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204120Re: Universal language for communicating with space aliens

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  • Logan Kearsley
    Jul 25, 2014
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      On 25 July 2014 02:57, Patrik Austin <patrik.austin@...> wrote:
      > [Warren:] --I was proposing a universal Turing machine as a "language" capable
      > of describing (and more importantly running) any "algorithm."
      > This is just my opinion, but computer languages are not languages in the conventional meaning. It's a homonym. Computers work on electric signals but the so called machine languages have been made so people can operate the machines more conveniently. Otherwise you might as well feed number codes or press buttons. For the machine it's all the same.

      Fun fact: "languages" in the sense used by linguists are also
      "languages" in the sense used by programmers & computer scientists.
      The reverse, however, as you have just said, is not true. In other
      words, "language" (LING) is a hyponym of "language" (CS).

      I also find it interesting that CS theory tells us that anything that
      can be computed can be described by significantly less complex systems
      than we find in human languages (which is precisely why computer
      languages can be so much different, and simpler). Semantic
      interpretation *is* computation (which becomes blindingly obvious if
      you define the meaning of an expression to be the cognitive effect of
      that expression on the interpreter- not a very commonly used
      definition, but one which I like because I find it intuitively useful,
      probably in part because of my CS background); therefore, everything
      that can be expressed in natural human languages is theoretically
      expressible in much simpler logical systems such as are used in
      computer languages, if we could just figure out how to do it right.

      > I was too hasty in talking about nouns and stuff. There don't have to be any nouns whatsoever as long as it's an optimized way to express whatever you need to communicate. 'Noun' is just an old term.
      > Let's not be so hypothetical as to say "even if I did so, it would not be clear I had done so". There are a lot of experienced conlangers subscribing to this list. Someone - anyone - construct a syntactic language without syntax as we know it (i.e. subject, verb, object, adverbial). And no excuses! Let's do it first and see what we've come up with. The rules are it has to be (sufficiently) unambiguous plus capable of expressing things we need to communicate. To build up to such a functional language it obviously has to be teachable and learnable somehow.
      > If our current knowledge of language is right, the languages we know are nothing but human cultural phenomena and there is no universal logic to how you can construct a functional language. Then this task I'm giving you is quite easy. This goes out to everyone! No excuses, just do it. It can't take long.

      That "(i.e. subject, verb, object, adverbial)" kind of ruins it. We've
      already established that it's *easy* to construct a language that does
      not use any of the familiar parts of speech or syntactic categories
      that you are used to, and even natural languages do it some times. If
      that's not what you actually mean by "syntax", you're going to have to
      tell us more precisely what your working definition of a "language
      without syntax as we know it" is. If a particular system literally had
      no syntax whatsoever, in the computational language theory sense, then
      it would, a priori, not be a language. Heck, in the sense of "rules
      for how components of the language can be combined", even the simple
      rule "you can never combine multiple morphemes at all" is still
      "syntax as we know it", albeit syntax for a system that would only be
      capable of communicating a finite set of predetermined messages and
      would not count as a "language" in the linguistics sense.

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