LANGUAGE IN SCIENCE
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
© 2003 by M. S. Thirumalai, E-mail: email@example.com.
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My concern for the development of Indian languages as fit vehicles for the expression of sciences led me to think over the role of langauge and its use in science. Science is a double-edged weapon, just as langauge is. It is used both for the constructive growth and for the destruction of human civilization. Language is used to express truth as well as falsehood, to lead on to clarity as well as ambiguity.
Language acquisition is, in a manner of speaking, acquisition of science. At a level where formal instruction begins, conscious control over language use plays a significant role; clarity of expression helps not only the clarification of ideas for better communication, but may lead also to a substantial modification of these ideas, and to the creation of newer ones.
My aim in writing this book has been to suggest ways of studying the role of language and its use in science, and to indicate the broad outlines of language use, and not at all to present an exhaustive treatment of the characteristics of language use in science. This work is intended for an audience of both linguists and scientists, for students of linguistics as well as those of other sciences.
It is gratifying to note that many students and researchers have benefited from an earlier and limited publication of this work through Geetha BookHouse in 1978. Several Ph.D. dissertations and research articles derived their outlines and findings based on this work. This book facilitated several detailed research studies on langauge use in science as exempliefied in Indian languages. Now I present a slightly revised version of this book in this edition for a wider audience.
My grateful thanks are due to Kelly Stuart and Kelly Erickson, who prepared the electronic copy of the book for formatting.
M. S. Thirumalai
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A DETAILED CONTENT LIST
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1.1. Approaches to the Study of Language
Language can be studied from at least four different but related angles, namely, biological, psychological, social and linguistic. In the biological approach we identify the biological bases of language, raising questions such as whether there are any biological correlates for our capacity to acquire and use languages. In the social approach to the study of language we identify the role of language in interpersonal communication and find out how societal factors come to control and contribute to language use. In the psychological study of language we identify both the aspects of interpersonal and intrapersonal communication; we study how man as an organism understands and produces sentences. In the linguistic approach to the study of language, the structures of a language-phonological, syntactic and semantic are identified, described and explained. The present study about the use of language in scientific pursuits may be considered as belonging to sociolinguistics, which studies the functions of language - how humans constituting groups for different purposes use language. Language is not only a vehicle for interpersonal and intrapersonal communication, but also a means to acquire knowledge and to organize the world around us. It is also a means to express the knowledge thus gained. Our major concern in this book, however, is to study how a language, when chosen to express the sciences, is actually used, to study the processes that help or hamper the use of languages in the expression of sciences, to study how the concepts of sciences mould and influence the modes of language uses and to identify the mechanisms of language that are constantly resorted to in refining and enriching the language use.
1.2. Languages and the Expression of Sciences
A study of the historical background of using languages for the expression of sciences shows different types of trends in the uses of languages. There are languages that were at least partly used to express sciences simultaneously with the progressive emergence of modern sciences. There are languages that were originally not used for expression of sciences but soon became the vehicle of sciences. There are languages that are used for the expression of sciences, but their use is of a limited range and restricted to only some of the levels of education and scientific activities. There are communities that do not use their own languages at all for the expression of sciences. There are languages that were originally the media of the sciences but now play only the role of supplying terms of sciences, or processes for the coinage of terms of science, rather than being actively used as media for the expression of sciences.
The users of the new languages that are sought to be made fit vehicles for the expression of sciences have established various types of machinery to achieve their goal. This is one type of conscious effort. In another type of conscious effort, even the scholars who use the developed languages as media for the expression of sciences are engaged in constant efforts to clarify the concepts, and to reduce ambiguity for better communication. They also devote a lot of their attention to develop common terms and expressions for effective and faster communication between those who use different languages for the expression of sciences. Thus there is always a ceaseless effort made to improve the language in some sense and to make it a fit vehicle for the communication of sciences.
1.3. Relationship between Language Structure and Language Use
Linguists assert that all languages are equal in their structural complexity and in their potential to express the ideas of their users. The principle of affability, generally accepted by linguists, states that we can express everything we feel and experience through a human language. In spite of this assertion, there are many ways in which languages are classified with reference to their richness of concepts. The richness is considered sometimes in terms of literary works, sometimes in terms of science books and articles and some other times in terms of polite expressions, musicality and so on. Some languages are considered inherently fit for diplomacy, some for art and some others for heroism, wrangling or abuse. Some languages are considered languages of gods.
The above characterizations of languages reveal the advancement (or the lack of it) achieved by the communities, which use those languages. The richness of a language is generally measured in terms of the number and kinds of domains of uses to which such languages are put. The greater and larger the number and kinds of domains of uses, the richer a language is generally considered. Although such richness may generally mean the expansion of vocabulary in a language and may not contribute to large scale additions of new syntactic structures, a reorganization of the old syntactic structures, a changed emphasis on the frequency of occurrence of different syntactic structures and development of novel ways of expressing ideas utilizing old structures, do take place often. For all these things to happen, however, the material, social, and philosophical advancements of a community seem to matter more than anything else. As such advancements are related in a very significant manner to the educational processes, the medium used for such processes is bound to be used in the domains not originally conceived and practised. When Latin and Greek were the media of the educational processes, the European vernaculars had only a limited number and kinds of domains of uses. A progressive induction of vernaculars into newer and dynamic areas led to their emergence as rich languages in comparison to the languages of the present developing and underdeveloped countries. The progressive induction of the vernaculars into newer and dynamic areas accompanied the industrialization of the societies, which used the vernaculars and in fact was helped by the industrialization process itself.
1.4. Language Use in Developing Countries
For historical reasons many developing and underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America have adopted and been using a language usually of European origin in their institutions of education, administration and mass communication Such an adoption of a language of a developed country, in place of a local language, may or may not lead to material, social, and philosophical advancements, since, for such advancements, language is only a vehicle and not the deciding factor. But adoption of a non-native language for purposes of education, administration and mass communication etc., may result in the restriction of domains of uses for the local language. In these countries the people who speak the local languages are exposed to newer concepts and newer disciplines through languages other than their own. They are required to manipulate and put into practice and do research with these concepts through foreign languages. Such situations restrict the domains of uses for their own languages, even as the people are benefited by the newer disciplines and newer concepts given them by the adopted non-local language. Thus if the development of languages is to be measured in terms of the domains of uses, most of the languages of the developed and developing nations are to be placed under a wide spectrum of development particularly in relation to their use in disciplines of science.
The case history of the adoption of English as the medium of instruction in the Indian subcontinent points out how the domains of uses of native languages are restricted. The languages of the Indian subcontinent had been vehicles of supreme literature and also of pre-European sciences. However, the adoption of a schooling system that had a different focus of content and which aimed at a wider spread of education was not followed by choosing native languages as media of instruction. Indeed, had these languages been chosen as the media of instruction, even as the founding of a system with wider spread of education as its goal was in its sprout, the languages of the Indian subcontinent would have by now attained the status of developed languages in the sense detailed above.
The educational history of developing nations abounds in hesitant and at times faulty decisions, taken mainly with the aim of maintaining the colonial power, and the ruling elitist classes after independence. The epoch-making Macaulay's Minute of 1835 was of a mixed blessing to the native languages of the Indian subcontinent - in as much as the domains of the uses of these languages were to be restricted for a long time to come, and, in as much as their lexical and syntactic horizons have been extended by their contacts with English. Macaulay recommended English as the language best worth knowing by the natives of the Indian subcontinent. His policy of restricted educational facilities (which in fact was much broader in scope and extent than the then prevailing system) led him to make an observation that had not been falsified by the course of history: 'We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern - a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population'.
Implicit in Macaulay's observation is a recognition of lack of terms of science in Indian languages fit for the expression of western scientific concepts and an inherent faith in the evolutionary processes for the development of languages through greater exposure. The trust placed on the class of persons, Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and intellect to enrich their vernaculars with terms of sciences from the English language is explicit in this observation. This trust has been realized and accomplished in an unexpected quarter, namely, the study of literature. The impact of English literature on literatures of modern Indian languages is indeed prodigious and has led to the establishment of prose as a great medium of literature. It has led to interesting and durable innovations in forms and functions in all aspects of literature. But the fond hope of Macaulay for the enrichment of native vernaculars with terms of science, etc., has still not been fully realized. During the British rule, there was a gulf between the levels of education in terms of the medium of instruction adopted at each level, with primary education offered through the medium of vernaculars and the post-primary education through English. This gulf was necessitated by the Empire's desire to accommodate the natives' aspiration to retain their identities while insisting upon a knowledge of sciences through the European medium. However, this gulf was slightly bridged when in the early twentieth century the Indian vernaculars became the media of instruction at the secondary level. But even then a gulf was maintained between the secondary and collegiate levels of education, as English continued to be the medium of instruction at the collegiate level. Thus the fortunes of the languages of the Indian subcontinent to become fit vehicles of modern sciences were restricted. Their development in this area, if any, was at all times linked with their use in the levels of education, apart from the endeavours to popularise scientific concepts. Their standard and facilities for the expression of sciences were only of such a stature admitted by the requirements of primary and secondary levels of education. Had the native vernaculars been used to express the concepts of modern science right from the beginning of the introduction of these concepts into the educational system of the Indian subcontinent, the vernaculars might have perhaps attained a status similar to that of several European languages and Japanese.
The political exigencies have forced the developing nations to adopt their national languages as media of education, administration, mass communication, etc., but the tardy implementation of the policy has not in any manner helped to make national languages fit vehicles for the expression of sciences. Most of these nations' problem being illiteracy, they have concentrated more on the spread of literacy than on making the national languages vehicles for scientific knowledge. The transition period, from the use of a colonial language to that of a national language, is also marked by intense and cutthroat competition between the contesting languages of a nation. In a country like India where conflicting concepts of nationhood still persist, it is difficult to go ahead with the doing away of a language that was once colonial, but now considered only a vehicle for furtherance of knowledge. With the passage of time the gains of retaining the so-called colonial language become more apparent, and as a result, the language of the colonial past is maintained.
A distinction between the teaching of language as a subject and using it as a medium of instruction for other subjects in the curriculum is slowly made in these countries. However, a viable and realistic language teaching policy for the use of the so-called colonial language in terms of its role, placement and duration in the educational system is yet to be fully worked out and put into practice. In such a condition the attempts to bridge the gulf between levels of education in terms of medium of instruction do not bear fruit. Consequent upon this failure, the vernaculars continue to be unacceptable as fit vehicles for the expression of sciences.
1.5. Machinery for Language Development
We have dealt with the historical background of languages of certain regions at length in order to show the trends in choice of languages for the expression of scientific concepts, and to show how conflicting situations prevail in the choice of language for expression of sciences in different countries.
Both the developed and developing nations have established a variety of machinery to develop their languages. These machinery include commissions and agencies to develop technical terms through translation, adoption, adaptation or other means; language teaching institutions, material production centres, textbook societies, institutes of languages and so on. Language commissions and education commissions undertake review of existing facilities, their utilization potential and suggest new measures for the amelioration of specific problems and to cater to projected and felt-needs. Within the developed world there is a constant revision of the goals, methods, materials and researches to achieve greater gains within a shorter span.
In addition to the hiatus between the levels of education in terms of the medium of instruction, there are certain other factors vis-à-vis the expression of sciences, which also contribute to the slow developmental processes witnessed in several languages. In India, in particular, for a long time Sanskrit and not the vernaculars, was used and considered to be the fit vehicle for the expression of sciences. This had resulted in the demarcation of domains for Sanskrit and vernaculars. Although the vernaculars now draw from Sanskrit their norms for the expression of sciences, and terms for 'scientific concepts and processes, they were, however, handicapped in not being put into full use for the expression of sciences. Added to this problem was the restrictive practice of admission in the ancient school system. These restrictive practices did not enable the popularisation of knowledge. Yet another factor that hampered the emergence and development of technical language was the deliberate attempt to pass on knowledge to a limited few who were bound by vows of secrecy. The interplay of the above factors in one form or the other can be very easily identified also in the period of western history during which the European vernaculars were slowly replacing the classical languages as media of education, administration, etc.
1.7. Specialist and Ordinary Languages
In every society, whether civilized or primitive, there is a gulf between the language used by laymen and the language used by specialist groups. Specialization is a relative term and it differs from community to community and individual to individual. Whereas modern practitioners of medicine may use among themselves a language not easily understood by other segments of the community, the priests of primitive communities may pride themselves in speaking in some special language with the gods; the tradesmen may use their own jargon to guard their secrets from being known to all and sundry. Thus the language of the specialist is indeed hard to understand by laymen. Furthermore, with the increasing complexity of the subject matter and narrow specialization, we have come to a position in which a scientist belonging to one discipline finds himself in a difficult position to understand the language of another discipline - the reason for this being his non-acquaintance with conventions of the expressions and the concepts of the other discipline.
A student of science is expected not only to learn and manipulate the use of the concepts of his discipline but also to express the same concepts in clear terms. This is because how you phrase a question seems to be at least as important as what questions you do raise. That is, training in sciences includes acquisition of knowledge as well as acquisition of conventions to express that knowledge. Because of this a science class teaches the concepts and equips the students with a language suitable for the expression of sciences. The education system in the West has recognized this fact and makes a conscious effort to impart a knowledge of the terms and processes employed for the expression of sciences through symposia, seminars, conferences, classroom practices in terms of term papers and other assignments, and through a rigorous training in writing dissertation and using style sheets of standard journals. Although such practices are available to a student of science in a routine fashion, dissatisfaction with the quality of attainment in the expression of scientific concepts goads linguists, scientists and educationists into refining and enriching their classroom practices. Unfortunately, such a ceaseless effort is conspicuous by its absence in most of the developing countries.
For various reasons the language of the sciences sounds different from the day-to-day language. These reasons perhaps contribute to the problems faced by the students in the acquisition of the language of sciences. These generally include the specialized meanings of the technical terms which contrast with the meanings for the same terms in common language, use of foreign and contrived words, contrived translations of foreign terms, special uses of syntax of the common language, the difficulty posed by the concept itself as the term is only a label for the concept and the difficulties one is faced with in deriving one word from the other.
1.8. Plan of the Book
A major concern of this book, as already stated, is to identify and study the mechanisms of language that are constantly resorted to in the uses of language for the expression of sciences. We do this in the background of principles of scientific method, standard procedures of scientific investigation, schools of linguistic philosophy, communication models, principles of rhetoric, and register. Tips for improvement of one's own scientific writing are mentioned here and there. But this book is not intended to provide such guidance. Linguistic structures of any one particular language are not presented. However, some of the major trends in a few languages are presented. This book may be considered as a brief introduction to aspects of language use in science and as an introduction to various aspects of studying language use in science.
In chapter 2, we present and clarify the concepts of language, dialect and register, compare common language with specialist language and indicate the general characteristics of language, which help to acquire and manipulate concepts. We discuss the functions of language and define what one means by style. Certain procedures for a study of language of science are also indicated.
In chapter 3, we trace the roots of science to the ontological development of language and concepts in children. We define what philosophy of science is. A brief introduction to the tenets of linguistic philosophy is also given. In particular, the assumptions and analytical procedures of the schools of Ideal Language Philosophy and Ordinary Language Philosophy are discussed and their relevance for a study of language use in science indicated. The characteristics of philosophical grammar are also dealt with. In addition, the philosophies of language advocated by transformational generative grammarians in general and by Katz in particular are discussed, providing a criticism of the schools of Ideal Language Philosophy and Ordinary Language Philosophy. The various principles of scientific method are presented and discussed in relation to kinds of structures or sentences that are demanded by an adoption of these principles. Salient features of reporting are also discussed. And a classification of the types of scientific language is presented.
In chapter 4, we discuss the nature, function and the processes of coinage of technical terms. Words are viewed as labels for categorizations of universe. While making a distinction between spontaneous and scientific concepts, a question as to whether the technical term is only a noun is raised. Language mechanisms for coinage of terms are identified. Furthermore, the processes of change of forms and meanings are also identified. A definition of definition is attempted and the Latin and Greek background of technical terms of sciences is briefly described. Characteristics of technical terms in English, German, Hindi and Tamil are also presented.
In chapter 5, the nature, function and composition of sentence in science are discussed. We offer various definitions of sentence, and list and describe the various components that go into the making of a sentence. While discussing the types of sentences that are available in some well-known languages, we present and discuss the concepts, namely, deep structure, transformation and surface structure, and the relations that exist between these concepts. Types of sentence expansions are also discussed. The chapter does not stop with a discussion on the role sentence plays in science. The relationships that exist between sentences of a discourse, the characteristics of scientific discourse, an approach to the language of science from the point of view of rhetoric and characteristics of style sheets of journals also form part of chapter 5.
Chapter 6 discusses the aspects of teaching science through the medium of mother tongue and the medium of second language. How difficult it is to define the concept of mother tongue is shown. Characteristics of the acquisition of first language, second language and cognitive structures are linked with the acquisition of ordinary and scientific concepts. Arguments in favour of using mother tongue as medium of instruction are presented. Aspects of teaching science through a second language are also highlighted. Chapter 7 discusses the features and problems of translating scientific materials.
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2.1. What is Language?
Many are the definitions of language but none seems to capture faithfully and comprehensively the wholesome phenomenon and the most fundamental means of communication that we call language. Language is defined as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which members of a social group interact with each other. Language is defined as a tool of communication by means of which human experience is analysed differently in each community into units, each of which has semantic content and phonic expression. Language is also defined in relation to dialects and idiolects by saying that a language is a collection of more or less similar idiolects (the speech of the individuals) with the difference that the degree of similarity of the idiolects in a single dialect is presumed to be greater than that of all the idiolects in the language (Hockett, 1958: 322). Some consider only the phonological (study of significant groups of sounds of a language that are in contrast with one another - phonemes and their arrangements), grammatical (a stock of morphemes -minimum meaningful units and their arrangements) and morphophonemic (study of the phonemic variations in morphemes appearing in different grammatical structures) systems as constituting language, leaving the phonetic (study of all the actual sounds used in a language irrespective of their phonemic status) and semantic aspects (study of the meaning expressed in a language through its words, phrases, sentences and their arrangements, etc.). And yet one can get at the phonological, grammatical and morphophonemic aspects of language only by working through the phonetic and semantic aspects. Some consider language as a system of habits, learned through analogy and imitation. Some consider language as an innate and species-specific trait of human beings. Some consider language as consisting of a system of concepts or vocabulary. Anthropologists regard language as a form of cultural behaviour; sociologists consider it as an interaction between members of a social group; students of literature view it as an artistic medium; philosophers as a means of interpreting human experience, and language teachers as a set of skills.
2.2. Functions of Language
Some consider language mainly as a tool of communication and to understand this tool they suggest that we should consider the uses to which language is put - we should consider the functions of language. Language is fundamental for us because it extracts knowledge from our observations. We have already referred to a fact that languages evolve to fulfil the needs of their users and that they change when these needs change. The growth and efficacy of a language depend upon the dimensions, quantum and quality of different uses to which a particular language is put.
We use language to express, persuade, and describe the events and things around us or imagined by us. We use it for imperative, indicative and interrogative purposes. We use language to communicate factually and emotionally. Language can be put to use for emotive and affective purposes, and for symbolic and informative purposes. Emotive language is rarely used in science. It is the informative language that is more frequently used in the expression of sciences. By means of words properly organized we are able to identify, objectify, standardize, categorize and universalise our experience. The uses to which a language is put are not finite in number. Every use has its own characteristics; we use language differently when we give and obey orders, describe an object, report an event, speculate an event, form and test a hypothesis, make up a story, play act, sing, guess riddles, tell jokes, translate, ask, thank, curse, greet or pray.
Roman Jakobson classifies the function of language into six types. These are emotive, conative, referential, phatic, poetic and metalingual. Emotive function is the direct expression of speaker's attitudes. One may call this the expressive function, which is the correlation between the linguistic utterances (linguistic signs) and the speaker. The conative function focuses our attention on the listener, which may be considered as the appeal function - this is the correlation between the sign and the hearer. The referential function denotes the non-linguistic context and the situation. This is the correlation between the sign and the states of facts, and is called also the representative function. By correlation we mean that any variation in the hearer or speaker or states of facts will correspondingly introduce variation in the linguistic sign (linguistic utterances). The phatic function focuses attention on the contact between source and receiver that is established by virtue of the physical existence of a channel of communication between them. The poetic function focuses our attention on the form of message, in the verbal art of contriving a message that is of interest for its own sake. The metalingual function enables us to use language in order to change language, to discuss the code we are using, to teach it to others, to analyse it or propose changes in it. All the above six functions identified by Roman Jakobson may be compared in that order with the contributing and/or controlling components of communication suggested by Shannon: source, receiver, environment, channel, message and code. The metalingual function is sometimes variously called aesthetic function. Every object or action can be studied on two grounds. Firstly, an object or action can be studied from a utilitarian point of view, i.e., studying the object as a tool. In the case of language, it may be viewed as a communicative tool. Secondly, the object or action can be studied for its own sake. It is not studied as a means to some other end. When the object is studied for its own sake and not for the sake of practical function it serves, it is said to have aesthetic function. The linguistic approach to the study of language is based thus on the aesthetic function-of language.
2.3. Competence Vs Performance
It is an accepted principle of modern linguistic approaches to the study of language to distinguish between what an organism knows and what he does. It is also an accepted practice in modern linguistics to study in depth mainly what an organism knows rather than what he actually performs. Thus the founding father of modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure (1853-1913), distinguished between what he called la langue and la parole, which in fact combine to make the real le langage. La parole refers to the individual manifestations of language. It is the sum total of what people say, including individual constructions that are the consequence of a speaker's choice, and acts of articulation that are equally matters of free choice, required to produce these constructions. La langue refers to the rules that underlie la parole and are common to all the individuals but without the idiosyncratic manifestations of la parole. La langage is the sum of la parole and the grammatical rules of language (la langue). Le langage thus includes individual manifestations, which may differ from person to person also. La langue is le langage minus la parole and thus includes only the underlying system. . It is la langue that forms the subject matter of study in the linguistic approaches to the study of language. La langue is an abstraction and it exists in the shape of a sum of impressions deposited in each individual. These impressions are almost identical and shared by the members of a community who speak the same language. La langue is part of an individual and yet it is common to everyone. La langue is a deposit of signs. It is a social product of the faculty of language, embodying the social conventions. These conventions are acquired from the previous speakers of the language. Chomsky (1965), proposing a more dynamic and comprehensive approach to the study of language than the other modern approaches, does not depart in any significant fashion from the position taken by Saussure about the subject matter of study in linguistic science. He distinguishes between competence (an ideal speaker-hearer's intrinsic knowledge about his language) and performance (use of competence in actual conditions, which is governed by linguistic and several non-linguistic factors such as memory limitation, fatigue, etc.). He also proposes that linguistics should aim at studying only the competence and not performance.
We harp on the distinction between la langue and la parole, or, competence and performance, to emphasize here that even when we study how language is used for the expression of sciences our study aims at the underlying system of competence in the expressions used for sciences rather than at the idiosyncratic use of language by individual scientists. In any communicative system the idiosyncrasy of the participating individuals is bound to be felt and manifest. But beyond these idiosyncrasies lies a common system, which contributes to and helps the exchange of ideas between the participants of a communicative act. It is to this underlying system that we address ourselves even when we study the use of languages for the expression of sciences. The use of language for science may be a special manifestation having its own characteristics. But these special characteristics are built upon a general language. Thus what we have here is a sort of a two-tier system: the competence, as exemplified and found in the common language, over which an additional element, perhaps an additional type of competence, is superimposed because of the specialized nature of content. But this superimposed element cannot have its independent existence without the la langue or the underlying common language. We shall talk more about these relationships in another section, when we discuss the characteristics of common language as opposed to those of the specialist language. We shall only assert here that even in the study of specialist uses of language we seek to study the underlying system rather than the idiosyncratic uses of that system.
2.4. Characteristics of Human Language
Language, we said, is a wholesome phenomenon and this phenomenon is difficult to capture in terms of definitions. A profitable approach would be to characterize what language is. To begin with we must state that language consists of linguistic signs. (We have already used the term sign without much explanation. We shall presently explain the same). These linguistic signs are arbitrary and linear in nature. The linguistic sign unites a concept and an acoustic image. The linguistic sign, thus, has two aspects, namely, the concept (signifié) and acoustic image (signifiant). The acoustic image is the psychic impression of sounds. The arbitrariness of the sign is revealed in the fact that the relation between the linguistic sign and the object or event in the universe to which it refers is arbitrary. There is no one to one correspondence between the word and the object it refers to, as the concept of tree can be expressed as tree in English, maram in Tamil, thingphung in Thaadou, vriksha in Sanskrit and so on. The relation between the picture of a tree and the object tree itself is iconic whereas the relation between the object tree and the word tree is arbitrary.
The linearity of the linguistic sign is revealed in the signifiant, which can be segmented into succeeding points. The linearity feature makes language a chain. The elements that constitute this chain may be considered as having both paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations, the paradigmatic relation being the one established on the basis of the relation an item occurring in the chain has with those not found in the chain. The speech is considered as a chain and so the links of which resemble or differ from each other first of all in form, secondly in distribution and thirdly in meaning. This relation is also called in absentia relationship. What we have is the potentiality of a word in a speech chain to recall in our mind words that are not currently present in the chain but are associated with the word in form, distribution or meaning. Thus, the grammatical categories such as noun, verb, adjective and adverb are generally decided on the basis of their paradigmatic behaviour. The syntagmatic relations are those that hold between the successive members of a given chain of utterance. Syntagmatic relations are called relations in presentia since the relations established are among the linguistic signs that are found in the utterance. Linguists assume that the forms of language can be accurately described only when the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations of the linguistic signs are established.
Patterning and levels characterize a language. Words consist of sounds; phrases consist of words, and sentences consist of phrases. Combination of sounds has its own patterning or structure in a language. Likewise composition of a sentence has its own structure in terms of phrases, words and other sentences embedded in it. In human languages we can refer to things remote in time or space or both, that is, the linguistic utterances can be freely displaced. Likewise linguistic messages can be false, prevaricated and also meaningless. The capacity for prevarication is due to three characteristics of human languages and these are semanticity or meaningfulness, displacement and creativity.
Creativity enables us to generate the statement. Semanticity enables us to test the validity of the statement and displacement helps us to maintain the prevarication. The necessity of an immediate context is eliminated by the displacement characteristic of our language. One of the most important characteristics of human languages is their facility to create new utterances that have never been uttered before. New sentences are coined freely and easily in any human language. These sentences, although new, can be understood. The creative aspect of language use is related to certain processes such as embedding of one sentence within another, analogising and transformation-conversion of one type of sentence into another type, processes of adding structures to a given sentence, processes of transposing phrases in a sentence, etc.
Every human language is a system and this system has recursive property. This recursive property enables us to combine messages and to coin new sentences from older ones. In addition to all the above characteristics, in a human language new and old elements are freely assigned new "meanings" by circumstances and/or linguistic contexts. These and other conventions of a language can be passed down from one to another and are learnable. Furthermore, the human languages are intertranslatable. Human language has the characteristic, which enables us to communicate in a language about that language itself. This characteristic of reflexiveness is important, and without this the discipline of linguistics would not have come into existence and our discussion of language use in science would not have been made possible! In fact we can communicate via language about anything we experience, although in every speech community we come across statements that such and such a thing cannot be expressed in words. In the latter case the rule is that it is well said when not said. This characteristic of affability enables the speakers of a language almost always to find appropriate sentences to express their thoughts. The speakers may have difficulty in the right choice of items. But difficulties in arriving at the appropriate sentences should be regarded as a failing on the part of the speaker rather than of the language. All kinds of information can be communicated by the sentences of a language.
2.5 Spoken Vs Written
The modern approaches to the study of language recognize in general the primacy of the spoken form of language. They consider language as primarily an oral phenomenon. There are communities that have no written form of language. But there is no community that has no spoken language. Furthermore, all the native languages are learned orally before reading and writing are begun. The reading and writing in their turn seem to be based on the spoken form of the language rather than vice versa. Because of the above reasons linguists are more concerned with the study and description of the spoken language and they also follow the dictum that correct speech is what people say and not what grammarians decree they should say. In spite of tremendous changes in the theory of language noticed in the last two decades or so, the assertion by two linguists, Bloch and Trager, in 1942 that a linguist should write a grammar of a language telling what the speakers say when they talk, and not what he thinks they ought to say, still seems to hold good, to a large extent governing the practice in linguistics. However, language of science is more or less expressed mainly through the written form of a language. Even when it is expressed through the spoken medium, the spoken form is governed by the nuances of the written medium. The written form is the result of a conscious effort in refining the concepts as well as the expression itself for better communication and clarification. The language of science is more or less a written medium affair; oral language of science is rather heavily controlled and guided by the written form of the language of science.
2.6. Language of Science and Linguistics
We have dealt with the characteristics of general language at length only to begin an argument that language of science is not different from general language in the sense that it also shares all the characteristics of general language. In fact, language use in science offers linguists an excellent opportunity to see for themselves how the characteristics of human languages are revealed and operated in rather ideal and explicit conditions, This specialized use of language thus provides us with a knowledge of the dynamic processes and changes that a language engages and undergoes in actual conditions. In this sense the language use in science may be considered as par excellence. For the linguistic sign as used in science exemplifies the notion of sign very well: coinage of technical terms is closely linked with the concept. Along with the identification and/or clarification of a scientific concept (signifié), an acoustic image (sometimes only a visual image) is tagged on to it, resulting in a real linguistic sign.
This sign has both paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations as defined earlier. All the characteristics of general language, namely, arbitrariness, linearity, patterning and levels, intertranslatability, displacement in time and space, prevarication, creativity, novelty and semanticity are all used in the specialist language used for the expression of sciences. However, the principle of affability as applied to language of science should be seen in relation to expression of philosophical advancements of the sciences. The principle would imply here that all the concepts that have been visualized and identified can be expressed by the language of sciences. In case the existing language of sciences (by language we mean here a tool of wider scope that includes the mathematical, mechanical and linguistic devices as well as the underlying concepts and theoretical framework) is found inadequate, the realization of its inadequacy itself leads to a search for and development of an adequate language that matches the maturity of sciences.
This is what we reported earlier - that languages evolve to fulfil the needs of their users and that they change when these needs change. With every new fact, or a new interpretation of an old fact, new expressions come into existence; a new language of science comes into existence. Furthermore, in science, many of the controversies may be traced 'partly to dissimilarities in terminology and style of presentation and partly to a different distribution of problems chosen'. The controversies, may also be traced to the claims of individual scholars that a particular set of problems is more urgent and important than others, and to the tendency of individual scholars to rule out certain problems and issues irrelevant to a consideration of the set they have decided as very crucial and so on.
In the above paragraph we have emphasized the similarities between the general language and the type of language used to express sciences. Although there are similarities between the underlying processes of the general language and the language used for science, one can all the same distinguish the language of science from other uses of general language. That is, the characteristics of the terms or the expressions in which scientists expound their disciplines do indeed form a distinct whole, which may be characterized as language of science. This distinctness of the language used in science may be easily demonstrated: present a scientist and another individual with the same proposition, and then compare the phrases in which their responses are recorded. The responses of a scientist will be couched in such terms and styles that one will easily come to the conclusion regarding the source of these responses.
In other words, one is able to identify and decide in large number of cases whether a particular use of language in terms of words, phrases, sentences and so on is an instance of the use of language of science. The reasons or the grounds for this somewhat easy recognition of the use of language form the subject matter of study of this book.
In brief, one may say that one feels the strangeness of words and of the uses of words and sentences in the language of science; one accepts, many a time by indoctrination rather than by experience, that the words and phrases of the language of science have fixed meanings, and are not distorted as it happens to the words and phrases of general day-to-day language. The language of science is easily identified for its concentrated form, for its direct and straightforward way of expressing facts, which emanates from the characteristics of science and its methods of research, analysis and presentation. In some languages the special features and structures adopted for the expression of sciences also easily reveal the identity of the language of science. Steady lexical expansion and lexical changes which are a consequence of ever expanding and changing sciences also characterize language of science. This language is primarily referential and cognitive, the conative part playing a rather dormant and suppressed role. One must, however, emphasize that although language of science has a limited range (it is generally believed that the function of language of science is only to define and describe), within this limited range it is used not only to define and describe but also to evoke and suggest.
Failure to recognize and accept this position has led to a serious misunderstanding and wrong characterization of language of science. More often than not the characteristics of language of science have been assumed to be the constancy of meanings for lexical items used, the quality of being emotionally neutral, and of being always to the point and straightforward. Language of science should, it is often argued, avoid the vagueness of common language. Use of language in science is expected to be formal. It is true that the terms of scientific language are precise, quantitative and operationally definable. It is also true that the sentences in science are composed so as to meet the requirements of verifiability criterion of meaning. The reference in sentences should also be clear. Furthermore, as opposed to the scientific language, one may consider ordinary language as vague to some extent and also say that it presents paradoxes. One may also say that ordinary language is used to utter anything, factual or otherwise, the minimum requirement being that such utterances should be in conformity with the grammatical constraints. Poetic language is metaphorical. Accordingly it is claimed that scientific language is the best vehicle of truth. And yet one should not also forget that the characteristics of ordinary language can be identified in scientific language.
As part of efforts to make the language use in science more formal, a lot of mechanical and mathematical data and formulae are derived even where such formula types of expressions are not required for presenting facts. The tendency to be neutral, factual, precise, etc., is dictated thus not wholly by the requirements of various disciplines, but by certain other considerations as well.
One of the reasons for this insistent tendency in the language of science must be found in the 'persistent and obsessive view of natural language as a second rate symbolic system accused of a constitutional bias toward imprecision, vagueness, ambiguity and opacity... The variability of meanings, particularly their manifold and far-reaching figurative shifts, and an incalculable aptitude for multiple paraphrases are just those properties of natural languages which induce their creativity, and endow not only poetic but even scientific activities with a continuously inventive sweep. Here, indefiniteness and creative power appear to be wholly interrelated', (Roman Jakobson, 1973).
Scientists have pointed out 'to the decisive role which language of the ordinary kind plays in the birth of new ideas, their rise above the sea of the unconscious and the subsequent mutation of vague, intuitive processes into connection between precise ideas... The inventive technical discourse cannot do without metaphorical language and such figurative terms as field and flow left their sensible imprint on physical thought. It is just natural language that offers a mighty and indispensable support to the ability to invent problems, capacity for imaginative or creative thinking . . .' (Roman Jakobson, 1973). A formalized language of highest refinement is attained in mathematics and at the same time its deep embeddedness in ordinary language is emphasized repeatedly by mathematicians. Thus, for some mathematicians, calculus necessarily rests upon the postulate of the existence of ordinary language, or, in Waissman's formulation, it has to be supplemented by the disclosure of the dependence that exists between the mathematical symbols and the meanings of words in the colloquial language (Roman Jakobson, 1973).
The language of science should be placed and studied in a proper perspective. We have indicated so far certain general characteristics of human languages and also shown how these characteristics are employed by the language use for the expression of sciences. There are a few more concepts the clarification of which in relation to the language of science will help us to appreciate the nature and the special position of language use for the expression of sciences. These are the concepts of dialect, register and style.
A dialect is part of a language - a special type of variation from the general scheme that we call language. This variation is generally looked at either from the social or regional or from both the angles. A speech community is defined as a group of people who interact by means of a particular variety of speech. Within speech communities there are differences in the density of communication. That is, we talk with some people more than we talk with others. Groups of speakers are isolated from each other geographically or socially. They tend to develop modes of speech that are not readily understood by those who communicate with them infrequently. Sometimes communication is not merely absent, it may become impossible. Then we have to do with two languages; when it is infrequent but more or less easy, we have to do with two dialects within at language.
Following Bloomfield (1933), we may identify the main types of speech in this manner:
- The literary standard for formal speech and writing. This dialect is generally accessible to all in a literate community regardless of their locality, through general education.
- The colloquial standard, which is the formal style of the privileged class.
- The provincial standard which will resemble (ii) to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the country in which it is found.
- Substandard - clearly differs from the first three. In some countries this will be a consequence of social position, in others, a consequence of geography.
- The local dialect would be that variety of language which is not comprehensible to other speakers of the community without considerable acquaintance. It is the style often used by the least privileged classes, or it may be the language of the home, which differs from the other standards.
If the language of science is considered a dialect, a dialect caused by the greater density of communication between scientists, it falls under the literary standard used for formal speech and writing. This is more so because the present day language of science is generally accessible to all in a literate community regardless of their locality, in this case through specialist education. It then becomes one of the varieties of the literary standard for formal speech and writing, coloured more by the content for the expression of which this particular dialect is used. But there is one subtle distinction.
The literary standard dialect is generally defined in terms of a single human language, whereas a language of science (expressed, for instance, using English) has vocabulary items, paradigmatic and syntagmatic conventions, certain coinage processes and conventions for the expression of concepts, etc., which are shared by several languages. What we have here is, first of all, individual human languages used for the expression of sciences, which in course of time develop the above listed common processes, conventions and terms, etc. These commonly shared processes, conventions and terms, etc., are now superimposed over individual languages for the expression of sciences and in fact come to control and guide the individual languages when they are engaged for the expression of sciences. In this sense, language of science is independent of individual human languages while it is also part of these individual human languages.
In some languages of the world, we find that in addition to the social and geographical factors, the distinction between spoken and written forms also contributes to the formation of separate dialects. In Tamil, the gulf noticed between the spoken and written forms of the language is so wide that one is tempted to call both the forms separate languages. Existence of such divergent forms of the same language (and their use by a single speech community) is not uncommon. Arabic, Bengali, Modern Greek, Swiss German and several other languages do have such divergent varieties. These varieties are used by speakers under different conditions.
Following Ferguson (1959), these varieties may be classified into High and Low. (No value is attached to the terms). Between the High (H) and Low (L) varieties there is specialization of functions. In one set of situations only H is appropriate and in another only L, with the two sets overlapping only very slightly. H is generally regarded as superior to L. It is believed to be more beautiful, more logical, better able to express important thoughts and the like, even where the believer's command of H is limited. There is generally a sizable body of written literature in H which is held in high esteem by the speech community, and contemporary literature in H is also felt to be part of this otherwise existing literature. L is learned by children in the normal way of learning one's mother tongue. The learning of H is chiefly accomplished by means of formal education. There is an established norm for pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and alphabet, which allows variation only within limits. If there is tension between H and L it is resolved through repeated borrowing from High to Low. High has grammatical categories not present in L. The grammatical system of L is simpler (in some specified sense not relevant to our discussion at the moment) than that of H. High and Low share the bulk of the vocabulary. There are, however, variations in form, use and meaning. High includes in its total lexicon technical terms and learned expressions, which have no regular Low equivalents. Low also includes in its total lexicon terms and expressions which have no regular High equivalents. There are, however, many paired items from High and Low 'where the range of meaning of the two items is roughly the same and the use of one or the other immediately stamps the utterance or written sequence as High or Low'. As far as the phonology is concerned, the phonology of one variety may be considered as the main system and the phonology of the other as a sub or para system.
In spite of these differences, however, one can establish extensive correspondences between the two forms of the language and researches have shown convincingly that regular conversion rules can be posited to derive one variety from another.
Wherever such divergences exist, it is the High variety that is generally used for the expression of sciences. Thus the language of science in such speech communities is based on the High variety. Furthermore, there is a tendency to use the Low variety in literatures meant for the popularisation of sciences. A blend of High and Low varieties seem to be used in some cases; in some other cases the High variety may be the dominant form with vocabulary and sentential structures generously borrowed from the Low. Appreciation of factors that help or hamper instant communication and appreciation of factors that lead to acceptance of the choice of diction and sentential structure are some of the considerations in the use or non-use of Low and High varieties for popularisation purposes.
In the case of Tamil referred to above, the generally used modern form of Tamil closely resembles what Bloomfield called the literary standard. This written form alone is used for the expression of sciences. There are many variables, which control and guide the nature of language of science once the written form is chosen as the medium. We, however, present these variables when we describe the processes found in individual languages in a subsequent chapter. We may say now that the language of science is rather a language learned in formal conditions. This language is based on the written form of a human language and it also has characteristics shared by all the languages used to express sciences.
Another linguistic concept that characterizes the use of language in science more fully is the concept of register. Variations in the uses of language and its units are found to occur according to the social characteristics of the speaker such as his social class, ethnic group and sex. Variations are found to occur also according to the contexts of speech. A speaker uses different linguistic varieties in different situations and for different purposes. These variations are many and the totality of linguistic varieties used in this way by a speech community may be called that speech community's verbal repertoire.
Many social factors influence and control decisions with regard to which variety from this verbal repertoire is to be actually used on a particular occasion. For example, if a person is talking to people he works with about their work, his language is likely to be rather different from that he will use, say, at home with his family. The occupational situation will produce a distinct linguistic variety. Occupational linguistic varieties of this sort have been termed registers. Registers are usually characterized solely by vocabulary differences: either by the use of particular words, or by the use of words in a particular sense. Registers may be considered a rather special case of particular kind of language being produced by the social situation. The concept of register must be extended to include not only the influence of a specialized social situation but also the influence of the subject matter that is under discussion on the language produced. In this way the concept of register correctly characterizes the use of language in science.
Register is used to denote language viewed from the point of view of its use. It is assumed that the different kinds of language use lead to use of different kinds of linguistic features. Register is the result of the combination of context, sense, medium, tenor and style (we talk more about style in subsequent pages). The situation that produces any language use is referred to as its context. The speaker or writer assumes that what he says or writes has some sense and is related to some area of activity. This sense is expressed through the medium, which can be subdivided into several types. Speech is one of the media and it can be distinguished with reference to formal and informal, public and private, non-conversational and conversational and so on. The differences and similarities in the written medium are rather marked well as the medium demands a more conscious effort.
Tenor is used to indicate 'the way in which the social relationship between the encoder and the decoder of messages influences the language use. The kinds and amount of language use arising out of the context will be affected not only by the sense of the myth which it embodies but also by what the speaker or writer thinks, feels, knows or imagines about his listener or reader in relation to the context, sense and medium', (Darbyshire 1971). Tenor includes differences such as personal and business, technical and nontechnical, and so on. The register includes style, and style helps in identifying, classifying and explaining the processes of register. Compare these components with those controlling components of communication suggested by Shannon referred to earlier: source, receiver, environment, channel, message and code.
Earlier we referred to the concept of dialect and said that the use of language for the expression of science generally falls under the category literary standard. Now with the introduction of the concept of register in our discussion it becomes necessary to clarify the relationship between dialect and language of science, register and language of science and even the relationship between dialect and register. The users of one dialect are different from the speakers of another dialect. That is, by definition, the same set of people does not use two different dialects. The circumstances/contexts in which a dialect is used may be different from those in which another dialect is used.
When we compare a dialect with another we usually have different linguistic situations. A dialect is used by a group of people whereas a speaker uses different registers, adjusting himself to different contexts. One such context for scientists is the use of a specialist language when they speak and write about the concepts of their own discipline. In this sense, the notion of dialect and register may seem to merge when we put together one of the registers (science register) of all the scientists. (Scientists as humans must have different registers to cater to their requirements as individual and social organisms). A language may have different dialects and a dialect may have different registers. A study of registers would be a study of overlapping situations. The study of register is done not with regard to a group of people, but restricted to a single speaker's use of language. This characterization of register takes mainly the role of the speakers into consideration. From the point of view of the content used in the register we also may characterize individual registers. Thus when we say science register what we mean is the specialized use of language for the expression of sciences. Here we are not emphasizing the role of the users, rather, we emphasize the uses to which the language is put.
Because of the above distinction we have made between the concepts of dialect and register, the language of science may be appropriately considered not as a dialect but as a register. This we suggest because of the too comprehensive denotation and connotation of the term dialect. At the same time we recognize the fact that the language of science falls appropriately under the literary standard formal dialect category, even as registers can and do fall under a more inclusive category dialect. However, the language of science, even while having the characteristics of register, transcends the concept of register and becomes a valid subject matter of study for stylistics. It is not merely a register, though the bulk of it is characterized by the use of special terms and vocabulary. It uses the linguistic levels above the level of lexicon to develop and present its own special features through a selection of appropriate syntactic structures, rules, specialized uses and break of selectional restrictions, etc. (See chapter 5 for an illustration of the concepts of subcategorization and selectional restrictions).
This takes us to the realm of style, a concept which we will deal with presently. But before that, we have to answer the question as to whether there is any single language of science - any single science register - or do we have several science registers, such as physics science register, and chemistry science register.
Although the technical terms of individual disciplines may differ from each other, there seems to be a general process underlying the use of language for the expression of all the sciences. As we have already indicated, certain special features, such as the choice of syntactic structures, specialized subcategorization rules, specialized use and break of selectional restrictions, conventions that are adopted and practised on the basis of underlying principles of scientific method, conventions that govern the style sheets of the journals which codify and give shape to commonly accepted expression patterns for sciences, and the relatively more similar correspondences between the registers of different sciences in comparison to the general language and others that will be detailed in subsequent chapters lead us to conclude that there is an underlying system of expression in all the expressions of sciences. This underlying system is considered here as the language in science. It is to the study of this underlying system we address ourselves in this work. That is, we take the position that amidst the different disciplines of science and the resultant different registers there is an underlying system. In other words, we consider that there is a single science register; a common register for all the sciences with sub-registers representing the different disciplines of sciences. The tenor already referred to and the cohesion that we notice between different registers of sciences, along with the directions or trends in relation to linguistic variables already pointed out, we believe, make the sub-registers a coherent whole, a single science register.
2.7. Procedure for the Study of Language of Science
The study of language use in sciences will follow the regular linguistic procedures for the study of general language. But more often than not studies of language use in sciences restrict themselves to a single component, namely, the component of lexicon. They study mostly the coinage problems and processes. In some extensive studies frequency counts as well as paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations are also taken into account. But even then the situation is not satisfying, as most often the maximal unit of analysis happens to be sentence. The inter-sentential relationships as well as the features of a discourse (that are often missed when only sentence is taken as the maximal unit of analysis) do not get a place worthy of their role in the description, explanation and analysis of organization and function of the science register. It seems to us that in addition to studying the science register from an analytic view that will use the regular linguistic measures such as phonemes, morphemes, form classes, patterns, etc., we should adopt measures that are used for the study of styles. We shall further clarify this position.
A profitable beginning would be to contrast the language of science with uses of language for other matters. This contrast gives the general features of language of science in all levels qualitatively and quantitatively and also establishes outlines of its own domains and features. That is, uses of language for science will be separated from other uses of language and a special study is made of uses in the lines suggested above. Separation should not, however, exclude studying influences of general language over the development and operation of language of science. We should study the language of science of a particular language not only in contrast with other functional languages of the same language but also in relation to languages of science of other languages.
Such investigations and insights are highly useful in "developing" one's mother tongue. It is highly useful in planning strategies for the "development" of languages by public agencies. We should study the differences and similarities between the uses of language in various branches of science. Uses of language in various branches of science can differ on the basis of the historical background of these branches and their current internal trends. Depending upon the audience for whom a science material is written and depending upon the background and needs of persons who use the language of science, the tone or quality of language of science may differ. Further in instructional materials, some sort of progressive use of the complexity of language of science may have been adopted. Variables that compel this progressive use, the structures that are involved in this progressive use, the reasons for preferring some structures over others and other relevant processes in lexical choice, coinage and use may all be studied.
