(urth) 5HC : Chinese boxes or tea chests?

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 1 16:41:47 PST 2005

>It could be argued that all language users 'merely'
>know how to manipulate the symbols without a full
>awareness of their meanings.

Well, kinda. If you did make an argument that all language users 'merely' 
know how to manipulate symbols, then you would need a matching conception of 
"meaning". (Such theories exist). In such an argument, there's simply isn't 
any "deeper meaning" for language users to lack awareness of.

>I sometimes wonder if interpreters at the UN (for
>example) pay any heed to the meaning of the messages
>they translate, beyond what is required to translate
>the words.

If they didn't, they wouldn't be useful translators. Ambiguities don't map 
one-to-one in different language; in order to know which French word to use 
in a translation of an ambiguous English word, you have to work out the 
probable meaning of the expression it occurs in first.

Also the vast majority of typical communication is also not quite literal. 
Most of the time you intend to express something more than, or something 
different from, the literal meanings of the words you use. Preserving this 
in a word-for-word translation, even without ambiguities, would be unlikely.

Translation is hard.

>I seem to recall a program which regularly fooled
>people into thinking it was a client-centred
>How do you feel about a program which regularly fooled
>people into thinking it was a client-centred psychotherapist?

I think this was Dr. Sbaitso, although Dr. Sbaitso might well just be a 
variant of Eliza (Dan'l's suggestion).


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