Topic: natural language as communication

topics > communication > Group: natural language


abstraction as part of language
beliefs and propositional attitudes
communication errors between people
interrupting interpersonal communication
language and life as a game
meaning by social context
meaning by use
meaning of words
natural language as action or problem solving
private language argument for skepticism about meaning
task communication
vivid representation of programs


The primary purpose of language is to express oneself, to communicate ideas, desires, emotions, etc. Common sense and practicality both encourage a literal interpretation. Even an index communicates.

Actual discourse is often broken and ungrammatical. Errors occur frequently yet they seldom cause difficulty. This is especially true during problem solving.

Communication of emotions is of a different kind than that of ideas. Body language and tone can be as important as the words themselves. Its effectiveness may be hard to determine.

So language is more than just the use of symbols to represent the world. A Robinson Crusoe who never interacted with anyone would not know a language. Nor do humans who are taught a symbolic language as chimpanzees were taught. We don't grasp a language like a hand grasps an object. A language is an integral part of our daily lives. (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: language as communication up

Quote: what can be said at all, can be said clearly [»dijkEW_1979]
Quote: the primary purpose of a language is to express oneself in a given problem area [»rossDT3_1957]
Quote: concepts are language; the purpose of language is efficacy in communication and prediction; this is the ultimate duty of language, science, and philosophy [»quinWV_1950]
Quote: we cannot intelligibly say that conceptual schemes are different or the same; nor can we distinguish conceptual schemes as a partial or total failure of translation [»daviD11_1974]

Subtopic: unambiguous language up

Quote: law makers, judges, and yourself should define their terms and say all else in words of one syllable; it forces you to talk straight, making it hard to hedge [»steeGL10_1998]
Quote: all the scientist creates in a fact is the unambiguous language in which he enunciates it [»poinH_1905, OK]
Quote: atomic physics has taught us how, without leaving common language, it is possible to create a framework sufficiently wide for an exhaustive description of new experience [»bohrN_1958]

Subtopic: size of language up

Quote: what is it like to use a language that is much too small? this talk uses words of one syllable plus defined words

Subtopic: follow common sense up

Quote: take natural discourse literally unless clear reasons not to; used in thought experiment for social basis of mental contents [»burgT_1979]
Quote: when you philosophize, don't leave your commonsense outside like an umbrella, bring it in with you [»wittL_1939]
Quote: despite a misunderstood notion in a held belief, a person usually expects words to have their normal meaning; willing to ask an authority [»burgT_1979]
Quote: if we want to understand others, we must count them right in most matters [»daviD11_1974]
Quote: any language that organizes the ordinary events of experience must be like our own [»daviD11_1974]

Subtopic: content always changes up

Quote: in actual communication, the content changes often, the sender's method seldom changes, the receiver's interpretation doesn't change [»tognB_1990]
Quote: understanding: there are many ways to say or do something, but all are the same [»browGS_1972]

Subtopic: sentences not used in speech up

Quote: though most research done in immaculate prose, sentences not used in natural talking [»chapA3_1975]
Quote: to understand speech must extricate thought from signs or words which often agree not with it [»chomN_1965]
Quote: in voice communication during task solving, almost no grammatical, syntactical or semantic rules [»chapA3_1973]
Quote: to understand another's speech must understand his words and his thoughts [»vyotLS_1962]
Quote: people often understand each other despite serious grammatical and semantic mistakes [»dreyHL_1979]

Subtopic: redundancy up

Quote: about 75% redundancy in English, even in reverse order; estimated the entropy as 1 bit per letter [»shanCE1_1951]
Quote: even though a sentence has lots of redundancy, it should contain something new or unexpected; otherwise why bother [»campJ_1982]

Subtopic: expressing emotions up

Quote: speech has a continuous range of dynamics for expressing emotions (also primates) [»sowaJF_1984]
Quote: a Frenchman can say something special by stopping his gestures; is part of the language [»bateG_1972]
Quote: emotional words and words for value judgments change rapidly in a language [»sowaJF_1984]
Quote: when we communicate a feeling, something which we can never know happens at the other end; we can only receive another expression [»wittL_1958]
Quote: the difference between drama and narrative is enactment, unity of action, and the intensification of emotion and time [»laurB_1991]
Quote: human movement demonstrated the animation techniques of squash and stretch, follow through, overlapping action, timing, and exaggeration

Subtopic: language is only an instrument up

Quote: language is only the instrument to science; words are but the signs of ideas; words are the daughters of earth and things are the sons of heaven [»johnS_1755, OK]
Quote: Frege does not use subject/predicate because it is part of the interaction between speaker and listener [»fregG_1879]

Subtopic: indexing as communication up

Quote: information retrieval is a process of communication between inquirers and indexers; i.e., a problem of language and meaning, or use [»blaiDC_1990]

Subtopic: motions of language without understanding up

Quote: Lenneberg used humans in Premack's experiments with symbol languages; they did better than the chimps but didn't understand [»ettlG1_1975]
Quote: a real Robinson Crusoe may go through the motions of language but he is not speaking a language because it is not used for communication [»martAP_1990]
Quote: Chinese room argument -- baskets of Chinese symbols and a rule book do not understand Chinese; symbols vs. meaning [»searJR1_1990]

Related Topics up

Group: communication   (27 topics, 819 quotes)

Topic: abstraction as part of language (18 items)
Topic: beliefs and propositional attitudes (28 items)
Topic: communication errors between people (4 items)
Topic: interrupting interpersonal communication (13 items)
Topic: language and life as a game (30 items)
Topic: meaning by social context (33 items)
Topic: meaning by use (58 items)
Topic: meaning of words (21 items)
Topic: natural language as action or problem solving (29 items)
Topic: private language argument for skepticism about meaning (34 items)
Topic: task communication (49 items)
Topic: vivid representation of programs
(22 items)

Updated barberCB 9/04
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