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Hogarth judge

November 2017

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Hogarth judge

Natural language

Doug wrote:
For some the effort to master a language superiorly results in the conversion of labor into love. It is a venerable tradition among literate folk to decry the decay of their mother tongue. But none of the languages spoken by man is a natural language. All are conventions, the relationship of morpheme to idea or object being unnatural. All the words in a language, including onomatopoetic ones, are arbitrary, connected via a convention.
"Natural" is one of those leaky words that tends to empty itself of any meaning it once carried. By the same conventional understanding, a termite mound is "natural" while the Cathedral of Chartres or the Chrysler building is "unnatural". The conventional understanding here lacks sufficient rigor. All of these constructs are the creations of ordinary critters following their innate predilections.

And language is the same thing. It seems very likely that facility with language is one of the things that distinguished the population that ultimately became anatomically modern humans from the Neanderthals next door. And since then, we have creatively manipulated language the same way we've done with our other tools, and added new gimmicks to our repertoire as a result of all this tinkering. All human languages are equally natural. This also includes Esperanto and Klingon. Humans, playing with words, like the mockingbird plays with birdcalls.

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