the web of relationships. Children's mind simply absorbs it through communication with adults (mostly parents).

Here comes logic. It is a powerful tool, which is learnt. It allows generation of abstract patterns from more concrete patterns. It allows creation of new images in a few seconds. In addition, one does not need to memorize these new images - they can be recreated as needed.

No wonder, that one who possesses the ability to use this tool, has an advantage. One can operate with a substantially bigger set of patterns without actually maintaining it.

The situation is somewhat more complex, obviously. These new patterns, created with help of logic, have to fit into the web of existing patterns - get roots in sensory information and acquire connections to other patterns. Nevertheless, it is a tool eagerly employed.

Small children use it to learn the language - they are very upset with language exceptions, which do not fit into a logical rule. No one taught them this rule; they discovered it by themselves.

 

Pathways into Pattern Space

One should not perceive a Pattern Space of a society as something fixed and uniformly defined for all its members. The strength of a society is in a variety of individual Pattern Spaces. This variety allows a fast search of possible variants of a solution, when a society as a whole gets into a difficult situation - while an individual Pattern Space can be relatively small, the combined Pattern Space can be huge. Note that the same quality of decisions can be achieved with different systems of patterns. Hence, this variety of Pattern Spaces does not necessarily produce winners and losers automatically.

In the same time, two individual Pattern Spaces have to have a big common part for two members of society to perceive each other as parts of a unit. This part is learnt, mostly.

For a child, the usual pathway into a Pattern Space (an image system) shared by the wider society, to which a person belongs, is trough aggressive mimicking of parents.

Mimicking is a potentially dangerous activity - the model can easily deceive the learner. Fortunately, parents love their kids and protect them. However, finding oneself a role model (who is not a parent) and trying to mimic this model in attempt to enrich or "correct" own image system, can be a self-defeating exercise.

From this, the unusual place of parents in everyone's life is obvious.

The other more powerful pathway is a perpetual generation of new patterns-images with help of logic, and experimentation with them in communication with other members of a society. Children use it, as soon they discover it. Adults use it, when they learn new languages. These logically constructed patterns do not need to be necessarily basic in a Pattern Space, which one tries to study. They are as we named them - pathways into this space, the tool to get hold at as big part of it as possible and absorb the natural structure of it through usage later.

The special pathway leads into unique individual Pattern Spaces. The development of an individual Pattern Space (a unique point of view) is a long and difficult process. In the same time, the knowledge of useful patterns extracted by some individual can be beneficial. This knowledge can be acquired by engaging individuals in communication and by looking for their unique point of view (especially when it is different from ones own). This pathway can be summarized as a desire to know other people and knowledge of art of listening.

 

Written Languages

Written languages deal not with the stream of sounds of speech, but with the Pattern Space. The more developed is the society, which uses the written language, the more removed from speech are patterns, which are embedded into the language.

Attempts to "modernize" spelling of words by bringing it closer to modern pronunciation reflect only misunderstanding of this fact. In the written language, the society operates with semantic patterns.

For example, it purposely uses words, which are written differently, while they are pronounced in a similar way, because they reflect different concepts in a context.

For example, in the Hebrew language, writing is done clearly in semantic patterns. When pronunciation has to be specified, special symbols are added below and above symbols of the language.

A written language facilitates creation of new semantic patterns and new types of connections between them - visual. Hence, reading and writing is not only a way to facilitate communication. One who reads and writes taps into the culture of written language and acquires the system of concepts and their relations embedded in the language itself and in the wealth of different publications.

We work with the message presented with help of a written language similar to the way we work with patterns-images in our mind. When the task of analysis is easy, we work directly with images and connections between them. When the task is difficult, we initiate an activity, which generates a stream of sensory information related to a particular pattern. In this case, we attempt to pronounce the phrase - we generate a speech, which underlies the phrase of the message. In the case of a musical language, we keep near a musical instrument, which allows to play a difficult phrase.

With the development of new computerized and portable tools, we have an opportunity of development of new written languages. We can use these tools to play for us difficult parts of a message presented with help of such language. We are not so far from this moment. For example, electronic musical instruments allow a variety of settings, which cause the choice of timbre of sounds, background rhythm, etc. Any notation, which allows universal description of such settings, can be a beginning of such written language of music.

Each person familiar with a written language is familiar with patterns of written messages (words, word combinations, idioms, phrases, etc.). These patterns form a special Language Pattern Space.

This Language Pattern Space is in a special relationship with the Pattern Space of the society, which uses this language.

For many patterns in the Pattern Space, there is a corresponding pattern in the Language Pattern Space (a word, a phrase, etc.).

There are patterns in the Pattern Space, which do not have expressions in the language; they do not have corresponding patterns in the Language Pattern Space.

The Pattern Space is much larger and more dynamic, than the Language Pattern Space. Hence, there are many patterns in the Pattern Space, which correspond to the same pattern in the Language Pattern Space.