In our investigation we should never lose sight of the fact that devices used in a language, whatever they be, form a system - a purposeful system. No linguistic phenomenon should be considered as taking place in isolation but always in relation to other parts of the system of language. Our effort should be to establish and distinguish purposes for all linguistic means of expression and make assessments about the devices used for particular purposes. That is, we must make an analytical comparison of functional and structural relations in addition to contrasting language of science with uses of language for other matters.
Suzette Elgin (1973) succinctly presents a picture of the current scene: There have been as many styles of literary criticism as there have been styles in the work they criticize. Some of it approaches metaphysics, as in the 'she writes and one hears the roar of the open sea and is sucked into the vortex, of a powerful imagery that carries all before it' school. Some of the stylistic studies have been mainly statistical: the 'does Tennyson use more than Browning' approach. Some list the rhetorical devices, count the metrical patterns and even apply musical notation.
There are also scholars who doubt even the existence and utility of style as a concept. For them stylistics is nothing more than tautology, and it has no existence of its own. They find that every user of the concept of style defines it only in terms of the concepts of other disciplines. In one of the approaches to the study of style, the relationship between the writer and the text forms the basis. This amounts to the characterization of style through a study of the writer's personality and the circumstances in which the text was written.
In another approach, the focus is on the relationship between the reader and the book, in which case the responses of the reader become the basis of stylistic analysis. In a different approach we may not worry about the writer and the reader but concentrate only on the work. In one approach, style is considered as the result of a choice one makes from among many possibilities.
There is still another concept - group style, which is used to characterize different categories of language use. It is prose produced by one individual, but lacks individualistic features. The examples would include officialese (bureaucratic writing), scientific prose and other prose in which the writer takes pain to remove all traces of individualism in his linguistic expression. Group style is thus a style opposed to individuating styles. Self-effacement is an important feature - self-effacement to adjust the speaker's language to his interlocutors.
Even within linguistic approaches to style, we have three types, namely, the norm and the deviation, the addition, and the connotation approaches. In the norm and the deviation approach, we look at the units of language and identify the variations one makes in the use of language. The variations are measured on the basis of the normal use of the language, that is, the norm of the language. We define the norm before we proceed to study the variations or the deviations one makes in the use of language.
Addition of stylistic features is assumed to be performed on some natural expression. The environments in which the linguistic features acquire stylistic values form the subject matter of the connotation approach. Stylistic analysis has been closely associated with literary studies. These studies aim at establishing links between the aesthetic responses in the reader and the features of the work. The New Criticism movement had the text as its basis of criticism and refused to use either the life of the author or his times. Others continued to aim at the identification of underlying ideas behind the work and considered this pursuit as stylistic analysis. There are several other approaches including the formalistic approach of the Soviet school. The latter approach emphasizes the importance of the devices one makes use of.
Generally speaking, a study of style must flow from an understanding of the characteristics of language and language use. Users of a language differ from each other with regard to their ability to manipulate the structures of their language. Every individual through the competence inherent in him is capable of understanding and interpreting the sentences uttered in his language. This competence gives him all the possible grammatical structures of his language. But the use of the structures depends on factors not dependent on his inherent competence. The performance or manifestation of one's language capacity depends on many factors, some of which may be related to one's motivation, attitude, educational background and need. Moreover there is no fixed position in anybody's capacity to use language. A person with average capacity may reach all on a sudden a high level and at other times touch the bottom.
In linguistic approaches to the study of style, all the characteristics of language listed in section 2.4, including arbitrariness, linearity, patterning and levels, prevarication, variation in time and space, affability, etc., are all considered. The distinction between performance and competence is maintained. The grammar with all its aspects - syntactic structures, subcategorization rules, selectional restrictions, transformations, lexical choice, etc:, forms the basis of any measurement and/or judgement of styles used. Distinction between violation of the regular form of the language and variations from the accepted norm is made. The variations form a basis for the study of styles whereas violation does not. Judgement of a style is related to the manipulation of structures, be they phonological, syntactic or semantic. In all these a proper understanding and identification of sources of variation is a must. As Darbyshire (1971) suggests, an investigator of style, following a linguistic approach to style, would need three sets of apparatus: a grammar which provides him with a simple and yet adequate description of the language whose styles he proposes to investigate, a contextual apparatus which relates the language use to different registers of the language and a critical apparatus that provides the framework for drawing from the grammar and the contextual apparatus any conclusions about the language use in question to arrive at judgements about the piece under consideration.
In the Prague school of linguistics, the study of style and the study of grammar are differentiated. This school states that there are two kinds of structures for a sentence. One structure is given by the grammatical pattern of the sentence and the other by the information-bearing structure of the utterances. The information-bearing structure of the utterance is not identical with the grammatical pattern of the sentence. The information-bearing structure is taken to be in opposition to its formal structure. The study of the formal structure is concerned with the way in which a sentence is composed of grammatical elements whereas the study of the information-bearing structure is concerned with the manner in which an utterance is integrated with the factual situation. The elements that constitute the formal or grammatical structure are the subject and predicate of the sentence. The foundation of the utterance and the core of the utterance constitute the information-bearing structure of the utterance. The foundation is the information already known and the core is the information newly conveyed. The study of style is concerned with the foundation and core of the utterance. Two other concepts are also used for an explication of styles. These are automatisation and foregrounding. Automatisation is used to refer to the stimulus that is normally expected in a social situation. But foregrounding refers to the stimulus which is not culturally expected in a social situation and which provokes special attention. Foregrounding is described as the aesthetically intentional distortion of the linguistic components in regard to language. The notion of distortion is to be understood as distortion of pattern so far as it is within the bounds of social norm and a system of signs. The distorted or foreground units stem from the same system as their automatized counterparts.
From the point of view of the Prague School of Linguistics, style is functional and this functional stylistics is the study of the linguistic features of utterances that correlate with the nonverbal context of the speech activity. Context includes not only physical setting (e.g., a business office), but also the social relationship between the interlocutors (e.g., employer-employee). Scientific style is further divided into practical working style, (e.g., official style or commercial style) and theoretical commercial style. We will see further classification in chapter 3.
One may also approach style making a distinction between information and meaning. Information is provided by the encoders of messages in order to give the messages meaning. Meaning is taken as the totality of the experiences responding to a given amount of information. One can distinguish four kinds of information.
- Lexical information - a stock of linguistic items a speaker has and the knowledge of what these items do and how these items should be used, shared by the speaker with other speakers. The encoder of messages is governed by the stock of items available to him.
- Referential function - every linguistic utterance can be said to have some kind of content - to refer to some areas of human experience, imaginary or real.
- Functional information - units, which do not make any direct reference to things, ideas, etc., but are required in the manipulation of reference-making linguistic units.
- Contextual information.
This approach recognizes the reality that, although humans have the potential to be infinitely creative and novel, such creative urges for novelty cannot transcend, or, to put it correctly, transgress the constraints imposed by language code. If at all there is transgression it is always kept to the level required for comprehension. The rules of language condition the language habits of all speakers and writers and impose 'restraints upon such excessive originality as, in most cases, utterly meaningless utterances'.
We should recognize that 'certain linguistic forms have, a tendency to combine and cohere with one another, whereas others do not have this tendency'. This approach suggests five areas of such coherence and combination: paradigmatic, syntagmatic, collocation-colligation, set, and imagery. Paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations have been already explained.
One may view language as events, which are repetitive and interconnected. There are two kinds of relations into which the language items enter: (1) internal or formal and (2) situational. That is, when we analyse any linguistic utterance or text, we must take into account the interior relations of the utterance or text itself and the interior relations within the corresponding context of situation. The interior relations within the text will include the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations. The habitual or characteristic association of words in a text is expressed at the level of formal relation in which an order of mutual expectancy between lexical items is stated. This can be explained taking into consideration examples such as cow, milk and tigress. Cow collocates with milk and not with tigress. This is part of the formal meaning of cow and tigress. A register may be said to be characterized by the existence of collocation of items used in that register. Thus, 'the valency of certain words brings them together into associations which acquire a life and a lexical information of their own in particular registers'. With the help of his sense of collocation a decoder is able to perceive approximately the area of reference of the combination of words, and the register it belongs to.
Lexical items can be grouped on the basis of their grammatical behaviour into nouns, verbs, etc. Colligation refers to the relations that obtain between lexical items as grammatical categories. A set consists of words gathered around a word of nuclear information. These words present allied but slightly different information - lexically, referentially and/or contextually. As regards imagery, an image is taken to be 'a use of language which provides instantaneous definition of the contextual information of the main lexical items drawing freely on the redundancy of the language code'. The notions of collocation-colligation, set and imagery can be considered as variables characterizing a register - for our purpose, language of science. The paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations describe the linguistic units and their relationships of language use in science. The four types of information are the background in which the meanings of the structures of language use in science may be described.
All the above must be connected in some manner to the concept of discourse. We do not speak in isolated sentences, but sentences connected with one another to a coherent whole, namely, discourse. The sentences have their eye only as members of a discourse. As members of a discourse sentences may have features of cohesion, which can connect them to the other immediate, or some other sentences in the same discourse. They become the structural parts, using which a discourse is built. Thus their individual identity and information become subordinate to those of the discourse.
The discourse itself has its conception in the mind of the encoder. This conception is expressed following the norm of a language, 'deviating no further than limits permit'. Each human activity draws from this norm and makes its own deviations; each human activity thus makes its own style; in the present case we are concerned with language use in science. What we see is a diversification of the code into sub codes, of the common language into specialized or institutionalised language uses, corresponding to a division of labour in areas of human activity. Each area imposes its own limits for making the deviations from the accepted common norm. Deviations of one area of activity cannot be compared fully with the deviations adopted by another area of activity because of the differences in functions. And yet as all deviations spring from the same fountainhead or accept a common norm such comparisons need not be inherently invidious. One also suspects that in some areas of human activity deviations from the norm may be minimal while in others they may be very wide and deep indeed. In all the cases, however, 'the limitations of the activities themselves discourage any further deviation from the norm than sense and structure allow'. The trouble starts only when we attempt to delineate the limits allowed by sense and structure of a particular field of specialization. Arguments for and against established conventions of expression must be viewed in this background.
Earlier we presented brief notices of different approaches to style and generally speaking we took the position of the norm and the deviation approach. But no adequate description of style can be couched in exclusively grammatical terms. Both grammatical and literary terms are needed, although linguists reject the conception of style as language use outside the scope of grammatical rules. Stylistic studies generally assume that style is variation in manner, not matter. They assume that manner can be separated from matter and subjected to independent analysis. In the same way, we have also taken a position to divorce the content of sciences from the expressions employed to convey the content.
We said that we do not speak in isolated sentences, but in sentences connected with one another to a coherent whole - a discourse. The sentences have their life only as members of a discourse. Further, as members of a discourse, sentences may have features of cohesion, which can connect them to the other immediate or some other sentences in the same discourse. They become the structural parts, using which a discourse is built. Their individual identity and information become subordinate to those of discourse. However, in many of the present stylistic studies, the focus is on the elements within a sentence. That the elements within a sentence have a dual role to play, namely, contribution to the internal cohesion and grammaticality of the sentence of which they form part and contribution to the integration of the sentence into the discourse, is generally recognized but not made an important part of the study. In accomplishing the latter function, elements of a sentence may be dependent on elements of another sentence. This dependence may also mean conveyance of partial information by the dependent sentence. In linguistics sentence is the unit of analysis, whereas discourse analysis is concerned with those features of sentences that require reference beyond a sentence.
While studying how the lexical elements fall in a sentence to make it a cohesive whole, how sentences fall into a text to make the latter a cohesive whole and how, in general, connectivity in sentences is achieved in a text, the concept of anaphora comes very handy. Anaphora suggests that the antecedent has occurred earlier in the discourse. It is an element that is not self-sufficient; one requires, or, one is cautioned that one is in requirement of, some other element for its completion. Anaphora is not simply back reference to something said earlier. An anaphoric element is less specific than its antecedent. The three tendencies that regulate the use of anaphora are: (i) unambiguity (ii) economy of the means of expression, and (iii) diversity of the means of expression.
Crystal and Davy (1968), in a discussion of the language of legal documents claim that draftsmen never use anaphoric links between sentences, and are prepared to put up with the repetitiveness that results. Legal English is in fact notable for the extreme scarcity, even within sentence structure, of the pronoun reference and anaphora.
There is yet another device resorted to for stylistic purpose, namely, ellipsis (See chapter 5). It is a matter of a syntactically incomplete utterance; it can be, however, contextually complete as the missing elements can be found elsewhere in the context.
2.9. Style and Anti-Style
We have so far indicated how the concepts from linguistics can be of use in describing the language of sciences. In this pursuit we have distinguished between langue and parole or competence and performance, listed certain other concepts such as syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations, described what a register is and demonstrated the usefulness of the procedures of stylistic analysis for the study of language in science. Often language use in science is considered a stereotype amounting to anti-style - group style.
Such an idea persists because the language in science is put under a number of serious restrictions to achieve smooth communication and to enable scientists to concentrate on the concepts and their elucidation, and not to be distracted by linguistic usage. But, in spite of such restrictions, we believe that the use of language in science is not all that anti-style, as adequate provision is available for making variations from the norms - for making variations to bring in an aura of a good style. We should bear in mind that great scientists like Huxley, Haldane, Oppenheimer, Einstein and a host of others are known for their characteristic style.
In every activity, including that of literature, what we have is a long ranging spectrum with the most hopeless at one end, the routine way of expression and form in the middle, and at the other end the imagination par excellence. This is also not untrue of the use of language in sciences. The lowest may be of the ordinary, the average may be with some brilliant spots, but the best always appeals to the sense. In addition to this appeal, simple and yet greatly elegant, we have an inherent system in sciences, which in theory construction leads the scientist to model-building, drawing heavily on the use of metaphors. Perhaps nowhere is there greater emphasis on clarity, beauty and variations than in the expression of sciences.
Scientists are very consciously aiming at making themselves understood and in this process are adding a lot of beautiful devices to those already available for the expression of sciences. There is a charge that science writing is generally unintelligible to an average reader and dull in its form, content and expression. We have partly answered this question above by pointing out the varieties available in all the fields including those of sciences. The unintelligibility is mostly related to the readers' unfamiliarity with the concepts discussed in an article and procedures followed in a scientific experiment. These two are found even in the highly sophisticated exposition of literature and exposition only, in the creative literature itself leading the readers to make the same complaint about certain forms expressions and content of creative literature. Hence we would be inclined to dismiss the charge of dullness and unintelligibility saying that these are due more to the reasons of unpreparedness than to the characteristic use of language for the expression of sciences. Like all the other fields of human activity, science also has its own technical terms and characteristic expressions. Acquisition and training in the manipulation of concepts go hand in hand with the acquisition and use of the terms and characteristic expressions. A reader and the user of language for the expression of sciences must have some training at least to appreciate the processes.
More often than not language in science is considered only as the use of technical terms. It is dealt with as individual and isolated phenomenon - as if the elements were spread out in some whimsical fashion influenced by the dictates of sciences. We do not subscribe to this position and that is why we have resorted to the use of different linguistic concepts that embrace all the forms of language, viz., morphemes, words, phrases, sentences and even intersentential relationships. In this section, we would like to focus our attention on how meanings are expressed in language as a prelude to our discussion in subsequent chapters on the form and use of technical terms and sentences.
If language is considered as consisting of an expression system (sounds) connected with the content system (meanings), such a connection is done through grammar. The elements of grammar are categories and their relationships. Such categories manifest themselves in lexical terms. Grammar and lexicon offer the general classification of linguistic elements. The technical terms are lexical items and the ways they are put into use reflect the grammar of the language of sciences. Earlier we have referred to the triad relationship between the linguistic sign, signifié and signifiant. The technical terms are linguistic signs. They refer to concepts and only indirectly to the referent (object) itself. In the discussion of meanings we use many terms such as synonyms, homonym, homophone, homograph, antonym, polysemy, etc.
Classification of technical terms used for the expression of sciences on the above basis may be useful to some extent. But is there any synonym at all? Even in the general common language many scholars question the existence of a pure synonym. The ideal language, for that matter, the ideal technical language, would be one in which each form had only one meaning and each meaning was associated with only one form. But this 'ideal' is probably not realized by any natural language. Two or three forms may be associated with the same meaning leading to the category of homonyms. If the language is one for which the orthography is at variance with, or unrelated to, the phonology, then one may of course distinguish further between homography (e.g., lead, in (i) a dog's lead and (ii) made of lead) and homophone (e.g., meat, meet; sow, sew).
Again let us pose the question that we raised a few lines above. Is there any synonymy in the language of science? By definition or common agreement, the language of science aims at precision, impersonal report, disambiguation, clarity and matter of fact style. Thus by its very aim the language of science should not give any place or concession for synonymy. Yet this is never the case even in a tight language of science. First of all, the source from which the language of science sprang is largely the common language. Because of this background the language of science has not completely shed the synonymic nature of several of the technical terms on the one hand and on the other it continues to avoid the common language terms by forming its own terms, as in the case of chemistry where a gulf between the trade names and the technical terms is strengthened.
The related meanings are dealt with under the category of polysemy. The polysemous words are related to each other through some form of extension of the original meaning to other words, as in the expressions mouth of the body and mouth of the river. There is a further category of relatedness of meaning, viz., antonymy, oppositeness of meaning.
We deal with the categories of technical terms in chapter 3. We present there how the meaning of a term is explained, understood and/or taught. We like to emphasize here, however, that meaning is not only expressed by the technical/lexical terms, but also by the ways in which these terms are put in a sentence. That is, each sentence has a structural meaning as well as a composition of lexical meanings. Both these meanings should be considered in analysing a text. The language of science is likely to differ from the languages of other pursuits not only in terms of the choice and frequent use of certain categories of lexical meanings but also in terms of choice and frequent use of structural meanings. And in this respect, the procedure adopted for stylistic analysis will be found useful also for the study of language use in the expression of sciences.
2.11. General Language Vs Specialist Language
In the discussions above we have very often referred to common language and in some cases compared this common language with the so-called specialist language. We have not defined what common language is. Perhaps it is now time to define the common language and another related concept, the neutral language, and compare these two with the specialist language in general. As we referred to in the beginning of this chapter, the word language is perhaps one of the words that have been often used with extended meanings.
More often than not, we take the concept of language and its extended use for granted. Consider the following and think for a while how one would go about defining the concepts underlying the following: language, dialect, idiolect, mother tongue, first language, second language, third language, foreign language, classical language, official language, associate language, link language, lingua franca, administrative language, medium of instruction, tribal language, minority language, majority language, child language, culture language, library language, technical language, formal language, informal language, spoken language, dead language, commercial language, code language, secret language, body language, animal language, love language and so on.
The variety of phrases one comes across in the newspapers, in textbooks and in reports of several commissions indicate how we characterize the tool of communication on the basis of the uses of the tool. The common language then must be described in terms of its uses. But there does not seem to be anything specifically common, if we consider the language use on the basis of time allotted in one's life span.
Everybody is engaged in some activity or profession and in this activity everybody uses one language or the other. This activity perhaps takes a major share of our life span. The common language then should be defined negatively as a conglomeration of language uses excluding the uses of language in one's own employment. The common language may then be both informal and formal, though its formal uses will be different from the specialist language, as the formal nature of the common language is not derived from the use of language in a field of employment/job. The specialist language always aims at the reduction of the inherent redundancy found in the communicative tool. This reduction in redundancy is sought to be achieved through devices such as elimination of synonymy, of repetition of items and introduction of certain formalized stylistic procedures generally found in the style sheets of journals. Precision, brevity, argumentation, impersonal report, etc., have already been referred to. The common language used in a special field gives rise to the specialist language. The specialist language springing from the field in which it is used comes to control and shape the deliberations of communicative activities of the field itself in course of time.
The concept neutral language is indispensable for characterizing the various uses of language in depth. Neutral language is an abstraction and is considered to be the underlying mechanism for language uses. It is considered to be neutral as between all the possible functions of the language. Really speaking, nobody uses only the neutral language. The functional uses of language are forever superimposed on the neutral language. In a sense the neutral language is the abstract description given to us by linguists. The concept of neutral language and the description of the abstract neutral language are indeed necessary and useful because the functional uses of language have to be measured and compared with the neutral language in order to arrive at a proper understanding of the functional uses.
The specialist language differs from the common language in another aspect also. The specialist language is a language of formality with no corresponding informal language, although scientists are given to use expressions such as "informally speaking". For even in such informal talking all the aspects of formal presentation except the conclusive evidence of an argument are found. But again formality is difficult to define as many factors come to characterize it. These factors include degrees of familiarity, kinship relations, politeness, seriousness, exclusive use of written form of language in case of languages like Tamil, pronunciation of the complete shape of the forms, lack of certain phonological features, generally longer sentences, choice of special lexical items, use of passive voice and some special forms of syntactic constructions and sentence types, optional absence or presence of an audience that interacts instantly with the speaker-writer, etc.
To conclude, in the present chapter we have given a brief view of some of the concepts of linguistic science that may be of use in studying the language of science. Other concepts and a brief linguistic description of the characteristic features of the language of science are presented in subsequent chapters.
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SCIENCE, SCIENTIFIC METHOD, AND LANGUAGE
3.1. Roots of Science
Compare the just born human child and the just born calf. How helpless the human child is! Certain abilities are demonstrated by young ones of the non-human animal kingdom at their birth. These abilities seem to be far superior to those possessed by a just born human child. However, very soon the human child blossoms into an organism not matched by other animals. The human animal discovers how various things around him operate. This knowledge is highly essential for him because he is not built with mechanisms for maintaining his existence automatically. His knowledge of the environment, his knowledge how things around him operate and his ability to manipulate the things around him and their operations go a long way in making him survive. His present position within the animal kingdom is in large measure a consequence of his having learned how to exploit his intellectual capacities for a discovery of things and their operations around him. Science has its roots in this instinctive urge of humans. Science, when identified thus, is an essential survival mechanism of humans and a part of their own being, which has now become institutionalised.
Science is variously defined. It is defined as knowledge, as concerned with fact about the world we live in, as systematic inquiry into a fairly well defined subject matter, and as what a scientist does. Content of science is defined as our knowledge of the nature of things and their causal relationships. Science is also defined as a vast collection of facts of in exact and unambiguous knowledge. This knowledge is expected to be expressed in such a manner that anyone who takes the trouble can contest its truth. It is also defined as a collection of rules or laws, which express the connection between facts. It is grounded in experience but is not concerned with experiences only.
In his efforts to discover things and their operations around him, human child soon comes to use language as a tool. Language can then be viewed as a collection of concepts and the ways these concepts may be composed and expressed using the code. Our experience enriches the concepts in stock, which enrich and guide our experience in their turn. We soon construct our world according to our conceptual and linguistic equipment. A language has its own logic of observation of the world around it and it has its own manner of referring to the reality around. In fact, the notion reality is used generally as occurring within a particular language system the participants are employing at the moment. Human languages have an empirical reference and as a consequence we are able to make statements involving concepts, which can be experimentally tested through a comparison with what is observed. One should, however, be cautious: what is real in scientific contexts need not be considered real in ordinary contexts. The word real or reality is used in different contexts involving different types of empirical languages. Ordinary language is empirical and scientific language is also empirical, but their quality and import need not be identical.
In the paragraph above, we referred to language, reality, and experience. The interrelationship between language and reality is a wide field and is not the subject matter of our study. Accordingly, only a broad hint was presented above without affecting or accepting in any manner this or that position. For instance, it is often argued that concepts are derived from our experience and it is this derivation aspect that gives concepts their meaning. On the other hand, it is also argued that if we confront the world with an empty head, then our experience will be deservedly meaningless. It is claimed that concepts are not given meaning by experience but that it is concepts that give experience meaning. In any case, use of language for acquisition, analysis, classification, categorization and so on for expression of concepts is an ontological process in a human child; thus, one is not wrong if he suggests that language use for science commences in the very early developmental stage of a child. In fact, early language acquisition itself in a manner can be characterized as acquisition of language of science.
The just born child is a scientist because he aims at discovering things and their relationships around him. His language acquisition is the acquisition of scientific language. The child invents or discards concepts when the existing conceptual framework around which his world is built is found inadequate in some manner. We invent concepts because we need them to construct the world around us. Stating facts is a chief concern of language: 'The world crystallizes into fact according to our language'. A world, which is not in some way crystallized by a language, is inconceivable - for the simple reason that we cannot say anything about it.
Scientific language evolves from the ordinary language which itself in the ontological development must be considered as the scientific code of a low but basic variety. There soon develops a conflict between the inherited conceptual framework represented by the ordinary language and the institutionalised conceptual framework acquired through conscious efforts represented by institutionalised language of science. Language of science is an extension of ordinary language. It is a superposed variety, sometimes in direct conflict with or shying away from ordinary language. This happens because of conflicts between the conceptual frameworks of these two varieties. Scientific language and ordinary language can thus be viewed as presenting two different viewpoints about the things and their operations around humans. These two views in their total effect may be identified as different, but in many individual aspects may be one and the same; in some aspects they may not only be different but also in conflict with one another; in some other aspects they may be inclusive of one another.
Some consider also that scientific language evolves as a means of dealing with aspects of the world for which ordinary language is inadequate. We would like to advocate the difference position rather than the inadequacy position because, as we already suggested, the language of science is a qualitatively different ontological extension of the ordinary language. The difference position is further strengthened because the language of science and ordinary language are based upon the same grammatical code, the difference revolving mainly around the choice of or preference for specified structures. Also note that the conceptual frames represented by them are different and both have their own functions. Hence, instead of saying that ordinary language is inadequate, one may better put the ordinary and scientific languages as different. Language acquisition by children begins and stops with the recognition of the fact that rubber is not brittle but there are other solids that are brittle. A scientist, however, wants to know why some solids are brittle and others not. In this extension of the question, language of science has its roots. Language, both ordinary and scientific, 'usually develops by a process of piecemeal alteration'. We earlier pointed out in chapter 1 that languages evolve to meet the requirements of their users. The scientific language also evolves to meet the new requirements of changing concepts. However, the piecemeal alteration process by itself results in the language becoming intolerably cumbersome. And when this happens, the whole language and its associated conceptual framework may be discarded.
We take the position in this book that conceptual revolution in science, whether on a minor or major scale, involves seeing familiar phenomena in a new light. The facts are changed as we change the "language" in which we report our experience. To perceive anew while perhaps not perceiving anything physically new requires imagination. The process of science depends upon the scientist's ability to see the unfamiliar as an example of the familiar, to see therefore the familiar anew, and to see it with new words. For this is discovery. This holds true not only for scientific inquiry but also for every other human activity including poetry. Thus the nature of science may be viewed as linguistic evolution, that is, evolution towards languages of greater adequacy and flexibility.
3.2. Philosophy of Science
Conscious effort, achievement of knowledge explicitly formulated, generality and systematic inquiry and ordering are some of the facets of science which we have already referred to. Science has become institutionalised, and with the help of science man has come to achieve great mastery, both intellectual and practical, over his environment and other species. The great potential of science enabling humans to master their environment by bits and pieces, has been a subject matter for wonder, astonishment, investigation, discussion and concern of reflective men throughout the ages and in different cultures. Philosophical writings give a central or prominent position to a discussion of the aims, the methods and all other matters related to validity, limitations, social and moral significance of science. These discussions, thoughts and writings constitute an area called the philosophy of science. This field has a very wide scope comprising matters that at a quick glance would reveal no underlying relationship between them. This field is characterized by a conglomeration of conceptions, sometimes in conflict with one another and incompatible with one another as well. Some of the issues dealt with in this field are the epistemology of sense perceptions, problems concerning the genesis, the development and the social effects of scientific ideas, etc., axiomatization of various branches of theoretical inquiry, proposed justification processes of inductive procedures, criteria for meaningful discourse and types of definitional techniques, the structure of scientific laws and the status and function of theoretical ideas. In essence the designation philosophy of science does not denote a reasonably well-defined domain of enquiry. One may limit the philosophy of science to:
- A group of related questions that arise in our attempts to understand the intellectual products of scientific inquiry (This inquiry, as referred to earlier, is embodied in explicitly formulated statements).
- Those questions which we raise to find out how the conclusions of scientific inquiry are related to the empirical evidence on which such conclusions are based.
- Questions concerned with logical principles employed in the assessment of the evidence and the acceptance of the conclusion.
- Questions concerned with the structure and explanation of scientific ideas embedded in scientific conclusions and statements.
- Questions related to use of language, both its vocabulary and syntax, and attempts to keep the language use in order.
Thus, philosophy of science is an area of the science of philosophy that concentrates on the philosophical bases of science.
Philosophy of science may be considered as a separate discipline. But this discipline is not based upon a single school of philosophy. There are many schools of philosophy presenting different tenets as bases of scientific inquiry. Thus we have the positivist school of philosophy of science (Positivism is defined its a philosophical system concerned with positive facts and phenomena. It excludes speculation upon ultimate causes or origins.), the empiricist school of philosophy of science and the linguistic school of philosophy of science and so on. In spite of the existence of such differing schools of philosophy and the resultant different approaches to the philosophy of science, there are certain commonly agreed upon descriptions of procedures adopted in scientific research.
In fact these procedures are not really the result of the deliberations of the different schools of philosophy but are the result of cumulative efforts of the practitioners of science who may or may not have knowledge of the philosophical import of what they do.
We shall present these procedures and link them with the special characteristic features of the use of language in sciences. But before doing that, we shall present certain assumptions of the school of linguistic philosophy that looks at all the acquisition and manipulation of knowledge as a process of refinement of concepts through the refinement and/or consideration of language use. It is claimed that these sentences, which embody the highly confirmed concepts of science, are to be studied philosophically and that in the examination of the kinds of sentences and the kinds of terms figuring in these sentences the progress of science will depend. In fact, these sentences and kinds of terms figuring in these sentences are taken to constitute language of science. Hence the study of the language of science has direct relevance for the philosophical inquiry of science, its methods, conclusions, etc.
3.3. Linguistic Philosophy and Science
Linguistic philosophy takes the view that philosophical problems are problems that may be solved or shown as no problem at all either by reforming the language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. According to this position the logical structure of our thought is concealed or misrepresented in language.
Peculiarities of linguistic form such as analogies, metaphors and similes may misrepresent or conceal the logical structure. Once we appreciate this possibility and once we make the meaning of our words clear and the way they are combined in language explicit, most of the questions would be found as non-questions. Most of the unsolved problems are due to confusions in the way the language is used - the way the questions are asked. The problems must be considered as linguistic confusions, which can be cleared up. This is so because language does not consist only of rules of words, their derivation and use, and their combination according to syntactic constraints but also an enormous number of conventions not expressly formulated but always presupposed in understanding every day language. Formulating and bringing these tacit conventions to consciousness form the process of the clarification of ideas - the basis upon which new ideas are brought out.
As we already stated, linguistic philosophy takes the view that philosophical problems are problems that may be solved or shown as no problem at all either by reforming the language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. This may be done by analysing the meanings of words and the logical relations between them in language. Such an inquiry is pursued to solve many problems related to determinism, scepticism and causation. Linguistic philosophy approach is important for the study of language use in science because it emphasizes, focuses and is based upon the pivotal role of language in the development, analysis, categorization and so on of knowledge. Secondly it is important because it insists upon looking at sentences and their structures as used for the expression of ideas.
Linguistic philosophy is not a single, unified school of philosophy, although it has its own characteristics, which mark it different from other schools of thought in philosophy. It is an analytical philosophy.
Generally speaking, the approaches of linguistic philosophy can be divided into two, viz., the Ordinary Language Philosophy and the Ideal Language Philosophy. Though these two approaches differ from each other in many respects, they agree in the view that language plays a crucial role in the solution of philosophical problems and that new knowledge is nothing but the clarification of the linguistic usage leading to pertinent questions in the processes of theory construction and experimentation and validation of hypotheses.
3.4. Ideal Language Philosophy
Bertrand Russell believed that by means of a study of syntax we could arrive at considerable knowledge concerning the structure of the world. The linguistic programme for metaphysical inquiry recognizes the possible correspondence between sentence structure and structure of fact. Each of the facts of the world has its ontological structure. If a sentence has to assert a fact it must have a logical structure, which has something in common with the ontological structure of fact. In other words, there is a correspondence between the structure of a sentence and the structure of the fact that is expressed by that sentence. Investigation of facts, then, is facilitated or is achieved by an investigation of sentences that express those facts: 'the royal road to metaphysical knowledge consists of investigating the structures of sentences'. This approach is adopted in spite of the frequently occurring fallacy of verbalism - the fallacy that consists in mistaking the properties of words for the properties of things. It is clear that not all properties of sentences are also properties of the facts asserted by these sentences. In a language the same fact may be asserted by several sentences with widely different structures.
Recognizing the sometimes pernicious influence of language, and at the same time persuaded that language analysis can be a valuable tool in philosophical inquiry, Russell concluded that common language is not sufficiently logical. We must first construct an artificial logical language before we can properly investigate our problem. The nature of such an ideal language, however, has never been completely specified. Generally speaking, an ideal language must be neither vague nor ambiguous. It should be logical. The ideal is a language that prevents every logical mistake.
If we have a logically perfect language, then its structure will have something in common with the structure of the world and by examining the one we shall come to understand the other. Thus an ideal language is a sufficient tool for this technique of philosophical inquiry. But it is also a necessary tool in that an imperfect language will have a misleading structure, which will render unsound any inferences drawn from its structure about the structure of the world. (See section 3.12 for a characterization of the notions sufficient and necessary conditions.) Ordinary languages have the relational property of vagueness. The proper way of exhibiting the structure of our world is to construct an ideal language in which to talk about, it. For, the structure of such language is, in some sense, a picture of the structure of the world.
A language that can be spoken about the world has to fulfil two criteria in order to be ideal in the sense of this thesis. One of these criteria demands that in such a language the so-called philosophical puzzles disappear, or as some put it, that they cannot even be stated in it. The second condition is a certain condition of completeness. The ideal language must be complete or exhaustive. This completeness is a different process. Physical science is becoming more complete and exhaustive day by day; in this sense physical science approaches a goal or ideal. But does that mean that our physicists know or for that matter care to know which leaves the next storm will shake from a particular tree? This kind of exhaustiveness is not the ideal, nor is it useful, and perhaps can never be achieved.
So, the ideal languages idea, according to Russell, does not aim at that kind of exhaustiveness. Ideal language is not a language to be actually spoken; it is only a blueprint or scheme which is complete and exhaustive enough to show, in principle, 'the structure and systematic arrangement of all the major areas of our experience', The language of science, however, is actually spoken and written, and is used to achieve greater efficiency, and precision. Note that Russell's arguments suggest that language of science is not identical to ideal language because the second criterion of completeness or exhaustiveness is not met by it.
Ideal language is, by definition, a symbolism, which would be entirely free from the philosophical defects which Russell claimed to find in ordinary language. If language had been invented by scientifically trained observers for purposes of philosophy and logic, precisely this symbolism could have resulted. And it would be logically perfect in the sense of conforming to what logic requires of a language, which is to avoid contradiction. Every symbol would be a logically proper name denoting objects of acquaintance. There would be one word and no more for every simple object, and everything that is not simple will be expressed by a combination of words. These words, which have meaning in the absence of instances of the universals (for instance, shades of colour given by sense data) they denote, would not be included in the ideal language. By definition only those words that denote the entities present would be included. Again by definition, the words presently used in an ordinary language must be considered as unintelligible in the absence of the entities they denote. Proper names in the grammatical sense and all other types of words in the ordinary language would be disqualified for inclusion in the ideal language. They all play a dubious role, because they function as logical descriptions while they are not really so.
Note that the need for an ideal language is felt because of a demonstration of the inefficiency and inadequacy of ordinary language. Note also that a similar assessment of ordinary language is behind the scientists' efforts at developing, perfecting and using language for the expression of sciences.
3.5. Ordinary Language Philosophy
The Oxford philosopher Austin holds that there is little point in tightening up or reforming ordinary usage until we know what this usage is. He thinks that if we spent more time in observing how we ordinarily use certain words, our eyes would be opened to the difference between normal usage and philosophical usage. The senses given to certain ordinary words by philosophers differ from the senses they have in nonphilosophical discourse. We find that philosophers do make use of ordinary connotations of ordinary words, but they use those words in contexts wherein such words would not be ordinarily used. Philosopher Austin offers no guarantee that this realization of differences in use of the same words would dissolve all the philosophical problems. And yet it is worth our while and efforts if the reforms of language (as proposed by philosophers of ideal language school) are postponed until our present linguistic resources are fully exploited.
The ordinary language philosopher does not claim that all the puzzles of various types of philosophical propositions would be solved by looking at the manner of using ordinary language. The solution to puzzles both real and apparent is not sought by explaining the peculiar nature of the subject matter of sentences in which the puzzles are expressed, 'but by reflecting upon the peculiar manner in which these sentences work'. The ordinary language philosopher will demonstrate how these statements go against ordinary language use. Such recourse to the ordinary language may be objected to by saying that ordinary men are ignorant, misinformed, and therefore frequently mistaken. One may assert that the sentences and phrases used by people need not always refer to truth only. When a person says I know for certain, it does not mean all the time that he knows for certain whatever thing is referred to by him. For example, at one time, everyone declared that the earth was flat, when it was actually round.
In order to answer the objection raised above, we need to consider that there are two ways in which a person may be wrong when he makes an empirical statement: he may be making a mistake as to what the empirical facts are, or, he may know the empirical facts all right and yet use the wrong language to describe those facts. The first is being mistaken about the facts, and the second is the use of incorrect language or improper language or wrong language.
Let us consider the statement referred to earlier that the earth was flat. This statement was believed right but has now been proved wrong empirically. The position here is that by uttering the statement people were making a mistake about the fact and were not using incorrect language. They were using perfectly correct language to describe what they thought to be the case. Let us consider another case: two people agree as to what the empirical facts are and yet disagree in their statements. (This is similar to what happens when the same data is interpreted differently by different persons or by the same person at different times). Two people look at an animal and have a clear and close up view of it. Their descriptions of the animal are in perfect agreement. And yet one of them says it is a fox; the other says it is a wolf. Their disagreement could be called linguistic. There is a right and a wrong with respect to linguistic disagreements. One or the other, or both of them is using incorrect language.
Let us consider yet another case. This is the same as the preceding one with one exception. The man, who says it is a wolf, agrees with the other man on the characteristics of the animal. He agrees also that the animal is ordinarily called a fox. And yet he continues to insist that it was a wolf. Such a response would show that his position is absurd.
There are two types of expressions used in a language. In the first category we have expressions of the sort "earlier", "later", "to the left of", "behind", etc. In the second category, we have expressions such as "ghost", and "God". The difference between these two types of expressions is as follows: whereas we can teach a person the meaning of the word ghost without showing him an instance of the true application of that word (i.e., the meaning of the word ghost can be explained in terms of the meanings of words already known), we cannot teach a person the meaning of these other expressions without showing him instances of true applications of those expressions. The former must be considered ordinary expressions in the language, as there have been many situations of the kind they describe. So, many people have learned the correct use of those expressions because the situations they describe have occurred several times. Thus whenever a paradox is met with, to prove that the expression involved is an ordinary expression is to completely refute the paradox. Ordinary language is correct language because it is based on repeated instances and if an expression is proved to be an ordinary expression, that expression should be considered as correct language. It is on empirical evidences that ordinary language is founded.
As an application of the principles of ordinary language philosophy, let us consider the statement that all words are vague. A philosophising biologist may not be able to identify the characteristics of inanimate things separate from the characteristics of animate things. So, he may report that all matter is really animate. This utterance is paradoxical and false, as it constitutes an offence against ordinary language. In ordinary language we call things like fish and fowl animate, and things like rocks and tables inanimate. Certain words of our language operate in pairs: large and small, animate and inanimate, vague and clear, certain and probable. A number of a pair requires its opposite - animate is contrasted with inanimate, probability with certainty, vagueness with clearness. Suppose that a philosopher wishes to remove from use one member of the pair. When he says that all words are really vague, he proposes that we never apply the word clear anymore. That is, we abolish its use. But once we do what he says, it is 'no longer correct to call any material thing animate, no longer correct to call any empirical statement certain, no longer correct to say of any word that its meaning is clear. Would this be an improvement?'
If the word clear were abolished in the contrasting pair clear-vague, the word vague would have to perform the function previously performed by two words vague and clear. But the function of the pair cannot be performed by only one member. The vagueness is to be contrasted with clearness. If the language is reformed as suggested above, vagueness could be contrasted with nothing. Hence the word vague would simply be dropped as a useless word and we should be compelled to adopt a new pair of words with which to express the same distinctions formerly expressed by the words clear and vague. 'The revision of our language would have accomplished nothing'. Thus the argument is presented against attempts to perform the ordinary language, to make it ideal to express the logic of proposition.
With this argument, the argument of vagueness, imprecision, etc., against ordinary language is challenged. When we talk of scientific language we decry the so-called defects of ordinary language. This has a parallel in the controversy raging between the ideal and ordinary language philosophers. But as regards the use of ordinary language for the expression of sciences the battle seems to have been completely lost for the advocates of ordinary language with the institutionalisation of scientific inquiry. It is more or less inconceivable now to use in any large scale the ordinary language for the expression of sciences. An elaborate technical terminology established by conventions (misconceived or not) does not make the use of ordinary language a practical proposition in sciences. However, the ordinary language is sought after in other related activities, which are claimed to spring from the fountain of science. This will be dealt with in section 3.14. In any case the ordinary language philosophy highlights the importance of the role of language in scientific inquiries.
3.6. A Brief Critique of Linguistic Philosophy
The linguistic philosophy - linguistic approach to philosophical problems - has been criticized in many ways. There have been, throughout the history of philosophy, doubts about relevance and usefulness of language in solving philosophical problems. It is accepted that analysis of language used in propositions may have 'some corrective value, but can make no positive contribution to philosophy'. An analysis of the language in which we describe the world may give us great insight into the description, but not into what is described! Many philosophers consider language as a hindrance rather than an aid in philosophical investigations. (Consider the position the scientists take regarding the usefulness of ordinary language for the description and explanation of scientific facts).
Within the school of linguistic philosophy there have also been direct and strong mutual criticism. For example, the ideal language philosophy's claim that what we need is an ideal language free of vagueness and ambiguousness has been attacked on several grounds. In the earlier section an argument was presented that by reforming the language we would fail to appreciate the different functions performed by words vague and clear in their individual capacity as well as in their capacity when occurring as a contrasting pair. The result of the abolition of the use of words like clear would be that a language perfect in the sense of not being vague can be used only in a world in which all species were fixed, and no borderline cases could occur.
The ideal language programme proposes to investigate the ontological structure of the world through an investigation of the logical or ideal language. Even if a logically perfect language could be devised, the proposed programme for investigating the ontological structure of the world by means of investigating the logical structure of ideal language is impossible to fulfil. For, the project must have the following sequence. First, an ideal language must be set up, and then through it the metaphysical structure of the world is to be discovered. Thus it is clear that the construction of a logically perfect language is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end of more general philosophical inquiry. But until the completion of such a philosophical investigation, no language can be considered idea!
The essence of an ideal language, as conceived by the proponents of the programme under discussion, is that its logical structure corresponds with, or mirrors in some sense, the ontological structure of fact. Hence a language can be ideal only by comparing its logical structure with the ontological structure of the world, which must be known independently if the comparison is to be significant. The critics claim that because of this circularity we must reject the ideal language programme.
The ordinary language philosophy is criticized on several counts. According to the steps followed in ordinary language philosophy, first we show that the philosophical statement is not an empirical statement, that it does not concern the empirical facts. Secondly, on the basis of the first step, we demonstrate that the philosopher is really trying to tell us something about language. Thirdly, the demonstration that what the philosopher aims at is not empirical fact but only a fact about language itself would amount to be refutation of the statement. In ordinary language people use words differently but this difference does not mean that people have different beliefs concerning which belief is more nearly correct. This is more or less like the use of regional dialects. Hence judgement about correctness of ordinary language, as assiduously asserted by ordinary language philosophers, is difficult to make.
As regards the refutation process, it is more a proposal than a process at all. As regards the method of learning vis-à-vis ordinary language which states that occurrence of situations shown leads to learning, the following argument is given: the learning can be achieved not only through occurrence of actual situation but also through several other methods: through a method of contrast we learn the meaning of certain by having it contrasted with doubtful; through a method of limits, one may convey the meaning of perfect circle by exhibiting a sequence of shapes which seem to approach circularity as a limit. There could also be a method of illusion. The distinction between what is learnt ostensively and what is learnt descriptively (proposed by the ordinary language philosophers) is not necessary and correct. These two sorts of learning go hand in hand.
It is contended by ordinary language philosophers that reformation, systematisation, etc., would neglect and destroy the immense richness and complexity of ordinary language and to replace it with neat simplicities. But the critics of ordinary language philosophy point out that this richness of ordinary language often turns out to be an embarrds de richesse. They argue that science proceeds in large measure by simplifying, by abstracting, and by neglecting factors that have a measure of relevance in order to arrive at approximations. Even the terms of ordinary language philosophy cannot be taught giving the meanings of such terms ostensively. We are to proceed by giving some of the rules for the use of such a term and by exhibiting its use on some occasions, by showing how it is located in a network of other concepts and so on. 'It is neither possible nor necessary nor desirable that every term, expression, or sentence of science or philosophy be translatable into ordinary language, the observation language, or the like'.
The ideal language philosophers contend that 'in the effort to describe our experiences we are constantly putting words to new uses, connected with, but not identical with, their familiar uses applying them to states of affairs which are both like and unlike those to which the words are most familiarly applied. Surely something like this accounts, in large measure, for the evolution of natural languages; ordinary language is constantly being reformed.' Thus the ideal language philosophers suspect that many cases of ordinary language analysis proposed by ordinary language philosophers are indeed disguised reformations! Perhaps the difference (between the activities of ideal language and ordinary language philosophers) lies in degree only.
The need to reform the ordinary language arises, according to the ideal language philosophers, on three counts. First, 'there is the need, for certain philosophical purposes, to abstract and to systematically eliminate irrelevancies. Second, in many cases we must reform in order to analyse at all, because mere examination of ordinary use will not reveal the sought-for rule and because the more interesting terms of ordinary language are also systematically ambiguous. Third, the implicit rules that are present in the ordinary language game may indirectly reflect beliefs, which are false. The clarity of thought. . . . can be attained only if, while granting the fusions of the various functions of language, we remain on our guard against their confusions.'
3.7. Relevance of Linguistic Philosophy for Science
We said in section 3.3. that there is no single school of linguistic philosophy and that there are different approaches to problems within the same school. We identified two major approaches, ordinary language and ideal language, within the linguistic school. Within each of these approaches also philosophers may differ from each other in terms of the emphasis they lay on various factors. The uniting thesis of the two approaches is the statement that the philosophical questions are questions of language; the dissolution of problems of science can be achieved by a careful description of the language in which the facts and the questions raised against the facts are couched. But the difference, among others, lies in the position one takes as to whether there is any need to reform the ordinary language. We have been focussing our attention on the nature and relationships of answers provided for a question. The new approach wants us first to explore the questions, to find out what is meant by a question, and, in essence, to understand, before any effort is made to find an answer, the nature of the question itself. This is so because there is a definite possibility that the form of the question itself might conceal an error - might be a hindrance to arrive at the fact. Thus linguistic philosophy explores the questions raised in sciences and finds out whether the questions are of a right type. It also investigates the language in which the laws of science are couched to find out whether the laws are indeed laws.
