Language, Computer Sciences and Tacit Knowledge

Kjell S. Johannessen


There are various conceptions of the nature of language in circulation in linguistics. Common to all of them is, however, some reliance on the concept of rule, explicit or implicit. Typical in this respect is the remark of Jerrold Katz in The Philosophy of Language where he contends that "one who knows a natural language tacitly knows a system of rules". A natural as well as a constructed language is conceived as a system of rules in some sense. On the syntactical level this does not seem to meet with unsurmountable difficulties. On the semantical level the situation is far more problematic. It is for instance basic to Katz' conception of language that rules also are constitutive of linguistic meaning. And some version of this idea has to be correct if the more ambitious aims of the computer sciences be realized, as one is here radically dependent upon the possibility of translating the meaning of each and every linguistic expression into a set of machine readable rules which are formulated in such a way that there is a definite answer to any possible case of application.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; rule; picture; rule-following; practice; concept; language learning; intransitive understanding; computer; tacit knowledge

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