Debate and Discussion

standard word definitions
ayesinback at 10:58AM, Oct. 16, 2010
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Maybe this isn't a debate topic, but I've participated in a few of these threads and it's raised one of my pet peeves: dictionaries flake out and do not retain word definitions.

You've probably noticed it, too. At several points during a debate/discussion, someone will ask "well what do you mean by ?" So one consults a reference and gets a definition, but . . . If you have an old printed dictionary (I do) odds are good that the meaning has shifted from the book and what you find on-line.

Why? Are dictionaries slaves to popular usage? Frankly, popular use comes into being because of the standard definition, and that standard definition denotes the attitude behind the new usage.

At this point it's stupid to call a dictionary a reference when definitions are changed with this year's flavor.
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Product Placement at 12:14PM, Oct. 16, 2010
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It's a pretty common thing, when a word changes its meaning; when you think about it. Just few decades ago the word “Gay” stood for fun or someone who was happy. Ah, those were the gay old times.

When something new comes along and enters mainstream thinking, people start contemplating what to call the new objects/term. Most often, a preexisting word that's fallen out of common usage gets picked and used instead. It's even happened in Iceland. Our word for “telephone” is actually based on an old Norse word for “string”. Our word for computer is an amalgam of the Icelandic words “fortune teller” and “number”.

And since I did point out the word amalgam, that used to mean a specific chemical, that was made by combining mercury to another element. Now it's being used for when two things are fused together, whether it's a physical object or not. I believe that Marvel/DC are to be thanked for that, when they created a fictional world that was a fusion of the Marvel and the DC universes and they named it the Amalgam Universe. Many “interesting” characters were created from that merger, like the Dark Claw, who was a fusion of Batman and Wolverine.

Even the creators of South Park are working on promoting the term “Fag” to be changed from a derogatory term for a homosexual man to an annoying and obnoxious Harley rider.

That's the problem with living languages. They tend to change because the people who are using it, like to mess with it. If you want it to stay the same, you have to be more stricter towards those who define the dictionaries and promote a sense of pride towards your language. I just doubt that people will see much point in preserving the current state of the English language since it's a pretty common knowledge that it's already a pretty corrupted language.

I mean “smorgasbord”? That's Swedish. “Kindergarden?” German. Geyser? You got that one from us Icelanders. Kamikaze? Japan. And don't even get me started on all your science terms that are essentially based on Latin.

But out of curiosity, which examples from the debate thread are you referring to?
Those were my two cents.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 2:53PM
DAJB at 1:44AM, Oct. 17, 2010
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ayesinback
Are dictionaries slaves to popular usage?
Yup. And so they should be!

Language changes all the time. A dictionary, therefore, can only reflect the status quo at a given point in time. How many people under 25 still use the word “random” correctly? Not many. Most seem to think it means something like “odd” or “strange”. But by the time they are the majority, that usage could well be the correct meaning.

It's generally accepted that the reason why the English language has become the de facto universal language is precisely because, unlike the French language which the Academie Francaise tries (and fails!) to keep “pure”, it is allowed to evolve naturally through usage. It happily adopts new words from other languages, changes the meaning of others and drops some entirely in favour of newer alternatives. It's the same with grammar. No matter what rules are agreed to be “correct” today, it has always changed and will continue to do so. How many people really know how to use “whom” correctly. A very small minority, I'd guess, and I wouldn't be surprised if within 50 years or so it disappears from the language completely.

