Language Evolution: Wilkins’ language

Its such a thing to understand the evolution of a language. I always wondered about the origins of words and how actually do characters combine to form a meaningful word block. Perhaps, these doubts had some impact in making the choice that I made about what I am doing now. (Wonder how Natural Language Understanding handles convoluted sentences like above! 😛 ) Coming to the point, I never got a chance to actually understand this “language evolution” part.

I was reading “In the land of invented languages” a few weeks back (about which I mentioned in my blog in July) and got an idea of word formations in the “Philosophical Language” of Wilkins. Yeah, it is an artificial language. But, it was interesting nevertheless, to see how a word can be formed, albeit in Wilkins’ way. In his language, words are formed by their meaning. For example: (quoting from the book),

You must simply learn that a dog is “dog” in English, “chien” in French or a “perro” in Spanish or a “hund” in German. The sounds in these words are just sounds to be arbitarily memorized. They tell you what to call a dog, but they do not tell you what a dog is. In Wilkins’ system, the word for “Dog” does tell you what a dog is.

Its like – the spelling for dog is formed by using the ‘Wilkins tree of the universe’ charts as a “beast-oblong headed-bigger kind” and is spelled “zitα” accordingly (zi-category id for beasts, t-for the sub category:oblong headed,α-for sub sub category:bigger kind)

However, despite the fact that Wilkins Language is extremely interesting and very painstakingly developed, my primary doubts about how our natural languages evolved are still the same. Is it really that a “dog” should be a “dog” and nothing else, or is there something more to that?

Again, the less maverick part of my brain keeps asking : Well, how does it matter now?

Confusion about choices or choice about confusions?

There are a couple of very interesting stories about different invented languages in this book and may be I’ll write more about the book soon – here or at Let us see 🙂

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 11:01 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Interesting.
    But I wonder why you choose “dog” as an example ? Why I say? 😛

  2. Mind it What I say…:)

  3. […] users in to English. There are these symbolic languages like “Blissymbolics“. There are “philosophical” languages like that of […]

  4. Did you try looking at Sanskrit words and origins… because every word is derived from root words and then prefix, suffix, etc etc.

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