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YukiRaven

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  1. A week ago, I had the start of this odd realization about languages. It came while I was watching a Japanese drama called "Nissen no Koi" (二千の恋, "Love 2000" or "Love of The Year 2000"). Though I didn't know it when I bought the DVD, there was never an official overseas release of the drama or even subtitling of it, so what I received was a cheap Hong Kong copy of it. The subtitles, though they matched what they were saying and the spelling was good, did not really flow well in English. But what this did for me was give me a glimpse into the underlying structure of the language, sort of into the realms of implied meanings and nuances. What especially came through was the overall feeling of indirectness, and the almost philosophical application of concepts to things in what were basically everyday expressions.

    This carried into real life when earlier this week, in an independent study I'm doing with a previous Japanese teacher of mine, we came across the phrase "ki o tsukete" (気をつけて) in the Katsuhiro Ootomo manga "Domu" (度夢, "Child's Dream"). The phrase is often used as a sort of "goodbye" to someone, similar to the English "take care of yourself." But that translation is functional and utilitarian at best, as a crapload of nuances is lost in the kanji. The first character, "ki" (気), is the same as the Chinese "chi". The verb there, "tsukeru", means to attach, add to, or stick on. So really, you are asking someone to attach ki to themselves (or possibly the situation). Thinking about it this way, "please attach this/your/my/something's ki to you/the situation/whatever", gives rise to a lot more meaning. I'm sure it works the other way too, but I wouldn't know where to look for this.

    Now for the past year or so (stay with me here, I'm getting to the juicy part), I've been working on teaching myself how to program in a language called Common Lisp. At its core, the entire language is defined within two of its own most simple data structures: atoms and lists. Atoms are defined as "not lists", while lists are sequences of atoms or other lists. However, Lisp looks and acts differently than other languages. At times, the differences will, like the subtitles in the DVD, give a glimpse into the inner workings of the language where odd things become apparent.

    I mention Lisp because it seems to show this clearer. The realization I've had is that programming languages are the same as written languages, not just in the sense that they have grammar, style, and vocabulary, but that they're both lists of symbolic expressions defined within themselves. Digital in execution, analog in spirit, possibly quite similar to how John von Neumann described the human brain once. Without any way of interpreting the symbols we come up with, they're useless gibberish, but without them, there is no way of interpretation.

    So yeah, I basically see spoken languages the same as programming languages, and vice versa.

    1. Show previous comments  1 more
    2. YukiRaven

      YukiRaven

      spank said:

      I think we explored some of that while programming in Prolog in an AI class I took. We turned it into a program that generated English sentences. I later was going to do one for Japanese, but ended up only writing a verb conjugation thing instead.

    3. deathbringer

      deathbringer

      Languages are different to one another, Film at 11

      A bloke i used to work with was quite interested in language, he said Polish was an odd one, it kind of appeared on it's own and is a bastard to learn. Most European languages derived from Celtic, Latin, Germanic and Slavic (as you go further east), but Polish isn't really related to any of them.

      Also the Dutch apparently speak more 'pure' English than the English do, what's now known as "English" has taken on bits of Latin and other languages down the ages and evolved into something quite different from "Old English", from which Dutch is also derived, but has changed a lot less (someone from England in 600 or so would probably understand a Dutch person easily)

    4. BoldEnglishman

      BoldEnglishman

      Yes, the epic poem "Beowulf" is an example of 'Old English'.

      I can't read a word of it, for the record :P

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