Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tractatus orthographicus

Ludwig Wittgenstein spent 6 years teaching in rural Austrian schools. During that time he composed a spelling dictionary, proofs of which are now on sale.

Wittgenstein's dictionary is rich in the flavour of an unsparingly analytical mind. In the preface, he writes of his method of organising the word entries: "Each instance of clinging to a dogmatic principle leads to an arrangement that does not suit our purpose and has to be abandoned, even if this would make the author's work much easier. Rather, it is necessary to compromise again and again."

I took some courses in lexicography at university. (I learned weird and wonderful things from a linguist whose discourses inevitably travelled tangents to his youth when he worked as a bookbinder or involved obscure facts about the Maori.) I've studied dictionaries intensely, and now I use them in a professional capacity. Writing a dictionary of any sort is a vast undertaking.

The Guardian also gives us:
First five basic propositions of Wittgenstein's Tractatus
1 The world is everything that is the case
2 What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts
3 The logical picture of the facts is the thought
4 The thought is the significant proposition
5 Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself)

I understand dictionaries far better than I will ever understand Wittgenstein.

1 comment:

melinama said...

You'd have to have a lot of courage or optimism to start a dictionary. What are the chances one would ever make it to "Z" ?