Gavagai and TZQQA

Mark Liberman, Language Log, Feb 07, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes
files/images/QuineTZQQA.png

I thought this was a fun post. Quine's thesis on the indeterminacy of translation is that in the case of a radical translation - that is, a translation of a completely unfamiliar language - we don't have sufficient evidence to be certain of the meaning of any specific word - 'gavagai', say - in the other language. What's amusing here is that this theory is applied to teens' use of text messaging. What does 'TZQQA' mean, anyways? "There is nothing in linguistic meaning, then," says Quine, "beyond what is to be gleaned from overt behavior in observable circumstances."

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