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Natural language


In neuropsychology, linguistics and the philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditation. Natural languages can take different forms, such as speech, signing, or writing. They are distinguished from constructed and formal languages such as those used to program computers or to study logic.

Though the exact definition varies between scholars, natural language can broadly be defined in contrast to artificial or constructed languages (such as computer programming languages and international auxiliary languages) and to other communication systems in nature. Such examples include bees' waggle dance and whale song, to which researchers have found and/or applied the linguistic cognates of dialect and even syntax.

An unstandardized language such as African American Vernacular English, for example, is a natural language, whereas a standardized language such as Standard American English is, in part, prescribed.

Controlled natural languages are subsets of natural languages whose grammars and dictionaries have been restricted in order to reduce or eliminate both ambiguity and complexity (for instance, by cutting down on rarely used superlative or adverbial forms or irregular verbs). The purpose behind the development and implementation of a controlled natural language typically is to aid non-native speakers of a natural language in understanding it, or to ease computer processing of a natural language. An example of a widely used controlled natural language is Simplified English, which was originally developed for aerospace industry maintenance manuals.



  • ter Meulen, Alice, 2001, "Logic and Natural Language," in Goble, Lou, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Philosophical Logic. Blackwell.
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