Re: Language?

Danny Ayers wrote:
> >I was discussing this earlier today with someone, using the analogy of
> >two humans who each speak a language foreign to the other - with only
> >textual communication between them they can never achieve mutual
> >understanding, although they may be able to identify some words and
> >grammar rules.  Understanding is only achieved with some common
> >interpretation; they must be able to interact, point to objects ("Me
> >Tarzan, you Jane") and indicate sounds.
> Limit them to textual comms, but allow them a pencil and a lot of paper to
> look for patterns between their linguistic patterns. The languages are both
> describing the same world as interpreted by the same kind of agents -
> patterns should match. No objects required.

I don't see how you can get anywhere like that unless you already have a
good idea what they are talking about.

The patterns of "My name is Jim", "My cat is small" match, presumably, 
but that won't allow us to work out the meaning of the symbols
"name","Jim","cat" and "small" - our foreign counterpart could be
talking about literally _anything_.  What does "Zr foo ga bar" mean?  We
can only try to deduce valid ways of putting the (meaningless) symbols
together, i.e. grammar.


David Allsopp

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Received on Thursday, 10 May 2001 10:05:58 UTC