There are only two primary languages: natural language and mathematical language

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I think there are only two primary languages, i.e. natural language and mathematical one, which we use to communicate . If we go one step further, then I would say even mathematics is a subset of natural language where we use symbols and other signs to represent our concepts, ideas into mathematical form. It is correctly said natural sciences such as physics lend voice to deaf and mute equations of mathematics. When 2+2 is written, it's very much representation of a natural language into symbolic, terse form. But as one penetrate deeper into the mathematical world, things get bigger, complex and weird, and it really becomes difficult to write down or explain in terms of natural language but that doesn't mean it cannot be explained, it only becomes difficult.

I would further say that that sense of mathematical working is programmed into human brain. When one moves two steps and then proceeds three steps further, one knows one has moved five step in total. Even if one doesn't understand, speak any natural language such as English even then that mathematical sense is all there and working. Having no natural language to communicate oneself to others doesn't mean that one cannot communicate, speak to oneself. One can still know happiness and feel pain. So, it can be said even that natural language is already programmed there in human brain. Such programmed language(s) need some uniform channel to communicate with others. As mathematics need numbers and operators to communicate itself, and these can vary from one country to another, likewise a natural language needs grammar, words etc., to make sense and these things, grammar etc., can differ from one place to another.
 
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Is esperanto a natural language, a mathematical language, or no language at all?
 
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Hi Jimmy

Esperanto is a language. By natural language I mean the one which is used for communication by general public and has come into being gradually over the period of time. "natural" does not suggest that humans were not involved in its evolution. Like Esperanto every 'natural' language is constructed by humans, it's just that in the case of a 'natural' language the process is slow and almost effortless that the evolution seems natural. I hope I have made my point clear.
 
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The most primary language is the body language. Speaking is just a complex body language.
 
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Hi Jimmy

Esperanto is a language. By natural language I mean the one which is used for communication by general public and has come into being gradually over the period of time. "natural" does not suggest that humans were not involved in its evolution. Like Esperanto every 'natural' language is constructed by humans, it's just that in the case of a 'natural' language the process is slow and almost effortless that the evolution seems natural. I hope I have made my point clear.
I'm confused. Esperanto is not used for communication by general public, and did not come into being gradually. It was born full grown out of the efforts of a single person. And yet you seem to be calling it a natural language. Can you clarify?
 

Evo

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Is esperanto a natural language, a mathematical language, or no language at all?
It's a language made for a purpose and is not one that naturally evolved. It's artificial.
 
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I'm confused. Esperanto is not used for communication by general public, and did not come into being gradually. It was born full grown out of the efforts of a single person. And yet you seem to be calling it a natural language. Can you clarify?
Hi Jimmy

You misread my posting, I believe.

I said:
Esperanto is a language. By natural language I mean the one which is used for communication by general public and has come into being gradually over the period of time. "natural" does not suggest that humans were not involved in its evolution. Like Esperanto every 'natural' language is constructed by humans, it's just that in the case of a 'natural' language the process is slow and almost effortless that the evolution seems natural. I hope I have made my point clear.

I didn't call Esperanto a natural language anywhere. "it's just that in the case of a 'natural language" makes it clear. I was trying to compare a natural language with an unnatural language such as Esperanto.

I hope I have it right. I'm an English learner so most of the time my words don't really convey what I really want to. Thanks.
 
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So where does that leave us? Is Esperanto a natural language? Is is a mathematical language? Is it not a language? The secret of good English, is simple English. The fewer words you use in your answer, the clearer it will be to me. The reason I ask is because in the subject line for this thread you said that there are only two kinds of language. I am trying to figure out which type Esperanto is.
 
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Thanks for the advice on good English.

It's a language. It's just that it's not natural. It was constructed by one or few persons. I think we shouldn't be much concerned about naturalness of any language. My original posting was meant to refer to any language such English, Hindi, Punjabi, etc., used by masses. If Esperanto is used by masses and it's as effective as other unconstructed languages, then who cares.

