Does studying Latin help in learning other languages?

  • #51
DarMM
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I've seen papers about languages being treated as dynamical systems. To my mind very little about languages is learned from such an approach and they often have very poor treatment of phonology and its back reaction on grammar and syntax.

Again I'll just iterate that there is little I can say about ideas about language translation possessing hints of some new generally applicable skill. I don't even really have a clear idea of what these methodologies are.

In line with the thread all I'll say is if you want to learn mathematics, learn mathematics. If you want to learn a language, even a Romance language then learn that language. If you want to learn linguistics, get a linguistics textbook. The idea of Latin as this great secondary skill is very "19th Century" to me where Latin was ascribed daft almost magical properties of being "deeper" or "more logical" than other languages.

What Latin is great for is if you want to read Roman authors, i.e. to read literature in Latin.
 
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  • #52
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Of course, the papers on languages as dynamical systems are at quite a preliminary stage: serious specialized experts in applied mathematics as well as physicists are needed to advance and generalize the available models in order to make them more accurate. Will this lead to new mathematics? Does this require new mathematics? Is natural language translation merely a form of applied category theory? These are genuine open questions.

At such an early stage of these scientific inquiries, one shouldn't worry too much about the level of accuracy and range of validity of these models, compared to the insane standards of accuracy and wide range of validity afforded to the best theories in physics based on a centuries long developed methodology for physics. Instead, the fact that there are any positive results at all is what is worthy of attention.

I - as many practicing academics, scientists and mathematicians - don't want to learn more old mathematics. I instead want to discover new mathematics by studying natural phenomenon and discover new physics by using mathematics which was discovered in a different context and which currently has no applications. History has taught us that the best way to achieve this is to look at natural phenomena and try to understand them.

I end by citing Henri Poincaré (The Foundations Of Science), who sums up my entire viewpoint: Only, they [i.e. logicists and formalists] must commit it [i.e. reasoning by recurrence and admitting the principle of induction] the day they wish to make any application of mathematics. This science [i.e. mathematics] has not as sole object the eternal contemplation of its own navel; it has to do with nature and some day it will touch it. Then it will be necessary to shake off purely verbal definitions and to stop paying oneself with words [i.e. purely formal axiomatics without any regard for application in physics or science].
 
  • #53
symbolipoint
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I am solely focusing on the translation aspect as a mapping between natural languages and the academic utility of mastering this mapping process. During my education, doing such translations has given me generally applicable skills of reasoning - quite similar in general applicability to the skills of reasoning learned in elementary algebra and classical logic
Why do so few people recognize and agree with that?
 
  • #54
DarMM
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Of course, the papers on languages as dynamical systems are at quite a preliminary stage: serious specialized experts in applied mathematics as well as physicists are needed to advance and generalize the available models in order to make them more accurate.
More accurate for what though. The general view of linguists is that these models don't really achieve anything. I've worked in both mathematics and linguistics. I like dynamical systems as an area of mathematics, but I still don't see anything that is really needed in linguistics from these models or anything interesting they have produced.

I - as many practicing academics, scientists and mathematicians - don't want to learn more old mathematics. I instead want to discover new mathematics
Of course. What has this got to do with Latin? I'm also not really sure how the quote from Poincaré is relevant. I'm not arguing that one must study mathematics for its own sake. I'm not even talking about mathematics, I'm talking about learning Latin.
 
  • #55
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I don’t know about use learning other languages and so on, but it is still interesting to note the changes and interconnections, like the threads interconnecting different languages with Latin, for example Varro, De Lingua Latina, including some Aeolian.

