[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of 'language'?

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Wed Nov 5 17:00:51 PST 2014

Fascinating. My own current work is on the "real character" movement of the early Royal Society (the immediate antecedent of Leibniz's idea of a characteristica universalis , and one source of inspiration [I think] for his codification of binary notation). One thing I have learned in the course of my research is that for the members of this movement--John Wilkins, George Dalgarno, Seth Ward, Francis Lodwick, and others--a "language" is more-or-less by definition effable, speakable. A symbolic and combinatorial notation of ideas, what they called a "character"--code, sort-of--is precisely *not* a language. This is why Wilkins's masterwork of 1668 is called An essay towards a real character, and a philosophical language (my emphasis). The "language," being a secondary and effable encoding of the character, is precisely by that token non-identical with the latter. Wilkins and his contemporaries would have been flummoxed by Ada Lovelace's use of "language," below. So I would recalibrate the initial question: when was the last time that "language" was not used, and couldn't be, in the context of the mathematization of communication that eventuates in computer science? And my answer would be: in the seventeenth century. 
JD Fleming 

----- Original Message -----

From: "William W McMillan" <william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu> 
To: "members" <members at sigcis.org> 
Sent: Wednesday, 5 November, 2014 11:07:27 
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Origin of 'language'? 

Do these notes by Ada Lovelace count" 

'The bounds of arithmetic were however outstepped the moment the idea of applying the cards had occurred; and the Analytical Engine does not occupy common ground with mere “calculating machines.” It holds a position wholly its own; and the considerations it suggests are most interesting in their nature. In enabling mechanism to combine together general symbols in successions of unlimited variety and extent, a uniting link is established between the operations of matter and the abstract mental processes of the most abstract branch of mathematical science. A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible. Thus not only the mental and the material, but the theoretical and the practical in the mathematical world, are brought into more intimate and effective connexion with each other. We are not aware of its being on record that anything partaking in the nature of what is so well designated the Analytical Engine has been hitherto proposed, or even thought of, as a practical possibility, any more than the idea of a thinking or of a reasoning machine' 

[emphasis added] 


Her use of "language" here seems to be specific to the expression of computation and reasoning. 

- Bill 

From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [members-bounces at sigcis.org] on behalf of Marie Gevers [marie.gevers at unamur.be] 
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2014 4:13 AM 
To: members 
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Origin of 'language'? 

I wonder by whom and when the word 'language' was used for the first time in the framework of computer sciences. 
Can anybody enlighten me? 
Thanks in advance. 

[cid:part1.03020706.06070701 at unamur.be] 

Prof. Marie d'UDEKEM-GEVERS 
Chargée de cours 
Conseillère à la formation 
Professeure invitée au Collège Belgique 

Faculté d'Informatique et 
Centre d'Etudes Sciences et PHIlosophie à Namur (ESPHIN) 
Centre de Recherche Information, Droit & Société (CRIDS) 

T. +32 (0)81 724 973 
F. +32 (0)81 724 967 
marie.gevers at unamur.be<mailto:marie.gevers at unamur.be> 

Université de Namur ASBL 
Rue de Bruxelles 61 - 5000 Namur 

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J ames Dougal Fleming 
Associate Professor 
Department of English 
Simon Fraser University 

Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada. 

He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. Matt.21:29. 

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