Talk:Language (general)

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 Definition A type of communication system, commonly used in linguistics, computer science and other fields to refer to different systems, including 'natural language' in humans, programming languages run on computers, and so on. A wider definition of language - what counts as a language and what doesn't - is a difficult philosophical topic, deserving an article in its own right. [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories Linguistics, Anthropology and Philosophy [Editors asked to check categories]
 Talk Archive none  English language variant American English
Talk:Language Archives
Archive 1, 4-27-07: Talk:Language/Archive1

proposed refocus of this article

The Language article is currently heavily weighted towards natural language but I think that might change simply by moving some of that material out into a natural language subarticle and adding other categories. Absent objections, I may do that. I also would like to remove the {{Linguistics}} template, on grounds that this particular article is headed towards becoming cross-disciplinary, of interest in Computers, History, Philosophy etc. Pat Palmer 23:46, 13 May 2007 (CDT)

I just did it already. Pat Palmer 00:18, 14 May 2007 (CDT)
I don't know about removing the {{Linguistics}} template. Yes, this article is certainly getting cross-disciplinary (as it should), but the study of Language per se (including that beyond natural language) is the defining characteristic of linguistics as a discipline! (That would be akin to removing the Biology Workgroup from the Biology page because the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and chemistry have a significant stake in the article.) Perhaps removing anthropology and philosophy as secondary workgroups is in order (and I say this as an anthropology editor, too) if we're trying to resist disproportionate influence of some disciplines over overs. But I worry that removing secondary workgroups would diminish the visibility of the article, which could reduce the contributions by a wider range of particularly relevant authors. —Richard J. Senghas 10:23, 14 September 2007 (CDT)
Hi Richard, thanks for working on this page. In my opinion, Linguistics should be the first workgroup categorizing this article. I'm not convinced on the template down the side though. I recently came across this quote in CZ:Sage_advice_on_writing_CZ_articles: "The value of a good summary article is in the choice of what details to leave out. ---Jaron Lanier". The word "language" means something quite different in, say, computer science than in linguistics. It feels wrong to me to slant the very top article towards linguistics by adding a linguistics template down the side, since language has strong meanings in many contexts besides linguistics. My opinion at present, anyway. I'm open to additional ideas here. But I wouldn't go and put a "computer science" template on the Computer article, because I also consider that word (computer) to have (at the most general overlook of a top-level article) perhaps of very widespread applicability across several fields of study.Pat Palmer 20:36, 16 September 2007 (CDT)
I am not so sure that the term language as used in linguistics is necessarily all that different from that used in the computer sciences and other disciplines. (I was in the Silicon Valley computer R&D field before returning to academia, so I say this with some familiarity of both those worlds.) Many linguists do work with/on computer languages, as well as artificial languages of various sorts, and the field of computational linguistics is yet another area of overlap. Perhaps your view of what counts as linguistics is a bit narrower than what I espouse. I do think, though, that we do want more sources that address the very definition of language in this article. Among others, we'll have to have at least Hockett's "design features" mentioned....
I agree that the template down the side pointing to the rest of linguistics might be overly directive. I misunderstood your initial comment, erroneously thinking that you were referring to the metadata template and linguistics as the proper workgroup. I was probably over-tired when I responded above (9/14).
Richard J. Senghas 22:42, 16 September 2007 (CDT)
Please have a go at the article and do with it what you think needs doing.Pat Palmer 18:18, 17 September 2007 (CDT)
PS - At the time the above trail started, the article was completely different. I've pretty much restarted it since then. It needs more expert oversight than I can provide.Pat Palmer 18:20, 17 September 2007 (CDT)

archive of removed material about "animal language"

This stuff was controversial anyway. I didn't write it and I don't necessarily know if it needs to be included. I'm placing it here for now in case it needs to be retrieved:

The term "[[animal language]]s" is often used for non-human 
languages. Most researchers agree that these are not as 
complex or expressive as [[human language]]; they may 
better be described as [[animal communication]]. Some 
researchers argue that there are significant differences 
separating human language from the communication of other 
animals, and that the underlying principles are unrelated.

In several publicised instances, non-human animals have 
been trained to mimic certain features of human language. 
For example, [[chimpanzee]]s and [[gorilla]]s have been 
taught hand signs based on [[American Sign Language]]; however, 
they have never been successfully taught its grammar. There 
was also a case in 2003 of [[Kanzi]], a captive bonobo 
chimpanzee allegedly independently creating some words to 
mean certain concepts. While animal communication has 
debated levels of [[semantics]], it has not been shown to 
have [[syntax]] in the sense that human languages do. 

