Member 420
242 entries

Project moderator:

Contributor to projects:
The great enhancement debate
The Total Library
Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
  • Affiliated
  •  /  
  • Invited
  •  /  
  • Descended
  • Wildcat’s favorites
    From Xarene
    Human Document...
    From Xaos
    It is not Gods that we...
    From TheLuxuryofProtest
    Deep Learning in the City...
    From Rourke
    The 3D Additivist Manifesto
    From syncopath
    Recently commented on
    From Benjamin Ross Hayden
    AGOPHOBIA (2013) - Film
    From Wildcat
    Tilting at windmills or...
    From Wildcat
    The jest of Onann pt. 1(...
    From syncopath
    From Wildcat
    Some nothings are like...
    Wildcat’s projects
    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...

    The Total Library
    Text that redefines...

    The great enhancement debate
    What will happen when for the first time in ages different human species will inhabit the earth at the same time? The day may be upon us when people...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From Wildcat's personal cargo

    Is Language a Window into Human Nature?
    It is obvious that we are in dire need of a new kind of language, a language that may be able to bridge the immensity of the gap we have created between the perception of the world and the manner by which we describe the same world.

    Our past is not a reliable companion to our future anymore, we cannot trust that the concepts, ideas and formulations which have allowed us to reach this point in time, as an evolutionary intersection, will yield the same results.

    the following is an excerpt from :"Is Language a Window into Human Nature?"

    The discrepancy between objective and inner reality is the reason we have difficulty understanding large numbers, the way statistics works, scientific theories like Newtonian physics and evolution, and quantum physics or how to navigate our complex modern society, which is so different from a small tribe of hunter-gatherers.

    Deeply ingrained in all the world's languages are conceptions about sex, intimacy, power,fairness—as well as ideas of divinity, degradation, and danger. This intuitive model of reality is a product of natural selection: the way it parses the world around us, the way it uses shortcuts and assumptions would have served our hunter-gatherer ancestors well, but it is less than perfect for dealing with some of the problems we face in the 21st Century.

    We need a new kind of language, but where are we going to find a new language, how are we going to find or create a new language?

    In the last chapter, "Escaping the Cave" (referring to Plato's allegory of prisoners in the cave), he points out not only the dangers that our intuitive thinking can pose, but how remarkable human achievements are in light of them.

    "Though language exposes the walls of our cave," he says, "it also shows us how we venture out of it, at least partway. People do, after all, catch glimpses of the sunlit world of reality. Even with our infirmities, we have managed to achieve the freedom of a liberal democracy, the wealth of a technological economy, and the truths of modern science."

    the rest of the article is here

    and the video is here:

    Fri, Jan 4, 2008  Permanent link

      RSS for this post
      Promote (15)
      Add to favorites (8)
    Synapses (18)

    carel     Fri, Jan 4, 2008  Permanent link
    Language is a two edged sword. It enables us to stack metaphor upon metaphor, giving us the ability to juggle abstract notions. But by naming something, we also strip the object or idea of its uniqueness. A particular object loses detail in our mind when we give it a name. It is easier to draw a face upside down than right side up for those who are not experienced at drawing a portrait. When we view a face right side up, the verbal labels of eye, ears, nose and mouth blur the uniqueness of those features we are observing. Something similar is mentioned in this pasage from "Julian Jaynes revisited" :

    "It is certainly a remarkable fact that there was a long time gap between the cave paintings and the re-emergence of art in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and moreover the art of these civilizations is quite different from what preceded it. The new art is rigid, non-naturalistic, lacking perspective. When naturalistic painting and the use of perspective were rediscovered, in the Italian Renaissance, these skills were no longer spontaneous but required long training and practice for mastery. This suggests that the cave artists were functioning in a different way from us today, and that something happened between their time and our own. Was this 'something' the development of modern language?"

    There will (and should) always be a "gap between the perception of the world and the manner by which we describe the same world." No matter what form of communication we invent, its usefulness in evolutionary sense will come from its incompleteness.
    Wildcat     Sat, Jan 5, 2008  Permanent link
    I definitely agree with you about the incompleteness issue, yet the direction I am pointing to is not to create a complete language, but to increase the efficiency and descriptive power of language whilst simultaneously allowing the mind a much greater leeway in its capability of description, both self-description and observational description. It seems to me that our capacity for metaphors and synonyms is the mark for a language of the mind that bypasses many of the commonly assumed realities (such as gender bias or the innate need to refer to ‘my body’ as a possession).