You should feel sorry for dictionary makers. They're constantly trying to play catch-up!
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ozoneocean at 2:22AM, Oct. 17, 2010
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We can't stop langauge from changing, but dictionaries SHOULD always retain old meanings as well as new ones, because if they don't that makes older writings indecipherable because words written in the past had different meanings, so sentences and phrases etc also had different meanings. If there's no readily available reference for that them we're f*cked.
Small concise dictionaries have an excuse because they're only big enough for certain info. Online dictionaries have no excuse what so ever.
Product Placement
It's a pretty common thing, when a word changes its meaning; when you think about it. Just few decades ago the word “Gay” stood for fun or someone who was happy. Ah, those were the gay old times.
And in a case of supreme irony, gay people were peeved that the meaning of the word “gay” was changing again to mean something that was “lame”.
DAJB
You should feel sorry for dictionary makers. They're constantly trying to play catch-up!
Not really. It keeps them in business. They have a vested interest in change ;)
If the language didn't change then no one would need any new dictionaries… If you did need to replace the old one the publishing company would just reprint some of out of copyright thing for you and no dictionary researcher would be able to find work anywhere! :(
 
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ayesinback at 6:28AM, Oct. 17, 2010
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ozoneocean
We can't stop langauge from changing, but dictionaries SHOULD always retain old meanings as well as new ones, because if they don't that makes older writings indecipherable because words written in the past had different meanings, so sentences and phrases etc also had different meanings. If there's no readily available reference for that them we're f*cked.

This is what I meant. I have no gripes about the language changing. I enjoy the “continental” flair when foreign words enter pedestrian use (btw: “on foot” is 2nd usage in the definition provided by my OUT-OF-DATE Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, referred to as Stupid in remainder of post).
And who could stop a language from changing anyway? Who'd be the word police, writing up the citations –note: citation as mention in Stupid is 3rd use–
I actually prefer the more current, on-line definitions for some of the words raised in the debates (2 examples for you PP): sexist, marriage.
According to Stupid,
sexism is: prejudice or discrimination against women.
marriage is: the mutual relation of husband and wife : WEDLOCK (Stupid's caps)

I prefer the current definitions where sexism is either Male or Female prejudice, and marriage is between adults rather than specified genders.

Oh, incidentally, Stupid defines gay in 4th-tier usage as (4a) HOMOSEXUAL (its caps, not mine) and adds a (4b): being a socially integrated group oriented toward and concerned with the welfare of the homosexual. With definition (4b), we could have a rolicking debate about whether or not DD itself is gay (I don't see it oriented myself, but I do detect concern) and most people would never get WHY because how many people knew that gay could refer to a social group that may not be homosexual itself?

So maybe this is just a rant about this one stupid dictionary, and generally we don't have to get all Winston Churchill about strict definitions. But when people are debating points and concepts, the tools they use are words and, just like this post, it's aggravating to get side-tracked on a concept because there is no standardization with the tools.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM
bravo1102 at 7:24AM, Oct. 17, 2010
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I just had this discussion on Facebook with an old English teacher friend of mine who wanted people to be beaten with dictionaries because they misused “irony” She also ranted against people who believe English is a living language calling them half-witted idiots. She proposed the word “iridiot” for those who misused “irony” which is an amalgam of irony and idiot. Amalgam has referred to any mixture going back to the 1940's at least.

I asked if she would perchance be beating these half-wits with Noah Webster's original American Language edition from the 1840s.

Any spoken language is alive. People change meanings all the time. There are also new words invented to descibe things we didn't know needed description. Anyone remember Rich Hall from the 1980s and sniglets? A few found their way into regular usage. But I'm glad the adding “-ize” jargon fad has faded.

In any debate it is important to define terms so all parties are talking about the same thing. Some terms are have one definition according to Webster's but all kinds of subjective interpertations. Really confuses the issue and opens the door for someone to wheel in semantics and play word games and foul everything up.

Fag used to mean “dumb or stupid person” back in the 1970's school dictionary. And whatever happened to the rest of the word? No one seems to use the second syllable any more.
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ozoneocean at 8:17AM, Oct. 17, 2010
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ayesinback
This is what I meant
I thought so. :)

I get very annoyed at that myself when I can't find all the definitions for a word, I don't care if the meanings change, it's inevitable, but the old meanings are just as important because although spoken English is living, written English has a legacy- a massive legacy!