Also, maybe interesting in this sub-forum with threads about rhythm etc, are qualities including a flexible rhythmical sensitivity for influences like a traditional epic weaving lament e.g.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/30037962?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Or rhythm with melody substituted for words, (Nagy, Harvard), Liszt-
 
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  • #56
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More accurate for what though. The general view of linguists is that these models don't really achieve anything. I've worked in both mathematics and linguistics. I like dynamical systems as an area of mathematics, but I still don't see anything that is really needed in linguistics from these models or anything interesting they have produced.
This opinion of the linguists mirrors that of the opinion of most economists w.r.t. econophysics: they don't see the scientific value nor the potential of sophisticated mathematical models, but are content with what is already available i.e. the orthodox theories despite the clear limitations of the orthodox theories, which delimit the very interest in their respective subjects. Their specialized interest in only what has been conquered already and a select set of remaining issues as dictated by the community of elders as well as direct utility is typical narrow minded thinking which serves mostly to uphold a status quo and obscure their ignorance of their subject's proper foundations.

How many people are specifically not interested in studying language? The majority of those who go into STEM explicitly have a disinterest because natural language is in their own fields seen as a vague thing to be hated upon and avoided, i.e. scientific anathema. This disregard is far more corrosive than is realized, because the remaining population who may be interested, usually do not have the stomach for formal linguistics, which halts the overall march of science; this is related to why modern linguistics - i.e. after the arrival of Chomsky et al. - did not arise earlier despite Leibniz already laying some foundations almost 400 years ago.
Of course. What has this got to do with Latin? I'm also not really sure how the quote from Poincaré is relevant. I'm not arguing that one must study mathematics for its own sake. I'm not even talking about mathematics, I'm talking about learning Latin.
My apologies, I was not being as clear as I could be. I was responding against the typical justification for specialism and indirect assault on universalism (or generalism) by calling it a very 19th century view, as you espouse here:
In line with the thread all I'll say is if you want to learn mathematics, learn mathematics. If you want to learn a language, even a Romance language then learn that language. If you want to learn linguistics, get a linguistics textbook. The idea of Latin as this great secondary skill is very "19th Century" to me where Latin was ascribed daft almost magical properties of being "deeper" or "more logical" than other languages
The quote from Poincaré is literally the opposed 19th century pro-universalism stance against 20th century specialism. I acknowledge, like Poincaré, that scientifically studying any and all natural phenomena, including natural languages and all related aspects - i.e. their usage, dynamics, evolution, and so on - end in mathematics, i.e. pure mathematics once properly appreciated actually touches nature. Poincaré's stance here is essentially an argument in favor of universalism and also a proclamation of both the unity of mathematics as well as the unity of science.

The fact that Poincaré, who at the turn of the century was simultaneously the most potent constructive pure mathematician of his age, a major force in theoretical physics as well as the best philosopher of physics in his time - literally the last universalist - felt this way, yet this view is almost specifically ignored or rejected by the viewpoint of modern academic mathematics, just shows how strongly politicized academic sociology really is by systematically censoring the viewpoint of opponents. This just shows how much Poincaré's premature death markedly altered the march of science, leaving us with only a yearning for what could have been in mathematics and science had he lived a full life.

The tale of Feynman - himself an avid follower of most of Poincaré's philosophies - can be understood in a more tragic sense once seen in this light:
Feynman was one of the only scientists after Poincaré to come close to a level of universalism like which Poincaré and a few others before him had attained. Feynman's personal philosophy of science is the ultimate example of being a product of unfortunate circumstances: he wanted to be a mathematician but openly rejected modern mathematics because logicism and formalism had become the academic norm after Poincaré - the only serious opponent - died; as a consequence of his death, Feynman's ambition of becoming a mathematician was already made nigh impossible from the get go.

Moreover, Feynman openly rejected philosophy - including the philosophy of science and physics - partly because of the upheaval of the subject which took place within the foundations of physics due to both the arrival of GR which occurred one year after Poincaré's death, as well as the subsequent complete degeneration of the foundation by QT, leaving the foundations of physics in the abysmal state that we know too well. This degeneration happened again because Poincaré died before being able to do anything about it and no one else of his calibre was around to handle the task.

