by Yuri Tarnopolsky






The parallel between linguistics and chemistry has been drawing attention since the discovery of the DNA’s structure and its ability to carry a  protein "meaning."  Besides, chemistry uses a particular language (chemical nomenclature) to convert complex non-linear structures into a linear word which can potentially be communicated through speech.  


The present e-paper continues an investigation of thought, language, and conversion of one into the other within the framework of Pattern Theory of Ulf Grenander. This mathematical theory studies structural complexity regardless of interdisciplinary boundaries. It reduces structure to a set of atomic entities selectively connected by bonds, thereby representing observable objects of widest variety, including language and thought, quite like a generalized chemistry.  The unusual aspect of Pattern Theory is its metrics which allows for distinguishing between more and less stable structures. Pattern Chemistry focuses not so much on stable structures as on the fleeting transition states between them, similarly to the way chemistry treats molecular transformations, making distinction between fast and slow transformations. 


The central ideal of Pattern Chemistry is that complexity in nature evolves from simple states changing by simple steps.     


Unlike speech, thought is not observable. The paper further explores a hypothetical protolanguage, called Nean, in which the simple elementary thought consisting of two connected entities directly translates into the simplest elementary phrase consisting of two words.  Nean sounds like a repetitive random series of elementary doublets. Two doublets with common element can be combined into linear triplets.  The paper explores the ability of this  inherently both linear and primitive language to express more complex non-linear thoughts by means of the process of linearization.  It appears that Nean, subjectively, is quite expressive. 


A computer simulation based on simple principles represents thinking and speech as a competition of  alternative thought structures for a spot in consciousness and further generation of linear speech-ready expressions longer than elementary doublets.  The story of Three Little Pigs serves as the substrate of the process. The potential of Nean for further complexification and grammaticalization is discussed.   Nean is regarded as a point of divergence between thought and speech and origin of the variety of grammars.