I'm sure we've all seen examples of silly people who've made big mistakes about things they've read because of changed meanings. There's the obvious “gay” of course. It's in a lot of titles and descriptions and littered throughout texts of the past with a totally different meaning to the popular one today. If you don't know that old definition and can't find it, those writings alter or even lose their meaning.
The same happens with such words as “black”. Today that word, apart from being a colour, is generally associated with specific ethnicity. In the past “black' was often used as a catch all term for all non European peoples- Arabs, Africans, Indians, Eastern Europeans, even Gypsies. Separately it was also used to describe anything bad or evil (black deeds, blackguard, black soul), this was older than and had nothing to do with the ethic usage. Even the term ”love" in older writing is far more associated with friendship than it is with amorous love…

Not knowing or being able to find out older definitions would make a mockery of any understanding of older writing and history.

bravo1102
Noah Webster
I think we all know that the Oxford is the king of dictionaries :)
 
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Hawk at 9:37AM, Oct. 17, 2010
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It annoys me to no end that the dictionary definition of “epic” will eventually change from “extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope” to “something a twelve year old on the internet really likes”.
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blindsk at 12:46PM, Oct. 17, 2010
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See, altering definitions of words is cool (and speaking of cool, there are so many variations of this word today)! I guess we're just trying to keep our society on its toes, or maybe just separating ourselves from older generations by appearing trendy. Or maybe it's that whole post-modern thing that I hear thrown around all the time but I'm not actually sure of its real definition (oh the irony…wait, did I properly use the word irony?!)

Hawk
It annoys me to no end that the dictionary definition of “epic” will eventually change from “extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope” to “something a twelve year old on the internet really likes”.

Things like this scare me. Especially the meaning of the word “lose,” like in to lose something, meaning it has become out of your possession or you have suffered defeat. Because so many people on the internet use “loose” instead, I fear this will eventually overtake it and become the new “lose.” Please don't make this happen! At least some of these definition changes make sense, but this one does not need to happen!

It seems grammar is on the move to more prosperous horizons as well. The other day I read the paper talking about “police bursting into a locked apartment.” No! This reminds me vividly of the day and old teacher of mine went on a rant on the very usage of this word. It's bust! That's the present-tense! But here even a journalist no longer sees fit to make that distinction. Our little bubble of proper grammar may very well be in danger of a “burst” as well.

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:25AM
ayesinback at 2:42PM, Oct. 17, 2010
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blindsk
See, altering definitions of words is cool (and speaking of cool, there are so many variations of this word today)! I guess we're just trying to keep our society on its toes, or maybe just separating ourselves from older generations by appearing trendy.
I love the word cool: Cool temperatures are cool by me. And without cool, how could we have people advising us to chill ? But the def cool = good is not a recent innovation, unless you think the Beatniks are recent. Check out these definitions.

Even Stupid (my 1975 dictionary) ups the cool definition of “very good : EXCELLENT” to 7th tier.

Maybe definitions should come with a time stamp.



I've had too much fun here today. Gotta draw a monster & watch RHPS. I love down weekends (look that one up)
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Abt_Nihil at 11:39AM, Nov. 17, 2010
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It's complicated because dictionaries are descriptive, but are also often used normatively. At any given time, there is a norm for the use of any term. But the use gradually changes the norm. It's tough to say at which point you should stop considering a certain non-standard use a mistake.

I've met some hardcore “language preservers” in my university career, and it's not funny. To them, anything you say is wrong - not because of the content, but because you're using the words in a “wrong way”. They would try to educate you about the Greek and Latin roots of the words you're using. Not that it can't be illuminating to some degree, but they'll make it look like they know what you're meaning better than what you yourself intend to mean. You'd never actually get to the content of what you're saying, but always end up having to argue that you're actually meaning what you're saying :D If only these people wouldn't seem so entirely out of touch with how language is practiced… how language games are played.
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LOOKIS at 9:12PM, Dec. 26, 2010
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In 7th grade I found it too depressing that dictionaries were circular. The meaning of a word was explained with other words. But when you look up the meanings of those words, then you eventually end up back at the word you started with.

If all words are defined with other words… then is anything REALLY clearly defined?

Maybe picture dictionaries are the most accurate? It's pretty clear what a horse is if you can see one and don't have to read a verbal description of one.

