Machine learning & AI

Artificial intelligence favors white men under 40

"Insert the missing word: I closed the door to my ____." It's an exercise that many remember from their school days. Whereas some societal groups might fill in the space with the word "holiday home", others may be more likely ...

Computer Sciences

How figurative language confuses chatbots

Computer scientists recently examined the performance of dialog systems, such as personal assistants and chatbots designed to interact with humans. The team found that when these systems are confronted with dialog that includes ...

Computer Sciences

Toward speech recognition for uncommon spoken languages

Automated speech-recognition technology has become more common with the popularity of virtual assistants like Siri, but many of these systems only perform well with the most widely spoken of the world's roughly 7,000 languages.


'Trojan Source' bug a novel way to attack program encodings

A pair of security experts at TrojanSource have found a novel way to attack computer source code—one that fools a compiler (and human reviewer) into thinking code is safe. Nicholas Boucher and Ross Anderson, both with the ...


ReSkin could help researchers discover a sense of touch

Picking up a blueberry or grape without squishing it isn't hard, but try teaching it to a robot. The same goes for walking on ice, turning a key to unlock a door or cooking a favorite dish.

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A language is a system for encoding information. In its most common use, the term refers to so-called "natural languages" — the forms of communication considered peculiar to humankind. In linguistics the term is extended to refer to the human cognitive facility of creating and using language. Essential to both meanings is the systematic creation and usage of systems of symbols—each referring to linguistic concepts with semantic or logical or otherwise expressive meanings.

The most obvious manifestations are spoken languages such as English or Spoken Chinese. However, there are also written languages and other systems of visual symbols such as sign languages.

Although some other animals make use of quite sophisticated communicative systems, and these are sometimes casually referred to as animal language, none of these are known to make use of all of the properties that linguists use to define language in the strict sense.

When discussed more technically as a general phenomenon then, "language" always implies a particular type of human thought which can be present even when communication is not the result, and this way of thinking is also sometimes treated as indistinguishable from language itself.

In Western Philosophy for example, language has long been closely associated with reason, which is also a uniquely human way of using symbols. In Ancient Greek philosophical terminology, the same word, logos, was used as a term for both language or speech and reason, and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes used the English word "speech" so that it similarly could refer to reason, as will be discussed below.

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