Poll: Is language infinite?

Is language infinite?


Statistics Poll Stats

This Poll:

  • Votes: 666
  • Comments: 7
  • Added: August 2003



i dont hablo ingles pero estoy aprendiendo ahora mismo


welll GOd made it sooo yeah :0


this my farst time i ues this siet. and i would like to say thank you to my teacher she show my how to use it. thank for hir. plaselet me know

Ben Curtis

Clearly there are infinitely many sentences - just take "John knows that p", John knows that he knows that p", "John knows that he knows that he knows that p" etc. But don't get this confused with the question of whether there are any infinitely long sentences. This I doubt. I think there are infinitely many sentences, but each is finite. (In fact, as it happens, I think there are aleph0 many sentences - not any higher infinity many, as some have claimed.)

Randall Goodwin

Language is a collection of artifacts and instantiations of meaning. As a real collection it is not infinite. Even though we can assert that language is infinite, that is not a language that is accessible. That smacks of deification of language. An example of this is Heidegger in his book "On the Way to Language". Langauge is an open set so we can theoretically add to it infinitely, but only if we have infinite time, which we don't. We can theorize infinite combinations, but again only with infinite time. We can describe from a set of potentially infinite referents, but we cannot describe all of the infinite set. Chomsky makes language his deity in this statement. But he also forsakes a true scientific analysis. It is not even possible to find a sound mathematical description of language which would make it infinite. I know I tried. I think that the theory is a cop out. We can state it as infinite but this is philosphy by pronouncement. It assumes an epistemological position which is not clearly stated. It assumes language to be a thing of a certain type. There is no evidence that language exists outside of its artifacts and instantiations. We can study its structures and histories and interactions. We can predict its future. But linguistics as a descriptive science is not describing the infinite it describes just the particulars and their properties as a collective statistical phenomenon.


No. There are only a finite combination of words in the English Language. The number of words is always changing yes, but the permutation of words, as massive as it may be, is finite. It might take a billion years or more from now, but, one day, all books will be written.


If numbers are infinite then language is infinite. Numbers are shorthand for language. we say one thing to represent all the things that have oneness in common with one. If we then go on to describe each iteration of oneness and the relationship to other types of oneness then this takes far more word to describe than just the number one. Numbers are a simplified language of principles so the language to describe numbers and their relationship to each other is far more complex, therefore if numbers are infinite then the language to describe them is far more complex.

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