All the words that have no pictures should be used with extreme caution because they are the words most likely to cause confusion.
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Abt_Nihil at 5:15PM, Dec. 27, 2010
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LOOKIS
If all words are defined with other words… then is anything REALLY clearly defined?
This is actually one of my favorite philosophical problems! ^_^ And its solution depends on what you accept as a definition. You could say there are basically two forms of definitions: Indexical ones (those “pointing” towards an object, like the ones you mentioned, using pictures) and linguistic ones. Linguistic definitions will all necessarily have to be circular: Any term will be defined by other terms. Semantic holists hold that this is actually no problem at all: You just need a circle of definitions that is large enough! And “large enough” means: Large enough to make the necessary distinctions between terms.

An example:

2 may be defined as “1+1”, and 1 in turn as “2:2”. But that's not enough to make the necessary distinctions; because you could replace “1” and “2” by a lot of numbers, and the definitions would have the some logical form (for example, here you could replace “2” with “8” and “1” with “4” - thus conflating their meanings).

You just need to add enough info about “1” and “2” to distinguish them from all other numbers. That is what linguistic definitions do: As long as they give you a way to distinguish any term from every other, they are doing their job.

Others will say: That's not enough. Semantic holism is missing a vital element of meaning, and that is the correspondence with the real world (in your example, the objects that are depicted in a dictionary):

LOOKIS
Maybe picture dictionaries are the most accurate? It's pretty clear what a horse is if you can see one and don't have to read a verbal description of one.

All the words that have no pictures should be used with extreme caution because they are the words most likely to cause confusion.

However, as with any philosophical theory, there's a substantial problem with this position too: Pictures are ambiguous. Any single picture can be an illustration for a potentially infinite amount of terms. (For further reading: This is what Nelson Goodman called the distinction between “analogue” symbolic systems like language and “digital” symbolic systems like pictures.)

Personally, I am a fan of semantic holism. I believe that in order to explain any term's meaning, invoking a (circular) definition is sufficient. The circle will just have to be large enough. Pictures can point towards things, but they cannot define them. Of course, in a pragmatic context like dictionaries, using pictures will in some cases be more useful than in others. That's why some terms are illustrated, and others aren't.
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LOOKIS at 8:19PM, Dec. 28, 2010
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The problem with such a system of “a large circle of definitions” is that it will always be subject to endless argument and change. Anyone can see that the meanings of many words have mutated even in our own lifetimes and if you reach back to previous centuries the mutations are so extreme as to make older texts almost unreadable. You need lots of footnotes.

I'm not saying there is another system that is always better. I'm just saying that words are often inaccurate, clumsy, prone to misinterpretation, and a major cause of fights and arguments. Just watch the Fox cable network for awhile. Almost all political fights are semantic. And obviously, philosophical discussions are at heart just disagreements over word meanings.

Diagrams and cartoons have the advantage of having simple well-defined geometric properties. Science couldn't exist without charts and diagrams. Pictures have an important role to play. And they require no translation between different language systems.
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Abt_Nihil at 5:09AM, Dec. 29, 2010
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LOOKIS
The problem with such a system of “a large circle of definitions” is that it will always be subject to endless argument and change. Anyone can see that the meanings of many words have mutated even in our own lifetimes and if you reach back to previous centuries the mutations are so extreme as to make older texts almost unreadable. You need lots of footnotes.
(…)
Diagrams and cartoons have the advantage of having simple well-defined geometric properties. Science couldn't exist without charts and diagrams. Pictures have an important role to play. And they require no translation between different language systems.
I wasn't talking about a normative theory as much as a descriptive theory. Semantic shifts are matters of fact - observing what happens in any (natural) language over a longer period of time, you will always observe semantic shifts. A semantic theory that explains these shifts is a good theory because it describes these facts. The purpose of a semantic theory isn't to prevent these shifts in meaning, but to deal with them.
You're saying that if we were to use more pictures and diagrams in our definitions, less semantic shifts would occur. Well, that's at least partially open to empirical verfication or falsification. But in some part it also depends on answering the open question what semantic shifts depend on, and on whether pictures and diagrams are less “open to interpretation”, or are less “vague”, than words and sentences. Personally, I don't think so, and I already gave a hint why:
(1) Pictures and diagrams are analogue systems, language isn't. That means: Anything expressed in language refers to one and only one object, event or state of affairs. Whereas any single diagram or picture can refer to a (potentially infinite) multitude of objects, events or states of affairs.
(2) The way symbols are linked to their meaning is not determined by the symbols themselves. So, except for what I mentioned above, pictures, diagrams and words and sentences share the same inherent “vagueness”: the way they are linked to their meaning (if you want to teach someone about what a diagram stands for, do you offer them another diagram?). They are all “just” symbols, after all. I think that the way symbols are linked to their referents is by way of cultural practice. And cultural practice relies on all sorts of symbols. Sometimes, pictures are entirely unclear, but you can explain them by using words. Other times, words are unclear and you explain them by using pictures. Again, that is why dictionaries make varying use of them. I'm opposed to the idea that all pictures are clearer than all words.

