oa Interim : Interdisciplinary Journal - Linguistics + mathematics = twins

Volume 7 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1684-498X



Language and Mathematics are both so-called "tools" that are used by other disciplines to explain/describe phenomena in those disciplines, but they are scientific disciplines in their own right. Language is a system of symbols, but so is Mathematics. These symbols carry meaning or value. Both originate in the human mind and are then translated into messages of logic. What is important are the relationships between units that are inherent to both disciplines. In practicing the two disciplines, there are elements that correspond. These are a vocabulary, grammar, a community and meaning. Psycholinguists and psychologists are interested in the role that language might have in enabling other functions in the human cognitive repertoire. Some argue that language is a prerequisite for a whole range of intellectual activities, including mathematics. They claim that mathematical structures are, in a way, parasitic on the human linguistic faculty. Some evidence for the language: maths connection comes from neurology. Functional imaging studies of the brain show increased activation of the language areas as certain mathematical tasks/challenges are performed. Lesions to a certain part of the brain impair both the linguistic as well as the mathematical ability. We are looking at a fundamentally shared enterprise, a deeply interwoven development of numerical and linguistic aspects. This co-evolution of number concepts and number words suggests that it is no accident that the same species that possesses the language faculty as a unique trait, should also be the one that developed a systematic concept of number.

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