Every scientific discipline, one time, or other, comes to a crisis and refuses to proceed in its old direction. The way out for its progress, for its liberation from the crisis, is found by an examination of its fundamental concepts thus far accepted without reservations. In this examination of fundamental concepts, philosophic attitude plays a crucial role, because the description and explanation of structure of concepts, the analysis of language used and the classification of meaning are all the job of the linguistic philosopher. In the pursuit of identifying and solving or dissolving the paradoxes faced by sciences, linguistic philosophical approach plays a very crucial role. The linguistic philosophers themselves are engaged in studying the characteristics of grammar - characteristics of philosophical grammar - for the solution or dissolution of philosophical paradoxes, including those of sciences referred to above. As already stated several times language includes not only the rules of derivation and use of words and rules of syntax but also an enormous number of conventions nowhere expressly formulated but always presupposed. It also includes the rules governing mathematical calculations, the rules of logical inference and ostensive definitions and so on. The philosophical grammar of the linguistic philosopher aims at formulating and bringing to consciousness these tacit conventions for the philosophical clarification of ideas. Since clarification of ideas and raising appropriate and clear questions for the scrutiny of facts is an integral part of scientific work, the need to have a conscious knowledge of philosophical grammar becomes clear.
3.8. Philosophical Grammar
The exemplification of the notion of rule is a crucial point pursued in the study of philosophical grammar. A rule is something which guides an activity, and it can serve three different purposes: (i) as a constituent of what we call its application, (ii) in mastering an activity, and, (iii) as justification of an activity. Another important area is the study of the meaning of meaning. The interrelationship between explanation procedures and the uses of words is another important area. The philosophical grammar studies the use of analogies in language, families of concepts, and different meanings of one word. It investigates the characteristics of names and the naming processes. Names in general, names of physical objects, proper names of people, the criterion of identity, ostensive definition processes and names of species are all dealt with.
Questions such as how we can make ourselves understood by means of language, how do we know that other people attach the same meaning to words that we do, and what are the removable and irremovable barriers to understanding are raised. Other questions are as follows: What sort of experience is presupposed by mutual understanding? What is structural description? What are its characteristics? In what ways is structural description different from the description of properties and relations? What is a proposition? How do we understand a sentence? Can a sentence be framed as the expression of a fact? What are the psychological criteria for a proposition? Is the forming of a sentence preceded by a consciousness of its content? How come persons understand the new sentences without having learned the facts to which the new sentences refer? Is there something in common between a fact and the sentence that expresses it? Is this due to common structure? Is it true that there is a natural correspondence between reality and language, and that it is only correspondence, which accounts for the fact that reality, is describable by language? How can we communicate a new fact - is this because the fact has a definite structure, which we can imitate in grouping together our words; is it that we understand the sentence because we see it in the structure of the fact? Is it not strange that with a limited vocabulary we can describe an unlimited number of different situations?
Scholars report that one and the same fact may be expressed in a thousand different languages, that these thousand different propositions will have the same structure, and that the fact, which these propositions express, will have the same structure too. But what are we to understand by the structure of a fact? The same fact can be expressed by sentences, which have entirely different structures. (Consider the notion of style detailed earlier, which is anchored on this same facility). Which of these is to be the structure of the fact?
The philosophical grammar investigates also how propositions are combined. The nature of questions is a serious pursuit within philosophical grammar. Whether there can be logical connections between questions, whether there is a basic form to which all questions can be reduced, how are question and answer fitted together, when is a question significant, whether there are insoluble and yet significant questions - all these are intended to be subject matter for philosophical grammar. Is the idea of the question connected with that of search? Can a question be asserted or denied? Can questions be classified into different types such as questions which cannot be negated at all, questions which can be negated, and which thereby acquire a new meaning, and questions which if negated remain unchanged? On what do these differences rest? What different sorts of answers can be given to questions? How do question and answer fit together? When do we understand a question (i) only when we know the way to the solution, (ii) or when we can state what a possible answer would look like, (iii) or simply when we know the meaning of the words used in asking the question? When is a question meaningless?
The philosophical grammar, thus, is different from the linguistic grammar in many respects. Linguists restrict their studies to the study of linguistic structures. They are interested in the ways in which these linguistic structures are put to use. But such interests are restricted to the structural description, and description of the relations that exist between elements. Linguists are interested in analysing how language, a system of systems, operates. The philosophical grammarian is interested in the study of language to classify the concepts in philosophy in general. One may even go to the extent of saying that the construction of philosophical grammar in the hands of a linguistic philosopher amounts to constructing a tool; but, for the linguist, construction of a grammar is an end in itself.
Even the goals of philosophical grammar and the linguistic grammar may be different from one another; both have to depend on each other at least to some extent to derive mutual benefits-in the understanding of language, how it works, how it influences our scientific process and how working and use of language clarifies the concepts underlying a problem, how grammatical categories can be refined further and so on.
A mutual give and take seems to be of much immediate necessity from the point of view of linguistic philosophers at least for two reasons: first of all, more often than not, linguistic philosophers do not have a sound knowledge and appreciation of linguistic structures per se. If clarification of ideas is sought in linguistic philosophy, through a clarification of linguistic structures employed for the expression of ideas the need for a firmer, better and more comprehensive understanding of linguistic structures of a language becomes obvious. Secondly, developments in linguistics, especially the recent ones, have a lot to throw light upon aspects of problems deliberated currently by linguistic philosophers.
For instance, consider the notion suggested and accepted by linguistic philosophers that we understand the meaning conveyed by sentences, both new and old, on the basis of the meaning of words in the sentences and on the basis of how these words are put in an order in a sentence. This is true of several cases, but there is also the need to posit a distinction between surface structure and the deep structure.
The philosophical grammarians now will do well to recognize the distinction between surface and deep structures and incorporate it in their speculations on how we understand the meaning of a sentence. Likewise, the theory of common structure for individual facts propounded by philosophers like Wittgenstein and Schlick can be seen in the light of the discussion in linguistics about universals of language. As for linguistics, the aloofness, which it wantonly sought, is broken mainly because of its practitioners' current interest in allied disciplines including linguistic philosophy. The philosophical grammar recognizes more fully the chief characteristics of language use; pursuing further this line of research with a firm grounding and footing in linguistics will widen our understanding of the uses to which the structures are put and will contribute to an understanding of human beings as integrated wholes.
3.9. New Direction in Linguistic Philosophy
Let us see now what new directions linguistic philosophy can profitably take from the point of view of transformational-generative grammar, a school of linguistics propounded vigorously by Noam Chomsky and at the moment a widely followed linguistic theory. This theory proposes that we distinguish the surface from the deeper, and identify the more profound reality that underlies the surface appearance. Natural languages have an underlying reality very different from their surface form and this underlying reality can be discovered and substantiated through the method of hypothetical postulation and empirical verification. How deceptive the surface appearances are can be appreciated by the following illustrations. The cow was found by the farmer and The cow was found by the stream look rather alike but convey different meanings. The farmer found the cow and The cow was found by the farmer look different in their structural composition, but are related, or can be viewed as springing from the same source as they mean the same thing. The sentence Flying planes can be dangerous has more than one interpretation and each of these interpretations are different from the other.
Differences or deceptive appearances of the surface form are further cited in chapter 5 where we discuss the use of sentences in science.
The distinction between surface and underlying forms are discovered and substantiated through the method of hypothetical postulation and empirical verification. This has a parallel in the scientific method - in a method Democretus, who lived more than 2000 years ago, used successfully to demonstrate that there are spaces between the atoms. He proposed the view that continuity is only the surface appearance of matter and that if reality matter is composed of tiny particles with empty spaces between them. This Democretean concept of matter originated as a purely hypothetical postulation. But when it proved to yield better predictions and explanations of the observable behaviour of physical objects and substances than the concept of continuity, it received scientific acceptance. Later on the original hypothetical postulation was also experimentally demonstrated.
The early Wittgenstein (early Wittgenstein because during the later period of his philosophical expositions he has changed several of his original ideas) and many other philosophers occupied themselves with the problem of logical form and with how the logical form is represented in sentence structure. They were worried that the overt grammatical form of a sentence is often a misleading guide to its logical form. Some sought a framework for the logical form in mathematics. Some sought to achieve it by reducing sentence to a set of logical simples and their relations. The latter Wittgenstein discarded the process of reducing sentences to a set of logical simples and their relations for arriving at and the representation of the logical form of sentences. He preferred comparing and contrasting the ways in which different sentences are used in different realms of life. Language disguises thought but thought can be retrieved through appropriate analysis. Wittgenstein replaced the notion of logical form or meaning with a new one according to which meaning lies in the public use of linguistic forms. He proposed an analysis, which suggests that we understand meaning in terms of an examination of the public features of the ways speakers actually use sentences to carry on social intercourse.
The generative grammarian-linguistic philosopher proposes that the distinction between logical form and grammatical form, between the thought or meaning of a sentence and its phonetic or orthographic shape is an appearance-reality distinction (Katz, 1972). He suggests that it is possible to infer the form of the thought beneath the outward form of sentence 'if we are willing to penetrate the disguise in the way physicists penetrated the disguise in which nature presents matter to us in sense experience'. But is there any reason to believe that we can penetrate the disguise at all?
Katz (1972) reports: One reason for us to believe we can penetrate phonetic or orthographic clothing is that speakers of a natural language do exactly this when other speakers successfully communicate with them. We may suppose that in the process of learning the language, speakers have acquired a system of rules for relating sound and meaning and that they use these rules to obtain their own internal representation of the thoughts of other speakers from the speech sounds through which such thoughts are expressed. We may suppose further that if in order to understand another's speech a speaker must penetrate the phonetic disguise of another's thought, and if such penetration is achieved by a system of rules that determines the thought from the phonetic shape, then a knowledge of such a system, in the form of a theory that formulates these rules, would itself uncover the underlying logical form of sentences. If linguists would discover the principles by which the speakers of a language perform the encoding and decoding of thoughts in linguistic communication, then they would succeed in doing just what Wittgenstein said was impossible.
One of the tenets of Wittgenstein's later philosophy is that an understanding of the logical features of language is not to be obtained from the theories, but through an understanding of how words are actually used. Theory construction for him is rather based always upon (unsound) analogy, which leads to further misunderstandings, and not to any solution of the problem. Wittgenstein is also against 'the tendency to purify, to sublime, the signs themselves'. But one may like to point out, as against the Wittgenstein position that theory construction can be of different types. One should make a distinction between theory construction towards logically perfect artificial languages intended to replace natural languages (opposed correctly by Wittgenstein) and the type of theory construction towards systems of descriptive and explanatory principles like those found in natural sciences, like those adopted by generative grammarians in their study of language.
3.10. Philosophy of Language
In the ideal language philosophical approach the effort is to either reform the ordinary language or to replace it with an impersonal and objective artificial language to proceed with the solution of philosophical problems. This approach aims at constructing an ideal artificial language into which sentences on nonphilosophical matters of fact, mathematical truth, etc, can be translated. This ideal language would not include or accept for translation meaningless speculation. It is ideal because it accommodates only facts and truth. Ordinary philosophers also believe that the formulation of philosophical questions in the idiom of natural language leads to confusion. But they find it unnecessary to reform the ordinary language or to construct artificial languages. In this approach the effort is to identify the language uses to clarify and dissolve the philosophical problems.
The philosophers adopt the Wittgenstein method of examining the ways the speakers use their language. In both the approaches language plays a crucial role, but the study of its linguistic structure was not thorough and was of only secondary importance. The structure of language was almost taken for granted; its description was never the main focus in the ordinary language philosophy. The linguistic philosophy or philosophy of language proposed by Katz following the tenets of the linguistic school of transformational-generative grammar emphasizes the role of grammar in identifying the universals of human knowledge and in fact suggests that classification of philosophical problems would benefit a lot by first understanding the basic structures of language.
Katz finds that although the ideal language philosophers and ordinary language philosophers differ among themselves on many counts, there is yet another area in which they share a critical presupposition. This is their assumption, not explicitly stated but understood as an implication, 'that natural languages have no underlying reality, that their surface structure and the public aspects of the way their words and sentences are used are all there is to take account of in studying them'. One group of philosophers is led to believe, as a consequence, that natural languages are unsystematic, irregular and logically imperfect. Ordinary language philosophers are reluctant 'to theorize about the structure of natural language and to concentrate their efforts on the attempt to describe the details of linguistic use'. It is precisely by doing the latter job that the transformational grammarian hopes to reveal 'the structure underlying surface irregularity to provide information about the logical form of sentences that is useful in formulating answers to traditional philosophical questions'.
The philosophy of language proposed by Katz agrees with both the schools of linguistic philosophy in some respects, but it differs from them in assuming a distinction between surface appearance and underlying reality. With the ideal language philosophers it agrees with the need to have a formalized system of rules, not imposed by constructing an ideal language but by a description and explanation of natural languages. Furthermore, 'the formal rules of linguistic theory must represent the real relations in language that underlie their connection of sound and meaning, and they must be open to empirical verification in terms of facts that come to light in the linguists' field work'. In this respect, the language philosophy of the generative grammarian agrees with the ordinary language philosopher because the generative grammarian also insists on accurate description of language use.
Katz asserts that description by itself is not enough. It may be considered as the first stage in constructing explanations that posit linguistic structures, which cannot be observed in speech. 'Description provides the evidence for such underlying linguistic structures which in turn is explained by a grammatical theory of underlying linguistic structures. Accordingly we can say that our conception of the philosophy of language has the virtue of both logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy without incurring the vices of either'. However, Katz will not commit that there is always a relation between linguistic structure and concepts which gives rise to philosophical problems. We would only emphasize that 'the philosophical problems that can be dealt with linguistically are ones that depend on features of the underlying reality of language. The features of the underlying reality of language on which they depend are universal. If both assumptions are generally right, then the philosophy of language must look to the theory of linguistic universals for the concepts and principles to use in constructing solutions to philosophical problems'.
3.11. Relevance of Philosophy of Language and Linguistic Philosophy for Science
We have discussed at length aspects of linguistic philosophy in this book, which deals with the role of language and the uses of language in science. Although the reason may have been made clear indirectly in the earlier discussion, we would like to make explicit the relevance of discussing linguistic philosophy.
We take the position that when we wish to study the employment of language in the expression of sciences, we must know the characteristics of language, and know how language can be described. We must know the processes of theory construction. We must know what approaches there are which links up use of language with the acquisition of knowledge, etc.
The linguistic philosophy school, more than any other school of Philosophy, lays greater emphasis on the role of language in theory construction. As we already reported, a section of this school believes that the philosophical problems and the scientific problems can be solved by first dissecting the questions by which such problems are perceived and posed. The unsolvable problems and the astounding progress in the sciences were all due to changes in the direction of attention in crucial stages of science, and these changes in the direction of attention were largely made possible by a clarification of the language used.
As the questions that arose regarding an apparent problem may rest upon misunderstandings, the analytic method of the linguistic philosophy frees us from the misunderstandings by making the meanings of our words and the way they are combined in language so clear that 'we no longer feel driven to ask the questions'.
Even if the claim of linguistic philosophy may seem to be a tall one, it points to the importance of language use in solution of scientific problems. Language is used in sciences not only to coin technical terms as tokens of concepts, but also to present the findings, and in the processes of theory construction. More often than not, theory construction and presentation of theories in sciences take the help of analogy, metaphor, imagery and so on, which in their turn are liable to be misinterpreted. Even technical terms of sciences may be based on analogy, metaphor, imagery and so on. Misinterpretation of these - analogy, metaphor, and imagery - can hamper in the course of time a real understanding of the basic issues. Hence the importance of the analytic method of the linguistic philosophy to identify the language uses in science vis-à-vis solutions for problems, and theory construction.
In the deliberations of the ideal language philosophy school, we find the germs of the basis of language use in science to some extent in the sense that both aim at an impersonal, objective, precise language that is divorced of the connotations of everyday language. Both will go to the extreme of constructing a new language or reforming the old one with codified denotations. The need for such a transformation was felt by scientists because of the need to fix the meaning of an expression for easy inter-lingual, inter-national communication and because of the need to shed its unwanted past - as science sprang and evolved from common folk practices, it took with it the imprecise, emotional and non-objective folk language. There is no doubt that fixing the meanings/denotations of terms has led to greater clarity and quicker progress of sciences. And yet the language of science cannot be completely divorced from day to day language. We have reached a state, a condition in which our day-to-day language use is heavily influenced by the characteristics of language use in sciences. But at the same time, leaders in sciences continue to draw terms and metaphors heavily from the ordinary language for an explication of even highly sophisticated and novel scientific concepts. The ordinary language has at least the function of relief in the deliberations of science.
The relationship between language use in sciences and the identification and accumulation of knowledge of new concepts may be looked at in three different ways. The technical terms and usage came into existence (are coined) after the identification/discovery of new concepts. Or, the clarification of existing linguistic usage leads to a new concept/view and this view leads to the coinage of technical terms and usage. Thirdly, it may be viewed as if the identification and accumulation of new concepts occur hand in hand with the coinage of technical terms. It is hard to single out any one of the above three as the way in which we operate in sciences. All the three have their own role.
Apart from the above, the processes identified in the construction of ideal language will be a source for work related to construction of technical usage and it will be helpful in this process if we continue the comparison of ideal language with the language used for the expression of sciences. In fact some philosophers assume that the ideal language will be modelled out of science language. But this has been correctly rejected by the majority of ideal language philosophers. There are general tendencies between the attempted ideal language and the science language, some of which we have already identified. If the ideal language philosophy reflects scientists' urge to coin terms that are bereft of folk beliefs and uses, and that have well defined and predetermined meanings to achieve less ambiguous, forthright and formalized communication of ideas, the ordinary language philosophy represents and demonstrates the need to anchor our efforts on to everyday language for various reasons. Each science has to depend on everyday language in the sense that the syntax used in sentences continues to be from the ordinary language. Scientific theory construction, elucidation and exemplification continue to benefit by their association with and the use of ordinary language.
The linguistic turn (or about turn?) suggested by Katz distinguishes between the deep and surface structures and this distinction is directly relevant for the coinage of correct terms with least ambiguity and anomaly. The ten questions (namely: What is the difference between meaningfulness and meaninglessness? What is sameness of meaning? What is the difference between synonymy and non-synonymy? What is multiplicity of meaning or ambiguity? What is truth by virtue of meaning and what is falsehood by virtue of meaning? What is semantic redundancy? What is entailment by virtue of meaning? What is presupposition? What is a self-answered question?) are directly relevant to the problems of expression of sciences too.
Even though science is considered to be a less ambiguous activity engaged in solution of problems, etc., and even though the language of science is supposed to be precise, notions of linguistics are essential to maintain the precision sought by the language of science and to resolve any confusion that may arise. A better knowledge of trends in linguistic philosophy, linguistics, scientific method, etc., is necessary for developing and refining the language of science. Katz's distinction between deep and surface structures and emphasis on deep structures for an understanding of the reality beneath the surface structures should be related to better procedures and steps for the clarification of questions raised in sciences.
3.12. Scientific Method
We shall now see, in brief, the steps and requirements of scientific method and how these steps are intimately linked with and leading to specialized language expressions in science. In science one comes up with construction of hypotheses, designing and conducting experiments, argumentation, proof and falsification, reporting of the findings and so on. Each of these activities involves use of language. However, the quantum and kinds of language in terms of vocabulary and sentence types may differ from one form of activity to the other even within a single field and within a single experiment. The quantum of language differs because of a tendency to use more and more symbols - mainly mathematical-with less language vocabulary and sentence types. But even such types must fall into some pattern and this pattern has some links of derivation and use with ordinary language and, on most occasions, is constructed on the basis of ordinary language.
In an earlier section we tried to give a characterization for the term science. For a layman the word science is in many respects an ambiguous term. He may include under science fields such as astronomy, chemistry and biology. But when it comes to engineering, medicine, etc., he is not sure. He may be sure that politics, history, art, religion, etc., are not included under science. The classification into arts, sciences, applied sciences, technology, fine arts, humanities, social sciences and so on offered by universities also add to this uncertainty. "Unscientific" for a layman is inexact, bad arrangement, jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence, allowing personal prejudices to influence the reporting of findings, magic, superstition and so on. By "scientific" a layman means that which is exact, orderly, substantiated by evidence, use of instruments, well founded authority and so on. To be scientific in a not so well defined manner is the new belief, the new superstition and the new way of life.
The history of science and its methods of research are intimately connected with the history of thought processes of mankind. Various methods have been proposed, utilized and discarded, only to be revived in subsequent periods. The deductive method was once considered the apex of all the methods and as the universal method for the acquisition of knowledge. The question of empirical verification was relegated to the background. One was expected to start with adequate ideas and deduce from these all the other attributes of things.
As an antidote to overemphasis on the usefulness of deductive method, philosophical treatises on scientific methods began devoting all their energies to the installation of inductive methods! All the while, however, scientists, or at least a majority of them never bothered to formulate and present separately the scientific method or methods they followed. The scientific method was what the scientists followed in their scientific efforts and was to be found 'in the kind of theories and working hypotheses the scientist propounded, in their common mode of posing problems, their shared theoretical aims, in the commonly accepted standards and cannons of evidence, validity and proof.' Scientists established a tradition of their own and those who shared in this tradition spoke a common language and engaged in a dialogue with one another. Our aim here is to identify this commonly shared method.
One may state that scientific method is used to arrive at truth. But truth is indeed difficult to define and is highly variable. For a sage, truth is mystic, initiative, subjective and transcendental, whereas for a scientist truth is verifiable and is a public event. It is empirical in content and rational in nature.
Scientific theory is meant for the consumption of the community of scientists and generally takes the premise-conclusion form. This is so because, as stated earlier, scientific theory is public and should meet the verifiability criterion. It is thus generally in the form of propositions. These propositions assert relationships, which govern events under consideration. Logical consequences of certain basic assumptions are also presented. The validity of the propositions is a matter of direct empirical verification or indirect confirmation through successful predictions derived from them. As a consequence of a general revolt against the earlier deductive methods, there has been a rather excessive reliance on observed facts for an understanding of the principles governing them - through a method of abstraction of general principles from the observed facts. However, science throughout the ages has not always followed pure empiricism. The same "fact" in a given specified situation would be seen in a different way by an artist, artiste, physicist, poet and so on. Each would use the raw material for a different purpose, in his own way. This is so because each has his own framework and within this framework he interprets and uses the raw material in his own way. Hence great scientists have recognized that refusal to go beyond pure empiricism, in the sense of refusal to go beyond experience, is not going to be of much help in solving problems and for the progress of science.
Let us consider for a moment the language requirements of science as characterized above. The language used must be public to the extent that it should be understood and can be used by all the practitioners of a field. It should be public to the extent that it is couched in such sentences, sentence patterns and words that are of empirical and not mystic or incoherent, stray, or unstructured nature. As the scientific theory takes the premise-conclusion form, the sentences, sentence patterns and the words used must be of a type that will present assertion in matter-of-fact statements, use conditional clauses for deductions, use descriptive statements for descriptions and must be ordered in such a way that the previous sentence flows into the next, the succeeding taking its cue from the preceding one. Empirical verification is couched in terms, which present the description of occurrences and repeated occurrences of an event. Through the use of conditional, comparative and conclusion-deriving sentence patterns the interrelationships will be demonstrated. Method of abstraction will use a lot of descriptive sentences for observed facts, whereas going beyond pure empiricism requires a lot of metaphors, analogy, imagery, etc., in the scientists' effort to make his language more public, to make his fellow scientists to understand his ideas as well as to meet the verifiability criterion. Note also that the form of scientific theories does not depend upon their modes of origin, but in making the theory explicit and thereby public. In this process it is constrained and guided by language use.
In its systematic and classificatory stage a science relates its theoretical concepts required for an understanding of the facts directly to observable properties of the material. The scientific theory at this stage gives the appearance of abstractive nature - the theory seems to be abstracted from the observed facts. But when the same science advances further (if one takes objection to the use of the word advance, we may say instead that the same science changes its mode of operation due to the recognition of the inadequacy of basing its theory only on observable facts), it will come to depend more and more upon postulates and concepts, which can only be indirectly related to anything observable in the sense of the word. In the construction of theory of a particular science one may adopt any number and kinds of modes. It may be achieved through abstraction from observable facts, by proposing postulates, through analysis-collation, classification and summarizing of the facts, through breaking up the problem into smaller and smaller parts to concentrate only on essential aspects, through analogy, through metaphor, through items borrowed from other disciplines and so on. For all these, for selection and classification, one needs a framework and, indeed, one works within a framework for whatever it is worth. One also needs familiarity with the subject matter - one does not have to be formally trained, but familiarity is necessary; one also needs imagination to imagine new patterns. Simplicity, uniformity and causality are some of the other important characteristics of scientific theory.
It is said that scientific inquiry originates in a problem situation and that it proceeds through several steps. Some of the major stages are as follows: (a) breaking up the problem into its component parts, (b) collecting, by observation and experimentation, all the available relevant facts and clarifying them according to some common properties, (c) proposing a hypothesis that would explain all the observed facts and resolve the problem situation, (d) if the hypothesis permits it, working out of its logical implications for making predictions of phenomena not known so far, and, (e) the testing of these predictions against observation.
We would now present, in brief, some of the activities undertaken in several of the steps listed above. Before doing so we would like to emphasize that, although a scientific theory proposed would have the capacity to explain observed facts as its logically necessary consequences, although it would be compatible with other theories, and although the proposed theory meets the criterion of testability, the truth propounded by the theory is always probable. The final authority for any theory of science is facts. Hence it is liable to be modified, rejected, incorporated or absorbed into a more comprehensive theory, if fresh evidence warrants such a step. Accordingly, 'scientific truth is tentative, and scientific method self-correcting in character'. The language use here, then, is characterized by sentences, sentence patterns and words that would continually remind one about the tentative nature of conclusion. One expects and finds the use of modals and other adverbials expressing probability. But note that this tentative nature of the scientific theory is different from the tentative or speculative nature of doubtful conclusion, conclusions not based on facts.
The first step in a scientific inquiry is choice of a suitable problem. Choice of a suitable problem depends upon the interests the investigator has. That is, the problem should interest the investigator. New ideas in some form or the other will have to be the forerunner for the choice of a problem - new ideas are necessary if the scientific inquiry is in a field which has been intensively and extensively investigated in the past. But these new ideas should have relevance and significance for an understanding of the field. In terms of language use, as the choice of a problem is based on something that already exists, the same language conventions in terms of vocabulary and sentence patterns would also govern the expression of the chosen problem, if and only if no radical or revolutionary idea is involved. A radical or revolutionary idea brings with itself a new mode of expression. Hardly a revolution worth its name has taken place without corresponding change in the modes of expression.
After the choice of the problem, statement of the problem should be attended to. This is an important task and the time spent in making a clear statement is well expended, because in restating the problem in different ways, in redefining it, in expressing its limits and in characterizing it in so many other ways we may be led to its solution, we may have the way to its solution pointed out to us. A statement, a good statement, of the problem depends upon the knowledge an investigator has about the background of the problem. One should know how the problem arose, why it is important, how it falls into a general pattern and what will be done with the results and so on. In order to achieve a good knowledge of the problem, one should keep in touch with literature on the field. But efficient and fast literature search depends upon a good knowledge of the material one has in a given field. It is correctly said that more reading leads to more knowledge and more competence in formulating the ideas.
After the statement of the problem the investigator begins observation. Observation implies selection. Hence the observation of selected parts of nature means limiting what is to be observed. This limitation is to be decided on the basis of what is significant, relevant and important for an understanding of the problem and its solution. Modern scientific inquiry depends not only on empirical observation but also heavily upon indirect methods of observation. One does not observe electrons directly. Observations in these matters are done indirectly using instruments or through certain other cues. Sense perception still plays a crucial role and the language in which the sense/perception is stated is generally of a descriptive, classificatory type.
The vocabulary used in the description of sense perception may not have "critical precision", in spite of efforts to avoid and not to reveal personal involvement. Sense perception leads to an appreciation of the surface structure, which, as we have stated already, cannot be identified with reality. More abstract and mathematical form of language with precise vocabulary seems to be the choice for stating this underlying reality. From the description of the surface structure we go to an explanation of the underlying reality. This underlying reality is usually observed only indirectly and is generally proved with the help of formulae, mathematical calculations and other instrumental devices. Hence a change from one form of expression, from the descriptive and classificatory language to mathematical formulae and abstract language, is warranted. And yet the linguistic conditions for expression of surface structure appearances as well as the underlying reality are the same: language used must be public, precise, devoid of ambiguities, coherent, cogent and relevant. In some sciences the descriptive statements adopted for the surface structure may be used for a characterization of the underlying reality also.
Sense perceptions are, strictly speaking, private. But they have to be translated into a public language for the communication to be effective. Sense perceptions by themselves are not a subject matter of study in a field other than, perhaps, psychology. Sciences use sense perceptions as a tool to acquire knowledge and to talk about objects and events. These objects and events are not broken down further into sense perceptions. Sense perceptions have their reality in these objects and senses.
From observation we go to description. We adopt precise definitions so that a specific word or phrase has the same meaning to all scientists and in all its occurrence within the scientific inquiry. A scientist observes and makes an immediate recording of the data he observed in a notebook. He makes a conscious effort to avoid biases. As we already stated we select a material for observation and in this process we may have been led by some kind of hypothesis. This is unavoidable and without this we would not know as to what we should observe. However, it is important that what led to selection of a material for observation should not come to restrict our observations. We should arrange the conditions, and make observations in such a way that the observer's bias will not distort the observations.
Because analysis and conclusions depend upon what is being observed, checks and repetition of scientific work must be welcomed and encouraged to confirm the analysis and conclusions. Again for obtaining validity and confirmation a scientific observer is required to allow others to have a glimpse of the phenomena in which he is interested. Some events cannot be reproduced at will and may occur rather rarely. These will require multiple independent observers in addition to instrumental recording of the phenomena. Instruments are sometimes meant to be used to attain greater objectivity. All these necessitate the use of commonly accepted technical terms with commonly accepted meanings.
There is a tendency these days for the scientific observation to be rather excessively quantitative. Another feature is the use of instruments that we have already referred to. Greater objectivity is one of the reasons for accepting these two trends. However, interpretation is an intense mental phenomenon. To that extent these trends seem to be misdirected. It is for the practising scientist to decide the kind of objectivity, and such a decision should be based on principles that can be explicitly formulated.
There have been questions raised as to whether repetitions of a phenomenon are, indeed, possible. Some believe that every phenomenon is unique by itself and, therefore, cannot be observed again - conditions in which the phenomenon is "repeated", will never be the same. But this is an extreme view. Although the conditions in which "repetitions" were sought have been a subject matter of controversy both in philosophy and sciences, scientists do have certain ways of ensuring the occurrence of same conditions. One event is considered to be the cause of another event if by suppressing the previous one we can suppress the latter. If this is not possible, both events may be the effect of a third event. A scheme of connections is sought. Prediction and control, thus, are important activities in science.
The problem is usually broken into a number of parts for separate and concerted treatment. That is, the problem will be analysed into parts, but this analysis is possible only if there are mutually interacting and at least partly independent parts. Analysis is accompanied by simplification - abstraction of features from real events to create idealized events, and derivation of simplified events from the idealized events. Generally an attempt is made to construct a real situation or an approximation to a real situation through a synthesis of relatively simple parts.
After the selection of the part and its observation comes the stage of hypothesis. Hypothesis may be considered as trial idea about what is being observed. It begins at the observational stage or even before it along with the very conception of the problem. Some hypotheses are mere generalizations of observations. Some may posit connections between events and some may posit cause and effect relationship. Analogy, metaphor, imagery and so on are employed in formulating hypotheses. A hypothesis does not prove anything until and unless it is tested. One is tempted to accept and behave as if a hypothesis itself is conclusion or proof of what is being proposed. One has a tendency to propose a hypothesis upon which another hypothesis and upon which still another hypothesis is proposed - all along giving an appearance that the preceding one is the proof for the succeeding one. This is an illusory act 'about which we should indeed be very cautious. Scientific writing and pursuit through Indian languages (for that matter, in developing languages in general) suffers from this defect. A hypothesis not tested and validated should not be taken for a law. As it has been correctly pointed out in many textbooks, probability is not a substitute for evidence, however great may be our wish or need for believing it to be so.
We have already referred to the role played by induction and deduction in the history of scientific method. Presently, for most of our scientific work, induction seems to be the basic method. Induction is defined as 'the process of drawing inferences about a whole class from observations on a few of its members'.
Testing of hypotheses would include seeing whether or not the generalization suggested by the hypothesis holds for the cases observed. Testing may lead to refinement, elaboration or rejection of the hypothesis depending upon the new facts brought out by observations. On the basis of the above, new hypotheses may also be proposed and attempts made to test them. A hypothesis is a hypothesis only if it fits the facts on hand and is compatible with the rest of the data as well as with the other assumptions of science. The last condition should be so interpreted as not to eliminate proposals suggesting changes in fundamental assumptions of a discipline.
Scientists make a distinction between a condition that is necessary for the truth of some statement and a condition that is sufficient. Suppose that we place a condition that a number end in a zero. This condition is sufficient to prove that the number is divisible by 5. However, this condition is not necessary. We may also have a condition that a number be even for its divisibility by 6. This is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient. Note that it is both necessary and sufficient that a number be even for its square to be even.
We have already referred to the fact that scientific truth should not be considered as a statement of absolute truth. Scientific truth is valid truth, and is of a long-standing nature. But scientists as a rule will not accept that a finding on a particular matter is the last word on that matter. Because of this voluntarily assumed temporary nature of scientific truth, the language stating the findings and conclusions of a scientific inquiry is generally of a guarded nature, there being no reference to the permanence of facts. In addition, the desire to describe a new phenomenon under observation in terms of familiar concepts has led to widespread use of all kinds of illustrations and models.
Model building is a favourite game in sciences, which deal with material for the proof of which indirect observation is the main method or at least one of the chief methods. In its advanced stage a science seeks to build its theory not on the basis of low-level empirical facts through empiricism only, but also through indirect observation, references based upon rational deductions and proof. In all these cases the unfamiliar is sought to be explained with the help of the familiar and the concrete. And in this effort, we find the use of analogy in language of sciences; we find also its merits and weaknesses. Scientists should know the limits of such model building and the limits of use of such language. For such model building can lead to a narrow view, which in its turn, leads to comparisons, and deductions based on materials of no direct relevance.
In designing an experiment, thus, an investigator must have a good basic understanding of the nature of the problem, and associated theories and research already done. He should be able to break the problem into smaller parts for observation. He must devise crucial experiments. In order to carry out the experiment successfully he must have a clear idea of what the experiment is about. He must be able to identify the essential characteristics - the variables, both controlled and experimental. He must be able to undertake the sampling. These are various types of controls, which we have not dealt with here. The investigator must make a conscious effort to eliminate bias through methods such as randomisation. This preoccupation with the avoidance of bias of different sorts at all costs is the basis for impersonal language insisted upon in reporting scientific findings.
There are a large number of statistical methods that are applied in processing data. These methods are now part of the scientific method. The investigator must know how to handle the apparatus - how to prepare appropriate apparatus. The rich data obtained through an inquiry must be processed and conclusions arrived at. In this last phase, the imagination, critical acumen and composite background of the scientist will be found more than desirable. One would also find out easily that no amount of mathematical formulae would be a substitute for the above. Likewise, ordinary language, which at times is considered a hindrance for precision, will be found extremely handy in expressing truths in a much more elegant manner. Symbolic logic is of no use in simple problems, as it is found to be slower and more confusing than ordinary verbal processes, hence the need to emphasize ordinary verbal language also for the expression of sciences. We must bear in mind that sections of science are amenable to different kinds of language - verbal, symbolic, algebraic, etc.
In a section of a subsequent chapter we discuss style sheets of journals, the requirements of a good scientific style and so on. Further in chapter 6, we discuss the points that should be imparted to mother tongue and second language users of scientific language.
We would like to emphasize in this section that no scientific inquiry is complete unless its findings or lack of them are reported. Science progresses by bits and pieces, but at times the progress may occur by leaps and bounds, through a sudden blossoming of a new astounding idea. (See Kuhn (1962) for an exposition of this theme.) Whatever it may be, the idea must be reported to the practitioners of the field. This is done through articles, notes, books, letters and so on. Each of these forms has its own format. The general format of such materials, especially the most popular of present times, namely, articles, is as follows: title, abstract, introductory section, general description of the method used, details of experimental set up, actual data obtained, discussion of the analysis of data, conclusions of analysis and acknowledgements, followed by appendices and references. The readership aimed at is generally well defined in articles on specified fields. The sentences, sentence patterns and words used also seem to be more or less well defined. Most reports will use certain words and phrases more often than others. As the focus is on particular concepts, sentence patterns used are of a limited range in articles.
3.14. Types of Scientific Language
We have earlier raised a question as to whether there is or there can be a single language of science. Our answer to the question was that each discipline may have a language of its own but the languages of various sciences share a common mode and convention. This mode and convention may be the language of science from which the languages of particular sciences draw their rules and regulations. We have, to some extent, contrasted the use of language for science with the use of ordinary language. There are, however, many areas that do not fall within the area of sciences, but still use some sort of a language of science for necessity or for ornamental purposes. These areas and the languages they use are a sort of link between the language of science and ordinary language, between sciences and everyday existence.
To a layman science generally means technology. He tends to measure the greatness or usefulness of a scientific field from the technology or the day-to-day applications it has given rise to. However, technology is not science, because science, by definition, is primarily a quest for knowledge, whereas technology is a quest for the application of sciences. And yet application brings with it a set of new knowledge, which may contribute to an enrichment or refinement or rejection of knowledge given by science. However, the impact of technology on human life has been, indeed, great. The changes brought by it have been of a far reaching and of a fundamental nature. Equally important is the influence of technology on languages and cultures. It is not an exaggeration when we say that the flow from the language of science to the ordinary language is generally through technology.
A commonly followed classification of the types of language used in sciences and related activities are as follows: technical language, workshop language and consumer language. It is the first variety that is used in pure sciences. The second variety is used in technological level, where applications are aimed at. The third variety is generally meant for a non-scientist. The technical language is the subject matter of our study. The other two varieties depend upon it for most of their core concepts and may be considered as resulting from a process of simplification to suit the users and uses in the second category and to suit the target audience in the case of the third category. A technical language, as we have seen and asserted, is marked by its formal style. The workshop language tends to have a style closer to that of ordinary language. In fact it may be considered as an expression lying between scientific and consumer languages. Workshop language borrows from dialects whereas the technical language is marked by its standardized vocabulary and a choice and use of selected sentence patterns.
The consumer or the sales language is marked by a blend of colloquial and other catchy expressions. It is much closer to ordinary language than the workshop language. Science language takes the conceptual framework as its focus. The workshop language presents things in a concrete form with illustrations. The workshop and sales languages introduce sentences and words with or without specified meanings. There is more of metaphor, analogy, imagery, abbreviation, idiom, slang, colloquialism, informality and familiarity. It is as if these devices are employed to reduce the burden. They have a function similar to the one performed by the work-songs. As opposed to the above, the sales language has persuasion as its main focus. Think of the silk merchant of Oliver Goldsmith! The success of the sales language is measured and judged by the quantum of sales it makes. Accordingly, it should have a charm, fancy and fashion, most of these being of a transitory nature just as fashions are.
The Workshop language is an heir of the old artisan languages. In the sales language scientific words are generally used out of a compelling need. In the workshop language, there is a tendency to replace a scientific word by a common or a code name in the workshop language. Human languages differ from one another in the choice of sentence patterns for the technical, workshop and sales languages. We shall discuss the preferred patterns as found in technical language in chapter 5. We shall, however, point out here that in English the passive sentence pattern is preferred for the technical language, non-passive for the workshop languages and verbless constructions for the sales language.
Other classifications are also available. Some classify the expressions into ordinary language, scientific language and an intermediary used in popular science. Some others insist upon a distinction between fundamental science, technical applications, science as taught and popularised, and specific lexicon belonging to a particular branch of science and technology. For instance, André Phal (1968), a French linguist, suggests that the system of scientific language is not substantially different from that of ordinary language. He draws our attention to the need for a wide vocabulaire usuel and to the different degrees of specificity in scientific terminology. He suggests five subdivisions:
- There is an extremely esoteric vocabulary, which is not scientific. This vocabulary may, however, adhere to certain trades and applied techniques.
- There may be common and banal words in specialized sciences also. But these may be used with appropriate restrictions or limitations.
- Much of the vocabulary of science is borrowed from nontechnical spheres.
- Words from Greek and Latin form only a part of scientific language.
- And technical vocabulary may be considered as specific to a given technology.
Hilton (1971), looking at the language of mechanical engineering, divides it into the following:
- A general language of science and reasoning, including space and time relations.
- An intermediary area of applied science to which belongs the terminology of force, stress, etc., that is, terminology common to science and ordinary language, originally from the latter.
- The language in which items such as engines and cars described to the wider public.
- And the vocabulary, which includes workshop tools, a long list of machine, parts, bearings, gears, etc.
In all the above, it is clear that a distinction is identified and maintained between ordinary language and scientific language on the one hand, and scientific language and language of applications on the other. This gives us a broad picture of language use.
The Prague School of linguistics argues in favour of a functional approach to the study of language and recognizes that each "functional dialect and style" has its own linguistic devices and modes of utilization. Each functional use of language, thus, has its own "natural" way of expression - its own "automatisations". The use of automatisations of one functional use of language in another functional use of language leads to foregrounding. By automatisation we refer to the stimulus normally expected in a particular situation. Foregrounding refers to a stimulus not expected in that particular situation and which, thus, provokes special attention. Yet another process is intellectualisation. This process leads us to the goal of making precise, rigorous, abstract statements, and to the development of capabilities to express the continuity and complexity of thought.
In essence, the process of intellectualisation reinforces the intellectual side of speech. It culminates in scientific language to 'reflect the rigour of objective (scientific) thinking in which the terms approximate concepts and the sentences approximate logical judgements'. Intellectualisation leads to expansion of the vocabulary by new terms and also to changes in the structure of the lexicon. It brings to the fore the need for unequivocal words, special distinctions between words of rather synonymous dimensions and the need for words which would make abstract summary (to capture the conceptualisation through single words or phrases). Intellectualisation affects the sentence structure also. Certain preferences for one or the other sentence structure are exhibited. A desire to achieve a parallelism between the grammatical and logical structures is also manifest.
The concept of the language of science as visualized and described by the Prague School of linguistics may be seen in the background of everyday language and workaday language. Simple intelligibility characterizes the everyday language. In this language specificity or definiteness between the utterance and the object referred to by the utterance is given by convention, by the situation in which the utterance is uttered and by the shared knowledge of various circumstances by the participants. The objectivity is thus coloured and is quite limited. In workaday language, specificity or definiteness is clear, given by convention, by decisions and also by the objectivity of the utterance. The utterance is understood independent of the concrete situation and personage.
The language of science is characterized by its accuracy. The language is defined and codified. Definition, and codification or convention gives the words and phrases accurate meaning. Even the new words and phrases a scientist uses would be given a definitely delimited meaning. That is, all these expression are automatised. These phrases and words lose their automatised character and become either unintelligible or foregrounded when used in utterances meant for non-specialists. This becomes clear when we compare a statement in the language of science used in theoretical formulation with the one having the same content but used for purposes of popularisation or workaday communication.
To quote Havrinek (1932), 'we see clearly that, with essentially the same subject matter (the same thematic plane), the linguistic shape of the utterance (the grammatico-semantic plane) changes in accord with its purpose, and that one of the basic components of this difference is the difference in automatisation: a scientific subject matter must be rid of technical automatisations in a popular presentation (journalistic and the like) and be expressed, at least in part, by means of the automatisations of everyday language and everyday subject matter acquires in scientific styling, instead of the automatisations of conversational speech which would be preserved in case of a popular presentation, the corresponding automatisations of technical language'.
When the automatisations of the language of science or of workaday language are used in conversational speech, these become foregrounded. In essence, according to the Prague School of linguistics, the language of science is directed towards an accurate description of the content, the workaday technical language towards a definite, clear and specific expression and the conversational speech towards a generally accessible communication. In the language of science and also in workaday language continuity of the expression is maintained only through the linguistic aspects used. (Situation, personages, etc., do not have a significant role.) The language of science, moreover, aims at achieving a maximum parallelism between the linguistic expression and the gradual development of the subject matter. In workaday language, however, a conscious attempt is made to disturb this parallelism through several devices such as frequent repetition of the same subject matter in different words, asking questions to the listener or the reader, and leaving gaps in the expressions to be filled in by the listener or the reader. As a consequence, only the "high" points in the thematic progression are dealt with in the workaday language.
An interesting point of investigation within the framework of Prague School is about the likely differences in the scientific discourses of men and women. Tesitelova (1978) identifies certain differences in the manner scientific language is used by men and women. The monological discourses of women show a tendency towards shorter communication and a more concentrated concern for the theme. This concern leads to the occurrence of a large number of thematically conditioned words (mostly terms). In general, however, the line of difference is dependent more on the speaker's line of specialization than on gender.
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4.1. Words as Labels for the Categorization of the Universe
Language provides us with a scheme to classify and categorize the universe of experience. A language may be viewed as a scheme of the knowledge that is acquired and transmitted by the culture of a society that uses it. It provides us with a picture of the acquisition and maintenance of knowledge by a community. The structures of a language with its categories may be considered as reflecting the categorization of human experience. Thus a basic categorization of the universe through language pre-exists the birth of an individual.
The individual while acquiring the language of his community acquires through it a classification and categorization of his universe of experience. There are differences of opinion as to the influence of language over this classification and categorization. A recent trend is to accept that, in some sense, the language we use may come to control our perceptual processes of the external world, but at the same time the human organism has a capacity to go beyond this control and work out his own classification with or without the help of his language. When an individual finds that the events and objects of the universe require a classification and categorization wider and more specific than the one provided by the language available to him, the individual finds ways and means to make the language evolve in such a way as to meet the requirements of this expanding horizon. Based upon the given classification and categorization of the universe as revealed through his language, the individual goes on to build up his scheme.
When many individuals are engaged in the same activity, the necessity to understand each other forces them to maintain a commonness to a certain extent. With the emergence of narrow specialization this commonness is being slowly eroded. However, the efforts to maintain communication within the branches of a discipline and across disciplines continue in spite of the rapidly increasing intense narrow specialization. One of these efforts is related to the coinage of technical terms, which sometimes aims at the reduction in the proliferation of technical terms, and, on other occasions, to base the coinage of newer terms on the basis of established ones. That is, even now efforts are made to maintain a common base for the technical terms of sub-branches of a discipline on the one hand and across disciplines on the other.
There are two things that continue to contribute to commonness. The first one is the fact that even as the scientific pursuit emerged from the day-to-day activities, scientific concepts also originated from the common language. The second one is the fact that in course of tbeir history all disciplines evolve a system for the coinage of terms and this system comes to regulate even the sub-disciplines and narrow specializations.