And, well, that's what you're saying in the following quote too ^_^

LOOKIS
I'm not saying there is another system that is always better. I'm just saying that words are often inaccurate, clumsy, prone to misinterpretation, and a major cause of fights and arguments. Just watch the Fox cable network for awhile. Almost all political fights are semantic. And obviously, philosophical discussions are at heart just disagreements over word meanings.
You seem to think that disagreement over meanings is a petty affair. And granted - if we mean the same thing, but create an artificial disagreement by using different symbolic conventions, or different semantics, that's not as bad as disagreeing over the (political) issue at hand (and here I'm not committing to the view that the problem with Fox networks is a semantic one ^_^). But you'll also have to grant that there are huge problems which boil down to semantic issues. And solving these isn't a petty affair. For instance, the neurosciences are pretty popular right now - but a huge problem consists in interpreting their findings. In many cases, we simply don't know what they're saying. And making clear what they're saying would constitute major progress in scientific knowledge.
But you're right - in many fields, and especially the one you mentioned (politics), we're used to thinking that fights over semantics are more or less annoying.
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LOOKIS at 8:55PM, Dec. 29, 2010
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I find ancient Egypt very impressive because they seem to have maintained their language for several thousand years. At least, I have not read anywhere that the hieroglyphic language engraved on stone walls changed in any large way. I believe that's because it was a blend of words and pictures and because it was engraved on stone in a gigantic size.

The Egyptians had periods of chaos where there was no central government for many years at a time. But I can imagine how all those gigantic stone walls standing there with the language and pictures engraved on them would be like a national memory bank and eventually the Egyptians would reorder themselves. No other culture has maintained its status quo as long as the Egyptians did.

That's a plus for pictures. :)

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Beelzy at 11:29PM, Dec. 29, 2010
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I tend to find it's not a problem with the dictionary; it's one (or both) of two problems:

1) Some words have more than one meaning. The word that someone is using may just be the wrong meaning you're thinking of.

2) The person using the word is being dishonest. He means the word to be one thing, and after you reply, he switches the meaning with a slightly different meaning of the same word and therefore invalidates your argument. This is actually just a logical fallacy, and it's a kind of sophistry, and if you can spot it, by all means point it out.
Pauca sed matura.
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bravo1102 at 2:27AM, Dec. 30, 2010
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LOOKIS
I find ancient Egypt very impressive because they seem to have maintained their language for several thousand years. At least, I have not read anywhere that the hieroglyphic language engraved on stone walls changed in any large way. I believe that's because it was a blend of words and pictures and because it was engraved on stone in a gigantic size.

The Egyptians had periods of chaos where there was no central government for many years at a time. But I can imagine how all those gigantic stone walls standing there with the language and pictures engraved on them would be like a national memory bank and eventually the Egyptians would reorder themselves. No other culture has maintained its status quo as long as the Egyptians did.

