Thursday, September 23, 2010

A lack of linguistics?

Now for some actual thoughts after a dryspell and a lot of articles before that...

This semester is kind of slim for me on the psycholinguistics. However, I am taking a computer science class. Although not everything must revolve around brains and language, I have to take the class for the concentration, so clearly they thought there was something connective in it. With that, I have come look at it like artificial brains understanding artificial language. The professor, the revered Andy Van Dam, talks about syntax and semantics and lexicality all the time. And there's even polysemy, what is called "overloading" of a specific term. I've found that the frustration of programming comes in the face that computers know no pragmatics. There is no "you know what I mean" when it comes to forgetting a semi-colon in the code. There is no inference on the part of the "listener."

So it is pragmatics that makes us human?

Well, maybe not pragmatics. It all goes back to the theory of mind. A human can "know what I mean" when I forget to do this that and the other thing in speech, so long as the gist is there. A computer can't, just like an autistic child cannot understand humor.

A computer is a brain, but does it have a mind?