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What language is best for describing science?

  1. Apr 11, 2005 #1
    Is English superior to other languages for use in the sciences, or is this an illusion of history? Would you dare mention a computer language that rivals English for overall science applications? Are optimum scientific languages more object- or observer-based? What has Noam Chomsky to say of all this?
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  3. Apr 11, 2005 #2


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    English has a very large vocabulary (primarily because of it's extensive borrowing from other languages) and fairly well developed ways of constructing new, technical, terms.

    I have, however, heard that Romanian is a very "logical" language and is best for matematical and scientific work. I know nothing at all about Romanian (except that it is, unlike most of the languages in countries around it, derived from Latin) but throw that out for what it is worth.
  4. Apr 11, 2005 #3


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    I'm Romanian and my language is very difficult to learn for a nonlatin language speaker.The grammar is horrible,the words are nice,but i don't see any logics,though.It's purely history that English has become the language of science and especially computer technology.In physics,i think German is of the same importance...

    Last edited: Apr 11, 2005
  5. Apr 11, 2005 #4
    i'm pretty sure hallsofivy is right

    one of the reasons english is so popular in literature and business is because our vocabulary is more extensive and descriptive than any other language that i'm aware of

    and have you noticed that most scientific terms in other languages are just variations of the english version? i can't think of the proper term for it, but i mean the way words look similar... like "universidad" in spanish is really similar to "univeristy" in english.

    most scientific terms in other languages take this form. in Richard Feynman's book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", he talks about his transition of going to teach in Brazil, and how he couldn't speak the language that well at first, but this helped him get by teaching.
  6. Apr 11, 2005 #5


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    Not really.It's more to it.Comparative history of languages.It's nice.I've always liked ethymology,wondered through old books to see where the words came from.Most of them,in science,are from Ancient Greek and Latin.That's how they ended up in almost all languages.English is a derived language,Germanic origin.They imported massively from French.It's really a lot to talk about.

    As for literature,nope.As for business,just like science,it's history-related.Remember,the German physicists came to America and not viceversa.

  7. Apr 12, 2005 #6
    And the best language for describing science is......

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2005
  8. Apr 12, 2005 #7
    John Archibald Wheeler has claimed that all of physics might be reducible to logical bits. Might this infer that much mathematics is eventually expressible in binary form?
  9. Apr 12, 2005 #8
    Agreed with mathematics. If a paper has enough math then it doesn't matter what language it's in, any scientist can follow it.

    I don't see how English is superior than any other language for anything. Computer languages aren't really languages, so I don't see how those apply.
  10. Apr 12, 2005 #9


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    Look at the Nobel winning scientists from all the countries. Indo-european languages dominate, but there are many winners who think in Chinese or Japanese, very different langauges. Just about every type of language is represented. So it doesn't seem to depend on type. I think the presence of sophisticated commercial and social concepts for use in analogy would be important, but otherwise one language should be as good as another. Pure math is hard for anybody but a mathematician to follow, and phycisists wisely avoid pure math, even where, as with Witten, the outcome is purely mathematical.
  11. Apr 15, 2005 #10


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    i reckon it because pure maths is the most strict subject there is and usually has to do with metamathematics (number theory is one exception as a few others), which deals on the datails of the way we do maths.

    ofcourse it doesnt concern physicists, but i wonder if every mathematical physicist were also acquainted to pure maths wouldnt it have an impact on both fields (the same as had happened to calculus on both fields).
  12. Apr 21, 2005 #11
    English is the easiest language for mathematics and science. But there are others which are more difficult in my opinion such as Japanese/Chinese, Arabic, Portugues, Italian/Spanish etc...
  13. Apr 21, 2005 #12
    I know both spanish and english more or less the same and have grown learning them by equal. I don't find spanish so dificult, I mean, comparing it with chinese (which actually there is no man that knows everything in chinese) or to japanese or arabic, is extreme.

    English is more dificult in somethings, and more easy in others. The only correct language for science, and I have already said this, is a logic--based language: mathematics.
  14. Apr 21, 2005 #13
    All romance languages are close to each other but arabic is different because it's of the Afroasiatic branch. My mother tongue is hebrew but i know some arabic and portuguese.

    For physics and computer science the best language is math but a standard language is still necessary for instruction.
  15. Apr 21, 2005 #14

    And you think it should be english only becuase the economical and political power of the moment is the USA. Well, for me physics shouldn't be afected by political and economical differences.
  16. Apr 22, 2005 #15

    No, seriously though . . . not english. Living languages evolve, which makes them sorta kinda unreliable. Speaking in maths about the ecology of the lungfish seems like it would be unnecessarily difficult though. And having separate languages for the different sciences would be unsatisfactory. So, if not a dead language, maybe something like esperanto would'nt be a bad idea after all?
  17. Apr 22, 2005 #16
    true. I had already though of that. Esperanto isn't officila in any country so it's considered an international language. everybody is ok with that, I think so........If not, someone thik smoething better.
  18. Apr 22, 2005 #17
    Natural Langauge is already complete....It just needs to be metaphysically disambiguated and properlly taught at every level of one's educational life. At the moment many philosophers and scientists are pointlessly denying themselves a good night sleep over the so-called "The Explainable Remainders". How can you have a part or parts of a system that cannot be explained with the same language? Why should you lose sleep over this? I am trying my very best to get these guys to get some sleep before we lose them all to sleeplessness. As I have already suggested elswhere, the only way that they can get this sleep is to just simply see (recognise) the "MULTIPARTITE LANGUAGE" that is already in place. This exists already, all they have to do is just look at it and recognise it. Once you recognise it, then all that is left is use it in an appropriate way and appreciate it.

