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Kybernetes
, Volume 21 (3): 1 – Mar 1, 1992

/lp/emerald-publishing/communications-Wxc3Feesim

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- Publisher
- Emerald Publishing
- Copyright
- Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
- ISSN
- 0368-492X
- DOI
- 10.1108/eb005929
- Publisher site
- See Article on Publisher Site

Mathematics and Language It is strange that in scientific correspondence the text is broken up into two groups, groups of mathemetical equations and blocks of text. Why is this necessary? Why should we have two languages? At first sight mathematics seems to be a subset 5 5 of verbal communication. The farmer had several cows, he sold a few and he had some left. The farmer had seven cows, he sold two and he had five left. The first statement is in ordinary language, the second is clearly a mathematical statement. The difference is simply that of adjectives, seven versus several. If mathematics is solely concerned with numbers, then it is a subset of language in which the adjectives used are more precise. Aristotle stated that all human knowledge can be stated in the form of statements such as A is B, which is not all that different from A = B. Mathematics is a product of the human imagination just as knowledge is, but mathematicians are generally more ingenious than most men and they have introduced set theory. Consider a primitive statement such as stone-age man must have uttered on many occasions: "Rabbit runs". The rabbit clearly is the set of all points enclosed within the envelope of the rabbit, so it is a set in the dimension of space. Runs is the set of all the motions of the rabbit as it is running, so it is a set in time. Thus we can have a past tense, present and future tense of a verb, but not of a noun. Human thought can all be expressed in sentences, more or less, and these are mainly composed of nouns which are sets in space, and verbs which are sets in time, meaning is essentially the intersection of the two. Consider a piece of paper which we can assume to be a two-dimensional object (Figure 1). If we represent time as the horizontal axis, we can demonstrate this point quite easily as three objects; was, is and will be. So language is a subset of mathe- matics and, like Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who was amazed to discover he had been speaking prose all his life, we have been speaking mathematics all our lives as well. D.B. Jame s Cherry Orchard, Marlow Common, Bucks, UK

Kybernetes – Emerald Publishing

**Published: ** Mar 1, 1992

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