    We need, I believe a more plastic kind of language. My main issue is with the fact that our world (and the perception of this same world) has changed dramatically whilst our language (both common and specialized) has changed much more slowly and to my mind both inadequately and insufficiently so.

    The usefulness of language’s incompleteness in the evolutionary sense diminishes if the mode of communication dwindles into platitudes and clichés.

    Witness the immense contribution of L. Wittgenstein to language and creativity, if not to the modern mind as a whole.
    Michael Garrett     Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link
    The usefulness of language’s incompleteness in the evolutionary sense diminishes if the mode of communication dwindles into platitudes and clichés.

    And I would agree it has to some extent. Perhaps we need to place more emphasis on better use of language. I struggle to improve my own word usage. The sloppy use of language, it seems to me, leads to sloppy thinking.
    Wildcat     Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link
    that would be an Orwellian statement? and yes I agree, we need upgrade
    Spaceweaver     Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    For a human, to be a human is to be immersed in language. To live the life of a human is to language. The emergence of a new language, is nothing less than the emergence of a new human being. These two must come together. When we change or invent a concept, a meaning relation, when we invent a word or a name that was not before, or we use a word or a concept in a manner that was not before, when we do all these, we re-describe our own identity.
    Wildcat     Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    Brilliant Spaceweaver, thank you, for this:
    when we do all these, we re-describe our own identity.
    for that is the issue i am dealing with, in regard to language.

    I was thinking today that the very fact/act of thinking (and doing research) about the coming/existing singularity is changing me and redefining my identity in the process ('en passant' i am not certain i had/have a clearly defined identity to speak of) but as we speak it appears that some aspect/s of the usage of a/the new language does allow a self-metamorphosis (Kafka?) in a process somewhat akin to what Badiou calls 'evental site' (site événementiel).. (the event in this case is the language appropriation and the site is the mind of one..)
    wilfriedhoujebek     Tue, Jan 8, 2008  Permanent link
    While I admire the sentiment, the history of constructed languages hoping to solve some problem or other of current languages has been very rich in failures. And this unsatisfactory track-record of man-made languages is perhaps enough to forsake the effort to produce a new one. As reference I can recommand Umberto Eco's book on perfect languages.

    Language is a great thing, that does reflect the world we live in. But like evolution in biology, you can't outsmart it. Languages change all the time adopting to a changing world. I would not give up on it too soon.
    Rourke     Wed, Jan 9, 2008  Permanent link
    I endeavoured to respond to this post, but ended up writing my own. There's just so much to respond to when it comes to language.
    lateral     Fri, Mar 7, 2008  Permanent link
    I am undecided as to how specific language is to humans. Other animals have language. Even plants speak to one another by way of aerosol chemicals. I for one would be interested in a way to transcend language. It is imposed upon us right from the beginning of our lives.

    One concern is the transmission of thought between ourselves. Another is the internal processing of concepts; thought. The degree of marriage between the two determines how much ones thinking is determined by the language one speaks.

    I speak three languages fluently. In periods where I rely on all three for verbal communication I notice falling back on different languages for different areas of thought: Norwegian for mundane, day-to-day stuff. English for abstract concepts and factual knowledge. German for emotional concerns.

    This is probably highly reliant on imprints on my part, but what I want to illustrate is this question:
    By new language, do you mean some evolved bastard child of current spoken and written languages that primarily enables

    • more sophisticated communicatoin.

    • more sophisticated mental processes/thinking.

