Topic: natural language as action or problem solving

topics > communication > Group: natural language

beliefs and propositional attitudes
meaning by use
natural language as a system
natural language as communication
philosophy of mind
problem solving


If meaning comes from use then natural language is a form of action. It is not representational of the world, although representation plays a supporting role. This make words as tools for expressing oneself, solving problems, and carrying on with life.

As a result, language is really normative. The effectiveness of what one says or thinks depends on the context. If you use words in the right way, then they will work for you. Language is also fluid since the uses of words change with context and time.

Speech act theory is a systemization of this idea. If words are action, then how do you categorize those actions. An extreme form of speech act theory is Flore's and Winograd's emphasis on commitment. (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: understanding through use up

Quote: you understand an expression when you know how to use it, although it may conjure up a picture [»wittL_1939]

Subtopic: meaning is normative, not descriptive up

Quote: the relation of meaning and intention to future action is normative, not descriptive; e.g., 68+57 should be 125 [»kripSA_1982]

Subtopic: meaning to achieve objective up

Quote: words are tools to convey meanings in order to achieve objectives
Quote: message-passing semantics: meaning of a message depends on its effect on subsequent behavior [»hewiC4_1985]
Quote: agency is a key component of first-person experience; even though may describe it without agents, the ability to do something is a criterion [»laurB_1991]
Quote: the subjunctive corresponds to predicting outcomes, e.g., What would happen if ... [»stroT_1985]

Subtopic: language as activity up

Quote: when hammering a nail, one does not need an explicit representation of the hammer; the ability to act comes first [»winoT_1986]
Quote: language is a form of action instead of expressing assertions about the world through the denotations of words [»pitkHF_1972]
Quote: there need not be a mental process of thinking, hoping, etc. independent of expressing a thought, a hope, etc. [»wittL_1958]
Quote: if language is an activity rather than a collection of labels, systematic inconsistencies are essential; invalidates other assumptions [»pitkHF_1972]

Subtopic: movement as language up

Quote: movement is a quick and perfect translation from the language of spatial representation to the language of muscle formula [»bernNA_1947]

Subtopic: mathematics as innate up

Quote: abstract knowledge of number and addition precedes, and may guide, language-based instruction in mathematics

Subtopic: language as assertion up

Quote: in uttering 'Witchgren is on the mat' the speaker is making an assertion whether or not Witchgren is on the mat [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: language as problem solving up

Quote: the primary purpose of a language is to express oneself in a given problem area [»rossDT3_1957]
Quote: a language helps to organize thinking about a problem area [»rossDT3_1957]
Quote: a language represents the important features of a problem area and thus channels expressions [»rossDT3_1957]
Quote: can not subdivide universe of problems into fixed areas, each with its own special notation [»holtAW5_1958]
Quote: AED is a system for problem solving by lexical, parsing, modeling, and analysis phases; machine and language independence by changing the control information for each phase [»rossDT_1967]

Subtopic: speech acts up

Quote: by uttering a sentence we make a move in the language game; a linguistic act
Quote: speech act theory--language and thought is ultimately based on social interaction [»winoT_1986]
Quote: illocutionary speech acts consist of assertives, directives, commissives, declarations and expressives [»blaiDC6_1992]
Quote: in uttering an utterance a speaker is performing various speech acts; e.g., referring, asserting, stating, ordering [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: a speech act must satisfy certain conditions; e.g., a corpse won't normally do for a greeting [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: language as commitment up

Quote: language is action, not communication; the basis of language is commitment within a social structure [»winoT_1986]
Quote: communication is a process of commitment and interpretation, not one of transmitting information or symbols
Quote: it is meaningless to discuss objects in the absence of concernful activity with a potential for breaking down [»winoT_1986]
Quote: every language act has consequences; immediate actions and commitments for future action; if breakdown in commitment than a dialog [»winoT_1986]
Quote: meaning arises in the commitment expressed in speech acts [»winoT_1986]
Quote: cannot avoid acting, every representation is an interpretation, language is action [»winoT_1986]

Related Topics up

Topic: beliefs and propositional attitudes (28 items)
Topic: commitment (31 items)
Topic: meaning by use (58 items)
Topic: natural language as a system (43 items)
Topic: natural language as communication (34 items)
Topic: phenomenology (37 items)
Topic: philosophy of mind (78 items)
Topic: problem solving
(32 items)

Updated barberCB 9/04
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