TeX Hour

A weekly video meeting

Symbolic languages


Jonathan Fine In some sense, all languages are symbolic. The word ‘cat’ is not a cat. The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. Spoken language has many non-symbolic elements, such as tone of voice. Counting and arithmetic and numbers is largely symbolic.

By and large, the languages that instruct and inform computers are symbolic. The same goes for when computers talk back to us. This TeX Hour arises from the various modes of thinking and expression involved in some fairly simple-minded (but perhaps quite deep) mathematical research I’m doing.

Every living human language has a community of users. French is the language spoken by the people of France. However, the Swiss speak German, French, Italian and Romansh.

Mathematics is one, or rather several, more or less formal languages. This ranges from mathematics as Euclid and predecessors (such as Babylon 2000 BC) understood it to, via LaTeX and computer algebra, to formal languages for computer verified mathematical proofs. Related and overlapping with this are languages for algorithms and computer programs.

When we think of language as a human activity, we get another way of looking at and understanding problems of accessibility, and the challenges and opportunities arising when digital media enters a culture that has a long history of relying on print, all the way back to Gutenberg’s printing press (1440).


To follow.

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