    Or are you looking for some new kind of language that trancends our current use of symbols?
    Wildcat     Fri, Mar 7, 2008  Permanent link
    Thank you Lateral for an insightful comment, let me start by saying that language I see as an abstract apparatus (or technology if you prefer) operating on a multidimensional platform of emergent phenomena such as minds (it is my view that there may be other kind of platforms that at present are unknown to us). Taking into account the possible fact that the universe is a vast information processing system, it goes without saying that communication is a fundamental of all existence. given these two premises I now go on to hypothesize that all transfer of information is fundamentally a communication but not all kinds of communication are languages. I believe that ants or bees (some plants, whales and dolphins come to mind) have a very sophisticated form of information transmission, retrieval, processing and acknowledgment, but is it language? language need be structured, syntactical and structured, able to evolve and transmute for it to be properly called a language. So these diverse forms of life may have communication procedures but most I wouldn’t call language, especially not when it comes to abstract conceptualizations.
    Having said the above, I believe that what is needed for us humans is not an upgrade of the language we already have, but a completely different form of communication, able to propel us into the next step of our evolution as a specie.
    So to answer your question clearly, yes I am looking for a language that transcends our current symbol oriented system of communication.
    rene     Thu, Mar 13, 2008  Permanent link
    I'm glad to see that you're "looking for a language that transcends our current symbol oriented system of communication." I'm planning to contribute to this discussion more extensively, but for now let me use this context to make a few more remarks about the “exuberant” laughter you and your friends experienced during the road trip you described in Nothingness Rules. You commented that your fit of laughter had "the sense of the universal, a sensation not unlike an insight into the nature of things." I have many friendships that likewise have transcended language on several memorable occasions, forging enduring bonds that were strengthened by the sensation of having spontaneously tuned into a similar wavelength that often remained inaccessible to others in the room. I even know families that are permanently at odds with each other except for such inexplicable shared moments. I’ve often wondered how it’s possible that something as significant as sharing an “insight into the true nature of things,” which has an unmistakable philosophical component, is so much more effectively expressed by laughter rather than words. This phenomenon appears to be some kind of end run around every known rule, convention or discourse, bypassing symbolism, code and language to tune into the way things actually are; like a glimpse into another dimension among the many that are currently imperceptible to us.
    Wildcat     Sun, Jun 22, 2008  Permanent link
    a current article in Cognitive daily proposes that music may help us learn language and maybe offer a glimpse into a richer form of learning.

    "One of the first steps to learning a language is figuring out where one word ends and the next one begins. Since fluent speakers don't generally pause between words, it can be a daunting task. We've discussed one of the ways people do it in this post — they focus in on consonant sounds. Other researchers have found that we also focus on the statistical properties of language.

    Certain syllables are likely to follow each other within individual words, but unlikely to follow each other between words. Take the phrase "between words." In English, within a single word we're much more likely to hear bet followed by ween than ween followed by wor.

    Researchers have found that if you make up nonsense words like gimysi and mimosi and play a constant stream of these words to listeners, the listeners will eventually figure out the boundaries of the words based solely on the statistical properties of the words."

    read the rest here
    Eli Horn     Wed, Aug 20, 2008  Permanent link
    This is a subject that has me thinking a lot lately. I think when approaching the idea of a new language, maybe the best place to start is Why? What do we want to communicate that our current language is not allowing for?

    I notice falling back on different languages for different areas of thought

    Lateral's response made me realize that our language is as good a tool as it was meant to be. The languages that we use most now (spoken/written) would not have been invented as the catch-all form of communication that we use them as. In discussions regarding language I often hear (and repeat myself) that our language doesn't allow for the subtleties of emotion or the absurdities of our imagination. The cultures from which these languages emerged would most-likely (I'm no anthropologist, nor was I there to experience the forming of our languages, so this is all blatant assumtion) have already had a number of ways to express these things through music, artwork, dance, body language, touching, etc. It seems to me that considering these facts, our language probably originated as blunt commands ("Give chicken", "Go to river" ) that may have been harder to express through a dance or a song, and was not intended to be used to the extent that we use it today.

    Of course we have developed this form of language far beyond blunt commands to encompass a wide range of emotions and abstract concepts, but in doing so we have lost most of fluency in the other forms (music, art and dance), so much so that they now all fall under one umbrella (arts) which continues to be an elective study. These languages still have a great deal to do with our lives but they have been delegated mainly to a one-way form of communication: an artist produces a piece of art/music, releases it in a gallery/album, the audience takes that message and interprets it as they please. But even then, we are so out of touch with these languages that we feel the need to explain them through spoken/written words.

    Wildcat—I fully appreciate everything you have pointed out at this point, but I don't think that a new language necessarily has to be a developed through technological means. I imagine that we have everything we need to within us (or at least much more than we're currently using) to communicate the subtleties that evade this language. Unfortunately humans seem to have a tendency to rely heavily on a single-minded approach, to a lot of subjects, that allows the devolution of the alternatives.
    Maybe it's time to bring art and music back into education (I say back, but when has it ever been there?!)—and not necessarily as a way to make things pleasant, but as a building block of communication.
    Wildcat     Sat, Aug 23, 2008  Permanent link
    ehorn: "
    I fully appreciate everything you have pointed out at this point, but I don't think that a new language necessarily has to be a developed through technological means. I imagine that we have everything we need to within us (or at least much more than we're currently using) to communicate the subtleties that evade this language

    That a new language need not necessarily be developed via technology is obvious, the point is that technology (as the engineering or manifest facet of science) allows certain aspects of reality to be perceived in a manner previously unknown or inexperienced by the human mind (microorganisms for example is a meaningless word if you do not have a microscope to witness the reality the word points to).

