Re[2]: [tied] searching for common words for all today's languages

From: Brian M. Scott
Message: 43268
Date: 2006-02-05

At 5:03:47 PM on Sunday, February 5, 2006, Richard
Wordingham wrote:

> --- In, "Brian M. Scott"
> <BMScott@...> wrote:

>> At 4:18:22 PM on Sunday, February 5, 2006, Richard
>> Wordingham wrote:

>>> --- In, "Brian M. Scott"
>>> <BMScott@> wrote:

>>> Some radar systems regularly search for and find signals
>>> that are way below the level of noise.

>> But under what circumstances? I'm no engineer, but I
>> suspect that this requires knowing a good deal about the
>> nature of at least the noise and quite possibly the signal
>> as well, and probably not just qualitatively, either.

> That much is true; this was largely meant as a warning
> about glibly saying something is lost in the noise.

Ah, okay; I really was thinking in terms of this specific
context when I made the original comment.

>> It's not clear that it's possible to have that kind of
>> knowledge about language, and we certainly don't have it
>> now.

> It's probably not being applied numerically, but I'm not
> so sure we don't have the knowledge. I suspect we need to
> apply information from the daunting field of semantics,
> but I also fear that that will only allow us to go a
> little way below the level of the noise. A crude example
> is looking for word families to eliminate recent loans.

I'm pretty sure that I'm more pessimistic than you, but I
don't consider this an *unreasonable* position.

> On the noise side, we may well have the problem that,
> statistically speaking, the association between sound and
> meaning is not arbitrary.

The sort of thing that John Lawler looks at and, more
ambitiously, Margaret Magnus? I've read just a little.

> We are straying well off-topic, but I'm not sure where to
> divert this discussion.

This is probably as good a place as any from my point of