That's a plus for pictures. :)



Actually they did change and Egyptologists aren't sure how much the spoken and recorded language resembled each other. Hieroglyphics changed significantly with the words on a page differing from the traditional symbols inscribed in tombs and temples. In fact dictionaries of traditional inscription hierogylphics are seperated by time periods and even vary within dynasties. Archeolgists know that people often did not understand the archaic traditional hieroglyphics inscribed and reinscribed over millenia but they were the traditional symbols. Conversly the actual records of daily events was different and did change and develop. Look at the Rosetta stone with the traditional hierglyphics, contemporary hieroglyphics and the common written language.

It's like trying to read an Early Medieval written manuscript or even a Roman inscription. It is the same alphabet and we are pretty much agreed now the sounds each letter represents but the form of the letters and spelling has changed considerably over time. And then there's the innovations of punctuation and lower case.

Letters and word meaning (even grammar) are based on a social consensus that is a snapshot in time. It's evolution in action though the line between natural and artifical selection is blurred like that of any domesticated animal.
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Abt_Nihil at 4:04AM, Dec. 30, 2010
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bravo1102 pretty much made the point I would have made (of course that's easy for me to say now :D). I'd just like to add that the Japanese use Chinese letters too, but their meaning is different. So, the fact that an alphabet remains unchanged doesn't mean that semantics or even grammar remain unchanged.
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blindsk at 2:48PM, Dec. 30, 2010
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All this is making me realize why I could never find interest in studying law. Legal documents are such a chore to read because they're trying to take the ever-evolving language we use and put it into as technical an assertion as possible. Otherwise, people will find loopholes and you don't want that.

I'm happy to stick with math and computer language. If you interpret something wrong, then your program doesn't run or your computer crashes. :)
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Genejoke at 3:01PM, Dec. 30, 2010
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blindsk
All this is making me realize why I could never find interest in studying law. Legal documents are such a chore to read because they're trying to take the ever-evolving language we use and put it into as technical an assertion as possible. Otherwise, people will find loopholes and you don't want that.

I'm happy to stick with math and computer language. If you interpret something wrong, then your program doesn't run or your computer crashes. :)

That's why I studied law and found math and computer language so dull, different strokes for different folks I guess.
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Beelzy at 3:18PM, Dec. 30, 2010
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blindsk
All this is making me realize why I could never find interest in studying law. Legal documents are such a chore to read because they're trying to take the ever-evolving language we use and put it into as technical an assertion as possible. Otherwise, people will find loopholes and you don't want that.

I'm happy to stick with math and computer language. If you interpret something wrong, then your program doesn't run or your computer crashes. :)

Same here. They both run on a logic that is beautiful to both discover and see at work.

I showed my friends these 4D tetrahedrons, and now he's hooked. Apparently, he said he bothered to take a minor in math because I showed him them.
Pauca sed matura.
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Abt_Nihil at 3:41AM, Dec. 31, 2010
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Genejoke
That's why I studied law and found math and computer language so dull, different strokes for different folks I guess.
As a philosopher, I'm most interested in natural languages. I feel that they are our closest (symbolic) connection to reality. I do see the beauty in formal languages too, but my main endeavor has always been analyzing natural language by using formal languages - thus seeing the latter as a tool, and being aware of its limitations.
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LOOKIS at 11:04AM, Dec. 31, 2010
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Language, shmanguage. Give me a good picture any day.

Haha, just kidding. Obviously I don't talk in pictures, although face-to-face I wouldn't mind doing pantomime with you.

Let's face it, even direct mind-to-mind telepathy would not be an accurate means of communication because everyone has had a different life and sees and interprets things slightly differently from everyone else. (Some of us more than just “slightly” differently.)

Twins have the best communication there is. And it's cool that some sets of twins develop a “twin language” that only they can understand. I would LOVE to have a twin. We would probably accomplish nothing in life though, just lay around having sex with each other all the time and feel no need to draw or post in forums.

Maybe it's best that we're all different people and often clumsy at communicating…
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blindsk at 1:47PM, Dec. 31, 2010
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Genejoke
That's why I studied law and found math and computer language so dull, different strokes for different folks I guess.