4.2. Spontaneous and Scientific Concepts
We said earlier that an individual acquires a range of concepts and a scheme to classify and categorize the universe. The concepts that are acquired by an individual in the process of the acquisition of his first language may be considered spontaneous concepts whereas the scientific concepts are acquired at a conscious level as part of the processes of the acquisition of language in schools. Acquisition of scientific concepts takes place in instructional situations. The use of the word scientific here is rather misleading, for, several of the spontaneous concepts are in no way less scientific. However, the distinction is necessary and is useful to bear in mind when we talk of the coinage of technical terms. The spontaneous concepts have a ready made label available in the language whereas the scientific concepts have to be provided with labels as and when they are identified. There are two types of processes. In the first one, a concept is arrived at and identified independent of any language label. That is, after the identification of the concept, a label to the identified concept is given. In the second category a new or a modified concept emerges on the strength of the restatement of the problem in the language. These two cases are interconnected and cannot be really kept apart.
4.3. Is the Technical Term Only a Noun?
We have already referred to the fact that each language provides its speakers with a scheme of classification and categorization of the universe. This scheme is revealed in the structural organization of the human language. Each human language has terms to indicate objects, events, actions, to qualify actions and objects, for negation, to make conditional statements, and so on. These categories are generally called grammatical categories and the discipline of linguistics investigates their nature and use. In their efforts to find formal criteria (based on what shape an item takes, what affixes it accepts, in what places does it occur, etc.), linguists have been more successful in presenting independent criteria for the grammatical category noun, whereas one faces difficulty in identifying independent criteria for verb.
Ancient Greek philosophers quarrelled among themselves as to whether an object is called by a particular name because of its intrinsic quality or because of pure convention. Ancient Tamil grammarians of South India generally distinguished between two types of names. One type of names is given, occurring as mere arbitrary tokens. No rhyme or reason could be found as to why an object is referred to with a particular label. The other type of names is also arbitrary, but a reason may be adduced as to why such a term is used, or why the object referred to by the term is so called. Thus, across cultures there had been questions raised about the status of names given to various objects and events.
The question as to whether a technical term is only a noun can be answered from two angles. The first one is as follows. If we consider a term as representing a concept, one can visualize it as a single entity, a single entity in isolation, in fact, as something static. Once we consider what is conveyed as static, one can also consider it as an object. Once it is considered as an object, concrete or otherwise, a technical term may be considered only as a noun, because the noun, by a notional definition, refers to objects, qualities, etc. From the other angle we look at the problem raising questions as to how a technical term is put into use in a sentence, and how it co-occurs with other words in a sentence. From this point of view a technical term may be a noun, a verb, an adjective or even an adverb. Thus, when taken as representing a concept, a technical term may be considered as a noun whereas by its use in a sentence, it can be any one of the major grammatical categories. In spite of this latter possibility a vast majority of the technical terms happen to be used as nouns only. We shall take up the characteristics of technical terms in a little more detail, but before that let us consider what a word is, since the general impression is that a technical term is a word and that it works as a word.
4.4. What is a Word?
Word refers to many things. Some identify it with language, some with message, some with sounds, some with sentences and some with lines of songs. In the various script systems employed for European languages and also in many other languages, which employ the above script systems, sentences are separated from one another through the use of special marks of punctuation such as full stop, question mark and exclamation mark, and also by capitalizing the first letter of the first word in each sentence. Within each sentence words are separated from one another by spaces. An item that occurs between spaces in a printed text is considered a word. For example, matchbox becomes a single word and match box two words. Insertion of a hyphen makes a sequence of items a single but a longish (many a time awkward) word. A word is assumed to be made of sequences of sounds represented in writing with letters, one letter for each sound generally, and have, by definition, some meaning. As words are composed of sounds, sentences, clauses and phrases are composed of words. Ability to split utterances into words is found in members of all societies, both literate and preliterate, among literates and illiterates.
Three criteria are generally proposed to recognize/identify a stretch of utterance as a single word. These are the criteria of potential pause, use of a single speech melody, and segmentability. The word unacceptable is composed of three meaningful units, two of which, namely, accept and able occur as independent units. If we remove the unit able from unacceptable, the remaining part unaccept does not occur and is not a correct form. If we remove the prefix, the rest can still occur as a correct form, but un cannot occur alone on its own. Such a notion of segmentability is also used to define words.
In another definition, units like book and books are considered different forms of the same word. This is the concept called lexeme, which indicates the underlying word. This underlying word can have different manifestations. Lexemes are the underlying invariant units. Some have defined word as the union of a particular meaning with a particular complex of sounds capable of a particular grammatical employment. But this definition is applicable also to phrases. For Bloomfield, word is a minimum, free form. Forms that never occur alone as whole utterances are bound forms. Forms, which may occur alone as utterances, are free forms. Any free form, no part of which is itself a free form, is a word. (Note, however, that the words such as the, and and a never occur "independently". They are independent words but they can occur only when syntactic frames need their occurrence).
Two other criteria used to define the word are mobility and un-interruptibility. A characteristic of the word is 'that it tends to be internally stable in terms of the order of its constituents but positionally mobile, that is, permutable with other words in the same sentence'. We mean, by interruptibility, the possibility of inserting other elements between the constituents of a word. These two and other criteria suggested earlier must, however, be handled with great care because what we call word in one language may be a different unit in another language. In agglutinating languages in which one word is fused into another in an utterance with or without corresponding changes in the form, the distinction between word and phrase tends to disappear. However, the concept of word seems to be a psychological reality, since, as we have already pointed out, the ability to split utterances into words is found in members of all societies, both literate and preliterate, among literates and illiterates.
4.5. The Use of Words
In the earlier sections we suggested that a language provides its speakers with a tool to classify the universe and that the parts of speech identified for a language may be considered as a rough base of the classification of the universe by a language. Further we suggested that the entire set of words a language has may be considered as a reflection of the concepts of universe, collected, stored and used in that language. An individual is not, however, restricted to the stock of concepts in the storage of a particular language. He has an inherent capacity to go beyond these stored concepts of a language, to acquire new concepts through another language or through the use of his own language. Furthermore, we discussed the notion of word and concluded that even though word is difficult to define it has a useful place in the description of language, especially when we wish to talk of certain specialized uses of language. However, it is necessary that we understand how a word is used, and what its potential for deriving new words and co-occurrence restrictions are.
Language is regular because it has a system. This system is built up by several levels. All the units within this system have two basic characteristics and these basic characteristics control their use. The first characteristic is as to what other elements a particular unit/element can occur with and in which order. The second one is as to what other units/elements in the language can occur in similar manner. The first is the syntagmatic relationship and the second paradigmatic relationship. An item in the chain of speech suggests other items to us on the basis of its resemblance or difference from them in terms of meaning or form or distribution. Every linguistic unit is somewhat restricted with respect to the contexts in which it can occur. These paradigmatic and syntagmatic relationships are also relevant at the word level and at every level of linguistic description. In fact linguists assert that linguistic units have no validity independent of their paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations with other units.
The linguistic sign, according to linguists, unites not a thing and a name, but a concept and an acoustic image. It is a psychic entity with concept and acoustic image as its two sides. The concept is called signifié and the acoustic image is called a significant. A combination of the two is the linguistic label, linguistic sign. (Note that even when the technical terms are made of non-linguistic symbols such as numbers and other pictorial representations they have to be deliberated through language using its phonological, syntactic and semantic structures.) If we assume that, since they are expressed through language, the technical terms are linguistic signs, there must be a concept as well as an acoustic image. It looks as though the quality of the acoustic image will vary depending upon the competence of the user in the language, which supplies the technical terms.
A vast number of technical terms are derived from Latin. The pronunciations of these Latin terms vary in European languages. Because of this variation found in the pronunciation of a vast number of technical terms of Latin origin, the acoustic images of such technical terms also vary even among the users of European languages. For the non-European users with no competence or background in European languages, the acoustic images of such terms will be far removed from the original and in some cases may work only as visual cues for the concepts. Even though, to a large extent, the printed forms of technical terms act more like visual cues, in most cases these visual cues lead to the activation of the acoustic image in the minds of the readers. But in cases referred to earlier (i.e., the use of several Latin terms in non-European languages) such visual cues need not lead to an activation of the correct acoustic images. In many cases they lead, indeed, to an activation of acoustic images that are far removed from the original forms of the acoustic images.
Scientific activity is not carried on only at the reading and writing levels of language. One has to employ the speaking and listening skills as well. For communication in this area to be effective, the pronunciations of a technical term should have a certain amount of commonly accepted features. Furthermore, the practitioners of a science should have a certain level of listening competence that enables them to recognize the terms in spite of variations in the pronunciation of these terms. In view of the fact that scientific concepts are expressed using linguistic structures, an acoustic image is to be included even for those technical terms, which are at times presented only as visual cues. Such cues are like traffic signboards. The signs are understood and followed without positing any acoustic base. But, if we are to report on the signs found on the boards, we have to use language to engage ourselves in effective communication.
4.6. Backgrounds of Technical Terms
As knowledge of scientific concepts pours into the disciplines of science from diverse cultural and linguistic areas, it is but natural that the body of technical terms represents terms with diverse linguistic and cultural origins. For historical reasons not connected with the sciences, as well as for reasons that are directly connected with the history of several sciences, which have had their early origins in the western world and a firm developmental base in the same continent, most of the technical terms come from the languages of Europe.
With the spread of sciences, with the intense narrow specialization and with the demands for education through mother tongues or national languages, two trends that are in conflict with one another have emerged. The need for effective communication between scientists of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds requires the retention and maintenance of technical terms that are common to all the practitioners irrespective of the diversity in their cultural and linguistic backgrounds. But there are factors, which force the scientists of a society to coin their own technical terms in their national language in place of the terms of international use. These factors include the urge to maintain one's national identity, the urge to meet the demands of education through the mother tongue or the national language, the long entrenched tradition of local and native scientific pursuits and the avowed conventions of linguistic usage of a society. These two conflicting trends are noticeable in all the societies, strangely enough even in European languages that are considered as developed when compared to the languages of Asia and Africa.
As modern sciences evolved from folk beliefs and folk practices, the terms used for the expression of scientific concepts have also their origin in the folk language. Thus, as and when refinement and rigour were required, the terms used for the expression of scientific concepts were sifted out from the common language and were given and used with specific and codified reference. These form the first category of technical terms in any language.
The second category includes those terms that come into existence in the language if the concepts are suggested and codified first in that language. When scientific concepts were adopted on a massive scale because of the newness of the concepts as well as the newness of agencies and systems that impart such concepts, there may be a large-scale importation into a language of technical terms that have their origins in the languages of other societies. Further, a language other than the one spoken by the vast majority may have been historically used as the medium of sciences, as was the case in medieval Europe. This situation also may lead to a large-scale use of words that have their origins elsewhere.
In yet another category, users of a language may not at all accept any terms that have their origins in another language and may at all times aim at coining their terms in their own language. That is, there are a number of variables that should be considered: how do the users of a language view the use of terms that are imported into their language; how do they exploit the terms that are already available in their language to express a related but newly founded concept; what is the state of (quality of) scientific research carried out using that language as the medium; what are the programmes for the coinage of terms; is the coinage a translation process or is it an integral part and a consequence of the state of scientific research carried out in a community through its language; what is the nature of the genius of the language in terms of productive coinage facilities and in terms of adaptation and adoption of terms with origins in other languages; what are the compelling needs of the profession within the community through whose language the scientific pursuit is carried out as well as the needs of the profession across diverse linguistic communities?
In general, the following points may be considered in order to understand the processes of coinage and use of technical terms: one should consider, first of all, the science, its requirements in a particular period of study, its state of art in a particular period of study and its state, of art in the society's institutions at the time of study. Though the scientific concepts are available in a discipline, the absorption of these concepts and their expression in languages will differ from society to society depending upon each society's development with regard to science.
Secondly, we should consider the role of the scientist in the discipline, as a professional practitioner of the discipline and as an individual using a particular language for the expression of sciences. In all these, he is governed by certain social norms of his society.
Thirdly, we must consider the genius of a particular language that is being used by the scientist for the expression of his concepts. The genius of the language may be looked at from two different but related angles. In the first, we identify the structural mechanisms that are provided by a language for the coinage of technical terms. This angle would include answers to questions such as what potential a language has with regard to absorption of concepts, that originated in a different linguistic background, and, are there devices in the language that help a scientist to derive and express a related concept using an already existing term in an extended sense. In the second category we consider the different types of linguistic conventions and linguistic trends for the adoption, coinage and adaptation of technical terms. In this category come the trends such as maintenance of purity, and maintenance of original forms, and such other factors that are the guiding principles for the coinage of technical terms, in fact, for the coinage and acceptance of any term. In this we do not study the structural mechanisms of the language but only those psychic and social factors that govern the coinage, its use, adoption, adaptation, etc.
Fourthly, we must study the goals a society has set before itself with regard to scientific pursuits and the importance it attaches to these pursuits. We must also study how the society views the borrowing of terms, its relationship with other societies which speak languages different from its own language, and the trends with regard to the maintenance of self-identities and so on.
Another point that one should consider in studying the coinage of technical terms is as to what formal agencies are there for the coinage of technical terms, their policies and an evaluation of their influence in not only the coinage of terms but also in the use of the terms.
Sixthly, we may consider also the other informal agencies that may have existed or exist which engage themselves in such coinages of terms. Under this category one should consider the influence of newspapers and popular magazines. One should also consider the individuals and their views and works. These individuals may or may not be scientists but may be engaged in providing multi-disciplinary works. In fact, pioneers among these individuals have contributed a great deal in shaping the trends in the coinage of technical terms and their use in various developing languages. The conventions they have laid down in their pioneering works establish a foundation which is found difficult to replace even when such conventions are no more required or are in some cases real impediments.
Yet another point one should consider is the audience for whom the technical term is intended. This is related to the social conventions, background of the audience in terms of its acquaintance with the concepts being described, and the quality or competence of the scientist in the concerned language.
The needs of audience may have encouraged the scientific pursuits. But the identification of concepts and their labelling need not be directly influenced by the audience. It is when the communication of the concepts is thought of that the background of the audience becomes very important. In fact, the presence of the audience is a check on the growing alienation of technical language from the common language use. Yet another factor that is related to the background of the audience referred to above is the degree of literacy prevailing in the community. The motivation to write in a language known to the masses, when the masses themselves are an illiterate majority, may be very much less. The scientist seeking recognition of his works is then left with no choice except writing through a medium that is widely used. And as a result the quantum and kinds of technical terms in a language used by the illiterate majority will be found only of limited scope and range. In order to reverse this condition the agencies and pioneering individuals mentioned above work hard. But the extent of their success will depend ultimately on the values attached to the use of the native tongue and also on the potential of the medium to meet the challenge.
The growing intense specialization, the need to keep track of developments, the need for mutual communication along with the need of the nationality to develop its own identity and so on should be understood in depth to arrive at a correct picture of language use in science in the so-called developing and underdeveloped countries. We talk specifically about science through mother tongue in chapter 6.
Generally speaking, technical terms abound in certain fields. In these fields, due to the newness of the concepts or due to a desire to avoid the "misleading" influences of common language terms, a conscious effort is made to coin and use more and more technical terms. In fact it seems to us that every discipline at one time or the other of its developmental history falls a prey to this tendency. This happens more so when the discipline is still in its formative stages and has not yet acquired a respectable autonomy. Sometimes independence of a field is measured in terms of the number and kinds of technical terms! At the same time one notices a phenomenon in certain "mature" sciences to make less use of technical terms. In any case technical terms abound in texts that are meant for specialists. They are found in less number in texts meant for non-specialists. An attempt is made to keep the number to the minimum possible in texts meant for laymen. It also seems that there is an increased use of metaphor in popular science. This use is qualitatively different from the use of metaphor in theory construction and model building.
4.7. Language Mechanisms for Coinage of Terms
Let us now see, in brief, the mechanisms of language that play a role in the coinage of technical terms. There are two processes identified in language, namely, derivation and inflection. Derivation is a process by which one word is derived from the other. In derivation linguists list various processes whereby new words are formed from existing words (or roots): adjectives from noun (seasonal from season), nouns from verbs (singer from sing), adjectives from verbs (acceptable from accept) and so on.
Inflection is defined as a change made in the form of a word to express its relation to other words in the sentence. The grammars of particular languages, in their sections on inflection, will describe the "declensions" of nouns, adjectives and pronouns and the conjugation of verbs. Derivation is, thus, the process of word formation, and inflection the process of its use in phrases, sentences, etc.
The additions that take place in the word stock of any language may be of two kinds, broadly speaking: borrowing from other languages, and new words formed from existing materials. In the second category are the words that are formed by combining one morpheme (minimum meaningful unit) with another. There are single morpheme words (hope), two morpheme words (hopeful, mislead, untrue), three morpheme words (insufferable) and four morpheme words (ineffectively) and so on. Compounding is a process in which two or more words are combined to form a new word. By affixing a small element - prefix, suffix or infix -to another word, a new word may be derived.
A new word may also be formed through reduplication in which the same morpheme may be repeated in the same or altered form: hush-hush, helter-skelter, etc. There are three more such processes which are productive in English - productive in the sense that they are in active use to produce new forms. The first category is the back-formation by which buttle, giving the meaning "to pour out liquor", from the word butler is derived. The user has assumed that the word butler is actually formed from the word buttle. The second category is shortening. The substitution of a part of a word for the whole is done here. In its origin such substitutions may not be considered as derivation. However, such shortened forms may soon come to have different meanings or different shades of meanings. At this stage the process of shortening has led to the formation of a new word.
It may also happen that the longer form is used for some purposes wherein the other will not be used. There are words that have come into existence out of abbreviations used in writing. Initials of a phrase may be put together and a new word formed, many a time presenting a pronounceable sequence of letters. Such pronounceability of the abbreviated form ensures its word status. It is found that such abbreviations are often resorted to in the citation of Latin phrases, and, in modern usage, when attempts are made to find short forms for rather longish appellations of institutions, processes, chemical elements and so on.
The third category is called root-creation. Many words are not inherited from the older stage of a language, nor borrowed from any foreign language nor are they formed by way of derivational processes listed above. One of the forms of this root-creation is onomatopoeia. The sound of a word suggests symbolically a particular kind of movement or the particular shape of an object. One gets the feeling that the word has a peculiar relationship with what is being meant. Very often the sound of a word is assumed to have a real intrinsic significance by the users of that word. For instance, when a word with long vowels is pronounced slowly, it suggests slow movement; repetition of the same consonant suggests a repetition of movement. Frequent occurrence of short vowels suggests rapid movement. Occurrence of nasal sounds may suggest softness/sweetness. Sequences of consonants which are harsh to the ear or which involve difficult or rapid muscular effort, in their utterance are felt to be appropriate in words descriptive of harsh or violent movement. Such feelings, however, are generally culture-bound, although several of these processes and variables may be considered to he of a universal type. Root-creation as a process has been exploited by several scholars, poets and prose writers like Lewis Carroll. These root-creations exploit the syllabic structure of real words in the language.
Yet another process of word formation is called analogical creation. We are always in the process of analogising. Analogy leads to such incorrect forms as mans for men, sheeps for sheep, goed for went and reached for taught. Analogy is responsible also for many of our correct sentences, since we derive many of our longish sentences on the basis of analogical models.
Words are also formed through secondary associations. The phonemic shape of the word plus the context in which it is uttered often enables us to identify the word uttered. When it is uttered, a word activates in our memory certain other words on the basis of certain acoustic similarity existing between these words. If such acoustic similarity is related to their similarity in meaning, associations between these words will be strengthened. The acoustic similarity between these words may in course of time lead to new meanings, which in turn may lead to the formation of new words.
Each language has its own patterns in the creation of sentences. These patterns are responsible for the language user's understanding of sentences, which he may not have come across so far. Likewise coinage of words also favours certain patterns in a language.
Sometimes it may be easy to identify the person who first used a word, or to identify where and when it was first used. However, sources of origin cannot be identified with certainty for all the new words, because many words may have been created independently by more than one speaker.
We should also remember that adding one morpheme to another does not lead to the simple addition of their meanings. Compare boathouse with houseboat. A word is generally coined after the speaker has the meaning before him. We should also remember that languages do differ in the processes they employ for the coinage of new words. They may also differ in the rate with which they coin new words. Languages like English show a high degree of informality in coining new words, as aptly described, 'clutching at almost anything to nail up a new prefab.' There are languages like Tamil and official Hindi, and, to a certain extent, French, which refuse to clutch at things to nail up new prefabs. There are many reasons for such differences. We shall see some of these in a subsequent section.
4.8. Processes of Change: Forms
There are three main mechanisms or types of causes for change. These are sound change, borrowing, and analogical creation. Apart from the above three, there are several minor mechanisms, namely, contamination, metanalysis, metathesis, haplology, assimilation and dissimilation.
Sound change takes place sometimes as a gradual process, sometimes as a sudden process. Borrowing need not be necessarily from one language into another; it may be from one dialect into another of the same language. It may also be from one stage to another stage of the same language. Analogical creation is a productive process. Contamination is the effect exercised by one element of speech upon another with which it is customarily or accidentally associated. This results in several types of words, which include, among others, a word coined by combining the first part of one word with the second part of another, and, a word formed by combining parts of two or more expressions. Metanalysis is akin to contamination. But an older form is actually replaced by one that makes more sense to the speakers who introduce the new shape, as in the case of peas, which originally stood for singular. This was subsequently restricted to plural meaning and a new form, pea, came into use. Metathesis replaces an old form by a new one in which the two parts of the former have been interchanged. In haplology, one or two more or less similar sequence of phonemes is dropped. Assimilation makes one part of an utterance more like some nearby part in phonemic shape. When the two parts are adjacent, this may occur gradually as a part of sound change. But in distant assimilation other material intervenes. Dissimilation works in just the opposite way; where one would expect the same phoneme or sequence of phonemes twice, something else occurs in one of the positions. Dissimilarity develops between two identical or closely related phonemes.
Even though the scientific terms are expected to be of a fixed nature in meaning and form in a language, these terms are no exception to the processes of change. It is true that these changes may not occur at a pace similar to those in ordinary language. Not all the mechanisms of change need be represented in equal proportion in language of science. This holds true also for ordinary language. However, preferences exhibited by these two varieties for mechanisms of change may be different. Moreover, the rate at which changes in language of science take place may also differ from language to language.
The reasons for this differential rate may be twofold. Firstly, it depends upon the length of time in which a set of scientific terms has been used in a particular language. If a term has been used for a specific concept over a long period, its use for that concept is less likely to be changed. A change in form and in use is warranted or induced if there has been some change in the attributes of a concept. Secondly, the differential rate in change is due to the frequency with which the forms are used. In spite of its greater frequency an item is bound to change to some extent if there has been some change in the attributes of a concept. Changes, if any, must be seen from the point of view of form (in pronunciation and writing), meaning and distribution. The rate of change in language of science may seem to have been arrested due to the advent of printing, mass literacy, institutionalisation of scientific pursuits, the rigours and conventions that are now established for the expression of sciences, etc. But we believe that changes are being brought about in spite of the above listed reasons because of change in principles and precepts of sciences, of changing moods and ideas regarding the suitability of particular terms for the expression of concepts.
Languages do differ as to their preferences for methods and kinds of innovation. Even within a single language such differences are noticed from one period to another. Non-linguistic factors play a great part in this process. These include the social standing of the innovator, the conservatism or progressivism of the community, the community's desire or lack of it, for maintaining identity, the frequency of occurrence of competing forms, and the unobtrusiveness of the innovation itself. A form may be lost because of competing claims for use from another form or because the need for the use of that particular form may not be felt now. A form may have acquired some undesirable connotations in course of time and because of these undesirable connotations the form may have fallen into disuse and is ultimately lost. Some words may disappear because they have come to acquire one and the same shape, which results in misinterpretation.
Most of the technical terms have become international terms in the sense that the same terms, with or without modifications to suit the phonological and grammatical genius of particular languages, are being used in the languages of many nations. Such a situation may be considered as borrowing from one language (language of origin) to another. In ordinary language situations, two conditions are to be met for borrowing to occur: real or assumed comprehension of the items borrowed and some motive, overt or covert. The motives are of two types: prestige and need-filling. Prestige factor is responsible for extensive borrowing from a dominant language into the lower. The need-filling motive aims at filling a gap in the borrowing language. As far as scientific language is concerned, under the need-filling motive one would also include the compelling need to communicate with scientists all over the world, to understand and be understood. Scientists from the developing countries have a quicker "sale value" in developed countries if they are grounded well not only in the sciences but also through a language and through technical terms known to the "buyers".
There are several kinds of loans. One may accept a word from another language along with the object and/or practice. This loan word may undergo some shape change to suit the genius of the borrowing language. Loan words are almost always free form (words or phrases). Bound forms such as affixes are borrowed rarely. However, as regards the borrowing of technical words, we find a tendency not only to borrow free forms but also the derivational system of these words. This is true not only of technical terms of Latin origin used in European languages but also of technical terms of Sanskrit origin used in many Indian languages. We may borrow the term as well as the elaborate derivational system. In fact there are rules insisted upon by grammarians of Indian languages against the mixing of a Sanskrit term with the terms, including affixes, of borrowing modern Indian languages. (This does not mean, however, that such mixing never has taken place, although the tendency is to avoid it). The major drawback in borrowing both the words and the derivational system is that the borrowing language will have to set out in the course, charted by the donor language, which may at times be against the genius of the borrowing language. It may also result in restrictions in the use of derivational rules. Moreover, it so happens that the borrowing language often starts treating the entire form (the word plus the affix) as a single unit. Once this happens, the productive nature of the affixes used in derivations may be progressively lost.
When a speech community is confronted with a new object or practice for which it lacks words, it may accept the new object or practice but not the word in the donor's language. There are several reasons for this. Members of the borrowing community may have an urge to maintain the special identity and purity of their language as part of their efforts to maintain the community's identity.
The language of the borrowing community may follow certain linguistic conventions, which do not allow the borrowing of words from other languages. There may be compelling requirements of communication, which force the borrowing community not to accept the donor's word. For example, the scientists may think that the use of the donor's word may not be of much help in the popularisation of the concept (if the concept requires to be popularised), since the word may not be easily understood by the vast majority. They may not accept the donor's word for use even in technical literature since they may think that if the concept is presented through a native word or phrase the rational for and the composition of the concept can be better shown. (Components of the word will indicate the composition of the concept more easily in a native word or phrase than in the borrowed word whose composition may not be easily recognized or understood by the native scientists). They may also like the new concepts expressed following conventions already accepted for the use of technical terms in their language.
It is also likely that the donor's word is already there in the language of the borrowing community, but with a different meaning. Hence the use of the donor's word in the language of the borrowing community with the same sense intended in the donor's language may lead to confusion. There may also be compelling national attitudes towards the donor community which do not encourage the acceptance of the word. Hence the members of the borrowing community, while adopting the new object or practice, may coin their own word or phrase to refer to the new object or practice. They may also use a word already available in their language making suitable changes in meaning or by extending the coverage of that term to include the new object or practice. Or they may even borrow a word from a third language. They may identify a specific feature of the object or practice and coin a word focussing on that specific feature. Or they may literally translate the donor word into a word or phrase in their language. In the coinage of technical terms, the scientists of the borrowing community may or may not be guided by the structural composition of the word in the donor language. In any case all these attempts may be described as loan translation.
The move towards an internationally accepted common terminology is matched equally in its intensity by the tendency to prefer loan translation in languages of developing nations. Even in Western Europe this tendency existed and has been going strong along with the efforts for developing an international terminology. The Germany of' the 19th-century put up a strong resistance to loan words and this resulted in large scale increase of loan translations and also loan blends. (A loan blend accepts part of the borrowed item and replaces the rest by something already available in the borrowing language.
One should not assume that languages accept one of the above listed mechanisms to the exclusion of others. One should remember that all the languages have all the above listed mechanisms of borrowing in some degree or the other. That is, in the same language one will find the mechanisms of loan word, loan shift, loan translation as well as loan blend. However, languages are found to use some mechanisms more frequently. Hence languages can be classified on the basis of their preference for these mechanisms.
Languages can be classified also on the basis of the processes they employ for borrowing scientific words. Some languages, like English, prefer the loan word process as the dominant means of borrowing scientific terms. Some languages, like Tamil, prefer the process of loan translation. Some languages like official Hindi prefer the process of loan translation, but in certain cases, the concept is translated into another language, viz., Sanskrit, and then the Sanskrit term or its translation in Hindi is used. Hindi also resorts to loan blends and loan shifts. Some languages like Tamil prefer loan translation of the concept using words from past stages of their history. Only in a very few cases, arbitrary coinages - arbitrary because no rhyme or reason can be deduced - are resorted to.
The borrowed item has its own history of absorption into the language that has borrowed it. Sooner, or later, it takes a shape more in keeping with the inherited pronunciation habits of the borrowers and more in keeping with the spelling conventions of the language of borrowers. There has always been a controversy as to whether the borrowed item should be represented in writing in a spelling that reflects its pronunciation by the borrowers, or in a spelling that is used by the donor language. These issues are closely connected with the preferences shown by a borrowing language for processes of borrowing. These issues are hard to solve to the satisfaction of all the parties involved, because in addition to (or sometimes to the exclusion of) linguistic consideration, certain non-linguistic considerations are also involved. Furthermore, the loans are (generally speaking) not obtained directly from the original source of the item by a borrowing language.
More often than not borrowing is not direct; it may be through an intermediary language or dialect. This holds good for scientific words. Languages of India borrow scientific terms of Latin and other origins through English. Languages spoken in French Africa borrow the same technical terms through French. Tamil has borrowed many of its technical terms of Sanskrit origin not directly from Sanskrit but through various Prakrit dialects. In addition, a group of related languages may evolve a common manner of making loan translations. This often happens in the use of items borrowed from English, and Sanskrit into Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu of the Dravidian family of languages spoken in South India. In any case, adaptation follows a pattern imposed by the genius of the borrowing language. And very soon 'if many loan words come from a single source, there may develop a fashion of adaptation, which then makes for greater consistency in the treatment of further loans from the same source'. Languages develop certain nuances which indicate whether a particular item is borrowed or not, and also the source of borrowing. For instance, in English, the rules of pronunciation are different for the vocabulary items of Romanic origin. In Tamil, certain phonological changes are made when words of Sanskrit origin are borrowed.
4.9. Processes of Change: Meanings
So far we have seen how changes in words and word forms are brought about. Now we shall see how word meanings are also changed. There are several ways to look at how meanings of words change in a language. To find out the trends in changes of meaning has been a popular pursuit, but no systematic approach is yet commonly agreed upon. The meaning of the term "meaning" itself is in dispute. And yet when we look into the history of a language one is able to see certain directions in which meanings of an item have changed.
Words in ordinary language do not have fixed significations, unlike those in sciences. Fixed signification is true especially of the formulae. The symbols of sciences do not vary. The time, the context, the user, the environment and so on do not have any impact on the fixed meanings of scientific words. Moreover they refer directly to what they mean. Shades of meanings are not generally allowed. The meanings of words in ordinary language shift in many directions depending upon the complexity of the relationship between the word and the object or event it refers to. We have already referred to the fact that in ordinary language, complete objectivity as visualized in science is never intended. Some inaccuracy is tolerated. The information conveyed by the words may be, rather, incomplete in some manner in the ordinary language. In ordinary language a word or phrase may mean something at one stage and the opposite at another stage of its history.
There are many ways in which semantic changes are identified and classified. We shall classify them here into six types of changes. These are specialization, extension, radiation, metaphor, concretisation and deterioration. A word that has been used to refer to a group of objects or events that resemble each other in some manner soon comes to be restricted to one object or event. This results in the specialized meaning (or in the narrowing of the meaning). Specialization is a process conditioned also by the background of the user. For example, pipe evokes different images in the mind of the smoker, the plumber, the civil engineer, the geologist, the organist and boatswain (Savory, 1967). With an appropriate qualifier, this "ambiguity" will be resolved.
Breál, a well known French semanticist, states that 'if certain modifications of thought, expressed primarily by all words, are little by little restricted to a small number of words, or even to a single word which takes up on itself alone the whole function, specialization has taken place'.
Extension is defined as follows. Extension of a term is the class of entities to which the term is applicable or refers (the intension of a term is the set of attributes which characterize any entity to which the term is correctly applied. Extension and intension vary inversely in relation to one another: the greater the extension of a term, the lesser its intension, and conversely).
Closely related to extension is the semantic category metaphor. A natural connection is assumed between the original referent and the second one to which the word is now applied. The word mouth is used to refer to mouth of a river. One may cite several such examples. In the semantic category of concretisation, abstract qualities soon come to be treated in a concretised manner. In deterioration a word takes on a worsened meaning and very soon a substitute is devised. Euphemistic expressions generally take the place of the words that have undergone deterioration. Opposed to deterioration is the process of elevation in which words of low prestige come to be used with great prestige. In radiation, when a word is given a transferred sense, its synonyms develop along parallel lines.
It is often claimed that unlike the words in the ordinary language, the words of science do not change their meanings. It is also claimed that words of science do not form associations, which lead to change in the meanings. This is not always true, however. The changes in the meanings of words have been brought about by two processes - firstly, by a change in the assumptions and procedures - paradigms - of a science; secondly, through the inevitable contacts between the ordinary and scientific languages. Of the six broad types we have followed, specialization, extension and radiation are more common than the other three processes in the language of science.
The question of meaning is something which is intimately related to "concept" and, as concepts are those which are being named and given a fixed word in technical language, we have spent some time in elucidating how the meaning of a word, in fact, changes in ordinary language. In science, the words may have a fixed meaning but this fixed meaning can undergo changes as listed above once the word begins to be used in the ordinary language also. These changes that take place in the use of a word which is originally a scientific word, can affect, in course of time, the fixed meaning of a scientific word, consequently leading to its disuse in the science domain.
The notion meaning is, indeed, difficult to define and in any case it is beyond the scope of our present inquiry. We would only like to emphasize that only in ideal languages, each form may be associated with only one meaning and each meaning with only one form. To a large extent, this idealism is put into practice in the language of science. However, some sciences, like medicine, abound in forms that are all associated with the same meaning. The sciences grew out of folk practices; institutionalised scientific inquiry grew out of individual efforts. And because of these reasons, sciences would never be able to give up fully the original meanings of the terms taken from the ordinary language.
We shall now present a brief descriptive classification of words on the basis of meaning.
Different forms (words) having identical meaning are considered synonymous. The forms themselves are called synonyms. Two words are synonymous only if all the three components of meaning, namely, designation, connotation and range of application, are identical. However, there is no absolute synonymy in any language - absolute in the sense that two or more words have interchangeability in all contexts without the slightest change in meaning. There is a synonymic relation prevailing between the technical terms and the corresponding words/phrases used to refer to the concept (referred to by the technical term) in the ordinary language.
A homonym is the form with which two or more meanings are associated; that is, identical in phonological shape expressing, however, different unrelated meanings. For example, bank is used as a homonym in the following: bank of a river, bank for the deposit of money. Homonymic relationship is often found in language of science: plasma is used both in biology and physics; square is used in geometry and algebra; morphology is used in biology and linguistics. The homonymic relationship is generally identified when the same form is used across disciplines. In some cases one notices a homonymic relationship for a form even when it is used within a single discipline, as in the case of the term moment with the meaning of instant, a point of time, as opposed to the meanings found in expressions such as moment of inertia, bending moment, moment of momentum, etc., within the same field.
Homograph is used to indicate the form like lead which in the English orthography retains the same form, but has different pronunciations for different meanings: dog's lead and made of lead. Homographs have the same spelling but different meanings whereas homophones have different spellings but have the same pronunciation. Examples for the latter are right, rite, write, and wright.
In addition to the above, we have polysemy or multiple meaning. There is an indeterminate relation between polysemy and homonymy. Homonyms are given as different words in dictionaries, whereas multiple meanings are given under one and the same entry. When the relatedness of the meaning between the two is lost, or is perceived to be lost by the native speaker/user, it is homonymic relation that exists between the forms with same phonological shape. Homonymy starts where polysemy ceases. There is yet another category, namely, antonymy. But antonymy is of a different nature. Oppositeness of meaning, sometimes, is related to difference in meaning, sometimes to the negation of a meaning and some other times it may be based on several other distinctions.
In ordinary language, meaning of a word can generally be guessed on the basis of the contexts - formal and content - in which it occurs. This is possible in the language of science only under certain conditions. For example, if we are familiar with the scientific field, it may be possible, to some extent, to guess the meaning of a word or a phrase given in a text. As the word or phrase has a specified and fixed meaning, scientists could be misled by such guesses more easily and more often in the language of science. The homonyms are understood correctly on the basis of the context. One comes across difficulties in correctly comprehending the meaning of a technical term, if it is a homonym, in the absence of a larger context, as the same word is used as a technical term in different fields of science denoting different concepts. There are some expressions which one easily recognizes as technical terms and not as words of ordinary language. This recognition is done even when there is no additional context supplied. These include terms such as radar, laser and sputnik in English. There is something inherent in such words, sometimes the phonological shape, sometimes an indication that such words are derivations from or combinations of a number of words and sometimes their foreign origin, which makes one feel that these are technical terms.
We shall now see how well the term meaning is exemplified in the language of science through a characterization of definition.
Definition is an important tool for the process of scientific inquiry. A concept is identified, described, and its limits and spread well established in devising a definition for it. In essence, meaning of a word or phrase is well established for proper use in the making of a definition. Definition may be considered a naming process as well as a process of elucidating a word/phrase and its reference to a concept.
The process of arriving at a definition is somewhat closer to the way we teach vocabulary items not known to the learners. In the teaching of vocabulary items, we bring out their meanings in a number of ways. We may show the object or a picture of it and utter the word. We may explain the meaning by means of a paraphrase; we may explain the meaning by giving equivalent terms in another language known to the learners; or we may explain the meaning indirectly by indicating more complex relations between a term and other lexical units appearing in the context.
Although all the above may be considered as part of the definition-making process, in the sense that all these aim at specifying the meaning of the term, the paraphrasing activity plays a major part in the definition-making process. A definition, in any case, should not be considered as an illustration.
A definition is so framed that it applies to all instances of the thing to be defined. Two aspects should be considered here. The subject matter to be defined belongs to a general class of similar things while it also has its own characteristics which distinguish it from the members of the class to which it belongs. Hence a definition is expected to specify the general category as well as the specific qualities.
One should also consider the purpose for which the definition is meant. Some tasks require finer definitions and some require broader type of definitions. Because of this reason, definitions do not always include all the properties of a thing - only the significant ones are included. But, then, the decision as to which features are significant is, indeed, difficult to make and is based entirely on the consideration, in its entirety, of the subject matter under investigation, namely, the accepted principles of a discipline that focus on a particular quality and so on. In general, if the conception is of a complex nature, the task of working out an appropriate definition also becomes complex.
The following steps are generally recommended in the task of arriving at an appropriate definition: selection of a suitable word as a genus, framing up of the differences, identification of the qualities that are specific to the object and which are not shared by other objects, and characterization of the relationship between the specific properties. The definition generally involves a copula sentence and is in the following form: A .....................(the thing to be defined) is a ...................(the general class to which the thing belongs) which has…………………………..(those qualities that differentiate it from other members of the same class).
A technical term has the same sense as its definition. The term is used to conjure up in the minds of its users the references it has. It need not be the case that all the references a term has will be conjured up in the minds of its users, at least some of the references should be conjured up. A scientific term is expected to have a specific references reference to the concept it denotes. A definition covers the conditions in which the concepts referred to by the term are relevant. In defining a concept only those words and phrases that are already known well or defined clearly should be used. If some words, which are new, and/or are not defined have been used in framing a definition these words should be clarified immediately after the presentation of a term. As we have already pointed out, the sentence structure involved in framing definitions in English is generally of a copula type. In Tamil, definitions are presented using quotative sentence type which when put in English would read: A (thing) is thus called because...; the thing which is called (thing's name) is . . . etc. Variations in sentence structures are not, however, ruled out. Generally speaking, new terms are avoided in framing the definitions and a lot of synonyms are likely to be used in definitions.
Definitions are composed of technical terms and are composed to characterize the concepts indicated by the technical terms. Technical terms are to be considered special types of words. They have some of the characteristics of common names and are used as labels. In addition to being labels for the concepts they stand for, they may even have some of the ideas explicitly shown in their structural composition as words. Thus, the term can sometimes act as an index to the complexity of the idea. In the coinage of a term, adequate care is always taken so that the chosen term gives some clue or other to the underlying idea.
A technical term generally replaces long phrases, or even a complicated discourse, and its meaning is fixed by an agreement or definition, which in science receives explicit formulation and strict adherence. There are certain qualities a term is expected to have in sciences. These include brevity, lack of ambiguity (one term for one and the same concept), accuracy, meaningfulness through structural composition, simplicity in structure, euphony, international usage and capacity to form derivations with ease. Generally speaking, pursuit for a term begins after the identification of a concept. Identification of a concept involves demarcation of its boundaries to distinguish it from allied and/or opposed concepts and of the relationship that exists between the components that go into the making of the concept. Its uniqueness is to be identified. The coining of the term may be based on any one of these.
A term is a term, in the sense we have used the word here, only so long as it is part of a terminological system. A term is also a lexical item in the sense that it can be assigned to word classes (parts of speech) of a language, and can have various syntactic relations like ordinary lexical items. The technical terms of a discipline exhibit a more logical and explicit association than the lexical systems of ordinary language. (The lexical systems in the ordinary language are also governed by certain logical and linguistic relations. These relations are currently being investigated in a much more systematic manner than it was done in the past.)
A term is not a mere nomenclature; it belongs to a system of concepts, a system of terminology. It is related to the concept it denotes in a specific way, with a specific meaning. It has a denotation feature.
From among the several meanings a term used in ordinary language may have, the features that are relevant are retained in the meaning of the term. There may be additions, deletions and/or transformation of the meaning, when a word is coined and accepted as a term. Term construction generally follows the pattern of concept construction to the limit set by the general language from which the language of science has emanated. Aesthetic and emotive elements have a minor role to play in the coinage of terms. It has been rightly pointed out by many that the terminology of a science is part of its method and processes of discovery and is an essential element in the conceptual framework of the science. A new concept requires a new term to maintain its identity and to save itself from the onslaught of the meaning processed by a term that has been used to refer to a related concept. There are many instances in the history of sciences, which show the preference of scientists for new terms in the place of existing ones, especially when radically new concepts are involved.
There is a certain amount of pressure exerted by a discipline in favour of the use of its terms. In a sense scientific terminology must be considered prescriptive. While some allowance is made for variations, and for idiosyncratic practices, strict adherence to the terms and their use is generally expected, except under otherwise compelling conditions.
Before we conclude this section we would like to say something more about the international character of the technical terms. The international character of the technical terms is due to several reasons, the two most important reasons being the Latin and Greek background of most of the technical terms and need for communication among the practitioners of a field especially when there is a rapid growth of concepts. Languages may partly use the international technical terms and partly coin their own terms as in the case of German, which tends to use its own terms along with the internationally used technical terms.
Many a time the international term will be retained with suitable modifications to accommodate the derivational and inflectional requirements imposed by German. Such retentions and changes are also noticed in several languages of India. In all such cases there is an emerging pattern of assigning different functions: one set of terms is used for a particular audience and for a particular purpose, and another set for a different audience and for a different purpose. A related aspect to the above phenomenon is the treatment meted out to the international term in a language. If the international term does not have its origin in the particular language, the term will be considered a more effective and a more appropriate scientific term in that language. That is, if a technical term has its origin, for instance, in Spanish, and is now used for the same concept in English, or Hindi, or such other languages, it will be considered an ideal scientific term in those languages. It is ideal in the sense that no additional association is found. This holds good also for any borrowed term. The borrowed terms are treated as purer technical terms in the target language than in the source language, where some of the terms could be borrowings from the common language.
The third aspect is not directly related to the international character of the terms, but to the growing phenomenon of informality in the expression of sciences which leads to a linguistic usage hitherto not used: one concept is represented by many alternative terms; several concepts are represented by several terms interchangeably and, when it comes to the use of international terms, variant spellings are used.
4.11. The Latin and Greek Background
Most technical terms currently used in science in English come from two "dead" languages, namely, Latin and Greek. The stages of these two languages from which the technical terms are derived are not at the moment used as the spoken languages of any community. So, the terms are emotionally neutral and hence their suitability to meet the requirement that scientific expressions be neutral of emotion and be of an impersonal nature. One may also like to suggest that the very neutral and impersonal nature of current sciences might have been due to the effect of using terms from "dead" languages! In any case, as we see below, there was an urgent need for new words to name the new objects and these two languages provided the sciences with a number of root words using which, with the help of a small number of affixes, a large number of technical terms were derived.
There has been always a demand for new terms as and when new concepts were coined. This need for new terms, however, has increased by leaps and bounds since the later part of the sixteenth century, because the scientific inquiry began to take great strides since then. There was a sudden increase in the number of terms indicating names and processes. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the already growing need for terms to indicate living organisms and substances became greater for several reasons, which included the colonization of the Americas as well as the countries of Asia (which brought contacts with unfamiliar species of flora and fauna), growth of commercial horticulture in Europe and several new inventions of instruments that led to a more detailed observation of nature. Colonization gave a fillip to industry in Europe, which in turn led to inventions, discoveries and other scientific and research pursuits. The units and results of these pursuits required proper labelling.
The major task of scientific inquiry then was compilation of facts, such as the compilation of plant and animal catalogues. Compilation involved naming description and orderly arrangement of species for easy identification. Without classification it was and is just not possible to accumulate more information. Memory could not be relied upon to handle such vast information. The problem was compounded by the fact that some species had different names even within the same language community. Thus, there was a need to give a definitive label to ensure smoother communication even among those scientists who used the same vernacular. Scientists felt the need for a definitive label, a single name, to indicate the object wherever it occurred and whoever used it. Along with this was the task of finding out or coining new terms - new definitive labels - for species, which had no names at all. New objects were being identified and thus they were in need of being given names. Such definitive labels were also found to be a necessity to establish communication links with scientists using different vernaculars and to establish points of reference with what they communicated through their vernaculars.
The Greek terms entered the English language through several sources in the formative stages of modern sciences. When compared to the Latin scholarship in Western Europe, the Greek scholarship was not widespread. However, the use of Latin for scientific expositions brought with it Greek technical terms, as Latin scholarship had by then absorbed the Greek terms along with ancient Greek scientific knowledge. By the end of the eighteenth century, Latin, the medium of sciences, was being replaced by the vernaculars. At this time the vernaculars started turning to Latin and Greek 'to find strange terms to fit the strangeness of the thing'. The scientific knowledge inherited by the modern sciences was originally in Greek. Hence along with the absorption of scientific knowledge in Greek, many Greek words were also absorbed by the vernaculars through Latin. This also helped vernaculars in turning to Greek to meet the demands of ever-growing sciences. But the rate of such absorption was not great until Greek scholarship was well established in centres of learning in Europe by the close of the eighteenth century. This establishment of Greek scholarship coincided with the fast expansion of sciences and had a great role to play in the coinage of technical terms. The absorption of these new roots into the vernaculars was made possible or facilitated also by the use of Latin for the expression of sciences. The Latin terms have been absorbed into the vernaculars through the evolution of a pattern. Within this pattern fell the Greek words, which came through Latin usage. The new Greek words exploited this convention and were thus absorbed. However, diverse strategies were followed by vernaculars in this adoption process.