    You state that: “we have everything we need within us (or at least much more than we are currently using), and to this I both agree and disagree, to the second part of the statement, namely the fact that we use less than what we can (or have as potential), I agree wholeheartedly, there is no doubt in my mind that we are much more capable creatures than the apparent reality shows and actually portrays. However to the first part, namely, that ‘we have everything we need within us’ I wholeheartedly disagree, I do not think that we have as of yet the capabilities, that have evolved in us, to realize in language the subtleties of the world science has discovered and technology has made evident.
    It is my firm belief in this case that the words we use at present represent a tiny spectrum of the possible fuzzy phase space of a much larger and subtler reality.

    As to your suggestion to bring back (or indeed to finally embed) art and music into education as the motoric, mimetic, sensorial and emotional aspect of language I couldn’t agree more. Communication between humans nowadays has devolved into a series of agreed (or disagreed upon) fixed symbols with very little leeway in the realm of deeper expression.

    Eli Horn     Thu, Aug 28, 2008  Permanent link
    I think I misunderstood your exact meaning behind the use of technology in the development of language—I agree with there, and we have clearly developed language a great deal in that way since its conception. Is that a path to a new language though, or simply a very precise form of our current language? Obviously the advancement of technology brings new terms and meaning to our language, so it does sort of become a new language all the time, as it gains meaning that it did not before. As I see it, a language that truly "transcends our current symbol oriented system of communication" cannot simply be a collection of words, however large or small the spectrum because it is only a matter of time before these tools for communication gain significance as symbols themselves.

    The closest I can see us getting to overcoming our symbol-oriented communication is direct communication of our emotions and raw thoughts without translation through the physical realm. I would love to say let's start telecommunication right now, but that is an example of something we have not gained the capabilities of yet.

    "We have everything we need within us" was perhaps a bold statement, as it's true, we obviously don't, but what we do have within us is the potential for everything we need, and the only way to have that is to consciously develop it (which I don't see happening on a large scale).

    All this to say that, yes, I do agree that at the point we are at now, developing our current language further by broadening its spectrum of meaning is the most direct way to advance our communication. I really like your reference to 'a much larger and subtler reality' as I think that's what we truly gain by this. I don't believe though that this will allow us to transcend our symbol-based communication. I'm not suggesting that music/art is necessarily the solution, but I think it is the closest we have come so far and I would love to see us experiment with new language forms and see what is possible.
    Wildcat     Thu, Sep 4, 2008  Permanent link
    for a future history development of the english language check :

    The American Language in 3000 AD
    Wildcat     Sat, Oct 11, 2008  Permanent link
    "Does the language we speak influence the way we think? Scientists have fiercely debated this question for more than a century. A July 1 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences bolsters the case against language’s influence by showing that people with different native tongues organize events in the same order—even if that order is different from the one dictated by their native grammar.

    Psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow of the University of Chicago asked Chinese, English, Spanish and Turkish speakers to describe activities by using only their hands. Turkish is the only language in the quartet that follows subject, object, verb, or SOV, order (as in “woman knob twists”). The other languages adhere to the pattern subject, verb, object (“woman twists knob”). When gesturing, however, all participants used the SOV order, regardless of their native language. The same was true in a noncommu­ni­cative task in which volunteers had to put pictures in order.

    The results point to the existence of a “natural order” that humans use when representing events nonverbally, the researchers say. Where such a natural order might come from is unknown, but Goldin-Meadow suggests that it may influence developing languages so that they initially use the SOV order—such is the case with a sign language currently emerging in Israel. Languages are sub­ject to other pressures, however, such as the need to be semantically clear and rhetorically interesting. As a language becomes more complex, she explains, these pressures might push it away from the natural SOV order. Today the two dominant orders that were represented in this study are equally frequent and account for roughly 90 percent of the world’s languages."

    Scientific American Mind
    chronman     Tue, Nov 25, 2008  Permanent link
    I wouldn't say that "we" need a new kind of language, individuals must find it within themselves to enhace their language/diction.

    Language in itself is an art, an art intertwined with our connections, our emotions, our perceptions/mental states, personality, and the people around us -changes of speech with respect to the enviornmental and social context-.

    One must pay careful attention to how they decide to explain [and ultimately "code"] a concept or thought to themselves. The more expansive ones vocabulary is, the more effectively they can project ideas and express themselves. Similarly, poor vocabulary deteriorates the quality of expression.

    It is the complete responsibility of the individual to improve and/or modify their language, not the "we".

