Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Belief That Language Is A “Clothing” For “Naked Ideas"

Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 445-6):
The same attitude continues to prevail in ways people talk about language in our own time. It dominated much of the early work on machine translation in the 1950s and 1960s; the task of the analysis was seen to be that of stripping the underlying ideas of their linguistic disguise (Firth, 1956, referred scathingly to current formulations according to which language was a “clothing” for “naked ideas”). When the “interlingua” model was proposed, many of those working in the field regarded it not as a construction of meaning that would be a compromise among different linguistic systems but as a language-free representation of concepts and conceptual structures (cf. Schank’s conceptual dependency), very much in the 17th century tradition.

Blogger Comment:

It was Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) who said:
Language is the dress of thought, 
though he also said:
Words are but the signs of ideas.