English accepted Latin terminals as modified by French usage. It evolved a hybrid heritage and the daily speech had a lot of borrowed Latin words. This brought in some similarity between the trends in the spoken and the written media used for the expression of sciences and as a consequence some understanding and communication between laymen and scientists was also achieved. In German the intrusion of alien words was restricted in the spoken variety. It had less number of Latin forms, whereas the written language accepted the gulf between comparatively more numbers of Latin terms. Hence the spoken variety and the language of scientists remained wide. As a consequence the communication between laymen and scientists was rather rough. In Tamil, the spoken variety admits a large number of borrowed items, including technical terms, but the written variety imposes several restrictions for the acceptance of borrowed items both technical and non-technical terms from languages including English. Loan translation is the chief means of coinage of technical terms in Tamil. This difference between the spoken and written forms of language in the use of borrowed items makes communication between the layman and the scientist difficult indeed. (The trends in individual languages are dealt with further in a subsequent section).
In 1781-82, Guyton de Morveau published a memoir on chemical terminology. He formulated five principles, which are as follows (Hogben, 1969):
- Every substance should have a name instead of a phrase.
- Names should be given according to the nature of the things intended to be signified by them.
- When the character of the substance is not sufficiently known to determine the denomination, a name that has no meaning is better than the one that conveys an erroneous idea.
- For new denominations, those that have their roots in the most generally known dead languages are preferable, so that the word may be suggested by the sense and the sense by the word.
- The denominations should be content with the structure of the natural language, which accommodates them.
The framing of the above listed principles was warranted by the fact that there started a rapid development of sciences, which required a large number of new terms for the new objects and concepts arrived at. Furthermore, there had already been a definitive tendency noticed in sciences to tap the resources of the dead languages. This tendency had resulted in certain generally accepted conventions of adaptations which were then analysed and codified, indicating the directions in which these adaptations could be made profitably.
In 1787, four French academicians including Lavoisier, published the Methode de Nomenclature Chimique. The new nomenclature displayed quantitative information through forms likes di-, tri-, and penta-dioxide, trioxide, and pentoxide, instead of phrases to give quantitative information. Such labels are used also to convey qualitative information to report that each is a compound composed of the two elements (as in nitrogen trioxide). These are used also to convey the qualitative information about the volumes in which they combine to make one or the other compound and their combining weights. The academicians also insisted that the names should convey information about composition by giving a similar role to current suffixes of the French language. English also adopted the method and this was facilitated by the already emerging hybrid tendencies. Acceptance of French terms along with suffixes by English gave the terms and the derivational processes a wider currency.
The role of language in clarifying the concepts that were already there was fully appreciated by Lavoisier. He found that a proper reform of terminology would bring in a lot of order and would sharpen our ideas. He declared that,
Languages are not merely passive signs to express thought. They are also analytical systems by means of which we advance from the known to the unknown and to a certain extent in the manner of Mathematics…A moment's reflection readily shows us that algebra is a real language; like all languages it has its representative signs, its method, and its grammar, if I may use this expression. Thus an analytical method is a language and a language is an analytical method and these two expressions are, in some sense, synonymous. If languages are really instruments fashioned by men to make thinking easier, they should be of the best kind; and to strive to perfect them is indeed to work for the advancement of science…This method which must be introduced into the teaching of chemistry is closely connected with the reform of its nomenclature. A well-composed language adapted to the natural and successive order of ideal will bring in its train a necessary and immediate revolution in the method of teaching…we shall have three things to distinguish in every physical science: the series of facts that constitute the science, the ideas that call the facts to mind and the words that express them. The word should give birth to the idea; the idea should depict the fact (Lavoisier, 1787, as quoted in Hogben, 1969).
The last sentence quoted above is, indeed, a significant observation on the role of language in scientific inquiry.
In spite of the efforts by scientists to bring the nomenclature to order through choosing roots from the two dead languages vernacular terms continued to be employed, with these terms slowly acquiring specified and separate meanings in the scientific literature. Scientists also came to tolerate and distinguish the meanings these vernacular words had in the ordinary language from those they had in scientific language. These relics were found necessary in bringing sciences to laymen.
The continuous use of some words from everyday speech or writing to name scientific concepts is the legacy of the period during which scientists were adapting words of every day speech or writing from the vernaculars. It was the time during which a new vocabulary for international use was in evolution but not yet established. These adaptations generally aimed at (a) giving the individual word a definition with restricted meaning, which was included in its usual meaning, and (b) giving a word a new meaning, which is not included in its usual connotation. The new meaning may, however have been due to a remote suggestion induced by the word. It may be expressed through a compound by combining the words in every day use in a new way. Note that all the above three ways have to be adopted in writing materials for laymen.
While the attempts to define words used in sciences from everyday speech and writing continue, assimilation of technical terms in everyday speech also goes on apace. Assimilation means more often the use of technical words in everyday speech and writing, with modified but related meanings. Many a time even the meaning may be changed. False analogy plays a great part and efforts - sometimes misconceived efforts - at instant communication lead the mass media to develop their own meanings and usage for the technical terms.
A cycle from the ordinary language to language of science and from it back to ordinary language is, thus, in operation and the scientist should tie aware of this cycle. Some seem to believe that this cycle should be and could be broken to stop the "semantic degradation" of terms, which affects their precision and so on. But we are of the opinion that the cycle is inevitable and has been in existence all through the history of sciences and the history of all human pursuits, sometimes dormant, sometimes explicit. The enterprising scientist has to pay some price because of his urge to communicate not only with fellow scientists but with others as well. He will, however, as in the past, find a way to overcome this problem. He will evolve his own conventions to meet the requirements of his pursuits.
There is growing confusion in the use of language for sciences, according to pessimists. But this growing confusion will surely bring in order; it will surely give rise to efforts to bring in order soon. As sciences aim at describing and explaining the order of the universe in all its aspects, the terms used by the sciences also would have explicitly-stated, intelligible rules of word building.
Another source of names for objects and events newly identified is called eponymy. Eponymous terms are terms based on the name of a discoverer, innovator or patron. The excuse given for this practice was that it was difficult to find suitably suggestive Latin or Greek roots for types of measurements with no parallel in antiquity. This practice of word building had a peculiar fascination for the 19th century scientists in general, physicists in particular. Some call this a backward step. One should remember, however, that scientific inquiry may be impersonal but not unconditioned by human nature! Who is not interested in immortality? The desire, the urge or even the agony to become immortal was one of the strong motives for the continuation of scientific inquiry!
To conclude this section on the Latin and Greek legacy of modern technical terms, we would like to point out the need a scientist has for familiarizing himself with the derivational processes used in coining technical terms. The compounds as given by Latin differ on the basis of the genders of the components that go into the making of compounds. Such information is not readily available to those who do not have any background in Latin. For those who pursue their scientific inquiry through the media of non-European languages, which use either the system or the technical terms of European origin, there is a need to specially know the Latin and Greek compounding rules. It is not sufficient to know the denotations of individual suffixes only. A student of science is expected to know or have familiarity with Latin and Greek; otherwise he will have difficulty in comprehending the components that go into the making of the world of science. This problem is magnified for the non-European students of science.
4.12. Technical Terms in Some Disciplines
Let us examine briefly the characteristics and the use of technical terms in selected disciplines. For an effective and comprehensive understanding of his subject matter of investigation, a chemist requires that the natural minerals, the elements and the compounds be named properly as individual items as well as with regard to their relationships and hierarchy. He also needs technical terms to describe and explain chemical processes. An investigation of the chemical terms indicates several groups: words to indicate ores which occur naturally and from which metals have been extracted for a very long time, words which indicate whether the substances are metals or not, words well organized into structures to reflect the structural relationships between the elements, words that have been coined recently to indicate the elements that are made by artificial means, and so on.
There has been always an awareness among chemists about the need to have logical naming as an essential aid to progress in chemistry. The patterns that are identified in chemical processes and the hierarchy of relations between elements, and the combinatory potential for compounding, all led to an evolution of a neat terminology in chemistry. Eighteenth century saw a system of naming processes coming into existence. Distinctive names (generally avoiding those in ordinary language) were coined and given to acids and a system was built up in which the repetition of these terms in salts indicated their origins.
In an earlier section we referred to the contribution of Lavoisier and his colleagues. Many others also seriously studied the nomenclature problem in the growing science of chemistry. This pursuit is still on and standard reference works such as the Handbook for Chemical Society Authors (1960) are now available. The entire system has a well-established and neat pattern of affixes.
The zoologist is in need of a larger number of names than the chemist. Animals have to be named, their species specified, their body parts assigned with nomenclature and. several other characteristics of animals have to be named. The ontogenetic and phylogenetic relationships and features have to be given names. Taxonomies of various sorts characterize the activities of zoologists as well as botanists. The genus, the species and the subspecies along with their body parts and processes all lead to the coinage and use of a considerable number of terms. These terms must also indicate the relationship between the parts as well as processes. As a result, both in botany and zoology, a system of technical terms is built with Latin as the basis. The terminology is rather universally followed even in languages that prefer loan translations. Names of genus, species and subspecies as given in Latin are generally accepted as they are, even though synonymous expressions may be given by way of explanations. It is the processes that are presented through loan translations. Thus, the names of genus, species and subspecies are least affected.
4.13. Technical Terms in English
English is the language in which the major proportion of scientific information is published. Scientists in many developed as well as developing countries conduct their scientific work in English and not in their own languages.
The scientific contribution through English, thus, comes not only from the native English-speaking scientists but from scientists of other speech communities as well. Coinage and adoption of technical terms in English, thus, have a multilingual source to some extent. This had been the case all through the history with regard to languages of empires or languages of dominant cultures. In ancient India where Sanskrit was the main vehicle of thought, scholars of non-Indo Aryan origin also expressed their thoughts through Sanskrit. Latin and Greek were used and enriched by non-Latin and non-Greek nationalities. Such a confluence results in certain changes in the linguistic structures of the dominant language. English was no exception. English widened its base and accepted at times even conflicting trends.
There is a spate of coinage of technical terms in English. However the coinage process does not always follow useful guidelines such as the following: (a) A given term should have only one technical meaning. (b) A given concept should have only one name. (c) Closely related concepts should have similar names. (d) If possible, a new term should be simple and euphonious. (f) The name should preferably have a similar form in the major languages. (g) Existing terms, even when faulty, should be acknowledged and wherever possible, adapted. The present tendency in newer sciences is of a mixed nature. Going back to Latin and Greek seems to be on the decrease; the tendency is to coin phrases using already available words of common use. The phrases are sometimes long and unfamiliar. But the longer words of science have sought to be justified, as in the past, on the ground that they are unfamiliar and hence likely to be impersonal. Self-explanatory characteristic of a term is still preserved, and transparent roots are chosen. Strangeness in some manner is retained to give the chosen words a constancy of meaning unmodified by association.
English has used all conceivable strategies for the development of words. New and different symbols are obtained through the use of words of other languages or through accepting the pattern of composition in those languages. Sometimes new words are invented using processes already listed in earlier sections. Many new words are added while older ones are dropped out of use. Older ones, which could not be adapted to meet the complexity of new thought, are replaced.
Some have suggested that the words of science used in English may be classified into three major and seven subcategories. The major categories are borrowed words, imported words and invented words. There are three subcategories within the first major category. These are words with uncertain or obscure meaning both in ordinary and scientific languages, words one of whose meanings in ordinary language is taken as the meaning in their scientific use and words whose meanings in science bear no relation to the meanings in ordinary language. Thus, the first major category, namely, the borrowed words, consists of words borrowed from ordinary language into the language of science.
The second major category consists of words taken from some other language and used without change of spelling, other than that required by the conventional system of transliteration. Under this major category, we have two subcategories, namely, the words which have the same meaning in English and the language of their origin/donor language, and words with some changes due to a metaphorical connection their use in English has with that form as used in the donor language.
The third major category consists of invented words. There are words coined by scientists to meet a new need. These include words that retain their original meanings and those which have gone into the ordinary language. Although science contains a lot of invented words, the words of the other two categories are also available in an abundant measure. An additional feature of the scientific words is the uncertainty about the pronunciation of these words. This uncertainty is not merely due to borrowing from other language, it is due also to the condition that scientific knowledge is spread mainly through printed form. This disadvantage with regard to pronunciation becomes an advantage as far as the constancy printing gives to the shape and spelling of the concerned word.
The use of English for the expression of sciences has its own history. It is not with ease that English came to be used as the medium of sciences. The Royal Society from the beginning used to print contributions both in Latin and English. This was, indeed, a great concession at that time extended to English. Soon English came to be encouraged for the expression of scientific ideas and the Royal Society established certain guidelines for the purpose: use of a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions, clear senses, a native easiness and impersonal language avoiding emotions. Even when Latin was used to write scientific ideas, deliberations in gatherings of scientists were carried out in English. That is, scientific writings could be in Latin but science was talked only through English.
With the expansion of sciences, foreign technical words made their invasion into the English language and this led to several attempts to stop the corruption of English alleged to have been committed by the scientists. These attempts failed because of the growing importance of science in changing socio-economic and political conditions, which in turn encouraged scientific inquiry. Scientific inquiry on its own was committed to new words because these new words had clear implications, precise meaning, no distortion of associations and, above all, strangeness. Furthermore, attempts at coining words of pure English background were not encouraging, and the practice of coining new words, partly Latin and partly English, was not also found productive enough. Hybrids have been used in some languages like German, but were found not productive or even euphonious. Hybridisation was not found a virtue by several other languages also.
At the moment, English seems to draw most of its words from its own internal resources, rather than going to Latin and Greek. The newer tendency is to draw words more and more from the ordinary language - words that are already familiar and in use outside the laboratory. This is due to an improvement in the general atmosphere, which has established a rather pseudorelationship between the lay public and the scientists. This relationship is further strengthened because demands are made for the application of scientific concepts.
Let us see now briefly some of the linguistic characteristics of English words as used in the language of science. The language of science is distinguished from the ordinary language by the existence of a large number of specially designed and/or used words. But both share the whole of English syntax and at this level the difference between the language of science and ordinary English should be ascribed to the existence and use of a range of specialized sentence types that are used only in ordinary language and literary English. The English used in science consists of a restricted range of sentence types that are also used in ordinary language. Thus, it is the literary and ordinary English that uses a number of types of sentences in addition to those types that are common to it and the language of science.
The English of sciences shares the whole of English phonology. The science learner may ignore the complex phonological rules for rhyme and metre in his expression of sciences, but should acquire some special rules of pronunciation, and spelling specifically. The clearest distinction between the two is noticed, as already pointed out, at the word level - in quality, in quantity, and in the manner of using these words. The language of science has concepts that are not available and/or are in conflict with those found in ordinary language. The domains are different and hence the difference in their import is also clear. A user of English who is also a scientist is required to be sensitive to these differences.
We give below some of the features of scientific English at the word level:
- Terms are formed by compounding: crankshaft
- Blends: trunk + union: trunnion
- Terms formed by affixation : electrifiable
- Shortening: Psi 'pounds per square inch'
- Words through conversion from one phrase type to another: to blow out: blow-out (of fuses)
- Through semantic transfer.
- Foreign features in plural marking: focus/foci.
- Irregular verbs: wrought steel
- Verbal concord fluctuation: dynamic is/are
- The use of the suffix -s in tools and instruments such as clippers, jointers, shears and so on.
- More foreign elements in technical terms.
- Multi-word terms with hyphens. Note that the word forming processes we have indicated are now resorted, to in other uses of language also, particularly in modern journalism. Note also that of all the above, compounding is the most productive process in English. A new word is formed by combining two or more independent words. The form thus created acts as an independent lexical unit, as if it were a single word. The inflectional affixes such as those for marking plural and possession are added to the last part of the compound, indicating that the form, indeed, behaves like a single word. The meaning of a compound, however, is not always just the sum of its parts. As there is no fixed rule followed even in the language of science for the formation of compounds, the meanings of some of these compounds are ambiguous.
- There are three types of elements that are used as affixes in English. Under the first category are the affixes such as -er, -ish, -ness, and -oid. These are shared both by the ordinary and scientific English.
- The second category of affixes includes only those having origin in scientific English, but are used in ordinary language also, through a slow entry into it from scientific English.
- The third category includes quasi-affixes.
- There are several types of derivation
- Derivation in which a verb is formed out of noun, adjective or even another verb. (One type of verb is converted into another type.)
- Derivation in which a noun is formed out of a verb or adjective. Sometimes one type of noun is changed into another type of noun.
- Derivation of an adjective in which a verb or noun is changed into an adjective. All the three may be accomplished through affixation and/or compounding processes.
- qualifying elements are added to a generic term to express the specialized meanings.
- There are a number of neologisms, the rules for some of which are transparent and for others opaque. Neologism plays an important role in modern scientific English, and is one of the sources of vocabulary in English, which include also nominal phrases, compounds, derivatives, new applications of words and borrowings. A new type of neologism somewhat similar to the category of new applications of an already available word is coming into existence, especially in applied sciences. Words of ordinary language are given a meaning, which by any stretch of imagination could not be associated with those words. In space industry such usages are becoming quite common, posing a great threat to communication.
We have referred to the difference in strategies adopted by English and German in the use of Latin and Greek terms. German language both at the ordinary language level and at the level of scientific language is known for its condensation of content and form. This condensation leads to closer compounding in German. German is an inflectional language with explicit case endings, verb conjugations, and sentence concord and so on. There are a variety of structures, which can be used to achieve brevity and impersonal condition. That is, various forms are available to a scientist and a proper choice is to be made by him. Conventions are well established, but recent trends indicate that changes in the choice of structures are more frequent in recent times to achieve effective communication between the general public and the scientists. The pseudo-relationship that we notice in the case of English is in the process of being well established in German too.
4.15. Tamil and Hindi
Tamil is a major language of the Dravidian family of languages, mainly spoken in South India and Sri Lanka. Speakers of Tamil are found in several South East Asian and African countries as well, notably in Malaysia and Singapore where this language has some official status and patronage. Hindi is a major language of the Indo-Aryan family of languages, spoken in India and several Asian and African countries. Hindi is an official language of Central Government of India. It is the official language of several states within India. Tamil has several regional and social dialects, but the written form of the language is used for all formal purposes (both at the speaking and writing levels). Hindi also has a number of regional and social dialects. But several of these regional dialects have been originally used as medium of expression at the writing level also. This was not the case with regard to the regional dialects of Tamil.
The regional dialects of Hindi are as good as independent languages; in other words, the differences in structures and function of the regional dialects of Tamil are/were not sufficiently divergent enough to call them as different languages whereas the divergences between the regional dialects of Hindi have led many linguists to consider them as independent languages.
In any case, the current trends indicate that many of the regional dialects of Hindi do not any more aspire for a role independent of standard Hindi. But standard Hindi, in the uses of those with a regional dialect background, continues to be influenced by the elements of regional dialects.
In Tamil, spoken forms enter into written Tamil, which is the expression for formal purposes. In Hindi, spoken forms of the standard Hindi as well as the spoken forms of the regional dialects enter into the standard variety of Hindi, which is used for formal purposes. There is a gulf between spoken and written forms in Tamil and, as a result, a scientist has to master a set of rules and nuances exclusive to the written language for his expression. Although the gulf between the spoken and the written forms is not wide in standard Hindi, a scientist all the same has to switch from the regional to the standard spoken and from it to the standard written form. Hindi receives also elements from other Indian languages (not as much as it was desired by the framers of the Constitution of India; see below), in addition to English. Tamil also receives elements from other languages at the informal level but at the formal level the trend is in favour of loan translation. There is also a tendency in Hindi to go in more and more for loan translations.
Hindi treats Sanskrit as its source of vocabulary for technical terms (and even for matters of mass communication), just as English treats Latin and Greek for the same purpose. Tamil seeks its technical terms, wherever possible, from its own ancient and medieval stages. Sanskrit terms are sought by Hindi in making the loan translations of technical terms used in English. Tamil goes in for coinage of pure Tamil terms as far as possible. Hindi and Tamil strive their best to have their own consistent endings fox technical terms of each discipline. Equivalents for -ics, -num and so on are also coined and an attempt is made to use them in a consistent fashion. But the number of such endings is few in Tamil and Hindi and, as a result, one ending is used in many senses.
The problem of standardization is as acute as the problem of coinage in both the languages. Scientists writing in these languages were not trained as scientists using these languages. They need not also be conversant with the derivational processes the natural grammars of these languages allow. As a consequence scientists use different words for the same concept in these languages. They also use the same word for different concepts. Some scientists are influenced by their dialects. Some are influenced by the content, shape and even pronunciation of the technical terms in English. Some are guided by a particular aspect of the concept. Some are given to indulge in the excuses use of metaphor. Some even go to the extent of adding some new derivational processes. Some choose a word and impose on it a new meaning. The languages of Europe have also undergone these processes in the past. Such trends are noticeable to a lesser degree even in modern European languages.
Technical terms in Hindi and Tamil are coined by various committees to enable scientists to express scientific concepts through these languages. In the case of Tamil, many technical terms coined in Tamilnadu, India, are found at variance with those formed by committees in Sri Lanka. This does not create much confusion as the territories belong to two different nations, and as a consequence migration of scientists, students and other readers, and also the exchange of materials is not frequent. But in the case of Hindi, almost ever Hindi-speaking state in India has its own committee of technical terms which is busy producing terms many a time at variance with one another. It seems that lack of administrative and political co-ordination, and the presence of a desire to maintain distinctness contributes to such variations. Further these, committees seem to be influenced in their coinage of terms by a desire that the technical terms be comprehensible not only to the scientists but also to the general public. They exhibit a tendency to elevate the terms used in colloquial language to the status of a scientific term assuming that this elevation would lead to better comprehension, propagation an even acceptance of the concepts. This perhaps is the reason why such variations in terms have been allowed to a great deal.
In Tamil, there is a tendency to avoid and eliminate foreign terms. This tendency has its roots in the ancient efforts to avoid and eliminate words of Sanskrit origin, and supply and use in its place an existing Tamil word, and if no Tamil word is available, to coin a new Tamil word through loan translation. This is a tendency found in the general language, which has been accepted now in scientific writing also. As a result there is conscious, massive and at times time-consuming effort made for the coinage of technical terms.
International technical terms are translated into Tamil or they are modified to suit the requirements of Tamil graphemics in several cases. Tamil script does not have separate representations/symbols for voiced stops, voiceless aspirated and voiced aspirated stops, and no representations/symbols for fricatives other than glottal, and, voiceless alveolar, retroflex and dental sibilants (which are also borrowed from another script used for the writing of Sanskrit words), and for many other sounds. (Such symbols are not at all necessary for the representation of native words). Thus, international vocabulary would undergo a lot of changes in the process of their graphemic representation in Tamil script so much so that a reading pronunciation of these items, when one follows faithfully the reading conventions adopted for the Tamil script, would not be understood by a non-Tamil scientist even when that non-Tamil scientist is familiar with or is a user of the international vocabulary. Hence there is a definite need in Tamil to develop a convention of reading pronunciation which, while retaining the Tamil graphemic representations of international vocabulary, would enable the reader to pronounce the international vocabulary with their accepted pronunciations in English. ("Why English pronunciations?", one may ask. The answer is simple. Tamil, like many other developing languages, depends on English for scientific concepts and for the expansion of its scientific vocabulary. The Tamil-speaking scientists can establish their bridges of communication, for historical reasons, only through English). There are many different kinds of efforts made to enable the scientists to retain the international pronunciation: through script reformation, through presenting the technical term in Roman script with the same spelling as used in English but within parentheses immediately after the term in Tamil, through paraphrases, through illustrations which give words of similar pronunciation in Tamil or in another language, and so on.
In Hindi, there is a tendency to avoid and eliminate terms of Perso-Arabic origin, which were shared by Hindi and Urdu - the two varieties or languages with closely similar structures and vocabulary. In the place of even the most common and easily comprehensible terms of Perso-Arabic origin, the terms of Sanskrit origin are sought to be introduced. Once again there are historical reasons for the prevalence, maintenance and persistence of this tendency. An urge for the maintenance of their separate and distinct identities forces the speakers of the Hindi language of North India to adopt more and more the terms of Sanskrit origin. For the same reasons, the Urdu language of Pakistan as well as of North India adopts more and more words of Perso-Arabic origin. Hindi looks towards Sanskrit for its loan translations, and Urdu towards Persian and Arabic. Devanagari, the script used to write Hindi, as well as the Perso-Arabic script used to write Urdu, have adequate symbols to represent the pronunciation as well as the spelling of international vocabulary. But scientists have to guard themselves against the language interference, a heavy and disastrous interference from the pronunciation habits of their first language (Hindi or Urdu) in the pronunciation of international vocabulary. This interference is, however, a common feature in all the languages. The international vocabulary is accepted in most cases in the same manner as done in German. The main part of the international vocabulary is retained, but the affixes may be native ones.
In Tamil, only humans are classified with regard to their natural gender, masculine or feminine. Their body parts are treated in neuter gender. All non-human animate and inanimate objects are referred to in neuter gender. Technical terms thus generally fall into the category of neuter gender. In Tamil, the finite verb is inflected for person, gender and number. Accordingly, when a technical term occurs in the subject position in a Tamil sentence the corresponding main verb will be suitably inflected. In Hindi, a system of grammatical gender is followed. This results in the classification of some items on the basis of their natural gender, some on the basis of the sounds occurring in the words, some on the basis of pure conventions. Many a time the gender marking appears to be done with no rhyme or reason. Every noun must be marked masculine or feminine. Users may differ among themselves sometimes on the assignment of gender to a rare word. Inanimate objects are assigned gender on the basis of variables such as size and status/usefulness. If an object is larger it is assigned masculine gender and if the object is small it is assigned feminine gender, generally speaking. There are attempts made in recent times to rationalize the assignment of gender to words in Hindi. Technical terms are assigned their gender in the following manner. Most of the technical terms are assigned masculine gender and some feminine. No reasons can be adduced for assigning feminine gender for certain technical terms. The technical terms with English spelling are also at times presented immediately after the terms in Hindi, to strengthen the right pronunciation and also to clarify and specify the meaning intended by the Hindi term.
The foregoing brief description shows that a scientist planning to express himself through Tamil has to make first of all a choice between the spoken and written forms. The choice is made in favour of the written form just as in the case of the expression of nontechnical matters. Within the written form he may either accept the international vocabulary in transliteration or go in for loan translation. Once loan translation is accepted he has a choice between words of Tamil origin and words borrowed from other languages closer to Tamil from the point of view of both historical (non-linguistic) and linguistic reasons. Once a reference for words of Tamil origin on the basis of their being comprehensible to the general public or on the basis of transparency is established, he has to make a choice between ancient forms and modern ones, between making compounds and making phrases, between focussing on one aspect of the concept and focussing on all aspects of the concept, between readable pronunciation and difficult to read concept-based coinages, between elevation of a common word to technical term status and discarding altogether the common word to coin a new word, and so on.
The picture has been so drawn as to highlight the path a scientist follows at the moment with regard to coinage and use of technical terms in Tamil. This has been presented, we should say, with some exaggeration, eliminating some compromises a good scientist as a communicator of ideas generally makes with regard to the use of language for the tasks of communication. One can also make different combinations at various stages: choose the spoken form of language, choose the international vocabulary with or without transliteration into Tamil script, or, make a loan translation using words of languages closer to Tamil (Sanskrit and other Indian languages excluding English) and so on. But Tamil users do not prefer such alternatives now even though such alternatives are still resorted to even by those who follow the route indicated by us.
A route in the fashion we have established for Tamil can be established for Hindi also. The point we wish to emphasize is that a scientist intending to express his scientific concepts through a language will be governed by many considerations, some of them linguistic and others non-linguistic. Many of the processes that the languages of Western Europe had undergone in the past in making themselves fit vehicles for the expression of sciences are now being gone through by the languages of developing nations. And yet there is a qualitative difference between the two types. Along with the evolution of modern sciences, modern European languages also evolved and developed into respectable separate identities. That is, the expansion of modern sciences and the institutionalisation of scientific activity went hand in hand with the development of modern European languages. This is not the case with regard to the languages of developing nations.
The speakers of the languages of developing nations are confronted with already well-developed sciences and well-developed expression systems for these sciences in European languages. Their problem is to choose between the adoption of modern European languages as the main media of expression of sciences for their scientific pursuits and the replacement of these languages with their own. Many nations seem to prefer the latter course of action, some with definite programmes while some others undertake programmes half-heartedly because of conflicting pressures. Policy decisions and their implications are further complicated because of internal linguistic composition of a nation. For instance, India is a multi-lingual country and has been organized into a number of States on the basis of the dominant languages spoken in them. Such an organization of the nation into Linguistic States does not, however, fully solve problems regarding choice of media of instruction, as most of the States are multilingual as the union of states is. The role of English can be reduced only at the peril of balkanising the entire country and at the peril of losing a rich source for the development of Indian languages. Discussion on this aspect is presented in a subsequent chapter. We would emphasize here that Governments of developing nations have expended a lot of their energies in developing their languages as fit vehicles of expressions for sciences, many a time viewing development to be synonymous with elimination of the uses of the languages of past rulers!
One of the massive efforts is felt in India both at the levels of Central and State Governments. The Central Government has established committees for the preparation of technical terms in Hindi in various disciplines. It has launched or supported programmes for the preparation of encyclopaedias and also for the translation of standard encyclopaedias in English into Hindi. It has given some support through financial subventions to other regional languages as well. Each State Government has its own committees for the preparation of technical terms in several disciplines in their own State languages. Even the Hindi-speaking States have their own committees of technical terms apart from the committees on Hindi established by the Central Government. These committees consist of scholars from disciplines representing universities, colleges, institutes and such other bodies that are involved in scientific pursuits. They include newspapermen and others connected with mass communication channels. They include litterateurs and language experts. These committees have produced vocabulary items in a massive scale. But putting these items into practice has not gone on apace simultaneously with the production of technical terms. Thus, languages are now rich with a large number of technical terms and yet they present a rather desolate look, as the technical terms have not been put to use, mainly because these languages have yet to be used extensively as media of instruction. The question of medium of instruction assumes great importance because scientific inquiries are pursued only in institutions, and, sciences are acquired in formal instructional situations.
The Constitution of India has laid certain guidelines for the preparation of technical terms and also for the spread of education through Indian languages. The Constitution suggests the source from which the new terms are to be derived. Thus, the Constitution enjoins upon the Central Government certain responsibilities for the development and spread of the Hindi language 'to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the composite cultures of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule (of the Constitution), and by drawing wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.'
The Constitution of India, which came into effect on the 26th January 1950, had directed the President of India, the Head of State, that he constitute an Official Language Commission to make recommendations to him on various aspects of language policy and its implementation. Accordingly, the Official Language Commission was constituted in 1955 whose report was submitted in 1957. This Commission was one of the best conscious efforts at the evolution and implementation of language policy in developing nations.
Taking into consideration the peculiar linguistic conditions prevailing in the just born independent India which was brimming over with prejudices against everything that had its origin in the colonial past, the Commission in its majority report suggested the slow but steady phasing out of English from its domains of uses at that time and proposed ways and means for the installation of Hindi in its place, and in some areas for the installation of other Indian languages. A notable feature of this report was its loan translation bias, which, as we have already pointed out, had its roots in the opposition to remnants of colonial power and cultures and a desire to communicate effectively with the lay public. It suggested ways and means for the coinage of technical terms in Hindi in particular, and in Indian languages in general. Its suggestions with regard to coinage of terms reflect generally the trend in many developing countries. The Commission proposed the following major decisions/steps:
- The principal groundwork for the development of the Union language (Hindi) and the regional languages is to furnish them with an adequate technical terminology wherever it is deficient at present.
- In adopting terminology, clarity, precision and simplicity should be primarily aimed at. Doctrinaire insistence on "language purism" is deprecated.
- Promising sources for adopting new terminology should be available in the indigenous terms current in the past, and the terms currently used in actual life amongst various categories of craftsmen, artisans, etc. These should be explored. In suitable cases, international terminology may be adopted or adapted to the genius of the Indian languages.
- The maximum possible identity in evolving new terminology and for coordinating such work is between different authorities with reference to the Union language (Hindi) as well as the other regional languages.
- On a review of the work done so far in the Ministry of Education of the Government of India, there would seem to be room for greater acceleration in the work and need for achieving more effective coordination as between different terminological efforts.
- Before the terminology evolved can be thoroughly assimilated into the corpus of the "host" languages, two stages must be envisaged: (i) to start using the new terminology and (ii) to undertake its periodical re-standardization.
What shall we say to conclude this section? The loan translation is the result of historical trends, which generally ignore considerations of instant communication. It is doubtful as to whether the bias for loan translation would ever be got over by languages of developing nations in favour of the adoption of international vocabulary which, in essence, means the adoption o technical terms in the forms in which they are used in English. ("International vocabulary" itself is a myth in some manner: it generally means the conglomerate of forms used in the language of Western Europe). In any case when new terms are invented it is worth bearing in mind what we suggested in section 4.13:
- A given term should have only one technical meaning
- A given concept should have only one name.
- Closely related concepts should have similar names.
- If possible, a new term should be more or less self-explanatory.
- The name should be simple and euphonious.
- The name should preferably have a similar form in the major languages.
- And existing terms, even if faulty, should be acknowledged, and possibly, adapted.
4.16. Some Additional Tips for Coinage and Use of Technical Terms
The UNESCO paper on the use of vernacular languages in education proposes six principles for the creation of terminologies, (Krishnamurti, 1976). These are as follows:
- Begin by making a study of vocabulary already in use, including recent borrowed words and native expressions recently formed to describe new concepts. The principal methods used include giving new meanings to old terms, using native descriptive expressions or derivatives, adopting foreign terms, modelling native descriptive expressions after convenient foreign models. The problem, then, is to determine which of these procedures are most generally used and in what way they tend to be applied to different sets of concepts.
- Avoid coining new words where native words are already in general use or where there are words that could easily be stretched to include the new concept without special confusion. If the native word is mainly used by people in a given section of the country or by specialists in some particular craft, then the problem would be simply that of generalizing its use. Along with the employment of words of strictly native tradition, one must give full consideration to relatively new words adopted from other languages, particularly if they already have general currency.
- Before adding a word to the vocabulary, be sure that it is really needed either at once or in the relatively near future. It is not wise to prescribe words that will not be used with some frequency, since such needs can be met by using brief descriptions. People generally will not bother to learn special words in such cases, and those few persons who go out of their way to use the prescribed terms may not be made in the case of new terms whose meaning is reasonably self-evident.
- Where a whole set of terms applying a given field of science has to be adopted, try to maintain general consistency among them, consistency as to type of formation and language of origin. The international terms from Latin and Greek, and other terms in widespread usage throughout the world, should be given special consideration.
- Make necessary adaptations to the phonemic structure and grammar of the language.
- Once the new terms have been chosen, try them out in a number of people to see how readily they take to them@ I f possible, experiment with the use of the new terms in, lectures, class-instruction and general conversation for a while before publishing.
We present below some additional helpful suggestions for the acquisition, coinage and appropriate use of technical terms.
- We find that the same ideas are expressed in different languages using words with similar roots, and with variations depending upon the characteristics of various languages. Hence a knowledge of the relationships in form and meaning that exist between these words would be useful.
- Attention should be given not only to the use of technical terms but also to other words, which in fact would cause greater damage than the technical terms.
- Attention should be paid to the spelling, capitalizing and italicising conventions.
- Abbreviations should be avoided as much as possible.
- Conventions with regard to the use of symbols, and with regard to contexts in which the names of elements, etc., should be fully written out, should be followed.
- The apostrophe should not be used except in cases where the owner is a person. That is, possession by an animate, preferably a human, is indicated by the use of apostrophe -s, whereas the possessive relationships between inanimate objects is indicated by the use of of.
- Scientific laws bearing the names of scientists are given capital letters in languages that make the distinction between capital and small letters. In the names of the apparatuses that include the inventors' names, the names of inventors are given in capital letters.
- When terms are to be coined or chosen to express concepts, the following may be considered:
- Word building potential of the chosen word
- The definition value
- How universal is the current usage of the chosen word
- Structural composition
- Stylistic effect of the chosen word, and,
- Range of subject to which it is applicable.
- Because of rapid developments in sciences and because of a growing tendency for specialization the scientist is to have a good knowledge of the linguistic background of terms used in his and other disciplines. This is demanded more of scientists of developing nations that have adopted loan translation as the main source of technical terms.
- Hyphen is often used in combining words. Hence one should acquire a good knowledge of the uses of hyphens.
- Should one really give in to the common urge to coin new terms? It is commonly argued that new concepts should be given new words to distinguish the concepts from the existing ones. But one finds some scientists giving an unbridled display of this urge. Scientists of developing nations using loan translation are especially given to coining numerous technical terms.
- The use of technical terms must be guided by or be sensitive to the characteristics of audience and purpose of the user. A technical term becomes a jargon when used for an inappropriate audience and purpose. Jargon is the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession or group. It is also considered unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing and gibberish even, with pretentious terminology and involved syntax. Avoidance of jargon can commence only if we can identify and recognize what a jargon is. The task is complicated by the fact that what is jargon to one may not be jargon to another. The use of jargon is infectious and so a scientist should guard himself against the influence of one using jargon. High sounding, long and compound words are more or less easily recognized as jargon. Ordinary words are better in the place of a new and difficult word.
- Let us find and use a simpler word in the place of a difficult word.
- We should also avoid bureaucratic expressions.
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SENTENCE IN SCIENCE
Traditionally the core of the discipline of linguistics includes the general theories about language, the techniques and the concepts related to a description of the structures of a language, the principles and processes involved in the changes that take place from period to period in a language, the principles and the concepts involved in comparing languages and the adaptation of all the above for some practical purpose. Thus, we have general linguistics, descriptive linguistics, historical linguistics, comparative linguistics, and applied linguistics respectively.
Modern linguistics is characterized by formalism, structuralism and functionalism: Linguistics is structural because, in addition to the above, emphasis is laid upon the contrasts among units and parts of units. In the characterization of linguistic units, first of all, the composition of the unit is taken into account. Secondly, the distributional characteristics of the unit are presented. Every unit of a language occurs only in a restricted number of combinations. And these places of occurrence show the distributional characteristics of the unit. Thirdly, a unit is definable in terms of the use to which the unit is put. This is called the function of the unit.
Within linguistics, there are different schools of thought, which differ from each other in many respects. One of the aspects is with regard to how language is acquired by human beings: is social behaviour. Secondly, these scholars differ among themselves on the number and kinds of levels, which should be posited in a description of human language. Some scholars posit five levels - phonetic, phonemic, grammatical, morpho-phonemic and semantic; but some others subsume all the above only under three components - phonological, syntactic and semantic. Thirdly, the scholars differ among themselves as to whether the levels posited thus, should be considered independent of one another or they should be considered dependent - in other words, as to whether the description of one level is dependent upon the description of another level. There are many more points on which differences of opinion and assumptions exist among different linguistic approaches to the study of language. These are matters that do not directly concern us here, even though adopting one school in favour of another will definitely have a direct bearing on how we would go about describing the linguistic data.
Linguistics is concerned mainly with an exposition of the structures language employs. The linguistic description concerns itself with the linguistic structures. Assumptions are made about the psychological and neuro-physiological mechanisms of language and yet the main concern continues to be an exposition of linguistic structures.
In their preoccupation with the exposition of linguistic structures, most linguists consider sentence as the unit of analysis. The elements which constitute a sentence and the order in which the elements occur are dealt with. Formal features of the elements are sought. Linguists even consider how one sentence is related to the other in terms of patterns and embedding processes. However, most of their research is sentence-based. The inter-sentential relations that exist between utterances or sentences in a text are also dealt with, but such a treatment does not form the core of linguistics.
In this chapter, we first deal with how the unit sentence is employed in the language of science; then, we discuss the inter-sentential relations and how a discourse is formed with special reference to the scientific texts. Later, we discuss also the stylistic variations that we make in the language of science and discuss briefly the characteristics of style sheets employed by research journals. We link these with rhetoric - a science of persuasion.
5.2. What is Sentence?
Everyone knows what a sentence is. But when it comes to defining it, we all run into difficulty. More than two hundred different definitions are reported to be available. Some of these are as follows:
- A sentence is a group of words expressing a complete thought.
- A sentence may be identified on the basis of punctuation - between two periods we have a sentence. Thus, a sentence is defined as a unit followed and preceded by indefinite pause or silence, with phonetic features to indicate the prepausal positions.
- A sentence is marked in writing with an initial capital letter in languages in whose scripts a distinction between capital and small letters is maintained.
- A sentence is marked in writing also by a full stop, a question mark, a mark for exclamation or by a semicolon.
- In speech, a sentence is marked by a characteristic intonation. A potential pause is easily identified between sentences Hence a sentence is defined phonologically as a stretch of speech which may be uttered with a complete intonation preceded and followed by silence.
- A sentence is defined sometimes on the basis of "sentence feeling."
- A sentence is defined as having a minimum number of prescribed elements/categories such as predicate, subject, direct and indirect objects, an so on.
- A sentence is also defined as a portion of speech that puts forward to the listener a state of things (a thing meant) as having validity.
- A sentence is defined a grammatically constructed smallest unit of speech which expresses its content with respect to this content's relation to reality.
- A sentence is defined as a relatively complete and independent human utterance - the completeness and humanness being shown by its standing alone or its capability for standing alone, that is, capable of being uttered by itself.
- A sentence is defined as a group of words joined together by grammatical agreements (relating devices) and which, not grammatically dependent upon any other group, are complete in themselves.
- A sentence is also defined as a construction of form which, in the given utterance, is not part of nay larger construction. On the basis of the dependence or independence of though, a simple sentence is defined as a group of words which expresses a single independent thought. A compound sentence is defined as a group of words which expresses two or more unified thoughts, out of which one is the main or principal thought and others subordinate thoughts.
Sentences are classified into many types using various kinds of variables. On the basis of thought, as mentioned above, sentences are classified into simple, compound and complex types. Sentences are divided into simple, compound and complex on the basis of their structural composition also. A simple sentence has one independent proposition or one independent clause. (A clause is defined as a syntactic construction containing a subject and predicate and forming part of a sentence or constituting a whole simple sentence.)
A compound sentence contains two or more propositions or tow or more independent clauses; and a complex sentence consists of one independent proposition or an independent clause and one or more dependent propositions or subordinate clauses. The compound and complex sentences may be combined in the same sentences. Sentences are also classified on the basis of the types of content embodied by the sentences: declarative (statement), interrogative (question), imperative (request or command), exclamatory (emotions), and so on. On the basis of the grammatical patterns also, sentences may be classified into various types such as equational (copula) types, verbal types, dative subject sentence type, passive sentence type and so on. There are certain sentences, called elliptical - elliptical in form or sense, or both. These also form a type of their own.
Thought, meaning, punctuation, structural composition, number or words, kinds of categories, content, and independence of occurrence are, thus, some of the major variables used to define or characterize what a sentence is. Using one to the exclusion of others results always in a definition which does not satisfy. Linguistically oriented definitions insist upon certain structural composition and independence of occurrence, in spite of the "independent" status of elliptical types which go against the requirement of structural composition of "full" sentences. In any case, one intuitively knows what a sentence is, in a language known to him. One is able to recognize a sentence, perhaps with some initial difficulty, even in a language not known to him, because of certain underlying universal characteristics of sentences across languages. These universal characteristics are intuitively felt, but hard to characterize formally. However, note that positing such universals in no way fails to recognize or minimizes the importance of the difference in structural patterns of sentences within and across languages.
5.3. Analysis of Sentence
Grammatical analysis of sentences presupposes a knowledge of the meaning they convey. Parsing still continues to be a major step in the analysis of sentences - the total meaning of a sentence is so compartmentalized that each compartmentalized meaning part has an appropriate formal part. Generally speaking, sentence is considered or identified as consisting of several formal parts and this internal structure is identified, described and explained in the grammatical analysis. There are two meanings, namely, the lexical meaning and the structural meaning. For comprehending the meaning of a sentence one should have a knowledge of both lexical and structural meanings.
The grammar of a language consists of formal devices -forms and their arrangements, meanings and distribution. Both forms and their arrangements have their significance as parts of a system. Sentence in a language is not merely a group of words but a structured string of words. The formal meanings of the arrangements into which words fall in a sentence can be generally understood without an understanding of the lexical meanings. Sentences of a language are innumerable but the underlying patterns of all the possible sentences in a language are finite in number. Through the use of finite patterns, we produce an infinite number of sentences in human languages. The native users of a language have generally no difficulty in identifying what a sentence is and what a sentence is not in that language. They know intuitively well to identify and use the admissible combinations of clusters of words in sentences of that language.
Linguistic analysis generally has sentence as its major, if not the only, focus. A complete sentence or potentially complete utterance is the focus of grammatical analysis. Though certain links may be established between sentences of a conversation or a paragraph in writing (the links based on grammatical devices, in addition to the links based on the continuity of content such as cross reference and anaphora, (See section 5.7) such links are not the pegs on which grammatical theories are hung. Linguists find that the interrelations of elements within a sentence form a much more organized coherent whole and, so, they consider sentence as the largest unit of grammatical analysis.
In the grammatical analyses of sentences we seek at least three types of information. In the firs type, we divide the sentence into various components or categories which in their turn have their owns substrings; in the second type of information, we seek to find out the functions of the components identified in the first processes; and, in the third type of information the features of each individual item will be sought. Thus, as Chomsky (1965) reports, the first one looks at the components of the sentence, the second at how these parts are held to each other and the third at how each form is linked with the structure.
Grammatical categories such as noun, verb, adjective and adverbs can be further subcategorised. This subcategorization is done on the basis of their behaviour in a sentence, in terms of elements with which the lexical items of a category coheres with the other lexical items in the sentence. That is, we identify the features associated with the syntactic context in which an item occurs.
A group of items of a category that share the common contexts will be put under that category as a subcategory. For example, the grammatical category verb can be subcategorised into transitive, intransitive, causative, reflexive, etc., on the basis of the contextual features demanded for the used of the above. A transitive verb requires that a direct object occur after it. Transitive verbs in English may be further classified into those that do and those that do not normally permit object deletion. Under the former category come the verbs such as read and eat and under the latter category frighten and keep. In the English language, the verbs are subcategorized with respect to the occurrence and types of verbal complements: subcategorization of a grammatical category is done on the basis of the syntactic behaviour of an item (in terms of its occurrence with other items).
Consider the following sentences. The sentences marked with asterisks are not acceptable for syntactic and/or semantic reasons. The verbs of these sentences do not cohere with the words following, in semantically and/or syntactically acceptable sentences. (We exclude from our purview the metaphorical, mythological and other such uses).
- I killed a snake.
- I killed a table.*
- He walked.
- He walked a table.*
- I read a novel.
