Posts Tagged ‘discovery’

“Language” is discovered but “languages” are invented

July 23, 2018

Say I speak only English and you speak only Japanese. We meet and we

  1. have the desire to communicate, and
  2. attempt to communicate by speech

We hear only gibberish. We cannot decode the sounds we hear to discern any meanings. We do not have a shared language. But our communication is not doomed to failure. What we do share is

  1. that we both have language,
  2. the inferred knowledge that each of us does have a specific language,
  3. the knowledge that we are lacking an agreed vocabulary of signals (sounds, symbols….) representing meanings and an agreed  structure for combining these signals when we transmit and receive them from each other.

We have both already discovered language. What we lack is a shared language. With time and application and given that we each know that the other is both aware of, and capable of language, we can invent a shared vocabulary and an acceptable common grammar. We can invent a particular “Jinglish” for our communications.

That two or more brains can communicate if they have a shared system for the encoding of meanings into signals, which signals can then be transmitted and received and decoded into their meanings, is not an invention but a discovery.

The subsequent development of a specific agreed upon system – a specific language – is then invention. English and Japanese and Braille are invented. Hieroglyphs and alphabets and emojis are invented. Paintings on cave walls, impressions on clay tablets, writing on papyrus or palm leaves or on paper, are all inventions. They are invented to implement communication because it has been discovered that communication of meanings by transmitting and receiving signals has been discovered.

When children “acquire language”, as they do even without any instruction, they do so by absorbing it from their surroundings. Japanese surroundings produce a Japanese-speaking child, not one speaking French. A child acquiring language represents a voyage of discovery – not one of invention. It is actually a voyage of many discoveries; of the possibility of communication, of the ability and the need to communicate, of converting meanings into intelligible signals, of decoding signals and of the specific language it is surrounded by. It is the discovery that sounds can be generated and that some sounds can become speech. The child’s need or desire to communicate is no doubt enabled by its genes. Its ability to produce sounds or gestures or other signals to represent meanings is also governed by its biology and its genes. It is the physiology of the bodies we inhabit which allows speech and whistles and gestures but the limitations of our physiology prevent us from generating or sensing or using infra-sound or ultra-sound. Bluetooth capability is not embedded in our bodies but we can, and do, manufacture adjuncts to our bodies which are Bluetooth enabled.

The specific comes first and then leads to the general. “Languages” is to “language” as the special theory of relativity is to the general theory. As Euclid’s geometry leads to general geometries. It is the invention of specific languages which leads to the general definition of the concept of language.

Language has been called the greatest human invention. But it is a discovery and not an invention. It is what makes us human, it has been said. But that is far too homocentric (anthropocentric) a view. Language exists not because humans exist, but because brains desirous of communicating exist. On Earth it happens to be humans. It is not necessary that the communicating brains be of humans, or of individuals of the same species, or even that the brains be contained in living entities.

With dissimilar brains (whether of individuals of different species or between humans and AIs) it is not language in general that is the problem. It is finding a specific, shared set of signals that can be generated, transmitted and received and a specific language (vocabulary and grammar) which can then be used which poses the challenge. Limitations are set not by the concept of language but by

  1. the capability of the brains to generate meanings,
  2. the codification of meanings into signals, and
  3. the capability of generating, transmitting and receiving the signals

To invent and share a specific language with dogs or horses, the challenge is first in generating signals which can be received by the animals and second in receiving and decoding the signals they generate. Maybe if we used pseudo-tails with our dogs and pseudo-ears with our horses to send signals we might have a higher level of success. And when we meet our nearest aliens who “speak” to each other in bursts of X-rays we should not assume that they are backward because they don’t speak English.

Language: A shared system whereby two or more brains can communicate by the encoding of meanings into signals, which signals can then be transmitted and received and decoded back into their meanings.


Logic is discovered, language is invented

July 9, 2017

Logic is inherent in the universe. It is not a creation of man and is not dependent on observation or what kind of brain perceives the universe.

The laws of logic are taken to be unchanging over space and time. Logic now, is as logic was, and as logic will always be. Logic here, is as logic is there and everywhere.

Language, however, is invented. All languages (including mathematics or chemical notation or Boolean algebra or …..) must have a structure which is compliant with the logic of the universe it is used to describe. We perceive a logic in the universe and express it through the inbuilt logic of our language(s). We use the one to describe the other and they are both the same.

How not?


“Undiscovery” is the discovery that something “discovered” was not

October 18, 2014

Some Saturday trivia.

A “discovery” is an observation of something new, something (animal, mineral or abstract) which had not been observed before.

But what is an “undiscovery”?

Something “undiscovered” is “undetected”. It may or may not exist. If it does not exist it is something which is “undiscoverable” and always will be until it exists – if ever. But something which exists may also be “undiscoverable” with available techniques of observation but that is not to say that it will always be “undiscovered”.

With a “discovery” it is always implied that the “discovery” is subject to the limits of observation available at the time of the “discovery”. “Scientific discovery” is very rarely just observations and in these days requires much interpretation of the observations. The interpretation – in turn – is subject to the limits of knowledge and language and philosophy available (where I take mathematics to be another language and concepts of the cosmos or the micro-cosmos as philosophies). A “discovery” is not necessarily for ever. A “discovery” may be of something transient as of a state which exists for a period of time and then does not. A “discovery” could be a false claim or in error, in which case the supposed “discovery” was no discovery after all.

The “discovery” of an error is just another “discovery”.  Does that make the “supposed discovery” an “undiscovery”? When, in 2012,  it was discovered that Sandy Island in the Coral Sea and shown on many maps, did not exist and had not existed, it was described as the “undiscovery of Sandy Island”.

Which begs the question whether the discovery of something thought to exist, but which does not exist, could be an “undiscovery”?

As in the past with the undiscovery of the Sun’s motion around the Earth, or the undiscovery of phlogiston, or the undiscovery of the aether.

And as we are currently discovering, the undiscovery of man-made global warming, the undiscoveries of the catastrophic dinosaur or Neanderthal extinctions and the undiscovery of the ozone hole.

And yet to come is the possible discoveries of the  undiscoveries of the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy and the graviton.

God is an hypothesis and a mathematician is a linguist

May 6, 2014

Science discovers, engineering invents.

Eyes are to vision as language is to discovery.

To be discovered it must first be imaginable.

To describe and communicate what can be imagined needs language.

To be “discovered” requires that something imagined in a language be “sensed” (observed or measured or calculated or inferred).

Something imagined to exist but not yet discovered is a faith – an hypothesis.

Without the attribute of hearing, there is no sound.

Discoveries need a suitable language to first describe them before they can be found (Mathematics, Chemistry, Algebra, Logic….).

Language is an invention and can not be discovered.

The application of discovered science to the manufacturing of artefacts is engineering.

Mathematics is a language and a mathematician is a linguist (an engineer).

Logic is a language and a logician is a philosopher.

Philosophers imagine and describe but neither discover nor invent.

Music is a science and a musician is a scientist.

Painting (or sculpture) is engineering and the artist is an engineer.

Medicine is a science but a practising physician is an engineer.

The symbol for a thing is not the thing.

God is an hypothesis and a mathematician is a linguist.


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