The English Laughs Names A Relation; The Tagalog Tumatawa Names A Set

Saying  ‘Kha laughs’ I do not pretend to have full control over how to refer to an utterance. I have this feeling that a whole can of spaghetti awaits me here, and disentangling each strand of spaghetti will take some doing is akin to typing the letters “K” “h” “a” onto the screen of a semantic machine and into an underlined area of the screen that precedes the string “laughs”, The hell with it — I am going to use the British orthographic rules for combining quotation marks with other punctuation; the American orthography for this is horribly misleading   then hitting ENTER.  “Laughs” names a predicate that possesses an agent parameter.  Entering a string argument for that parameter creates a proposition — something that can be true or false.  Hitting ENTER completes the utterance:  the function delineated in the previous post gets called; the entity bearing the name “Kha” gets selected; the truth value, represented by the string “T”, associated with that entity gets returned.  Kha is indeed laughing now; the proposition is true.

The semantic machine works a little bit differently in the case of the corresponding Tagalog sentence ‘Tumatawa si Kha’, at least if the machine has been constructed guided by the notion that the canonical Tagalog sentence has a predicate = topic structure in the way outlined in the first post below.  The Tagalog semantic machine has on the screen “∃x ∈ tumatawa: x = si _____”.    But should the user type in “K” “h” “a”, the machine will work the exact same way as in the case of _____ laughs and return the result.  The function { Kan → F, Chris → T, Kha → T, Guile → T, Juan → T, Corliss → T, Ralph → T, John → T, Robert → F, Ken → F } gets applied to Kha.  The truth value T, represented by the string “T”, gets returned.

Notice now the difference between laughs in _____ laughs and tumatawa in ∃x ∈ tumatawa: x = si _____.  [L]aughs is a relation because it is a function.  (All functions are relations; not all relations are functions.)  It is a 1-place function, taking as its sole parameter an agent.  (A more intuitive example of a relation would be _____ throws _____,  a 2-place parameter which takes an agent argument in the first parameter and a direct-object parameter in the second parameter.)  [T]umatawa, on the other hand, is a set, not a relation.  A verb is a relation.  So, naming a set, the string “tumatawa” is really a noun, not a verb.  That the Tagalog “verb” is really a noun is a position Naylor argues for; I hope to get into that argument later.


About Cliff Wirt

I am a banking DBA with various and sundry interests, including art, poetry, philosophy, music, languages, relational algebra, database administration, and blueberries. Don't forget the blueberries. Some of these interests tie in in surprising though usually tangential ways with database theory. Even the blueberries. I have published one article in a Philosophy Journal, and I have one painting in a corporate collection (housed in what used to be the Amoco building in Chicago). According to 12andMe, my paternal haplogroup is I2, my maternal H5. The Neanderthal percentage of my ancestry is 3%. My most famous ancestor is William Wirt (from whom I get my last name, though possibly not my Y chromosome), who defended the rights of the Cherokees before the Supreme Court, and ran for President in 1832, carrying one state. My homepage is at My FaceBook page is at My LinkedIn page is at View all posts by Cliff Wirt

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