Some researchers argue that a continuum exists among the 
communication methods of all social animals, pointing to 
the fundamental requirements of group behaviour and the 
existence of "[[mirror cells]]" in [[primate]]s. This, 
however, may not be a [[scientific]] question, but is 
perhaps more one of [[definition]]. What exactly is the 
definition of the word "language"? Most researchers agree 
that, although human and more primitive languages have 
[[Analogy|analogous]] features, they are not 

Language articles

Daniel Mietchen has produced a disambiguation page for language, and changed the links under 'parent topics' in 'Related Articles' to point to pages like Language (linguistics) (e.g. see Linguistics/Related Articles and one or two others). I'm not objecting to the latter change per se, though I do think linguistics articles should be linking to this article, at least for now. I suppose it depends on whether we want to try for an article that fits in lots of different views here, or whether we're just going to split the subject into lots of others - as though 'language' in philosophy is a different entity from 'language' in linguistics. I'm also not at all sure about the note under Language/Definition. Opinions on any or all of these matters? After all, this is a topic that concerns just about all of us. John Stephenson 04:51, 28 May 2008 (CDT)

Hi John, you caught me in the middle of restructuring disambiguation pages. Of course, linguistics articles should point to the article containing what is now at Language but this content is going to to be moved to Language (linguistics), and the changes on the Related Articles pages were just a preparation for that, such that the change remains invisible for anyone who does not look here during the restructuring. The move of this page will follow right away. Sorry for the inconvenience. -- Daniel Mietchen 05:49, 28 May 2008 (CDT)
Move done. -- Daniel Mietchen 05:53, 28 May 2008 (CDT)

This is part of a proposal that is yet to be made policy? Hmm. However, my main problem with this move is that this article was envisaged as briefly covering all perspectives, with pointers to other articles. Now, the title 'language (linguistics)' makes it look like it just covers the modern, scientific study of language by linguists today (very different from the dialectology, comparative philology etc. of 60-100 years ago) - i.e. it would prevent us discussing language in philosophy, psychology and so on. As for linguistics, most potential topics would be covered over at linguistics and other articles, so I'm not exactly sure how to distinguish 'language (linguistics)' from those. I think it would be better, at least for now, to have this as language. John Stephenson 04:10, 29 May 2008 (CDT)

Yes, the proposal is still under discussion but it concerns only the article mechanics, not naming policies or anything (for which no formal proposals exist yet, let alone a coherent CZ-wide policy), but part of the discussion process of the current proposal is of course to find out about possible problems associated with the envisaged implementation of that article mechanics policy, and my way of doing this (trying to be bold, but ending up just being impatient) was to apply the policy to a few test cases (those labeled "Definition and disambiguation exist" at CZ:List of words with multiple uses) and to carefully observe the effects. Since "Language" was neither approved nor recently edited, I thought it might be a suitable test page but I should perhaps have announced the move beforehand. Back to the contents: I now had a closer look at this article and think that much of this could well go into the preamble on Language (disambiguation), such that the Language (linguistics) can deal with the linguistics aspects right away. I am prepared to do the preamble part if we reach consensus here. -- Daniel Mietchen 04:58, 29 May 2008 (CDT)
Update: A related discussion on article naming is here. -- Daniel Mietchen 05:02, 29 May 2008 (CDT)
I think Larry's concept is that disambiguation pages should only contain lists of articles, not content. This is all part of the as-yet-undiscussed 'policy' part of disambiguation, which I had put off until the underlying 'mechanics' part is finalized.
I think in general, even once we have the 'policy' part set, many of these cases will need (and will certainly benefit from) discussion beforehand - what articles to have, what to call them, whether any meaning gets the 'base' name, etc.
In this particular case, it sounds might there be a use for a page called "Language (general)" or "Language (human)" or something like that, as the introductory article on the topic. Language by itself is too ambiguous a term to have an article directly there, although it might be appropriate to set it to point to the introductory article, the one I mentioned above. J. Noel Chiappa 07:26, 29 May 2008 (CDT)
As the balance of opinion is that just language is a no-no, and since the article is about language in general at this stage, I have followed Noel's suggestion above and renamed it to language (general). If the content changes in a particular direction, we could move again. Language is redirecting here. John Stephenson 22:23, 1 June 2008 (CDT)