- I read a man.*
Hornby, et al., (1963) identify twentyfive verbal patterns in English. Also they identify passive types of constructions for eleven of these twenyfive constructions. All these categories of verbs and syntactic patterns are used in the expression of sciences. That is, almost all the structures of the ordinary language are also used in the language of science. Exceptions are few and may be related directly to the formal nature of the scientific activity and its specialization.
To this extent, the ordinary language and the language of science share a large number of features. But the differences between the two lie in the preference exhibited by the language of science. We will find out these differences very easily if we analyze the language of any given book of science. We would discover that all the patterns given in the above cited reference are used in that book. However, these patterns would not be found in their "pure" form, as the scientific texts abound in complex sentences.
In a textbook, the author's identity or presence is felt thorough the use of we. This sometimes refers only to the author or authors of the book and at times refers to the author/authors as well as the reader. Such identification inclusion is restricted generally to indicate the assumptions of the author/authors and the conclusions they have drawn. It is used also to persuade the reader to go along with the author/authors. We would also notice that the length of the sentences used in a scientific book is greater than the one we find in "non-conceptual" types of publications. While preference for certain sentence types and the length of the sentence characterize sentence construction and use in a scientific text, the use (in English) of the It construction and passive sentence type contributes to an aura of objectivity. The length of a sentence is generally indirect proportion to the number and complexity of concepts packed into a sentence. A child resorts to an acquisition and mastery of longer sentences along with its mastery of and urge to express complex concepts. Brevity without loss of essential information is a desideratum in the language of science.
It is true, however, that not all the patterns given in the above cited reference would be found used in a single journal article. Journal articles are of a limited nature in terms of their scope, content and linguistic structures. Even in the case of syntactic structures used in a book of science, there seems to be a preference shown for some structures over others. This preference can be easily demonstrated through a frequency count of the occurrence of different structures used in any book of science.
This preference for some structures over others is reflected in journal articles also. Another characteristic also must be mentioned here. We have referred to a fact that a constancy of meaning for each word used in the language of science is generally demanded. Because of this demand for constancy, alternative available to a user of language of science are quite limited. Generally speaking, only one word out of the likely many in the ordinary language is admissible and is selected. Although such strict adherence and restrictions are not insisted upon in the selection and use of syntactic patterns, in practice such an adherence is quite common in journals articles. It is common in elementary books also. A consequence of this restriction is the conscious avoidance, on the part of the scientists, of figurative speech, satire, metonymy, alliteration, hyperbole, etc., except in model building where such devices are found productive and helpful.
The different kinds of verb patterns which we have listed above can be grouped broadly under five forms of the predicate in English, following Onions (1932). Before we present Onions' classification, some clarification of the notions of subject and predicate is required. A subject denotes the person or thing about which something is said by means of the predicate. A predicate is what is said about the person or thing denoted. This characterization of subject and predicate is intuitively understood an serves practical ends.
We find that (most of) the predicate phrases contain a verb and through this verb, predication is conveyed.
In Onion's classification, the first form of the predicate contains only a verb as in sentences, Day dawns and He studied. In the second form of the predicate, the predicate consists of a verb and a predicative adjective, a predicative noun or a predicative pronoun. This form of the predicate includes participles. There is a unity between the verb and adjective, etc. Examples are They were ruined, He was coming, and The warrior lay dead. The third form of the predicate has a verb and an object, which denotes the person or thing to which the action of the verb passes over: I eat apples. The fourth form of the predicate consists of a verb and two objects: We ask you this, and I asked him a question. In the fifth form of the predicate, a verb, an object and a predicative adjective or predicate noun are found: He though himself a man. These five forms may be considered as the principal or fundamental ways of expression in English, from which other manners of expression are derived. Again, all the five forms could be easily recognized in a scientific text. One may also suggest a hierarchy on the basis of intuitively-felt frequency of occurrence in the decreasing order: Predicative form3, Predicative form 2, Predicative form 4,l Predicative form 1 and Predicative form 5.
To continue our discussion of the types of information conveyed by components of a sentence, lexical items can be looked at also from the point of view of what linguists call selectional restrictions. Although two items can cohere in a sentence on the basis of the appropriateness of grammatical categories as well as the appropriateness of the subcategorization of these categories, still such coherences need not make a sentence a correct or a good one. As for example, the verb in the sentence "I ate a cake" is a transitive verb which can take a direct object. The sentence "I drank a cake" also has a transitive verb followed by a direct object but will not be acceptable, as the coherence of the lexical item drank with the lexical item cake breaks the selectional relations.
Consider another example: "My husband is pregnant". This also is not acceptable because, as one might easily find out, the lexical features of the words husband and pregnant are in conflict, although they fulfil the requirements of grammatical categories in the cited sentences. One can easily cite many other examples. The verbs admire and see require animate subjects; frighten and strike may have, both animate and inanimate subjects; read and know require human subjects. And like these, many restrictions are identified for the use of various categories of words. Such restrictions are not heeded in the newspaper language, in news items as well as advertisements.
This led J. R. Firth (1964:118), a well known British linguist, to comment as follows in 1930's: 'If Charles Lamb could be brought back to explain the examples given,' (from newspapers under various headings), 'he would soon be very perplexed and would not get the right kind of certificate. What Dr. Johnson would say could be imagined and might make amusing if only we could find a 1937 Boswell to do it.' Such a breaking of restrictions in the uses of words is found also in the language of science, but the difference lies in the users of the latter making conscious efforts to avoid feelings, social attitudes, prejucidecs, fears, wishes, fantasies, and ambitions, in the words of Professor Firth, 'to be free as possible from sentiment, prejudice, wishful thinking, from the shackles of the mythical, magical, and fantastic.' Such a breaking of selectional restrictions characterizes the language use in the exprssion of sciences in English and several other languages.
Langauges do differ among themselves as to the plan of selectoinal restrictions imposed on the coherence of different grammatical categories. Accordingly, the extent of ignoring selectional restrictions for special purposes in one language may be different form that of another language. In a language like Tamil where the main verb in a sentence must indicate, among others, the number (singural or plural), the gender (masculine, feminine, common, or neuter) and the person (first, second or third person), scientific concepts and scientific expressions automatically adopt the neuter gender and the third person. Once this choice is made, the choice with regard to the ver al form (the strong or the weak, the transitive or the intransitive) is to be made. More often than not, the weak/intransitvie form of the verb is used; if there is to be emphasis and if the action is caused by an agent, then the strong form/transitive form of the verb is used, generally speaking. Thus, the form a verbal root takes also has great releveance in this regard.
5.4. Ambiguity and Language of Science
Native users of a language have several abilities in terms of the use of their language. These abilities have to be acquired also by a second language learner for a competent use of the particular language they are learning. These abilities include the following:
- The native users of a language have the ability to distinguish between the
grammatical and ungrammatical strings of a potentially infinite number of
utterances in the language. This contributes to or is a consequence of their ability
to recognize the order in which words occur in the sentences.
- The native users of a language can often understand the full meaning of a sentence
even when there is no explicit occurrence of all the words in a sentence. This
contributes to our ability to reconstruct the full meaning of a sentence, even when
not all the words are present in a given sentence This contributes also to our ability to anticipate words and complete a half-uttered sentence.
- We also have an ability to interpret ungrammatical strings even when the elements
of interpretation may not be physically present in the string.
- The native speakers are able to interpret sentences which look exactly alike: I had
three books stolen; Flying planes can be dangerous, and so one.
- Sentences which seem to have similar structural shapes are interpreted correctly:
The cow was found by the farmer.
The cow was found by the stream.
The above two sentences look as if they have similar structures, but different interpretations are to be given for the phrases by the farmer and by the stream. The first one has an agentive function and the second one a locative function.
- Though two sentences may seems to have different formal shapes/structures, the
native speakers have an ability to interpret them as related:
The farmer found the cow.
The cow was found by the farmer.
Utilizing the above abilities native users of a language are able to disambiguate the utterances they hear and/or utter. Science expects from its practitioners an unambiguous language without embellishments. But note that ambiguity in language use is quite a natural process. Ambiguity may be on word level or on sentence level. Some examples are: The police station was right by the bank; The lamb is too hot to eat; and Visiting relatives can be a nuisance. In the disambiguation process, the native speakers are helped by all the abilities listed above, but most important is the knowledge of the subject.
Although these abilities are very important in the expression and clarification of scientific ideas, one must bear in mind that whether it is a litereary piece or a scientific piece, clarity is very important. That is why the classical traditions in many languages of the orient as well as of the West have identified several techniques to retrieve the information contained in poetical works as well as scientific texts. The classical traditions have identified the errors that a writer/poet should avoid and the "beauties" or stylistic devices that one may adopt to enhance the clarity value of what one writes or composes. Some fo these are language-specific in the snese that such errors and beauties are dependent upon the linguistic structures employed. Others are language-independent and applicable to discourses in any language.
The ancient Tamil grammarians, over a thousand years ago, suggested the following:
- The ten errors: Understatement (use of less number of words than necessary):
exaggeration (use of more words than necessary); use of erroneous expressions; ambiguous statement; vacuous statement; digression; progressive loss of compactness in diction and content; and, use of words sans significance.
- The ten "beauties": Brevity; a brief but lucid statement that is easy to
comprehend by all; pleasant to read; use of words that sound well; use of fine and culturally appropriate words; a statement portraying deep thought/susceptible for deep interpretation; an appropriate sequencing; making statements in consonance with a highly valued tradition/form; making statements which express highly desired good things; and, making statements with easily understood examples.
- The thirty two techniques: Start with an iteration of what is to follow; appropriate organization; state generically; specify the components of what is stated generically; to conclude the way the men of tradition concluded; indicate the (literary) usage/occurrence/illustration for the (grammatical) rule stated; occasional use of the ancient aphorisms/formulae/definitions; cite the arguments of others in one's own book; elucidate the details to make explicit the meanings of the words; use of words that are related in form, use or meaning; to make statements which carry more than one meaning; conclude stating reasons for something which has been stated earlier without giving reasons; make concluding statements about something/somebody even when it is not the appropriate place -do this, if the definition offered for something else is appropriate for the present matter also; extend the definition of something somebody to all those to which the definition is appropriate on the at occasion; non-use of obsolete items; acceptance and use of innovations; use again, wherever necessary, the first mentioned information; present later an item that should occur in the beginning; bring out the difference/contradictory or distinguishing facets; to proceed form the contradictory/distinguishing facets to generalized or generic statements; to mention in brief stating that the same will be death with in detail later on; refer back to what is said earlier in order not to make a detailed exposition, at present juncture, of what has already been discussed; accept one form along the several arguments; illustrate one's own principles/definitions with own examples; explain how examples cited fit into the definition/principle offered; resolve ambiguity and choose the appropriate interpretation; make statements in such a way that these imply validity even for those things left unstated; accept/recognize/approve the arguments given in others' books; speak of one's own innovations/contributions repeatedly; conclude in such a way that the content is totally accounted for/exhausted/exploited, when the expression comes to a close; present all the related items in the same place; and, present definitions or principles in such a way that the meaning of which would be understood through a deep study of these and other definitions/principles.
The above listed errors, beauties, and techniques were suggested for the appropriate use of language, particularly for the expression of grammatical concepts. In Tamil and in several other Indian languages, the oldest "scientific" pursuit and expression were made in grammatical and rhetoric studies. The errors and appropriate expressions were a subject matter of intensive study in ancient Greece as part of expositional logic. Equal importance to innovations, discoveries, inventions and the expression of all these in words has been given throughout the ages.
Ambiguity when used purposely as a literary device adds to the quality of a literary piece. The same ambiguity when used in a scientific text, however, hampers comprehension, and is taken generally as a sign of lack of proper grounding in the subject matter, or lack of comprehension of the subject matter by the writer. Resolution of ambiguity and comprehension of what is being offered require some competence - adequacy - in both the writer and the reader.
The language of science is often compared to an equation - a valid equation. The sentence should balance with what is being communicated - intended to be communicated. If it balances, there is no ambiguity.
A sentence is to be direct, lean without unnecessary embellishments, with the right type of verb and with smooth transitions form sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. But, to achieve this, the writer-scientist should have a knowledge of what his words do and do not, can do and cannot do. Grammar and punctuation, vocabulary, (used as clichés, big words, jargon, high sounding words, etc.) and failure on the part of the author to put himself into the readers' shoes are all factors that contribute to ambiguity, in addition to writer's general inadequacy in handling the syntactic nuances of language, variable styles and the subject on hand.
A better writer is aware of the possibility of ambiguity and strives his best to avoid it by baring in mind the audience for whom he is writing and the purpose for the fulfilling of which he is writing. He writes and rewrites striking out unnecessary words. The act of striking out reveals that the thought can still be expressed without the words struck out. Progress in science depends a lot on the clarification of ideas already available and on the clear elucidation of newer ones. Accordingly, one should be able to recognize ambiguity whenever it occurs and must have a clear idea as to how ambiguity can be avoided using proper linguistic structures.
5.5. Deep Structures, Transformations and Surface Structures
For resolving ambiguity and to arrive at the correct and intended meaning, we must have an idea of the deep structure of the sentence in question. Sentences in any language have both a deep structure and a surface structure. Deep structure gives the meaning of the sentence uttered. Deep structure underlies the surface structure; surface structure is what we actually utter in the form of sentences in our speech and writing, when we communicate with one another. In many cases the deep and the surface structures of a sentence may be identical, as in I go home. In several cases the surface structure of the sentences may be same or even identical but the underlying deep structures may be different: I had three books stolen; Flying planes can be dangerous.
The deep structure is considered abstract. With the application of rules, called transformational rules, on deep structures, we derive surface structures. That is, a deep structure becomes a surface structure through an application of transformational rules. Note that we do not always speak or write only in simple sentences - simple in the sense that the sentence cannot further be split into smaller sentences. These simple sentences need not be short. The requirement is that there be only one finite verb. (The characteristic formal features of finite verb may differ from language to language - in general, it carries the burden of main action of the sentence.)
Length of a sentence can be increased by phrasal (non-sentential type) additions to it. Furthermore employing only short sentences at a stretch would make the text unnatural and less effective means of communication. In fact, more often than not, the sentences we utter in speech or in writing are not simple in the above sense. These sentences are derived through an application of transformational rules on the underlying deep structures of sentences.
Although all languages contain transformational rules which transform deep structures into surface structures, the number and kinds of specific transformations, their scope of applications and the order in which they occur in one language may be different from those of another language. That is, it amounts to saying that the number and kinds of sentence types in a language may be different from those of another language, because these types, in a majority of the cases, are derived through an application of transformational rules.
The identification, description and explanation of the transformational processes is an activity that continues along with the refinement or innovation of grammatical models of description. The variety of transformations that a language uses (here, English) may be appreciated from a list of transformations Jacobs and Rosenbaum (1968) discuss in their book: adjective, adverb preposing, affix, agreement, article, auxiliary agreement, auxiliary incorporation, case, cleft sentence, complementizer deletion, conjunction reduction, conjunction shift, contraction, copula, extraposition, identical conjunct reduction, identical noun phrase deletion, identical verb phrase deletion, imperative, indirect object inversion, interrogative, "it" deletion, "it" replacement, manner adverbial, negative adjunction, negative placement, negation, nominalization, non-restrictive clause, non-restrictive relative clause, noun segment deletion, noun suffix, particle segment, particle movement, passive perfect segment, preposition, preposition deletion, progressive segment, pronoun, pronoun deletion, question deletion, reflexive relative clause reduction, relative pronoun deletion, time-place deletion, verb agreement, verbal agreement, verb suffix, and WH-question.
In spite of the variety of transformations one may notice in an individual language, the transformations used in all the languages may be grouped under several formal classes. Although the form, the content, and the order of these formal classes are still a matter of dispute among linguists, one is in agreement with Bach (1974: 79) when he says that 'the basic purpose of including transformational rules in a grammar is to make it possible to describe one type of structure directly and to describe other structures as modifications of structures of the first type.' For instance, a recursive rule is applied repeatedly on a given sentence to produce longer and longer sentences. The embedding rule, which also has recursive property, is used to combine two or more sentences and this combination results in a complex sentenced sentence with main and subordinate clauses. The use of joining rules results in a compound sentence.
5.6. Sentence Types and Preferences
The discussion of transformations leads us to a discussion of the types of sentences. A closer look into the structures of sentences in any text would indicate that the longer sentences of a language are, indeed, structured in the image of a small number of short sentences. The short sentences are expanded in several ways through an addition of phrases/sentences in appropriate places in the given short sentences. This facility enables us to understand sentences that we have not heard or read before. We interpret a new sentence as a sentence based on structures already known to us. The ability to interpret and comprehend the sentences not heard or read before reveals our mastery of basic patterns of sentence structures as well as the means by which these patterns are expanded to derive new sentences.
As we have pointed out, sentences used already or which may be coined and used in a language can be reduced to a small number of patterns-infinite number of sentences through a finite number of patterns. Some linguists consider the patterns common to a large number of sentences as favourite types in that language. The favourite type, however, differs from content to content, context to context and pursuit to pursuit. This variation in preferences can be identified even within the language of science on the basis of the above mentioned points. The variation is found also in relation to the manner in which the purpose is achieved, as well as in relation to the subject matter itself. But all these variations accept a central binding force, namely, the impersonal style. What is of utmost importance is the feature of fitness between the linguistic expressions and the requirements of the content. To the extent this fitness is evident and maintained, a linguistic expression will be complete, adequate or inadequate. With the fitness comes accuracy, economy, and compactness, and also the impersonal tone. (But while acquiring this feature of fitness, there are bound to be several stages, of which we discuss in the next chapter).
Language use in science through English (and in many other languages) seems to prefer the passive voice correspondence of the active voice sentence. (Such a preference is now on the decline). In English, the past perfect tense is used for a description of past work. The past tense is used to describe a procedure and the present tense is used to describe the main contents. The future tense is very rarely used; it is used to indicate predictions of what would occur if a set of objects, processes or events has been followed. It is also used to indicate projections for the future. The imperative is used for analytical procedures, for recipes and for conducting experiments. For example, the expression was heated tells us that the action occurred in the past, that it was performed on one substance and not on several, and that some subject had suffered the action and did not perform it. If the phrase is was boiled, the additional information that the subject which suffered the action was a liquid would also be available. In any case, note that the information as to who did the act was not made explicit. As regards the filling in of the subject slot position, there are three alternatives available while making a matter of fact statements. These are: (a) I filtered the mixture, (b) We filtered the mixture, and, (c) The mixture was filtered. Of the three, (c) is preferred first, (b) second and (a) last. Moreover, the entire experiment, like the general practice in other narratives, would be generally reported in past tense.
Such preferences exhibited by one language need not be found in another language. This has been reported by us earlier. For example, in the place of a transitive verb sentence which has a corresponding passive-like construction, the Tamil language prefers a corresponding intransitive verb sentence for the expression of sciences.
Instructions for the conduct of experiments take the form of imperatives in English with the imperative pronoun deleted. In Tamil, imperatives may be honorific. (The addressee may be shown respect as a superior or treated as an equal/inferior through the use of appropriate suffixes to the verbal root.) The instructions for the conduct of experiments, etc., take the form of an imperative sentence type in which the pronouns are deleted. But this imperative construction is different from the regular type which is used for forthright or face to face instructions.
In this construction which is different from the regular imperative construction, the verbal concord suffixes indicating gender, number and respect (honorific) are not used. But a neutral verbal concord suffix is used, which literally gives the meaning "is desired". In English, the imperative construction used for face to face communication is not different from the one used to give instructions for conducting experiments, etc. In Tamil, however, a distinction, as mentioned above, is maintained. Scientists using German seem to be very much conscious of the sentence length and, as a result, one notices a tendency to keep the sentence as short as possible.
One tries to avoid expansions wherever possible, although materials continue to be presented within parentheses. The extent of presenting certain information within parentheses, however, does not reach the level where the matters presented within series of parentheses may occupy more space in a page than the matters without, as one finds in some English authors like John Lyons, a well known British linguistic theoretician. In German, the adjuncts, that is, phrasal attributes, to a simple sentence can be many. Of these attributes, adverbial phrases seem to be more. These attributes can make even a simple sentence longer. The number and kinds of verbs used in scientific German are few, as in other scientific languages. Special meanings are attached to verbs, making such usages technical terms. Complex sentences, as in English, are used for definition purposes. However, in German, complex sentences are used mainly for this purpose. Infinitival and participial phrases are frequently used to condense information. Some of these features are shared by all languages and some are specific to German. Thus, each language has its own structural patterns, and favourite types of sentences for various purposes.
The above fact is largely ignored in the sense that even in languages where there is no proper passive voice construction, attempts at the expression of sciences, imitate the practice of preferring passive constructions in English. If clarity, objectivity and an impersonal tone are important characteristics that any scientific expression must have, the same can be achieved without oneself hinging exclusively upon a single sentence pattern.
Such a situation was prevalent in the language used for commercial transactions in the past between commercial concerns and customers. A certain amount of formality was felt to be necessary not only to maintain the dignity of the individuals and their concerns but also to underline the seriousness of the transactions and so on. This formality clung to set phrases, set expressions and set formats. Although one would not say that the considerations mentioned above do not weigh in the minds of the business-letter writers of present day English, one does not fail, however, to notice a conscious effort to underplay the formality tone. Set phrases characterize officialese, even though attempts are made once in a while to make it more informal. But these attempts at reform or refinement do not meet with any success, whether the medium is the mother tongue or is acquired as a second language.
In the case of English in India, the vast majority of people who have some exposure to the medium acquire and stabilize their competence through using that language for official or formal purposes. And hence, for them, the standard is only the officialese form of the English language. To quote Professor Firth (1964) once again: 'Most Indian English is badly over-drawn. But it is kept going by the Government, and though it has therefore a certain local currency, it has no gold backing. English literature up to and including Addison is not a suitable security on which to issue current tokens of speech in the twentieth century. Babuism is not by any means confined to India. It is the common danger lurking in all purely literary education, and especially perilous if the languages are alien to the social life of the learners'. The legacy of the past lingers on! There is a need for a Plain Englishs Movement in India.
An understanding of the syntactic usage of a language leads us to the selection and use of that sentence pattern which is more natural (in some difficult to define sense), straightforward, and frequent, and which has sufficient elasticity, productivity and neutrality. This problem of choosing and, if necessary, coining sentence patterns for the expression of sciences is almost solved in developed languages in the sense that these languages have got some established conventions in this regard. In languages which came to be used only recently for the expression of sciences, we notice a tendency to choose and at times even coin a pattern similar in syntactic form and function to the one found in the developed language which acts as the model. Instead of looking for similarity in form and function of syntactic structures between languages, one should look for suitability of a syntactic pattern for the avowed object of communication-communicative intent.
In languages, noun-verb sentence pattern is found. Many other sentence patterns are derived from this form of sentence and its expansions are quite common in English, German and many other languages. The frequency of this pattern of sentence is found to be greater than the frequency of other sentence patterns. In all such patterns, verb has a very important role, in many cases carrying more information than the noun. Because of the pivotal role played by a verb and because of the frequent occurrence of noun and verb sentence patterns, the form of logical propositions also has assumed the same pattern. In fact if there is an ellipsis - such as the deletion of verb in an expression (see below for further elucidation) - the expression is in some manner considered defective, and a process to recover the verbal form is always attempted in reconstructing the logical proposition.
In languages like Latin, Tamil, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, etc., the verb (verbal construction) alone can constitute a sentence, as its use will include the indication for person, number, and gender of the subject noun. It will also indicate the tense of the action. Indication of the subject through the use of a full-fledged subject noun or phrase is, thus, superfluous, although the subject noun/phrase is not always deleted, and is at times obligatorily retained to maintain proper references, when ambiguity may be caused by context.
In the language of science, however, only very rarely a sentence is written with only the verb phrase in these languages. In fact the language of science avoids deletions of the sort which may be acceptable in a literary genre. Technical statement is always a completed statement, and not an individual word. Hence deletions are not common. And yet both in the ordinary language and in the language of science some sentences do lack some part or parts, when compared to their full form. These are called elliptical sentences.
Ellipsis is very often resorted to in ordinary spoken language, and in poetical and rhetorical language to create some effect on the audience. In colloquial speech ellipsis is resorted to not only as a measure of economy but also to create an impression of precision and brevity. It is found commonly in answers where the complete form of the answer would be a mere repetition of the major part of the question asked. Thus, ellipsis is found commonly in answers to questions, in raising questions and in exclamations. As far as the language of science is concerned, such elliptical sentences are generally avoided.
The language of science, however, makes a frequent use of an ellipsis of a different kind. Ellipsis is easily identified (and is considered a virtue) in the deletion or non-mention of the agent - in the passive construction of science language in English. Since deletion of the agent is considered contributing to the objective and impersonal style of language of science, many other languages have also followed the practice of deleting the agent. In some languages the sentence patterns that delete the agent may be frequently used even in ordinary language; or they may be assigned some special functions such as topical focus and used in ordinary language. Hence their use in the language of science does not sound artificial or contrived. In some other languages such patterns that delete the agent may have only rare occurrence, and, following the model provided by English, scientists using such languages identify a pattern similar to that of English and make use of the same for the expression of sciences in their languages, although such a pattern may have only a rare occurrence in the ordinary language (and, thus, may sound contrived when used for a longer stretch).
The peculiar quality of language of science in such cases must be ascribed to this state of condition also. Moreover, although brevity is very much sought after in the expression of sciences, the urge for precision exercises a control over the urge for brevity in the expression of sciences. This results generally in the occurrence of a specified type or a very few specified types of sentences and this fact also contributes to the contrived nature of syntax. As precision requires specificity and as specificity requires provision for all the factors and processes, sentence in the language of science gets an involved syntactic form.
5.7. Types of Sentence Expansions
We have referred to expansions of underlying forms of sentences. There are five different ways in which the sentences can be expanded. These are nested, self-embedding, multiple-branching, left-branching and right-branching. A construction is considered nested if in that construction the phrase (A) falls totally within the phrase (B). Thus, the phrase The man who wrote the book that you told me about is nested in the phrase called the man who wrote the book that you told me about.
A construction will be considered self-embedded if the construction (A) is of the same type as (B) and is nested in (B). An example of the self-embedding would be who the students recognized in the construction who the boy who the students recognized point out, since both are of the same type-both are relative clauses.
Note that there is a significant difference between nested and self-embedded Constructions. In the former, the nested constructions need have no similarity with the one in which it is embedded, whereas in the latter the embedding is done only when the nesting and self-embedding constructions are grammatically similar. In a multiple branching construction we have no inherent structure. All the items stand in their own and are connected to a commonhead. An example would be John, Bill, Tom and several of their friends. In a left-branching structure, the construction is expanded leftward, as in the illustration John's brother's father's uncle. In the right branching construction, the expansion is done rightwards, as in the example This is the cat that caught the rat that stole the cheese.
Languages differ from one another in having and utilizing different types of expansions. As our examples given above indicate, the English language has all the five types. Tamil does not have nested, self-embedding and right-branching constructions at all. Left-branching is the most frequent and the most preferred form in languages like Tamil and Hindi. In English as well as in other languages, the preference for and the frequency of these constructions vary from content to content, context to context and pursuit to pursuit.
Expansions are controlled by another factor as well-the length of the entire sentence in general and of the resultant phrase as a whole after the processes of expansion, is also a very important factor in comprehension. Greater the length the lesser is the comprehension and the retention of information. Hence, theoretically, the number of phrases, whether they be of similar or dissimilar structure, that can be packed into a sentence is infinite; but in practice, they are to be kept to the level where the speed and quality of comprehension will not be adversely affected.
Insertions are generally indicated through some formal device in all the languages. We said earlier that a complex sentence has one main clause and more dependent clauses subordinate clauses. Subordinate clauses tell us something about the nature of some other part of the sentence. This is so because the ways in which they are put in a sentence cause them to serve the information given by some other part of the sentence in a subordinate capacity. The main or major versus subordinate status of information supplied is indicated through formal means.
In many languages subordinate clauses are marked through some formal device or the other. In English, these devices include the use of words such as when, since, because, if, unless, although, where, after, before, as, until, that, which, who, whom and whose. Moreover, the form a verb assumes when occurring in a subordinate clause may be different from the form it assumes while occurring in a main clause. The choice of a special word order also may be utilized by languages to signify the subordinate clause. In any case, as we have already pointed out, expansion processes may differ from language to language, and within a language also it may be conditioned by content, context, pursuit, etc. Subordination as in important process, since we do not speak or write only in simple sentences. Subordination is important also in expressions like the ones we have in sciences where comparisons are made, conditions are identified and the relations that exist between objects, events and processes are sought after.
We have, on several occasions in the above pages, indicated that language can be studied in several ways - as a sociological, psychological, biological or a linguistic phenomenon. Within linguistics, we may look at language from the point of view of the eight pedagogical components, namely, phonetic, phonemic, morphological, morphophonemic, syntactic, semantic, lexical and graphemic ones. We may also study language in relation to the content, context, and pursuit of its users. A study of language, in fact, is not generally based on any one of the factors to the exclusion of others-the study generally takes into account a few of the factors together and a comprehensive study aims at including all the above in some proportionate manner dictated by the goals and necessities of the investigator.
Scientific language, unlike the ordinary language, is hardly ever emotive; it is generally informative and symbolic. But its construction and composition, as we have already pointed out, follow the processes of ordinary language. Like the sentences of ordinary language, sentences of the language of science also may have qualities that may not be wholly ascribed to the words that the sentences have. Composition of sentences in all languages involves selection of words and selection of arrangements into which these words are to be put. One cannot say for certain whether the arrangement or the choice of words is decided upon first. In any case, there are several alternatives of arrangements and of words available to the users of a language. This availability of alternatives forces the users to make a decision, and the capacity for making appropriate decisions varies from one user to another. It also varies on the basis of the content, context and pursuit. Note, however, that alternatives as regards the items of language of science are of a limited number and nature.
We do not speak or write sentences in isolation. The sentences we utter or write are generally a part of a larger whole called discourses cluster of sentences with a focus on a single topic, generally speaking, which is intuitively felt as forming a unit by itself. Thus, a sentence has not only its own internal network of relations formed by the words, phrases, and even embedded sentences that go into its making but also it has its own external relations when it occurs in a particular discourse. These external relations between sentences in a text or discourse are signalled both by linguistic and nonlinguistic means.
Several linguistic devices are employed by us to refer back to what has been already suggested, to suggest that what is being presented in a particular sentence is a logical follow-up of what has been presented in preceding sentences, to point out what is being presented in a particular sentence is simply going to be contradicted later, and so on. Coherence and cogency, readability and to some extent comprehensibility may be dependent both on the linguistic and nonlinguistic characteristics of the discourse. Thus, the external relations of the above sort that exist between sentences in a scientific text should also be considered as part of the characteristics of the language of sciences, in addition to a study of the relations between syntax and lexis (lexical items and their use).
A study of scientific language will be enriched not only -by a comparison of one scientific language with another, one functional language with another, but also by a comparison of the same with the spoken/colloquial language. That is, the language of science should be compared within a language across levels of communication and levels of education. Such comparisons will lead to insights into the functions attached to the varieties of a language and this insight should be of great use for the cultivation and enrichment of one's own mother tongue. Be as it may, we shall now present some of the characteristics of scientific discourse.
In our description of sentential structure, we used a term, namely, subordinate clause. The subordinate clause is an internal relation and, thus, contains information which is subsumed by the information carried by the main clause of the whole sentence. Generally speaking, it is the information that is carried by the main clause which is used to establish the communication bridge with other sentences in a discourse. However, while the main clause of a sentence carries the information and acts as the bridge in most of the cases, the subordinate clause is not precluded from having such relations in the discourse. In all the cases, however, a complete understanding is achieved in a discourse on the basis of the understanding of other sentences of the discourse. This is much more so in a scientific text because sentence in a scientific text is there in the text because of the information it carries and not for any ornamental purpose. The sentence has its own information which, however, forms part of the whole in some specified and clear manner.
Discourse analysis is based on the assumption that we can identify and isolate from the sentences that comprise a text or speech the linguistic features which give a coherence to the entire piece. In fact stronger claims are made in some quarters that linguistics must give up its sentence - based grammar approach and switch over to a study of the discourse and an enunciation of discourse grammar. While this proposition continues to be a bone of contention among schools of linguistics, it is true that taking a discourse view of the linguistic aspects of any communication event will bring out characteristics that may not be accessible if we restrict our observation to individual sentences only.
A discourse has something coherent about it. Some of the features that contribute to the cohesion of a text or speech are juxtaposition of sentences or parts of sentences; the presuppositions shared by a writer and a reader, a speaker and a listener; repetition of items; the use of synonymous items; anaphoric references (explained below), and so on. Juxtaposition of sentences by itself does not contribute to cohesion of a text.
One can produce a large number of sentences and place them one after another in a text without bringing in, in any significant manner, cohesion to the text. The sentences may mean one thing when viewed as separate and disconnected sentences. But as a text they may not convey anything in an orderly fashion.
We juxtapose sentences in a discourse on the basis of connection between propositions. Juxtaposition may be viewed from two angles, namely, juxtaposition of parts of a sentence and juxtaposition of sentences themselves. The grammatical concepts of co-ordination and subordination may be considered as part of juxtaposition of parts of sentences (internal relations as explained above). In co-ordination we juxtapose two or more identical grammatical structures. Conjunction plays a crucial role here which connects parts of the sentence. We can also have apposition as in the following examples: Queen Mary, Professor Higgins, and Nehru, the author of The Discovery of India, in which both the components may be considered attributes of each other. Subordination helps us to build up the qualifications of the head in addition to fulfilling several other functions, some of which we have referred to earlier.
Conjunction between sentences is an important step in bringing out the cohesion between sentences in a text. This connection is found to be of several types in a scientific text in English. The most frequent ones are termed as the logical sequence, (e.g., thus, therefore), the contrast versus non-contrast, (e.g., however, in fact), the doubt versus certainty, (e.g., probably versus certainly), the non-contrast versus contrast, (e.g., moreover, similarly, also), and the expansion of detail (e.g., for example, in particular). For using the logical sequence-connectives, sentences should be 'in a particular time sequence or deduction sequence for them to be used in making their relation explicit'.
The study by Winter and others (quoted in Winter, 1971) has indicated that within this sequence of sentences instrucment relation (thus) and the deduction or reason relation (therefore) have a greater frequency in scientific texts. The contrast sentence connectives are used to make explicit a contrast or an incompatibility between their clauses. These include the items however, in fact, yet and nevertheless in English. Out of these items, the frequency of however was found way ahead of the rest. The sentence connectives of doubt and certainty include the following: The connectives expressing doubt are probably, apparently, perhaps and presumably. Connectives expressing certainty are of course, clearly and actually. These sentence connectives are non-anaphoric (not having back-reference, generally speaking) and they do not make explicit a particular clause relation for their sentence, but can strongly predict a contrast relation for it. 'What they do make explicit is a subjective attitude of doubt or certainty and it is this subjectivity itself which can predict a contrast relation as an intellectual balancing of statements where tentative is balanced by certainty, or certainty by tentative', (Winter, 1971).
The sentence connectives of non-contrast are the semantic converse of the contrast items in the category of the contrast sentence connectives. These 'make explicit a relation of non-contrast or compatibility.' These include items such as moreover, similarity, also, indeed and in addition. If, however, the connectives establish the links between sentences that follow one another and also the links between parts of a sentence, the theme of a sentence that follows another should not be viewed merely as an addition or an expansion even of the theme of a preceding sentence.
It is true that a succeeding sentence will add to and expand the information/theme content of the preceding sentence/sentences. And yet, the significance of a succeeding sentence lies mainly in its function/role of 'moving forward the communicated content'. It is where the language use in science aims at excellence and steals a march over the ordinary language use. This moving forward the communicative content is an absolute requirement in language of science, whereas in other uses of language such a primary importance to this aspect need not be given. In this process of moving forward the communicated content, the first position in a sentence is given to some element which is about to be emphasized. This is a general practice in language use in the expression of sciences in known languages. And this general practice or rather the compulsion of the profession at times leads to a choice of a structure which may be quite natural and appropriate in one language and contrived and artificial in another.
In several places in this chapter we used terms such as anaphora, anaphoric references and back references. Anaphora is an important aspect of discourse. It may be defined as a type of dependency in a sentence when one of its elements refer back to an earlier sentence (or information contained therein) in some manner. Even within the same sentence one can have anaphoric reference.
Consider the following example:
The boy hurt the boy.
The boy hurt himself.
When the phrase the boy given in the sentence in the predicate phrase position is meant to refer to the boy given as the subject phrase, it is automatically transformed into a reflexive pronoun and, thus, we get the second sentence. Reflexives are generally anaphoric within a sentence. One can refer back to an earlier sentence through the use of pronouns, articles, demonstratives, adverbials of place, and through a process of ellipsis. John in an earlier sentence can be referred to as He in the subsequent sentences. Consider the following:
Question: Who is coming?
Here, a process of ellipsis takes place and a mere utterance of the name with an emphatic-assertive intonation indicates that the action referred to in the question is being performed by the person named in the reply. Furthermore, one easily notices in a discourse certain markers in the form of words, intonations, interjections, affixes and so on, which indicate not only the continuity of the episode under narration, but also refer back to events mentioned in earlier sentences. It is noticed that certain forms and kinds of discourses may exhibit some preference for certain kinds of anaphoric devices over others.
The maintenance of internal cohesion of any discourse is necessitated first of all by the need to be understood. The dependencies must be viewed from this angle. If one resorts to an excessive use of anaphoric devices, it is likely to affect comprehension. As communication is both inter-personal and intra-personal, we must use the indicators in appropriate ways if we want to be understood. In some languages like Tamil, Latin, Spanish, Hindi and so on, the main verb of the predicate phrase may be considered as having anaphoric reference to the subject of the sentence, in an extreme sense. The main verb in Tamil is inflected for gender, number and person, and as a consequence, can occur without the subject being mentioned at all in a sentence in the course of a text. But this has its own limitations. The identity of the dramatis personae is not complete only with the identification of their gender, person and number. Their exact identity as persons in a context of situation requires much more than these and hence a discourse soon reveals the identity of the subject in as many respects as possible. Otherwise the communication bridge is bound to be broken.
There are a few other features such as presupposition, paraphrase and lexical organization of sentences which also contribute to the internal cohesion in a discourse. Presuppositions are carried by certain statements, question, etc. "Has John stopped beating his wife?" presupposes that John has one and has beaten her. Presupposition need not be considered only from the angle of shared information between the communicators but also from the angle it gets reflected in linguistic structures. The chosen syntactic patterns and lexical items combine to express the presuppositions of the writer and the speaker.
The linguistic philosophers, of whom we had a discussion in chapter 3, devote considerable attention to the problem of presupposition and expend their energies to separate the content-presupposition from the linguistic presupposition. Linguists also expend a considerable amount of their energies to debate the extent to which the implications of the notion of presupposition should form part of the linguistic description of a language. Be as it may, in some specified sense, the scientists are required not to "presuppose" and to make "presupposed statements". They are required to make what is being presupposed as explicit as possible! Hence the language of the scientist is expected to be explicit and straightforward. Paraphrase enables us to use, in the place of using pronouns for subsequent references, noun phrases, which can hold paraphrase relations with the subject of the discourse. This technique of cohesion or, rather, a stylistic device, is generally avoided in the language of science, unless the writer prefers to highlight certain particular aspects of the subject referred to. The connections between lexical items in successive sentences also bring in cohesion in a discourse:
Waikiki. The sand was wet. The crabs were digging. The shells were all around. At a distance was seen a ship.
Note that in the above passage there is no explicit syntactic device to indicate the cohesion between sentences. But certain words give a sense of continuation and the flow from one sentence to another is marked by the choice of lexical items from more or less the same set. This example shows that anaphoric references need not be identified only at the syntactic level through an identification of linking morphemes, phrases, subordinate clauses, etc. There is yet another anaphora, semantic anaphora, which is exemplified in the use of items from the same set. It emphasizes the need to look at the back reference phenomenon of a discourse from the semantic point of view. In fact, there are suggestions that we must posit a semantic deep structure and a surface structure for the discourse. The deep structure will be the chain of events of a narrative (in our case the conception of theory, assumptions, original motivating force and even the design of experiment and anticipated solution) and the surface structure will be the manifestation of events in linguistic structures of a language (in our case, the reporting). The events and the surface structure need not have the same sequence and be in one-to-one correspondence. Languages may differ from one another in the way the underlying semantic deep structure are organized in the surface structure of the discourse.
An important segment of discourse is paragraph. Some consider it only as a form of punctuation, having only the function of giving relief to the tiring eye. But a paragraph has more to it than meets the eye. An ideal paragraph has several functions to perform which include, among other things, its usefulness to indicate the various stages in an exposition, as a prop to the reader to comprehend and retain information and better organize what is being comprehended and retained for easy retrieval, and its usefulness in moving forward the communicative content. If the thought is coherent, paragraph will have greater coherence. But even when the thought is coherent, if it is not matched by appropriate linguistic structures, the paragraph may not reveal any coherence at all.
Word links alone cannot give a sense of coherence to the content of a paragraph-especially so in a scientific text. There is a general theme which holds together in some perceptible manner all the sentences that constitute a paragraph. Placement of the theme or focus is dependent upon the goal of the concerned paragraph. If elucidation or enunciation is the goal, the theme sentence may be placed in the beginning of a paragraph. If conclusion or deduction is the goal, the theme sentence may occur at the end of a paragraph. Paragraph exercises demand from the students giving titles for each paragraph of a text presented to them because of the assumption that a paragraph is a coherent whole in itself focussing on a particular point.
The characteristic features listed above are those of an ideal paragraph and such ideal paragraphs need not be written by all or by an author on all occasions. Spotted brilliance is rather a general rule. And yet it is absolutely necessary that there be congruity between the thought expressed and the medium used to express that thought. It is also necessary that there be coherence within the thought expressed and within the linguistic constituents used to express the thought.
The inter-relationship between thought and language is an absorbing subject of investigation in its own right with linguists like Bloomfield taking the position that thought is nothing but the subvocal behaviour which has the progression from oral speech to whisper to underground speech-thought, with linguists like Sapir emphasizing the separate identity of the two while highlighting the fusion taking place in higher order processes of reasoning which places language on a paramount, with epistemologists like Piaget likening the relationship between language and thought to the banks of a river and the river itself while emphasizing the separate identity, separate origins, different functions and developmental processes of language and thought, and with psychologists like Vygotsky emphasizing the social factors and necessities in the emergence of thought and language with a progression from socialized speech to egocentric speech to inner speech.
With such differing views and others, the interrelationship receives a good deal of attention of all. Like any phenomenon we meet with in this universe, thought in general, and a thought in particular, must have its own structure. The view an author, a scientist or a writer takes about the structure of a particular thought should be considered as revealed in his paragraph organization. Thus, while the importance of thinking processes (in conjunction with or without language) for the elucidation, creation and interpretation of sciences cannot be exaggerated, the importance of language, through which, and through which only, scientific ideas are expressed and understood, cannot be minimized.
Rhetoric is the discipline which studies the interplay of thought and language in actual performance. The general characteristics/features of discourse in a scientific text clearly fall within the scope of rhetoric. Hence it will be useful to see the methods of rhetoric.
Rhetoric aims at a theory of how and why one communicates and at a theory of processes involved in mastering communication. All the living organisms have an urge or an impulse inherent in them to communicate. Their survival within their own species and in the universe depends upon the use of their steering mechanism-communicative tool. How this communicative tool is exploited to achieve the ends an organism sets before himself may be considered falling within the scope of rhetoric.
Thus, throughout the ages, rhetoric has been conceived as an art of effective expression, as an art of persuasion and as a discipline concerned with the problems of communicating truth and value. This is, indeed, an ancient discipline whose scope included what one may call ancient rhetoric principles, and whose present scope includes modern scientific studies of language and communication.
It is clear to us that in a specific event of communication things do not go always as explicit as they should have, or things do not make the effects for which they were intended. Certain strategies adopted for communication purposes may prove to be more effective than others, on the basis of the goals of communication one sets before himself.
Rhetoric aims at studying these processes. One begins the study of rhetoric with an organism's impulse to communicate with others and proceed from there to the characteristics of audience and strategies to present the ideas. If the written medium is adopted, writing or rewriting processes must be identified. However, the ultimate sources/origins are generally difficult to identify.
Along with this uncertainty or impossibility of identifying the ultimate mental sources as to how an idea originated, one is also cautioned not to treat the processes we identify and the stages we posit for the progression of the communicating event as linear in any strict sense. Before something is said or written in a situation, very often one weighs in his mind the various alternatives available. Though investigation, or, rather, intelligent guessing of what goes on in an organism's mind and what processes an organism employs consciously is made, the major focus of rhetoric studies is on how this intimately personal experience is conveyed to the audience and in the written or spoken word.
Speaking and writing are productive processes. In speaking there is a real and immediate presence of an audience; in writing as well as in speaking through mass media like Radio and TV, the audience is assumed. Rhetoric enables us to recognize, identify, describe, explain and characteristics of this assumed audience.
To a scientist, rhetoric makes explicit the processes that a writer may or can profitably utilize in the exposition of ideas. The principles and methods of rhetoric (of various schools) closely resemble the principles and methods of scientific inquiry which we elucidated elsewhere. The characteristics identified in any "ideal" or "good" work, written or spoken, through rhetoric analysis will be the same in both scientific and other materials. Science itself is an art of persuasion - persuading others to accept what is being presented through certain well-laid procedures.
Because of this reason, language of science can be also studied from the point of view of rhetoric analysis. Differences in age, sex, social role and several other factors have a bearing upon the interpretation we make of the same event. Rhetoric aims at identifying how one can overcome such hampering factors and arrive at an appropriate interpretation of the event. To that extent, aims of rhetoric closely resemble those of sciences, and rhetoric shares with sciences a long list of problems.
Usefulness of rhetoric analysis for an understanding of the language of science will become more apparent if we consider the point that although expression of sciences is grounded in ordinary language, and that, although development of sciences depends upon how the developments have been worded, the concepts themselves may have an existence of their own. As Einar Haugen, a great American linguist points out,
The development of mathematics may be seen as an attempt to overcome the weaknesses of natural languages for the purpose of exact and elegant statement. The terminology of science has been successful to the extent that it has been able to surmount the limitations imposed by natural language and produce an inter- and super- linguistic language…The great discoveries and inventions of Western science have not been expressed in the Western languages at all, but in the special language of mathematics. There is nothing in English as such that enables us to talk about relativity or atomic energy or the double helix. The popular accounts that most of us read are only approximations to the underlying theories, and the English in which we road them is a new terminology which can be translated precisely into any language regardless of its grammar, syntax or phonology but which in any language, including English, requires some distortion of the ideas involved because these are not precisely expressible in any natural language. (Haugen, 1977).
One may not fully agree with what Haugen says, but it is precisely to hold to the minimum the inevitable distortion element and to get beyond this distortion in retrieval processes, the principles and techniques of rhetoric will be greatly useful. Einstein suggested that science searches for relations which are thought to exist independently of the searching individual. Rhetoric aims precisely at the same outcome.