Feynman, despite all of this, ultimately rejoins in the Poincaréian view of the unity of science by uttering the following words:
So, ultimately, in order to understand nature it may be necessary to have a deeper understanding of mathematical relationships. But the real reason is that the subject is enjoyable, and although we humans cut nature up in different ways, and we have different courses in different departments, such compartmentalization is really artificial, and we should take our intellectual pleasures where we find them.

There are many interesting phenomena … which involve a mixture of physical phenomena and physiological processes, and the full appreciation of natural phenomena, as we see them, must go beyond physics in the usual sense. We make no apologies for making these excursions into other fields, because the separation of fields, as we have emphasized, is merely a human convenience, and an unnatural thing. Nature is not interested in our separations, and many of the interesting phenomena bridge the gaps between fields.
 
  • #57
DarMM
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This opinion of the linguists mirrors that of the opinion of most economists w.r.t. econophysics: they don't see the scientific value nor the potential of sophisticated mathematical models, but are content with what is already available i.e. the orthodox theories despite the clear limitations of the orthodox theories, which delimit the very interest in their respective subjects. Their specialized interest in only what has been conquered already and a select set of remaining issues as dictated by the community of elders as well as direct utility is typical narrow minded thinking which serves mostly to uphold a status quo and obscure their ignorance of their subject's proper foundations
I don't think anybody in linguistics is only concerned with the opinions of "elders". There are plenty of innovations in linguistics all the time and lots of new developments. They just aren't using dynamical systems to study things. I think going from "they're not interested in paper A" to "they're pseudo-controlled by a council of elders" is a bit of a leap.

My apologies, I was not being as clear as I could be. I was responding against the typical justification for specialism and indirect assault on universalism (or generalism) by calling it a very 19th century view
I wasn't attacking "universalism" or "generalism" I was saying in the 19th Century silly properties were ascribed to Latin.

The quote from Poincaré is literally the opposed 19th century pro-universalism stance against 20th century specialism
As I mention above I was attacking "universalism" at all. I wasn't even talking about it. I was talking about silly views of Latin that were common at the time.
 
  • #58
symbolipoint
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Posts #56 and #57 are much more difficult to understand, and seem to not be bringing a better understanding to the original question; but if the contrary, then try better to explain how. "Does studying Latin help in learning other Languges?"
Yes/No/Maybe
 
  • #59
DarMM
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Posts #56 and #57 are much more difficult to understand, and seem to not be bringing a better understanding to the original question; but if the contrary, then try better to explain how. "Does studying Latin help in learning other Languges?"
Yes/No/Maybe
Learning any language helps in learning other languages, but there is nothing special about Latin in that regard. The only case where it would be of special help is learning Romance languages, but even then studies show modern Romance languages would be better.
I already said all this however. #57 is just me clarifying that I wasn't criticizing or even talking about "universalism", just Latin.
 
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  • #60
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Learning any language helps in learning other languages, but there is nothing special about Latin in that regard. The only case where it would be of special help is learning Romance languages, but even then studies show modern Romance languages would be better.
I already said all this however. #57 is just me clarifying that I wasn't criticizing or even talking about "universalism", just Latin.
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  • #61
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I don't think anybody in linguistics is only concerned with the opinions of "elders". There are plenty of innovations in linguistics all the time and lots of new developments. They just aren't using dynamical systems to study things. I think going from "they're not interested in paper A" to "they're pseudo-controlled by a council of elders" is a bit of a leap.
I'm not singling out dynamical systems type research but all mathematics type research, apart from standard statistics. I'm also not personally attacking linguists, but just speaking out my bias against all non-exact academics who tend to reflexively shy away from research which moves away from their fields orthodoxy by becoming a form of applied mathematics; usually the critique to such new mathematical models is 'This is way over our heads... what is a differential equation? We would need a statistician to analyze this but we don't have the budget for that.'

