[Edu-sig] nouns and verbs

Yoshiki Ohshima yoshiki at vpri.org
Wed Aug 6 07:32:39 CEST 2008

At Sun, 3 Aug 2008 20:03:03 -0700,
michel paul wrote:
> In secondary math classes we often say "Math is a language", but we really don't teach it that way.
> The closest we get to that is calling the comparison operators 'verbs' and the various kinds of values that can be
> combined into expressions 'nouns'.

  I enjoyed reading your lines of thought, and Edward has a good
observation.  But I also have to point out that when people say "math
is a language", it means that Math is a language to describe what it
can describe well.  But trying to make an analogy to English doesn't
get you go too far.  After all, why does it have to have anything to
do with the English syntax?  It is not a great language to express
what you would like to do over weekend either.

  The "language-ness" is not in whether it has verbs and nouns, but
the relationship between the target concept (Idea) and the description
to mean it, and also something to "think in".

  And, the language-ness is not in these mathematical symbols and
syntax, either.  It would be possible to write equations in
English-like syntax (like your "sum of 2 and 3" example).  But the
aspiration of preciseness compactness tends to favor a simpler and
less ambiguious notation.

  So, it would be appropriate to say "math is a language for of
physics" but saying "math is a language" doesn't sound like a complete
sentence to me.  "Is math a language of math?" would be an interesting

  Now, computer languages are like mathematics, but much more complex
in many ways.  It is built on top of some axioms, but the set of
axioms tends to be very big.  The notation is less ambiguous than
typical mathematics one because one of the intended readers of the
notation is the computer.

-- Yoshiki

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