Re: The Tower of Babel (was: Extropic Art (was: Poll))

Mitchell Porter (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 16:14:52 +1000 (EST)

[Lyle Burkhead]
> Language transparency has been a pet project of mine for a long time.
> Whoever gets there first holds the keys to the kingdom. Rebuilding the
> Tower of Babel is the most important subject there is. Rocket science
> is insignificant by comparison.

There is a linguist, Anna Wierzbicka (now working at the Australian
Natural University,, whose main project is to
find a so-called "natural semantic metalanguage". This would be a
minimal subset of a natural language in terms of which every
meaningful utterance could in principle be expressed. To be validated,
she says, the vocabulary and semantic rules of combination of the NSM
should be found in some form in every language. This has been a
multi-decade research project on her part...

If the NSM theory is correct, it suggests to me that the best paradigm
for machine translation (say from English into Russian) is to take
your English text, translate it into English NSM, translate THAT into
Russian NSM, and then translate that into idiomatic Russian.

I'll have a page on the NSM at the URL below shortly.