On Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 1:37 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:

> On 9/21/2011 7:52 AM, Stephen P. King wrote:
>> [SPK]
>>    A tautology might be 'empty' in some sense but it is still meaningful.
>> Meaning obtains from relations between many; absent the universe of
>> relations meaning vanishes.
>>  Consider a simple dictionary. each word entry in it is defined by some
>> set of other words in some relation to each other. Consider a dictionary
>> where each different entry had an identical set of words and relations as
>> its definition. What would any word 'mean'?
> Consider a dictionary (like real dictionaries) in which every word has a
> different set of words in its definition.  And further suppose that (unlike
> real dictionaries) if you started at any word and looked up the definition
> of every word in its definition and then did so recursively you would
> eventually have looked up every word in the dictionary.  Would you know the
> meaning of any of the words?  I'd say you would not until you had an
> ostensive definition of a sufficient subset of the words.
> Brent

I've wondered this myself: would it be possible to make sense out of an
alien dictionary?  I think it might be possible if we compare the semantic
network (formed in terms of the word relations through the definitions) to
the same generated by one of our dictionaries, then attempt to build most
probable candidate definitions for words (based on similarities in the
networks) and see whether or not it fits.  I think it would be very easy to
tell when a word definition is completely wrong, as it would lead to
conflicts with the candidate meanings decided for other words.  This is all
just a speculation of mine, there may be enough self-valid, but nonetheless
incorrect mappings of words to make it impossible, perhaps it depends on the
lengths of the definitions in the dictionary and the total number of words.


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