Purpose: Appreciating the relationship between Sylvio Ceccato and Ernst von Glasersfeld, both as people and in their work. Approach: historical and personal accounts, archeological approach to written evidence. Findings: Ceccato’s work is introduced to an English speaking audience, and the roots of Glasersfeld’s work in Ceccato’s is explored. Flaws in Ceccato’s approach are indicated, together with how Glasersfeld’s work overcomes these, specially in language and automatic translation, and what became Radical Constructivism. Conclusion: Glasersfeld willingly acknowledges Ceccato, who he still refers to as the Master. But Ceccato’s work is little known, specially in the English speaking world. The introduction, critique and delineation of extension and resolution of Ceccato’s ideas in Glasersfeld’s work is the intended value of the paper.
Purpose: Yerkish is an artificial language created in 1971 for the specific purpose of exploring the linguistic potential of nonhuman primates. The aim of this paper is to remind the research community of some important issues and concepts related to Yerkish that seem to have been forgotten or appear to be distorted. These are, particularly, its success, its promising aspects for future research and last but not least that it was Ernst von Glasersfeld who invented Yerkish: he coined the term “lexigrams,” created the first 120 of them and designed the grammar that regulated their combination. Design: The first part of this paper begins with a short outline of the context in which the Yerkish language originated: the original LANA project. It continues by presenting the language itself in more detail: first, its design, focusing on its “lexigrams” and its “correlational” grammar (the connective functions or “correlators” and the combinations of lexigrams, or “correlations”), and then its use by the chimpanzee Lana in formulating sentences. The second part gives a brief introduction to the foundation of Yerkish in Silvio Ceccato’s Operational Methodology, particularly his idea of the correlational structure of thought and concludes with the main insights that can be derived from the Yerkish experiment seen in the light of Operational Methodology. Findings: Lana’s success in language learning and the success of Yerkish during the past decades are probably due to the characteristics of Yerkish, particularly its foundation in operational methodology. The operation of correlation could be what constitutes thinking in a chimpanzee and an attentional system could be what delivers the mental content that correlation assembles into triads and networks. Research implications: Since no other assessment or explanation of Lana’s performances has considered these foundational issues (findings), a new research project or program should validate the above-mentioned hypotheses, particularly the correlational structure of chimpanzee thinking.
Traditional grammars classify words according to generic syntactic functions or morphological characteristics. For teaching humans and for descriptive linguistics this seemed sufficient. The advent of computers has changed the situation. Since machines are devoid of experiential knowledge, they need a more explicit grammar to handle natural language. Correlational Grammar is an attempt in that direction. The paper describes parts of correlational syntax and shows how a highly differentiated syntax can be used to establish word classes for which an intensional semantic definition can then be found. It exemplifies this approach in two areas of grammar: predicative adjectives and transitive verbs. The classification serves to eliminate ambiguity and spurious computer interpretations of natural language sentences.
Excerpt: Yerkish is an artificial language that was designed for the specific purpose of exploring the linguistic potential of nonhuman primates. It was designed under a number of constraints, both theoretical and practical. In what follows I shall try to show which aspects of the language were determined by these initial practical constraints and which by the theory underlying its design. Since the language was created at the same time as the computer system that monitors all the communication events for which it is used, there will inevitably be some overlap in the description of the language and that of the automatic sentence analyzer, or parser. Also, since the grammar we are using is a correlational grammar, i.e., one that takes into account the semantic aspects of combinatorial patterns (unlike traditional systems of grammar, which tend to consider syntactic structures quite apart from semantics), the description of the lexicon and that of the grammar will have to merge at several points. Nevertheless, this chapter will be articulated into relatively independent sections dealing with the word signs (lexigrams), the meaning and grammatical classification of word signs, combinatorial patterns, the parsing system, and, finally, a brief application of the concept of grammatical ity to a sample of Lana’s output.