Thanks.
 
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Thanks for the advice on good English.

It's a language. It's just that it's not natural. It was constructed by one or few persons. I think we shouldn't be much concerned about naturalness of any language. My original posting was meant to refer to any language such English, Hindi, Punjabi, etc., used by masses. If Esperanto is used by masses and it's as effective as other unconstructed languages, then who cares.

Thanks.
Can I take this to mean that there are three kinds of language then? Natural languages, mathematical languages, and constructed languages like Esperanto.
 
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Jimmy, please, please, forget that 'naturalness' thing. Okay, just take it as general language used masses for expressing themselves (languages such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, German, etc). Happy, now! :-)
 
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Thank you, Evo.
 

fluidistic

Gold Member
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jackson6612 said:
I would further say that that sense of mathematical working is programmed into human brain. When one moves two steps and then proceeds three steps further, one knows one has moved five step in total. Even if one doesn't understand, speak any natural language such as English even then that mathematical sense is all there and working.
I was hoping for Evo to come up with an article she came up some months ago: http://www.spiegel.de/international/...414291,00.html [Broken].
In particular, read the part
article said:
The debate amongst linguists about the absence of all numbers in the Pirahã language broke out after Peter Gordon, a psycholinguist at New York's Columbia University, visited the Pirahãs and tested their mathematical abilities. For example, they were asked to repeat patterns created with between one and 10 small batteries. Or they were to remember whether Gordon had placed three or eight nuts in a can.

The results, published in Science magazine, were astonishing. The Pirahãs simply don't get the concept of numbers. His study, Gordon says, shows that "a people without terms for numbers doesn't develop the ability to determine exact numbers."

Psycholinguist Peter Gorden: Are we only capable of creating thoughts for which words exist?
Zoom

Psycholinguist Peter Gorden: Are we only capable of creating thoughts for which words exist?
His findings have brought new life to a controversial theory by linguist Benjamin Whorf, who died in 1941. Under Whorf's theory, people are only capable of constructing thoughts for which they possess actual words. In other words: Because they have no words for numbers, they can't even begin to understand the concept of numbers and arithmetic.
So Whorf's theory contradicts your theory (if you allow me to call it this way), which seems to agree with facts.
 
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CRGreathouse

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There is enough controversy about Pirahã that I would be extremely reluctant to use it to prove a point.

It seems clear that the OP means to contrast mathematically precise languages like first-order logic or FORTRAN with 'huamn' languages, whether natlang, conlang, or auxlangs.
 

fluidistic

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There is enough controversy about Pirahã that I would be extremely reluctant to use it to prove a point.
Too bad because it seems a very special languages involving around 300 people. I had read about the case of a man who had never lived with humans (totally isolated) and when "we" found him and introduced him to "civilization", he could barely learn a few words until his death. It seems like his brain didn't think like ours, because he had absolutely no language. I'm trying to find his story in wikipedia (I remember I had found it there a few years ago), to see if they say something about his mathematical abilities. It wouldn't surprise me he couldn't count nor have almost any mathematical abilities, though I should confirm it. The problem with his case is that you might argue he was autistic or having some mental problem and you might be right. On the other hand it's harder to say the same for the Pirahas.
 

CRGreathouse

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Too bad because it seems a very special languages involving around 300 people. I had read about the case of a man who had never lived with humans (totally isolated) and when "we" found him and introduced him to "civilization", he could barely learn a few words until his death. It seems like his brain didn't think like ours, because he had absolutely no language. I'm trying to find his story in wikipedia (I remember I had found it there a few years ago), to see if they say something about his mathematical abilities. It wouldn't surprise me he couldn't count nor have almost any mathematical abilities, though I should confirm it. The problem with his case is that you might argue he was autistic or having some mental problem and you might be right. On the other hand it's harder to say the same for the Pirahas.
If you're interested, there's a scientific dialog starting here about the language:
http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~nevins/npr09.pdf [Broken]

If you make it through that paper, Dr. Everett has a response (and the authors have a response to that response, and I believe Dr. Everett responds to that as well).
 