Some of patterns of written messages (words, phrases, etc.) - elements of the Language Pattern Space have regular structure. This structure is reflected in the related patterns of the Pattern Space. Hence, a written language enriches the web of relations between patterns in the Pattern Space, making the use of the Pattern Space easier.

 

Travelling of Patterns

The knowledge of useful patterns is precious. We all are in a lookout for them. This allows travelling of patterns (images, concepts, ideas, etc.) inside of a particular society and across the borders of societies, as long there are contacts between people. Some patterns-images are universal and they find their place in the Pattern Space of many societies even societies, which rarely communicate. Others fit well with some Pattern Spaces but cannot find a place in others. Thus, the entire humanity works together in checking and trying patterns-images and shaping Pattern Spaces.

This is a slow process. It is getting faster with the introduction of new tools of communication and with the need to communicate more often and more intensely with the intensifying economic activity. Still, it has some natural limitations.

One is familiar - it takes a long time for any individual to recognize a new useful idea and especially to incorporate it into an individual Pattern Space. One of the major goals of education is training in this area. Educated people are people who can expand their Pattern Space faster, than it is "natural"; hence, they have richer Pattern Space and can arrive to proper conclusions faster, because they have more tools of thinking available.

One who wants to convey a new pattern (image, idea) has to supply examples, which are familiar to a listener; and the listener has to search for potential connections of a new pattern to patterns in own Pattern Space. An introduction of a new pattern into someone's Pattern Space requires work from both sides. Note that some successful publications deliver new ideas with examples only, without actually naming them. They let the recipient to work out the pattern and its place in own Pattern Space. However, this respectful approach to a reader is a rarity in modern times.

Setting down of a new pattern in a Pattern Space takes time. Often, the person has to let the sleeping mind to sort out connections of a new pattern to existing ones.

It takes a long time from incorporation of a new pattern in a few individual Pattern Spaces to acceptance of it by the majority of society.

Successful societies delegate some of its members to be especially sensitive to potential new useful patterns. They are thinkers, scientists, artists, travelers, etc. They are society's scouts and filters in its search for new tools of decision-making.

 

New Systems of Patterns

It is hard to convey one new pattern. If the recipient has similar background it may be done in one step, otherwise there are a few intermediate steps - known patterns introductions, are needed to prepare for perception of a new pattern. It is many times more difficult to introduce a new system of patterns. Some scientists and artists are persistent enough to pull it. Some even live to see the recognition of the fact.

There are gradations of difficulties of introduction of new ideas.

The easiest is introduction of new associations between familiar patterns. This can prepare for the introduction of a new pattern, hidden in these new associations.

Introduction of a new pattern is harder, but it goes smoothly, if it is supplied with enough associations with familiar sensory information and with other patterns.

Absorption of two new patterns simultaneously can be too difficult for majority of people. The way to them have to be paved with a chain of patterns, which have to be learnt one-by-one.

All these tricks we can find in the works of good artists and good lecturers.

 

Patterns and Decision-making

The Pattern Space exists to make decisions more effective. This brings a natural structure in it - patterns, which are more important in a decision-making process, are in forefront of a Pattern Space (their access is easier), other patterns are farther from the focus of attention.

Pattern Space is changing perpetually. Some changes are defined by the changes of the stream of sensory information - life is changing, others - by the changes in importance of different patterns for decision-making.

Sometimes the owners of Pattern Space purposely limit it, because the rich set of ideas complicates their weak mechanism of decision-making. We can observe it in rigid people and in totalitarian societies.

A diverse, developed Pattern Space can present a problem for a mind, which is not trained in decision-making - there are too many potentially acceptable decisions. The person with less developed Pattern Space simply does not recognize this variety of potential decisions and does not have a problem of choice.

The attempt to control decision-making process through the limitation of Pattern Space can be successful in a short run (as we can see in some rigid family culture, cults, communist and fascist societies). However, it always backfires, because it makes the controlled group less able to make decisions in changing situation. Eventually, such group arrives into a situation, which it cannot handle.

The reasonable solution lays not in limiting of the Pattern Space, but in recognition of an important ingredient of decision-making process - the will.

It is always possible to find the best solution, based on our understanding of situation. However, one has to rise above the perception, that one's understanding of situation is perfect. Hence, what looks as a perfect gradation of potential decisions is an illusion and one has to face a fuzzy set of equivalent potential decisions. The choice among them is done with the will.

Decisions of a free person are not defined by the absence of choice, as in the case when there is only one reasonable decision, but by the free will. Free will needs variants.

The understanding of this fact leads to effective use of the Pattern Space. The Pattern Space - a set of familiar ideas is not a tyrant, which dictates decisions, but an adviser, which brings a variety of variants of possible decisions.

This separation of the Pattern Space from decision-making process liberates though - one can allow the thought explorations of different possibilities without fear of affecting in undesirable way the decision making process.