Linguistics, Psycholinguistics and Semantics

Language, in other words the storehouse of all human Knowledge is represented by words and meanings. Language by itself has an Ontological structure, Epistemological underpinnings and Grammar. Across languages, even though words /usages differ, the concept of meanings remain the same in respective communications. Yet the "Meanings" are understood by human beings based on Contextual, Relative, Tonal and Gestural basis. The dictionary meanings or 'as it is' meanings are taken rarely into consideration, thus human language is ambigious in one sense and flexible in other.

Computers on the other hand are hard-coded to go by the dictionary meanings. Thus teaching (programming) Computers to understand natural language (human language) has been the biggest challange haunting Scientists ever since the idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) came into existance. In addition this has lead to the obvious question of "What is intelligence" from a Computation perspective. Defining intelligence precisely being impossible, this field of study has taken many shapes such as Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing and "
Machine Learning" etc. Artificial Intelligence instead of being used as a blanket term, is now being used increasingly as "Analytics" in many critical applications.

Sanskrit being the oldest is also the most Scientific and Structured language. Sanskrit has many hidden Algorithms built into it as part of its vast scientific treatises, for analysing "Meanings" or "Word sense" from many perspectives since time immemorial. "It is perhaps our job to discover and convert the scientific methods inherent in Sanskrit into usable Computational models and Tools for Natural Language Processing rather than reinventing the wheel" - as some Scientists put it. This blog's purpose is to expose some of the hidden intricate tools and methodolgies used in Sanskrit for centuries to derive precise meanings of human language, to a larger audiance particularly Computational Linguists for futher study, analysis and deployment in Natural Language Processing.

In addition, Sanskrit even though being flexible as a human language, is the least ambigious as the structure of the language is precisely difined from a semantical and syntactical point of view. From a Psycholinguistic perspective this blog could also give us a glimpse of the advanced linguistic capabilities of our forefathers as well their highly disciplined approach towards the structure and usage.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Linguistics in Sanskrit - 3 distinctive perspectives

In Sanskrit, research on linguistics existed since time immemorial. Analysis on the meanings of the Vedic statements are called Arthavada. Debates on the precise meanings of various statements were also existed time immemorial. In Sage Patanjali's Mahabhashyam - the first chapter Paspashanikam - starts with the discussions on what is Sound (word) and what is inherent in the sound (Artha - meaning) -it starts 'particularly when someone says "gau" (Cow) - what this sound represents?' - we can see that a clear overlapping of cognitive science and philosophy and epistemology - exists in these discussions - this is a generic feature of all Sanskrit scientific treatises

The picture below gives an elementary view of the 3 important schools of Sanskrit Linguistics or philosophy /epistemology with respect to analysis of "meanings" of words in a sentence. - which in Sanskrit is referred to as "Shaabda bodha". A level of abstraction of the words in a sentence and their relationship with each other. Thus the analysis becomes air-tight and definitive. Each of the 3 schools of analysis on the sentence meaning focus on each one of the primary block of the sentence - Verb, Subject and Object. The oldest school Vyakarana is focuses on Kriya (Action), Mimamsa which born as a science of sentence meanings for understanding Vedas focuses on Kriya (Purpose) and Nyaya the epistemological system focuses on Karta (Actor). Each has its own merits in interpreting different kinds of treatises and linguists use all the 3 to understand even when there is a minute difference. Debates between these 3 schools were scientific and tread in the lines of hair-splitting arguments. - CGK