Conceptualising Language:

1.0  Basic Concepts of Language:

A.  Basic Definitions:

                    i.  The Wrong Tradition?

The western Humanist tradition likes to imagine "language" as the dividing line between "animal" and "human". This seems to be because the prime function of language is assumed to be the expression of human ideas and desires.

Like so many western/humanist ideas, this (largely unquestioned) supposition leads to a whole raft of complex problems -which western philiosophy itself seems unable to answer.

I do not like the approach which sees "communication" as the main function of (and synonym for)  "language".

ii.  A Simpler Approach:

In my view,  it is better to separate out the operations  of  assigning and interpreting "meaning" from the process of language construction:

My approach therefore tends to focus on the difference between "semantic" and "syntactic" aspects of language -and to see another important (conceptual and practical) division between "construction" and "application" of a language.

a. Syntactic and Semantic:

In this (differentiated) approach -a "language" consists of:
This is similar to the concept of a System -which consists of:

"Systems" are usually concidered to be representations of actions and interactions involving objects in the  physical universe -while "language" is usually concidered to involve non-physical elements. However, even this is slightly problematic -because it is also common for some people  to speak of a "visual language" or a "musical language" -where presumably the elements have both a physical and a mental "presence" (which might be concidered separate from their "meaning")....
However, presumably, the similarity between a (concrete) system and an (abstract) language allows the two to be linked in such a way that allows the language to function as a model for the system.

If this is done -then the characteristics of the language itself can be concidered as representing the "syntactical aspect" while the characteristics of the system it is modelling can be concidered as representing the "semantic aspect" of the language.

In practice, this separation may not be so simple -because if the language is specifically invented in order to model a specific system -then the grammar of the language is likely to reflect the characteristics of the system being modelled. This is why (I concider) it is important to separate the semantic from the syntactic -in order to understand the interaction more clearly.

b. Construction and Application:

Most people learn their native language(s) as children -and, in any case, generally learn a language that has already been developed -so they are not aware of the problems of constructing a language.

However, the creative artist can easilly be faced with the problem of creating their own language -although the implications of the division between the artist who adopts (and perhaps adapts) a language as opposed to the artist (or philosopher) who develops their own language seems poorly understood, even among those who should know better.

Unfortunately, many romantic (avant guarde) artists seemed to wish to invent their own language and then, without any serious attempt to explain it properly to the public, complain that they were poorly understood.

Perhaps there are actually several levels involved:

B.  Relating Language to Information and Knowledge:

"Information" has been defined as "The difference that makes a difference".

This is because "information" also involves a  mapping between two physical systems (or perhaps a physical system and a conceptual system -which could suggest that "information" is the inverse of language).

In practice -information involves a physical system which can change "state" -such that each change of state in the physical signalling system represents a different state in the referenced system. In "Information Theory" the signalling system needs to have at least as many (recognisably) different "signal" states as there are "messages" in the referenced system -otherwise not all messages can be coded unambiguously into signals.

Presumably, "knowledge" adds another layer to the "interpretation process" -because it appears to imply an understanding of the meaning of the message (which had already been coded by the signal).

Surely, the existance of these  complex chains of  meaning and interpretation  only underline the need to define and specify exactly which level  one is refering to -or operating within.

2.0  Relating Language to Space:

A. Why?

B. Exploring Functional and Procedural Space:

   (functions and the unconsious)
   (algorithms, language and grammar)

Trevor Batten
Manila, March 2006

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