Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 14, No 2 (2018)

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The Metaformal System: Completing the Theory of Language

Christopher Langan


The standard theory of languages has two levels, one centering on the study, teaching, and application of natural languages, and the other on formal languages and formal systems as applied throughout the mathematical and empirical sciences, in analytic philosophy, and for computer programming, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and related technologies. On both of these levels, standard language theory is dualistic, defining languages in isolation from their domains of discourse and treating attributes in isolation from their objective instances while omitting important properties and functions ordinarily provided or executed by language users, automata, or physical systems on which they appear to supervene. This decoupling of languages from their universes, and from necessary linguistic functions such as display, processing, interpretation, and communication, has profound epistemological bearing, limiting scientific knowledge by precluding the linguistic formulation of any verifiable comprehensive description of reality. This paper proposes that in addition to the two existing levels of standard language theory involving natural and formal languages and systems, the theory of language be recognized to possess a third "metaformal" level on which languages and their universes are "wrapped" in a uniquely structured, totally self-contained  metalanguage, the Metaformal System, which restores missing linguistic functionality while using a supertautological intelligibility criterion to generically couple languages with their universes on a fundamental level of shared structure and dynamics, thereby restoring the potential for a verifiable comprehensive and fully connected understanding of the reality we share.

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