Bampton Lectures: Foreword

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This is a review of the structure of language that will reach into questions of language and its forms, and of information in general. The subjects are interrelated, they all come from the theory that I will try to present today. It will be desirable to give a brief overview.

The first week, today and tomorrow, will show how structure can be found in language. The second week will deal with information and the nature of language. I will give a few words about each one of the four lectures.

Today's session will present the theory of syntax, more narrowly, which is not a mathematical theory, but is nevertheless built on mathematical scruples. It is not an invented model, this is just an analysis of languages, and has been shown to yield a detailed grammar of English, a very specific grammar of the language. It gives the forms and the information, the meaning of sentences, at the same time, the solution of the two of them together, because of a certain relation between form and meaning that we will see.

Tomorrow's session is on the languages of science. From the theory that I will try to present today, it follows that when the same analysis is made on closed subject-matters, as in the case of science, we get a different grammar, a grammar that is somewhere between the grammar of language and the structure of mathematics, and which reflects very closely the structure of information, as best we can recognize it, in the science.

Next week, the first section will be on information. While the theory itself is built on combinatorial considerations, combinations of sounds and of words, it nevertheless turns out that every step in the theory, every step in the system of making a sentence, contributes a fixed meaning to … the sentence, so that the meaning is given together with the information, the form, and we can find out from this some general considerations about what information is, which I'll try to present. 

And the last lecture, on the nature and development of language, comes up because from the structural considerations that we will see, it follows that the structure of language is a conventionalization of use. These are just words unless I explain what is meant by them, but that will come. It also turns out that the processes that make language have a certain character. They have a character of being a self-organizing, evolving system, and in particular, one that is geared to the transmission of information.

Now, for today, I am anxious in this, today's lecture, to really cover enough of the theory to make it understandable, and therefore I will largely read rather than speak in order to be sure that the material is covered.

Created on January 13, 2015