[Corpora-List] QM analogy and grammatical incompleteness

Dominic Widdows widdows at maya.com
Tue Dec 20 03:20:01 CET 2005

> Let us have a clear statement of their limitations, if limited they

> are.


> In short, do you believe there is a limitation on knowledge analogous

> to the

> Uncertainty Principle of QM, which applies to the simultaneous

> characterization of text in terms of grammatical qualities (defined

> distributionally)?

Can you find two "observables" in grammar that can't in principle be
measured together? Two observables that are measured in such a way that
the measuring of one interferes directly with the measuring of the
other? I think that is the question you should ask if you want to find
a really convincing analogy, or alternatively discover that the model
isn't really appropriate.

>> [JS wrote:] The uncertainty principle is a quantum mechanical

>> result. It has nothing to do with relativity.


> [RF wrote:] Yes, I think Dominic was mistaken in suggesting

> differently. I am willing to

> believe there might be some common ground in terms of the ability to

> know all

> things at once, but I have yet to see convincing evidence of that.

I may have been mistaken in connection the Uncertainty Principle with
"incompleteness of knowledge" more generally.

The Uncertainty Principle goes way further than just stating that you
can't know everything at once - it makes very precise statements about
what you can't know, based on what you've already measured. It thus
appears to be a very special kind of "knowledge incompleteness"
argument, and I don't know if it has linguistic counterparts.

I do admit the possibility that the formal similarities I've found
between language and QM are due to modelling decisions on the part of
scientists, not to some underlying feature of nature. The reason that
quantum logic and query vector logic can be treated identically is
because they both use the model of vector spaces, not because there
have been any "experiments" that demonstrate words and elementary
particles exhibit similar behavior in similar circumstances ;) Hence
the question I posed to you above.

Best wishes,

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