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The debate amongst linguists about the absence of all numbers in the Pirahã language broke out after Peter Gordon, a psycholinguist at New York's Columbia University, visited the Pirahãs and tested their mathematical abilities. For example, they were asked to repeat patterns created with between one and 10 small batteries. Or they were to remember whether Gordon had placed three or eight nuts in a can.

The results, published in Science magazine, were astonishing. The Pirahãs simply don't get the concept of numbers. His study, Gordon says, shows that "a people without terms for numbers doesn't develop the ability to determine exact numbers."

Psycholinguist Peter Gorden: Are we only capable of creating thoughts for which words exist?
Zoom

Psycholinguist Peter Gorden: Are we only capable of creating thoughts for which words exist?

His findings have brought new life to a controversial theory by linguist Benjamin Whorf, who died in 1941. Under Whorf's theory, people are only capable of constructing thoughts for which they possess actual words. In other words: Because they have no words for numbers, they can't even begin to understand the concept of numbers and arithmetic.
Thank you very much, everyone, for all the help and guidance. Please keep your replies simple and straightforward. Thanks.

Even animals and birds possess basic mathematical processing abilities. One of the articles I read related to this was about ants which said something like that ants could count their steps. I would say humans are only capable of creating thoughts for which words or related ideas exist. Many of complex mathematical studies are results of basic concepts. What I'm saying their foundations are not that complex as they look. Almost all sciences including mathematics get complex as you progress toward higher and bigger ideas but those complexities have simply concepts as their foundations. It would be hard for me to believe that those Pirahas didn't know how many legs a tiger had or how many legs two tigers would have. They don't need to have numbers, words for this. They could use concept of stones or fingers. They could relate the number of legs on two tigers to eight fingers or stones even if they lack words for the number eight.
 

fluidistic

Gold Member
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Thank you very much, everyone, for all the help and guidance. Please keep your replies simple and straightforward. Thanks.
You're welcome.

jackson6612 said:
Even animals and birds possess basic mathematical processing abilities. One of the articles I read related to this was about ants which said something like that ants could count their steps. I would say humans are only capable of creating thoughts for which words or related ideas exist. Many of complex mathematical studies are results of basic concepts. What I'm saying their foundations are not that complex as they look. Almost all sciences including mathematics get complex as you progress toward higher and bigger ideas but those complexities have simply concepts as their foundations. It would be hard for me to believe that those Pirahas didn't know how many legs a tiger had or how many legs two tigers would have. They don't need to have numbers, words for this. They could use concept of stones or fingers. They could relate the number of legs on two tigers to eight fingers or stones even if they lack words for the number eight.
You should have started by "Even some animals...". The fact that some animals have some characteristics does not imply we must have them.
About the number of legs of tigers. Even though it is pretty straight forward for you to determine the number, it does not mean it is easy for a Piraha.
I remember when I was 3 or 4 years old and I was asked to draw a person. I was thinking very hard on how to proceed. I couldn't simply do it and a little girl helped me. Now that I look back at the draw, I see 6 fingers instead of 5. What I personally conclude from this is: very young humans that does not know mathematics aren't necessarily "good" at it, nor do they even appreciate the basics you seem to include naturally in all brains.
If you read the article I provided, you see that the Pirahas couldn't do simple mathematical operations: Read the part
article said:
Or they were to remember whether Gordon had placed three or eight nuts in a can.
. Even though their language is pretty much debated, I don't think you can debate the fact that they apparently didn't make a distinction between 3 and 8 nuts.
To conclude, even though it's pretty obvious to you, I'm not sure that Pirahas could tell you how many legs the tigers have. And in the article they precise that they don't use their fingers to count, so I'm guessing seems you haven't read it. And as CRGreathouse said, read it with a grain of salt.
 

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