[FOM] Fwd: Re: expressive power of natural languages

Avril Styrman Avril.Styrman at helsinki.fi
Sat Dec 3 13:00:23 EST 2011

Dear FOMmers, I forward the below message on behalf of John Sowa.

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John Kadvany:
>> My sense is also that Jackendoff, long of the generative school,
>> also sees much of linguistic complexity as being handled by human
>> cognition rather than being coded up via some mathematical
>> representation.

Vaughn Pratt:
> Are these necessarily mutually exclusive?  Absence of a mathematical
> representation sounds more like a symptom of either lack of progress
> towards understanding human cognition, or rejection of mathematics as an
> aid to description and analysis, than a property of language and how
> it's understood.

I agree with Jackendoff that human cognition is more capable of
understanding and reasoning about linguistic complexity than any
formal system that we currently have.

But I also agree with Pratt that mathematics is the best available
tool for analyzing both complexity *and* human cognition. Furthermore,
I believe that it's impossible to design and implement a system that
can come close to the power of human cognition without using some
high-powered mathematics.

For an overview of my thoughts about how a deeper understanding
of neuroscience and psycholinguistics can help us discover
better mathematical techniques, see the following slides:

    The goal of language understanding

John Sowa

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