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Excerpts from Uncleftish Beholding
Healthy Disrespect for Authority
> Hierarchical Language
The Basic Idea
The excerpt presented in The Analytical Language of John Wilkins serves both as an example of hierarchical structure and as a warning about the perils of classification. The only reason I don't see classification as a major problem is that I don't require that each word should exist in only one class.
Combining the idea that named things can exist independently of the tree of names (Hierarchical Namespaces) with the idea that words are not ideas, what we have is a hierarchy of words referring to a set of underlying ideas, each of which in turn refers to some aspect of reality.
As yet another example of hierarchical structure, consider the Latin names used in taxonomy. The dictionary entry for “drosophila” is illuminating.
A small fly of the genus Drosophila, esp. the fruit fly D. melanogaster, used extensively in genetic studies.
In context, you see, the prefix can be abbreviated, just as I wanted to do earlier.
My all-time favorite taxonomic name, though, has to be that of the leopard frog Rana pipiens. The species name pipiens (“peep-i-ens”) is the present participle of the Latin verb “pipio”, which, in a lovely bilingual case of linguistics.onomatopoeia, translates to “I peep”. So, Rana pipiens literally means “frog, peeping”.
By the way, here's the etymology of “onomatopoeia”—again, from my dictionary.
LLat. < Gk. onomotopoiia < onomatopoiein, to coin names: onoma, name + poiein, to make.
Too bad there's not a reflexive pronoun in there somewhere, then onomatopoeia would refer to things that make their own name.
@ January (2001)