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Ringing different songs of perception in the mind...

I've been doing a lot of thinking on the cognitive under pinning of language the last few years and the increased level of discourse that I've engaged in social networks like facebook has allowed me to analyze how amazingly varied the *perception* of word meaning and sentence intent varies from one person to the next.

It's obvious that as a consequence of the variance in assumed definitions for words that this would be so (trivially) but the difficulties go far beyond simply associated the first order meaning of words used in a sentence. There are nth order effects, resonances in meaning that automatically emerge when we link words into sentences. For example :

"Looking forlorn, Lisa traced circles in the sand sitting in her chair...hair, wind aloft."

You will perceive that sentence differently from how I do for several reasons:

1) Punctuation, placement of commas and ellipses are not universally utilized according to the specifications of the linguistic devices that they are. "wrong" application of them in reading the line will inspire "different" perception of the sentence. Note , "wrong" inspires "different" not wrong inspires wrong. When probed I might correct any interpretation that does not align with my intention assuming I had an intention that was not ambiguous. For example the phrase "Lisa traced circles in the sand sitting in her chair" was designed precisely because it is ambiguous...is she sitting in her chair tracing circles in the sand (say with her extended foot) or is she kneeled before a chair with sand on the seat and is she using her fingers to trace the sand? where "sitting" is used metaphorically to describe the "sand"...both reads are legal from that part of the sentence.

2) Word definitions, forlorn is a rather old word that has gone out of favor as used to describe a mental state and was used here on purpose. Some will see it as synonymous to "pensive" others might make it seem akin more to "sad" others will mix both to imply "pensive sadness or longing". Depending on the meaning that has strongest significance to the reader that will change the "flavor" of the entire sentence. That's just one word...the same may be said of the last phrase "hair, wind aloft." which may paint different images depending on the strength of the imagined wind...a gentle breeze or a stronger rush? The words paint different images in different minds depending on the assumed meanings.

3) Sentence structure, taken together words of variable definition perception and intensity coupled with variable understanding of punctuation create a third order of complexity in perception. The first phrase, the middle ambiguous phrase and the ellipses separated third short phrase combine to paint an image that is unique. An image that we all fill in with our own meanings for those concepts but not just meanings but we fill in our own experiences of those concepts. We read a sentence as reflected through our experience set of words, meanings and punctuation...a hierarchical layer cake of cognitive concepts that is distinct to our perception.


I, as the author and using words; can paint a canvas and have each person that looks at it *see a different painting*. It is a remarkable aspect of the dynamism of language to simultaneously encapsulate the rough boundaries of concepts we wish to relay while opening up mixing of ideas in the minds of those that hear or are given those concepts that emerge new perceptions or ways of thinking about what is being relayed.

The work in neuroscience of the last few years involving the mapping of the linguistic centers are showing us the complexity of the language processing system and these complexities will be used by researchers (such as myself) to provide insights into how to simulate processing of language by artificial agents. This being one of the reasons for my fascination with the current work in the space, still I find it beautiful (and a reason why I occasionally create poetry) that words strung into sentences ring different songs of perception in the minds of those that read them...making them a truly unique signal from most other types of sensed information which have more or less objective (physical) bases of similarity across individuals. For example....you see the same blue I see....more or less..

http://sent2null.blogspot.com/2008/12/why-you-see-what-i-seefor-most-part.html

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