I can understand that. Many of my friends studying different persuasions felt the same way too. It certainly took me a while to appreciate what's at work here.

But that's the thing about math. As Beezly was saying, something so seemingly compact and simple ends up explaining a model for some complex phenomena. Of course it can be looked at as just a tool, but what we can extrapolate from it is what really matters. It becomes something as poetic as something Frost would write.
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Beelzy at 11:31PM, Dec. 31, 2010
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blindsk
But that's the thing about math. As Beezly was saying, something so seemingly compact and simple ends up explaining a model for some complex phenomena. Of course it can be looked at as just a tool, but what we can extrapolate from it is what really matters. It becomes something as poetic as something Frost would write.

And how! Recently, I've been using logical deduction to learn a foreign language. So I don't actually need a dictionary; I just use context and repetition to learn new words and pick up grammar construction. It's not exactly math even though I call it that; I guess they are similar though because both of them can be treated as math puzzles. The only problem is that while I have learned enough of that language to be able to use it, I can't tell when it sounds right or even poetic to a native speaker. But as a tool for learning stuff, it's extremely useful (and enjoyable).
Pauca sed matura.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:16AM
Abt_Nihil at 9:34AM, Jan. 1, 2011
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LOOKIS
I would LOVE to have a twin. We would probably accomplish nothing in life though, just lay around having sex with each other all the time and feel no need to draw or post in forums.
:D

LOOKIS
Let's face it, even direct mind-to-mind telepathy would not be an accurate means of communication because everyone has had a different life and sees and interprets things slightly differently from everyone else. (Some of us more than just “slightly” differently.)
Language is just a possible means to express one's mental state, it doesn't necessarily determine it (or vice versa). So I would distinguish between using the same language to express different mental states and different ways of reacting to the same linguistic expressions. The fact that one linguistic expression doesn't mean the same for you and me has to do with our different dispositions, not with some deficit of language. The fact that you can't connect with some, many or most people doesn't mean that language continuously fails you.
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:44AM
LOOKIS at 9:56PM, Jan. 2, 2011
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Abt_Nihil
The fact that you can't connect with some, many or most people doesn't mean that language continuously fails you.

I agree. Language doesn't fail me. It's other people that fail me. :p

I may be odd in this respect, but I feel connected to everybody. I don't like anybody very much, but I do feel connected to all of them.
………………. LEAVE THIS SPACE BLANK …………………
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:39PM
bravo1102 at 7:38AM, Jan. 3, 2011
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You know there is a difference between talking and communicating. Just using language and actually getting your meaning across.

Words are only one tool in effective communication and language is a lot more than what is contained in the dictionary. As an historian I know words don't always say what is meant and what is meant isn't just the words. A lot can be written and spoken and nothing said.

Legal language is often an effort to get things as precise as possible and at the same thing to be as nebulous as possbile. Gurantee and define everything or gurantee nothing with a wordy definition that has as many holes as Swiss cheese and worth far less.

Study diplomacy, it's fun to see so much said and so little meant.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:34AM
ayesinback at 6:24AM, Jan. 4, 2011
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The thing with language and talking, versus communicating, is the choice of how to express oneself. There is a certain beauty in precision (I think of Austin and Churchill here) and, conversely, another beauty in using the language upside down, which is the playground of poets.

But it's difficult to appreciate either when there is no standard. I find that consulting a dictionary in one's own language is not much better than when one looks for an interpretation of a foreign word in a foreign-native/native-foreign language dictionary.

I guess the standard I'd like to see, which would require a terribly large database, would be a history of word definitions, an attempt to identify when a word came to have an additional meaning, or even replacement meaning, with ideally an example of usage in speech or writing that clearly demonstrates the shift.

As far as communicating, I just came back from a trip where the shadows of my high school french utterly failed to help me in communicating with some french women. However, gestures, smiles and frowns, aided immensely. It wasn't beautiful, but it got the job done.
under new management
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM

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