    The language of the Yanomamo Indians (If I'm not mistaken) raises a few questions; In their language, there aren't any words designated for specific numbers. Words such as "many", "plenty", "few", "alot", "the", and etc are used to describe quantity.

    - The language seems to functions as a sort of "mathematical barrier".

    It raises a question of wheter the language or human nature plays the active role in preserving the existence of this barrier.

    The case of Australoids (Australian Aborigines) is interesting in that their language aswell, contains a similar "mathematical barrier", but they have been found to have a propensity to thinking "visualistically" or abstractly.

    Similar studies have been conducted on City vs Farm kids to examine their styles of visual memory.

    Language has a direct role personality; if you're one who speaks more than one language or different styles of your language -Slang, Argot, Dialect-, you might've noticed. This provides a great deal of support for the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis.

    Heres a link to a studies on this issue - Click Here

    Regarding the study of "SOV"...

    Language influences thought, but beyond that, the style of a particular language -diction or how one uses their words- has more influence than a complete different language (Though a different language facilitates difference in the styles of using words)
    Wildcat     Wed, Nov 26, 2008  Permanent link
    I have a strong agreement with the weak version of the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis, namely, I believe that language has an interactive activity with thought. Though it is true that language affects thought to some extent, it will be untrue to fully support the idea (a’ la Orwell) of strong language determinism. En passant let me mention that though I have some strong agreements with S.Pinker I disagree with his fundamental premise concerning the idea that thought is independent of language.

    Language influences thought and thought influences language; Yet that is only part of the equation, our perceptual mechanisms based on our hardwired brains are at the core of our language procedures, and though there is no doubt that initially it is an individual enterprise, the very fact that we are part of a larger collective (humanity) demands it to be a ‘we’ enterprise.

    I have no argument that a comprehensive and elaborated vocabulary and extensive knowledge of language/s has a strong influence on our capability to express both subtleties of emotions and larger realities. However the evolution of civilization and with it our newly found technological prowess demands of us new modes of expression that are fundamentally inexistent in our hardwired perceptual mechanisms. So in a sense we need all of these to work in tandem, we need both an elaboration of the existing linguistic tools that are already at our disposal and the extension of these tools into a new set of meanings and implications. Moreover, we need both work on the project of upgrading our language on an individual basis and simultaneously evolve a better form of collaborative tools, prime amongst which is a new set of agreements concerning language.
    Finally I definitely agree that as a new kind of mind is emerging, what is generally referred to as the extended mind (via technology) in hyperconnectivity, a transformation is occurring, said transformation is concomitantly an individual transformation (both of modes of thought and the language involved) and an application of the same to our communicative agreements, which makes it a cultural development (and thus implies a ‘we’).

    No mind exists independently and thus no change occurs on an individual basis only, hence any evolutionary perspective an individual takes, necessarily implies a correlative realization of its implication on its mind ecology, namely other minds, ideas ,society, culture, civilization and so on (these, as an ensemble stand for the ecology of mind).

    What I see is an emergence of a new kind of language that will (and in a sense already is) progress in parallel with the existing one, both evolving with and transcending that which already exists. The level of plasticity and subtlety demanded of the modern mind in its actual self-perception and in consequence self-description, is of such magnitude that for all practical purposes our cultural language is continuously lagging behind the thought processes responsible for the change we see. A language that is capable of transmission and parsing the integration of sense and thought, conveying the extended reality of an extended being in hyperconnectivity is thus a necessity.

    I have mentioned a while ago the incorporation of the term polylogue (for example), a term designating the simultaneous conversations taking place between two or more minds in two or more channels, across two or more dimensions of time and space, a cross time space polylogue. This term, polylogue is an example of a reality of hyperconnectivity to which we could not relate before our present time, for the simple reason that it did not exist , nevertheless, it does now and thus influences our sense thought processes. How are we to relate to such a simultaneous, multidimensional on going communication? since our present language has evolved in a situation that did not require these tools and implementations we did not develop the necessary instruments to convey this kind of reality.
    but now we do need these tools, and now we have both the means and mind-frame that allows the new language to arise.

    gamma     Sat, Nov 29, 2008  Permanent link
    If I can't write Terse, I'll throw a yogurt at somebody.
    michaelerule     Wed, Dec 3, 2008  Permanent link
    Perhaps Math ?
    Math is precise and unambiguous, sometimes a bit more verbose but very rigorous. We cannot implement a computational model of a system without translating it into math, and if we are to build artificial consciousness we must create a mathematical formulation of consciousness. We then will have enabled perfect and unambiguous representation of states of perception.
    gamma     Mon, Dec 15, 2008  Permanent link
    Please forgive the lateness of my reply,
    when I think of terse writing I think of Bjarne Stroustrup  creator of C++ language.