I happen to have alot of experience with this in many different social science fields and beyond (economics, psychology, medicine, politicology, etc) and as far as I can tell linguistics is no exception. But to be fair, I don't know enough professional linguists to make a representative sample; I am only acquainted with a handful of linguists, three of which I know personally, namely one of my best friends who is a computer scientist with an undergraduate degree in linguistics, and two older retired linguists, who were respectively originally also trained as a philosopher next to linguist, and a physician next to linguist.

tl;dr those in favour of orthodox practice tend to be in favour of minimalism which is directly pragmatic and against anything more.
I wasn't attacking "universalism" or "generalism" I was saying in the 19th Century silly properties were ascribed to Latin.
An argument in favour of specialism - i.e. encouraging the existence of seperating people into camps of non-overlapping specialists - is almost de facto an argument against universalism, but I get what you are trying to say.

I maintain that those silly properties ascribed to Latin by 19th century speakers are attempts at explanation by giving examples - examples which happen to be imperfect for a distinctive lack of explanatory capabilities of those explaining that which they are trying to explain - of the properties of some concept that they were trying to convey which is essentially about the same general applicable skill that I am talking about namely a method of analogy, with category theory being a particular technical specification of this more general concept.

The attempts at explanations being unsuccessful means that the concept being described is still generally unrecognized and therefore of course still vague. However, whether recognized or unrecognized, the concept seems to be an essential property of language that is itself directly mathematical and therefore transforms the discussion of language into a discussion about mathematics, with language simply being an application of some branch of mathematics in the same way that cartography is an application of geometry.
but if the contrary, then try better to explain how. "Does studying Latin help in learning other Languges?"
Yes/No/Maybe
I already answered this in post #27
 
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  • #62
DarMM
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I'm also not personally attacking linguists, but just speaking out my bias against all non-exact academics who tend to reflexively shy away from research which moves away from their fields orthodoxy
I don't think linguists shy away from mathematics, there was plenty of activity in using mathematics in the field in the 80s-00s. It just didn't really pay off all that much or help all that much with most questions.

An argument in favour of specialism
I never argued for specialism. I'm just saying that Latin isn't special in the way people in the 19th century often thought. I'm not concerned with or talking about universalism or specialism.

Latin is not of any particular use in learning other languages. It's great if you want to learn more about Rome and Roman civilization.
 
  • #63
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I don't think linguists shy away from mathematics, there was plenty of activity in using mathematics in the field in the 80s-00s. It just didn't really pay off all that much or help all that much with most questions.
I agree, linguists are another breed who defy the simple hard/soft science dichotomy. As for the models, I think it is still work in process; from a cognitive science perspective, the biolinguistics and psycholinguistics are personally irresistible due to the direct possibility of comparison with experimental EEG, fMRI, connectome/etc data.
I never argued for specialism.
I interpreted the latter part of #51 differently i.e. literally which gives it a pro-specialist connotation; that is my fault.
Latin is not of any particular use in learning other languages. It's great if you want to learn more about Rome and Roman civilization.
I agree that Latin is not particularly useful for learning other languages outside recognizing vocabulary - at least it wasn't for me - and sometimes even more of an impediment since in my case the phonetics of some words get mixed up between similar languages.

Having said that, I maintain that the ability to translate to/from Latin brings with it other skills, which translation between most other common European modern languages distinctly lack. Of all the eight natural languages I have learned, Latin is the only one which gave rise to these skills in my experience, nor do these other languages envoke these intuition of patterns as strongly as Latin does.

These skills are generally applicable in reasoning in addition to directly enabling one to read about Rome, almost exactly analogous to how an understanding of matrices far exceeds applicability outside being able to solve problems in undergraduate linear algebra class; for these reasons I can find no other word to describe all of this except for being "mathematical".
 
  • #64
PhanthomJay
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There is no doubt in my opinion that Classical Latin helps with EVERYTHING! One or 2 years of it should be mandatory in high schools. It’s a mind trainer. Beautiful language!
Et tu, Brute? Tunc cadunt, Caesar!!
 

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