virus: isosemanticity

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 14:15:20 -0700 (PDT)

I meant to reply to David McF's post about Cartesian and polar coordinate
systems earlier, but anyway.

David, your post about mapping points from different coordinate systems
onto each other presented an excellent example of how translation between
different systems can work. However, it also allows me to provide an
example of how it can fail. If I (using a polar map) tell you I'm
standing at the North Pole, you (using a Cartesian map) will not find that
a clear locative. For any two systems, there may well be many statements
that can be translated, and survive the process retaining their meaning
and truth value, but there may be other statements that cannot be phrased
in one system or the other, or which become meaningless, or change their
truth value, in the process. Not to disparage the value of translation,
which is extremely useful and a worthwhile endeavor! I wish only to point
out that two systems may differ in ways that preclude the accurate
translation of a particular statement or kind of statement from one to the
other. And, yes, this is a claim about the nature of "isosemanticity",
which I will address further shortly.

cunning linguistics major