    My impression about writing is that there is not enough time to explain all in detail or better said to describe all there is about one experience. It would be much better is everyone would catch up automatically and quickly.

    Just a few words combined create a base for language with plenty of possibilities to code complexity. I heard that Sanskrt (officially not missing any letter in it's name) is the best language for programming. German and Greek are best for philosophy. English is simple and should take on the world.

    Common language contains amazing and simple natural code - mathematical order:

    Some people may feel that language is therefore better than it seems. (Oh surely it CAN be better?? or evolve!)

    I draw from this 3 possible suggestions, all 3 very general sounding:
    1. need to be understood at all times
    2. wanting to be able to talk at all times, including inspired states like dreaming
    3. possible evolution of language

    As a side note, I don't like C++ very much because I prefer a little more of nice old order present in Pascal or some school language. Still, C++ can encode such universal statements that I can drag elements on the screen inside a virtual machine with operating system to the outer operating system and the object is comprehended which bring me a bit of excitement.
    gamma     Fri, Feb 27, 2009  Permanent link
    Today I opened my newsletters... I am subscribed to all of them anyway, and the news came about the possible loss of 2500 languages from the planet (Earth). I am not much of an expert in the social sciences and all that ... (life essentials), to say if it matters - you decide.

    "PARIS: The world has lost Manx in the Isle of Man, Ubykh in Turkey and last year Alaska's last native speaker of Eyak, Marie Smith Jones, died, taking the aboriginal language with her.
    Of the 6,900 languages spoken in the world, some 2,500 are endangered, the UN's cultural agency UNESCO said last week as it released its latest atlas of world languages.
    That represents a multi-fold increase from the last atlas compiled in 2001, which listed 900 languages threatened with extinction. But experts say this is more the result of better research tools than of an increasingly dire situation for the world's many tongues."

    (In return English will become 2500 times better :-)
    Wildcat     Mon, May 11, 2009  Permanent link
    A Cultural Law of Gravity
    A fascinating post on Babel's Dawn, concerning language variations and the fixity of culture.

    "..It is now well established that language cannot follow just any old rules. Linguists a few decades back thought there was no limit to the variety of language, but research has since identified a number of formal constraints that mark boundaries. Language can work within those borders, but not cross them. The trouble with those borders is understanding what these constraints mean psychologically and neurologically. There must be some reason beyond the formal rules for why these constraints existed. We hardly know how to think about these matters, let alone explain them. A letter in the most recent issue of Nature reminds me, however, that clues are coming in from, of all places, songbirds."

    read it here
    gamma     Thu, May 14, 2009  Permanent link
    I wonder if anyone has concrete recommendations on the use passive voice in America/International English language. For example, automatic grammar check in Office 2007/2009 does not allow passive voice almost never. Wikipedia claims that passive voice is good and we should keep it and resist groups who say it's bad writing style. I think that scientific articles sound insane when it comes to passive voice, writing in third person, and all that formalism. Any advice perhaps?
    Infinitas     Thu, May 14, 2009  Permanent link
    Yeah I'm not a fan of "having to" write in active voice and third person. In my opinion, it would be much easier to get the point across using the style one is most comfortable with.

    I hate grammar check in Office....I always write in passive voice without realizing it.
    Wildcat     Mon, Jun 8, 2009  Permanent link
    World-renowned linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky is interviewed by Peter Ludlow answering some very deep questions concerning language and the mind, society and philosophy. take the time and watch it, a worthwhile presentation.

    Wildcat     Sun, Jun 14, 2009  Permanent link
    a must read

    "For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity."

    By Lera Boroditsky
    gamma     Tue, Jun 16, 2009  Permanent link
    (My perverse pride is back on! I am better than the west and I can even read your language ... "flute nuke grammar" um... Just kidding.) You know what struck me, that brainwaves are streams that can condense onto forms, virtually programming algorithms (designing networks) in mind using thoughts.

    "Nearly everyone has tip-of-the-tongue moments, but bilinguals seem especially prone to these momentary lapses in vocabulary…"

    In other news, there was a discovery of possibly the oldest evidence of symbolic language: 
    NOOKANYC     Tue, Jun 16, 2009  Permanent link
    i wrote on a similar theme on a recent post
    and i am very optimistic that we can evolve a human language with mathematic precision that can express facts factually, and emotions with feeling. language is moreover vague only when used to be so. ambiguity is a clear message when that is the intent.
    gamma     Tue, Jun 16, 2009  Permanent link
    i wrote on a similar theme on a recent post
    and i am very optimistic that we can evolve a human language with mathematic precision that can express facts factually, and emotions with feeling. language is moreover vague only when used to be so. ambiguity is a clear message when that is the intent.

