[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of 'language'?

Allan Olley allan.olley at utoronto.ca
Wed Nov 5 19:06:13 PST 2014

 	Note that (at least some) modern linguists also view/use 
"language" as referring to spoken communication and as being primary over 
the written (or at least the only book in modern linguistics, The Chinese 
Language, Fact and Fantasy by Jean DeFrancis makes a point of this). So 
I'm not sure much has changed since the 17th century on that front.


Yours Truly,
Allan Olley, PhD


On Wed, 5 Nov 2014, JD Fleming wrote:

> 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
> __________________________________________________________________________________
> 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]
> https://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/sketch.html
> 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.
> Marie
> --
> [cid:part1.03020706.06070701 at unamur.be]
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> =368&par=secorig1018&id=5337&flux=83265846
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> --
> James Dougal Fleming
> Associate Professor
> Department of English
> Simon Fraser University
> 778-782-4713
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> He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. Matt.21:29.

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