Some classify rhetoric into macro-rhetoric and micro-rhetoric. The macro-rhetoric covers inter-relationship between writer or speaker, purpose, intent, text, audience and the immediate and historical contexts, and so on. The micro-rhetoric covers formal texture of a work including structures of words, sentences, paragraphs and other devices, which one may call loosely as linguistic devices. Such a division is rather arbitrary, for one needs both macro-and micro-rhetoric to understand the wholesome process of communication. One may also venture to say that while macro-rhetoric covers the phenomena in a general manner, micro-rhetoric covers the communication processes within a specified linguistic group. Even then it is needless to say that the particular falls into a general pattern and that the general pattern has its existence because of the particular, although it exercises some influence over the particular.
In ancient times the rhetoric was divided into five units and discussed. These included invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. Invention is related to 'logic/dialectic which order the process of finding what might be said about a given subject to a given audience'. Arrangement referred to 'the formula for organization of the whole composition based on the divisions of the classical oration'. Style consisted of 'the resources of language -sound and rhythm - and of classified figures of speech and thought'. Memory and delivery drew attention to voice and gesture and provided a 'mnemotechnical system for placing and holding received knowledge', (Piché, 1970).
Modern times saw a revolt against the study of rhetoric in the school system, just as there was a revolt against the study of grammar for grammar's sake in the schools. Emphasis was shifted in early modern period to a study of rules for topic sentences, achieving unity within a discourse, coherence and on mastering several forms of discourse such as description, narration, exposition and argument. That is, formal aspects of a text and processes to achieve these formal aspects came to be emphasized rather than the philosophy of rhetoric as a science of communication. However, this phase is slowly giving way to a better appreciation of the usefulness of techniques of rhetoric to reveal the intimate relationship between language use and thought, to create and maintain enlightened communicative competence and to retrieve the intended information from a mass of misunderstanding.
I.A. Richards, who leads one of the modern schools of rhetoric, advances the Mosaic Usage Doctrine. According to this doctrine any verbal act may be considered a mosaic with pieces of fixed shape and colour - here, linguistic items. Each piece has its placement and use in the mosaic. From this fixed mosaic one can view the shifts caused by various factors of language and experience. To quote Richards, 'understanding them (the meanings) is seeing how the varied possible meanings hang together, which of them depend upon what else, how and why the meanings which matter most to us form a part of our world - seeing thereby most clearly what our world is and what we are who are building it to live in' (Richards, 1942). Richards posits four aspects in the understanding phenomenon - sense (what the speaker actually says), feeling (his attitude toward what he is talking), tone (his attitude toward his hearers and/or readers) and intention (his conscious or unconscious aim). The speculative equipments for comprehending, according to Richards, include indicating, realizing, valuing, influencing, controlling and purposing. All these are involved in any one event of comprehending.
Another modern model of rhetoric can be identified in the works of an American author, namely, Burke (Burke, 1945 and 1955). According to him, rhetoric is rooted in the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing co-operation in beings that by nature respond to symbols. Identification is the key term in his concept. With identification, an organism shifts the focus of the study from persuasion to co-operation based on symbolic action. Burke's model is a dramatistic model. It emphasizes that we need the word that names the scene (the background of the act, situation in which it occurred), the word to indicate what person or kind of person (agent) performed the act, what means or instruments he used (agency), and the purpose. The interaction between all these forms part of the rhetoric investigation.
There are also several other scholars or schools of rhetoric. Some discuss issues from a micro-rhetoric view, adding up to a macro-rhetoric in stages. Richard Weaver (1953) echoes Plato when he looks at rhetoric as the intellectual love of the good and something which shows a better vision. Christensen (1967) suggests four major principles or characteristics for modern English prose. He considers 'composition essentially a process of addition. This addition shifts our attention to the role of modifier. But then it is not the modifiers that carry forward the communication. Both addition and the principle of direction of modification are identified in cumulative sentences. The principle of generality implies that downshifting or back tracting done by the modifiers is in the direction of lower levels of abstraction. The fourth principle, texture, contrasts bare unmodified predications with those of sentences whose modifications or texture is both tense and varied' (from Piché, 1970).
A team of scholars including Becker, Young and Christensen, following the tagmemic school of linguistics propounded by Kenneth L. Pike, offers promising trends in modern rhetoric. They present certain maxims on the basis of which rhetoric analysis of text is proposed to be undertaken. The first maxim is that people conceive of the world in terms of repeatable units. It is true that there may not be exact repetition of environments; inputs and personae may be different. And yet we all act and accept a degree of perceptual constancy. This perceptual constancy is embodied in language through names for objects, processes and events. The second maxim states that units of experience are hierarchically structured systems.
We all segment experience into discrete and repeatable units. In segmenting and ordering we may differ from one another, although communication strives towards the retention of the perceptual constancy. We may raise several questions as to whether we are focussing on different parts of the same whole, do the different parts have the same nucleus, what is the level of magnification, what kinds of details are relevant to understanding an experience, what kinds of details will be interesting to the one with whom we are communicating and so on. However, it is easier said than done - what is relevant and what is not relevant is not easy to decide and define. To come to grips with this, one should know the contrastive features (why it is an X and not something else), range of variations and its distribution in larger contexts. Thus, the third maxim states that in order to understand a unit, we should know its contrastive features, its range of variation and its distribution in larger contexts.
The rhetoric analysis influenced by Pike's thinking suggests four stages. These are similar to the ones that a scientist undergoes in his scientific work. Our readers would be tempted to compare what follows here with the information given in chapter 3. The four stages are preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. The preparation stage of the process of inquiry includes initial awareness of a difficulty, formulation of the difficulty as a problem and exploration of the problem. These are all put into a form of languages progression from feeling to conscious analysis is accompanied by putting the idea in a language form. The preparation stage is followed by a period of subconscious activity-incubation stage. In the illumination stage, hypotheses are formed. But note that the relevance, appropriateness and significance of the hypotheses framed are generally in direct proportion to the knowledge of the subject possessed by the investigator. The last stage aims at finding out on the basis of the results as to whether the hypothesis in fact provides an adequate solution to the initial problem. Once inadequacy is revealed, the process of inquiry begins again.
How does one become an effective inquirer? 'To become an effective inquirer it is essential that you develop sensitivity and receptivity to problematic situations' (Young, el al., 1970). When we make a statement two basic components, namely, a problematic situation and an unknown must be made explicit. 'A statement of the unknown is actually a partial description of the solution'. It has two functions: it acts as a guide to inquiry since it describes what we are looking for, and, further, it enables us to know when we have found our solution, since the solution will match the description. The model of the scholars influenced by Pike's thinking advocates that 'a single problem is in fact a cluster of interdependent subordinate problems each of which must be solved before a solution to the larger one can be found'. Discovering the unknown is done through 'successively classifying and reclassifying it as a question of fact, of process, and of relationships.
What is emphasized in a rhetoric analysis of the type we have discussed above is the structural network of whatever is written or spoken, whatever is read or listened to. The structural network begins with the exploitation of shared features, establishing bridges of communication through discovery of these features for effecting a change in the reader or the listener. The processes employed closely resemble those of the techniques of scientific inquiry. It is emphasized that every piece of writing is composed of a hierarchy of patterns. 'Related sentences form paragraphs, related paragraphs form units of a still higher level sections of essays, complete essays, chapters of books'. And finally the overall pattern is the mental image of the whole structure of an author's, or a scientist's work -'an image that may be clear in his mind when he begins to write or that may evolve gradually through repeated trials made during the act of writing'. The sections on interpretation of data, the deductions from observed phenomena, the suggested implications for a variety of data and the proposals for future research we find in scientific articles and books all come under this category.
5.10. Style Sheets
To recapitulate what we said about style in Chapter 2, style is a manner as opposed to matter. Some do not recognize or find any use for the concept of style. In one approach to the study of style, the relationship between the writer and the text forms the basis. This amounts to the characterization of style through a study of the writer's personality and the circumstances in which the text was written. In, another approach, one focuses on the relationship between the reader and the book in which case the responses of the reader become the basis of stylistic analysis. In the third approach we may not worry about the writer, but concentrate only on the work.
In yet another approach, style is considered as the result of a choice one makes from among many possibilities. Even within linguistic approaches, we have three types, namely, the norm and the deviation, the addition, and the connotation. Addition of stylistic features is assumed to be performed on neutral expression. The environments in which the linguistic features acquire stylistic values form the subject matter of the connotation approach. Stylistic analysis has been closely associated with literary studies. These studies aim at establishing links between aesthetic responses in the reader and the features of the work. Thus, there are many ways pursued in stylistic investigations. But then what is style? Stylistic variants are generally held to be equivalent ways of saying the same thing. And yet each form of expression has its own style, as already indicated. Science has its own style and within this scientific style, we have, for each discipline of the scientific pursuit, a substyle. The outlines -the formal aspects of these substyles - are generally reflected in the style sheets of journals. These style sheets are, indeed, a combination of the substyle as well as the individual variations journals impose to highlight, from their points of view, the important aspects of reporting.
As stated above, style may be considered a manner as opposed to matter - the ways in which a writer or speaker presents what he has to say to his readers or listeners. Is this variation necessary? To achieve what ends and to create what effects this facility is put into use? Making stylistic variations is a characteristic that we notice in all of us. But is this to be resorted to, if our aim is simply to convey information - pure, simple and bare information? Such a question has been often raised and in the history of expression of sciences, one always notices a tendency not to be "unduly" stylistic in expressing one's thoughts. Certain norms have been laid to bring forth some semblance of order and homogeneity of expressions assumed to be in tune with the assumptions and practices of scientific inquiries, to maintain the tenor of scientific discussions and to enable the readers to correctly grasp the meaning of what is being presented. In spite of such strong tendencies towards order and homogeneity, stylistic variations are easily noticeable between the writings of various scientists and also between the writings of the same scientist depending upon various factors. However, such variations are found more in books than in articles by scientists.
The style sheets of the journals make order and homogeneity their main goal - the nature of order and homogeneity of expressions and format are decided upon by the constraints imposed by matter and by the practice, with reason or no reason, followed by the journal. The restrictions imposed range from the length of the article to the presentation of tables, citation and presentation of references, spellings of words, use of certain phrases, the order of progression from one segment or section to another, rules for quoting, etc., to even (very rarely) the sentence patterns to be used or avoided and content included. Within such restrictions also, an ingeneous writer is given wide scope to make innovations and even embellishments in his manner of expression. It should also be noted again that a style sheet lists sentence patterns that should be or should not be used. Some style sheets ask the writers to avoid certain phrases and expressions but they do not list the sentence patterns that should be avoided. It is the unwritten convention that makes a writer to prefer or not to prefer specified sentence patterns.
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SCIENCE THROUGH MOTHER TONGUE AND SECOND LANGUAGE
6.1. Structural and Lexical Adequacy, Not the Main Focus
The choice of medium of instruction has remained a bone of contention in many communities throughout history. Some communities preferred, and prefer, not their own language, but a language in which intellectual pursuits have been pursued more extensively than in their own language. Some communities have adopted the language of their rulers, and, in course of time, accepted the language of the rulers as their own. In some communities, religious considerations guide the members in their choice of the medium. In some countries, a desire to eliminate the traces of subjugation or colonization by a foreign power leads to conscious efforts on their part to remove the language supposedly symbolizing the past history, and to install in its place a language of their own - to maintain self-identity and so on. In some countries, more than one medium is employed, sometimes for the same purpose, and at other times with functional separation between the media.
Many reasons, both academic and non-academic, have been suggested for the retention or introduction of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction, and for the elimination of other languages as media of instruction. It should be emphasized that language is employed not merely as a tool for the process of communication. Use of language itself is communication. Moreover, language use is a powerful tool in the hands of politicians, economists, and educationists in all areas of human activities. We will only be deluding ourselves if we approach the question of the medium of instruction, including the medium for the expression of sciences, only from the point of view of the structural and lexical adequacy of the communication tool.
6.2. Mother Tongue - A Fuzzy Concept
The concept "mother tongue" is, indeed, difficult to define with exactitude. Mother tongue demands from its users, more often than not, devotion, respect, emotional attachment, loyalty, and a certain amount of pride (even among those who are shy of speaking it because of assumed inferiority of the tongue). The following cases will make clear the difficulty in providing an acceptable definition of the concept "mother tongue":
- The parents speak Tamil among themselves, but they speak in English to their child. What is the mother tongue of the child?
- Though the parents are native speakers of a variety of Tamil, they prefer to speak to each other using Kannada. But they speak to their child in that variety of Tamil sometimes, and speak in Kannada at other times. What is the mother tongue of the child?
- The father speaks Bengali. The mother speaks Tamil. The parents use their respective languages to speak to their child. The child picks up both languages simultaneously. Can there be more than one mother tongue for an individual?
- The parents are of Tamil origin. But they do not know Tamil. They use the language of the area they speak to their child, and the child acquires that language only. And yet the child claims Tamil as his mother tongue for reasons of maintaining his identity, etc. Can one have a mother tongue that is not known to him (speak, understand, read, or write) at all?
- The parents speak Telugu at home, but they use Tamil outside their home. Both speak to their child in Telugu, and the child also acquires the language of the environment, namely, Tamil. Can there be more than one mother tongue?
- The child acquires Tamil at home, but soon use of Tamil is so restricted that his competence in another language is greater than his competence in Tamil. Can one have different mother tongues for different stages of his age and/or career?
- Some persons claim Sanskrit, a "classical" language, as their mother tongue. Should a language necessarily be spoken "widely" for it to be claimed as a mother tongue by the individual? Or can one claim a classical language that he has acquired later in life through formal schooling to be his mother tongue?
- Several Muslim families with Tamil or Malayalam background claim Urdu as their mother tongue because of religious considerations. Can mother tongue be decided or chosen for non-linguistic reasons, such as caste, religion, region, profession, and so on?
One can go on, thus, listing situations in which the simple looking concept that is assumed by us to be an easily comprehensible concept (mother tongue) gets very fuzzy. One should bear this fuzziness and complexity while talking about instruction through mother tongue. Be that as it may, for the vast majority, mother tongue is rather well-defined: This is the language of their parents; this is the language spoken in the home and outside of it; this is the language the writing of which they learn first at school.
6.3. Acquisition of First Langauge and Cognitive Structures
In order to appreciate the complexity of teaching science through mother tongue, we shall see briefly the characteristics of first language acquisition. This will also enable us to appreciate what a child brings with him linguistically and cognitively when he enters a science class.
There are several other reasons that prompt us to present here, in brief, the characteristics of first and second language acquisition. These reasons include the link between language acquisition and concept formation; between concept formation, folk science, and folk language; between folk language and language of science; and between folk concepts and institutionalised inquiry, etc. One would also find out that the basic features of scientific language and scientific inquiry are linked to language acquisition and the development of cognitive structures.
The correlation between the physical, cognitive, and linguistic milestones in language acquisition has not been missed, but the interpretations do differ. The following should be considered only as a rough and general scheme.
The one-month child responds to sounds, and show reflex smiling to the tactile and kinaesthetic stimulation and mother's voice. The cries consist of some segmentable varieties that change in speech.
A two-month old child attends to the speaking voice and shows signs that he is aware of his own sounds. In the production side, the child begins his babbling at this stage. Some speech sounds make their appearance. The child resorts to vocal play.
A three-month old child is aware of visual and auditory stimuli in the environment. The child vocalizes his feelings appropriately. Yet no true speech sounds are acquired. The child stretches out his expressive arm in order to be picked up. He responds to noise and voice by turning his head in appropriate directions. In the production side, the child continues his babbling. The utterances produced may consist of four to five syllables. He is engaged in the production of repetitive sound chain (ba-ba-ba; cha-cha-cha, etc.). He indulges himself in self-initiated sound play.
The ability to recognize the direction from which the voice he hears is produced is further strengthened when the child is five months old. The child acquires responses. An oral communicative chain is established as the child responds to pleasant speech by smiling and laughing. Babbling continues and the child imitates his own noises.
In the sixth month, the child distinguishes between friendly and angry talk. Utterances with several syllables are produced; the child tries to repeat the sound-sequences that he heard. He is able to direct his utterances towards objects. He is able to make appropriate gestures also. The child uses intonation patterns.
In the seventh month, the child pays attention to the speech of persons around him and his family members. He listens to his own private vocalizations and enjoys imitating sound sequences. He is able to vocalize emotional satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
When eight months old, the child begins to be alert to all stimuli in the immediate environment. In the production side, back vowels begin to sound more like speech sounds. The child vocalizes syllables, interjections, and recognitions. He copies the intonational contours.
In the ninth month, the child is able to comprehend the rudimentary symbolic gestures and intonation patterns. He comprehends negation and his own name. The utterances have a chain of three or four syllables. The length varies. Echolalia (constant imitation of sounds of the environment) is the chief characteristic of this month. Copying of intonation patterns continues. Facial and arm gestures accompany vocalizations.
In the tenth month the child exhibits action response to verbal requests such as "where is the book?" He can shake his head to express "yes" or "no". The child produces utterances attempting to name repeated instances of objects. The imitation of intonation patterns continues. Many speech sounds can clearly be distinguished. Several non-speech sounds continue to occur.
In the eleventh month, the child differentiates between family and strangers. There is likelihood of the appearance of first words in his speech in this month. The single word utterances begin to emerge. These are used to indicate needs.
When the child is one year old, he understands phrases and simple grammatical patterns, and responds in action to commands. One-word sentences are most common.
Between 12 and 18 months, the child understands most linguistic units, but does not separate sequences into word units. He recognizes names of many familiar objects, persons, and pets. His repertoire consists of about 50 to 75 words out of which about 50 percent are nouns. Many words are made by phonetic reduplication. In the production side, the child begins to use interjectional speech. The child extends the meaning. The construction is of the pivot-open class type. He uses one word for many unrelated things. He repeats syllables or word sequences in an easy manner. There is much sound with little or no phonetic value. The vocal inflection is fair; the pitch is uncontrolled, and it tends to rise.
Between 24 and 30 months, the child does not understand many specific words, but he develops functional equivalents of comprehension. There is action response to verbal request. He sometimes repeats the request and is able to use the pre- or post-positions in and under. He listens to simple stories, especially linking those he has heard before. Of the total responses, nouns continue to be more in number, followed by verbs, pronouns, and adverbs. Unclassified items continue to occur in large number. From 1.5 word mean length in his sentence in the earlier stage, we now have a mean length of 1.8 word in a sentence. Egocentric and socialized speech varieties are found to occur. The meaning extension continues. The child names and describes objects. The child exhibits an ability to use transformations. All vowels and many consonants are clearly used. Adjectives and adverbs gain steadily at the expense of interjections. There continues to be an omission of syllables when compared to adult speech.
Between 30 and 36 months, the comprehension of sentence structure, syllable sequences and prosody develops speedily. The child comprehends time words and identifies actions in pictures. He can listen to longer stories. He understands the semantic differences in subject + object positions of noun. His egocentric speech continues. He can give his full name. He can recite nursery rhymes. He uses question-making sentences. He makes independent improvisation of syntactic form. Pronunciation of words continues to be unstable.
6.4. The Speed of Acquisition
A remarkable fact about the acquisition of language is the speed with which a child is able to acquire a language. Language is a complex phenomenon, and a normal child masters this exceedingly complex phenomenon with an astonishing speed, and in circumstances usually less than ideal. The socio-economic environments in which a child starts acquiring a language do not condition the speed of language acquisition, nor is it conditioned by the history, culture, or even the complexity of the language that is being acquired by the child. Furthermore, within a linguistic group normal children arrive at the same grammar of a language within a broadly identified brief span of time with almost the same speed.
6.5. No Conscious Education
There is not much of conscious education given to children on the part of the parents. The situation obtaining between a child and his parent is far from learning or instructional one. Usually parents do not tend to correct the "defects" in the formal features of early speech by children. The "defects" are rather relished by the parents. We tend to correct mistakes in true value. We tend to reinforce the children's speech guided mainly by its content. In addition to this, a child encounters different samples of language, some or most of which need not be grammatical or coherent. In spite of these, normal children all around the world from diverse linguistic families acquire their language in three to four years.
6.6. A Pre-condition for Language Acquisition
A precondition for language acquisition seems to be that the meaning of the utterances to which a child is exposed be obvious. The non-linguistic events referred to by the adult through the utterance should be simple so that the same can be matched with what is said. The adults seem at times to imitate child speech in their efforts to simplify the structures of speech to suit the level of skill achievement by children.
When we look into the child speech we find that it has the characteristics of imitation, and even, at times, rote learning. But it is the productive characteristic that plays the dominant role throughout. Children usually fail in their attempts to imitate adult speech in the beginning of syntactic development. They are more successful in spontaneously producing the sentences. Further, a child becomes capable of putting the structure he has already acquired into use in increasingly novel ways. Many utterances may be regular from the syntactic sense, but, semantically, they are novel and have not been uttered either by parents or by the child himself.
6.7. Utterances Are Structured
The utterances of a child are structured almost from the beginning. The combination of words and parts of words in child speech are systematic, and not as random as many of us would imagine them to be. They tend to be highly regular, and soon take on a hierarchical structure, which is, however, yet to become as elaborate as the adult speech. In fact, the structures of child speech change in the course of development, and need not correspond to adult structure.
Children around the world seem to start with a single word and go from one word stage to a two-word stage. It is common knowledge, however, that children understand more than what they can speak in the beginning. (It is also true of subsequent stages and perhaps carried throughout adulthood.)
The child's single-word utterances are preceded by the development of a remarkable comprehending capacity. Some scholars believe that the child's utterances seem to function as one-word sentences before the development of syntax. The child names the salient features of an object he wants or recognizes. Very soon the single-word stage gives place to the two-word stage and this enables us to speculate about the child's underlying grammatical knowledge as to whether there are any formal regularities in the structure of utterances.
The two-word stage does not seem to be a universal phenomenon and happens to be a very brief stage wherever it is found. In this stage, one set of words occupies some fixed position and the other forms some sort of open class to which new words are added. That is, word classes begin to emerge at this stage.
The three-word stage brings in immediate constituents with structured units. Word classes begin to emerge clearly and a number of them can be clearly defined and separated on the basis of distribution. Constituent phrases begin to emerge with an increase in complexity. The limitation to the length of sentences seems to fade out slowly at this stage. Further, the child's grammar increases in complexity, variety, and potential length of sentences, and the length ceiling slowly disappears.
It seems that the acquisition of the ability to produce compounds and subordinate clauses most radically changes the maximum length, and as a result, indefinitely long strings of compounds and appropriate branching of sentences on the right or the left are possible. This ability is a direct consequence of and a response to the demands of growing cognitive abilities - abilities that form the basis of folk and institutionalised scientific pursuits later on. Although the child's language consists of deviant utterances, wrong inflections, and overgeneralizations of rules (correct forms may be driven out due to overgeneralizations), the patterns so far acquired by the child expand without loss. Furthermore, the properties of the structural slots also become stable. Last but not the least, child's language overtly exhibits the conceptual basis when morphological aspects are further acquired.
6.9. Cognitive Structures
While the child is in the process of acquiring his first language, he is engaged in another important task, which precedes the emergence of the one word stage but continues to progress even after the mastery of the basic structures of language. This is the acquisition of logical operations - the acquisition of thinking processes and various categories of thought. Language acquisition does not come to a stop around the 4th or 5th year, as claimed by many linguists. The child continues to acquire language in two ways even after the 4th or 5th year - acquisition of new structures in consonance with the acquisition of new categories of logical operations; and mastery of the uses of structures already acquired.
Piaget (1964:119) takes the position that logic is not innate in the child and that the child constitutes logical structures little by little. Logical structures are constructed gradually in connection with language and social change. The logical structures are formed when actions are exercised upon objects. The objects are governed by universal logical rules, and when actions are performed on objects, the child gets exposed to logical rules. This is the source from which a child draws his logic. The actions performed on objects may change the object, and these changes constitute new sources of knowledge. We act upon nature in order to be productive, but, in the process, the laws of nature govern us.
Just as the universal laws applicable to objects help the emergence of logical operations, social laws or necessity come to play their role in the constitution of logical structures. The coordination of inter-personal action through work and verbal exchange contributes to the constitution of logical structures. What one person does is completed by another through addition, correspondence, and so on. Arguments and disagreements give rise to negations, inverse operations, etc.
Governing the whole rubric of logical structures is the factor of equilibration, which is dialectical in nature. Every structure acquired creates a disequilibrium that is brought to equilibrium when the acquired structure is organized into an equal reversible structure. Each new level of equilibrium is preparatory to a new disequilibrium. A process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis is in constant operation in the constitution of logical structures.
While dealing with the formation of intelligence and of logical operations, which is his major area of research, Piaget distinguishes four age periods (Piaget 1964:116-142). The first one is the period from birth to one and a half to two years, which is a sensori-motor period prior to language. During this period there is no logic and no operations on structures. There is also the construction of invariants. In the early stage the child does not show any searching behaviour when an object disappears from his visual field. After a few months, a systematic searching behaviour comes into existence, demonstrating the acquisition of an invariant-permanent object in a fixed and proximal space.
During the second period, which is between two and seven to eight years, one finds the emergence of symbolic function through processes such as symbolic play, deferred imitation, and mental imagery as well as the co-ordination of thought with language. The actions achieved through the sensori-motor plane so far undergo a progressive internalization and form the basis for the co-ordination of thought and language. Reversibility of operations, hallmark of full-fledged logical operations and thought processes, is achieved at the end of this period in certain areas.
Piaget divides egocentric speech into three categories, namely, repetition, monologue, and dual or collective monologue. In the repetition, child repeats the words and syllables for the pleasure of talking. In the monologue, the child talks to himself as if he were thinking aloud. No one is addressed. In the collective monologue of children, we find that each child sticks to his own idea and does not expect the other to understand or to respond. The other children serve only as stimulus.
The socialized speech is divided into five categories, namely, adapted information, criticism, commands, requests and threats, and questions and answers. In the adapted information, the child talks to specified information, and exchanges his thoughts with others. The child tries to see the point of view of others. The category of criticism includes all remarks of the child about the work or behaviour of others. Definite interaction among children characterizes the category of commands, requests and threats. Questions and answers also need definite interaction and as such are considered to be socialized speech.
What are the main categories of child thought? Based on the functions exemplified in child thought, we have three categories. These are: (a) explicatory function related to causal relation, reality, time and place, (b) mixed functions related to motivation of actions and justification of rules, and (c) implicatory function related to classification, names, number and logical relations. Up to the age of three, the child takes what he desires as real; slowly he comes to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. This happens around the age of three and is reflected in the use of verbs "to think", "to believe", etc. In this period we see the child beginning to use the language characteristic prevarication. Further, it is in this period that the child begins to manipulate grammatical complexity such as cases, tenses and subordinate propositions. That is, the tools necessary for the manipulation of reasoning begin to be incorporated. These enable the child to achieve some amount of conscious realization, which in its turn enables the child to make a distinction between the imagined or desired and the real.
The mind turns to the external world in the explicatory function. The implicatory function, a mixed function, is necessary to account for the innumerable transitional cases. This is a case of progressive divergence.
The third stage in the acquisition of logical operation is around seven to eight years during which the child arrives at the constitution of concrete operational structures. During this period, which extends up to the period of eleven to twelve years, the operations of thought are concerned with reality itself, with objects that can be manipulated and subjected to real action. A chief feature of this stage is the emergence of verbal syncretism in children. The child believes that he has understood what is said but in actuality he may not have fully understood what is said. He often hears phrases and thinks that he understands these phrases. He assimilates these in his own way, all the time distorting what he hears. This is a wide and comprehensive but obscure and inaccurate activity where no distinction is made and the things are heaped one upon the other. There is no analysis of what is perceived. His egocentrism makes him believe that he understands everyone and everything. This prevents him from going in for specifics of word and sentence meaning. The whole is assumed to be understood before the part is analysed. Thus, when the child is confronted with sentences that he has not understood, he does not analyse the words employed in the sentences for an understanding. He goes in for the general scheme of things. However, there is a progressive analysis of details in consonance with the shedding of egocentrism and the emergence of proper logical operations of the next stage.
This stage, from the linguists' point of view, does not involve acquisition of any basic linguistic structure. Yet the manipulation of linguistic structures is not stabilised in relation to logical operations. The child is still incapable of verbal reasoning about simple hypotheses. Piaget (1964:62) reports that children aged nine or ten years can arrange colours into series, but cannot answer questions of the following sort: Edith has darker hair than Lily. Edith's hair is lighter than Susan's. Which of the three has the darkest hair?
The last stage consists of operations of logical proposition. This commences around eleven to twelve years and gets stabilised around fourteen to fifteen years. During this stage the child is in a position to apply mental operations to objects and is also capable of reflecting these operations in the absence of objects. The objects may be replaced by proposition such as sentences, mathematical symbols, etc. The child can engage himself in hypothetico-deductive thought and draw conclusions from pure hypotheses and not merely actual observations. It is observed that 'concrete thinking is the representation of a possible action and formal thinking is the representation of a representation of possible action'.
When we compare the child's pre-language behaviour with behaviour after the acquisition of language we find that the child is now in a position to use what we called earlier the displacement and arbitrariness features of an event. The child is now in a position to go beyond the sensori-motor perceptions and express himself on events not immediately present or even concrete. He indulges in clear manipulation of these features with ease.
Language is a form of symbolic function, and consists of collecting signs mainly arbitrary in nature. It is characterized by the use of displacement feature. Piaget comes to the conclusion (due to various reasons not relevant to our present concern) that thought precedes language and that 'language confines itself to profoundly transforming thought by helping it to attain its form of equilibrium by means of a more advanced schematisation, and a more mobile abstraction'. From his point of view, language is a necessary and useful condition for prepositional logic involving implications, disjunctions, incompatibilities, etc., unlike the concrete operations of the previous stage involving mere additions or multiplications, but is not sufficient in and of itself to give rise to these operations.
Piaget proposes that the psychological problem in the formation of propositional operations consists of determining how the subject passes from elementary concrete structures (classifications, seriations, etc.) to the structure of the "lattice". What distinguishes a lattice from a simple classification (such as zoological classifications, for example) is the intervention of combinatory operations. The question then is to ascertain whether language makes such combinatory operations possible or whether the operations evolve independently of language.
Piaget takes the position that a formal thought of this high order takes place independently of language and has nothing to do with the acquisition, emergence, and evolution of language. Language is already there, but the logical operations take their own time and follow their own schedule. Hence, it is difficult indeed to conclude that this system is a product of language. If logical operations could be considered independent of language at least to some extent, then, the question of the validity of using mother tongue as the only preferable medium of instruction may not be totally valid.
We find that symbolic functions and concrete operations do emerge before language is acquired, and as for propositional operations, we find that even when language exists, the operations do not emerge until a particular age level.
From Piaget's point of view we should seek to find roots for the structures that characterize thought only in action and in sensori-motor mechanisms that are deeper than language, which exist before language and even without it. Yet at the same time it is quite clear to us that the more the structures of thought are refined with the acquisition of transformations, which constitute new sources of knowledge, the more language is necessary for the achievement of elaboration. But, is it necessary that this language should be the mother tongue? Language enables the successive actions of logical operations to get integrated into simultaneous systems, encompassing a set of inter-dependent transformations. The symbolic condensation and social regulation that characterize a language are indispensable for the elaboration of thought. Can one acquire this ability through languages other than one's own mother tongue? How much exposure to the language being used for this purpose is necessary?
6. 11. Vygotsky
Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist, identified four stages in the development of speech and mental operations. The first is the primitive stage of pre-linguistic thought and pre-intellectual speech. The second stage is called naïve psychology. The child is exposed to his own body and to the objects around him. This experience is applied to the use of tools. This is when the child's practical intelligence emerges. At this stage the child acquires the correct use of grammatical forms and structures, although he does not understand the logical operations for which the forms and structures stand. He is capable of using expressions such as because, if, when and but, before he acquires casual, conditional or temporal relations. In the third stage he distinguishes external signs and external operations used as aids in the solution of internal problems. The fourth and final stage is the "in-growth" stage. In this stage the external operations turn inward.
Vygotsky distinguishes between spontaneous and scientific concepts. The latter concepts are obtained through conscious mental processes of spontaneous and scientific concepts are related and they influence each other. A concept and its acquisition should be looked at form the point of view of a system. One becomes conscious of a concept and uses it with deliberate control only when it is a part of the system. Consciousness is generalization and generalization leads to formation of a super-ordinate concept, which includes the given concept as a particular case. Thus, there is a hierarchy of concepts with different levels of generalization. The conscious concepts or scientific concepts are acquired in school in relation to some other concept already in existence; the child lacks conscious awareness of relationships correctly in an unreflective manner. He is able to understand the meaning of the word because in the sentence, He won't go to school because he is sick, but is unable to identify the causation. He substitutes the consequence in place of the causation.
The relationship between scientific and spontaneous concepts should be viewed from the point of view of the relation that exists between school instruction and the mental development of the child. Vygotsky finds that the development of the psychological foundations of instruction in areas such as writing does not precede instruction but unfolds in a continuous interaction with the contributions of instructions.
6.12. First Language Acquisition and Processes of Scientific Investigation
Earlier, we took the position that first language acquisition processes resemble the processes of scientific investigation. Acquisition of cognitive structures with or without language is definitely akin to processes of scientific investigation. Along with the linguistic and cognitive structures, a child also acquires a belief system, which can and may influence his latter day efforts at scientific descriptions and explanations. The scientist aims consciously at the elimination or reduction of the influence of this belief system upon his scientific work. When the underlying principles of this belief system are in conflict with the principles of scientific investigation or scientific facts, some scientists develop a process of compartmentalization, and for them, religious truths or experiences, worldly experiences, and scientific truths, even when in opposition, may have a validity in their respective spheres.
Our rather lengthy presentation of the aspects of acquisition of linguistic and cognitive structures is also aimed at indicating the broad features of the development of language and of mental operations that should be taken into account in planning strategies for instruction through mother tongue, at indicating the operational capacity of child both with and without language, and at indicating the role of language in the characterization and labeling concepts.
First language acquisition provides the child with a labeling system. If we can understand these labeling processes and the processes of concept formation, we will be able to better appreciate the construction, validation and communication of scientific theories.
6.13. Characteristics of Second Language Acquisition
Except in some special cases, the majority learn the languages other than their first-
acquired language in instructional situations. Some, because of the special circumstances they are in, pick up a second language in the same way they learned their first language. It is but natural that even in these situations, the processes of learning the first language and the capacity that goes into the learning of the first language are made use of in learning the second language. In fact, some scholars do not distinguish between the first and second language acquisition in terms of the theoretical assumptions of the processes involved.
We have a variety of theories accounting for second language acquisition. These theories in their turn are part of the learning theories proposed for all the spheres of learning. The strategies adopted in the teaching of the second languages and the plan and quality of materials to which the second language learners are exposed also depend upon the assumption as to how one acquires a second language. Here we propose to present only the salient features of the learning theories taken together. We thus present two kinds of assumptions and strategies for language learning and teaching, one from a cluster of theories that emphasizes habit-formation and other, which emphasizes the rule governed behaviour and creativity.
How wonderful and how complex is the acquisition of language! And how easily does the child acquire his first language! He is exposed to thousands of different sounds with variation in quality, pitch, length and loudness. But he restricts himself to the acquisition of the few significant sounds of the language with their patterns of occurrence, and to the acquisition of the language system, the processes of word and sentence formation. He does imitate and yet he is capable of producing something never uttered before.
In a second language learning situation the learner does not go through the several stages of first language acquisition such as babbling, and single, double, and multiple word utterances. What we have is a conscious effort or attempt in learning another language and thus he is in a position to communicate with appropriate content in a majority of the cases. His problem is to express this content through the use of the norm of the structures of the second language in an appropriate manner.
An adult second language learner acquires conscious knowledge of the rules of the second language and, more often than not, compares the rules of the second language with those of his native tongue. Further, a child acquires his first language while attempting to use it. An adult in the classroom does not learn his second language in a situation that may not fully match the situation of use. The teacher breaks the whole into bits and exposes his students to the materials usually controlled on the basis of the assumption of the theory he follows in the class. In spite of such conscious efforts on the part of the teacher and the student, which involve trial and error, rote memorization, imitation, association and analogy, there is a large element of unconscious processing of the data by the student. Furthermore, an adult may have the knowledge of the rules, yet he commits mistakes, thereby illustrating that knowledge of rules and their usage is different.
It is common knowledge that a child is more at ease than the adolescent or adult in learning a second language. It is also common knowledge that the adolescent and the adult have superior intellectual powers than that of a child. The adult is conscious and aware of the potential of the rules he may learn in the class, but his performance is, to say the least, faulty in the beginning. Does this mean that children have more language propensity, which is lost slowly as they attain maturity? There are several explanations given in this regard. We shall consider some of these in a moment. We should only bear in mind that the instructional situation with its attendant adult techniques and capacities are not really necessary to learn a language, because we see children learning languages more efficiently and effectively without such techniques. The adults' ability to store abstract concepts for the classification and understanding of newer phenomenon should, indeed, help him to learn through the medium of words. Yet some aspects of language learning capacity seem to change with age.
There have been speculations about what is possible and what is impossible for humans to learn with respect to the learning of second language. It is a known fact that humans can and do learn languages other than their own first language. Acquisition of the first language is usually taken for granted, whereas the learning of a second language is generally considered non-automatic, if not artificial in some sense, perhaps for the reason that such acquisition usually takes place in the instructional situations mentioned earlier. The perceptible difference in the quality of acquisition of second languages by children on the one hand and adults on the other, so clearly revealed in the difficulty an adult usually faces in the acquisition of good pronunciation, has led to many speculations, including neuropsychological ones. Some consider that such adult difficulties in the acquisition of a second language should be ascribed to neuropsychological constraints, which set in with puberty.
We as humans have a capacity to acquire human languages. This capacity enables us to abstract and internalise the rules underlying the materials to which we are exposed as children. Exposure is very important to activate the innate capacity that enables us to acquire language. If a child is not exposed to human language within a critical period (puberty age), the ability to acquire language is lost. Second language learning begins usually after the instinctive capacity for language acquisition that the increasing difficulty of learning with age may be related to the loss of the elasticity of the brain mechanism. Yet at the same time one must take into account the psychological and social factors, which may facilitate or hamper the acquisition of a second language.
First language acquisition is part of the socialization process that the child is undergoing, and is an important tool for the acquisition and stabilization of concepts. The child acquires his first language so as to become a member of the community he is born into. He is influenced by the behaviour of his elders, but slowly and steadily, a personality of his own may develop with concomitant characteristics. Second language learning requires some adjustments with the culture imparted through the language. His habits, intelligence, aptitude, attitudes, motivation and other psychological and linguistic factors may facilitate his learning or may inhibit him from learning the second language. Personality factors and motivation play a very important role in the acquisition of second language.
In general, the ability to learn a second language varies from person to person. Some of the reasons for these differences may be ascribed to age, motives, native skills, intelligence, personality, auditory memory span, readiness to learn, emotion and drive. The arguments in favour of teaching the second language as early as possible include the assumed greater facility the children have in imitation, the flexibility of speech centres as discussed above, less interference from previous experiences and a lack of self-consciousness.
The age of the learner, his intentions, experience, the material, the context and the methods used for learning the language, the quantum of practice and repetition put into the learning and the amount of time that elapsed after the learning, all influence, facilitate, or hamper the retention of the language. Memory, in general, increases during the first two decades of life and a slow decline is noticed from the forties onward. Learning must be thorough in order to retain what is learned for a longer period; repetition is a very important factor for this. Further, active repetition rather than passive repetition (speaking rather than listening, writing rather than reading) contributes to retention; when a person has more experience with the second language it becomes relatively easier for him to retain and remember what is learned. When what the learner has learned has relevance to his needs and the demands of the situation confronted by him, he will be able to remember the materials more readily. The familiar word sequences and word connections help a learner to retain and remember what is learned. An understanding of the system and the way it works enables the learner to anticipate what he should expect in a context. This awareness contributes to the retention of language.
To conclude, though there may or may not be differences in the internal processes in first and second language learning, one may easily identify differences in learning situations, rate of speed in acquisition, the quality of retention, the roles played by the first language and the second language in socialization and in the acquisition of spontaneous concepts, the time taken to acquire and master the first and second language, the quality of the materials to which the learner is exposed, and so on. Added to this is the decidedly inferior quality of performance in the second language by a vast majority of learners. This inferior performance is often taken to be an inevitable consequence and even as inherent, and not as a result of faulty and deficient strategies of teaching, of deficiencies in the medium, material and techniques, and of deficient psychological factors in the learners and learning situations. These assumptions with regard to the acquisition of and performance in first and second language are stretched to evaluate the relative efficiency and effectiveness of the mother tongue medium of instruction vis-à-vis the second language medium of instruction. These are used also to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of mother tongue vis-à-vis a second language for science instruction and expression.
6.14. Why Mother Tongue As a Medium of Instruction?
Many reasons have been adduced in support of the view that mother tongue is the best medium for instruction. These reasons may be considered under five headings, namely, psychological, educational, social, historical, and political.
The following psychological arguments are very often presented in favour of using mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Mother tongue is the first known, the most familiar and the closest of all languages to a child. Because of the above, mother tongue offers the most meaningful system of signs, which works with greater speed and facility than a system of signs offered by another language. A child using a language other than his own mother tongue will have problems of adjustments - linguistically, socially and culturally. Use of a language other than mother tongue will inhibit the intellectual growth and development, and thinking processes. Emotional stability is better achieved through a use of mother tongue.
The following sociological arguments are presented in favour of mother tongue instruction: the process of socialization, to begin with, takes place through the first language. Acquisition of language of a society enables an individual to become a member of that society. Language is a means of identification among the members of a community. For better communication, for better interaction and for better integration, the use of the fist language is a must.
The mother tongue is a condition for the child's social development and it is through mother tongue that a child adjusts to the life and culture of his social group. Economic, cultural and political developments of a nation depend upon a sound social development. Better economic growth is achieved if the owner, the manager, the employees and the consumer all communicate through the same medium. If mother tongue is not this medium, additional barriers are likely to be created. The masses would have difficulty in comprehending and implementing the policies and programmes of a welfare state. If instruction is carried through a medium other than the mother tongue, workers will have difficulty in absorbing new techniques of production.
One's own heritage will be forgotten and lost if a language other than mother tongue comes to occupy a dominant position as medium of instruction. Revival, retention and development of culture require that the common man's language, the mother tongue, be used for as many domains of the language use as possible. Better communication, understanding and cooperation between the Government and the governed, is possible only if the language of the Government and the governed is one and the same. Hence the need for the use of the mother tongue of the governed in the Government.
From the educational point of view, children learn more quickly through the mother tongue than through an unfamiliar linguistic medium. It would be a waste of time if another language was to be mastered so that this second language could be used as a medium of instruction. Distortion of knowledge takes place if a language other than the mother tongue is to be used as medium of instruction. The learner will have difficulty not only in grasping fully the implications of what is being learnt, but also in manipulating the concepts learnt. Furthermore, not all children go through and complete all the levels of education. School dropouts are many. To arrest the number of dropouts in the schools and to provide those whose education comes to an end at the school's final stage or even earlier with adequate language skills for use in later years of life, whatever time available must be spent in strengthening the skill in mother tongue. If our aim is efficiency of instruction, it can be achieved only through the mother tongue medium of instruction.
From the political point of view, the first and the foremost concern of every state is self-preservation, self-maintenance and homogeneity. The unity and progress of a nation, particularly of a newly formed or newly independent nation, is dependent upon the cohesion the State can foster among its members. Mother tongue medium is the best tool to bring about this cohesion, oneness, solidarity and so on. The participation of the masses in the processes of governing is made possible only by the provision of education, administration and mass communication through mother tongue. Literacy for illiterate masses of these developing nations is better and easily achieved in mother tongue through mother tongue medium rather than in another language.
From the historical point of view, mother tongue is always associated with the majority and a language other than the mother tongue with the minority. A powerful autocratic, oppressive and non-egalitarian minority at the end is forced to give way because of peaceful and/or revolutionary pressures mounted by the majority. The powerful minority uses a language, which is not the mother tongue of the majority, to keep itself distinct from the majority. The minority rulers' urge to maintain their own distinct identity soon becomes their bane. To speak in the same language is to strike a sympathetic chord, to be in unison.
Thus, it is claimed that if we want accelerated social and economic progress, efficient instruction, political cohesion, and a comprehensive growth of individuals, we should conduct instruction only through mother tongue. Furthermore, it is claimed to be more economical to use mother tongue as medium of instruction.
6.15. A Brief Critique of Mother Tongue Instruction
What are the disadvantages of mother tongue instruction? Is there any empirical evidence to prove that instruction through mother tongue is better in some specified sense than instruction through a language other than mother tongue? To begin with, we must categorically state that for the majority of those who support the views presented in section 6.4 the superiority of mother tongue medium of instruction is axiomatic, too obvious a statement to require any empirical proof at all - it is a reality before us and hence no proof is necessary. However, a careful scrutiny of the views presented in section 6.4 would reveal that the views expressed are generally due to assumptions, many of which are hard to prove or disprove through empirical investigations.
The greater efficiency of the mother tongue medium of instruction is yet to be demonstrated under scientific conditions. One may argue that the arguments proposed in favour of mother tongue medium of instruction are due mainly to the inadequacy or the failure of the other-tongue medium. One may also ask as to whether the failure lies in the medium or elsewhere.
There are many factors that have a direct bearing on language teaching in our educational institutions. Some of these are as follows:
- The teacher, his age, sex, teaching experience, proficiency in the language he is teaching, knowledge of the grammar (defined as a system of rules in vogue in the language) he is teaching, his attitude towards the students and towards the native language and culture of the students.
- The student, his age, sex, knowledge of other languages, previous language training, his motivation and interest, aptitude for language study, his attitudes towards the language he is learning and the culture represented by it, his attitude towards the teacher and the method employed in teaching the language, and testing, and his modality preference. (Some students are found to learn to read better than to write. Some students are found to write better than to read. Such individual styles may also contribute to the quality of language learning).
- The types of methods. There are many methods of language teaching, but no single method is effective for all purposes of language teaching. Accordingly, the teacher must be able to select and combine several methods to achieve better language learning by his students. In particular, the types and length of drills and exercises, what kinds of explanation we give and where such explanations are given, and how do we proceed from the one to the other will all have a direct bearing.
- General factors. These include matters such as the sociological environment in which instruction occurs, parental attitude towards the language to be taught, for how many hours a language is taught, what is the frequency of teaching periods, is language taught regularly or at irregular intervals, the size of the class, time of meeting classes, and so on.
At the moment, teaching of Indian languages needs to be improved in regard to what major items (of a language) should be taught, within what items these items must be taught, what is the most efficient sequence in which these items must be learned simultaneously, what are the things already known to the students and how much time one should take to teach a particular item and so on. Furthermore, we notice a wide gap between the objectives of the curriculum, objectives of the syllabus, the textbook, and classroom practice.
6.16. Indian Situations
For the majority of Indian children, the first language in school is their mother tongue; a large number of children hailing from bilingual or even monolingual families study the dominant language of their state as the first language, due either to lack of facilities to learn their mother tongue as the first language, or due to established and accepted distinction between the roles of their mother tongue and the dominant language of the State.
While the latter condition is to be strengthened, there is a need to develop adequate and effective language teaching methods for the switchover from the home language to the school language. The switchover from the home expression to the school language is a problem faced by mother tongue learners as well, if these students happen to speak a non-standard variety of their language.