    Well, I don't know. I hope they cancel the language of law/legal issues. More equivalences and similarities make equations better. It seems to aid vagueness, but its better in practice.
    Ashalynd     Tue, Jun 30, 2009  Permanent link
    Language, as I now think, is first and foremost a symbolic representation of the cultural context where it is used as a communication medium. Language can't exist (in the sense, to be alive, to develop) without people using it. Different societies of people have different "common denominators" (not a very suitable term, may be it would be better to say about "collective mind"), because of many reasons - nature conditions, technology level, historical background etc... these differencies are both mirrored and reinfluenced with the language.

    One interesting phenomenon in favor of the idea that any language is intertwined with the cultural context: the dialects of the minorities living outside of their native country in the society different from their own. The "level of deviation" for the speakers of the original language who moved abroad can differ, but it is almost ubiquitos: some people start using the words from the new "major language" to describe the concepts which, as they feel, are not properly represented by their own, some borrow certain grammar constructions and some even do it with idioms, literally translating them into their language, by the way of adoption. I have observed this phenomenon by many Russian people who emigrated to the West, it is always a target of jokes at home, which also indirectly proves the scale of it :)

    When I read the example from the Lera Boroditsky article, mentioning well-known issue of two distinct words in Russian for "blue" and "light blue" I have realilzed that both my children, who speak grammatically correct Russian language but have lived in the Netherlands for most part of their lives, know both these words but use them almost at random. Do they not care about the difference because in the context which is now primary for them it is not that important? Language is used by the children to mirror the reality, not vice versa; they do get it from the adults but mold it to suit their own needs as they please.

    From the other side, language and the associative field related to it can guide the thoughts of both adults and children (everybody likes playing with language). Knowing more than one language makes your thoughts more polyphonic. I am wondering, whether the world where only one language would exist, an unambigous and all-purpose language, would not be too dull and predictable? We don't want the whole Earth full of people living exactly the same way, do we?..

    I thought earlier that the language is a living and conscious thing of sorts, which uses the minds of its speakers as the neuron cells, but now I think that the living thing is the whole community and the language just represents it like a human mind is a representation of the whole person. The experienced travellers know that to truly emigrate from one place to another, it is not enough just to learn the grammar and vocabulary of the other language, - you have to adopt the other culture. If you failed to do it, you will return back sooner or later and you won't accept the language either, or the language won't accept you (I have seen quite a few of these situations as well, being for a while an administrator of a portal for Russian speakers in the Netherlands). I can't also help mentioning Daniil Andreev and his book The Rose of the World where he tried, among other things, to explain the idea about the existence of different subcultures in the humanity and their roles in history. May be the language is one of the strongest links with these subcultures, and moving from one to another means letting go of one link and grabbing another - not an easy task for a human being. And can you ever truly emigrate? Or could you still keep holding both links? Is it possible to be truly polylingual person, knowing several languages together with their associative fields and cultural backgrounds? This surely must be one of the richest experiences one could have...
    Wildcat     Sun, Nov 15, 2009  Permanent link
    'Language gene' effects explored

    A gene that has long been implicated in the evolution of speech and language has given up more of its secrets.

    A study of the effects of two versions of the FOXP2 gene, one from chimpanzees and one from humans, showed marked differences in their effects.

    Human FOXP2 triggered changes in genes known to affect the growth of brain areas related to language and also, more generally, to higher thought.

    The findings, published in Nature, could aid diagnosis of mental diseases.
    the rest is here

    The exact genetic basis of language is mysterious. But the FOXP2 gene was first implicated as a contributor when, in 1990, a family with an inherited language disorder was found to have a mutation in the gene.

    A structurally very similar "version" of the gene is found in a wide number of species of vertebrates.

    And ancient DNA, extracted from Neanderthal remains, shows the same version of the gene found in humans.

    But the form in chimpanzees is slightly different. It varies by just two amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins that are in turn the building blocks of genes.

