abstract language

What is abstract language

Abstract Language (metalanguage)

In recent years, due to the rapid development of applied linguistics relying on mathematical methods (mathematical modeling), the question of creating an abstract language (metalanguage) based on logico-mathematical principles has been discussed in scientific literature. This kind of abstract language, built on the basis of formal analysis of “concrete” languages, is dictated by the practical needs of machine translation, where an abstract language serves as a kind of intermediary between a machine and a living “concrete” language.

Another kind of such metalanguage, the creation of which is thought of as a preliminary step in the construction of an abstract machine metalanguage, are various scientific languages. In some sciences, such as mathematics or chemistry, such specialized metalanguages already exist. The peculiarity of both metalanguages of individual sciences and their more generalized form – abstract machine language – is that they have a different degree of formalized and defined structure, where individual elements of metalanguage (words and expressions) have a precise and unambiguous definition (“meaning”) established by the position of this element in the structure. The connection of lexical units of metalanguage in a sentence is also carried out on the basis of the principles of logical syntax.

If we compare the essence and principles of construction of metalanguages with all that has been said above concerning the illegitimacy of defining “concrete” languages in general as sign systems and the presence of elements of signification (terminological vocabulary) in them, their difference from ordinary or “concrete” languages immediately catches our eye. In contrast to the latter, we can characterize metalanguages as sign systems and their constituent lexical elements as units actually devoid of lexical meanings – i.e. the set of those qualities which, as established above, are obligatory for a lexical meaning.

abstract language

All these qualities (or, as they were called above, characteristics) turn out to be “redundant” for metalanguages and are “removed” when translating words of a “concrete” language into an abstract metalanguage, where they retain only their purely logical or conceptual content (if only they possess it; cf. such words as bang! once! ah! fool, sweetheart, etc.). It is clear that in such a situation a translation (at least a more or less complete and exact one) from “concrete” to abstract language and back is not always possible.

On the other hand, everything that characterized pure terms is fully applicable to metalanguages, which is why it is possible to define them with good reason as systems of conditional codes or sign systems. We should not close our eyes to the fact that metalanguages are artificial preparations derived from concrete languages. They are oriented towards certain and limited purposes (they can therefore be called functional languages) and are not capable of performing the versatile and highly responsible functions that “concrete” languages do.

We can say that a language allows transformation into a metalanguage or makes possible machine translation of written texts from one language to another insofar as it possesses iconic qualities, and opposes these operations insofar as it is an unknown structure – in this second case, we mean those very essential qualities of language which are not overlapped by iconic characteristics and from the purely logical point of view belong to “redundancy”.

Without denying in any way the importance of metalanguages, at the same time we can predict with certainty that whatever perfection information machines and other cybernetic installations achieve, not only will they not abolish but also will not change the essence of “concrete” languages, although, perhaps, to a certain extent, they can contribute to their logical discipline.

Author: Abstract