In the case of children with a bilingual or even monolingual background, as referred to above, linguistic goals of language teaching are yet to be fully delineated - we want them to have, in addition to the speaking and listening skills they already possess, reading and writing skills. In case their listening and speaking skills are in a non-standard variety, we want to pick up speaking and listening skills in the standard variety also. This scheme is largely agreed to. But to what extent and up to which stage of education these "minority" languages should be taught is still a bone of contention.
In all these cases a suitable strategy of language teaching methods is yet to be evolved. Distinction between the teaching of first and second language seems to be not well recognized - the deficiency observed in students is expected to be overcome in the long run.
The materials used for teaching the first language have to be properly blended to accommodate various registers, dialect, and other functional domains of the language. The existing textbooks, except in the case of some languages, do not reveal their concern for such a blend. These textbooks have a bias for presenting literary information - information regarding ancient and medieval literature, although now in some textbooks information regarding modern literature is now presented. A question is also raised as to whether the first language textbook should contain information and genres other than literary ones at all. A generally noticed defect is that the textbooks contain more questions, which test comprehension of content rather than items meant for language practice. Conceptual prose is not emphasized. Reading and writing skills have been given more emphasis than the speaking and listening skills. There is a wrong assumption that the prescription of books meant for children learning a language as a first language should be adequate for adults learning it as a second language.
In a nutshell, a careful study of the factors that help or hamper the learning of languages and the use of these languages as media of instruction is necessary - a careful planning of which languages to be studied, by whom, for what purpose, at which levels of education and for how long as well as an imaginative development of methods and materials, and sensitive and sensible procedures to assess the achievement of learners, and so on. As long as the objectives of language teaching and of use of a particular language as medium of instruction are only partly defined and steps taken to achieve the goals are pursued rather half-heartedly, success of any medium of instruction cannot be assured. Neither the State Government in India nor the Government of India have succeeded in evolving a medium of instruction of policy that takes care of the psychological, social, political, and educational needs suitably. The insightful and detailed study of the language policy for education in Karnataka by Dr. B. Mallikarjun (www.languageinindia.com, Language Policy For Education In Indian States: Karnataka) clearly highlights how the state government has been really struggling hard to cope up with the demands in this domain.
6.17. Other Important Factors
Both mother tongue and second language teaching share the inadequacies that we notice in language teaching. As we have pointed out already, the fact that language is taught also by teachers of other subjects is yet to be recognized and taken advantage of by the language teacher, the curriculum planner and the material producer. One should also recognize the fact that the time spent on learning a language alone is not the decisive factor.
The quality of methods, materials and media employed in imparting knowledge of the language also play a very crucial role. The attitudinal factors we have listed above should also be considered. The teacher-pupil ratio is another important factor. If attention to all these is not paid in adequate measure, instruction in any language will be ineffective.
When language teaching is pursued with no concern for the requirements of the learner, whatever be the methods adopted, and time spent, learning is bound to be slow. The ills that we notice in language teaching are easily identified in the teaching of other subjects also. Very often the other-tongue medium is hard to master at all.
These arguments are countered by stating that one may easily acquire a knowledge of the other-tongue early in his educational career in a manner sufficient and efficient for learning the subjects and that manipulation of concepts through the other-tongue is no problem at all. However, the other arguments - particularly those arguments that concern emotional attachment, emotional identity and the like are matters of choice and preference, which are difficult to dismiss even if there are empirical evidences against them.
6.18. Disadvantages of Mother Tongue Medium
To raise the question differently, what are the disadvantages of mother tongue medium? There may not be any disadvantage at all in terms of acquisition of knowledge, when the mother tongue is used as a medium of instruction, and medium of expression of sciences and modern thought.
If the mother tongue is a developed tool for the expression of the above, the mother tongue medium of instruction will have its own machinery to absorb and exploit the "explosion of knowledge". If the mother tongue chosen as the medium of instruction is not placed in that advantageous position, naturally its users are likely to be at a disadvantage.
The demand for political cohesion and homogeneity in many multilingual developing nations leads to the replacement of a language of the colonial past with one of the native tongues, and this unfortunately leads to more intense political division rather than national cohesion. This again is a disadvantage.
The notion that mother tongue is the closest and that, if science is taught through mother tongue, acquisition and manipulation of scientific concepts will be quick and better, is also not sustainable. For, as we have already indicated, in many languages there is adiversity between the spoken and written forms and the written form is acquired by devoting great energies in school. Moreover, the vocabulary and concepts of science, in mother tongue also, do not bear much similarity to the language of laymen. An effort, a serious effort, is required to master this variety of language, just as one needs to make efforts to learn the scientific variety of the other tongue.
Scientific varieties in different languages have striking similarities in terms of technical terms and even sentence construction, and as a result, it does not seem to be very difficult to acquire the scientific register of the other-tongue. The progress and efficiency of mother tongue medium is hampered by lack of textbooks in the mother tongues of developing nations. Textbook writers are further faced with the problem of choice and coinage of technical terminology in their languages.
Teachers are generally reluctant to use a medium other than the one through which they themselves were taught. Opposition to change in general and rapid change in particular is another factor that stands in the way of adopting mother tongue as medium of instruction in developing nations. Furthermore, the native speakers' own estimate of the potential for growth and the present state of development of their language vis-à-vis an international language like English also plays a role, in the sense that while the native users of these languages may rate their own languages high for purposes of interpersonal communication in intimate personal transactions and even for the communication of ideas of social sciences, they express doubts about the "capacity" and "utility" of their languages for the expression of sciences. This outlook makes them sceptical about the feasibility of using the mother tongue as media of instruction, even when demonstrated successfully.
The class of persons referred to by Macaulay in his Minute continue to 'refine the vernacular dialects', 'to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the western nomenclature and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population'. However, there has been a tardy implementation of official policies - tardy because of conflicting interests, tardy because of lack of will, inadequate and inefficient machinery, and at times lack of expertise.
6.19. Problems Faced by the Developing Nations
Some of the other problems generally noticed in developing nations are as follows: while at primary and secondary levels of education, mother tongue may be used as medium of instruction; at the collegiate - university - level, an European language may continue as medium of instruction. This gulf does not help the mother tongue to acquire scientific terminology; or rather, it does not help the mother tongue to "grow". In multilingual countries universal education cannot be achieved through a universal (i.e., a single) language. Hence problems arise as to which ones of the multitudinous number of languages should be used as medium of instruction, and up to what stages of education; what languages should be used to maintain communication between the various linguistic segments, and how should communication among the educated with different linguistic environments be ensured, etc.
In addition, all the languages used in a multilingual country need not have attainted or be in the same state of development. Furthermore, we should also specify the roles of dialects of a native language vis-à-vis medium of instruction - a language may have dialects, which may or may not be mutually intelligible. Under such circumstances we have to consider the role of the standard dialect vis-à-vis the other dialects in terms of medium of instruction. The choice of the medium of instruction is thus a difficult process - 'merely to enumerate languages spoken is to say very little about the language situation. Even a full qualified specification of this, which would reflect the number of speakers of each, the number of bilinguals, and data on the similarity of the (different) languages, would still leave out the matter of when and under what circumstances each language is used and what the attitudes of the people are towards the (different) languages', (Dakin, 1968).
In conclusion, we would like to take the position that the entire subject matter is such that it will be difficult to prove that instruction through mother tongue is superior to instruction through another language. Many factors that come to influence language learning, and consequently, the mastery of the content can never be fully controlled.
6.20. Science Teaching Methods
Why should science be taught at all? It is claimed that science provides a unique training in observation. It is further claimed that because of its great practical value, science education should form part of any plan of education. Some consider that science should be taught to children in order to provide them with training in scientific method, as scientific method is necessary for acquisition of knowledge. Some also claim that study of science has great cultural value in the sense that the history of scientific discoveries is the best illustration of man's quest for knowledge, of how man overcomes the hurdles of Nature and of how the human civilization has come to the level it occupies at the moment. Accordingly, many consider that general education is not complete if it does not include some knowledge of the how and the why of natural phenomena, the physical laws and properties of matter and the application of scientific principles met with in our daily life. Thus, the objectives of teaching sciences in schools are twofold: '(i) to train the mind of the student to reason about things he has observed and develop his powers of weighing and interpreting evidence; (ii) to make him acquainted with the broad outlines of great scientific principles, with the ways these are exemplified in familiar phenomena, and with their application to the service of man', (Dass, 1974).
What are the methods of teaching science? Educationists have identifies several methods of teaching science. In the Lecture method, the teacher gives the lectures and raises questions in between or at the end. The Heuristic method considers science as a quest for knowledge conducted in a systematic manner. It asserts that the spirit of science is original investigation and discovery. This method aims at providing training in the methods of scientific inquiry rather than imparting knowledge of the concepts of a particular science. The Demonstration method aims at the acquisition of scientific concepts through the demonstration of instances of these concepts. Constant question and answer form part of every demonstration lesson. The Assignment method concentrates on lab work and connected reading. The Historical method develops a subject following the stages through which the subject has passed in the actual course of its development from its early beginning. The Concentric method assumes that a subject cannot be given an exhaustive treatment at the first stage and hence, according to it, certain strategies should be adopted in the teaching of a subject - strategies that would allow for the division of subject matter into several stages for returning to the subject matter already taught. The Topic method wants the teacher to plan the science lessons around a series of topics.
These are some of the generally followed methods of science teaching. From time to time the goals and methods of science teaching have been variously defined. But in all such definitions and characterization there is no special mention generally of the stages for the acquisition of a language variety competent to meet the requirements of scientific education and scientific inquiry. However, quite a few suggestions for teaching science have effectively been offered. These include how the spirit of search must be created and captured in the classroom, the need to refer to the works of eminent scientists, the need to avoid the use of symbols, formulae and equations in the beginning, what steps one should follow in providing an effective demonstration in a classroom, what principles one should adopt in arranging the materials, how the materials should be presented to the class, and so on.
The acquisition of language of science, unfortunately, seems to be less attended to. And yet when we go through the principal assumptions of scientific inquiry we find that the use of these assumptions predetermines the kinds of linguistic structures that would be used. These principles predetermine the choice of vocabulary and structures.
Apart from the failure to notice the relevance of and the need for a systematic acquisition and use of scientific language, the current science teaching practices in many countries exhibit the same inadequacies we notice in language teaching in educational institutions. These inadequacies also contribute to the failure of a chosen medium of instruction.
A major problem that one must grapple with is the speed with which scientific discoveries; new interpretations of old discoveries and scientific inventions are made. This makes the updating of syllabus a real problem; this demands a capability to acquire and master the new concepts and their corresponding expressions. The second problem is the sophistication of the subject matter of discovery and inventions. Schools and colleges are ill equipped in many countries. Unless the goals of science education are well specified with reference to the above, mastering science is going to be a problem. Furthermore, linkage between science and its application is yet to be fully established in developing countries. Rote learning is to be discouraged; critical learning should be encouraged. Science talent is lost and wasted in many countries; career thinking is absent. Another great evil is the growing compartmentalization between the personal lives and convictions on the one hand and the assumptions of a belief in scientific facts for scientific inquiry's sake only, on the other. Such a compartmentalization is a barrier for social change and progress.
6.21. Science Teaching Through a Second Language
In the earlier sections we have brought out the strengths and weaknesses of the plea for mother tongue medium of instruction. We indicated therein that in selecting the medium of instruction, both academic and non-academic factors play a crucial role. Furthermore, we pointed out that there is no definite empirical evidence to insist that the medium of instruction should be only through the mother tongue. In fact, we took the position that this subject matter cannot be brought under strict empirical investigation because manipulation of all the variables involved is a difficult proposition, because a foolproof experimental design is almost an impossibility, and because chances for interpolation and comparative studies have been unfortunately missed where such transfers from one medium to the other took place.
At the moment in may parts of the world - in developing and underdeveloped nations, European languages, particularly English, continue to be used as media of instruction.
English is 'an international language, perhaps the international language of science and research. Its use would ensure communication not only within India, but with the outside world. All the books and papers, essential for the intensive and extensive study of an academic subject, are available in English. It has been argued that no Indian language would be able to offer anything but translated knowledge of the modern sciences and social studies for a long time to come', (Dakin, 1968).
One may question the above assertion, and yet, whether English would remain forever as medium of instruction or not, it is bound to remain both as a medium and a subject for a pretty long period. We, however, deal with English here as a case study to highlight the methods and problems of using a second language for the instruction and expression of sciences. In the case of English, it is taught as a subject, and is also used as a medium of instruction. Our endeavour here is to find out the best types of relations that may be established between the teaching of a second language as a subject and the use of it as a medium.
6.22. A Second Language As a Subject of Study and As a Medium
The relationship between teaching a language as a subject and using it as medium of instruction has received some attention in the past. The question as to whether there is any need to teach a language as a subject in addition to using the same language as medium of instruction has also been raised. Some have suggested that the goals of these two should be kept apart and hence the need to have both the facilities. Some have suggested that the medium of instruction need not be taught as a subject and that ways should be found to master the language while acquiring the subject that is taught through that language.
Teaching mother tongue as a subject apart from its use as medium of instruction has certain well-defined goals and justification. Language is a means of socialization and is a storehouse of cultural heritage, which includes the literature and other humanistic values. Accordingly, apart from acquiring the four fundamental language skills in mother tongue, one needs to have knowledge of the humanistic values and the cultural heritage expressed through one's own mother tongue. This need not be the case with regard to a second language. There has been a controversy as to whether the teaching of a second language such as English should be taught through an exposure to its original literature, which will not have any structural restrictions imposed on it, or, through a careful choice and exposure to grades structures of the second language. Various proposals have been offered in this connection.
6.23. Teaching the Scientific Register
In teaching the scientific register to a mother tongue population and in teaching science and scientific expressions through a second language, the teaching methods, the materials used, the exercises given and the methods of assessment all differ on the basis of the relationship one posits between the ordinary language and the language of science. Some consider that differences between ordinary English and scientific English are a matter of additional vocabulary. This position leads them to set their goals, materials, etc., giving priority to and emphasizing the learning of English for general purposes. That is, an accurate acquisition of the ordinary language is attempted first. After mastering the ordinary language, the students would learn first of all the vocabulary items required for general scientific statements, and then, the vocabulary items of their fields of specialization. In another approach, a language is taught or mastered while acquiring the knowledge of a discipline, which is through that language. This method had not been seriously practised in recent times, but Francouis Guoin said in 1892 that 'while studying languages we might study the sciences, and in studying the sciences we can study the languages'.
6.24. Organization of Learning Materials
There are several ways in which the learning materials may be organized. Of these, there are four well-defined organizations, namely, the grammatical organization, the situational organization, the topical organization, and the functional or notional organization.
In the grammatical organization, the materials are prepared and presented on the basis of the description of the grammar of the native speaker of the language taught.
In the situational organization, first, one identifies the situations in which the students want to use the foreign language, and then the teaching of the language is organized around the language that native speakers use in those situations. One finds out what the students want to talk about, then establishes how native speakers talk about these topics and organize the material accordingly in the topical organization.
In the functional organization of materials, we find out the purposes for which the students want to use the language they are learning. We find out specifically what particular things they want to express. On the basis of these things we teach the students the language, that is, the variety of the language the native speakers use to carry out these functions and to express these ideas. Widdowson (1968) argues in favour of an approach that aims not at the acquisition of general English, but of the English of a relevant field and style. He argues that teaching English through science accounts for the contextual element in language and restricts itself to a manageable corpus of one variety of language. However, Widdowson himself points out certain practical difficulties in the implementation of this proposal. Firs of all, acceptance of this scheme would mean that the teachers (of a language) should be proficient in that language and in the discipline that is taught through that language. It is also likely that the acquisition of the concepts of the discipline may be hampered if the language through which these concepts are taught is not already mastered.
Combining language teaching with teaching a subject may also lead to a mastery of only that variety of the language that is used for the expression of that particular discipline. Especially in India where both mother tongue and second language teaching is heavily, if not exclusively, literature-oriented, and where language teachers are not well-equipped with a knowledge of the structures of the modern language (used for general and specialist purposes), implementation of teaching science is likely to run into difficulties. Because of these difficulties we may rephrase the question: How can we best teach a language to enable it to be used as an effective tool to acquire and express scientific knowledge?
Earlier we listed several factors that influence language teaching and learning. Of these we shall now consider two factors: preparation of materials to be taught and the use of these materials in the classroom - how these materials should be presented to the learners. Again following Widdowson (1968), one may suggest two processes/stages each for preparation and presentation of materials. Preparation involves a choice 'to be made from the total manifestation - of language of those items, which we want students of a particular language to learn'; it also involves 'an arrangement of these items…to be made in an order appropriate to teaching purposes'. The two stages of presentation are 'the initial presentation of items to the class, and the repetition of these items to develop the linguistic skills'. It is in these two areas that we should consider the question of exploiting scientific writing and scientific information for the teaching of a second language for the expression of sciences. Strategies may, however, differ, but if the goal is to enable the learners to express themselves better in their exercises that would lead the learners specifically to an effective and acceptable expression of sciences should be used in greater quantity than done in a general second language class.
6.25. Lexical Change and Expansion of Vocabulary
The lexical change and expansion characterize language use for the expression of science. Accordingly, language teaching should take care of these processes, in addition to the use of syntactic patterns and semantic nuances peculiar to science. The teaching must also be organized in such a way that the learner is given a contrast between the ordinary and scientific styles of language use. Language teaching to students of science may present first of all the general features of the language of science, which are common to all disciplines. Once the general features are listed we may present materials based on the specific features of particular disciplines. A major question is with regard to language even in a course intended for students of science. We may also consider incorporating in the text the sentences generally used by the teachers in teaching various lessons. A teacher presents facts and elicits information from the class. For these two purposes a teacher is likely to use certain fixed types of sentences, the comprehension of which is necessary for successful learning by students. In a well-rounded course for students of science, all the four language skills are emphasized. Reading and writing play a more important role. The students must be guided to find for themselves the specific characteristic of the scientific discipline they intend to practise.
There are many good books that enable students to master the art of scientific writing. These books, such as Gilman (1961), help students to make a critical examination not only of the masterpieces of scientific writing but also of their own writing. These books enable students to make a proper use of vocabulary, sentences, imagery, illustration and so on. They enable the students to choose and use an appropriate and effective lead. They also give instructions with regard to the essential component of a research article, etc. All these must be considered only as props and not as substitutes for individual efforts and ingenuity.
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SCIENCE THROUGH TRANSLATION
7.1. The Need for Science Translation
Scientific pursuit is institutionalised and is universal. It is carried out through more than one language and in more than one country. Except in the case of secretive scientific work for military purposes, a scientist wants to share his findings with his colleagues in the field. He seeks recognition for his work. He wants to understand and be kept informed of the work done by other scientists of his own field. He wants to compare his own work with that of others. He would like to avoid repetition of the work. He would like to use others' findings for the betterment of his own work and community activities. He wants that his students and he himself master all that is known about a special field. He wants to train his students in such a way that they are able to compete with other scientists and their students using a different language. He wants to develop his own language in such a way that it is able to express all the scientific knowledge. He would like to use his own language as medium of instruction for learning science. In this effort, he would like to absorb into his language whatever the knowledge is available in a particular field. Thus, for communication among scientist who use different languages, and for several other purposes, translation becomes a must.
Translation is also a must because not all the scientists would be able to master the many different languages in which original research is published. Scientists may not have time and skill to go through scientific literature related to their fields of specialization in other languages. Although scientific inquiry of original nature is carried on through only a few languages of the world, recent statistics show that, for many varied reasons, this number is in the process of upward revision. Even if the number of languages used for the expression of sciences is kept to a minimum, or restricted to English, French, German, Russian, Spanish and Japanese, the need for inter-lingual translation is not minimized. Because of geopolitical, socio-economic and historical reasons, research on one area of a discipline may be published more in a particular language than in others, but interest in that particular aspect may be evinced by scientists using different languages. Moreover, completion of modern research projects require participation and cooperation of scientists from many nations, which use different languages for the expression of sciences.
7.2. Characteristics of Science Translation
Is the translation of scientific material different from the translation of other materials? If different, what are the special characteristics of translation of science materials? A science translation does not aim at the reflection of the literary quality of the material being translated. It does not care for embellishments. Unlike the literary texts, a scientific text is not usually translated more than once into the same language. However, the translated passage should be readable and be easily understandable; requirement of readability may, however, differ from the translation of one variety of material to another. Clarity of exposition is demanded in all the cases.
As regards the translation of scientific materials, the original itself will not have eloquence or emotion. Accordingly, the scientific translation will be direct and free from possible alternatives. The translator, however, must have a sound knowledge of the subject under discussion; knowledge of the subject matter enables him to interpret the concept, etc., correctly so as to identify appropriate equivalents in the target language. It also enables him to present the materials in a manner accepted in the scientific writing of the target language. The "language" used, however, differs from text to text, depending upon the purpose of each text.
Technical translation follows the basic principles of general translation. It is different from other types of translation, usually in the retention of technical terms - scientific translation concentrates on the vocabulary as well as clarity of exposition. However, differences between languages are easily noticeable in technical translations as well. The characteristic features of a particular language with regard to the use of that language for the expression of sciences would get reflected even in scientific translation. Yet another characteristic may be mentioned here. In languages that have only a recent tradition of expressing modern concepts of science, even the original expressions of science sound more liked translated material. In languages with well-established tradition of expressing modern concepts of science, this feeling is generally lacking, if the reader is not unfamiliar with the discipline. However, the translated material in the target language shows itself in the terms and the constructions used, which could be traced to the source language of the text.
7.3. What is Translation?
Translation is defined as a process of finding a target language equivalent for the source language sentence - finding a target language equivalent for a source language text. In some extreme theoretical positions, equivalence is sometimes defined as identity of not only the content but also of the form and the processes at various levels of the linguistic structure in the translated material in the target language. Equivalence, as we conceive it here, is the transfer of the content to the target language in a manner that is acceptable to and considered as the "genius" of the target language. This equivalence must be achieved in such a way that ambiguity, interference and variation in meaning are all avoided. In an earlier chapter, we referred to polysemy, homography, homophony and synonymy. Except where the original text purposely resorts to the above. The translation should aim at seeking the conceptual equivalents; it should define the conceptual equivalents accurately and render them in the linguistic terms of the target language.
7.4. Models of Translation
(a) Linguistic Models:
Translation is defined as the replacement of textual material in one language (the source language) by equivalent textual material in another language (target language). The linguistic models generally approach the translation process as mainly concerned with a special type of relation that exists between languages. It is axiomatic in linguistics that materials of any one language can be translated into any other language. This axiom operates, for very many linguists, in close conjunction with another characteristic of language, namely, affability (see 2.4). The linguistic models of translation, while not insisting upon equivalences of linguistic structures between the source and the target languages, attempt all the same to identify the structural carriers of content in the source language so as to provide an effective transfer of the content in the target language, wherever possible through the closest similar structure in the target language, without affecting the genius of the target language.
Catford (1965) approaches the equivalences between languages form the point of view of the levels of the structure the linguists' descriptions provide. In particular, he exploits the Hallidayan model of grammar and builds up a model of linguistic translation. It would, then, mean that although linguists may generally agree with the definition of translation given in the beginning, the underlying assumptions, the procedures they follow, for the identification and validation of equivalences, and the levels of structure for which such equivalences are sought, may differ from one school of linguistics to another.
Nida's model (Nida, 1974), while accepting and positing linguistic levels of equivalences, suggests shifting the focus in translating, from the form of the message (seeking equivalences in matters such as rhymes, rhythms, parallelisms and unusual grammatical structures) to the response of the receptor. The translator should bear in his mind the audience for whom he is translating. He argues that each language has its own genius and that if we want to communicate effectively, we must respect the genius of that language. Each language covers the totality of experience with symbols and each language has its own system of symbolising meaning. The translator should aim at reproducing the meaning of a text as understood by the writer. In essence, Nida argues in favour of a dynamic equivalence, which is 'defined in terms of the degree to which the receptors of the message in the receptor language respond to it in substantially the same manner as the receptors in the source language. This response can never be identical, for the cultural and historical settings are too different, but there should be a high degree of equivalence of response, or the translation will have failed to accomplish its purpose', (Nida, 1974). Nida says the above as generally true of translating, but more specifically in the context of translating the Bible. Note, however, tat although the translation of scientific materials shares the general principles of literary and Bible translations, its dependence and emphasis on the cultural and historical settings is much less.
(b) Pragmatic Models of Translation:
This model defines translation as the replacement of a text in the source language by a semantically and pragmatically equivalent text in the target language. The model suggests that the essence of translation lies in the preservation of the semantic, pragmatic and textual aspects of meaning. The semantic aspect consists of the relationship of reference or denotation - the relationship of linguistic units or symbols to their referents. Pragmatics, on the other hand, is the study of the purposes for which sentences are used. It is a study of the real world conditions under which a sentence may be appropriately used as an utterance. Pragmatics, thus, relates to the correlation between linguistic units and the users of these units in a given communicative situation. The connotative meaning also forms part of pragmatic meaning. The textual aspects of meaning are those features that make a text a cohesive whole; these include: occurrences of pro-forms, substitutions, co-references, ellipses, and anaphora.
The model's method of operation consists of the following steps (House, 1977): A given source text is first analysed according to a set of eight dimensions, three language user dimensions (geographical origin, social class and time), and five langue use dimensions (medium, participation, social role relationship, social attitude and province), for which linguistic (syntactic, lexical and textual) correlates are established; and, then, attempts are made to have these transferred in the target language. Functional equivalence is the goal of this model.
(c) Traditional Model of Translation:
This model interprets the operation of translating as consisting in the transfer of some neutral extralingual meaning from one linguistic expression to another. But, does content exist independent of language? How can we transfer the independent content from one language to another?
(d) Translation as Parody/Versions:
This model suggests that there is some similarity of purpose between parody and translation and that a parodist and a translator share a lot of features. What we aim at in art is a faithful version of nature. Translation is assumed to be an attempt to approximate the original as close as possible, and in this attempt, we can identify a scale of varying distances between the original and the translations. These versions range from the most exact rendering of vocabulary and idiom to free translation to remaking of the original. It may also include radical translations where no original is referred to.
(e) The hermeneutic motion model of translation:
Steiner (1975) argues that there is translation in every act of human speech. We as users of a language attempt to "translate" each other's idiom. All communication is nothing but translation - the musical setting of words, the artists' illustration of a story, gestures and dances, are all modes of translation. The attempt to retrieve the speaker's information is, indeed, a process of translation. Interlingual translation, to which the term translation is often referred, is only 'the most salient, structurally defined case'.
The hermeneutic motion of translation takes four-fold steps. The first one is the trust, the belief, that the text we are confronted with has meaning, that it has first of all sense, and then the sense that can be translated. This trust, thus, depends upon the sense that should be elicited and translated. After trust comes aggression. The translator extracts the sense from the text. The third step is the step that enables the translator to incorporate the extracted sense of the text. The fourth step is the piston-stroke, which leads to the maintenance of parity between the original and the translated text. This is the step of compensation or restitution. This compensation or the maintenance of parity is absolutely essential to overcome 'the translator's interpretative attack and appropriation'. In the words of Steiner, the paradigm of translation stays incomplete 'until the original has regained as much as it had lost'. Steiner suggests that the view of translation as a hermeneutic motion would allow us to reject the triadic model, which proposes only a distinction between literalism, paraphrase and free imitation.
To conclude this section, we would like to point out a rather advantageous position in which a translator of science materials is placed. The conventions for the expression of scientific concepts and pursuits become more and more universal and less language specific in some specified ways. This trend towards an evolution of a universal mode and its acceptance in specific languages is not without distraction. However, the trend is easily discernible all the same, and, as a result, certain aspects of translation, namely the form, the sequential composition, lexical items and even the appropriate sentence structure are already identified for the translator of scientific materials. Thus, certain items are more easily anticipated and handled by a translator of science materials than by a translator of literary texts.
7.5. Types of Translation
One may identify the following types of translation in terms of the complexity involved:
- Transcription. This denotes rendering the sounds of a source language into a target language form. Except in the case of Tamil, whose script has not (justifiably so) provision for voiced and aspirated stops, transcription from one major Indian language into another is relatively easier, as scripts of these major Indian languages have more or less the same organization. The phonetic quality could be tremendously different, however. The Parivardhini Devanagari script tries to provide symbols/separate letters for many variations in sounds perceived in different Indian languages. But, the native writers of Hindi and the translators of materials in to Hindi do not use the provisions of this script in their works. Variations are also found to occur between languages employing Roman script.
- Transliteration. It is the process of rendering the letters of one alphabet in the letters of another with a different alphabetical system. No transliteration is needed among languages sharing the same alphabet, such as German and English. Parivardhini Devanagari mentioned above was/is meant to be used for proper transliteration between Indian languages to faithfully reflect the pronunciation of words. This script, however, is used neither by Hindi speakers nor by others. In some cases rendering a name may entail both transliteration and transcription.
- Borrowing. We have referred to the processes of borrowing in an earlier chapter. In spite of conscious attempts to avoid borrowing and to replace the borrowed words with words coined through loan translation, etc., borrowing continues to be an important process in translation. Borrowing is generally resorted to when the target language has no equivalent for the source language words. Borrowing may be structural or conceptual or both. Even in languages that generally go on for loan translation, the items are first borrowed, in many cases, as they are, and then, in course of time, equivalents through loan translation are coined. In some cases the source language equivalent may be translated using an expression not of the target language but of the adjacent/familiar language.
- Literal. This translation results in one to one structural and conceptual correspondence. One may attempt a word for word, or sentence for sentence translation. In terms of naturalness, grammatical acceptability and the quantum of intelligibility achieved, the sentence for sentence translation is better than the word for word translation. However, in both cases, the translated version in the target language may even mislead the reader, if the idiomatic expressions are translated in a literal fashion. There is a belief that translation of scientific materials is the word for word translation. This belief is strengthened by the availability and the use of internationally accepted technical terms. However, the tendency to resort to loan translation that we notice in many languages, the occurrence of many ordinary language units in the technical text and the influence of contexts upon the meanings of words in a text all force us to abandon our hope to resort to word for word translation, except for emergency purposes.
- Transposition. This is a main process of translation in which the source language grammatical or lexical structure is given an appropriate rendering in the grammatical or lexical structure respectively of the target language. Such transpositions may take place in several levels, and, across several levels. The content expressed through a word belonging to a particular word class of the source language may be expressed in the target language through a word of a different word class; the phrase in the source language may be translated into a single word in the target language and vice-versa; the word order of the source language may be changed in the target language and there may be several other internal changes as well.
- Modulation. While transposition restricts itself to the changes in the formal structures (both grammatical and lexical), modulation is concerned with modifications of meaning so as to suit the genius of the target language. In fact, it is difficult to always distinguish between the processes of transposition and the processes of modulation.
What happens to translation from English to Indian languages and from one Indian language to another? English is a subject-verb-object language, whereas the major Indian languages (the languages of the Dravidian and Indo-Aryan families) are of the subject-object-verb order. There are several areas in which both transpositions and modulations would be required in the processes of translation from English into major Indian languages. Some of these are as follows: division of time, use of imperatives for directions, choice of modals for obligatory and optional requirements, passive voice equivalent or equivalents, use of appropriate gender, number, and person in the verb phrase, compound verb type construction, use of special types of constructions such as the padu type construction in Tamil, Kannada, etc. to indicate what suffers an action, case distinctions, and choice of different case constructions, in addition to the order of occurrence of different phrases. Lexical items are not generally governed by cultural implications in science. That is, the lexical terms in science are generally neutral with regard to cultural values attached to them. However, the way the semantic domains for lexical items may differ from language to language and the notions of inclusion, specialization and generalization may be borne in mind here.
The translation of science material from one Indian language to another may include several transpositions and modulations, some of which are as follows: choice of an appropriate first person (exclusive/inclusive) pronoun or construction, transposition and modulation between the cases of the source and the target languages, gender, number and person in the main verb, choice of passive voice equivalents, different types of elliptical sentences, division of time-tense, differences in relativism, differences in the use of anaphora, differences in the composition of nominal compounds, lexical similarities in form (shape) but differences in import and meaning (for example, differences attached to the use of Sanskrit words in Indian languages), differences in the expression of modal sense, differences in the uses of sentence types in giving the definitions, and so on. The areas that require transpositions and modulations may be identified through a contrastive linguistic study of the source and the target languages. Note, however, that we cannot and should not restrict the transpositions and modulations only to the differences between structures of the two languages. One should expect problems even with regard to the structures that are shared by the source and the target languages. The import and application of these shared structures could be differently organized in the source and the target language.
A translator of science materials in developing languages is easily tempted to follow the expression patterns of the source language, which has well established conventions in the choice of structural patterns and meaning, assuming that the source language model reflects the international scientific practice. This may be true, even to a large extent. And yet, the translator should not forget that he is translating for a different linguistic audience, and hence he should make every effort to choose those structures and meanings appropriate to the target language, subject to the condition that such a choice does not distort the scientific truth of the source language text. This is a difficult and challenging task. It demands a lot of qualifications from the translator in terms of his knowledge of the linguistic structures of the source and the target languages for the expression of such materials and so on.
- Adaptation. In this type, we may obtain in our translation a material not identical, but only analogous to the source language material. Sometimes this results in the modification even of the concept. Explanations are given using illustrations from the target language. As the target language situation is not identical, it may have certain implications not originally intended by the material in the source language. And to that extent, concept modification could be assumed to have taken place. It is assumed that such adaptations would facilitate comprehension. Note that while adaptation as a translation type may be a valid technique or process in literary translations, it is not a welcome process in the translation of science materials meant for scientists. It is, however, a welcome process if the resultant material is for popularisation purposes. Many of the "original" works of science - science textbooks written straightaway in the developing languages, at least those "pioneering" ones, fall under the category of adaptation translation. In a straightforward translation this is not resorted to. Wherever necessary, footnotes are given to elucidate the point under consideration.
To conclude this section, we would like to point out the difference generally found between languages used in the processes of interlingual translation: Language A may have grammatical categories that are absent in Language B. Language B may have grammatical categories that are absent in Language A. Language A may have vocabulary that is absent in Language B and vice versa. One langue may use its grammatical categories and vocabulary in combinations and patterns different from those of one another. One language may have no words for a concept expressed in the other language. Such disparities may be related to and found in all the eight pedagogical components stated below.
In addition, we may point out three other levels, namely, denotative, connotative and cultural. One is able to translate better if he has a good command in both the source and the target languages; he should have this command at all levels of the language. This knowledge and command enables him to resolve ambiguities, which are due to structural features. This also enables him to anticipate and avoid interference between the two languages. We should not, however, forget that there is not always an exact parallelism between the languages.
Equivalence may be identified and ordered in terms of the various levels of the linguistic structures. At the top we have the equivalence of the concepts and this equivalence is to be strictly maintained. This equivalence is followed by the lexical and syntactic equivalence at the level of the sentence. There is some scope for flexibility, which must be exercised by the translator at this level to suit the requirements of the target language, to meet the demands made by the "genius" of the language. This is followed by smaller units such as words and morphemes.
Theoretically speaking, one may seek equivalents in all the eight pedagogical components of language, namely, phonetic, phonemic, morphemic, morphophonemic, lexical, graphemic, syntactic and semantic components. One may also seek equivalents in the form of the discourse structure within which we may include style. Thus, one may look for the substitution of printed letter for printed letter; substitution of a sound, cluster of sounds, rhyme, etc., by their equivalents in the source language; substitution of morpheme for morpheme, substitution of the sets of lexical items by the equivalents in the source language; substitution of phrase for phrase; substitution of sentence for sentence using similar or equivalent sentence structure; substitution of a context larger than a sentence for a similar one; and so on. However, all these equivalents are to be subjected to the ultimate goal of communicating the content of the original - the source text. An ideal situation is the one in which the translated version bears both the structural and meaning similarities to the source text. In rough translations we have similarity in meaning but dissimilarity in structure. Overemphasis on structural similarity can lead to dissimilarity in meaning. Likewise, most of the incorrect translations are found to have dissimilarities both in structure and meaning.
7.6. Accuracy and Adequacy in Translation
How do we judge whether a translation is accurate and adequate for the purposes intended? First of all, the needs of the reader should be considered. If the translated passage is unreadable or difficult to read, and inaccurate (in the sense to be specified later), the purpose may not be served at all. Unlike a translator of literary pieces, a translator of science materials aims at adequacy, not at perfection. Adequacy is determined by the quantum of the coverage of original information in the translated version. The criterion of adequacy also demands that the translated version be in easily readable form and made available as quickly as possible. Since the user is not generally aware of all the details of the original information (if he was aware, he might not bother to seek the information in the translated version except for urgent and special reasons such as in the case of giving references to his readers to indicate the accessibility of the materials referred to in their language), he is generally unable to judge, in full, the adequacy of the translated version as opposed to its original. Assessment of adequacy is generally made better by a team of persons who have, severally or collectively, competence in the subject, and the source and the target languages.
We may have several gradations of translations: word for word translation, grammatical (structural) translation, transposed translation and stylistic translation. These varieties may be graded on the basis of the quantum of the coverage of original information. Coverage is generally guided by the felt, perceived and projected needs of the audience for whom the translation is intended. Coverage is governed, thus, by the levels of education to which the scientific material is intended. Most of the "original" textbooks of sciences written in the developing languages are modulations and/or adaptations, even without accepting the sense of translation within the framework of the hermeneutic motion model. They tend to impose upon themselves certain restrictions in terms of the scope of the content and its implications to be covered, as opposed to the standard of coverage in developed languages.
The coverage of the significance of a concept generally tends to focus on a few implications to the exclusion or the neglect of others, and is given less weightage than illustrations of a few implications. A roundabout coverage supposed to suit the audience is generally expected and followed. If a textbook or research article goes straight to a point, the same would be considered less effective, stiff, difficult to comprehend, etc.
Formal expression of sciences in the developing languages seems to have the trappings of the expressions and even techniques used for the popularisation of sciences in the developed languages of the West. This leads to further "dilution", a progressive loss of information, and to modifications of implications as well as of the scope of the content/concept in the materials meant for popularisation of sciences in these languages. The usefulness of and the need for style sheets is yet to be fully appreciated. In "faithful" translations or straightforward translations, the form of the original helps to maintain a distinction between the modes of expressions for formal sciences and popularisation of sciences.
Accuracy depends upon the quantum of distortion of the original information. Maintaining intelligibility of the original source language material may require some distortion at both the linguistic and content levels. The translation achieved with least distortion must be considered the most accurate version. A source of distortion is maintained by the tendency that favours loan translation in the developing languages. In these languages, at the level of the coinage of technical terms, some distortion of the concepts is likely to occur. Accuracy also varies in consonance with the requirements of the audience for whom the translation is intended. Accuracy may at times affect readability. The quantum of accuracy varies in different types of translations. Accuracy is generally judged better, as in the case of adequacy, by a team of experts in the subject, who know well the translation techniques and who have mastery of the source and the target languages. Accuracy is assessed using certain techniques such as back translation, in which the target language text is translated back into the source language and then the original source text and the translated text in the source language are compared.
The errors that are likely to occur in translation are as follows:
- Loss and misinterpretation/misrepresentation of information
- Lack of intelligibility
- Interference between source language and target language
- Confusion between registers and styles
- Errors in the use of the target language
Accuracy and adequacy cannot be assessed in a mechanical fashion. In fact, translation as a process is proof par excellence for the species-specific trait of the language propensity of the humans, which has now led scientists to accept that mechanical translation is of a limited scope. We shall see some aspects of machine translation in the next section.
7.7. Machine Translation
There have been many attempts made to have science materials translated from one language into another with the help of machines. These attempts generally conceived language as a code, a limited system of signs. It was assumed that translation was nothing but the replacement of the signs in the source language by their equivalents in the target language. While this characterization of translation may not be objected to, the view that specific equivalents, one to one correspondences with no other significance or implications, are available in languages was found to be against the nature and function of human language even when it is used for the expression of sciences.
The major problem for machine translation is to account for the creative aspect of language use and the characteristic of novelty employed in the human languages - employed even in the language use for the expression of sciences. That a fully automated translation is too powerful to be accomplished, too strong and too high an aim to be achieved is now recognized by all. Attempts are now restricted to writing programs to translate materials of limited and specified scope from the source language to the target language. Once the goal was set clear, the developments came very fast and in a very impressive manner.
Machine translation requires that the linguistic data be converted into a numerical form that can be processed by an electronic digital computer. In order to achieve this, a linguistic description of the structures in terms of information theory is attempted. Now, communication engineers and computer scientists have come to appreciate that the reduction of language to numerical data is, indeed, complicated, because of the intrinsic complexity of the language phenomenon and because of the absence of linguistic descriptions that fully match the language complexity. It is important to recognize that language is not simply a finite system obeying clearly defined laws, and organized logically and thus was susceptible to quantitative analysis. It is important to recognize the enormous complexity of cross references, creative aspects of language use, telescoping of one level into another, and of the complex relations between the form and its meaning, use, and distribution.
The machine translation researchers began with word for word analysis - the replacement of a sign with another sign. This requires, first of all, a compilation of a bilingual dictionary in the machine. According to this scheme, each word in the source language would be looked up in this dictionary and an equivalent in the target language would be selected. After the choice was made for the words of each source language sentence, the equivalents obtained in the target language would be rearranged following the word order in the target language. That is, if this rearrangement were not done, the word for word translation would result in some sort of gibberish. One could still get some meaning out of this but it was not of much use. However, the rearrangement of the words has to be done before feeding the material into the computer. Thus, a human editor was found to be necessary.
Since one to one correspondences do not occur with any degree of regularity between two vocabularies, a computer cannot cope with the assignment of equivalents. These and other problems have been recognized, and recent researches and programs have made great strides in making limited bilingual and multilingual traqnslations a success. The wordnet concept is a great idea, and recent semantic and syntactic investigations enable us to look forward to a day when computer translation will be as smooth as wordprocessing.
The problem of machine translation is a problem not so much of the machine as of translation, and of linguistic description itself. Major difficulties arise from constant innovations in language, changes in meaning, and ambiguity, and from the cultural background implicit in a text. Loan translation trends, the ordinary language term for several concepts and the use of several terms for a single concept, differences in the syntactic import of sentence types used for the expression of sciences in different languages, differences in the choice of syntactic constructions for expressing the same concept in different languages, and within the same language, the differences in the import of the grammatical elements that go with technical terms in individual languages, lack of standardization, not only of technical terms but also of sentence types, that leads to variations and alternatives in developing languages all contribute to the difficulties confronted by machine translation of even the science materials. In essence, a successful machine translation depends both on a rich and intricate linguistic description that matches faithfully the language use, and on the electronic facilities that match the intricate linguistic description.
7.8. More Tips for Better Technical Translation
The following additional tips are suggested for making effective translations of technical materials:
- We should check that the text has not been translated before. We should make sure that the text to be translated is that which is actually required to be translated. We should also make sure that the text or portion of it, which is to be translated, is available to us in its complete form.
- We should find out and/or decide how complete a translation is required, and decide what type of translation is required.
- We should read the text through quickly to get an idea of the subject and the scope to be covered.
- If a new word or a known word in an unexpected context appears, leave it open (use it as it is) and proceed further.
- The translation of the title poses great problems in literary translations. In the translation of science materials it does not usually pose a great problem. Hence we may even begin with the translation of the title first.
- We should look up the meanings of unknown words in the dictionary.
- We should not guess the meaning of unknown words in the translation of science materials. One may make guesses, however, only if a sufficiently large enough portion of the text is already translated.
- Until the context is fully known, one should be careful about the choice from among the many available equivalents in that target language.
- In cases where there is no other way of translating than through guessing, we should make it clear that the translation of an item in the target language is only a guess.
- It is likely that the terms of a scientific system/school of thought in the target language are used as if they are equivalent to or synonymous with the system/school of thought in the source language. In all such cases, we should make clear the position.
- If the equivalent given by the dictionary is felt to be inadequate, we shall state it and caution our readers.
- We shall use reference books, wherever necessary, to clarify meanings.
- In order to properly interpret the terms and the expressions in the source language text, we should look at the references given in the source text, and wherever necessary, even read some of these references to make a proper interpretation. It is quite possible that the source language text may refer to some advanced work done through the target language (a very unlikely thing if we are doing translation into a developing language), which will help us in the proper interpretation and translation.
- Abstracts of the articles on the subject may also be read.
- A good competence in the subject and its linguistic nuances in the source and the target languages help keep the translator in his task. Hence we should keep in touch with the developments in the field - read abstracts of articles, summaries given as publicity blurbs, advertisements and notices given in the technical journals, etc.
- At times in the translation of science materials from one developed language into the other, and often in the translation from a developed language into a developing language, we will have difficulty in finding exact equivalents in the target language. The translator will be required to provide definitions and appropriate terms in such cases - a phrase, a sentence, or even a paragraph may be used to explain a single word/concept in the source language. Such cases are a challenge even to good and experienced translators. The translator of science materials into a developing language is a pioneer and has special responsibilities.
- Some portions of the scientific papers may be felt more difficult to translate than other portions. Reasons for this may range from the familiarity or lack of it that the translator has with certain contents of the paper, the manner of presentation of the content in the source text, the availability or the non-availability of technical terms and other expressions in the target language, and so on. The section that describes the experiment is generally felt to be easier to translate. In any case, it is not necessary that one should start translating only from the beginning and proceed from there to successive stages without skipping any one of them. Note, however, that a the end, one should carefully eliminate the traces, if any, of the discontinuity or lack of cohesion in the translated text that may have been caused by the procedure of translating selectively from the simple to the complex.
- Translate the ideas, and not the words, in the translation of science materials. However, it all depends on what type or kind of translation is required to meet the demands of those for whom the translation is undertaken.
- It is difficult to translate ideas without oneself having a command over the words and sentences/sentence types in the target language.
- Units of measurement and formulae should be converted into the conventions adopted for the expression of science in the target language (and not in the native units of measurement used for general purpose). There must be consistency in using these units.
- Transliteration of the technical terms and the technical symbols may be accompanied by the terms/symbols in parentheses as they occur in English, or, in a language from which the target language usually obtains such terms/symbols. In French Africa, it may be French. In India, it is generally English.
- Place names may be presented with the spelling in which they are spelled customarily in the target language. However, the names of the organizations may be presented in transliteration. Yet, practices differ from language to language, and it is indeed difficult to prescribe one practice over others as the best.
- Trade names in use may be presented as they are. In the translation of the material meant for popularisation of science, or meant for giving instructions to consumers, trade names as well as their synonyms in the target language may be indicated.
- As far as possible the abbreviations used in English may be retained. In some cases, Indian languages have developed their abbreviations for certain organizations, concepts, processes, etc., which, if already in wide currency, may be used. If a science material is translated from a non-English language into an Indian language, the abbreviations used in English for that particular organization, concept, etc., may be used in the Indian language translation.
- If we know how a concept, process, etc., has already been translated into another Indian language, it will be of great help in translating the same concept, process, etc., into the target language. There are certain "cognate" processes between related languages (related genetically or by virtue of having some historical contacts over a long period or related simply in terms of being spoken in contiguous territories). The translator of science materials would do well to recognize such processes and exploit the same in his work, of course, with caution so that he is not misled by superficial similarities.
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