    "Two doesn't sound like a lot but given how highly conserved the gene is across species and how close we are in evolutionary time to chimps, that was a pretty big change," said Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led this study.
    Wildcat     Sun, Nov 15, 2009  Permanent link
    LANGUAGE IS A MAP by Tim O'Reilly, EP 38

    on the same token watch this:

    Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media, explains how what he learned from the Human Potential Movement of the 70's has become the foudation of his business today. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Distributed by Tubemogul.

    starwalker     Thu, Nov 19, 2009  Permanent link
    Is communication a distinct concept from language? How to describe the distinction?
    Among the very critical points of thought brought up by this extended polylogue, I believe there is the fact that we exist on the very line of a number of breakthroughs in communication (meant as the ‘process’ of transferring information in between agents or alternatively as the process of propagating reflective waves in a network of agents).
    Just summarizing the evident: hyperconnectivity, multimediality, breaking of space-time continuity, distribution of reference authority (from fixed institutions to complex networks – ex. wikipedia, twitter). How we communicate is in breakthrough, possibly also the what and the why:). And words and languages are swayed into change.

    To mention something that may be trivial but to me is still quite surprising, the possibility of writing/reading one’s and others' thoughts in a composition of images – photos – videos – link – music (and what else I may be missing) has become a critical part in the understanding of the written lines, and by critical I mean without it I do not really understand in the same way. It is clearly a very relevant factor in resolving the disambiguation, in freeing one from being trapped in words, and words from being univocally trapped in meanings. Another thing is that constantly referencing each other has become a form of communication (a language?).
    It is as if the fact that the bodily presence (for ex. in this polylogue) is not there in providing the audio, visual, tactile or subconscious aspect of the input, has open a variety of diverse possibilities of communication which may be the first signs of the new language.

    May be the in-coming new language is and will be more and more clearly about encoding co-ordinates: one’s location on a network, on a semantic map of meanings, on a tune of emotional composition, and so on. Eventually matching the emerging co-ordinates delivers us with immediate and unmediated communication.

    gamma     Sat, Nov 21, 2009  Permanent link
    NEW topics. Enjoy.

    1. swearing, curses and fillings. Do you swear? Are you fluent?

    2. repeating a word continuously appears to disintegrate the meaning of word. Try now and go mad.

    3. number of words for "handsome man" in English is
    a) 20
    b) 200
    c) 220

    (and the answer in leet language is 7w€n7¥)
    Olena     Sat, Nov 21, 2009  Permanent link
    Wildcat - I agree with your first post; I must admit I haven't had a chance to read most of the comments yet... but here is my contribution:

    She had always thought that if only people could communicate mind-to-mind, eliminating the ambiguities of language, then understanding would be perfect and there'd be no more needless conflicts. Instead she had discovered that rather than magnifying differences between people, language might just as easily soften them, minimize them, smooth things over so that people could get along even though they didn't really understand each other.

    Orson Scott Card, Xenocide

    I see a lot of posts concerning thought-sharing on SC in general, and although I'm part for it, I think this is a valid argument against that.
    I don't think all people are capable of agreeing about everything, so perhaps at some point it's best not to get too honest, lest we begin demonizing and criminalizing each other left and right, just for the knowledge of our innermost thoughts.
    Wildcat     Sun, Nov 22, 2009  Permanent link
    @Olena: The point of course is that thought sharing if and when it will arrive (you can bet that in the coming decades if not earlier such technopathy- technological induced telepathy, will be commonplace) will not be a replacement for language but an enhanced feature of our cultural and social lives. Honesty has nothing to do with it, we do not have to agree on everything, we could share our thoughts, minds and feelings and visions, if and when it suits us, of course the technology for choosing which thoughts to divulge in public or to intimate friends and colleagues need be embedded. The issue which we need address is one of layering, sophistication and learned skills of subtle communication, indeed the privacy control buttons on a technopathy will need be clear and have a very friendly UIX. The need for a new and improved language could be alleviated a bit if I could as an example transmit to you directly the complex thoughts I have about language.. ☺

    btw, exquisite quote from Xenocide, a very enlightening book indeed and one of my fav sci-fi reads.
    Olena     Sun, Nov 22, 2009  Permanent link
    Wildcat -
    Yes, you're right. I guess I wasn't really considering it as a real technology; we certainly would need the options to choose which thought to communicate and how.
    But that sounds really funny - we already have the faculties to do so! Which was partially your point in the first place, wasn't it? That we're just not very efficient yet.

    Do you think that part of it is due to specialization? Separate humans understand things so differently, but say, if we had the homo universalis who would both be fluent in and have the ability to blend verbal language with thought language, visual, scientific, mathematical...
    Thoughts are more like that - not so linear, but richly composed.

    & Yes! I recently finished the Saga; really enjoyable and definitely enlightening.