    Our Natural Langauge (NL) is not in Verbal or written form alone. It also has a corporeal part which could quite rightly be called "The Body Language". Both the Verbal (or written) Langauage and Body Langauge form the fundamental parts of NL. You just cannot separate them because they are both sides of the same coin. And we have used both with penetrating precision for thousands of years, even though just like everything else in life fucntional errors do occasionally occur. Some of the things that are useful to the human life that cannot be verbally described and named can be directly experienced and named. Some of these things we communicate them by giving physical signals such as pointing at them or picking them out from a list. Ok, you would probably label it "Functionalism' and then find a few complaints about it. Well, that is Ok, since the process of life should be such the we always work towards overcoming such errors, if any. But the issue here is whether we can functionally (to borrow your likely term) get by in life with defaulting to pure vegetablebs or automatons. My own answer is YES, we can.

    1) you see colour Green, you point at it and if everyone agrees that it is green, then why do you need a verbal or written explanation?

    2) Someone asks you to pick out a green card from a heap of cards and you successfully do so, and both of you agree that it is a green card, why would you need to describe colour green to anyone else, let alone bother about what it is like for bystander to experience colour green?

    3)You feel pain in your back and you cry out in pain, you get medication from a doctor and the pain goes away, why would you want to explain what it is like to feel pain to a bystander except when that person feels pain too and takes the same tablet as you and other people to relieve that pain?

    There are all sorts of corporeal cues that we use to communicate the unexplainable remainders (as so-called) to each other. Even with the occassional functional errors, we do succeed in majority of the available chances to overcome most of our explanatory difficulties with this purpportedly crude process.

    CONCLUSION: We need a Multipartite Language to explain a metaphysically vexing multipartite system. Of courese, this is only for those who cannot get a day's sleep on the subject. The rest of us can at least cope with what is crudely available before us while we at the same time strive to structurally and functionally improve the human nature.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2005
  19. Apr 22, 2005 #18

    The Langauge of science is also a langauge of explanation. When metaphysically conjoined with NL (Natural language), it becomes an acceptable part of NL therefore making it multi-partite in scope and in substance. In other words, the Langauge of science is already part of NL. It just needs a systematic clarification at the metaphysical level.

    You might wonder and ask Why?

    Well, according to Frank Jackson’s thought experiment, scientists do have a way of numerically identifying all the colours and naming them. In the thought experiment, Mary, a Neuroscientist in a black and white room, knows all names of all the colours and how to uniquely associate each colour name with each wavelength on the light spectrum, which metaphysically and epistemologically implies that she can communicate these colour names (Red, Green, Yellow, Blue, etc) and wavelengths (w1, w2, w3 ….. wn) to her fellow scientists. This epistemologically implies

    Colour Name + Wavelength = Knowledge of each colour

    For example:

    “Red” + W2 = Knowledge of Red colour”

    But, according to Jackson, Mary does not know colours in real experience because she has never seen any colour before. This means that Mary can numerically (physically) account for all the colours but she cannot experientially (consciously) account for them. According Jackson, this means that there are some facts about conscious experience that are irreducible from physical experience

    Mary knows that

    “Green” = Wavelength (w3)

    But Mary does not know that

    “Green” = Experience (Green)

    Ok, let us use the Possible World Semantics to analyse this:

    Metaphysically, Mary and fellow scientists in this world can substitute not only the colour term for the wavelength numerical value but also they can substitute any sentence containing the colour term for any sentence containing the wavelength numerical value. So long as they can be communicated from one scientist to another scientist without losing their information contents or semantic values, then they are metaphysically and epistemologically equivalent.

    In this case Mary would substitute all the co-referential terms and sentences in the world accordingly.

    (a) “Green” for wavelength (n)
    (b) “Green” for experience (green)
    (c) Wavelength (n) for experience (green)

    And so on. However, when it comes to communicating the knowledge of colours to non-scientists in the same world, as is typical of our own present world, Mary (likewise her fellow scientists) has to do so experientially – that is, directly name and physically point at them to identify them.

    Well, the TRANSWORLD IDENTITY THEORY says that names should have the same meanings across all possible worlds or that they should not vary in meanings as we travel from one possible world to the next. At least this is what Kripke’s theory of Rigid Designator was attempting to demonstrate. According to Kripke, names do not vary in meanings in all possible worlds because they are rigid designators. Well, if this is true, then if Mary in the Possible World 3 were to board a spaceship and travelled to Possible Worlds 1 and 2, the name “Green” should have the same meaning in all the three worlds regardless of if Mary was speaking to scientists or non-scientists. Metaphysically, this would be equivalent to objectively picking an item in a public realm and introducing into a discourse in a manner that every participant in that discourse fully understands what is being referred to. Note that in my above three analogical examples, both the scientists and non-scientists use the same colour names (“Green”, “Blue”, “Red’, etc.) to name what they each understand as representing or standing for those names (wavelengths for scientists and real colour experience for non-scientists) respectively. This, in my opinion, seems to render the overplayed notion of “WHAT IT IS LIKE TO EXPERIENCE QUALIA metaphysically and epistemologically redundant because the transworld identities of colour names are rigid. They mean the same thing regardless of which world you are in. And the fact that some experiences are directly identified and named does not metaphysically pollute this fact. The only fundamental difference is that some experiences are linguistically describable and nameable while some are non-linguistically describable but directly experiential and nameable.

    In this way we have conjoined the language of science with the Natural language in other to describe and communicate different aspects of the same reality to each other without falling into error judgement. The Language of science conjoined with NL produces an Multipartite Metalanguage with which to describe multipartite reality. For a Multipartite reality requires a Multipartite Language to describe it.
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